Hawaii vacation, April/May 2013

We took a 2 week family vacation to Hawaii in April and May of 2013.
We were away from New Hampshire for a total of 3 weeks; we could do this because Bee's 8th grade class had spring vacation, then a week of school, then an optional 1-week trip to Washington DC. By pulling her from the trip she'd only miss 1 week of school, during which nothing academic would happen anyhow being bookended by 2 weeks of vacation. Additionally, we were in DC last year, and (a) Bee got to see all the sights and (b) we saw tons of middle/high school groups where the kids were mostly sitting on the museums' benches texting each other.

We started the trip by flying to SFO and spending a couple nights with each of Dave's and Jenny's parents. This also helped break up the flights... it's 12 hours of flying from NH to HI.
(Note: click on any picture to expand/shrink it!)
The impetus of the trip is that Dave's mom (Joan Crawford Chambers) grew up in Hilo in the 1930s and 1940s, and I very much wanted my kids to see and understand where Grandma grew up. Naturally, Hawaii has changed a LOT since then, but parts of it are still unchanged, and in any case the location (waaaaay out in the Pacific) and climate (hot and either very wet or very dry) haven't changed at all.

We spent: There are many versions of "Hawaii". The first thing most people think of is beaches and palm trees swaying in the breeze. That does exist, but really Hawaii is as varied an anywhere in the world. Each island has it's own character, and on this trip we visited three to get a feeling for each, and for how different they can be. I (Dave) had been to all the major islands before, though to Kauai only once when I was about 4 (I don't remember it, though I do remember various events such as losing a swim mask and falling in a fountain on that trip). I don't believe I'd ever stayed the night on Oahu; we'd visit Waikiki mostly a day trip while passing thru en route to Hilo. Most of my childhood memories are from Hilo and Maui.


We stopped in Waikiki for two reasons: first, that's where the cheapest flights from the mainland land :), but also to give the kids an impression of the place.
Waikiki is the stereotypical Hawaii: highrise hotels on the beach. Also, the kids had watched the Brady Bunch's 2-episode Hawaii trip many times (I remember when it 1st aired!), so I felt it was important for them to see what Waikiki really is.
And what Waikiki really is is a disgusting tourist trap: Las Vegas crammed up against the beach, and it's only gotten much worse since I was last there. I can't imagine how someone could go to all the effort of visiting Hawaii and spending all their time on Waikiki, sitting on the crowded (and pretty average) beach during the day then walking up & down Kalakua Ave at night, shopping in Gucci stores. Really?
OK, enough opinion.

Wednesday, April 24

Waikiki We had an 8am flight out of SFO, which landed in HNL 11am. When you deplane, you see this:
Many airports have similar signs, but arriving in Hawaii is better than, say, Los Angeles.
Sadly, leis are no longer part of the greeting :(

We stayed in an Outrigger Waikiki Shore condo right on the beach:

We were on the 12th floor, 2nd unit from front, with Fort Derussy on the noprth side, so we had a great view up the beach:

And the kitchen window looks down toward Diamond Head

We had a quick lunch at the Shorebird, on the beach, next door to the condo

Then we hit the beach - flying west is great: leave SFO that morning and on the beach in Waikiki by 1pm the same day!
The kids built the first of MANY sandcastles.

Dressed for dinner. Okay, my shirt and shorts clash.

Waiting at Duke's Waikiki

Oceanside (well, really poolside) at Duke's
Duke's turned out to be an overpriced tourist trap, but it seemed the place to go on our 1st night in Waikiki.
After dinner we went to the International Marketplace, a sort of a permanent flea market, and the girls got their hair braided.
Annie was TOTALLY into it. Bee wasn't sure, but eventually got braids as well.
Sadly, the Marketplace was torn down in 2014 in order to build a Saks Fifth Avenue, as if THAT'S what Waikiki needs. A sad loss.

The girls and their braids

Thursday, April 25

The great thing about a condo is that it has a kitchen, so breakfast is easy

And we hit the beach

We walked the length of Waikiki beach, stopping at Duke's statue

At the far south end of Waikiki. Our hotel is just above Bee's head.

The girls dressed for dinner, in their new Hawaiian dresses

Here's Jack in his new shirt

Annie, catching a wave

Thursday, April 25

Waikiki in the AM, fly to Hilo in the afternoon.
One last trip to Waikiki beach.
The kids all built sandcastles, and a big wave took them all out.

After lunch, we rented a car and visited the Dole pileapple plantation.
A bit too touristy, but they have a train, and it was a good way to kill time before our flight

Chapter 4


We rented a house in Hilo for 6 nights.
It was about 30 minutes south of town, but it had all the features we were looking for (5 beds, pool, oceanfront).
The oceanfront is actually a 20 foot lava cliff, but the sound of the waves pounding the cliff were wonderful to fall alseep to.

Friday, April 27

Sunrise from the front porch

Here's a 25 minute video of the full sunrise - watch it fullscreen!

Here's a walkthru of the house:

And here's a video of the house's oceanfront view:

(play it fullscreen to really get the feel of it)

Jack's bed had the best view

After breakfast, we headed to downtown Hilo to check out the town and a number of spots from Joan's childhood.
First stop was the Farmer's market. Annie got a coconut.

We stopped by the hospital that Joan was born in, in 1929.
It's now a elderly care facility.
It's in decent shape - many roofs are made from corrugated metal, and in Hilo with the heat & rainfall it's a constant fight against rust and decay.

We stopped by the Shipman House, home of Joan's childhood friend Roy Shipman Blackshear, a descendant of WH Shipman.
Roy passed away several years ago, but his daughter Barbara now owns Shipman House. It was a LOT of fun to talk to her - she remembered the Crawfords well and fondly.

We visited Rainbow Falls, a popular and beautiful waterfall just outside downtown Hilo.

On the path to the falls are several large banyan trees; the kids had fun exploring the roots and vines.

We hiked out to the top of the falls. The water was low so it was safe :)
The edge of the falls is just above Dave's head.

Family picture

Next, we visited the site of Joan's childhood home, which was destroyed in the 1946 tsunami (Click here for a Google map of the house site).
Joan & her parents & her brother were in the house when the first wave hit, but kept their wits about them and were able to run 100 yards inland between the 1st and seconds waves and climb a mango tree, thus surviving. Many people were not so fortuate.
In the pic below, we're standing on the foundation of a doorway to the house. The house was beyond.

Jack & Annie in the house area (camera's back is to the ocean).

The lava point that reaches out into the bay in front of the house.

Looking back at the house site from the point

Jenny on the point. Behind her is a popular beach (no sand, just lava rocks).

Adjacent to the house site is the Hilo Yacht Club, which Joan's family belonged to. The Yacht Club was also destroyed in the tsunami, but was rebuilt.

In the picture above, Jack is looking toward the site of the Crawford's house, which was about 200 yards straight ahead.
Here's a movie of the house site from several perspectives:

And a video of my late uncle Allan Crawford (from the Pacific Tsunami Museum's website) describing the experience:

If you're ever in Hilo, be sure to visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum (we did) which has lots of great info and history.
At the end of the day, the kids had a good swim in the pool

And did some hot tubbing

And we had dinner on the deck, next to the ocean

Saturday, April 28

We next explored the Pahoa area to the south of Hilo, which has an interesting coast and ends at a recent volcanic flow.
We stopped and swam at Ahalanui Park, an oceanfront volcanic hotspring.

Jenny & Bee with the spring and ocean beyond.

Annie Chambers, tween swimsuit model.

We continued out to Kalapana, a town destroyed by a 1986 eruption, and to adjacent Kaimu beach park which was a black sand beach until it was covered by an eruption in 1990.
At Kalapana, the road suddenly ends at a 20 foot deep lava flow.
We hiked out across the Kaimu flow to the new (small) black sand beach.

Sunday, April 29

We spent the day at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The volcano and associated vents have nbeen very active over the past several years. When we visited, Kilauea was smoking, and there was some lava pouring into the ocean (from a vent 10 miles away) and greating towering steam clouds.
Here we are at the park's Jaggar museum, with the caldera behind us.
The circle emitting smoke is just the small center of the caldera; the entire area behind us is Kileua crater.

We drove down the Chain Of Craters road - a 10 mile drive from Kileua to the sea.
Here we're at an outlook at about 1000 feet elevation, looking down the flows to the sea.

The road ends at a recent flow. The lava just goes where it wants, and humans are powerless to stop it.

The road USED to end a bit further on. Then the volcano erupted again, almost covering this 8 foot tall road sign.

Looking back up the road.
The parking area is about 1/2 mile behind us. Jack had to use the bathroom and ran the entire half mile (you can see him in the white shirt & dark shorts just beyond the lava) in 95 degree heat. He made it! We think he's ready for Ironman!

After the volcanos, we stopped at the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory, which was 10 minutes from the house.
It's a pretty lame "factory tour", but you get free samples.

Monday, April 30

Today we set of for the Kona side of the island. As it's a 3 hour drive, we decided to drive over via the south side of the island, stay the night at the Hilton Waikoloa, then do the 3 hour return trip the next day via Waimea and the coast north of Hilo.
On the southwest "corner" of there are numerous huge lava flows. Here we are at an overlook, with the flows reaching all the way down to the sea a mile away.

For lunch we ate at this kooky local place in Kona called the Broke Da Mouth Cafe, which is in the back corner or a laundromat!

After lunch we visted the Hula Daddy coffee plantation.
Here we are in the porch with the plains and ocean at our back

Out among the coffee plant

Being organic, they use chameleons for pest control. This one is about 6" long.

Our destination was the Hilton Waikoloa, where we'd spend the night.
It's a big touristy resort, but it has great pools, which we knew the kids would like.
We had dinner outside, by the riverboat canal (the place is so big they have boats to get you around)

Then it started to rain, so we moved inside

They also have a cheesy monorail in addition to the boats, so we rode it after dinner. The kids were hanging loose.

The next morning the girls swam with dolphins. Here's Annie:

And Bee:

And both of them together:

The girls, lagoon-side:

And the kids with half the resort in the backgound

That night, after returning "home" to Hilo, Bee took her braids out

Tuesday, May 1

On our last day in Hilo, we explored the town some more, and on a map Jenny found Kaumana Cave, which is a lava tube just outside Hilo.
We had a picnic lunch!

The descended into the cave. This is about as far as Jack would go.

The girls in the cave:

Wednesday, May 2

On Wednesday, we got up early and flew to Hanalei - a 40 minute flight to Oahu then a 23 minute flight to Kauai.
Upon leaving the Hilo house early in the AM, we saw a rainbow.


We rented a another VRBO house in Hanalei, just a block off the beach

On the way from the airport to Hanalei, we stopped for lunch at Duane's Ono Char Burger
Food was good, but as Jenny said, it's nice to see that there are still places the that health inspector never visits.
The outdoor eating area is overrun by chickens and mangy-looking feral cats.

Upon arriving in Hanalei, we quickly changed and hit the beach. Jack & Annie wasted no time in building a sandcastle.
See the pier in the background? You can see it live on this webcam (click the "Control Camera" text). You can also see it in the movie South Pacific.

Thursday, May 3

We spent most of the day on the beach, then headed to Wailua in the afternoon to have dinner at Smith's Garden Luau to eat with 200 of our best friends.
Touristy, but no trip to Hawaii is complete without a luau.
We all put on our new Aloha clothes; here are the girls with the Hanalei valley in the background:

Family picture in the gardens:

Dave and Bee at the table:

There was live Hawaiian music during dinner, and at one point they invited all the birthday people up on stage to do the hula. Though it was technically Bee's birthday (the next day) Annie joined in as well:

Here's a movie of the girls onstage, dancing to the hukilau song, which is Bee's favorite Hawaiian song:

And the song was right: Laulau was the kau kau at the luau!

Saturday, May 4

Happy 14th birthday Bee!
We gave her surfing lessons as a birthday present:

The birthday girl:

Blowing out her candles:

Cupcakes for lunch!

After lunch we drove down the coast to the end of thr road.
We stopped at Tunnels Beach, which, as the name suggests, has caves in the cliffside:

This side of Kauai - the north end of the Napali coast - is packed with steep valleys, each of which has a stream or river that finds its way to the ocean.
There's the family at the stream at Tunnels Beach:

We stopped at another beach where a river empties into the ocean:

Jack, contemplating the ocean:

There are also numerous waterfalls. It rains constantly in the mountains (the wettest spot on earth), and the waterfalls cascade down the steep cliffs:

Sunday, May 5

Today started out rainy, but it was still warm, so we hit the beach. We walked all the way to the south end of the beach, where naturally we found a stream.
Dave and Jack built a bridge (for squirrels, perhaps) across the stream:

The girls built a sand fort, and added a roof to provide shelter from the rain:

The rain increased, so after lunch we checked the weather in Poipu (south side of the island), fund that it was sunny, and so we decided to explore the south coast.
Here's the view toward Poipu:
This area is very different from Hanalei: much drier, with few beaches, and a zillion condos. Okay to visit for the afternoon, but I'd bnever stay here.

Just beyond Poipu there's a blowhole:

We happened upon the Hanapepe swinging bridge:

Lauai's south coast is very interesting. It used be all sugar cane plantations, but they've all disappeared over the past 20 years.
All along the coast road, from Poipu to Hanapepe to Waimea to Barking Sands, are fallow cane fields, small plantation towns, and abandonded sugar mills.

One place we stopped was Waimea Plantation Cottages, an old plantation town that's been resurrected as a very low-key getaway. It looks like a REALLY neat place to stay.

Another very interesting stop was the factory town adjacent to the defunct Olokele sugar mill, which was the last active sugar mill on Kauai when it shut down in 2009. Unlike most plantation towns, which are mostly simple shacks, this town has fancy houses, with sidewalks and old-fashioned street lamps - this is where the bigwigs lived. But with the mill's closing, the town is now mostly abandoned, the yards uncared for and the sidewalks cracking, and it's a quiet, almost eerie, ghost town.

We returned to Poipu for dinner.
Bee is taking Spanish in school, and her teacher has given a homework assignment to experience something Spanish. One option is to eat at a tapas bar. We found Josselyn's Tapas Bar in Poipu, and it was fantastic - EASILY the best meal we had on our entire trip.

After dinner we had local ice cream:

Jack's brown ring:

Then we watched the sunset. The kids worked off their sugar high by wrestling on the lawn:

Monday, May 6

We splurged and took a helicopter tour of the island.
None of us had ever been in a helicopter before, and it was FUN! HIGHLY recommended if you have the budget and time. Annie


Annie and Bee

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay, from up a valley

The waterfall in the movie "Jurassic Park"

The beach used in the 1978 version of King Kong

Jack & Annie

Jack looking out over Hanalei valley

The Jurassic Park waterfall

We visited the Kilauea Point Lighthouse which was celebrating it's 100th birthday.

Jenny and Bee at the lighthouse

Jenny looking south over Hanalei bay

Tuesday, May 7

Jack & Annie wrestling on the couch at the Hanalei house

Jack and Dave building a dam across the stream at Tunnels beach

The dam and lake grew quite large!

Bee and Annie used boogie boards in the lake we created

Bee sand-surfing into the lake

Jack and Annie building one of many sandcastles

Dave and Bee went snorkeling in the reef at Tunnels

For our last night in Hawaii we went to The Dolphin restaurant in Hanalei, on the Hanalei river. Highly recommended!
Annie, in all pink (naturally)



Jenny and Dave

All three kids

After dinner the weather and sunset were beautiful, so we went to the beach for an evening swim

The whole family at sunset

Bee and Annie

Jenny and Bee

After we returned home, Bee and Annie performed Lovely Hula Hands