Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hawaii Spring Break 2016: The Big Island

With fear and trepidation, armed with four different bottles of mosquito repellent, we braved the reports of dengue and zika and descended upon the Big Island of Hawaii the last week of March.  It was unfortunate timing on my part, not in part due to the potential health risks, but because I did not adequately factor in what it would mean to be out of the office the last week of the quarter, coincidentally the last week of the quarter in which annual reports would be due.  Never again! If my kids have spring break during that last week of March in the future, they will be sticking around town in one of those over-glorified daycare programs labelled as spring break camps.

Day one, we decided it would be pool time and getting our bearings, which meant stopping by Target to buy a case of water and a boogie board.  Last time when we were on Oahu we realized only towards the end of the trip that renting a boogie board was ridiculous, $12/day and $36/week.  This time we were smart and picked one up for $18 on the way to the hotel.  Due to the mosquito-related outbreaks, the hotel was pretty much empty.  We had the pool and game room to ourselves for large stretches of the day.  It was a bit disconcerting to see such a large resort with not many people around, unlike our experience last year where crowds were the norm.  The Sheraton Kona has a completely different atmosphere than the Sheraton Waikiki.  The lack of crowds meant we were able to get a suite without any difficulty so we all had plenty of space when we slept.  We finished off the night with the Luau, which was a lot of fun and good food although we were all so jet-lagged we missed most of the show and went back to the room to sleep.

Day two, morning swim and then drive to the Poke Shack to wait for it to open.  Apparently it is the BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD.  I love poke and I would say that it is very very delicious, however, I would not pick that meal over the tasting menu at Jean Georges in NYC or San Chon in Seoul.  However, it was fresh and delicious and now I can say I've eaten at the best restaurant in the world, according to Yelp!  Since the kids were not interested in eating raw fish for brunch, we took them to Subway, at their request.  I will not write about H's food preferences here since he read my post from last year and was angry about it!

We visited the Hulilee Palace, which is not exactly what I thought a "palace" would look like given my visits to Buckingham and Deoksugung.  We tried to walk back to the hotel but it was almost 90 degrees so we rode the trolley for most of the way and then had to call Stewart to pick us up after we made a Longs Drugs run at the penultimate trolley stop.  I'm glad CVS wasn't able to get the name change pushed through in Hawaii, it's like a blast to the past to be able to go to an actual Longs store.  We loved the 50% off Easter plush and couldn't stop laughing at Snoopy and Woodstock dancing in tandem. Of course, I had to buy Snoopy and bring him back to California.

Day three, VOLCANO day.  First we drove to Hilo to go to the Farmers Market.  Last year, we had an awesome time at the Farmer's Market near Diamond Head. It was super huge and there were all sorts of delicious ready to eat items, more like a farmers market and a street fair.  The Hilo farmers market was good for produce but did not have much in the way of hot food and was much smaller. The boys did get delicious Polish sausage from the Polish sausage food truck outside the farmers market while the rest of us ate the fresh spring rolls and chicken and rice dish we purchased at the farmers market.  We also enjoyed some delicious fresh bread and pastries at Papaa Palaoa Bakery, which is walking distance from the Farmer's Market.  The scones are excellent and the quiche is great even cold. It was already a hot day so it was refreshing to have it cold, but they will heat it up for you if you wait.

Rainbow Falls was definitely worth the trip, not for the view of the actual falls but because of the hike to the rock area. It was a bit too risky for a klutz like me so I didn't attempt it but the kids had a lot of fun. From there it was a drive to the Volcano.  The temperature drops about 20 degrees so you definitely need to layer.  The kids enjoyed the brief visits to the steam vents and the lava tubes. We would have liked to have a longer hike, but Princess E couldn't handle it.  After filling up at the army base gas station, we headed back to the hotel with a short detour at the black sand beach.  H was happy to get his free fourth grader pass to the national parks.  It might be the first and only time we use that benefit before it ends, but at least that's one benefit paid by our tax dollars that we did take advantage of this year!  The drive was very slow and we couldn't quite make it back all the way to Kona to eat so we stopped at Keoki's Roadside Cafe.  We were famished and thoroughly enjoyed the fish and chips.  The owners are transplants from Texas who moved so they could have a slower way of life.  So if you are from the Northeast or Bay Area, the pace of life in Hawaii might make you have a heart attack due to frustration.

Day four, we wanted to walk along the Kona coast but the surf was too rough.  So we went on a
pretty informative coffee plantation tour at Greenwell Farms.  Only when I got there did I realize that it was same plantation that I had toured over a decade ago.  So I've been on two coffee plantation tours in my life and they were of the same place.  The coffee was delicious, of course, and samples were unlimited! The difference between Kona coffee and rest of the world coffee is that it leaves no bitter aftertaste. It is a truly a miracle on your tongue.  The boys were less appreciative but they did get to eat bananas grown on the plantation, which were super cute and tasty.  In the afternoon we made it to Hapuna Beach. Great snorkeling but I lost my sunglasses when the waves toppled me over.  At least this year I didn't have sand lodged in my ear requiring a trip to the ENT upon return to the mainland!

Our final day we had a great time at the pool in the morning and then took a submarine tour.  One of the kids does not like salt water so we had to abandon our plans to go on one of those boat tours where they take you out to go snorkeling and to swim with ocean creatures (that person spent our entire afternoon at Hapuna sitting in Princess E's stroller).  So the only way we could see the fish up close was via submarine. Princess E was really scared of the boat ride out to the submarine and we had to distract her by getting her to take funny photos.  We flew back that night on the redeye back to SF.  We were all glad to be back and collectively agreed never to go to Hawaii again.  The Big Island. Too much for city folk like us.  Give us pavement and multi-lane freeways.  One upside is that since the pace of life is much slower on The Big Island, I didn't arrive back from vacation exhausted like I usually do.  The jet lag was difficult to get over for all of us, though.  If we go anywhere during the school year from hear on out we'll be flying east or in the same time zone so the kids don't fight me about getting up for school.  Aloha!