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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.

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.

Na Pali Coast boat tour

January 20, 2001 – Na Pali Coast boat tour from Waimea area of Kaua’i

A small boat cruise to the Na Pali coast offers an excellent way to get out on the water around Kaua’i, do some snorkelling, see some whales, turtles and spinner dolphins (depending on the season), and get up close to the Na Pali coast without having to hike for days. I chose Liko Kaua’i Cruises, who operate the Na Pali Kai vessel, a fiberglass hulled, custom designed catamaran with twin Cummins diesels capable of moving the boat at a speedy 31 knots. The crew are knowledgeable about the area, they serve good quality food and drinks (no alcohol), and are very safety conscious. Liko’s offices are in the town of Waimea. You will need to check in there before proceeding to the dock in the boat harbor at Kikiaola (5 minutes further by car).

Sunrise from Kikiaola Boat Harbor, Waimea, Kaua'i

Sunrise from Kikiaola Boat Harbor, Waimea, Kaua’i

The cruise I chose departed at 7:30am, so I had to check in to the Liko office by 7am. Since there was road construction along the way, and I was driving from the opposite side of the island, I had to leave very early! Just to prove that I was up at the crack of dawn, have a look at the gorgeous sunrise photo!

The cruise took us past Barking Sands, all along the Na Pali coast almost to Ke’e Beach (where the North shore road stops. Along the way we saw numerous Humpback Whales (one baby a few days old) and Spinner Dolphins. We were within 50′ of the shoreline at times, so we saw the Na Pali coast up close. A very different perspective than from a helicopter.

They served us a very nice deli lunch and soft drinks on the way back. As soon as we rounded Mana Point (Barking Sands), the afternoon swells hit us full tilt, making for a roller coaster ride back to the harbor. However, along the way we were treated to an adolescent Humpback whale doing repeated breaches, flipper flapping, and other acrobatics. Although we didn’t get to snorkel due to the choppy seas, the whale made a memorable ending to a very successful cruise.

Free advice

Taking photos of whales, dolphins, turtles and fish consumes huge amounts of time you could otherwise spend enjoying these creatures. If the opportunity presents itself, by all means take a photo or two…otherwise buy some postcards!

There are many cruises to the Na Pali coast to choose from. I would suggest you select one that either leaves from Hanalei Bay (only two operators do this), or choose an operator who has a very fast boat (such as Liko) if they leave from the Waimea (southwest) coast area. It is over 20 miles by sea from Waimea to the start of the Na Pali coast (Polihale area). It is only 5 miles to the start of the Na Pali coast (Ka’ilio Point) from Hanalei Bay.

North Coast of Kaua’i, Hawaii

January 17, 2001 – North Coast of Kaua’i

Kilauea Point, Kaua'i

Kilauea Point, Kaua’i

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, is north of Kapa’a on the Kuhio Highway. Watch for the signs and turn right to get to Kilauea Point and the little community. There is no entrance fee, but please drop a donation in the boxes provided. The lighthouse grounds can be home to wildlife. We found an Albatross on a nest, and the nearby cliffs are covered with nesting Shearwaters, Red Boobys, and Laysan Albatrosses. Kilauea Point is the most northerly point on Kaua’i, and Kaua’i is the most northerly of the Hawaiian Islands, so I assume this why the birds find this a good location for nesting. I also spotted a flock of about 6 Nene Geese (native Hawaiian goose).

When the Trade Winds are high, this area around Kilauea Point experiences huge surf, causing some spectacular wave action. Moku ‘Ae’ae Islet and blowhole is a sight to see just off Kilauea Point. There is a small community at the turnoff to Kilauea Point, and I would recommend Kong Lung – a funky store filled with unusual gifts some might be interested in. I also recommend the Lighthouse Bistro for lunch or dinner (located beside Kong Lung). You can’t go wrong ordering their fresh fish of the day. Very good food – highly recommended.

Just past Kilauea Point is Anini Beach County Park. This is a good spot for a picnic lunch, and the fantastic white sand beach is rarely crowded. Anini Beach would make an ideal destination for a whole day’s outing, since it one of the safest for swimming (not too common on Kaua’i due to the offshore reef), and it has good picnic facilities. Another good beach just past Kikauea Point is Kalihiwi Bay. As you can see by the photos, the surf was up while I was visiting in January 2001, so no swimming was possible. The surfers were certainly out there riding the waves, although the emergency rescue was called while I was there, so it was even a bit too rough for some of the surfers!

Princeville is the next community along the North Coast. It is one of those planned communities, which are so common in Hawaii. Everything revolves around the superb golf courses, and yet I find all of them so sterile and cold. No doubt the exclusive properties are very expensive to purchase, and yet they hold no appeal to me whatsoever.

Hanalei Valley

Hanalei Valley

Past Princeville is the Hanalei Valley, which is very picturesque. Hanalei is a small community located on a superb little bay with the same name. The valley is rich and fertile, and many crops are grown here, including lots of taro. Needless to say, there is a great deal of rainfall in this area. Hanalei Bay can experience spectacular surf when the winds are high. If you rent a kayak, stick to the inland waterways.

Ha’ena Beach (aka Tunnels Beach) is normally calm and is a good beach for swimming and snorkelling, but as you can see by my photos, the surf can get very high. Ke’e Beach is much smaller than Tunnel Beach, but it is the end of the north shore road. While you are there, have a look at the Waikanaloa Wet Cave.

Near the end of the North Shore road is the Limahuli Gardens, but they deserve their own article!

Molokini Islet Snorkel

Molokini, an islet just off the coast of Maui, Hawaii

Molokini Islet - a satellite image

Molokini Islet – a satellite image

Nov 26, 1995 – The Islet of Molokini is located off the southwest coast of Maui, and is formed from the tip of a volcano, which just breaks out of the water. The island is a crescent shape, and forms a beautiful lagoon inside, where lots of fish congregate.

Snorkel cruises to Molokini abound, and we decided to take the Prince Kuhio, a 92 foot mono-hull diesel-powered cruiser (no longer running). There are many, many cruises offered to Molokini, (both power and sail, and mono-hull, catamaran and trimaran) so you should find one that suits your taste in boats.

Our itinerary included an early morning pickup from our condo, then we departed from nearby Maalaea Bay for the islet of Molokini. A breakfast of juice, coffee, muffins and fruit is served buffet-style, while we make our way to the island. After arriving at the island mid-morning, the boat is tied to mooring anchors set in the lagoon, and we are off snorkelling.

All equipment is provided. You must be able to swim, since the lagoon is about 50 feet deep, however swim boards are provided for those who lack confidence, or who are weak swimmers. The shore of Molokini is very steep, and consists of very rough lava rock. It is not recommended that snorkelers swim ashore, since it is difficult to climb ashore, and there are strong currents near shore. The ship’s crew is in the water with you at all times, and are ready to assist you, should you need help.

Snorkelling time available is about 2 hours, however we were tired out after about an hour and a quarter. While there, we had our adventure video taped by one of the crew. This is a good idea, since taking pictures underwater is tricky at best, and these professionals do a good job – giving you an excellent, personalized souvenir of your trip to Molokini. The video is edited onboard, and is ready for you when you depart a few hours later. Not expensive.

It is quite a thrill to get close to tropical fish. Of course, with that many boats (30 or so) going to Molokini every day, the fish are well rehearsed! They expect to be fed once the boats arrive, and they swarm around the snorkelers as soon as you enter the water.

The Prince Kuhio (and some other Molokini boats) offer as an extra cost option Snuba gear. This is a cross between snorkeling and full scuba gear. With Snuba, you don’t need to be previously certified for scuba diving. Snuba instruction is given onboard and in the lagoon. The tanks are floated on a raft on the surface, and air supply hoses are ganged off these tanks to the Snuba divers below. This allows you to go to the bottom of the lagoon, whereas snorkelers are confined to the surface, and can usually only dive down 10 feet or so for short periods of time. I can’t see the benefits of Snuba, since the fish are all near the surface anyway. Not recommended.

As we were pulling into Maalaea Bay at the end of our return trip, we spotted some large turtles in the bay – an added bonus to the trip! Apparently, the turtles nest ashore in the nearby salt flats. We were back at our condo by mid-afternoon.

Some thoughts…

Even if you don’t swim or don’t feel like snorkeling, this trip would be well worth taking. Molokini cruises offer good value for a day out on the water. Depending on the season, you might also see turtles (as we did), or Humpback Whales. Recommended.

The water at Molokini is quite cool, as compared with the water temperature you find on the Maui beaches. I would guess the water temperature is between 72 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do not have much body fat, you may find that you cannot stand to stay in the water for more than 15 minutes or so. If you start to shiver while in the water, return to the boat, immediately dry off, and warm yourself up. Don’t hesitate to ask the ship’s crew to assist you, if you need it.

The trip to and from Molokini can encounter some ocean swells. If you are prone to sea sickness, take your medication before leaving.

What you should take:

  • a bathing suit (duh!)
  • waterproof sunscreen
  • sun glasses
    underwater camera
  • towel
  • change of clothes
  • hat
  • light jacket or sweater
  • cash ($20 or so)

What you should LEAVE BEHIND:

  • wrist watch (enjoy yourself…who cares what time it is!)
  • expensive jewelry (you won’t impress anyone when you’re dripping wet anyway)
  • passports, and other important documents (there are no immigration officers on Molokini)
  • fancy clothes (you will stick out in the t-shirts and shorts crowd)
  • large amounts of money (nowhere to spend it)
  • your expensive camera (you probably don’t have an underwater case for it, and even if you don’t get it wet, salt spray will find it’s way onto your camera, no matter how careful you are)

What is supplied/included:

  • all food and drink (buffet breakfast and lunch – liquor extra)
  • snorkelling equipment
  • transportation to/from your hotel/condo from Kihei, Wailea, or Kaanapali
  • cheap champagne on the return trip (we added fruit juice to ours, to make it drinkable!!)
  • bilingual staff – English and Japanese