Hawai’i

USS Arizona Memorial / Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy…” declared then president Franklin D. Roosevelt, one day after Japan’s attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.  An hour after this famous speech, the United States was officially brought into World War II.

The USS Arizona was one of 20 battleships and other large vessels that were sunk that day, and some 2,000+ people were killed.  The Arizona was too badly damaged to be raised, repaired, and returned to service, so it remains beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor, along with the bodies of most of her crew.  Today, the USS Arizona Memorial honors those who died on the battleship and elsewhere in the Japanese attack.

I don’t think you really “enjoy” being here, but it is an important place to visit, honor, give gratitude, remember, and reflect….

Hawaii-Haleakala NP 2

18 - Sunset 2
Sunset at Haleakala

April 1 — The second area we visited in Haleakala: Pu’u’ula’ula Summit.  We drove the long and winding road (literally!) in the late afternoon, arriving here to watch the sunset.  We checked through the Park Headquarters Visitor Center but were told the “House of the Sun” Visitor Center at the top was closed — crushing because Laura was looking to get her NP stamp for her journal. Fortunately, a very nice park ranger found an old stamp (the year was missing) and handed it over to us in our car so we could stamp the journal — the day was saved!

Up near the top we saw the Haleakala Silversword, or Aninahina, one of the world’s rarest plants.  This guy thrives under the most hostile conditions volcanic conditions – hot days, cold nights, and porous ash soil.  The soft silvery hairs on its incurved leaves protect the plant from sunlight and draft, and it takes up to 50 years for one of these to flower.

After walking around this part of the park and gazing longingly at the Haleakala Observatories (a science fiction-style cluster of research stations set in the summit’s lunar landscape but closed to the public; here scientists map movements of the Earth’s crust) we made the final little hike up to 10,023′ to watch the sunset.  As the sun was sinking ever closer to the horizon, it got chillier and chillier outside.  I kept thinking to myself, “I’m in Hawaii; I’m not supposed to be freezing cold!”  But alas, the sun finally disappeared behind the clouds in a spectacular display of nature’s beauty, and in the darkness, we began the careful journey back down Haleakala Crater Road and back into civilization — and warmth!

Hover your pointer over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through our photos from Haleakala.

Hawaii-Haleakala NP

March 31 — The first of two areas we visited in Haleakala was Kipahulu.  This is the area in the southeast section of this national park.  We had a nice afternoon of hiking the Pipiwai Trail.  This is an easy 3.7 miles round trip with an 800′ climb.  Along the way we passed the 184-foot waterfall at Makahiku, and wound our way through bamboo and guava forests to the base of Waimoku Falls.  With a 400′ water drop, this is one of the largest waterfalls in Hawaii. We finished our afternoon swimming in the pools at Ohe’o Gulch.

Hover your pointer over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through our photos from Haleakala.

Kaloko-Honokohau NHP

March 26 — On another historical site on the west coast of the ‘big island’ sits a couple of ancient Hawaiian settlements.  For hundreds of years, extended family groups of these Hawaiian natives learned to live here on the desolate landscape by developing unique farming techniques and by using the abundant ocean resources for fishing.  Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park (NHP) preserves and interprets traditional native Hawaiian activities and culture.

We walked down a little boardwalk, passing some petroglyphs, to a couple of fish ponds where these natives captured the reef fish for food.  We saw honu, the Hawaiian name for the green sea turtles that are abundant in these waters.

This NHP is pretty little seaside site that was once a thriving Hawaiian community and now serves to teach visitors of ancient Hawaiian natives’ ways.

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

March 25 — On the west coast of Hawaii’s ‘big island’ sits a waterfront compound that dates back to the 16th century.  Still preserved, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is one of Hawaii’s most sacred historical places.

Before contact with the Europeans who found these islands, natives lived under a kapu’ (taboo) system.  Pu’uhonua o Honaunau was royal ground for the sacred chiefs who lived on the islands during this time.  The site features a replica of the sacred temple, Hale O Keawa Heiau, believed to once contain the mana (spiritual powers) of the 23 chiefs whose remains were buried here over the centuries.  Also on display are fierce-looking kii (wooden images of gods), replicas of several thatched halau (work houses), as well as fishponds and other items depicting the ancient ways of life here in Hawaii before it was ‘settled.’

Interestingly enough, this place was also a refuge for those condemned for breaking the sacred kapu’ laws.  A lawbreaker’s only chance for survival was to escape his pursuers and make it to this place.  Once here, a priest would absolve the lawbreaker and he would be able to return to society.

Hawai’i Volcanoes NP

March 23 & 24 — Hawai’i Volcanoes is one of two National Parks in the Hawaiian Islands, and since we can’t drive our RV here to visit them when we’re on our two-year road trip, we figured we’d better stop in during our trip to Hawai’i this year.

This was our first stop on our 17-day trip visiting four of the islands – four nights each on Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Maui, and Oahu.  Volcanoes NP is on the wet side of the Big Island, so for most of our two-day visit in this park we had to wear our rain gear and the skies were grey and gloomy – not what we expected nor wanted in Hawai’i. This trip definitely started out with bad hair…!

There are two active volcanoes on the Big Island – Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  According to our guidebook, Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, but Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983.  I was hoping to see some hot, bright orange lava spewing up then flowing down the mountain and hitting the sea in a spectacular display of splash, sound, and steam, but no such luck when we visited.  

In the Kilauea Visitor Center we watched a movie that provided a good overview of the NP, then we walked around the steam vents and viewed the smoldering Kilauea Caldera from afar.  As we drove around Crater Rim Drive, we made multiple stops at very interesting, other-worldly lava deserts.  We also went through a rain forest with impressive tree ferns, and here we hiked a short trail that lead to the Thurston Lava Tube.  Molten lava once ran through this area, and when the outside solidified before the inside, it left a 450′ long hollow tube/tunnel that is ~20′ high.

There are extensive hiking trails in Volcanoes NP, but neither of us was up for a lot of grey and gloomy, drizzle-filled hiking.  Still, we did enjoy seeing all the lava fields, steam vents, and fern forests, and the toxic sulfur dioxide gas that permeated the area was a smell we’re not soon to forget.  In fact, accessibility to Volcanoes is very dependent on prevailing winds, and certain areas or even the entire park can close with little notice.  I suppose ash-laden fume clouds could be deemed a bit hazardous to visitors’ health and not so good for National Park marketing efforts!

After two days on the wet, east side of the island, we drove to Waikoloa on the west side where we thoroughly enjoyed some sunshine and the swimming pool in our Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort.  On March 25th, Fred’s birthday, Laura surprised him with a 2-hour helicopter trip all around the Big Island.  We visited Volcanoes NP once again, this time from 250′ above the earth where we got a front-seat look down into Kilauea Caldera.  We could see the white-hot magma in the cone as our helicopter pilot spun us down in for a closer look.  Now that’s getting up close and personal with a national park!