Girl's Weekend in Hawaii

If there's one thing I'll willingly spring out of bed for at 4am, it's a flight to Honolulu with my sister.

Our cousin, Nick, was getting married on the north shore of Oahu, and my sweet parents flew us girls out for the wedding.  What a dream!  Thanks to a cancelled flight, we were barely going to make the ceremony, but miraculously managed to make it in time for a poolside lunch before heading upstairs to get dressed for the wedding.  

Quite a few of us Reays were fortunate to make it.  The wedding was held at the Turtle Bay Resort, on a pretty little grassy area just a stone's throw from the ocean waves.  Basically a dream setting.

The ceremony was short and sweet, followed by a luau at sunset.  The bride and groom were beautiful and glowing, and clearly so happy.  I had to pass on the pig, but the incorporation of Hawaiian food, music, and dancing made for a magical night.

The next day the wedding party moved on over to the Polynesian Cultural Center.  This theme park and living museum is one of my favorite things on the Hawaiian islands. 

The first thing you see when you approach the center is this statue of a man throwing up the "hang loose" sign.  But if you read the plaque at his feet you quickly realize that he's actually missing those three fingers, and is simply waving his hand.  Hamana Kalili of Laie was a Hawaiian fisherman who lost his middle three fingers in a sugar cane mill accident.  Because he couldn't work in the mill anymore, he helped load the sugar on the train that headed out to Sunset Beach.  You were supposed to wave to the engineer to signal that all the sugar was loaded up and it was safe to go.  Obviously this is the kind of wave that Hamana gave with his missing fingers.  

The local kids (especially surfers) would try to hop the trains to travel to and from the beach, and Hamana was always trying to shoo them off.  The kids learned to avoid Hamana, and would use this sign to tell each other if he was near.  It became a celebratory sign too, once they made it past him, and it grew from there into what is now called the shaka.  

So interesting to know how things like that begin.

 I loved learning about six of the different Polynesian cultures, and especially loved watching the shows.  We saw people climb coconut trees barefoot, play traditional instruments, perform the war haka, saw a traditional wedding reenactment, and tons more.  Another favorite show is the canal parade, where you get to watch different types of dance performances float past you on canoes while you eat shaved ice.  Represented were the islands of Samoa, Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, and Aotearoa (New Zealand).

After a while everyone else was ready to go home.  In typical Elliot fashion, I hadn't yet read enough plaques, or seen everything I wanted to see, so they left me behind to explore a little on my own.  I wandered around the villages soaking it all in, tasted some Samoan cooking, went on a canoe ride, and wished Roy was with me.  We went to the PCC on our honeymoon, and it was all I could think about.

Then tragedy struck...

Just kidding, I took that picture for my brother-in-law, Jake.  He insisted that more people die from falling coconuts than from sharks.

Later Alexa, Jess, and I hit the beach.  Leading up to this trip, this was what my daydreams were made of; lying on the warm sand lulled by the sound of crashing waves.  I couldn't wait!  But it wasn't exactly like that in real life.  It crowded.  Alexa got a face full of sand when a kid went blundering past her to the water.  There was lots of overly-loud conversations and shrieks of delight, splashing and digging and ball-throwing.  I couldn't help but think of my kids and how they would love to join in on all the fun... and had to remind myself this was a girl's trip.  On girl's trips, beaches are for relaxing.

So the next time we went down we laid our towels on a narrow strip of sand along the side of the bay, where there were lots of black, volcanic rock and not a lot of people.  I was asleep in minutes!  I'm telling you, I never fall asleep that fast, not even in my own bed!  It was bliss.  Warm sand, check.  Lulled to sleep by crashing waves, check.  Dream fulfilled.

We got to eat out at several great places.  This food truck park down the coast from the resort had us coming back for more.

Alexa's turtle body!  I laugh out loud every time I look at this picture!!

We got to go on a kayaking tour not far from Turtle Bay.  The bottoms of the kayaks were made of plexiglass, so we could see what was swimming directly below us.  Although we were specifically on the lookout for sea turtles, we saw lots of colorful fish as well.

A hurricane some decades ago dragged empty train cars into the water.  It was eerie to see them lying on their sides, just a foot beneath us, fuzzy and green with fish swimming in and out of the open windows.  And then we did spot five or six cute sea turtles, who bobbed up to say hello.

Just as Jess and I were starting to feel a little seasick, we beached the kayaks to take a hike to an old WWII pillbox bunker.  Didn't take a picture of it, but it was basically a small concrete building decorated with graffiti art, including Spongebob Squarepants in a hula skirt.  Apparently these hidden defense posts are dotted all around the coasts in Hawaii, now left for nature to reclaim.

We hiked back to our kayaks and paddled around a bit longer before saying goodbye to the turtles and heading back to the resort.

The next day we attended a local church, which I'm sure is used to having visitors most Sundays.  I love how everyone at the pulpit begins with, "Aloha, brothers and sisters!"  And everyone in the pews answer, "Aloha!"  I might bring that back to the mainland.  Think anyone would answer me?

Within walking distance of the church were the Laie Temple grounds.  The visitor's center was open, so we got to look around and learn about church history in Hawaii, which is pretty awesome.  Loved getting to walk around and feel the special spirit there.

The locals who took us on the kayaking tour had been quick to tell us that the Waimea Valley hiking trail was too touristy.  A waste of time.  They gave us suggestions for lesser-known hikes with more impressive views.  But it just so happened that a touristy, paved path sounded great to us, so we went with Waimea.

This place was a botanical goldmine, and I'm a person easily fascinated with greenery, so brace yourself for lots of pictures of plants.  I've never seen trees block out the sun quite like this.  It was like being beneath a green sheet.

These leaves were enormous!

And again, I saw something that took me back to our honeymoon.  In Kauai these vine-like plants draped over eeeeverything.  You can duck inside of them and be completely concealed inside a little hideout.  I was just as enamored with them the second time.

I think I was the only one excited about additional history lessons, but I enjoyed learning about how people once lived in this very area.  By the end of this hike I determined that if I'd had to live before plumbing was invented, this would have been the location I'd want to live in.  Truly a paradise that offers so much.

Like... spontaneously growing fruit everywhere?  We lost track of all the different kinds we saw along the way.  {There's three different fruit in this picture alone!}

I mean, they obviously had enough time on their hands to play games.

Oh, and it was just beautiful.  So many different colors!  We took lots of these pictures for Grandma, who loves flowers but couldn't make the hike with us.


Plus, they had a natural place to shower with great water pressure.  Waterfalls!

However non-strenuous our hike was, it still had me sweaty and sticky, so jumping into the water at Waimea Falls felt amazing.  Even if I did have to jump in with my clothes on.  Oh, and with a proper lifejacket, thanks to the lifeguards.  {Lifeguards at a waterfall=touristy.}
Jess was the only one willing to jump in with me.  We wanted to climb a ways up the waterfall but let me tell you--that thing is way more powerful than it looks!

The hike back down was much cooler after our swim.  Dad and I split off from the rest of the group for a little while and took a less-traveled, non-paved trail higher up the canyon.  We found an ancient burial ground that was roped off.  Very, very cool.

Then we spent 4 billion hours at the gift shop.

The next day was our last, and we weren't gonna waste it!  Early in the morning Dad took me to golf nine holes with him.  I rarely go anymore, so I racked up an impressive amount of points, but it was still fun.  Just the scenery, the smell of salt, and hanging out one-on-one with my dad made for a pretty great morning.  

{We won't talk about how many balls we both lost in the water.}

And for our afternoon activity: zip-lining with Jess and Dad at Keana Farms!  {Alexa and Mom stayed behind for some spa time, which sounded heavenly.}

First we practiced on the "bunny hill" zip-line, which had me so nervous I thought I might pee my pants.  But after that first jump it just gets more and more fun!  We took an ATV ride up to the top of the mountain, checking out the tropical farm as we went.

Our guides were Steve, Mason, and one other dude with a ponytail whose name I don't remember.  Anyway, we basically had standup comedians throughout the adventure, which was fun.  This adventure also consisted of repelling, sky bridges, boardwalks through chameleon-infested jungle, and hoisting ourselves up to platforms with ropes.

Between zip-lines there were stations, each with something new to experience.  We opened macadamia nuts the old fashioned way and ate as many as we wanted.

At this stop they had us hoist ourselves up to the platform using ropes, rather than use stairs.  I tried to race Dad, and about halfway my arms fell off.  Very unfortunate.

Farm fresh cherry tomatoes cheered me right up.  And the teeniest, yummiest bananas I've ever tasted.

The views were insane.  Often there was ocean in sight, and then flying over either canopies of trees or over lush farmland was breathtaking.  The unique mountain range didn't disappoint, either.  One of the lines was over a half mile long!  Definitely gives you some time to take in the scenery.

The more zip-lines we rode, the braver we became.  By the end we were going backwards and even upside-down!  Dad took a video of me going spider-man style and... well I felt cooler than I looked.  But it was so fun.  Writing about it makes me want to go back ASAP!

And on our way to the airport in Honolulu, we stumbled upon a non-practicing Buddhist temple.  We decided it looked much too interesting to stay in our car.  The Byodo-In Temple is a small scale replica of a very famous Buddhist temple in Japan.  All faiths were welcome to tour the grounds.

When you catch your mom trying to take a selfie... you photobomb it with your sister.

There were black swans, peacocks, frogs, and coy fish... pretty much exactly what you would expect at a Buddhist temple.  Very peaceful, and of course beautiful.  It's hard for anything in Hawaii to not be beautiful.

Here I am trying hard to pretend I'm not dripping in sweat, and that my bangs aren't in the middle of a fierce rebellion against the humidity.  Really I should have stepped aside and let the real star of this photo shine solo-- this awesome, gigantic door!

Before we left we took turns ringing the bon-sho (sacred bell).  It is said to bring the ringer happiness, blessings, and a long life.

And I don't want to forget that my fantastic grandparents were there to explore this one with us.  Love them so much.

These same grandparents made getting through the airport a breeze!  We girls just followed close behind their wheelchairs and got through security in a snap, and then we were guided straight to our gate.  It was a red-eye flight, and it kicked my butt.  It took three days before I felt caught up on sleep, but it was worth it.

Hawaii, I love you, but I loved coming home to my family even more.  Hope to bring them all back to see you someday.  Aloha!