As our 30th anniversary approached, and as Southwest Airlines rumors spread of flights to Hawaii in the future, Mo began planning a reprise trip of our earlier visit the Hawaiian islands. In this case, we beat Southwest there.
While our trip five years ago was to the Big Island and Oahu, this time around we are returning to the Big Island and then visiting Kauai for the first time. After a rough flight out, we arrived in Kona, picked up our rental car, and checked in to our condo. We already knew the area a bit as it was only a couple blocks from the Royal Kona Resort where we had stayed previously.
the view from our Kona condo
We had a bit of déjà vu when again my tour of the summit of Mauna Kea and evening stargazing was thwarted by overcast/bad weather.
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While at Kailua-Kona, one of my big plans was to take a tour to the summit of Mauna Kea to be among the observatories at sunset, and to spend some time viewing the stars while up there. Unfortunately, the night I had reserved months in advance was one of the few nights during the year that is cancelled due to bad weather. I had even been taking altitude medication in preparation for it. As Mo consoled me at the time, “Well, we’ll just have to come back again!”
We left Kona and drove along the northern half of the Hawai’i Belt Road, skirting around with Mauna Kea on our right the whole way. While we did stop at the Gemini Observatory operations building (in Hilo), that was as close as I got to that dream.
snow covered Mauna Kea peak
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Early on Saturday morning we caught a flight with Hawaiian Airlines (that left ½ hour early!) to the big island. We arrived at Hilo, and spent the rest of the morning visiting Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii and the planetarium program there, where I was researching for my upcoming evening on the top of Mauna Kea.
We made the short drive to Volcano, HI to our home for the next couple days, Aloha Junction B&B. It was great to find that we were only a couple minutes from the entrance to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. In turn, it was about ten minutes from the observatory at the edge of the active crater of the volcano. We spent some time watching the plume before heading back to the B&B, but it was so awesome, we went back again near midnight to see the orange glow of the lava on the rising cloud.
Kilauea Volcano crater in daytime and (insert) at night
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When we were making our Hawaii plans, one of the things we’d kicked around was touring the movie sites on O’ahu as a way of seeing some more of the island. We had our eye on KOS Tours, and found ourselves down in the hotel lobby early in the morning for our pickup time; we had no problem identifying our ride: a large gray Hummer.
Besides Mo and I, we had the pleasure of riding with a young couple from Melbourne, Australia. On our way to the north side of the island, Jeff, our driver, pointed out several film locations, including one from The Descendants that Mo recognized right away. The majority of the film sites though were located in the picturesque valley of Kualoa Ranch.
a view of the ocean and Kaʻaʻawa Valley
There were many vistas that we recognized from LOST, as well as Jurassic Park and others.
For our 25th anniversary, Mo and I began laying the groundwork for a vacation in Hawaii — finding flights to use up our American miles (they were TWA miles when I got them, and I fly Southwest now) and hotels for our Hilton points, plus identifying different sites our tours we wanted to take in while there. When all was said and done, we ended up with ten nights on two different islands.
We arrived at the Waikiki Embassy Suites after our long day’s worth of flying there (via Dallas), with warm, sometimes misty weather greeting us. Mo hadn’t been to Hawaii for ~30 years, and while she knew the area around Ft. DeRussy pretty well, she was quick to point out how much things had changed.
There’s a rainbow on the Hawaii license plate, and on the drive to our hotel it was easy to see why — we saw plenty. The winner was the double rainbow outside our hotel room that went all the way to the ground.
the end of the rainbow? Ft. DeRussy Armed Forces Recreation Center
We had reserved a time on our first day for seeing the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, and we packed up a small picnic and took the bus over, eating our meal and walking the grounds there. We wandered through a few of the exhibits there before watching the tour movie and catching the boat ride to the Arizona. I was sure to snap a few photos of our state’s namesake, the U.S.S. Missouri as well.