Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hawaii-Final Days

The last couple day spent in Hawaii were certainly among the best.  After our adventures with dolphins and great food on Wednesday, we anxiously anticipated our adventures to come on Thursday.  We started the day of by heading north to the tip of the island.  We enjoyed a short hike together down to the beach where they filmed some of Jurassic Park.  It was a little eerie, though, because there were hardly any people in the park at the end of the trail.  There were hammocks and swings and other fun things to play on, but no people.  Other then the pictures we took the experience turned out to be mediocre, hiking around we even thought "this bites."  Speaking of bites, Lauren ended up with mosquito bites from her ankles all the way up to her bum.  I won't mention how, but it makes for a very distinct and not so fond memory of that portion of the trip. Anyway, we took a few pictures and hopefully you can see why the hike was barely worth it and some resemblance to the landscape in Jurassic Park!

After our north-island fun we spent an hour or two at our favorite spot, Kua Bay.  Following that pit stop we headed back to the Kona Brewery for some more grub.  Because we got pizza the night before we figured we try our luck with something else.  I decided on a delicious pulled pork sandwich and Lauren got the club.  Both hit the spot and prepared us for the highlight of the day, night swimming with manta rays!

We set out around sunset and cruised with our group to a cove about 15 minutes north of the Marina.  At first we were a little worried because dozens of other boats were there waiting for the action to begin and it seemed unlikely that we'd all see the giant mantas.  The captain/crew gave us brief instructions about how to best attract the beasts and we all plopped into the dark ocean water.  It was really unnerving at first.  Every person was given a high power, waterproof flashlight and each group was to surround a giant floating ring and shine the light in the middle. Imagine a giant flower with humans for petals and ten flashlights for the stigma. After a few minutes of focusing our lights together, plankton began to collect in the light.  Like a phantom a 12-16 foot giant manta ray emerged from the border of our light ring and swam straight toward us. With a mouth as big as a small coffee table it looked as if the beast would swallow Lauren whole!  It was headed straight for her!  All of us could hear her screams as she shrieked through the snorkel.  At the last second the manta arched back, swallowed the majority of the plankton that was collected in the light, and continued to perform several rolling backflips right in front of us.  It was incredible.  It felt like we were swimming with aliens. Lauren and I both loved this trip and highly recommend it.

We hustled home, went to bed, and slept in Friday morning!  It was great.  By this time we had been going going going for the last 6 days and needed a break.  We moseyed on down to a place that we'd heard about, but never knew when to plan it into our schedule: it was called two-step.  The name seemed interesting and we heard there was stellar snorkeling so we figured we'd give it a whirl.  We drove south for about 30 minutes and loved the beautiful hawaiian coastline.  South of Kona seemed to be much less populated and more rural, so the landscape seemed very untouched.  It made for great pictures and a stress-free drive.

We showed up at two step and were a little hesitant.  It didn't look like the snorkeling would be that good, but as soon as we jumped in the water we knew we'd made the right decision.  Beautiful coral, gliding turtles, and schools of radiant, tropical fish had us captivated the entire time we were there. Also, there was a portion of the bay that gradually descended into the ocean, which was great for diving deep and checking out the scenery 35-40 feet below the surface.

It's been fun to recap some of the important moments of this trip, but there is so much that cannot be accounted for on a blog.  The sounds, smells, air, and feel of the island can most accurately be described by one word, paradise. We hope to go on another trip together in the near future but who knows when that'll be.  The nice part about our adventures on the Big Island is that we created enough memories to get us through the years when we are tied down with work/school/and other commitments that won't permit this sort of vacation.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we're glad we made the effort to save up, plan, and enjoy it while we can!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Accidentally Perfect

(This a needed break from our Hawaii journal.)

Friday, Ryan took me on one of my favorite dates.  We didn't go very far or spend a dime, but it was one of the best nights we've spent together.  We found an empty lot a few streets above us, laid out a blanket, unpacked our picnic, and watched the sunset.  

There was no one around to take a picture, so I hung our little camera from the tree, put it on a timer, and it came up with this: 

Provo. A Kiss. Sunset. Love. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hawaii Day 5

For a few days we anticipated the events of this, the fifth day of our trip.  We woke and performed our typical morning ritual, homemade breakfast accompanied by POG on the porch, surrounded by fluffy, feathered nuisances.  Then we headed to a black sand beach nearby and enjoyed a good half hour of snorkeling in timid, soothing water.  The short snorkel trip, though, was just a way to pass the time because at 8:30 we arrived at the Marina and checked in with Neptune Charlie's; a local company that guides dolphin swimming adventures.  Lauren and I were pumped for a few reasons. 1. We heard only the best reviews about how transcending it was to swim with dolphins in the deep, open ocean. 2. There were only about 12-15 people in our group when usually there are 20-25, which was a definite plus. 3. We knew we could snake some snacks from the boat and spice up our lunches for the next couple days.

The boat launched at 9 and our group was composed of an asian family who fit every touristy stereotype, another small family, the typical boyfriend/girlfriend couple getting away from some hawaiian fun, and finally two swedish girls who smoked like chimneys. We cruised for about 40 minutes before the captain finally spotted a pod of dolphins.  Our expectation was to swim with between 8-25 dolphins, but we got lucky. The captain stopped the boat, we threw on our fins and snorkel gear, and all of us plopped into the water.  We were welcomed by over 100 dolphins who were effortlessly gliding through the water.  We hate to admit it, but I think part of us expected those wild animals to swim up, toss their head as an invitation to grab on to their dorsal fin, and parade us around the open ocean like characters off of the rescuer movies.  Fortunately, our expectations were surpassed as we watched and listened while dolphins cruised by, some coupled with little babies at their side.  Lauren was lucky enough to have a small group swim within 6 feet of her, which was sweet because they didn't get terribly close to any of the swimmers.  Whistles, clicks, and many other fascinating sounds permeated the water and made the experience complete.  Imagine yourself effortlessly floating in the buoyant ocean water, surrounded by enormous, but gentle animals, listening in on their chatter and conversation.  Looking back it really was an amazing experience that we'll never forget!

After our date with the dolphins, the crew took us to another sweet location they called the golden arches.  The name comes from a giant arch, located 30 feet below the surface and about 15/20 feet wide.  Surrounding the arch was exquisite coral, decorated with a variety of sea creatures.  Our captain and his buddy spotted a shark, but it was tucked back in the coral and about 15 feet down, so many of us didn't get a shot at seeing it.  But, there was a cool tunnel that ran directly into a giant island of coral and after about 15 feet there was an opening that lead to the surface.  Like a little puppy dog I asked if one of the guides would take me through, just in case something bad happened, and the captain gladly showed me the way.  Unfortunately, when I felt I could conquer the golden arch, it was time to go and I didn't get a chance.

We got back to the harbor, pumped and satisfied with the experience we'd had.  It was definitely worth it. By this time it was 1:30 and we had a few hours til dinner, so we decided to hit up a more locally known beach called Kua Bay.  It did not disappoint.  It was every bit as majestic and cool as Hapuna beach, but without the tourist traffic.  Lauren and I were lucky to stake out a spot under the lone tree that graces this smokin' hot beach and enjoyed another afternoon of snorkeling, reading, and suntanning accompanied by the rhythmic crashing of the waves.  ( One of the best parts about recording this experience is realizing how wonderful it was.  Day five, like all other days of this trip, was balanced with the perfect amount of adventure, relaxation and great food).

Speaking of great food, we heard about a restaurant called the Kona Brewery and decided to give it a whirl. Lauren and I both ordered pizzas and, holy smoke!, they were delicious.  When we initially sat down, tired and hungry, we noticed our table was much to close to a group of people, in particular one person, that was course, vulgar, and downright brain dead; the kind of guy you want to go over and clobber.  So we stood up, moved, and fortunately loved the rest of our evening there.

To finish things off, like most nights, we cruised home, made some snacks, and watched a show.  Matt Damon dazzled us once again as he punched, chopped, and kicked through his enemies to get to the bottom of operation blackbriar.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Waterfalls & Yucky Coconuts

Hawaii Day #4 – Tuesday                 

Today was our travel day…but of course after we went on a morning run and watched the sun rise!  First we made our way to our new favorite spot on the island – Kua bay.  We went straight to “our tree”, started reading our books, snorkeled a bit, laid in the sun, and got our fill for the day.  And for the second time (or third? I am already forgetting…) it didn’t let us down.

We hopped in the car with our sights set on Hilo – the other side of the island.  Driving around the northern part of the big island reminded us a lot of Oregon; green rolling hills, tall trees, hardly anyone around…it was a nice reminder of how lucky we were to grow up in Medford.  We also drove near the spot where Jurassic Park was filmed!  It was scary to think about “what if” dinosaurs still roamed the earth…you want to watch that movie now don’t you :) It’s ok, so do we!

Our first stop on the way to Hilo was Akaka Falls.  We parked and made our way to the hike entrance, where we were stopped  by a teenage, scruffy boy with a fanny pack, who said we had to pay $5 to pass.  At first I thought he was kidding!  Ryan and I were thinking umm yeah right?  Where are your parents that made you stake out here for your summer job, ripping off the tourists…But when we saw several people paying, we decided whatever, we just want to see the waterfall.  Here’s a few bucks towards a new scooter little man.

But the waterfall was worth more than $5 in my opinion.  Only a picture can come close to describing it!   

The hike back took you through a mini jungle!  Large plants, tiny streams, large trees…

After Akaka Falls I made Ryan stop the car at a little tent outside the parking lot.  My dream had been to drink coconut milk straight from the coconut – and wouldn’t you know a young guy was selling his family farm of coconut milk!  Awesome!  Well, not so awesome actually.  I was a little disappointed.  Looks like we really sweeten up our coconut here in the states. 

On to Rainbow Falls!  We found a small path leading to the mouth of the waterfall, and that made up for the disappointing coconut milk.  We sat as close as we felt comfortable to the edge, and just watched the outrageous amount of water cascade down the cliff.  It was truly amazing. 

After our little waterfall adventures, we found a restaurant in downtown Hilo called, “CafĂ© Pesto.”  If you ever make it to the big island, YOU MUST EAT HERE!  It was our favorite of the week by far.  Uh-may-zing sandwiches, pizza, and pesto creamy sauce.

The ride home made this day the most memorable.  In a not-so-good kind of way.  It started pouring buckets as soon as we left the restaurant (a sign?? I knew we should have ordered dessert…) and did not stop for over an hour.  We decided to cut through the middle of the island on the infamous “Saddle Road”, which for all you gamers out there, will remind you a lot of the Royal Raceway level on Mario Kart.  Up and down and over and across and up again!  It felt like a rollercoaster ride with stomach drops and a few screams here and there.  Not to mention, the roads are NOT lit.  So after a couple hours of scary, dark, windy, roads we finally made it back and went straight to bed.  Since you know, it was around 9:30 pm and it was way past our bedtime. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hawaii Day #2 & #3

Hawaii Day #2 – Sunday

Time zones are funny.  We were in bed on Saturday by 8:00pm, and were wide awake by 4:30am!  If only we could carry on the habit when we went back to Utah.  Each morning we opened the blinds and watched the sunrise, and were shocked when the temperature was already 75-80 degrees by early morning.  We made some kind of easy breakfast, poured ourselves a glass of POG juice and sipped it from wineglasses – all on our porch with the cool morning breeze and sound of the ocean.  HEAVEN.

Sunday was a relaxing day.  We were able to find a local ward and enjoyed listening to their talks and testimonies.  We saw a couple next to us with extremely shiny rings, and asked, “are you on your honeymoon?”  Very shyly they nodded back and continued to hold on to each other very tightly.  It was adorable.  The Kona temple is right outside their church building, and it is gorgeous!  Very tiny, but still beautiful.  We spent most of the rest of the day in a car, driving to the northern tip of the island.  The scenery was beautiful and we loved all of those Hawaiian tunes that we still find ourselves humming (“I wanna go back to my honey…”).  But towards the end of the day is probably the funniest part of the week:

We fixed ourselves breakfast and packed lunches every day, but saved eating out for dinner time.  We were starving, of course, and found ourselves walking up and down the main drag in Kona, indecisive as usual and growing hungrier and grouchier by the second.  We finally chose a nice little restaurant right on the beach, and opened the menu…to find there were no prices listed.  That is never good.  I ordered something that sounded cheap (turned out to be $18), and Ryan ordered a seafood platter (which turned out to be $40…gulp…)!!  To make matters worse…the food wasn’t even that great.  What a bummer!!!!!  We didn’t make that mistake again, so we look back and laugh…and cringe.

Hawaii Day #3 – Monday

We woke up at our usual, too early time, and went for a little jog along the coast.  We found a little hub where some locals were paddle boarding/surfing and watched them for a few minutes, itching to join them soon!  We signed up for a kayaking adventure that morning at 9:00, and it lived up to the name!  There were only four kayaks in our group, so our guide took us to several more lava tubes than usual.  We were able to cautiously and carefully maneuver our little kayaks in and out of lava tubes and caves along the rocky coast of southern Kona.  We kayaked for about four miles total, but were able to cliff jump, snorkel, and explore. 
- Interesting fact: Our guide showed us three homes that were entirely “off the grid.”  They were above a large lava tube, and were able to cool down their homes by channeling some of the tubes to their homes.  They collected rain water and used solar panels, and they were beautiful! 
We had gotten to know the tour guide towards the end of the adventure, and he offered to let us use some paddle boards for free!  We jumped at the chance, and soon found that it is most definitely not as easy as it looks.  I was able to go a bit faster than Ryan, and whenever he asked me to slow down and wait, I would start to wobble…then I would start to really wobble…then at last I would face plant first on the board, and then roll into the water.  This happened probably four times, and I only wish I could have seen it from Ryan’s perspective!
We next went to a recommended beach next to the Marina – and soon found that the treck there was not quite worth it.  The sand was breathtakingly white, but the water was very murky.  We did luck out by seeing nearly 10 turtles, but decided to pick up our snorkel gear and chairs and head to a better beach.

And we found one.

Kua Bay is the hidden gem of the big island.  It is hard to find since it is not marked, but we were able to score some good directions.  There was only one problem with this Bay, and that was NO SHADE.  We were getting a little roasted by this point in the day, and were able to find a lone tree on the north side of the beach.  Thank goodness!!  We snorkeled, body surfed, boogie boarded, and soaked up some sun :) Afterward, we went to a delicious Japanese restaurant, and fell quickly asleep for the third night in a row.  

 Ps. The last few are pictures of pictures...from our water camera.  Not the best quality. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back from the Dead - Hawaii Day #1

It has been over a month...and I would be embarrassed of our lack of writing if we hadn't had the most incredible past few weeks.  [Give or take a few moments of sadness, and few days of stress and the other ups and downs that come with life's trials and struggles.] Ryan and I were so fortunate to get away from Provo and leave responsibility right along with it!  We have been going, and going, and going, and this needed respite couldn't have come at a better time.

First, we went home to Oregon for a solid week.  We almost felt our cup was full with Thompson/Folsom love, but we could always have some more :)  What a wonderful thing it was to spend time with each family, and Ryan and I soaked up every minute of it (quite literally with all of that pool time!)  

We will blog later with details from our Oregon trip, but we are almost bursting with the Hawaii Hangover Syndrome and want to relive every detail as we record each fun-packed day there on this blog.  

Pre-Hawaii Day - Travel - Friday

On Friday, the 24th, we spent our final hours with our families and packed the car with borrowed snorkel gear and extra goodies, buckled in cute little Cambria (my cousin) and made our way to our first stop - Salem to give Cambria a ride home.  Next, on to the hotel near the Portland Airport.  We double-checked our bulging bags, set out our comfy outfits, and hit the sack.  

Hawaii Day #1 - Saturday

Waking up at 4:15 a.m. is usually difficult for most people, but we were ready to start the "trip of a lifetime" that we had been planning since February.  Thank goodness we have generous parents who gave us a little (ok, a lot) of help as a graduation gift for both Ryan and I.  We boarded the plane and made our way to Oakland, then on to Kona.  What a plane ride.  I was expecting a little more glamorous of a plane and was embarrassed that my heart sank a little when I saw there were no TV's.  A six hour ride with no technology??  So pathetic I had those thoughts.  We read books, chatted, slept, and FINALLY heard those blessed words:  "we are now making our decent to Kona, temperature is 88 degrees all week..."  We leaped off the plane, snagged our bags, and hitched a ride to our rental car - amazed we were finally there.  

After we figured out the rental car mess (it takes sooooooo long), we drove away, convertible top down to our first destination: LuLu's.  We had heard from an Uncle that it was THE place to go for lunch.  And, since it was lunch time and we were sick of gingerale and biscoff cookies, we decided there was no time like the present.  On the main street in Kona, Lulu's is right across from the beach.  It has such a fun atmosphere, with signed dollar bills stapled over the entire surface of the restaurant.  Ryan ordered a local favorite while I tried some mahi-mahi tacos.  It was good...but not great.  Next time we'll order to recommended burger.  

We went to check in to our room and were surprised to find two porches, two bedrooms, a large kitchen, and a family room.  With a perfect view.  We looked at each other and said, "Is this real?"  We grabbed our suits, asked a local where the best beach was, and drove north up the island to Hapuna Beach.  It. Was. Beautiful.  White sand, turquoise water, beautiful fish, the perfect amount of sun, and plenty of people.  You could tell it was one of the best on the island.  After we got our fill of body surfing and sun bathing, we hopped in the car and drove north to the tip of the island.  The sun was starting to set, and we felt like driving all night.  We had another tip and made our way to a japanese restaurant that proved to be delicious.  We were also starving.  (At this time it was 8:00). But, we would definitely go back in a heart beat.  

A little sun-kissed, still wet from the ocean, full of delicious food and exhausted, we ended our day with only smiles.  And fell asleep the second our heads touched the pillows.