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Kona & Place of Refuge

February 24, 2014 – Monday – Kailua-Kona, the Big Island of Hawaii

My excursion this morning leaves early. I have to be at the assembly point at 7:50AM, and when I show up five minutes early, my group has already left for the tender, so I quickly follow. Our bus is waiting for us on the pier, but we end up waiting for a few people who obviously showed up on time or a little late. This inexpensive tour ($40) is called Kona Highlights, which is really just a nice drive south of Kailua-Kona (and back). We stop to sample some coffee at the little town of Captain Cook, where I get to sample some Kona Peaberry coffee – very nice, but I’m not paying $50 for a bag of it!

Collection of photos taken in 2009 and 2014 along the Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii

We then proceed onward to my favourite place, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, or Place of Refuge down on the shoreline. It is volcanic down here, as is most of the Big Island. I take a few photos and just relax under the shade of the palm trees and take in the sound of the ocean swells crashing against the black volcanic shoreline and surging into the bay. There are no turtles today in the Ali’i landing bay, but the place still feels wonderful – I can feel the good mana here, and I’m not one to normally believe in superstitions. We only have an hour here, but I enjoy it immensely. Next, we drive to the nearby Painted Church in the community of Captain Cook. This little Catholic Church is a popular stop for sightseers. I get to try out my new fisheye lens inside the church, taking a photo of the alter, the whole ceiling, and part of the walls.

Collection of photos taken in 2009 and 2014 of Place of Refuge

After we return to Kailua-Kona, I find a little general store, where I buy some supplies before returning to the tender dock. As we approach the ship anchored in the bay, the tender has a terrible time trying to tie up, since there is quite a bit of wave action. Once the tender ties up, it beats against the gangway, wreaking the landing platform. Passengers are unloaded when there is a lull in the wave action, so the unloading process takes over 20 minutes. This isn’t the roughest tender landing I have experienced, but the tender was certainly bucking against the gangway landing in an energetic fashion.

As always, I’m glad to be back aboard ship and in my comfortable cabin. I toss my dirty clothes into the self-serve laundry, while I try to take advantage of the high speed Internet access I have with my cellphone connection to the Rogers/AT&T LTE. Since we are anchored offshore, I sit out on the Promenade Deck facing the shoreline to get a decent signal. This convenience will end once we sail away from the Big Island of Hawaii enroute to Fanning Island and French Polynesia. I will then be back to using the slow, unreliable, and expensive satellite connection aboard the ship.

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Hilo & Mauna Kea, Hawaii

February 23, 2014 – Sunday – Hilo and Mauna Kea, the Big Island of Hawai’i

The ms Statendam arrives early and docks at the pier in the harbour. I have some breakfast, and gather up my cold weather gear for my big trip up to the summit of Mauna Kea. I disembark, find the shuttle to Harper’s Car & Truck Rental, and I’m off in my 4×4 Ford Ranger truck, taking the Puainko Street Extension out of town, which becomes the H200/H2000 Saddle Road. I stop to pick up some refreshments from a corner store, since I will skip lunch. I’m glad I brought along my vehicle GPS from home, which guides me through several complicated twists and turns until I get out of the city of Hilo. The drive along the Saddle Road Highway is easy, since it is a paved 3-lane road all the way to the Mauna Kea Access Road turn, although I am climbing in elevation as I go.

The drive to the Visitors Information Station (VIS) is also uneventful, with a good 2 lane paved road all the way through ranch country. I stay at the VIS for 45 minutes in order to acclimatize myself to the elevation change, and then put the vehicle into 4-wheel drive and start up the gravel road to the summit. The road surface is washboard, so having 4WD is great to keep traction and stability. A few miles before the summit, the road returns to a paved surface, since dust control is a big factor with these expensive observatories.

There is snow on top, and the air is clear and cold. I pull on my winter coat, which I have been dragging around with me on this trip just for today’s adventure. It is wonderful to finally see all these observatories in person, especially the ones Canada is involved with. The Canada-France-Hawaii (CFHT) observatory has a prime location on the end of the north ridge, and is a beautiful, brilliant white structure. The Gemini North observatory is next to CFHT, and is a silver structure with bulging air vents all around the lower part of the dome…again, a very beautiful design.

I drive around to see all the observatories up close, but unfortunately I can’t stay for the VIS’ tours inside some of the facilities. The sky is a deep blue and crystal clear, and the observatories are stark white or silver, so I use the High Dynamic Range feature of my Canon 6D dSLR. This allows me to capture the scenes much more successfully. I shoot lots of photos, since I probably won’t return to Mauna Kea again. I can see the summit of the mountain and the trail leading to it from Gemini North, but I have to be careful to not exert myself too much while at 4,205 metres (13,792′) elevation, since the amount of oxygen available up here is less than half that is at sea level.

Reluctantly, I have to return to my cruise ship, so I start the drive down the mountain, with my vehicle in low range 4WD and in 2nd gear as well. I barely touch the brakes for the whole way down the mountain until I shift out of 4WD at the VIS before returning to paved roads. The return trip to Hilo and sea level goes without a hitch. I return the vehicle to the rental company, and I’m back on board a couple of hours before departure time.

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Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

February 22, 2014 – Saturday – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

2014 Maui Photos Map

2014 Maui Photos Map

The ship anchors offshore from Lahaina, and tenders are used to transport passengers ashore. Early this morning, I see Humpback whales from the ship, and I manage to take some pretty decent photos of them “flipper flapping”, blowing and breaching.

I am on an excursion today – the West Maui Snorkel Cruise, which uses Trilogy Elua an excursion catamaran sailboat. As it turns out, the whale watching as we motor to our snorkel location is the highlight of the trip, since we see a mother, baby and escort Humpback whale perhaps 10 to 20 metres from the boat. The bonus is that I shoot video of this encounter! The crew deploy an underwater speaker so we can hear the whales communicating, which is very cool!

After returning to Lahaina, I give the tacky little town about 10 minutes of my time before returning to the comfort of the ship.

Elika Santos is a young Hawaiian male singer who gives a terrific performance in the Showroom At Sea this evening. He is trained in opera, so has a very powerful voice. He sings pop, opera and Hawaiian songs. I’m going to look him up when I get back home, so I can buy some of his music to listen to.

Elika Santos

Elika Santos

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Oahu, Hawaii

February 20, 2014 – Thursday – The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

We arrive in Honolulu harbour on time this morning. The early morning approach offers some superb views of Diamond Head and the south shore of Waikiki and Honolulu before we slip into our dock at Pier 2.

I am on an excursion today, our first of two days in Honolulu. The Explore and Taste Oahu’s North Shore tour is a 6.5 hour all day affair run by Roberts Hawaii, which visits the tranquil Byodu Temple after we travel over the H3 freeway through the Koolau Mountains to Kaneohe. The temple is quite beautiful and tranquil despite the groups from the numerous tour buses wandering the grounds.

We then stop at Chinaman’s Hat Rock, which is a rock sticking out of Kaneohe Bay. We drive by the Crouching Lion restaurant (now closed), which my friends and I stopped at for lunch the last time I visited Oahu. Our stop at Malaekahana State Recreation Area offers a great view of the ocean and a spectacular beach, not often visited by tourists or locals. (It looks like Malaekahana is now operating as a campground and retreat.) As we pass the Polynesian Cultural Center, our guide George explains how the students study at the Brigham Young University and the adjacent Latter Day Saints temple in Laie, and also work at the Polynesian Cultural Center to pay for their education.

2014 Oahu North Shore photos map

Oahu North Shore photos map

Our destination for lunch is just up the road: Fumis Kahuku Shrimp (Yelp reviews), where we have a pre-ordered lunch of shrimp, cod, or chicken. Most people order the shrimp, which is a large portion that comes in a Styrofoam plate along with some salad and rice and a soft drink. I find the Lemon Pepper Shrimp to be very tasty. There is a washbasin to get the grease off after the meal is finished. Shave Ice can be purchased for dessert, for those so inclined. This is very casual dining, but the food is very good! The James Campbell Wildlife Refuge is visible out by the coastline from here, and the shrimp ponds where the shrimp are raised are right beside this roadside stop.

We carry on to see Sunset Beach for a quick 10-minute stop, then pass by Tunnel Beach, both of which are world-famous for surfing. There are lots of surfers riding the waves. Waimea Bay Beach Park is the next stop to see the turtles in the bay feeding on the algae. We spot one turtle. We then turn away from the coastline, driving through the little town of Haeliwa, and make our final stop at the Dole Plantation. This is the typical tourist trap if ever I saw one, but thankfully it is only a 20-minute stop before we carry on back to Honolulu over the H2 and H1 freeways, passing Pearl Harbor along the way.

The ship stays at the dock overnight, so we sleep aboard.

February 21, 2014 – Friday – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

2014 Honolulu photos map

2014 Honolulu photos map

I don’t have any excursions booked for today, so I get up and have a leisurely breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. I go ashore from Pier 2, walking a few blocks up South Street as far as the Mission Houses, the Kawaiaha’o Church, and then cross South King Street to see the State Capital and Iolani Palace.

I return to the Mission Houses for their tour of the inside, paying the $10 admission. It was very interesting hearing how the missionaries from Boston sailed around Cape Horn, to live and work in Hawaii. They supported themselves by printing and selling (or bartering) books and documents. They gave the Hawaiians their written language, introduced them to western music melody, and of course converted many of them to Christianity. I don’t have time to go into the Iolani Palace before it closes, so I return to the ship to freshen up and have some lunch.

Collection of photos of this visit and my previous visit to the Honolulu area in 2010.

I spend the afternoon aboard ship, swimming in the Ocean View Pool and generally relaxing. I am also taking advantage of the roaming package I purchased from Rogers, my cellular provider in Canada. The roaming package includes 15 minutes for voice calls, and also includes 200Mb of data. Since I have high speed LTE connectivity here, I can ignore the ship’s slow and expensive satellite Internet connection, and get a few things done online. I also call Harper’s Car Rentals to change my arrangements on the Big Island of Hawaii to a one-day rental with no drop off in Kona, which they happily do for me.

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Kailua-Kona, Big Island of Hawai’i

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 2, 2010 – Saturday – Kailua-Kona, Big Island of Hawai’i

JoeTourist: Activities & Services &emdash; Sea View PoolWe were scheduled to go ashore today, and had planned to drive a rental car down to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau – Place of Refuge. Unfortunately the tendering process takes far too long this morning because of choppy seas, so we cancel our plans and stay on board the ship. I go for a swim in the Sea View Pool in the stern, which is very nice – a salt water pool with very few people around.

We have lunch in the Lido, which is the only restaurant open when the ship is in port. I have Indonesian chicken on rice, which was spiced just right. I listen to an e-book while reclining on the Promenade Deck, and take a few photos of the tenders and the Kailua-Kona shoreline. We depart on time and sail around the Big Island to see the volcanic flow off the coast by Kilauea, however no lava was visible this evening. I’m glad I had such good success seeing the lava flow last October when I visited the Big Island and the Kilauea Volcano.

Linguini Fruitti di Mare (seafood linguini) in Canaletto aboard Volendam

Linguini Fruitti di Mare (seafood linguini) in Canaletto aboard Volendam

Linguini Fruitti di Marein the Canaletto restaurant, aboard VolendamWe dine at the Canaletto Italian restaurant again this evening. The pasta is simply superb. I have the Linguini Fruitti di Mare (seafood linguini) which was mostly seafood and excellent.

For dessert, I have my favourite: Three flavour Tiramisu (espresso, lemon & Amaretto). We all agree we are going to be so shocked when we return home – when we have to prepare our own meals and clean up after ourselves!

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Oahu, Hawai’i

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Oct 1, 2010 – Friday – Oahu, Hawai’i

Koko Head shoreline, Oahu, Hawaii

Koko Head shoreline, Oahu, Hawaii

I wake up early, and Volendam is already docked in Honolulu harbour at Pier 11, right beside the Aloha Tower. My friends and I thought we could catch a free shuttle to Waikiki, but instead have to take a taxi to pick up our rental car for the day. This is a hassle and delays us a bit, but eventually we are off on our self-guided tour around Oahu.

We head out to Diamond Head, but after paying to get inside the crater, find out it is an hour and a half hike to the top and return. We don’t have time for this, so we don’t stay long. We drive a bit further to see Hanauma Bay – a very pretty coastal location where there is lots of coral growing. It is very popular for swimming and snorkelling and costs $14.50 to go down to the shore and use the beach, but only a $1 to park and look around. We do the latter and then move on to Koko Heads – another spectacular sight – a blowhole and beautiful shoreline along the south coast of Oahu.

JoeTourist: North Shore of Oahu &emdash; Yellow Hibiscus in Crouching Lion's gardenAs we head north to the eastern shore of Oahu, it starts to rain. The vegetation is more tropical of course…the south shore is like a desert in comparison. The coastline around the Kaneohe area is very pretty, and the mountains are deeply grooved similar to the Napali Coast on Kauai. I guess the same processes are at work since they are both north-facing coasts – wind and water erosion. We have lunch at the Crouching Lion Bar & Grill in Kaaawa (now closed), and then head back to Waikiki to return the rental car and get back to the ship.

Volendam departs Honolulu at about 11pm, bound for Kailua-Kona and the Big Island of Hawai’i on a slow overnight cruise. We have a lovely dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room this evening.

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Kaua’i, Hawai’i

Port of call on a 2010 South Pacific Cruise from Vancouver to Auckland aboard the Volendam

Sep 29, 2010 – Wednesday – Volendam arrives in Kaua’i

I get up around 8:30am and go for breakfast in the Lido. I have an omelette made to order, and have my breakfast on the outside deck; the first al fresco dining for me on this trip, since it is now 24°C in the morning.

JoeTourist: Kaua'i 2010 &emdash; Rotterdam moored in Nawiliwili Harbour dock in Nawiliwili this afternoon at 5:20pm, and we don’t leave port until tomorrow afternoon. The Rotterdam is also docked as we arrive. She departs about an hour later – a lovely sight. As our gangway is put in place, complete with red carpet, a rain shower starts up – “welcome to Kauai”. We all stay aboard the ship this evening.

We dine in the Canaletto, an Italian menu restaurant on the Lido Deck. We are dining a couple of tables away from the Captain. Afterward, we go to the Frans Hals Lounge, where Lance Ringnald is doing an acrobatic performance. He is a past Olympic winner for the USA and is now 40 years old, but is still in great shape and puts on a very entertaining show. He uses hanging silks like Cirque de Soleil does, along with some jokes and banter to the audience (he is wearing a microphone). I shoot some video, since he says he has no problem with flash photos or video. Normally both are not allowed during performances in the show lounge.

Sep 30, 2010 – Thursday – Kaua’i

JoeTourist: Kaua'i 2010 &emdash; Joe & Wendy wandering a beach set my alarm last night and get up 7:30am, since I want to beat the crowds disembarking today. I am out the door and up to the Lido for breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and toast. We then catch the Hertz shuttle to the airport, where I have reserved a very nice Nissan Altima. We decide to drive up the eastern and northern coasts of Kauai to a bit past the Hanalei Valley. We stop for a swim near Anini Beach and to see the Kilauea Lighthouse, and are back into town by 3pm and back onboard the ship by 3:30pm…well ahead of the 4:30pm “All Aboard” deadline. My friends and I have visited Kaua’i before, so this visit brings back good memories for all of us and was a most enjoyable day.

The Grand Nawiliwili Sail Away party is hosted by Holland America as Volendam sailed out of Nawiliwili Harbour. In order to compensate for the missed stop in Maui there are free drinks and snacks, so I have a couple of gin and tonics. The headlands of Kauai are beautiful as we sail away while the sun sets. I sure didn’t need any wine with dinner when we dined later at the Italian restaurant Canaletto.

Hilo, Hawai’i

October 20-24, 2009 – Hilo, the Big Island of Hawaii

Hilo is on the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. which is the wet side of the island. Although the temperatures are nice and warm, it rains in Hilo virtually every day, and the area has the tropical vegetation to prove it. Hilo is a contrast to Kailua-Kona on the other side of the Big Island, since it is less tourist-oriented, giving the visitor a glimpse of the Old Hawaii.

Kilauea Volcano is less than one hour’s drive south from Hilo, so I made several trips to see the sights in Volcanoes National Park and nearby areas in my rental car.

The North Coast of the Big Island is rugged, tropical, and mostly inaccessible, however the road along the coastline north from Hilo provides easy access to some of the gulches and valleys, rivers and streams, spectacular waterfalls, and of course the coastline itself before the road veers off to Waimea. Stopping along the way will provide you with a glimpse of how Hawaiians live day-to-day.

The Imiloa Astronomy Center is located in Hilo, and presents astronomy to visitors using interactive displays, a planetarium, special exhibits, and ties astronomy to Hawaiian customs and culture. Imiloa is run by the University of Hawaii on behalf of the big multi-national observatories located atop Mauna Kea. Worth a half day visit. Admission charged.

Hilo Bay & the shoreline along Kalanianaole Avenue presents fascinating vistas of the geography surrounding Hilo, so it is a good idea for visitors to familiarize themselves with the bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond. There are numerous civic parks along Kalanianaole Avenue, and all are only a few minutes drive from anywhere in Hilo. Tidal ponds provide safe and easy access for everyone to play in the ocean, while just a few metres away are rocks and surf to challenge even the most capable swimmers and surfers. Coconut Island, Banyan Drive and Liluokalani Gardens are all interesting destinations worth spending some time at…in fact, take a picnic lunch (“sack lunch” in Hawaiian), and plan to spend the day exploring Hilo Bay.

Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots Pools are both located right in Hilo on the Wailuku River, which flows into Hilo Bay. Although not as spectacular as other falls and rivers you might find on the Big Island, they are easy to get to, and certainly worth a look.

Despite being an amateur astronomer, I didn’t manage to visit the Mauna Kea Visitor Center. It is a fairly easy drive from Hilo, and offers free nightly star gazing from this station located at the 9,500′ level on Mauna Kea. Please note, the big observatories are not located here – they are near the summit at the 14,500′ level! If you plan to go to the Visitor Centre, take a winter coat and check their website to ensure the weather will be clear. It may be raining in Hilo, but it could easily be clear on the mountain (or vice versa). I did visit the top of Mauna Kea and the observatories a few years later in 2014.


JoeTourist: Hilo &emdash; Breakfast at the B&BOctober 20-23, 2009 – I stayed at the Old Hawaiian Bed & Breakfast for four nights. The place is situated in a nice part of town near the Wailuku River, and is owned and operated by Lory & Stewart Hunter. Lory’s superb breakfasts are served on the lanai (patio), and include fresh fruit smoothies, fresh baked pastries, cooked eggs, tropical fruit cocktail, and of course, Kona coffee. There are three rooms to choose from, and all guests share access to the large lanai, telephone, fridge, microwave, and high speed wireless Internet. There are no televisions in the rooms, so bring a notebook computer if watching videos or the news is important to you. JoeTourist recommended.

Kealakekua Bay

January 21, 2001 – A Snorkel and Kayak Trip to Kealakekua Bay, The Big Island of Hawai’i

I am staying at A Place of Refuge B&B  (no longer in business) when our host Roger volunteers to take his guests on a kayak and snorkel trip to Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument. This is my first time in a kayak. I find them to be very stable and easy to paddle (in calm waters, anyway). I use my Minolta underwater APS film camera for the first time while snorkelling the reef in front of the Captain Cook monument. This location is on the inaccessible side of Kealakekua Bay, so if you wish to explore this bay, you will need to either sign up for a snorkel cruise leaving from Kailua-Kona, or rent a kayak locally and launch it from Napo’opo’o. On our way across the bay, we see a Humpback whale, and we have a school of Spinner dolphins swim alongside us on the way back – both very special treats!

Roger is an experienced diver who visits this area regularly, so he goes exploring some underwater caves outside the reef. He reports that one cave has two sharks staying in it.