Hawaiian Winter Break


Ten days away from the normality of life in small town Alexandra ... I jumped at the chance to take a trip to Hawaii.  It was a bit of a tough decision and the timing was a bit wrong, with my youngest son starting school and my middle son off to camp in the same week, but I always tell the kids to take opportunities as they arise, as they may not come again.  I sorted out some help at home with my Mum and friends and packed my bags – light of course, because I was planning on doing a lot of shopping!!

We all met as strangers at Auckland International airport to board our Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu ... after talking to the girls it was as though we had been friends for years. Added bonus is jet lag seemed non-existent as Hawaii is 23 hours behind , gain a day on the way over and lose a day on the way home.  

I was not expecting the throngs of people upon arrival in Honolulu ... but the warm tropical heat was expected and did not disappoint.  I think my mind was thinking Rarotonga airport or similar so I was slightly overwhelmed at first.  It seemed like we walked a couple of miles before we got to the arrivals hall.  As I normally do, I ended up after chatting to the lady checking my details in the huge arrival/immigration hall.  She was really nice and told me that they expected 4000 people to arrive within the next hour.  I definitely didn’t realise Honolulu airport was this busy!  I was really pleased our interisland flight was a couple of hours later so we had time for our connection! 

Being a part of a group and not being in charge of it was like being on a very special holiday for me and I have to admit that I did relax so much that I didn’t fully look at or take in where we were heading most of the time. I did notice a lot of signs to the inter-island terminal where we were heading for our onward flight to Kona on Big Island.  

Warm, humid, hot, sweating!!  Arriving in Kona at 28 degrees after leaving Queenstown at 8 degrees was a wonderful change which kept me diving for the water bottles.  The open air Kona airport was more like what I was expecting Hawaii to be like and walking out the plane and down the stairs across the tarmac, like in Queenstown, I felt like I was more at home. 

We found our transfer to the Hertz rental car office so easily it was like we had sent him a text to tell him we had landed!  This was the first time and I think the last time I forgot to tip.  I wasn’t quite in USA mode yet and he was the unlucky first contact.  It just isn’t in my way of thinking to tip someone for doing something even when I do appreciate the help with my bags!

The highlight of our trip on Kona was our Volcano Kohala Landing with Paradise Helicopters.  It is a three hour tour of the Big Island – approximately 2 hours of this in the air.  The early morning start gave us the best part of the day!  I was so surprised at how smooth the flight was.  Eleven different climate zones in one trip and of course the fantastic view of red hot lava streaming out of a crater, which was forming a grey smouldering river.  This was a sight I will never forget!  Coffee by a waterfall, hovering in waterfall valleys and flying over the ocean so clear you would see the coral formations from the air – just loved it.

After the flight we were peckish so we asked our transfer guide to drop us off at a place where she liked to eat.  We had a meal at Big Hawaiian Grill in Kona, not far from the Royal Kona.  Huge meals, at a great price.  It was packed with locals enjoying the varied menu. 

Dinner was at another recommended restaurant called Splashers.  It is a good 10 minute walk along the beach front from the Royal Kona.  Nightly live entertainment had us all singing along and the meal was really good!

We also decided to do a Manta Ray swim.  Picture yourself in the pitch black in the middle of the ocean holding onto the handle of a modified surfboard with glow sticks attached to our snorkels.  The only lights are from the luminescent plankton. Picture a massive manta ray with its huge gaping mouth gliding and ducking and diving around you, close enough that they sometimes touch you. Surreal!

We were very sad to leave Kona but excited to now be heading for Waikiki. 

Wow – what a difference an island makes.  From chilled out to hectic, all in the space of an hour.  It was still so warm though that even the locals were saying the heat we were experiencing was not normal for October.

Heading out to Pearl Harbour the next morning was, for me, a reflective time, thinking of the horror they all experienced that day.  This trip should be a “must do” on everyone’s list when visiting Hawaii.  The stories of loss and heroism make it a very sombre experience.

On my free day, I decided to do as much as I could.  While the beach beckoned for some, I started with shopping and then a taxi out to the best bakery in Waikiki!!  Leonard’s Bakery do the best malasada’s (Hawaiian donut without a hole) and the queue of people showed just how popular they are!! They are made to order, warm, light and very tasty.  I had to try all the varieties, chocolate, banana, custard or coconut filled or plain with a dusting of cane sugar or cinnamon with sugar!  Yum!!

Hanauma Bay was next.  Another ‘must do’ ticked off my list.  Amazing scenery and warm inviting water with beautiful fish life.  Longer to explore here would have been good as we only managed to see a small part of the reef in the time available. A day trip here would definitely be recommended!

Hawaii is a brilliant destination which has something for everyone.  Swimming in the warm refreshing water one minute and upmarket shopping the next.  The food was fantastic, if at times way out of proportion, and we met genuinely friendly people who made the trip all the better!  The last ‘must do’ was to walk along the beach early enough to see the sunrise - magic!