….And we’re back! With a new face!

Hello everyone! Sorry for the long break!

We have a new face around here:

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Do you see any resemblance? 🙂

It’s my brother Elijah!  He is taking a break from life after his previous job was running him into the ground with 12 hour days 6 days a week. Hawaii is the perfect place for a little relaxation.

Side note, most of my family members think I’m in Maui! (Hopefully we’ll island hop over there at some point!)

Since my brother has been here for a couple weeks already, I thought I’d ask him about his thoughts on Hawaii so far.

  1. “I thought there would be a bigger city center .. more skyscrapers, more of a ‘city’ feel, but it very much still feels like island ‘aloha’ life.”
  2. “Just driving around is so fun. It is all so different.”
  3. “I didn’t think there would be as much dead vegetation.” (Hawaiian Summers are HOT!)
  4. “There are lots of cool shoe stores” (He is a fan of the crazy shopping in Waikiki)
  5. “I think it’s really cool how it’s a small island but each beach has a different feel even though to get to a new beach you only have to drive max an hour.”
  6. “I like all the lizards.” (He and I both ❤ reptiles ❤ ❤ ❤ )
  7.  “It doesn’t seem like there are many Hawaiian restaurants, I was expecting more ‘local’ cuisine.”
  8. “The locals are nice!”
  9. “I like the quick weather changes, it’s interesting how it is way too sunny one minute and sprinkling rain the next.”
  10. “I love the hikes, I’ll miss them when I go home.”
  11. “Pizza is EXPENSIVE!”

How to make liquid gold

Chocolate, that is.

For some reason that cues the Beverly Hillbillies theme song to play in my head.

Not too long ago, a friend here was browsing Groupon and came across a deal on a chocolate making class! She asked if we wanted to join and I said “HECK YEAH!”

We had toured a chocolate “plantation” while in Costa Rica, Caribbeans (the photo of the view on the website is from their chocolate tasting open air “room!”) so we more or less knew the process from bean to bar.  I was totally fine with learning how this particular Hawaiian company made theirs though, plus I would get a chocolate bar out of it!

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Madre Chocolate is where we went! They have two locations, one in Kailua and one in Chinatown, Honolulu. Both locations have classes about different parts of the process, and each has a different day and time they teach. We ended up going to the Kailua location as it worked better with Brent’s work schedule.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but we were kind of surprised when we wandered into the mini factory/store and found that it was just that – mini! The place is tiny.

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(it is slightly bigger than this around the corner, but still .. so small!)

There were 2 rows of folding chairs that barely fit in front of the store’s counter. We sat there quietly and chatted until the clock said it was 10 minutes past start time. We were told we were waiting for a couple other tour takers to show up but by 15 minutes after, we went ahead and started.

Nat was our instructor for the evening. He is a very laid back guy that you can tell loves the shop and the chocolate making process. Listening to his lecture was a little difficult as his thoughts and sentences were very broken up and not very fluid but he was very informative. He took us out front to show us the cacao tree right out front, let us taste the leather made from the pulp that surrounds the chocolate beans (not nearly as good as fresh pulp!), and while in the back made sure everyone had plenty of room to see the process as he spoke.

He explained how chocolate is tempered, which is the heating and cooling process it goes through to make sure all of the ingredients don’t separate.  When chocolate looks “moldy” tempering has been reversed because the bar most likely melted at some point and was re-frozen without going through the right process. He had ready-to-go chocolate already out, gave us a ladle and a mold and showed us how much to fill it.

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I could dunk my face in that ❤

So, while the process from pod to liquid chocolate was explained, it wasn’t shown except through a couple pictures he pulled up on the small TV in the front of the store.

After pouring our chocolate into our molds, we were then able to add whatever mix-ins we wanted from their selection.

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Nat explained what each would taste like, and showed us about how much to put by demonstrating on his own chocolate bar.

We put our bars into the freezer and sat back down to hear a little more and do some tasting!

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Our favorite was the chocolate bar that incorporated the flavor of the pulp of the cacao pod. If you ever get the opportunity to taste the pulp, be prepared for an explosion of mango-y/pineapple/paradise-y goodness in your mouth!

Nat was so excited about the other flavors that they made that he also let us taste even more he had behind the counter. We even tried an horchata flavored bar!

Finally our bars were done and we were able to wrap them up ourselves. Brent wrapped his up then immediately unwrapped it to eat the whole thing …

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Nom nom nom

It was a fun little experience, especially if you know nothing about the process! Remember to look for deals, as I’m writing this August 2017 the class is still on Groupon. If you want more information on chocolate and even get to see some cacao trees and more of the actual process they do have other options here. They even have a whiskey and chocolate pairing class (which Nat says he likes much better than wine and chocolate!).

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My beautiful bar for your viewing pleasure. I’m sorry you can’t taste through the screen!

PSA: Don’t put TOO many flavors in your bar – you’ll have more nutmeg and nibs in your bite than actual chocolate!

It’s not always a cockroach…

But just in case it is, this right here will be your best friend.

Advion

You can’t say no to 11,000 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars. #notanad

Living in Hawaii (or any tropical place really) you have to be aware that you will happen upon a cockroach. Yes they’re scary, yes they are disgusting, but that’s the price you pay for paradise. And honestly, flies are MUCH dirtier and are much more likely to be carrying a nasty transmitable disease.

Coming from a bland town in Idaho that doesn’t have hurricanes, Godzilla sized rats, earthquakes, tsunamis, or blizzards, cockroaches to me were something you had when you had done a bad job of picking up your laundry. Maybe you had left a few too many dishes in the sink and they came in swarms to party with the pizza particles. They definitely didn’t hang out when you bleached every surface and went through your carpet with a fine toothed comb.

Buuuut….after bleaching every surface of my house, scouring every nook and cranny with a brillo pad, and making sure every food item was locked away in the fridge (yes even the chips and bread..) I still came across a nightmare on 6 legs. My first experience with one was when the apartment building had the water shut off for a day while work was being done to the system.  I was bringing some freshly washed towels into the bathroom and I screamed bloody murder when I saw the gigantic beast on the shower wall.

And unluckily for me, I was all alone.

I contemplated killing it: I tried to pick a murder weapon that would guarantee death but also leave me plenty of feet away.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to attempt battle with the shelled bug nastily licking its antennae as it scuttled closer and closer. I ended up backing out of the bathroom and closing the door. I had heard stories of cockroaches being able to squeeze through tiny cracks though, and right before my eyes, the bug that was (probably not) bigger than my fist had squished its body in between the closed door and the door frame. That’s when I finally gathered my courage and he was no more.

After that, no matter how spotless I kept things, I always saw one or two a week. I even saw one in my dishwasher … you’d think that would be a sealed safe haven … but no. Luckily we are not on the first floor or I think we would have had it much worse. I ended up keeping ALL food in the fridge hoping it wouldn’t end up compromised like the dishwasher, and added the silverware for good measure (as I had seen a cockroach in the silverware drawer as well).

Then I was recommended my holy grail, Advion Cockroach gel bait.

Apparently, this is also what the professionals use (exterminators, let me know if I’m wrong!) when things get really serious. You lay down small dots wherever you have seen a roach and it can kill entire populations of them.

Since I bought this miracle elixir, I haven’t seen a single cockroach since. It’s been 2 months! Before I had been seeing 2-3 cockroaches a week.

About a month and a half back, in the middle of June, I moved my bag of potatoes and saw something scurry away. I gave the good ol’ “COCKROACH!” scream and almost fell over.

But I was wrong! Instead I saw this smiling face.

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It’s not always a cockroach!

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BFFs4lyfe

 

Would you be willing to trade a couple bugs and lizards for a shot at living and working in paradise?

 

Things we didn’t know

  1. The animals here are all incredibly different than back home

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2.  And there really aren’t a lot of them (going on hikes is weird when you only see birds and lizards!)

3.  Sometimes you won’t know what your coworkers or friends are saying (pau means done!)

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4.  The gorgeous weather comes with some gnarly mosquitos. After our hikes, I usually find even more bites 2 days later. Bring the DEET!

5.  Your grocery total will be astronomical. We thought we were prepared .. we cry every time on the inside.

6.  The police aren’t always in well-marked police cars. They are welcome to use their personal cars with just a blue light on top.

7.  Be prepared to bring a reusable shopping bag (ours is monstrous) or pay for a bag when you shop (if they even have any).

8.  Make sure you know what kind of a schedule you are signing up for at work – Brent agreed to a variable schedule and he is now working a tortuous mixture of days, evenings, and nights. We knew it would be all over the place but we didn’t know it would quite be this inhumane. More on this in a separate post …

9.  Along those same lines – be flexible and understanding at your job. Brent is working the same system he used to work back in Idaho but they do things completely different (some of it explained in this post here) and are actually quite a bit “behind” technologically so that frustrates him. Travel techs that can’t roll with the punches do not get renewed contracts unfortunately, at least not here in Hawaii which is an extremely desirable location. Brent actually saw one of his co-workers go due to this.

10.  “Furnished apartment” means different things to different people …

11.  Hawaii is beautiful but it gets hit by Summer heat too – the island now is significantly more brown than it was when we got here!

12.  It will take you forever and a day to drive 10 miles here on Oahu. There’s a reason Honolulu tops lists for worst traffic.

13.  Internet here is actually cheaper than we had budgeted for. Even though buying milk will have you crying, our internet bill as of July 2017 is only $25 a month with no promo.

14.  You will encounter a lot of homeless people here just hanging out in Waikiki or other beaches and streets you frequent – our preference is to not directly give them cash, but offer food.

15.  Sand WILL get everywhere. Just plan on cleaning out your rental car regularly.

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That’s it for now! Have you been to Hawaii and been completely surprised by something?

Celebrating the King of the Islands

King Kamehameha!

King Kamehameha the Great was the Hawaiian king that united the islands, and his likeness and the celebration of his story and the story of his successors are found all over Hawaii.

We felt pretty lucky to be here on such a great day for the islands so we made plans to attend some of the celebration, namely the King Kamehameha parade that was happening on Saturday. King Kamehameha day is June 11th but the excitement was kicking off the day before. Lucky for Brent and because of the timing of the king’s day, he had that Monday off as well for the state holiday!

We parked at the Ala Moana shopping center which has *FREE* parking and multiple levels, bought some coffee and snacks, and sat down to enjoy the parade.

But as Hawaii weather likes to do (at the most random and unpredictable times), it started to rain. We toughed it out for a bit and then tried hiding under a scraggly tree but by the end of the parade, we were pretty soaked.

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The parade began with King Kamehameha and his court, sporting ancient Hawaiian ceremonial garb. “King Kamehameha” himself wore his Mahiole (feathered helmet) and his ‘Ahu ‘ula (feathered cloak). Their ride was slightly more modern though.

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Then we watched all of the Hawaiian princesses of the islands plus their court ride by on their noble steeds, each one dressed in a different color. The floral arrangements on their horses and heads were absolutely stunning and incredibly intricate, you have to see them for yourself!

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Then many different organizations and schools came by showing off their prowess at the ukulele, dance, or baton twirling, some even from the mainland. Overall it was a fun experience albeit a wet one!

The good thing about Hawaii is that even though you’ll be soaked in minutes, you’ll be dry just as fast. Don’t let it ruin your day!

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All dry

The party was continuing at Kapiolani park so we headed over to check it out. It was about 2 miles away from where we watched the parade so we decided to take it slow and explore on the way there. We went through the Hilton Village a little bit which was interesting and humongous, then decided to try and get to their “rooftop garden” where they hold their luau.

An employee giggled a little when we asked to see the garden then let the way. It turns out, “garden” can mean 3 potted plants …..

The view was pretty though!

They also had a really pretty mural that I had to take a picture in front of.

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It’s Diamond Head!

We continued our trek to Kapiolani park by meandering along the beach side walk way which took us along the backs of the fancy I’ll-never-be-able-to-afford-it hotels right beside the water.

We did finally end up at the park a little sweaty and maybe a tiny bit winded and were greeted by the sounds of the Hawaiian singer playing his ukulele at the bandstand and the smell of delicious island food cooking at the surrounding tents.

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I ordered a pastele which reminded me of my mama’s tamales. A pastele is a Puerto Rican “tamale” made of green banana and various meats, and here in Hawaii they give it a local twist. It was absolutely delicious! I love trying new foods. The arroz con gandulez, also Puerto Rican, was very flavorful as well. It is so interesting to see how other cultures are so similar but also so different.

What do you know about King Kamehameha? Share below!

The Ocean’s Swimming Pool

I’m sure most of us have visited little tidepools along the coast where tiny fish get caught, sea anemonies catch their prey and your finger, and little crabs scuttle about.

Well how about some human size tidepools?

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I had to post this on my Instagram, it’s just too perfect!

These tidepools are right off the side of the Makapu’u Lighthouse hike at about the second sign in. Just go up the trail as normal until you reach the sign with the path to the left. It looks steep – and that’s because it is! Be very careful with shoe choice and small children.

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It is quite a ways down. There is no specific path, Brent and I just did a bunch of zig-zagging, following other people, and scooting down on our bootys. It’s steep, but if you are careful you shouldn’t worry.

We had no idea we would be coming across these creations of nature so naturally we were still wearing our “hiking shoes” .. er … flip flops.

But when you see something this cool how can you pass it up!

We got down just fine with some minor slippage

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There is also a blowhole rivaling the Halona Blowhole off to the left of the pools. We caught a great video of a gigantic crashing wave and the blowhole spouting several feet into the air.

Make sure to put your items where they won’t be accidentally taken by someone else or soaked by the waves.  Speaking of the waves …

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BE CAREFUL!

When the waves come crashing in, they shove everything into the rocks, including you. Either be prepared and hold on or duck under the water. As an extra precaution, make sure there are locals in the water. If the locals are staying away, it might save your life to do the same!

Several locals were swimming there when we went and were diving to look open eyed at the fish and other creatures under the water. I really wished I had brought at least my goggles so I could do the same!

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We stayed for an hour or so then hiked back up in our super safe hiking shoes.

Would you take the risk of a rocky cliff hike?

Let your light shine

If you have researched your Oahu trip at all or done a quick google search for “things to do” you have probably come across the Makapu’u Lighthouse.

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It really is that gorgeous! This photo is not edited at all.

I highly recommend you make the trek up to the top of the hill. The path is paved, wide, and extremely accessible. We even saw someone in a wheelchair making their way up! It is steep at times but it’s definitely no ridge hike.

Brent and I put on our “hiking shoes.” In other words, our “slippers,” or flip flops. The hike is a ways from us, not exactly distance wise, but because of Oahu traffic! When we got there we were surprised at the amount of cars that were already parked at the entrance to the trail even though we shouldn’t have been. We got there sometime around 11 on a weekend which is when everyone has finally woken up, rounded up the kids or pets, and headed out for an adventure. It’s also when the sun starts to want to burn a hole through your head …

We ended up parking along the road where there was plenty of space, making sure not to leave anything important in the car of course. We started to wander up the trail and almost instantly started melting from the heat. Thank the Lord for sunscreen or we would have been crisps!

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There are signs along the pathway that give information about different things like the crater in the distance (Koko Head), whales, the history of the lighthouse, etc. There is also a path near the first group of signs that will take you to Pele’s Chair, a rock formation on the side of the cliff said to be where the Hawaiian fire goddess created the island before moving on. It is possible to climb to the top of the chair, but please use caution! It is a hard rocky fall if you do happen to slip.

As you climb higher and higher on the smooth paved path the views get better and better. Parasailers circle the top of the ridge, kept up by the strong ocean breeze. The water is a stunning blue that stretches for miles, no filter necessary. On a clear day, you can even see a couple of the other islands in the distance!

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We finally reached the top of the hike, where a lookout has been built. Part of it is wheelchair accessible. In the picture I am looking down over the left side of the lookout, and if you look down over the right side, higher up, the lighthouse is visible down below.

After contemplating life at a high altitude for a while, we decided to climb up the narrow dirt path to the actual mountain top. There are several concrete structures up there, a couple being World War II pillbox bunkers, an old out of use water tank, and what I assume are two of the old lighthouse keepers’ homes.

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Don’t venture too far in – they reek of urine and trash

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The hike takes you along the ridge line and then back down to the look out point. It’s very short, very easy, and not too scary.

I don’t necessarily recommend doing it in your beach shoes though!

We wandered around beneath the look out trying to get to the lighthouse itself, but the pathway along the cliff has been gated off and is not accessible to the public.

I had noticed on our way up that there were several people in a large tide pool off the side of the cliff, so on our way back down we decided to try and get down there too! Read about that adventure >>>here<<< when it gets posted.

After we got back down to the car we were utterly pooped and just dripping in sweat. Luckily we were surrounded by beach! We spent the rest of the day relaxing under our umbrella at Sandy Beach nearby.

Have you been to the Makapu’u Lighthouse?

Honeymooners again

Every day here on Oahu has truly felt like another honeymoon.

So we booked a honeymoon classic!

If you read my previous post about our big long walk, you’ll know our goal was to end up at an activity in the Kewalo Harbor. Our activity was a Makani Sunset Dinner Cruise that we purchased for half price through Groupon (you should know by now we love a good deal!)

We went and got our car and found a parking spot right next door at Ala Moana beach park. You can park in the harbor if you have a harbor activity booked, but it is $1 an hour.

We showed our Groupon at the tiny ticketing booth and got our reusable plastic covered tickets and got ready to wait. We were pretty early so we stood around for about 20 minutes. So many people showed up that we were wondering how they would all fit on the catamaran!

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Our noble steed for the evening

We were let on board and I fought, bit, and elbowed my way to a prime location. Just kidding, I actually had no competition. Everyone had actually filed down into the cabin of the catamaran for some reason. We asked the peppy guide why and found out we should have followed suit as they needed to give a safety presentation before we could found our seats.

The captain and two employees gave a funny safety speech with what I’m sure were well-rehearsed jokes from cruise after cruise after cruise, but they were still enthusiastic and happy. After that, we were free to roam.

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After getting our signature drink of course!

The views were fabulous, and it was so fun to see Honolulu and Diamond Head from a completely different perspective. The ride was smooth and no one felt seasick.

After 30 minutes or so, the buffet was set up and everyone filed down into the catamaran’s cabin to grab a plate. The ceiling was about a foot too short for my poor giant of a husband! We had potatoes, rice, vegetarian wraps, spring rolls, a beef and veggie dish, spring rolls, and chicken. It was good standard food, we were pretty hungry after our walk though and wished there was a little more for seconds!

During the trip one free drink was included in the price, then you could buy more drinks, alcoholic or non.  They had a deal where if you bought the tumbler “souvenir” cup, each refill was the same price as the small bio-degradable cup. We were good with just one! One lady that had had several dumped her drink down my leg and didn’t notice or apologize so that was fun. 😀

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Be sure to bring a light jacket or sweater as the breeze over the water does get slightly chilly.

We sat back and enjoyed the water and sunset, but unfortunately didn’t get to see any dolphins or turtles.  The happy gal came around with a tray of cookies that were small and overcooked which made me SO sad as dessert is my favorite part of a meal!

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Everyone crowded over to the side of the catamaran when the sunset reached its peak beauty but we were still able to nudge in and get a shot. We headed back to the harbor as all of the city’s lights lit up which was another stunning view.

We disembarked, tipped our crew, and headed home to get some much needed sleep.

The super long horrible no good walk

But that’s only if you’re talking to Brent. I thought it was great!

We parked at Nico’s Pier 38 and wandered in for some brunch. You take a menu and order right there at the host/cashier stand. I ordered the special catch of the day which was swordfish, and Brent ordered the chowder in a bread bowl. It was pretty empty so we were able to get a seat right next to the window overlooking the harbor.

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Don’t ask me what this face is, I have no idea.

Our order was called out and Brent went to go pick it up from the counter.

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I thought it was interesting that even though we were at a sit down restaurant, the food still came in a to-go plate lunch container.  Something we try to do when we go out to eat is order different things and then share! That way you get to try so much more.

As we ate, two musicians started setting up. If we had gotten there a little later in the day we would have been treated to some tunes. There is a bar in the middle of the restaurant space and I am looking forward to getting some drinks and listening to some ukulele or saxophone! Take a look at their page near the bottom to see their calendar of musicians.  After our meal we wandered through the little market they had attached to the main restaurant. They were selling souvenir cups, shirts, trinkets, and fresh caught fish as well as poke! It’s on our list to go back for some. They also have a new restaurant + fish market location in Kailua open at the time of this posting for lunch only, but they seem to be planning on adding dinner hours.

In our opinions, the food was decent, nothing special, but the atmosphere seemed to be pretty promising, especially with live music. It would definitely be the music drawing us back for a return trip.

Then it was time to walk! And walk and walk and walk and walk. We left our car at the dirt lot at Nico’s and started walking towards Waikiki following Ala Moana Boulevard. I don’t think I quite realized how far it would be …

It was gorgeous walking along the harbor and seeing all of the different types of boats. Some were coast guard, some were for fishing, some were specifically for ocean clean up which we thought was pretty cool!  We also passed quite a few elaborate homeless camps.We passed by pretty quickly as a mentally ill man who was actually foaming at the mouth started chasing another guy who was crossing the road.  Being “homeless in paradise” is not all it is cracked up to be.

After about 30 minutes of walking we came across a big landmark that I had been wanting to check out, Aloha Tower.

Aloha tower

photo by aloha-hawaii

The tower and surrounding marketplace are now just shells of what they once were. The Aloha tower used to be what ship passenger and crews would scan the horizon for to know they were getting close to land.  Hula dancers would perform on the stage, leis would be distributed, a ship coming into the harbor would be a full on festival. It was the welcoming point for all visitors to the island. It even survived World War II with a camouflage coat of paint!

Now, we have the airport.

Cruise ships still dock nearby, and there are still a few shops and restaurants open in the marketplace so it isn’t 100% a ghost town.  You can take a rikedy elevator up to the top and read about the history on weather worn signs around the tower. The views are pretty stellar!

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After heading back down we found a sign about the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa.

Try saying that five times fast!

The humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa is Hawaii’s state fish, it’s English name is wedge-tail triggerfish.  Next to the sign, you could look straight down into the water and see a little bit of coral with quite a few colorful fish! I call that on-land snorkeling. 🙂

We saw a sign for a Maritime museum and headed over only to see there was a “CLOSED” sign and a security guard posted outside. 😦 The sign said most of the museum’s items had been moved to the Bishop Museum

Still following Ala Moana Boulevard, which led us away from the water, we saw some amazing street art that I have been wanting to take a picture of for a while. We actually discovered even more by braving the lovely alley smell and ducking behind the buildings near Auahi and Cooke Streets.

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We finally made it to our destination, which was Kewalo Harbor. We had a reservation for an activity in the harbor (review will be posted next!) but we were much too early even after our 3 mile walk. We were also worried that if we left the car at Nico’s until the end of our activity, we would be shut in to their parking lot by the gate so we headed back. Yep, another 3 miles!

I was definitely not wearing the right shoes for such a long walk, but we made it! We couldn’t find a sign stating when Nico’s gate would close, or if it would at all, so we might have been fine, who knows. Better safe than sorry!

After all of that we felt pretty sweaty but also pretty accomplished. And we got to explore quite a bit along the way!

Comment below, which street art masterpiece is your favorite?

 

7 Islands in 1 Day

How did we do it??

We visited the PCC!

The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is a 42 acre park that celebrates the culture of the Polynesian islands including Fiji, New Zealand, Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa and Rapa Nui. It’s kind of like Epcot but for islands in the Pacific Ocean!

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I say Epcot but the PCC is much less fantastical and over the top. I was worried that the experience would be cringey and that I would feel bad for the islanders made to dress up, sing, and dance for the tourists. After we left though, all I felt was so much more knowledgeable and pretty dang tired!

We arrived at the PCC about half an hour before 12 when it opens, so we decided to take a peek at the little street fair type set up that was right outside in their little square, the Hukilau Marketplace. They were selling leis, grass skirts, pearls, dolls, drinks, coconuts, all kinds of delicious and brightly colored items. There is also a sweet shop that sells the incredible Dole Whip, a couple restaurants, the stadium where they have their evening show, Ha Breath of Life, and the ticketing counter.

We were pretty hungry and had been poor planners not bringing lunch, so we got an outdoor table at Pounders and ordered shrimp curry for me, and a burger for Brent. I am 50% Mexican but that didn’t give me any protection from the heat of that curry oo baby! I ended up giving Brent half of it and then stealing his water. It was nice and shaded but the flies were intense. There is also a bakery counter inside Pounders with some muffins and cookies the size of my head that we didn’t have a chance to taste.

Closer to 12 we headed over to the ticket office and waited in a very short but slightly exasperating line that took ages to get through as someone before us was having issues with their tickets. We had opted for the whole shebang which included entrance to the park, the luau at 4, and the Ha Breath of Life show at 7:30. It was actually included on our Oahu Go! cards which I will review soon and link here!

The park is open until 9pm, but be warned – the villages do *not* remain active until that time! Be sure to come early so that you can experience it all before the islanders pack up and head home. Our luau being at 4 meant that when we were finished, the villages would be pretty much done for the day. We were offered to move our luau time to 6 so that we could have more time to wander the park, and we thought that was a fabulous idea! Until the ticket seller told us it would be another $25 each. As poor newlyweds living in the most expensive place to buy toilet paper in the world, we liked our already included option! It turns out that the later luau is called the Ambassador’s Luau and it seems as though the only perk is the later time according to their website. There are many other dining options listed on their site including a fancier prime rib dinner with no entertainment, and a buffet, so be sure to check them out!

Upon entering the park, we were accosted by two nice young ladies by the entrance that were wearing name tags denoting them as “Sister.” Something to note is that the Cultural Center is owned and operated by the Mormon church, and many of the employees are BYU students. Brent is actually a former Mormon, so we were curious to see exactly how much Mormonism and/or BYU was displayed at the park. We were pleasantly surprised to see that religion was not at all shoved in your face, and the only main mention of it was on the card handed to us by the sisters for a tram ride to tour BYU. We passed.

Directly in front of us was a ukulele museum and studio that we quickly toured. There is a little keiki (kid’s) music studio inside where you can strum an instrument, and a shop where you can buy any type or size of ukulele your heart desires. Take a peek inside the buffet hall on the left as well, the murals on the walls include the actual faces of many of the employees, as well as Elvis!

We got to the first island, Samoa, just in time for their presentation. We learned a lot about coconuts, including how to open one with your teeth – do not recommend! A woman was also plucked from the crowd to drink the coconut water inside, and the Samoan in charge didn’t let her go sit down until she had finished it all! In return for her efforts though he gave her a hand woven basket. Pretty cool – but I’m not sure I would want to lug that around the park! Other people in return for their involvement with the various presentations at the islands around the park were given haku leis (headbands) or cute little woven “fish” on a “fishing pole!” The Samoan show closed out with a nimble man climbing a coconut tree, something I definitely wish I could do to keep a coconut supply at all times.

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I am one of those people that if I am somewhere I need to experience it 100% or I feel SO UNFULFILLED so trying to figure out how to fit in all of the presentations before the luau was stressful! There was also a canoe show at 2:30 that we couldn’t miss. Luckily a lot of the island presentations were off-set from each other so we could kind of move from one to the other. We were able to see New Zealand’s presentation which started outside with a greeting ceremony, then moved inside to a high energy hula and poi ball dance.

After that we hit Fiji where we joined in a bamboo drum session accompanied by ukuleles and the cutest tiny little dancers! Excuse me, warriors!

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LOOK AT HIS FEROCIOUS FACE! ❤

We weren’t going to make Hawaii’s presentation or Tahiti so we sat down in “Fiji” for a little lesson on coconut oil. All I knew about it was that it was delicious when used to make oil popped popcorn! (Seriously, try it! It has the best flavor)

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The poor guy was a sweaty mess as he had just danced his heart out for the Fiji presentation! We learned that green coconuts are best for their water, yellow coconuts for the flesh, and old brown coconuts for things like coconut shavings. It was amazing how quickly he pulverized a coconut into tiny flakes! We all got to try some. Coconut oil was and is made on the islands from squeezing the “cream” from the coconut meat into a jug, which is then left to sit until the oil separates from the liquid. It looks pretty gnarly!

From him we actually learned a lot about the park’s employees too. They are all invited to come attend BYU directly from their homeland and each employee is actually from the island that they are representing in the park. It helps to make the experience more authentic, and each employee can share their own culture from the heart instead of memorized from a book.

After getting our fill of coconut knowledge we snagged a seat by the river where the canoe pageant was about to start. It is an impressive display of song and dance by each island all performed on flat top canoes! It was especially nice because we knew we wouldn’t see each island’s presentation with our time constraints.

Right after this we sped on over to Tonga where we watched a presentation on drums and the accompanying dances. We were cutting it close to our luau but I’m glad we stayed! They pulled three people from the audience to poke fun at and learn some drum skills.

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Right after this we headed to our luau that was currently getting sat. We were given a beautiful lei each and got our …… can you guess? …. touristy picture taken with a Hawaiian princess! No prop to hold this time, just shakas. (I accidentally threw up the “I love you” sign at first! Love you Hawaii?)

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Our own (free) version of the luau picture. Call us cheapskates.

We were sat at the luau at a table that was already occupied by another family. An employee came around to ask if we wanted to dance on stage (heck no!) and another to try and sell us a pineapple smoothie for an exorbitant amount of money. No really, it was like $10! It was pretty cute though. Something to keep in mind – since the PCC is run by the Mormon church, you won’t find any alcohol here! That wasn’t a pro or con for us, we just didn’t mind. This might be a major drawback for some though so be aware! They *do* have coffee though which surprised me, as coffee is something else Mormon people are not allowed to drink. It was the perfect pick me up!

After most everyone was sat, we were invited back behind the stage to see them take the pig out of the imu, or underground “oven.” Get to the viewing area quickly though or your view will be obstructed, especially if you are short like me. I went around the side though and saw just fine.

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It smelled delicious!

After that we were let loose table by table to grab a plate at the buffet. If you wanted a plate of the fresh pork you could go grab some at a table set up in the middle of the space. Overall the food was alright. It was nothing spectacular, but it definitely filled us up. Side note, don’t bother with the poke – get some at Foodland instead! The luau show was fun to watch, but I did have to turn my chair so I could see, not everyone is set up in such a way that you have a perfect view of the stage. In my opinion, the village shows were much more fun, I think because I could give them my full attention! There was an impressive little boy that was a fire dancing champion that performed too, he dropped his fire stick twice though and you could feel his disappointment poor thing.

After the luau we walked around the villages that we hadn’t gotten to see or hadn’t spent much time in. It was deserted and sad by that point though 😦

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The height on that structure though!

We came across a map of the Polynesian islands and I made Brent explain to me the connection between all of the different cultures and how they were all technically Polynesian, just different evolved sub-sets with their own yet similar languages, dances, songs, and traditions.

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Learning about island housing. Most, if not all, of the structures in each “village” are still made the old way with no nails.

At each village as well there were little demonstrations in addition to the presentations which we missed. You could take a mini hula class, learn how to weave, how to fish, the importance of tattoos in the different cultures, etc. Unfortunately we had to skip them all but maybe one day we will be back!

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Gorgeous carved door

We then exited the actual park and took another look around the Hukilau Marketplace before the evening show. They had started a little karaoke session in the gazebo in the middle of the marketplace that actually looked and sounded pretty successful! Brent and I got a Dole Whip from the sweet shop and sat back to listen. At 7:00 we were able to enter the giant stadium for the Ha: Breath of Life show. It was so big I didn’t think it would fill up, but it sure did!

***WARNING***
Bring your bug spray and douse yourself! I was bled dry by mosquitoes and spent the next 3 days scratching my legs off!

There is no photography allowed in the show, which I think is fine as it is definitely something that should be experienced with your own eyes.  It was a giant conglomeration of all of the island cultures on display at the PCC, one merging right into the next in a very artsy way. The show was full of energy and had some of the best fire dancing we have seen yet! Truly mind blowing.

If you want to experience the Polynesian Cultural Center for youself, be sure to check online for deals. They have deals on their own site that include a free return trip online, the PCC is part of the Oahu Go! Card, and Groupon-esque sites always have bargains as well.

We were pretty beat by the time we drove home, and weren’t big fans of the fact that the PCC was pretty much on the opposite side of the island to where we currently live! It was dark by the time we started the drive. If you are staying in Waikiki, it will take you 1.5 hours (not including potential traffic) to drive to the center.

Are you as big a fan of a deal as we are? What’s the best deal you’ve gotten on a vacation? Comment below!