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Old 08-26-2012, 01:10 PM   #1
glokitty
Earning My Ears
 
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Join Date: Nov 2010
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My First Aulani TR 2012

Hi, this is my first TR - for a 2012 stay at Aulani on Oahu Feb 2-9, followed by an add-on trip to Volcano Village in the Big Island of Hawaii Feb 9-12. Our traveling party consisted of 8 adult family members - me, DH, DS, DIL (ok they are not married but it is how I think of her), Sister, BIL, his Sister, and her DH. 6 of us are DVC members at various resorts around the World.

We stayed oceanview at Aulani, in 2 studios and a 2 bedroom villa. We booked the rooms 6 months in advance, without issue (except having to borrow points from next years' contracts haha!). I didn't do too much research in advance of the trip, except where to stay on the Big Island. No "commando" on this trip either, we pretty much took it easy, day-to-day, or I should say sunset-to-sunset.

Chapters:
Day 1 - Hello Hawaii
Day 2 - Getting to Know Aulani
Day 3 - The Lagoon
Day 4 - Super Bowl and Shopping
Day 5 - Ocean Joy Cruise, Whale Alert!
Day 6 - Extreme Weather, North Shore, and Shrimp Trucks
Day 7 - Cabana
Day 8 - Farewell Aulani, Hello Volcano Village
Day 9 - Wedding Bands and Lava Tubes
Day 10 - Orchids and Cliff Divers
Day 11 - Long Flights Home
Day 12 - Home Sweet Home, or The Twilight Zone
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Last edited by glokitty; 08-26-2012 at 03:26 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 01:26 PM   #2
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Day 1 – Hello Hawaii

Before starting this trip report, a critical factor is Baxter - the dog child we behind left at home, an intentionally bred Maltese-Schnauzer. DH and I miss our canine companion horribly when we travel. We took solace in knowing that our dog was kind of on vacation himself, since our DS dogsitter comes along with his Pomeranian-Boxer, Izzy. (Izzy is a rescue dog we thought was a Corgi until we got her DNA tested.) The dogs play ferociously, and Baxter worships Izzy like a goddess. He does what Izzy does, even if it is not a good idea, like walking into a closed screen door. Here are Baxter and Izzy last summer at Duck, NC; she is tricky to photograph because she runs away from cameras, even without flash, like they are lightening storms.





Half of our party (me, DH, DS, DIL) flew on United out of Dulles, Virginia at 6:30am. Much thanks to other DS for driving us to the airport. We landed at San Francisco at 9:30am. I got delicious sushi at Tomokazu during the hour layover, then we arrived after the next flight at Honolulu at 1:30pm. In-flight movies were free: The Three Musketeers (I thought it was visually spectacular, but boring) and In Time (fun). I didn’t buy anything in-flight, but found out that United is cashless and accepts only credit or debit card.

The last flight had a “Halfway to Hawaii” game, where you are given basic flight data and then you guess the time when the airplane will hit its halfway mark. I did not play but DS came in 2 minutes short. The prize of a travel book went to a passenger who guessed 10 seconds over. Too bad for him that the game didn’t follow “The Price is Right” rules of not going over. We thought we might get served lunch in flight, but alas that was for non-coach passengers. The flights were all fun, as you would imagine with a Hawaii destination where most are looking for a good time .

The large HNL airport and much of Oahu reminded me we are on a “commercial” island, as I remembered from my first visit 20 years ago. We quickly retrieved our 3 checked bags and found that one of them had clear goo smeared on it, thankfully only on the outside. We took a shuttle bus to our Ford Escape rental at Thrifty. I thought most cars in Hawaii would be light colored, but we got black. It fit all four of us and our luggage comfortably. The Thrifty service included a counter with “directions”, which was really an RCI timeshare ploy in Waikiki offering free brunch and $100 off the car rental, which I politely declined. Since my husband loves to be the passenger and navigator, and my DS and DIL are under 25 years old, I decided to be the only driver and save $. Later I would get to hear their interpretations of the names on street signs!

The drive from Honolulu to Aulani at Ko Olina was uneventful on H1, about 25 minutes. There were some interesting tall, thin buildings along the way, the ocean, minor foliage, not a lot. It reminded us of Florida in many ways. At the Ko Olina left lane entrance, I told the guard my name and he radioed the info to the resort (although anyone can pass through in the right lane without stopping for the guard). Aulani is on the right just after Paradise Cove and the Marriott Iliani.

I drove in to the Aulani check-in area and was greeted by name. I think they said “Welcome Home” in Hawaiian and English, a nice touch. They also draped white orchid leis over the ladies’ necks and brown kukui nut leis for the men.



You can’t park in the garage without a room key unfortunately, wish this was an option for DVC members. So we had the valet Paak the Caa. We got our online checkin packet, and the porter took the bags up to our 9th floor rooms. Our Phase II tower had 6 fairly fast elevators. I forgot to get change so I gave the porter a bigger tip than I usually would. The resort looked wonderful, just as expected from what you see online. DS predicted it would be a cross between the WDW Polynesian and Animal Kingdom resorts, and he was right. The room layouts are similar to what you see in WDW as well, I guess Disney found a floor plan that works; know I love all the space and storage. We immediately did what I guess most people do when entering their room – went straight to the balcony and admired the views. Our triangular balconies faced the pool area, with the ocean to the side. From the balcony, here are the awesome views to the left and right:





We were starving so we unpacked just a few things, walked across the street to Just Tacos, had a wonderful meal, and planned to eat there again. This restaurant is in the Hawaii Entertainment book discounts, which I purchased online before the trip. I pigged out on nachos (as usual) and ceviche so much that I had little room for my meal of 3 tacos with different fillings. Well, that’s what the kitchen in the villa is for – reheating delicious leftovers! Here is DS wearing his nut lei and enjoying his Queso Fundido, though it had a bit too much cheese.



While we were dining, the rest of our party arrived from Grand Rapids, Minnesota and Richmond, VA. BIL grumbled that the DirecTV service he paid $10 for on United stopped working. Apparently they did a good job of advertising DirecTV without mention of its CONUS limitation.

We picked up a few food items from the very well stocked and reasonably priced Island Country Market/ABC store before heading back to park our car in the garage.



Then we connected with the rest of our party and ah, soaked it all in. It was still early enough to head down to the pool, so we settled in for the first sunset. Young love, ahhh.



With the resort on the dry, leeward (west) side of the island, sure enough, every evening at around 6:21 we were greeted to one awesome sunset after another. In fact, every view seemed like a picture postcard.





While the other half of our party dined at Just Tacos, we went to the Starlit Hui. It was brightly lit, and we sat on straw mats on the Makaloa Garden lawn waiting for it to begin at 7pm. Around the edges, activities were led for children including lei making, weaving, and games. Finally an Uncle announced that little girls could come up to learn the hula. 15 minutes later and still no show began, so we decided to retire for the night. A few nights later my Sister and others tried to attend another Starlit Hui, but it was rained out.

The bed was perfect for me – mattress and pillows. I can’t sleep in complete silence, which is what I get at most Disney resorts. I need white noise, so at home we keep a small fan running. Leaving the balcony door at Aulani open brought in nice water sounds, but that also cut off the air conditioning. That wouldn’t make it too hot, just humid. Also the band also played until 10pm, and I didn’t want to hear it (yes, I felt like an old fogey). I ended up installing White Noise Lite on my iPad and playing the sound of crickets all night long, every night. It didn’t annoy DH. It was just right.

Last edited by glokitty; 08-26-2012 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 01:41 PM   #3
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Day 2 – Getting to Know Aulani

We kind of kept our US east coast time and awoke early, at 4:30am. We did this most mornings, or awoke slightly later. Like most people, we did not experience jet lag on the trip west to Hawaii. The trip home, however, would be a different story.

Some of us ate breakfast in our villas and were greeted by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse waving up to us on our balcony. Others of us enjoyed the buffet breakfast/brunch at Makahiki and posed for photos with the Disney characters. The day was sunny and warm, like most days – high around 81 degrees, low around 66.

Much of the pool area is shaded at times during the day, due to the Aulani buildings which are arranged in a horseshoe facing the ocean. Our balcony was too sunny in the morning but nice and shady in the afternoon. We faced directly over the kids’ pool area, which was kind of noisy with waterfall sounds, made it difficult to talk on the balcony. The kids’ waterworks area is huge and looks so fun, I can’t believe it is restricted to children under 48”. It was mostly empty when we were there.

Every day we enjoyed the pool areas, which were never very crowded. Empty chairs were always available, though I could see it getting packed when the resort is fully finished. The wait staff did not come by often, maybe once per day. DS said the pools were heated, though I am not sure. One pool has zero entry and steps. Neither is “adult only”, but one was quieter. It was like an infinity pool but flat with no drop-off, the water just flowed over the ledge, I don’t know what that is called. It had water flowing from seashells on the wall, ahhh. Lifeguards were everywhere around the pool areas, but none at the lagoon. They tended to cover up with jackets because they were cold , silly things, don’t they know this is paradise (ok, but still winter to them)!

Two of the hot tubs were truly hot. The other was a huge two-level hot tub with infinity edges overlooking the sunset. Here are my Sister, BIL, his Sister, and her DH soaking it up.





The lazy river in Waikalohe Stream was extremely gentle. I saw a few parents holding sleeping children in their arms while floating along in their inner tubes. Some people swam without tubes. There are only a few spouts of water to avoid, if you care to. The tropical landscaping along the lazy river is beautiful and lush, especially considering how new the place is. My small complaint is that bird sounds were piped in; I would have preferred the real thing. There are arched bridges engraved with 1923, the founding date of The Walt Disney Company.

The 2 slides in the volcano were very fun for us adults. The one on the left was a body tube that dumped you underwater at the end. The one on the right slid you down while seated in a tube, and dumped you in the lazy river without submerging you. It works that way on a single tube, anyway. When I tried it with DH behind me in a double tube, I fell out when we hit the water. The lifeguard said that (the smaller) front person needs to lean far back to stay seated. I’ll remember that for the next visit. And try not to gain weight, ha.

DS and DIL tried the Hawaiian BBQ restaurant across the street and were disappointed with the food quality – fatty meat and blah taste. I wanted to try Ama Ama or the Paradise Cove Luau, but the others thought it was overpriced and not worth it.

About the resort wristbands – There was a different pretty color for each day, first brown, then blue, yellow, pink, green, and orange. We didn’t get one the first day and I forget one other color. Some people accumulated the resort wristbands during their stay. DH wore his and found that they do indeed deteriorate after a week. They reminded me of hospital bands and annoyed me, so I cut mine off at the end of each day. I did see someone without a wristband get asked if they were staying at the resort (sounds like they got caught trespassing all righty). Aulani has pretty good security from the beach side, with only one entry point with a gate that requires a room key to enter. All beaches are public.

About the room TV – We didn’t come to Aulani to watch TV, but even so we brought along a few movies from home that we hadn’t seen yet. DH even bought a small blu-ray player for the trip, in case Aulani was not blu-ray compatible. Turns out it was! Now DH got his turn to grumble – the TV in our room did not let movies play in the player we brought from home. DH complained to staff the next day, and they confirmed that their security does not allow it. So we watched “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” in our living room instead of the bedroom, and turned the sound down to not disturb our sleeping family in the other room.

About the Internet at Aulani – it worked great! DH and I brought laptops to keep up with office emails and actually put in a few days of work. That might sound undesirable to some people, but we were quite happy working some. We had plenty of down time to vacation like everyone else, and it reduced our stress to know we wouldn’t have a backlog of work awaiting our return. I learned something about Disney Internet – it blocks naughty sites (found this out after a funny member of our travelling party told me to go to a bad site). This sounds like a good idea, keeps little kids from getting peeks at naughty sites on people’s iPads etc by the pool or wherever.

Last edited by glokitty; 08-27-2012 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 01:50 PM   #4
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Day 3 – The Lagoon

We spent more time gazing at the lagoon than actually swimming in it or sunning on the beach, but it was heavenly. My favorite lounging spot was at the end of the pool area overlooking the lagoon, and some days I was there the entire time. A palm tree afforded me nice shade in the first half of the day. Waitresses were scarce, but I was fine. Piped Hawaiian music was nice, but eventually seared into my brain over several days so I heard it even when it was not playing. Here is my view, see my blue painted toes at the bottom.



Since I participate in group exercise regularly at work, my plan was to try yoga on the beach at 7am with the Aulani group. Oh well, that never happened. However, I did participate in 11am water aerobics once. I was the only participant, so I ended up with a personal trainer, who I sadly cannot name because I am awful at remembering names. We talked a lot out in the lagoon while jogging, cross country skiing, doing jumping jacks, etc. (with foam hand weights) in the deep, calm water. I could tell I was feeling it too much in my arms and pecs, so he told me to modify my moves by placing the weights under my armpits instead of holding them in my hands. That helped some, however I tend to overdo things. My legs felt a little like jelly at the end of the 45-minute exercise, then I found DH and we took a walk toward the marina. Here is the view looking back toward the resort.



Turns out I spent the next 2 days recovering from overworking my upper body muscles. I even needed help to put on my top. Oh well, I recovered in time for snorkeling a few days later.

I spent the entire third day outside and thoroughly enjoyed it. I lunched on fish tacos and a mai tai from Off the Hook. Throughout the day I enjoyed 2 glasses of my own chardonnay (using the clear plastic cup from the pool). The sunset was awesome as usual, and then DH brought me another glass of wine. I didn’t want it but drank it anyway. I did not feel intoxicated, but it turns out I made a big mistake. I found out sometime around 2am that I was dehydrated. Felt better soon (aside from my aching arm muscles). I vowed to drink less alcohol and more water. That’s what all the nice water coolers and plastic cups are around the pool for. It worked.

Last edited by glokitty; 08-27-2012 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 02:01 PM   #5
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Day 4 – Super Bowl and Shopping

Super Bowl Sunday for us took place in our 2-bedroom villa, with snacks, while housekeeping came through and I napped on and off. I heard that Off the Hook had a special pu-pu platter for the event, and if it wasn’t too crowded I bet it would have been nice to watch on their TVs. All the cabanas were reserved in advance for this day.

About the Aulani Gift Shop – it isn’t very large but has some nice things. My Sister didn’t take long to purchase the brown leather D&B bag. There were about 10 of those purses in stock, and she went through them all and selected the one with the best design placement. I would have bought a tan woman’s blouse with Minnie embroidered on the back, but it cost $170 and was dry clean only. Instead I bought this lovely blouse for $70.



I also got a few (artificial) flower hair clips at the Aulani Gift Shop. I bought many more hair clips for less money later at the Island Country Market.



About the Refillable Mugs – I need at least one diet soda every day, when I wake up. I get free fountain drinks at work and didn’t plan on buying the Aulani mug for $18.99. I reconsidered quickly though, as did most of our travelling party. They liked to fill it with coffee also. I attached one of my flower hairbands to my mug to identify it from the other blue mugs.



I planned to read some on this trip and ended up finishing only 2 People magazines and a little “Does the Noise in my Head Bother You” by Steven Tyler. No regrets, gazing at the lagoon just takes up too much time.

Little Menehune statues are hidden all over the resort, and it was fun to find them. No worries, I won’t give any locations away! Several of us wanted to do the Menehune Adventure but never got around to it, maybe next time!
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Old 08-26-2012, 02:15 PM   #6
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Day 5 – Ocean Joy Cruise, Whale Alert!

The Entertainment Book offers a discount for the Ocean Joy cruise, but we didn’t need it since my Sister had already arranged the discounted price when she made our reservations weeks earlier. We signed up for the Morning Calm Cruise , which filled up fast. A shuttle bus could have taken us from Aulani to the Ko Olina Marina and back, but we chose to drive ourselves in our two rental cars.

The cruise advertised whale and dolphin watching, snorkeling, a buffet, and drinks, and it delivered well on all counts. We all started off happy on our three hour cruise.



Just about right after we set out, our boat must have surprised two humpback whales, because we got extremely close to them before they arched, dove, flashed their tails, and left a big slick footprint where they descended under water.











A professional photographer was on board and offered a CD of all his shots for $45, a great deal that I took advantage of. He also said he would be sure to take plenty of photos of our travelling party.



Our snorkel spot was just north of Aulani, by the power plant. The air temperature seemed a little cold, making me hesitant to participate. The thing that encouraged me to do it anyway was the hot shower available on the boat afterwards. Six of the eight of us decided to snorkel. Once I got in the water, I was so glad I did it. I have snorkeled several times before, and this was one of the best. The water was calm and clear, the fish were beautiful.







Better yet, the three huge turtles were just like Crush in Finding Nemo.





The cruise staff did a great job helping us all have a good time.









Back on board, I discovered many people lying on the inside benches, wrapped up in towels, and trying to sleep or pretend they weren’t there, or something – the seasick . Most of them were from Japan; very few were spared. The sad thing for them is our cruise continued far to the north, to find the dolphins.









Too bad the ill people couldn’t be dropped off for a quick car shuttle home. I was hoping I could eat and drink, and I did. My Sister wisely took a Dramamine and was fine. After the cruise I congratulated our party on not having to “feed the fishies” (as they say) at the back of the boat, but then DIL said she succumbed. She still snorkeled and managed to enjoy herself. It probably helped that she had an empty stomach. Back on land we felt a little dizzy the rest of the day.

The people of Hawaii really are friendly, whether they were born there or moved there. They were outgoing and helpful, ready to share their stories. BIL talked a lot with our boat captain. He was 72 and in terrific shape.



The resort area was so nice we didn’t want to leave it, but we really wanted sushi for dinner. I drove out looking for a place listed in the Entertainment Book that had good reviews. I found another place instead; its reviews looked good too, so we ate at Kazoku Sushi. This was my first experience with conveyor belt sushi. Color-coded plates of food from $1 - $6 rolled by, and you take what you want while seated at a booth. I had a small bottle of sake that we enjoyed also, since it was BYOB. The food cost was low and the quality was high. After this delicious meal, I felt like I should have ventured off the resort sooner for food!


Last edited by glokitty; 08-27-2012 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 02:20 PM   #7
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Day 6 – Extreme Weather, North Shore, and Shrimp Trucks

To make the trip special, we decided to rent a cabana for Tuesday. However, the weather forecast that day was extreme, rainy with high winds, so we moved the cabana reservation to the next day. Half our party went to Pearl Harbor, and the rest of us went the North Shore.

I drove north on Route 93 for a few miles before I remembered the Ocean Joy captain told us the road ends further up and you can’t get to the North Shore that way (so from Aulani you have to head south at first to end up north). We decided to drive a little further on anyway, to explore on land what we had seen by boat the day before. The drive took us through small towns and was largely residential. The houses were on the small side and nice enough, but they tended to use tarp to create additional rooms. Further on the way, we saw a tent pitched on an empty beach and said, “I want to live in a tent on the beach!” We took that back when the next thing we saw was a tent city, homeless people and dogs in paradise. It was scary. Near the end of the road we got to see the awesome Makua Valley again.



Military training happens there, and it looks right out of Jurassic Park. We saw the Kaʻena Point at the end, and turned around. Finally we were headed on the correct roads to the North Shore. We passed hitchhikers here and there. We passed by the Dole Plantation, beaches, nice scenery, and shrimp farms on our mission to – eat! We easily found the Giovanni’s shrimp truck that we were looking for. We ordered the garlic shrimp scampi and the spicy shrimp, which came with 2 scoops of rice each. I was the only one with cash, which is all they accepted, so ha, guess who got to pay? The place was packed, so after a long wait (during which the rain poured sideways and we huddled under the covered area) we finally got our food. The sun was out again, so we sat on a picnic table by a tree. The food was superb, well worth the drive. From the other merchants we also got BBQ corn and shave ice, mmmmm.



The shrimp had shells but were split for easy removal. I managed to peel mine with the plastic fork and my index finger and thumb, so I stayed clean even though I still washed up at the outdoor sink.



Then we stopped at some beaches, which were closed due to high (30 foot) waves. I thought the tough surfers came out for that kind of thing, but we didn’t see anyone in the water.



On the drive back to Aulani, my DH car nut found it hilarious that everywhere we went, he saw similar makes and models of rental cars. I just saw cars. Back at the resort, I later discovered that DS, DIL say goodnight to the koi nightly, sweet.

To get more out of my vacations, I give the minimum of time to my appearance. I rarely iron my clothes, don’t blow dry or style my hair (just spray on color protector), apply makeup in under a minute (mainly to cover under eye circles), and pour on the sunscreen of course. I have a lot of wavy hair, and at home in Virginia it usually looks awful when left natural. In Florida it behaves much better, the curls are defined and not frizzy. I am happy to say that I enjoyed plenty of good hair days on Oahu as well. The water was softer than I am accustomed to, which makes it more difficult to rinse out shampoo. Speaking of that, the Aulani shower had a rainfall shower head, which I had always wanted to try. Its rinse factor was disappointing; the regular shower head did a much better job. Glad I found that out before buying one at home!

Last edited by glokitty; 08-26-2012 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 02:28 PM   #8
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Day 7 - Cabana

Today the weather was back to normal, sunny perfection , and we had Cabana 1 reserved. Turns out the reservation staff made a mistake and also assigned Cabana 1 to another party before us. The staff offered us Cabana 2 and free snorkeling to make it up to us, but we didn’t want to snorkel. BIL reasoned with them and got the cabana rental price reduced to the half day rate, which was nice. I don’t think it is worth the full price anyway. The wait staff comes around often to the cabana, which comes with inside seating for 4, outside seating for 2, a TV, refrigerator, bottled water, fruit, and dessert. The cushioned seats were nice, but I still favored my little slice of heaven overlooking the lagoon.



The Aloha-garbed Disney characters hung out by the pool and offered plenty of photo ops. Wonder if their huge shoes are waterproof. I enjoyed a snack of shave ice from the Papalua Shave Ice station.

That night several of us drove to Thai Lao for dinner. The waiter was surprised by our huge order of appetizers and entrees. The food couldn’t have been better. Since we were checking out the next morning, DS ate the leftovers for breakfast.

Before we got to Aulani I wondered how people exercise on a beach. The beach is wide and the sand is tan and soft, but who wants to get grains of sand on them. Well, it turns out there is a nice stretch of low, soft grass beside the sand, a perfect place to exercise. We saw groups of locals in several spots on our walk to the marina. (We figured they were locals because they were generally in great shape and they wore similar outfits.) They used straw mats, and it looked like perfection. We never made it to the Aulani gym or spa, but we didn’t have any plans to.

We kept saying we wanted to rent paddleboards , but we never got around to it. Several people tried them out, you could tell it was their first time, and they did fine. Most stood but some kneeled. A few had a passenger seated at the front of the board. The lagoon has a net and rocks to protect it from waves and large sea creatures (like sharks!). The water felt cold at first but then was quite comfortable to swim in. I didn’t snorkel in the lagoon or Aulani Rainbow Reef.

Tonight DH somehow got into an ESPN party on the resort and enjoyed himself .

Last edited by glokitty; 10-15-2012 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 02:34 PM   #9
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Day 8 – Farewell Aulani, Hello Volcano Village

We shopped at the wonderful Island Country Market almost daily. Besides offering us coconut M&Ms to buy, the cashier said to save our receipts for a free gift. We didn’t know what that meant until the end of our stay when we returned to cash in. The morning before checkout, we handed over our receipts of $300+ back and were offered a variety of gifts such as a beach towel, sari, or t-shirt. DH selected this nice bag, in which I stashed my pillow and blanket for flying.



Sad to leave Aulani, but glad we had seven great nights there. Back at the HNL airport we feasted again on beef, pork, and sides at La Haina Chicken (near gate 56), then had an easy hop on Hawaiian Airlines over to Hilo on the Big Island. Well, one hitch is that I packed food leftovers in DH’s bag. The deli meats and cheese slices went through security just fine, but the tub of port wine cheese spread triggered alarms and had to be confiscated. I also put my plastic baggies of Silpada jewelry in that bag (my Sister is a sales representative, so I buy a lot), and security heavily scrutinized it as well.

The ITO airport reminds me of what a Hawaii arrival should be like – it was pretty, small, and open air. It took just a few steps to get the Budget counter where we selected a white 2-door Jeep. We had some time to kill before checking in, so we drove around Hilo a bit. DH loves diners and breakfast any time of day, so it was a no-brainer to go to Ken’s House of Pancakes for our next meal. Since all our luggage was in the Jeep, it had a soft cover, and I have experienced theft in a previous trip (on Oahu), I parked where I could see the car.



We probably spent 15 minutes surveying the wonderfully long menu, deciding what to eat right away and what to order for takeout. Ordering extra breakfast meals to take to our next stay was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. It was all delicious – DH ate his usual eggs, ham, and hash browns in the restaurant and I was pleased with a soup with chicken.



To go we got the sumo loco (six scoops rice, two lean beef patties, gravy, and eggs) that is so huge they ring a bell when ordered, kahlua moco (a smaller version, with pork), and blueberry pancakes. The takeout bag was so heavy! Next we headed to a 7-11 for a few things like sodas (oh, and band-aids for DH, who broke speed records propelling seven of us along the lazy river) on our way northwest on Route 11 to Volcano Village.

I drove around the tiny Volcano Village a bit before realizing that we needed to look at directions to find our Volcano Places house. Then we arrived at Nohea, the most beautiful and tranquil home in the rainforest.



The owner Kathryn kindly showed us around the living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hot tub room, and lanai. Turns out her partner designed and built the house, about 1.5 years of work that took eight years to complete. Kathryn also told us a lot about the area, and awed us with stories like the Royal Gardens subdivision that lava flow demolished, the house it left behind, and the homeowner determined to remain.

Volcano Village is full of natural beauty, including actual birds singing throughout the rain forest. I even spotted several, even though I am pretty bad at birding. Nohea was so peaceful, what do you think we did – immediately took a nap! We awoke at dark and tried to order a pizza an hour after the place closed. So we snacked on meats, cheese, and crackers.

At 10pm we packed up the headlamps and flashlights the Kathryn kindly provided, stopped by the tiny Volcano Village Visitor Center to pick up brochures, then headed out to see our first volcano (woohoo - the Volcanoes National Park never closes). We parked at the Kilauea Overlook parking lot, which was empty. The temperature was in the 50’s but it was windy and felt very cold despite the warm clothes we wore. We hiked in the dark along the path as well as we could see it. The red glow of lava and smoke from the caldera was visible, and we got a better view the closer we got. Here is a photo of DH appearing to jump into the volcano to keep warm. He can’t make an offering to Pele, he is no a virgin!



The lava lake in the vent is a few hundred feet below the surface. We didn’t hear or feel it, and we barely smelled it. A lava flow to the ocean would have been awesome to see, but that ended two months earlier. I would even have sprung for a helicopter ride if lava were flowing. As I’ve said before, maybe next time!

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Old 08-26-2012, 02:42 PM   #10
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Hey, we were there on Super Bowl Sunday. That was our check out day, so we watched the game in the late check out room, or whatever they call it. We took a late flight so DH could watch the game. We did have great weather the whole time, thoroughly enjoyed our stay, and oh yes, the Giants won! Enjoyed your report.
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:00 PM   #11
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Day 9 – Wedding Bands and Lava Tubes

Were we disappointed by the volcano that we saw last night? Noooo, what we saw captivated us, and we wanted to see and learn more. Lucky for us, Kathryn stocked our house with terrific books, documentary movies, maps, and guides of the area. We consumed all we could.

We enjoyed our moco breakfasts on the lanai, then returned to Volcanoes National Park and paid the $10 weekly entrance fee. I had stopped to get cash at the ATM at the Volcano Village Visitor Center, but it turned out they prefer credit cards at for the entrance fee. At age 62, for $10 you qualify for a lifetime senior pass to all parks! I’ll be there in 9 years! We stopped at the nice Kilauea Visitor Center and got loads of useful and interesting information. Rangers abounded and spewed one awesome story after another; they have the best job on the planet. I asked one ranger about a drive south I wanted to take, and he explained all about black and green sand there. We considered attending some of the many ranger-led volcano hikes, but then ended up exploring on our own.

I had a side agenda for going to the Kilauea Visitor Center, I also wanted to check out the Volcano Art Center next to it. I was on the hunt for a Hawaiian wedding band for my husband. We were married in 2003, and he lost his ring a few years later. Silly me didn’t research where to find rings until Hilo, and then I found out the Honolulu had an abundance of selections and we weren’t going back there except for an hour layover on the way home. On the Big Island, Kona seemed to have very nice rings, including platinum ones, but we didn’t think we’d drive that far. The Volcano Art Center was so close by, and I saw advertisements that looked promising. We scanned the jewelry and examined paintings for maybe 30 minutes, then returned to the one display case that had anything close. He tried on a few rings, and we hit the jackpot. He ended up with a band with a ti leaf pattern, for good luck and new beginnings (the sales lady said Hawaiians commonly plant ti leaves around new homes for this reason). I also found a ring I couldn’t pass up, a gold woven band, handmade by a local artisan. The rings fit us perfectly, and they had only a few on display. Mine cost a lot more than his, but we got the information in case we want to make him a ring just like mine, in his size. These rings made us very happy. I couldn’t stop admiring mine!



Our next stop was the Jaggar Museum, which affords a nice, higher view of Pele’s reported home in the Kilauea caldera. In the daylight it just looks like a fat plume of smoke coming out. The museum is also full of great stuff. We saw Pele’s tears and hair (what different kinds of lava can look like), chunky rocks of a’a, and DH’s favorite the smooth and ropy pahoehoe. It seems that Pele loves to spread lava over paved roads just for fun. I enjoyed seeing photos of volcanic activity and the area during recent history. Didn’t know it was such a tourist attraction since the 1840’s, gosh those visitors were hard core. One lady was quoted as saying how awful the volcano was, but what she meant was that she was full of awe, what we call awesome.



DH bought a nice sweatshirt at the museum, and we picked up three posters as well to frame later. Despite not doing a craft at Aulani, I did one here – a small lei from local plant cuttings.



The Thurston lava tube was our next adventure. It was a very easy hike through a lush rainforest.



We thought we would need flashlights, but the underground portion was well lit. The cavelike tube where lava used to flow was very neat to walk through. Roots come down from above. People who want more can arrange for a tour of a pristine, private lava tube.



From our same parking spot, we hiked a short path above the Kilauea Iki crater. If we had more time, I would have loved to hike all the way down and walk along the bottom.





We headed back to the Jaggar Museum for a sunset view of the caldera. We heard how pretty it is when the sun sets and the color comes out. Yes, it was nice, but arriving at pitch dark the night before was pretty good too.





This time we got our brick oven thin pizzas from Kiawe Kitchen in time before they closed. I was more impressed than DH, he thought his crust was burned plus he is spoiled by the heavy amount of toppings I put on the pizzas I make at home. I was happy because I got my own pizza, with anchovies, mmmm. DH thought that the pizza from the nearby Kilauea General Store would have been just as good, but I’m not so sure. We did pick up more souvenirs and snacks from it though. It was tiny but well stocked.
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:12 PM   #12
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Day 10 – Orchids and Cliff Divers

The Akatsuka Orchid nursery was a short drive from our Nohea home, and it was beautiful. I bought a few orchids, shipped them home, and got on their mailing list.





The southern-most US point was our destination today, a pleasant 55 mile drive. Along the way, we stopped off to see black sand beaches, with Hawaiian green turtles basking in the sun for thermo-regulation. It was all just as the park ranger said it would be. At the turnoff to the black sand beach is a sign for a tsunami evacuation point. It didn’t look like high enough ground to me, I would skedaddle a bit further up the mountains if I saw a monster wave coming.





One thing to mention is that there was no gas in Volcano Village. There were gas pumps, but they all had signs saying they were empty until the next refill trucks came around. And there were miles and miles in the middle of the island with no gas stations at all. It had us concerned that maybe we should get a little gas on the way. We had a prepaid for the gas at the airport rental, so returning it empty was the best bang for the buck. We kept an eye on the fuel gauge though, and made it with a bit to spare.

The last few miles to South Point were a little bumpy, and the road narrow. Old and new windmills were on the right. Finally we arrived! A car ahead of us got stuck going all the way to the parking lot, so we parked a bit above it. Our Jeep had no issues, we just didn’t want to get blocked in.



A friendly soul named Karl (I forgot his name, but DH remembered) sat on the rocks and warned us to watch out for the wind that could blow us over the edge. He also offered us a cold one , how sweet (though we declined). We were looking around, and then bam someone from Brazil jumped off the rocks and into the water. I heard there was cliff diving, but all we saw was cliff jumping. It didn’t look that far down or scary, but the way up was, with the waves smacking up against the hole in the rocks that you had to climb up.



We didn’t linger because we had more to do. We had seen a sign to the green sand on the way. I asked Karl if he knew how far it was, but he said he hadn’t been there in a long time and he would not commit a guess. I drove back to the sign to green sand and went a few miles down a bump road. There was a rough dirt parking lot and a beach below, but no green sand. Only 4-wheel drive vehicles could get down to the beach area, so I did. We got out and walked around and saw an entrance through the lava rocks that a truck emerged from. Then a tanned man by a truck asked us if we wanted a ride to the green sand. No clue what he charged, but we declined.

DH and I returned to the Jeep and debated if we wanted to venture further to find the green sand beach. We watched a few more trucks emerge from beyond, and we decided our Jeep was just as worthy. It was funny, because all the drivers were women. Maybe the women didn’t trust the men on a wild ride??? I really wanted to go further, and DH was game. While we were deciding, Mr. Tan returned to his truck and started up the path, so I followed him. A’a was everywhere, making the bumpiest and most unforgiving ride ever. After we went over the first hill we weren’t even sure the Jeep could make it back, but we kept going.

The Jeep performed superbly – although it drives a little rough on a smooth road, it performs and drives as smooth as possible on a bumpy road. Our road diverged into many paths, and no other trucks were in sight. We did see a few hikers here and there, crazy people, we decided. I followed the path that Mr. Tan took, until his truck stopped. We chatted for a bit, he said he just lost his shock absorbers. That is when I noticed his bumpers were long gone. He advised us to stick with the left-most path and follow the fence to get to the parking lot and the green sand.

What a hazardous and exciting drive! It was like a car commercial, up and down. I started out in 4-high and didn’t even get stuck. After a ways, on the left path, I stopped in front of a big dirt crater. We debated whether to try to go through it. Thankfully, good sense prevailed and I backed up to a point where I could turn around and follow a different path. FINALLY we got there. Yes, it was pretty.



No, we didn’t bother to descend the 50 steps to touch it. We were satisfied. I measured the drive back – only 2.5 miles back to the entrance. Upon return, the initial hill of a’a was NOTHING to tackle, I guess that’s what experience is all about. It was fun!

During the drive south, we had passed the Southernmost US Bar. We were hungry on the return trip and decided to stop there. 2 men pulled in with us, and they immediately took a picture, so I did too.



The Southernmost Bar is many miles from the cliff divers. DH and I doubted if it was even true to its name. Here is where I ordered my first shot ever. Being thrifty and having no preference, I picked a well shot of vodka, $3.50. I asked what it was, it was Potter's. It looked so tiny in its glass, I followed it with a double! And I enjoyed laulau, which is delicious fish and pork wrapped in taro leaves and then ti leaves (you discard the outer leaves and eat the rest, this food is offered at the Aulani buffet also). They had had Cleveland Browns merchandise all over the restaurant, and silly outdoor bathrooms. TVs were on, and that's where we saw on CNN that Whitney Houston had died.

I doubt I am safe to drive with 3 drinks, so DH drove us back to Nohea. Now he wants to buy a Jeep! I took yet another sweet nap, while he caught up on his lovey Ohio State basketball game that he had recorded.

Our original, ambitious plans for the day had been to shop for orchids, drive south, AND hike the four miles to the Kilauea Iki crater, a volcano bed from a 1960 eruption that we had seen from above the day before. Darkness came before our hike, oh well.

Last edited by glokitty; 08-27-2012 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:17 PM   #13
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Days 11 – Long Flights Home

We left Nohea early for the Hilo airport, in the rain. That airport has the most comfortable waiting area ever.



I enjoyed repeat performances of La Haina Chicken at the Honolulu Airport, and Tomokazu Sushi at the San Francisco Airport.



I also got sourdough bread and pizzas for later, smart move but no fun to carry. My Sister warned me about her trouble navigating the change of planes in SFO. We paid extra attention and figured it out with too much trouble. I have never had the opportunity to fly first class, and the last leg of my flights, from San Francisco to Dulles, would have been worth it (maybe). My turn to grumble – I was stuck in my seat, surrounded by sleeping passengers, couldn’t sleep, and my rear was uncomfortable. I did seated exercises, to no avail.
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:23 PM   #14
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Day 12 – Home Sweet Home, or The Twilight Zone

In-flight movies were The Big Year (very silly) and Flashdance (also silly, and unworthy of the original). We finally got back home to Dulles at 8am. My next grumble – This airport usually requires tons of walking, and we must have gotten the furthest gate out. Its best feature is that we live only a 15-minute drive away. DS had already left for work, so we took a taxi home. Our dog child and his dog babysitter greeted us warmly, ahh.

I was so glad to be home. Crazy me had planned to work from home, but I did not count on my eyes burning with dryness and that zombie feeling. I have had jet lag before, but not at age 51, is that the problem? DH, dog child, and I went to bed immediately for as long as it would take to feel better.

The horror I experienced upon awaking an hour later was awful. My heart was pounding, and I didn’t recognize anything in the room. Talk about disorientation, I didn’t even know who I was. Finally I noticed the ball of sleeping dog leaning against me, and like an anchor he gave me some perspective to come back to reality. I don’t want to have that medicine-head experience again. I researched how to avoid jet lag in the future. I won’t take pills, but a diet of alternate days of feasting and fasting looks promising.

We are definitely planning a return trip to Aulani – in January! This time we will explore Kauai as well. Thanks for reading my TR.

Thanks DVC too - wish you would build a Caribbean resort closer for us East Coasters – wouldn’t Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands be a nice destination!


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Old 08-26-2012, 03:43 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by DisneyBelle99 View Post
Hey, we were there on Super Bowl Sunday. That was our check out day, so we watched the game in the late check out room, or whatever they call it. We took a late flight so DH could watch the game. We did have great weather the whole time, thoroughly enjoyed our stay, and oh yes, the Giants won! Enjoyed your report.
Thank you, it was scary to post a TR for the first time. Also thanks for letting me know who won the Super Bowl, ha!
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