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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Oahu and Molokai, Hawaii

Twenty years have gone by since I was last on Oahu, it was the first Hawaiian Island I had ever been to. (since then I have visited all of them) On the first trip my mom and I did a lot of the typical tourist type of stuff, the Polynesian Cultural Center, the aquarium, the zoo, the Dole Pineapple Plantation, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, and hiking up Diamond Head.
It was a short, fun trip, but I did not see that much of the island, and I have an uncle who lives there and I wanted to meet him, so it was worth a revisit.

Kualoa Beach.

I stayed in an Airbnb in Kaneohe instead of in Waikiki where most people stay. It turned out to be a good location, and although it was a small studio, it had everything I needed. The people that own the house live upstairs, but they have several attached apartments that they rent out.

My Airbnb in Kaneohe.

I was situated on the way towards the north shore, which is in my opinion the nicest part of the island, it is more laid back, with lots of pretty beaches, where the big waves happen that Oahu is know for.... a surfers paradise. Not that I surf, but it's fun to watch!

Chinaman's Hat, you can kayak over and explore this small island.

The sea arch at La'ie Point.

An empty beach on the northern tip of Oahu.

A Monk Seal.

There are a lot of feral cats in Hawaii, but I had never seen so many in one place, as when I stopped at a state park right near my Airbnb.

Just a small portion of the feral cats I saw at He'eia State Park.

Hiking is always a main reason to go to Hawaii for me, and Oahu does have quite a few hikes. Most of them are pretty short but then there are also a few that are either very long and/or treacherous to the point of one wrong step and you could fall to your death. I feel like I have already done my share of treacherous hikes on Kauai, so I thought I would skip them this time around.

My two favorite hikes on Oahu: Kaena Point, once you reach the farthest tip there is a bird nesting area and there are albatrosses everywhere. You can walk through the area and see them up close, but you have to stay within the fenced trails.
The Maunawili Trail is a long one at 9 miles one way, so I just did a section of it. I ran into some boar hunters out there, only four men but they had at least twenty dogs with them that I was happy to pet as I passed by.

Oahu isn't known for it's waterfalls, they are not very tall, and although I hiked to quite a few of them, most were lacking in water flow.

Kaena Point.

An albatross at Kaena Point.

A fairly typical Hawaiian trail, this is Cardiac Hill.

The Maunawili Trail was one of my favorites.

Likelike Falls was a short hike.

Underneath the Koko Crater Arch.

Botanical gardens in Hawaii are always pretty great, and Oahu has a plethora of them, most of which are free. All in all I went to five of them, although there were a couple more that I skipped because they didn't rate as high in my guidebook's description.

At the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens.

Hibiscus.

The cactus section of the Koko Crater Botanical Garden.

A Shingle Plant at Waimea Botanical Garden.

I loved these trees at Waimea Botanical Garden.

Pearl Harbor was a two day experience, it takes eight hours if you actually want to see everything. On the first day I saw all of the free stuff, you can enter the area and wander through a museum, all around the grounds, and also see the USS Arizona Memorial for free. The museum is very interesting and has a lot of different videos playing of both survivors and civilians recounting their experiences on that fateful day. You used to be taken out on a boat to see the Arizona Memorial and were able to walk out on it, but while I was there it had suffered some structural damage, and so we were just driven past it instead.
Even though it is free to see the memorial, they only have so many tickets per day that they issue, and usually it takes a little work to get the tickets, it involves standing in line very early in the morning, but while I was there tickets were a dime a dozen. I'm not sure if it was just a slower time of year, or because people aren't as interested now that they can no longer walk onto the memorial.

The USS Arizona Memorial.

On the second day I toured the battleship USS Missouri, then the Pacific Aviation Museum, and lastly the USS Bowfin which is a submarine.
You cannot bring any bags into Pearl Harbor, so I had to carry my phone, keys and a water bottle. You can have a camera around your neck, but not in a bag, so I left it behind and just took pictures with my phone. To get to the Missouri and the aviation museum you get on a shuttle bus, and they take you over to Ford Island.

On the deck of the USS Missouri.

On Ford Island, this is the area where the first missile hit.

Inside the USS Bowfin.

I spent some time in downtown Honolulu, driving through Chinatown, checking out the Punchbowl Cemetery, the statue of Kamehameha The Great and the Lolani palace. I also went to the Bishop Museum which has two demonstrations daily where they heat cinders at over 2000 degrees for two hours and then "voila" they show you how lava is made.

In Kaneohe I visited a replica of a Japanese Buddhist temple, and in Central Oahu there is a sacred site where they have birthing stones. Apparently royal women used to go there and give birth in front of a bunch of men, and then the men would snatch the baby up and take it away, and the woman would not see it again until it was an adult. There weren't any other people there, it's not really a well know tourist spot, and as I was looking around, a couple of wild boar ran out of the bushes across the grass in front of me. They can really move!

Honolulu from a lookout at the Punchbowl Cemetery.

The statue of King Kamehameha the Great in Honolulu.

The replica of a Japanese temple.

The Kukaniloko birthing stones.

A boar goes screaming by as I am taking pictures.

At the Dole Pineapple Plantation.

One of the locations where they filmed the show Lost.

After 13 days on Oahu I took a flight over to Molokai, which is a fun experience all on it's own. I used Mokulele Airlines which is in a different terminal from all the other big airlines. This is a very laid back experience, you check in around an hour beforehand, there is no security to go through, then you sit around in an open air lounge area, and wait to get onto the itty bitty plane with nine seats. They weigh you while you are holding your carry on, and there are no boarding passes, they just assign you a row. My pilot friend says these Cessna's are very reliable, but it is a pretty wobbly plane while taxiing and during take off and landing. Both my landings were pretty smooth, but I talked to a girl who said often the landings can be quite bumpy, for example touching the ground a few times before actually staying put.
Once there I collected my bag, they unload them and hand them to you on the tarmac, and then I went to the only car rental place they have and got my vehicle since you can't really see Molokai without one.

The nine seater plane, a quick baggage unloading process.

The main grocery store is closed on Sunday, my arrival day, but I knew that ahead of time, so I had brought a few food items with me. They had a very small mini mart that was open, and I stopped to buy some overpriced beverages. Hawaii just in general is expensive, but on Molokai you can pretty much count on doubling regular Hawaiian prices for accommodation, the rental car, food and gas.
I only had 2 and a half days on Molokai, but that was enough. The island is small and you can literally see all of the main sights in one day, if you are not hiking. But if you want to explore more, take advantage of a less populated laid back kind of place to relax and spend time on the beaches, you could certainly stay a lot longer.
The main town of Kaunakakai is small but has enough restaurants and a few other stores to keep tourists happy. Molokai is called the "Friendly Island" and I did find everyone to be quite nice. I saw more tourists than I thought I was going to see, but it certainly wasn't a crowded place to be.

I stayed in a VRBO condo this time and although it was really cute and in a great location on the west side of the island, I did have a few problems with it while I was there. No hot water, no cable, the oven was on the blink etc. etc... I contacted the owners to make them aware of the issues, but it did make my stay a little less comfortable. There are a few hotels to choose from as well, but it seemed like the vacation rentals were pretty booked up.
The condo's I stayed in are privately owned and in working order, but there are a lot of other condo's in the same area that are owned by Molokai Ranch and are boarded up and shut down, due to a bunch of problems that happened in the past. I read about it in my welcome booklet, and it is a pretty convoluted story. It was kind of interesting to wander around on the paths past all the abandoned buildings.

The condo I stayed in on Molokai.

Sunset on Molokai.

The Molokai Forest Reserve.

As most people probably know Molokai is known for it's leper colony, also know as Kalaupapa.
My main reason for visiting the island, was to go on the tour they offer of the colony. However, that did not work out. Although I called multiple times, at all times of the day and night, for over a week, no one ever answered the phone at the tour company. After further digging around I found out that there was a dispute between the landowner and the operator of the mule rides, which is the main way to get people the three miles straight down into Kalaupapa. I never intended to ride the mules anyway, it is far cheaper to hike down, but since the mules were not taking tourists, obviously the tour is not getting a lot of business, and just may not be operating right now. So after awhile I gave up on being able to see it up close, and instead I drove to a lookout where you can view it from above.

Kalaupapa from the lookout.

The cliff I would have been happy to hike down to see Kalaupapa.

A close up of the town at Kalaupapa.

What I learned fairly quickly is there are only two other well known hikes on the island, besides Kalaupapa. There is one into the Halawa Valley, and one into the Kamakou Preserve that you need a 4x4 to be able to drive to. There is also a very short hike at the same parking area as the Kalaupapa lookout, which takes you over to Phallic Rock. Of course I had to check that out.

Phallic Rock.

Information about Phallic Rock.

The Halawa Valley hike/tour is on private land, so there is a fee for that as well. I did pay online ahead of time, but I was informed that no one else had signed up on the day I wanted to go, and that they need a minimum of 2 people to do the hike. So I did not end up doing this either, although I did get my money refunded. Instead I drove over to the valley where the road dead ends, and looked at it from afar, and also checked out the bay. This is the lushest part of the island, as most of Molokai is actually fairly dry.

The Halawa Valley.

Halawa Beach Park.

Since I did not have a 4x4 for the last hike option, I was left with exploring, and trying to see what else I could find. On the west side of the island by my condo is where most of the bare land is located and there are dirt tracks that you can wander around on, not classified as actual hiking trails, but with a little research there are a few destinations you can find.
The first one I did was a shoreline hike to La'au Point. On the way I came across another abandoned area that was once run by Molokai Ranch. There is still a dilapidated main house and then there are 40 small weird structures with a bathroom and a deck. I looked it up online and these were called Tentalows, a tent used to be set up on each deck and people would pay big bucks to camp there.

Although I have come across a lot of red dirt in Hawaii, the trail to La'au Point has especially fine dirt, that got into my hiking shoes, stained my socks for life, and has remained in my shoes ever since.

I also went to Papohaku Beach which is within walking distance of my condo, and at three miles, is one of the longest beaches on any Hawaiian Island.

A deserted beach within walking distance of my condo.

On the hike to La'au Point. The red dirt is still with me.

The abandoned Tentalows on what was once the Molokai Ranch.

Papohaku Beach is three miles long.


To sum it up, although Kauai is still my favorite, all the islands are very unique and have different things to offer. What they all have in common though, is warm weather, ocean breezes, beautiful flora and a feeling of having visited paradise, if only for awhile!


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