Photos from O'ahu, Kaua'i, Hawai'i, and Mau'i.
I hope this email finds you all well. I am back in Alaska after 5 weeks in Hawaii with a current temperature of -45 degrees. I have a tan, which is useless because at these temperatures you are never naked, even in the shower, for fear of hypothermia. No not really. Its not all that bad. It's just imperative that you dress properly and walk fast no matter where you are going. Enough about cold as shit Alaska though. The purpose of this email is to tell you all that I learned about traveling in Hawaii, especially the things that they DO NOT tell you about in the guidebooks.
O'ahu: 3 Days
The trip started with a direct flight from anchorage to Honolulu. As soon as I stepped off the plane I was happy to be there. We had left temperatures in Denali of around -30 to arrive in a humid 65 environment. I was ready for this. The first place we went to was Pearl Harbor or as it is known now as the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Memorial. On the way there I had a very unique experience. I looked at the sun and it's position in the sky and was worried that we did not get an early enough head start on the day. Then I looked down at the clock and it read 8:15 am. I was so used to seeing the sun that high in AK around noon or 1 with only a few hours of daylight left in the day. That was one of the benefits of going from AK to Hawaii at this time of the year. I also saw the first rainbow of the trip, and certainly not the last. Back to WWII memorial. They have changed their scope of interpretation at the site from just the attack on the base to the lead up to the war, the attack, and the aftermath. It was a very moving site and very new to me. The only other battlesite I have ever been to was Custer's Battlefield. So as I am walking around I get to talking to a ranger, asking if they have programs and whatnot. Most of the site is explained through wayside exhibits because of the amount of people that come through. Then you take a boat over to the Arizona memorial. There really is not an opportunity to talk to any rangers about the events that took place. So as I am asking these questions that guy asks where I am from and we get to talking. After I tell him that I am ranger in Denali he invites me up to the chief's office to do a meet and greet. It turn out that they are looking to fill a position in their park with a media specialist. So I got her card and went on my way. It is always fun for me to talk to the workers at the park and get a feel for things and see behind the scenes.
From there we headed to the North Shore and camped out. As we are setting up our camps I feel as if I have been transported to Miami. There were chickens running around all over the place. I was expecting someone's abuelita to come out of nowhere and catch one for dinner. These chickens, unbeknownst to me, would become the bane of the trip. More on that later. As we drove the island I was blown away by the topography. I have never seen anything like it before. Beautiful, jagged, lush green mountains with waterfalls everywhere. It really is a sight to see. The one thing about O'ahu is that there are lots of people. I was ready to get out of the city and do some killer backpacking. Without getting in the details of it, if you fly Hawaiian airlines and you are backpacking, deny the fact that you have a camp stove because it is a company policy, not TSA, of no stoves allowed. It can be a brand new stove and its still a no go. I found out the hard way when they confiscated it.
Kaua'i: 2 weeks
Kauai is a campers paradise. For the two weeks that I was there I was in a tent for 12 of 14 nights. Camping is $3 a night in county parks and for the expensive places like Kalalau it was $20 a night. Everyone that I told that I was going to Kauai told me that I had to hike to Kalalau and see the Na Pali coast. So that was the plan. Important things to know: Hawaii in the winter is the rainy season , Hawaiian soil is like clay, and the Kalalau trail has been rated as one of the top 10 most difficult trails by backpacker magazine. Well we found out first hand that the trail certainly lived up to the hype. At time the trail was nothing more that a 12-14" wide erroded trail that cliffed out into the ocean 200 feet below. For the first day we hiked through what was basically a clay mud pit that started at sea level and ascended to 800 ft at the max and other heights in between 5 times. The entire trail was constructed as a way for the farmers to supply the nearby towns with their citrus and taro crops grown in the valleys. The second day the trail had dried significantly but you wouldnt go so far as to call it dry. We made it out the the beach at Kalalau and it was unreal. Sea caves at the far end of the beach filled with hippies smoking what I was told to be marijuana. Waterfalls to shower and filter drinking water, and the endless sound of waves crashing against weathered boulders. It would have bee awesome to be able to stay another night but it was not in the cards. So we hiked out the next day back to the halfway point at Hanakoa and went to the falls. Hanakoa falls is a 500ft waterfall that is straight outta jurassic park. Swimming in the pool beneath a 500ft waterfall was certainly a unique experience for me. After the Kalalau trail we headed to the south side of the island on the way up to waimea canyon and Koke'e State Park. This is home to the tops of the mountains we were hiking the base of on the Na Pali coast. Most famous point being Wai'ale'ale, the wettest place on the planet, with over 450 inches of rainfall annually. Most ever recorded in a year was 681". Needless to say it was raining when we got there, and only for a few short times did the weather break and we get sunlight. But lots of rain means lots of rainbows. On Kauai we saw a rainbow everyday for two weeks. Koke'e state park is a great day hiking area with some pretty gnarly trails along some spectacular ridges. We also got to see most of our wildflowers on the trip in this area.
After Koke'e state park we headed back to sea level where we hit up a few farmers markets for some BBQ Boar and fresh Pineapple. THe pineapple in Hawaii is so delicious. Its literally dissolves in your mouth. As I am typing this my mouth is watering profusely. Two weeks of hiking on Kauai was starting to wear on me so we went kayaking up the river to secret falls. The falls are a 120 ft fall into a spectacular pool. It was again amazing to swim in the pool and this time I went behind the falls where you could look up. It was an exhilarating feeling, breathing in such cold moist air while the torrent of water is falling all around you. After the trip, there was a free BBQ next door sponsored by a local church for xmas so we hit that up and then packed for Mau'i.
Mau'i: 1 week
So up to this point we had been renting cars from corporate rental companies. When we looked to rent cars for Maui the weekly rate because of season was $1200/week. Needless to say I was not about that in the least. So before I left I found a "car rental company" on craigslist that offered a rental for $250 for the week. This sounded fine to me as long as the car ran properly. I was informed that "the AC doesnt work". No big deal, weather is nice in HI. When we are picked up in the car at the airport the first thing that is mentioned is "you might want to fill up the radiator with water." Well I have never had to do this in my own personal life because I always keep my radiator filled with antifreeze. I am also under the impression that as a car company you can ask your customers to upkeep the maintenance on your vehicles so I don't really worry too much. We hit the store and then head to Haleakala to camp. For those of you who do not know, Haleakala National Park is a dormant volcano summit of 10,023ft. So the road is a switchback all the way up from sea level. As we make the climb I notice the engine temp is rather high and keeps climbing. After about 5 minutes of this I freak out, not knowing what to do and frustrated with the rental car company and pull into a local church parking lot. Here we are greeting and instructed on what to do. It actually worked out because after I put nearly 2 gallons of water in the radiator the temperature did drop. 2 gallons. That seems like a lot to me, like so much that I think we may have been driving a car with a bone dry radiator. Is that even possible? Fast forward to Haleakala. Again, Hawaii left me satisfied. We camped down in the crater and observed some of the best stargazing I have ever soon. The stars on a clear night at 6800 ft looked super bright. After Haleakala we headed to Lahaina where we met up with a friend and coworker from this summer in Denali. She shacked us up and got us on a snorkeling trip and whale watching tour. It was certainly cool to see the same whales in HI as the ones that I saw in AK this summer. The snorkeling trip was also awesome, we went to molokini crater where we saw an octopus and an eel in addition to a bunch of fish including a hummuhummunukunukuapua'a, reef triggerfish. After snorkeling and water recreation we headed to hand where we headed to the Kipahulu district of Haleakala. A bamboo forest and pools and waterfalls with black sand beaches are there. I saw two monk seals on the way there. It's rare to see one so two in a day was really cool. After the trip to Hana it was time to head to the Big Island.
Hawai'i: 10 Days
Upon arriving we headed straight to Volcanoes National Park. We camped one night and then prepared for our backcountry trip into the park to the coast. The hike was a short 5 mile to the coast but descended 1,800 feet in a mile and a half. Once we made it down the cliff, it was exposed volcanic rock everywhere. There was no vegetation to off any shade from the hot sun but we did find a solution. There were many lava tubes that we came across and were able to crawl around in. It reminded me of my caving at carlsbad Caverns national Park and was very different at the same time. Once we made it to the camping area we dropped our stuff and headed another half mile to the coast where we explored the tide pools. I saw eels, crabs, lobster, limpets, all kinds of fish, and awesome waves crashing against huge rocks. It was a very cool spot. This trail we used was also a section of the historic Ala Kahakai trail that once circumnavigated the entire island of Hawaii. Once we made it back to civilization we went to the Jagger Museum where I got to witness my first active volcano. The Kilauea crater is a open caldera and glows orange at night. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I would rank it up there with seeing the grand canyon or Denali for the first time. After we left Volcanoes NP we headed around the island and started visiting some of the smaller historic park and learning about the Kapu (taboo) system of traditional Hawaii. Visiting these smaller, but very worthwhile parks, made me decide that at some point I want to return to Hawaii for work so that I can continue learning about the culture and history. The last few days were spent snorkeling, relaxing, and at the spa. I figured that since I was on vacation I should indulge at least for a couple days.
Overall the trip was a blast. There is just too much stuff to write in this email to explain everything tat I saw or did but I can detail a few things that you should know if you plan on visiting Hawaii.
1. Hawaii can be very cheap to travel if you are able to avoid staying in hotels. This may sound obvious and tedious, but with a proper understanding of the islands county, state, and national parks it is very doable for a reasonable price.
2. Rent Cars from local car rental companies. Not only does it boost the local economy, it boost your own personal economy.
3. Visit all the National Parks, they are all worth seeing.
4. If you have a mustache, SHAVE IT OFF. Scuba diving with a mustache is a real bitch. If you refuse to remove your manliness, bring a jar of Vaseline for a tight seal.
5. Don't go to the Dole Plantation. Its an amusement park with shitty pineapple.
6. Go to Farmers markets. Its a little more expensive but very worth it.
7. While on Kaua'i, bring ear plugs if you are camping. The roosters start crowing at 3:30am on the dot.
8. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Be sure to check out more pics from the trip.