Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hawaii - paradise on earth

So I have two hours  to kill at the airport in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. What best to do than to write about our amazing 2,5 weeks in Hawai'i? :)

The idea of going to Hawai'i started a long time ago. We were thinking of an exotic destination for our summer holidays in 2011 and thought of Hawai'i. We started looking up flights and hotels, but it was so expensive that we quickly aborted our plans. That summer we went to Sardinia instead, which cost about one fourth of what we would have spent going to Hawai'i. 
When we were planning our trip around the world, we initially didn't include Hawai'i, still with the idea it was going to be too expensive. Which backpacker goes there anyway? Only honeymooners or Americans during their holiday break. But, somehow, I was not really satisfied with our first list of countries and I wanted to add another destination: Brasil, Cuba, Miami, or Hawai'i. Miami would be easy because we had a transit flight through Miami so we could stay there a couple of days. Claudio didn't want to go to Cuba, so we doubted between Hawai'i and Brasil. I asked for some quotations through our travel agency to have it included in our round the world ticket and Hawai'i was A LOT cheaper than Brasil! So the decision was made, we were flying to Honolulu the 14th of January :-)

Hawai'i is still really expensive, especially Oahu, which is the island on which most people live, and where Honolulu is situated. We decided to spend 7 days in Oahu and 10 days on the Big Island, which is - as the name already explains - the biggest island of Hawai'i. To avoid high hotel prices, we booked our accommodation already before we left, and used airbnb again. This saved us really a lot of money! 
When we landed in Honolulu (Oahu), we picked up our rental car and drove to the first place we were going to stay in. It was a beautiful house on the hills, with a magnificent view of the city and also Diamond Head, which is a crater in front of the sea. There was also a lanai or terrace with a table and chairs where you could enjoy the views, so we often ate there at night with our take-out food from Whole Foods to enjoy the sunset. Truly breathtaking views!  We also had a car so it was no problem not to be in Waikiki center itself. We were only 10 minutes from the  center and the island is really not big at all. You can easily drive around it in 3 hours. 

The lady we stayed with, Phyllis, was friendly, but in this 'American' kind of way. Smiling and polite, but not really interested in you as a person. We had our own private bathroom and room so we never really saw her. But it was a pity we couldn't hang in the living room or talk with her a bit about life in Hawai'i. She also had all these crazy rules about doors that should be open or not, and had stickers everywhere with info,... a bit too neurotic for our taste ;-). But still, the place was really clean, safe and we had a big room with amazing views, and we didn't pay a lot, so can you really complain? 

Views from our lanai in Honolulu
Hanauma Bay

In the 7 days that we were in Oahu we visited a lot of different beaches. We went to Waikiki and Diamond Head in the south. We also visited the North Shore, famous for it's huge waves in winter! We followed the forecasts on local websites and went the day that the waves were up to 25 feet (which is approximately 8 meters)!! We saw surfers trying to catch waves and risking their lives. Some couldn't exit from the sea with their boards and there were life guards with special jet ski's to help them. We saw some surfers just abandoning their boards because they couldn't get out of the water with them - totally crazy! People who were not surfing were prohibited to go near the water. We saw some children playing so close to the water we got scared brrrr. One wave can take you and you're gone... But it was so cool to see these waves. The sea is so powerful and beautiful. 
We visited other beaches in the East as well, such as Lanikai and Kailua. The water was so clear and the beaches sandy and bright. At both beaches, you had little islands in front of beach, so it was a lovely view. The waves were a lot calmer on the East and South beaches, so it was nice to swim and relax. One day, we also went to Hanauma bay, famous for it's corals, turtles and fish. We snorkeled and saw such big turtles, they were huge! We didn't see a lot of fish though, because you couldn't step on the coral and that is where they were swimming around - so it was difficult to reach them. The bay itself was one of the best places we have been in in Hawai'i. It is really touristic, but you understand why. It is absolutely beautiful. 

After 5 days of amazing beaches, it was time to leave for the Big Island! We took a flight, as you cannot take a ferry, it just doesn't exist. We also had some trouble booking our flights from Belgium, as you can only book it when you have a US credit card. So we had to book it through a travel agent (we used Kilroy). It was really annoying because they changed our flight time like 10 times, and we always had to confirm, else they would cancel our ticket... But it was the only way we could do it unfortunately. 
On the Big Island we stayed with the best host ever, Jeanie. She had a beautiful house in Captain Cook, and lived there together with her cat and a friend, called Tiger :). We had such nice talks with Jeanie and Tiger, and we loved to hang out in the house and just relax. It was so nice to be in a big house and feel at home, cozy and comfortable. We also had a huge king size bed - better than all these small 140 cm beds we have slept in during this trip ;). We also cooked several times, in an attempt to save money, but actually groceries are really expensive in Hawai'i so it was a failed attempt ;). 

Koma the cat :-)
Tiger, me, and Jeanie - miss you guys 

On the Big Island, we had two days of bad weather. When it rains, it rains hard, and all activities are on the beach or outdoors, so your options are limited. We tried to make the best of it, and decided to go to the movies. We saw the Wolf of Wall Street, what a good movie! Leo is the best :). On sunny days, we went to several beaches in the East and North of the island. The beaches however, are not as beautiful as in Oahu. There are a lot of rocks, and the surf was high, so the beaches are really short. One days we also attempted to body-board and rented two or them, but we failed miserably. At least we tried right  :D? 
We also visited the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and did a hike. We first walked into the rain forest for a while, with a view of the crater, and the lake of hard lava. The volcano erupted and spit lava, creating the lake. This happened during the 20th century. The volcano is still active now, and sometimes parts of the park are closed due to possible danger. Afterwards, the hike led us to the lake itself and we walked around in it! That was a fun experience :)
The last day on the Big Island, we went to Jeanie's workplace. She is stationed at the beach (DREAMJOB right?) and her team rents out snorkeling gear to tourists. The beach doesn't seem that much when you first get there, but once you get in the water and starts snorkeling.... Wow! We saw the most amazing fish, every color that you can imagine, blue, purple, yellow, green,... and different patterns such a polkadots and stripes. Even fish that looked like snakes. It was a pity we couldn't take pictures.
For us, the highlight of our days on the Big Island were the amazing sunsets we experienced. It was so perfect, it didn't seem real. We would stop our car if we would be driving, go to the beach, sit there in silence, and take in the views... Just like paradise...

Dreamlike sunsets @ the Big Island
Amazing views

So after 10 days of relaxing life on the Big Island it was time to head back to Oahu for another 2 days! I was not feeling so well in these days. Claudio had caught something in Cancun, a weird cold that lasted for 2 weeks, including fever and a sore throat, and now I was having the same symptoms. I was a bit weak but we still tried to have fun. We went to Makapu'u beach, which was really beautiful. The views were spectacular. The sea was pretty wild that day, but we went into the sea anyway. The waves were huge, and you have to go under the water when it arrives because if it takes you, you just stay under water and you can drawn. So we went under water, again and again, the waves were so huge all of the sudden and there was no time in between the different waves! It was difficult to get out of this cycle, and out of the water and for one moment it was a bit scary. But we managed fine, and luckily we can swim well, so we made it back to the beach. And didn't go in anymore! Lesson learned: don't mess with the sea....

Makapu'u beach

So this was our 2,5 weeks in Hawai'i. The weather was good, the beaches spectacular, the food expensive, the people super friendly, and the sunsets amazing. We would go back there in a heartbeat. Mahalo Hawai'i, for the amazing time. We miss you already...

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