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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Photo Blog: Hawaii Day 8

Saturday was our last day of having the car and we decided to make the most of it. It worked out really well since it was raining most of the day...although the top stayed up on the Mustang.

In the end, it was the first time I had ever driven around the island in the day. From Waikiki, to the North Shore, to the Windward side, around Makapuu Point and Hanauma Bay.

After we cruised the North Shore...where the waves were small...we started looking for lunch. And, for lunch -- we did something that I had been interested in fro a long time. We visited the famous shrimp shacks on the North Shore near Kahuku. We tried "The Shrimp Shack" which had great garlic shrimp and then had the Sweet and Sour Shrimp at Romy's. Our preference was clearly for the garlic shrimp.

After that, we made the trip down the Windward side to breeze by Kualoa Ranch, Chinaman's Hat, a quick stop for shaved ice in Waimanalo, before stopping by the famous blow-hole on our way back to Waikiki.

Here are a few pictures from the day...


The picturesque mountains that serve as a backdrop for Kualoa Ranch.


A slightly different via (and tweak) of the trees in front of the mountains.


The cloudy and rainy weather contributed to the mountains being engulfed by the clouds.


Chinaman's hat off the eastern shore.



The stormy weather made for some great blows from the blowhole, shooting mist into the air.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Photo Blog: Hawaii Day 7 - Surfing and Windward

Today I took my second shot at surfing. Rather than going to another class or trying another soft surfboard, I went for a regular long board -- a 9' 6". In addition, rather than finding an different beach -- I went our right off the Hilton Hawaiian Village right at the edge of Waikiki.

I learned quickly that even though the protected area of the Hilton's beach was relatively deep at 6-7 feet, in general Waikiki was not. The break that I decided to go out to was only about 3-4 feet deep in the a few places with a mix of coral and sand. On a couple of occasions I found some of that coral. Luckily it was just a couple of scrapes on my feet and toes -- getting on an off the surfboard rather than taking any bad falls -- and no major damage. Still, I cannot say that as of yet I am a huge fan of reef surfing.

Even with that, the surfing in the morning was a mild success with my catching a few waves and getting up. Definitely not with the frequency or stability that I had a couple of days earlier, but progress none-the-less -- and actually on a real board.

After our morning surf session (Evan joined me while Ashley hung out at the beach), we headed down for our required Cheesecake Factory Honolulu / Waikiki visit for lunch which was a enjoyable as usual. After that, Ashley and I just headed around the south side of the island and over to the windward side -- which consistent with the past week was really windy.

We then finished up the evening with the Hilton Hawaiian Village's free show, King's Jubilee and free fireworks before heading over to Benihana within the village.

Here are a few pictures from the day...

Evan and I paddle out to the break about 1/4 mile offshore from the Hilton Hawaiian Village to surf.


Coming back into shore after our hour and a half out surfing. A relatively successful second surf day.


The view from the windward side of Oahu, from Waimanalo Beach park -- one of our favorite spots.


Ashley hanging out by the shore in the wind at Waimanalo Beach.


Hmm, bad surf and Man 'O Wars. I don't think I am going to venture out in that today.


A kite surfer in Kailua gets airborne. The 20-30 mph gusts made from some pretty awesome aerobatics that we could watch from the shore.


Start of the King's Jubilee at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the free Friday night show.


My favorite part of the show, the fire dancer / juggler. His performance was about 10 minutes of pure watching enjoyment.


The fireworks amongst the palm trees over the ocean right next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.


Ending our night at Benihana where we had one of the most clever and humorous chefs that we've had. "Japanese Ketchup" for Soy Sauce among 10 other one-liners provided great entertainment.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Photo Blog: Hawaii Day 6 - The North Shore

Today with a touch of good weather and the first day with a rental car from Hertz -- we loaded up the convertible Ford Mustang and headed to the North Shore. We had heard that with the trade winds blowing, the waves were pretty big -- not "The QuickSilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau" Big Wave competition big, but still pretty good size.

We made the trek through your standard run of breaks...Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline, before stopping at Sunset Beach to hang out for awhile. The waves were decent size, but smaller than a few days earlier at Honolua Bay on Maui -- but still entertaining.

We hung out for a few hours before making our traditional run to Matsumoto's shaved ice for a delightful treat before heading back to Waikiki to relax and then head into town to have dinner.

Here are a few pictures from the day...

The surf at Sunset Beach as one of the 20 our so surfers catches a wave.


The classic view of Sunset Beach on the North Shore of the Island of Hawaii.


Catching Ashley in front of the waves here at Sunset Beach.


Evan joined us today and took a couple of the great photos below. I am entirely jealous of her Canon EOS 50D camera, it's awesome. Still, she is jealous of my Canon L lenses. :-)


Some paddle surfers heading out on the North Shore. This sport is insanely popular since the last time we were here. In fact, Kate Hudson just had a photo snapped of her in Malibu on one of these in People Magazine. Still, these guys were heading out for a cruise rather than any wave riding activities.


Evan takes a picture of me searching for the right shot(s).


Don't want to break your neck on the beach. I love the picture here of someone landing on their head.


Another great photo from Evan as Ashley and I made our way down the beach. One of my favorites from this trip.


Back at the hotel from our North Shore adventure...this is Waikiki...this is Hawaii...this is vacation.


Our first "real" sunset. Provided some time to take a few photos -- but better yet enjoy the end to a magnificent day on the island of Oahu.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Photo Blog: Hawaii Day 5 - Surfing with Hawaiian Fire

This was the day of our vacation that I had anticipated for some time. Today, I was going to learn how to surf.

Growing up in central California I had frequented the beaches of Pismo Beach, Avila, and others mainly taking to Body (Boogie) Boarding. In fact, this continued during college while I lived in Malibu, CA -- resisting any notion of surfing because in fact, I was a body boarder.

However, at this point it has been a couple of years since I have really "gone out" to go body boarding and many of the friends and people I know surf. I had decided that on my next trip to Hawaii I would learn how to surf.

And that is what Ashley and I did today. We signed up with Hawaiian Fire, a company ran by local Honolulu, Oahu based Firefighters. They say that they are Hawaii's best surf lesson and I have to agree -- our experience was awesome. The break they picked had plentiful smaller waves for starters, no crowds, and the six instructors in our group lesson made for a great and productive time. Even though it was a "soft" 10 foot surfboard -- both Ashley and I were able to stand easily -- and in the hour and a half in the water, I was able to ride 25-30 waves.

To top it off, I asked some general questions about how I would get started back when I was on the mainland and got some great pointers and tips in terms of the type of board and breaks I would look for early on. Without a doubt, both Ashley and I highly recommend Hawaiian Fire for surf lessons if you are thinking about it while on the island of Oahu.

On a side note, they also have a photographer come out who had a great Canon 40D and 100-400mm L lens that took some great photos. For only $40, we received the whole CD of about $150 pictures. Not bad since it was split between three of us...myself and Ashley, and our friend Evan who was in Hawaii for her medical residency.

Here are a few photos from the day...

We met a local at the break. Irma is a Hawaiian Monk Seal, and endangered earless seal of which there are only about 1200 left in the world. Thanks to the wonder of a zoom lens, we could get a good photo without getting too close. Apparently this is his beach.


Our group for surf lessons with Evan, Ashley and I just to the right of the surfboard.


Ashley standing up on her first wave. Good for her!


Riding one of the small waves on and getting a feel for the board.


Time to get off the wave as flatly as possible.


Ashley and I for a quick pose after our surfing lesson.


A shot of all the rash guards drying in the morning sun and wind.


The Hawaiian Fire team picks you up at your hotel with these fancy vans. :-) They give you transport to and from your hotel to the surf lesson, it runs about 4 hours in all.


The rest of the day we just hung out and relaxed. Here is a shot near sunset from our lanai at the room, catching the reflection of the palm trees in the lagoon. The cloudy weather has made for less than spectacular sunsets so far.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Photo Blog: Hawaii Day 4 - Waikiki and Hilton Hawaiian Village

This is our first day of 6 here on Oahu. Some people asked me why we only spent 3 days on Maui and then choosing to spend 6 on Oahu. While we wish now that we spent more time on Maui to go to Hana and see Haleakala, it was really Hilton HHonors fault. Looking to get the most out of our free miles and points for our stay -- we needed to do 6 nights somewhere. Plus, the Grand Wailea too a few more points (double) for the same stay. Maybe next time we will do it in reverse.

We had a minor issue with the hotel room last night. We were expecting as good of an upgrade here at the Hilton Hawaiian Village as we got at the Grand Wailea given my Hilton status -- but on check-in we ended up in an accessible room with a view of the lagoon (Executive Suite) rather than a standard room with a view to the Diamond Head crater like we had in the past. We tried to work our way into a different room, but no luck there -- and who were we to complain -- we had only reserved a garden view room. Still, the staff at Hilton Hawaiian Village was no where near as friendly as the staff at the Grand Wailea. Sounds odd since most reviews say the opposite.

Since I had to do some work this morning and make some phone calls, Ashley was on her own. Luckily, one of our friends happened to be in town as she was doing a stint with Kaiser for a month for her residency and had the day off. So, her and Ashley went for a hike towards the windward side of Oahu.

After they came back, we hung out and went for a walk down to Waikiki to window shop before coming back to the hotel for relaxing evening.

Here are a few pictures from the day...


The lighthouse at Makapuu Point on Oahu.


Near the top of the climb to Makapuu Point, Ashley and Evan got stuck out in the rain. Evan took a picture of Ashley -- soaked from the weather.


Evan and Ashley with their feet in the water in front of Hilton Hawaiian Village.


The view of the renovated lagoon from our lanai at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.


Evan and Ashley taking a stroll along the beach.


The statue of Duke Kanahamoku greets you with leis by the beach in Waikiki.


Ashley and I pose with Diamond Head in the background.


These surfboards are just waiting to be ridden in the Waikiki surf.


This is where it gets a little crazy. In the Hilton Hawaiian Village there is this advertisement for the Waikiki Starlight Luau at Hilton Hawaiian Village. (link here) From the advertisement you picture this being on the lawn or on the beach. But the reality is that someone had the idea to put it on top of the parking garage with a fake painted background. The semi-obstructed view to the sea is nice -- we were thinking about attending until we realized this. Plus, we were able to see the luau the next few nights from our lanai; occasionally interrupted by honks and car alarms going off.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Photo Blog: Hawaii Day 3 - Wailea & Lahaina in Maui

Today was our last day on the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. Our time here felt a little shorter than we would have preferred, but we enjoyed in still the same!

We started out with setting up a late checkout of 2:00pm at the Grand Wailea -- so we could hang out at the pool as long as possible. Then from there, we headed up to Lahaina in order to catch the "Sugar Cane Train" for a quick ride. Unfortunately, at the time we got there -- there were no more round trip rides from Lahaina, so we had to miss the ride -- and Ashley was a little disappointed.

Instead, we headed into the town of Lahaina to check out the famous Banyan tree, the art galleries, and general browsing around before having dinner at the original Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant along Front Street.

After dinner, we headed north with a few hours to kill to check out Honolua Bay for sunset where the waves were really coming in...double overhead for the surfers out there. It made for a peaceful evening and some great photos.

Then we headed back to the airport to catch our flight to Honolulu on the island of Oahu. We arrived at the airport a few hours before our 10:00pm flight -- we hoped to get on standby for an earlier flight, but Hawaiian Airlines said they did not offer standbys in any case without a $50 per person charge. Since we only paid $39 each for the flight, that did not seem to make much sense. While we waited, Hawaiian Airlines decided to put our luggage on standby, just not us. That did make for a quicker arrival once we finally arrived in Oahu.

Here are a few photos from the day...

The pool, the 7 water slides, and the world's only water elevator at the Grand Wailea. No crowds, even at noon here in March.


Ashley "hanging" on the famous Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui. This tree is just immense!


This turned out poorly for somebody's boat. A sailboat apparently came loose from its anchor, floated in and ran aground just a couple hundred feet offshore. After a few minutes, the waves capsized it and it basically sunk.

The view on Front Street in Lahaina, Maui.


Honolua Bay in Maui near sunset. The surfers getting lined up and riding the big waves.


Another shot from Honolua Bay where you can see the size of the waves due to the winds.


A shot towards the Westin and the Ritz Carlton from Honolua Bay.


I took a couple of fun pictures of Ashley.


And she captured me taking a few photos in my standard pose.

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