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Oahu Six Day Stopover, July 09
Story and Photo's by Tab Hauser
After thirteen beautiful days in New Zealand we took advantage of a free stopover in Oahu on the way home to New York. We had spent 6 days in Hawaii trading in our winter coats needed in New Zealand for the summer shorts. This was not only a free stopover but a good way to break up the trip and get to know Oahu better.
Two years earlier we stayed 3 nights and 2 full days in Waikiki on Oahu as part of a transfer going from Kauai to New York. (see www.tabhauser.com and click down to Kauai The Garden Island). We stayed in Waikiki for two reasons. One was that we had to change planes anyway in Honolulu so we were there. The other reason was that the kids could try the consistent easy surf that makes Waikiki famous. At that time we decided that Waikiki was a bit too crowded for our taste. Waikiki to me felt like a cross between the Las Vegas Strip (minus casinos), Miami Beach and Times Square. I did not get the “Aloha Spirit” being in Waikiki as we did on Kauai. For our 6 day stopover on this trip we rented a three bedroom house overlooking Kaneohe Bay on the east coast. This house was only a five minute drive from Kailua Beach. Kailua Beach was rated as a top beach winner. It was also 25 minutes and another world away from Waikiki. We were also 10 minutes away from town of Kailua which had plenty of supermarkets, stores and restaurants to take advantage of. Lastly, we were a 45 minute drive from the pretty north shore.
First Day, Kailua Beach
After a comfortable 9 hour flight on business class from Auckland we stepped off the plane to feel the warm humid Hawaiian night air as a welcomed change. Air New Zealand whisked our winter clothes off the plane in less than 10 minutes and it was through Customs and to our rented car shortly after. In the car we pulled the New Zealand memory card from our Garmin GPS, set the address to our rental house and arrived 11PM to find our summer clothes we shipped via UPS waiting for us.
Our first day in Oahu had to be a beach day so after the kids woke up we picked up lunch and drove over to Kailua Bay Beach Park. Here we set up beach chairs and an umbrella we borrowed from the house and plunged into the calm ocean. Kailua Beach has great sand, calm water and no crowds. “Vegging” on the beach chair or throwing a ball around in the water was plenty of activity for us after all the traveling the previous 2 weeks. We also decided at the beach that after following a schedule in New Zealand we would “do” Oahu one day at a time to whatever interests us.
No Thirty Foot Waves Crashing Down On This July Day, Come Back In January!
On our second day we took a 45 drive to the north shore. Our daughter being a surfing enthusiast wanted to see the beaches where the large waves crash during the winter months. We stopped at Sunset Beach as well as the Bonzai Pipeline. It is here that the leading surfing contests take place amongst the 30 and 40 foot crashing waves. When we arrived this July day all we saw were nearly calm seas and very small waves coming into the sand. There were some surfers out but no was catching anything. I think it was frustrating for Melissa to be in one of the world’s surfing capitals and not see the action.
North Shore Map Looking Out At Flat Seas On The Bonzai Pipeline
From Bonzai we continued east looking at Shark’s Bay where the snorkeling is suppose to be very good. Our next destination was lunch at the town of Waialua and then had back to Waimea Beach to spend a couple of hours swimming relaxing. Waimea Beach is a nice beach with tall rocks that kids jump off of on the west side. There is also a small tunnel like cave they jump into at that end as well. The bulk of the beach is coarse sand and has calm seas in the summer. It is one of the few beaches we have been to that has a drop off once you are 10 to 15 feet out. After floating here and walking the beach we headed back to Waialua to stop at the famous Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice. After a 20 minutes wait we gave our order and paid $2.75 to $3.00 plus $.25 to get a plastic snow cone holder that makes it easier to eat from. I ordered a lychee and pineapple combo. Personally I found that the blue colored pineapple syrup poured over the ice lacking any pineapple flavor and the lychee tasted more like grape. There are two other less crowded ice places in town that are worth a look at for anyone reading this. I was here just to see if Matsumoto’s reputation is deserved. We were disappointed.
Waimea Beach Staying Out Of the Sun At Waimea Beach
Kids Jumping Off 25 foot high rock at Waimea Beach A Hole Carved Into Rock Where People Jump Into
From the North Shore we headed back south on 83 with our goal to stop at one of the fresh shrimp stands. After passing a few trucks we stopped at Fumis because it had the shrimp pond right behind it. We bought 1 ½ pounds of fresh out of the water shrimp at $8 per pound ($9.00 cleaned). While they were cleaning them the good smell from the kitchen had Daniel’s taste buds awaken so he ordered a dozen sautéed spicy shrimp in garlic to have tableside while they cleaned the shrimp we purchased. The cooked shrimp was excellent at Fumis. Cooking and eating the shrimp we brought back to the house in Kaneohe was equally delicious. Cooking our own dinner back at the house was a nice change of pace from eating out over the last 2 weeks.
Surfing At Waikiki Beach Where Conditions Were a Bit Flat
Our third day in Oahu was spent on Waikiki Beach for the sole purpose of having the kids attempt to surf the consistent 3 foot wave surge there. After a 25 minute drive I dropped my family off directly in front of the statue of Duke himself, which is just across from the Hyatt Hotel. I then lucked out with metered parking just 3 short blocks away. (The meters allows two hour parking so I had to go back twice in the day. The advantage of doing this was that I was able to buy cold and inexpensive drinks at the ABC store each time instead of at the much higher price concession stand.) While I parked Maureen and the kids found a spot on the beach, set up our chairs and umbrella and rented two 8 foot surf boards for $25 each for the afternoon after a little bargaining. The people at the main rental table could not have been any nicer. (They even offered to watch my spare smaller camera I took with me that day)
Statue Of Duke, Father Of Modern Surfing Lounging In Tight Spaces On Waikiki Beach
What we noted on this Saturday in Waikiki was that it had 20% less people than 2 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, we were still crowded with our beach spot nearly on top of three other families. One reason we came back to this area of the beach after two years is because it has easy access to rent beach chairs and boards. It also has a snack bar with reasonably priced food steps away. The snack bar here also had good shaved ice to refresh you after soaking up the sun, sand and ocean. While the day turned out beautiful, the surfing was a little more difficult for our beginner / novice kids. On the first try the kids went out about 1 ½ hours and out about a dozen waves made it up on only one. The conditions were more on the flat side so they floated on their boards along with the other 30 surfers what looked like a ¼ mile out. The kids said that it seemed only the locals were able to get up on more of the waves that came up. After lunch the kids hit the waves again for a little more than an hour and had similar results as the morning surfing. The problem with Waikiki surfing is that it takes a lot of energy to paddle out to where the waves happen. If you want to see anyone on the boards bring some good binoculars.
Mokulua Islands Monk Seal On Mokulua Islands
Sunday Maureen & I decided on kayaking to the Mokulua Islands which we reached from Lanikai Beach just south of Kailua Beach. Nick, the owner of the house we rented from was kind enough to tie up the kayaks to his pickup truck and take to us to a beach access area. Once at Lanikai Beach the kids realized they were still sore from surfing and opted not to join us. Maureen and I got into the tandem open kayak and paddled about ¾ of a mile to the small beach on the north island against a light wind and 1 foot choppy waves. Because of the current and waves that run along the north side of the island and from in between the islands, along with the wind we made a “less than graceful” landing on the beach in front of a tour group there. What surprised us after our spill was the rare 600 pound Monk Seal just yards from where we got up on the sand. The seal was just laying there on the beach trying to ignore us and others while he rolled his body around in the sand. As he was directly on a thin part of the beach it would occasionally raise its head and give a growling sound just to tell people not to get close. Maureen and I stayed on the island about 30 minutes, watched the guided kayak group board there canoes with very wet results. After seeing their mistakes we simply put the kayak in deeper water and timed the waves from both sides before Maureen plopped in followed seconds by me. The kayak ride back was a little easier as we rolled with some waves on our stern and took advantage of the wind to our back cutting 5 minutes off the return trip. We found Lanikai Beach on this Sunday not crowded and had a good mix of locals, mainland home owners and house renters.
On our fifth day Dan had requested we take a fishing trip so he can try his luck for a large tuna. After searching around and doing some negotiating we chartered a 39 foot fishing boat the Snoopy V out of Honolulu. What was nice about this boat was I was able to set our departure time at 7AM rather than 6 AM as other boats leave. On board was the owner who acted as fishing mate while the other man piloted the boat. I was told in the event a fish is hooked Daniel’s should get in the fishing chair and my job would be to point the chair towards the direction of the fish. Within 30 minutes a fish hit and Dan brought in a 12 pound Mahi-Mahi. It was not the tuna he wanted but it was dinner for the tonight. We then trolled for the next 3 hours without a single hit exchanging stories about Hawaii and Colorado with the young crew. Dan got a firsthand account as to why what we did is called fishing and not catching.
Hanauma Bay Diamond Head
That afternoon the kids were too tired to go out so Maureen & I took the 30 minute drive down Route 72 to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling. Hanauma Bay is a volcanic crater that has one side opened to the ocean. This allowed coral to grow and fish to live peacefully for thousands of years. It became a top tourist attraction and perhaps was loved to near death until the state parks department took it over in 1967 giving it full protection from fishing or the removal of anything with in the parks boundaries. The state even closes the place on Tuesday to keep the pressure off the fish. One thing they do to help with matters is make a 9 minute video mandatory for all to watch. We found the video had too much on native culture of the area but did not go far enough to educate people about how slow coral grows as well as other small hazards people should avoid.
After the video we walked down the hill and put our snorkel, fins and mask on and went in. At first the visibility was marred by sand kicked up from the incoming surge and perhaps the swimmers in the sandy shallows. Once we swam over what is not flattened coral and got to deeper water we were able to see much better. At first we watched a turtle nipping at the algae. This was followed by many tropical fish ranging from just a few inches long to large pretty parrot fish nearly two feet long. We looked for and spotted the Picasso Trigger which has the most amazing patterns on it. After snorkeling and taking a walk to the end of the beach we paid $1.00 to take the tram back up the steep hill. Parking at Hanumu bay is $1.00 and admission to the park is $7.50 per person.
Pretty South East Coast Oahu
It should be noted that route 72 runs from the end of Waikiki and goes along the southeast end of the island. This is one of the more scenic roads to drive on and should not be missed. Along this road you will pass different surfing and boogie boarding beaches, scenic vistas and an ocean blowhole.
Koala Ranch Tour From Season One, Lost TV Series
On our last day in Oahu we started off easy with everyone wanting to get the last few hours at Kailua Beach. From here we changed into long pants so Melissa, Dan and I can do the two hour ATV ride at the Koala Ranch while Maureen did the 2 hour horseback ride at the same time. The Koala Ranch is a working cattle ranch with 500 to 1000 cattle but its real business is renting out the land to TV and movie production companies as well as tourism through 4WD, ATV, bus or horseback riding tours. We did the two hour ATV tour. Here the first hour is spent stopping at the WW II bunker before moving on to the scenic valley where Jurassic Park, Lost, Godzilla and several other TV and movies were filmed. After a mild first hour ride our guide seeing we were comfortable with their underpowered Suzuki ATV’s took us to the back side of the property. Here we crossed a stream and went up and down the hills in their forest allowing us to pick up the speed on their governed 2WD vehicles to 20 mph. For the last 10 minutes he had us zoom around on the sand in a back area that was very good for beginners. Koala Ranch promotes safety here and not speed. This is emphasized over and over again so if you are looking for more of a thrill on an ATV ride this may not be your thing. If you want to see part of Oahu in a different way or you are into movie sets try this tour. Maureen’s horseback ride was also down slowly with one horse behind the other seeing the same movie and TV sets. Her group did not go behind the tall volcanic ridge to the other side of the property due to their speed being at a walking pace.
Melissa and Daniel Plowing Through a Stream
After our ATV and horseback riding tour we headed back to our rented house to shower and change. This was the first stop for our trip back to New York. From here we had a fast dinner in Kailua and then it was off to the airport for the 10:30 PM flight.
Oahu Cliffs Old Fish Ponds On East Coast Oahu
This is the third island in Hawaii I have been to. The others have been Maui and Kauai. Oahu is a nice island but more of what I would call a working island. It is not my favorite due the roads and congestion compared to the other two. Waikiki as mentioned earlier is an overrun tourist city that does not give me the Hawaiian feeling I have gotten from other two islands visited. If you come to Oahu I would avoid staying in Waikiki unless you like crowds and long waits at restaurants and consider renting a house like we did in Kailua or Lanikai. Kailua is a city with plenty of places to shop, eat or buy groceries. The beaches on this part of the island are stunning and not crowded. It is also a good area to visit other parts of the island. If you want to be away from any crowds try finding a place on the north shore. There are plenty of beaches to swim in during the non-winter months. Winter months can be a major problem due to the intense wave and surf action.
IF YOU GO:
We found our rented house on www.vrbo.com. This is a place to rent condos and homes. We rented a home from Nick and Sally Lovretich at www.KailuaOceanView.com. They have a complex on a hill with a great view. The 3 bedroom house we rented I would give 3 stars out of 5. Two of the AC units did not work properly and when the breezes stopped the house got warm. The master bedroom had an A/C unit that sat on the floor in the room next to the bed that while cool was noisy. Where Nick and Sally excel is their 5 bedroom house on the top of the driveway that looked first rate and has its own pool. A nice feature with renting here is that you can borrow chairs, boards and umbrellas. There is also an open air master game room for everyone to share.
Hanauma Bay: http://www.honolulu.gov/parks/facility/hanaumabay/welcome.htm Go either very early or after 3PM when the bus tours are gone. We got there at 3:30 and had no trouble parking. We found the crowd thinning quickly at that time.
Koala Ranch: Located on the road along the coast to the north short www.kualoa.com
Fishing: There are plenty of fishing boats going out daily or twice a day. Email KBAY Sport Fishing at email@example.com
Food: Assaggio in Kailua was one of the better places that had good
Italian food with large portions and fair prices 808-261-2772.
Were not impressed with Duke's in Waikiki as we were 2 years earlier. Forget going to a luau unless you want to be surrounded by tons of tourists in what may look like a tacky setting serving over priced average food. None of the home owners we met could recommend one.
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