Going in Circles

Linda Burton posting from Honolulu, Hawaii – We picked Tour #7, The Grand Circle Island. “See Oahu from Hanauma Bay to the North Shore on a 120-mile trip which includes a visit to Kualoa Ranch and Dole Pineapple Plantation.” That teaser pulled us in; “bay and shore and-pineapple” are key words when you think of Hawaii, and the idea of someone else driving that 120 miles appealed to me. Kayla was gung-ho for everything, we were up and ready to meet the bus out front at 8:30 sharp. She re-read the brochure while we waited. Oahu’s prestigious Kahala area. Hanauma Bay overlook. Halona Blow Hole lookout. Nuuanu Pali Lookout. Byodo-In Temple amidst mountain backdrop. Kualoa Ranch including scenic drive into the Ko’olau mountains overlooking Chinaman’s Hat and Kaneohe Bay. World famous North Shore surfing beaches of Sunset, Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay. Dole Plantation and Plantation Gardens. No-host lunch. That’s what the brochure said we’d see. Now I’ll tell you what we saw, as we spent the day on a luxury bus with Driver Don, from Minnesota.

Oahu’s prestigious Kahala area. http://www.to-hawaii.com/oahu/cities/kahala.php

Tour said: Kahala is a neighborhood on the eastern end of Diamond Head, along Oahu’s south shore. Here huge estates cost millions of dollars; in 2011 the typical price was $2 million, with beachfront homes more than that. Many celebrities have vacation homes here. The luxurious Kahala Resort and Hotel is here; it has a small man-made island offshore and a dolphin lagoon. At the east end of Kahala is Waialae Beach Park.

We saw: It was a beautiful drive past expensive real estate, but no stopping. I got a lot of blurry pictures, and one good one! It has dolphins on the gate. Kayla played games on the Kindle.

Hanauma Bay Overlook. http://www.gohawaii.com/oahu/regions-neighborhoods/honolulu/hanauma-bay

Tour said: Hanauma Bay, on the southeast tip of East Honolulu, was once a volcanic crater. Likely flooded by wave erosion, today it is home to an important nature preserve and the island’s most popular snorkeling destination. Learn about protecting the bay at the Marine Education Center; swim out into Hanauma Bay’s clear blue waters and explore the reefs full of colorful fish. The first Marine Life Conservation District in Hawaii; open daily except Tuesdays. The parking lot fills quickly.

We saw: The parking lot filled quickly, all right. Tour buses take turns in designated spots so Driver Don had to keep us waiting on the bus; then he got us close. “You’ve got 15 minutes!” he warned. We saw the beach below, we dodged the smokers as best we could, and we laughed at our new hair styles – straight up in the wind. Get the pictures, run, run, get back on the bus, oops he moved it, and guess what, they all look alike. Memorize our number. 551. Hurry!

Halona Blowhole Lookout. http://www.aloha-hawaii.com/oahu/halona-blowhole/

Tour said: The blowhole is a natural occurrence formed by molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. The lava tubes run to the ocean and, when the surf is right, the blowhole shoots water up to 30 feet in the air. The larger the waves, the larger the spray. Right of the Halona Blowhole is Halona Beach Cove, known for the famous love scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the movie, From Here to Eternity (1953).

We saw: Driver Don eased into a spot and instructed us to jump out quick. “Can’t stay long!” he warned. We didn’t. The waves weren’t big enough for a 30-foot shot, but the wind once again blew our hair straight up into the sky. Back on the bus!

Waimanalo, Unadvertised Tour Stop.  http://hawaiistatues.com/Akebono/

We saw: Driver Don had to manage the timing just right so we wouldn’t get ahead of the other tour buses. The stop in Waimanalo was to slow us down. “Use the restroom, buy some gifts, get a bite to eat!” Kayla and I stood in the long Ladies Room line, then headed outside for a surprise. She recognized the statue! (That comes from having a brother interested in martial arts.) So, we posed. Hair continued to blow straight up. Here’s what we know about Akebono.

Website says: Akebono Taro was born May 8, 1969 as Chad Haaheo Rowan in Waimānalo, Hawai’i. Akebono became the first foreign born wrestler ever to reach Yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo, on January 27, 1993. His name means “dawn” in Japanese. During his 13 years of sumo wrestling, Akebono won the Emperor’s Cup a total of 11 times.

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. http://www.gohawaii.com/oahu/regions-neighborhoods/windward-oahu/nuuanu-pali-lookout

Tour said: Nu’uanu Pali Lookout offers panoramic views of sheer Ko’olau cliffs and lush Windward Coast. Driving up the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests, you’ll see the tranquil beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape. Perched over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline amid mountain peaks shrouded by clouds, the Pali Lookout is a site of deep historical significance, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that united Oahu under his rule. This fierce battle claimed hundreds of soldiers’ lives, and many were forced off the Pali’s sheer cliffs. The Pali Lookout is also known for strong and howling winds.

We saw: We felt strong and howling winds! Driver Don warned us as the bus climbed the mountain roads. Winds were 35 mph down low; “It may be 55 mph up there,” he said. I think he was right; it was hard to stand up and it was cold; Kayla ran back to the bus to get her jacket. The wind didn’t blow her hair straight up this time; it blew it straight back. I couldn’t hold the camera steady enough to get good zoom shots of the distant scenes. We didn’t wait for Driver Don to tell us to get back on the bus. We ran!

Kahaluu Byodo-In Temple. http://www.byodo-in.com/

Tour said: The Byodo-In Temple is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It was established June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. It is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple in Uji, Japan, a United Nations World Heritage Site. The Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple which welcomes people of all faiths. The Temple grounds are a lushly landscaped paradise nestled in a cleft of the pali; the beautiful grounds include a large reflecting pond, meditation niches, and small waterfalls. The Byodo-In Temple is home to Amida, a unique golden Buddha towering more than 9 feet. Carved by Japanese sculptor Masuzo Inui, around the Buddha 52 smaller sculptures depict Boddhisattvas (enlightened beings) floating on clouds, dancing, and playing musical instruments. The Bell House contains a three ton brass bell, called bon-sho (sacred bell), cast in Osaka, Japan. It resembles the bell at the Uji Byodo-In. A soft wooden log called the “shu-moku” is used to strike the bell. It is customarily rung before entering the temple.

The TV series Hawaii Five-O and Magnum, PI featured the temple in several episodes; it also appeared in the ABC series Lost, “House of the Rising Sun” as the home of Sun’s father. The Byodo-In Temple is a Hawaii State Landmark.

We saw: All of the above, and more. We saw black swans, and peacocks, and koi. Kayla sounded the sacred bell; we took off our shoes and walked beneath the golden Buddha. There was no wind blowing at the Temple, just a light mist drifting from the mountains. I had to go back across the bridge to retrieve Kayla, she was still clicking the Nikon, oblivious to the time. This should have been a 45-minute stop, we told Driver Don when we reluctantly boarded the bus again.

Tropical Nut Farm, Ka’a’wa, Unadvertised Tour Stop. http://www.macnutfarm.com/

We saw: Driver Don admitted it – he had to slow us down because there were too many tour buses ahead of us at the Ranch, our scheduled lunch stop. They couldn’t feed us all at once! But the Nut Farm offered free coffee, go in and sample all you want, he said. It was a madhouse inside, a lovely store crammed with free-sampling over-caffeinated nut-munching shoppers. I lost Kayla in the crowd. She was out back, feeding the chickens. “Too many people,” she said.

Website said: Tropical Farms began as a roadside operation in 1987. With Kamehameha Highway in the fore, and the Pacific Ocean at our backs, my wife Chrissy and I set upon an adventure that is ongoing after two decades. Cracking, sorting and packaging at night, the days were filled with children at the hip and the selling of fresh macadamia nuts from the hood of our car. Today, we are fortunate indeed to have Tropical Farms in the perfect place. Aloha and God Bless.

Kualoa Ranch. http://www.kualoa.com/

Tour said: Kualoa is a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch on the northeastern side of Oʻahu. The terrain varies from dense rainforest to broad open valleys; from beautiful white sand beaches to verdant cliff faces. Kualoa has been the site of many Hollywood films such as Jurassic Park, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Tears of the Sun and 50 First Dates; and TV shows including the old and new Hawaii Five-O, Magnum PI and Lost. Kaʻaʻawa Valley contains most of the movie locations; the southern half of the ranch includes Hakipuʻu Valley, the 800-year old Moliʻi fishpond, and Secret Island.

Kualoa is one of the most historically significant destinations on Oʻahu, and in ancient times, one of the most sacred. It was the residence of kings and a training ground for royalty who were instructed in the arts of war, history and social traditions. In 1850, King Kamehameha III sold 622 acres to Dr. Gerritt P Judd, a missionary doctor who arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1828 and who served as personal advisor to the king. The initial land sale included prime ranch land and all fishing rights including Mokoliʻi, the small island just offshore now known as ”Chinamans Hat.

Later Dr Judd’s son Charles purchased more land from Queen Kalama’s holdings, increasing the size of the estate to the 4,000 acres it is today. It is now under the Morgan Family name, descendants of Dr Judd. It was named Kualoa Ranch in 1927; Kualoa means “long back” and describes the Ranch’s beautiful valleys and mountain peaks. The highest peak atop the Kualoa ridge is 1,900 feet and is called Kānehoalani, which means “Kāne’s heavenly companion.”

We saw: They welcomed us with seashell leis and ushered us onto the tour train for a ride into the mountains. Ancient trees, long curving branches almost touching the ground, steep cliffs above us and wide-spaced views out across the blue; “There’s Chinaman’s Hat!” Kayla said, and we watched it as we climbed. A stop on the hillside, everyone smiling, what a place to be! Down the hill to the dining room (some of the tour buses had cleared out by now); inside through the line; sandwiches and drinks (we passed on the buffet) and one giant macadamia nut-chocolate cookie. Patio seating with a mountain view. A walk to the stables. Kayla fell in love with Cody, the sweetest horse I ever saw. She so badly wanted to ride, but Driver Don was waiting out front in Tour Bus 551, we had to go. We needed a full day at the Ranch, now we know they offer tour packages for all kinds of fun.

Laie Drive By. http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/laie/

Tour said: Surrounded by lush Hawaiian flora on a gently rising hill that features cascading pools and a large fountain, the Laie Hawaii LDS Temple graces the north shore of Oahu just a half mile from the Pacific Ocean. The striking Hale Laa Boulevard features a tropical garden on one end and palm trees and decorative lights on the other. Down the street is Church-owned Brigham Young University Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center.

We saw: No stopping here, but we’ve been there; done that. The Polynesian Cultural Center, that is. We cruised through the town of Laie; saw the Hukilau Cafe where you can get a Teri Burger; saw where BYU faculty and the locals live.

North Shore. http://www.gohawaii.com/oahu/regions-neighborhoods/north-shore

Tour said: Stretching for more than 7 miles, the beaches of the North Shore host the world’s premier surfing competitions during the peak winter months. Stroll in the thick sands of Waimea Bay, Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) and Sunset Beach. North Shore is also home to the luxurious Turtle Bay Resort and Haleiwa Town.

We saw: Driver Don made a quick-stop at Sunset Beach and Kayla took off her shoes and walked in the sand. Ten minutes tops; no time for the restrooms in the park; I used the potty on the bus. Afterwards Kayla played games on the Kindle as we rode, and rode, and rode. I watched the farmland go by but I’m not sure what is growing now; there’s no sugar cane or pineapple fields like I saw in my visit of 1989. 

Dole Plantation, Wahiawa. http://www.dole-plantation.com/

Tour said: Originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience” in 1989. Today, Dole Plantation provides enjoyable activities for the entire family, including the Pineapple Express, the Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple Garden Maze. Purchase fresh pineapple in the Plantation Store. 

We saw: Let’s face it, we were both tired by now. Kayla fed the fish and we looked at the pineapple plants growing along the walk. The train ride took more time than we had, nix on that; and we surely didn’t want to get lost in the maze. We got a few pictures and bought a few souvenirs for Kayla to take home, including a yellow hibiscus (Hawaii state flower) for her hair. And we wearily got back on the bus. Even Driver Don was wearing down. He stopped talking.

The ride home passed some historic points, such as Schofield Barracks, but it was good to get back to home base and our own noisy balcony. That Driver Don had us going in circles today!

 A Driver Don joke. We passed a road going off to the right somewhere around the Nut Farm; Driver Don told us that Gilligan’s Island was filmed out in that direction. “I don’t know why he was lost for so many years,” Driver Don commented, “if he’d just come out to the highway there’s a Tour Bus going by every fifteen minutes.”