Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Unlike most cruise vacations I've taken, which are basically over the moment the boat docks and we disembark, our Hawai'i trip had a little steam left so that we could say a proper farewell to our new favorite state. Thanks to Delta playing with our itinerary the previous few months, we weren't scheduled to fly out until around 5:30 p.m., which gave us nearly a whole day to hit some of the Oahu hot spots we'd missed during our first 2.5 days on the island.
We'd picked up tags so that we could be in one of the earliest groups to leave the ship (around 8:00, I think), and as usual, our color was called a little bit before our official time, but we were ready to go. We'd gotten up early, ensured that the remaining few items we'd kept with us were packed in my carry-on, and were having a quick breakfast at the buffet when our color was called. Since the majority of passengers had fought for later time slots, disembarkation was a breeze, and within five minutes we'd disembarked, gathered our bags, and were boarding the Thrifty shuttle waiting outside. (The nice thing about not entering international ports on this cruise: no customs/immigration.) On the way to Thrifty we stopped by the Princess dock to pick up a couple disembarking there; they'd flown to Tahiti and taken a twelve(?)-day cruise from there to Hawai'i, which might be the only other way I'd consider cruising Hawai'i. (Certainly not doing one of those ones from the West Coast.)
We'd reserved a full-sized car with Thrifty for the day to accommodate all our bags, but since we'd moved from high season to low (or moderate) in the course of a week, the price was half what we'd paid for a standard-size the week before. You can get your bags stored at the port terminal for a price, but we decided that wasn't really worth it for us, and Norwegian doesn't work with the airlines to transport bags early for you anymore. So we were stuck with the bags all day, but since it was just the two of us, there was plenty of room in the car and it wasn't an issue.
Our first destination was Kualoa Ranch, which we had missed on our first couple of days in Oahu. There is so much you can do at Kualoa--ATV tours, horseback riding, garden and beach tours--but what I wanted was a movie scene tour.
Dozens of movies and TV shows have been filmed (at least in part) at Kualoa, including Lost, Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Hawaii 5-0, and Godzilla. There are some all-day Lost tours (of Kualoa but not by Kualoa) that I would love to do, but we only had time for the basic movie tour Kualoa offers. It's a one-hour tour on an old school bus without windows, and it was by far the biggest tour we took the whole trip! (And super dusty. Our camera is still coated in dust.) Cori, our guide, entertained us with stories of how she came to the island, how prohibitively expensive it was to live there, of places we must visit while we were there, and of the ranch itself. Kualoa (all 4,000 acres of it) has been owned by the same family for over a hundred years, and every person who is born into that family owns a piece of it (or a stake in it at least). The property has everything--beaches, mountains, valleys, jungles--and is some of the most beautiful real estate on the island. How the family maintains it, of course, is through tours partially, but mainly through charging outrageous sums (to you and me, not to studio execs) for Hollywood to film there. Needless to say, the Morgan family, no matter how big it is, isn't hurting for money.
The movie tour only shows you a fraction of the property and of the places where studios have filmed, but our first stop was at a bunker used as one of the Dharma stations in Lost. (Just wish I could remember which one!) This is one of several old WWII bunkers on the estate, and this one also houses the movie "museum," framed posters of all the movies that have been filmed at Kualoa. We were given 10-15 minutes to tour the bunker, which is also home to the (very fake) submarine used in Lost!
|No Photoshop required. The colors are just that awesome!|
|Hurley's golf course|
|50 First Dates road|
Since we were already on the far east side of the island, after the tour we decided to drive up to the North Shore to have lunch and watch the surfers. We wanted to see the Banzai Pipeline, but since that isn't a "real" location, we told Gypsy (what T.J. has named our GPS) to take us to Ehukai Beach Park. When we reached Haleiwa, the GPS directed us onto a narrow (basically one-lane) service road that ran parallel to the ocean. Houses are packed close together here, so you can't really see the ocean, but you know it's there. The GPS was saying we were "there" even though we couldn't see any sign of a beach park, but there were cars parked all along the service road and people walking between houses to get to the beach, so we parked as soon as a space opened up and then took a cut-through between two houses. The beach on the other side was nice but didn't look like a beach park, and there were only a handful of people on the beach and a couple of (obviously amateur) surfers in the water. That's when we looked down the shore and saw where the crowd had gathered. Even though we were not prepared for a beach day, we hiked through the sand to the real Ehukai Beach Park, which was exactly what you'd think a beach park would be. It had a parking lot, picnic tables, etc., and a crowd had gathered (including a bank of photographers with telephoto lens) to watch a surf competition! That's right. How lucky were we that we just happened to show up right when a competition was about to begin!
Now, I know nothing about surfing, other than that it looks awesome when you do it right and especially in those colorful barrel photographs magazines are so fond of. But I have no idea how its scored, how long a heat lasts, who determines who gets what wave, etc. What I learned on our last day in Oahu is that it is a sport of patience. First we watched the surfers float around on the waves waiting for the heat to begin. Then when the horn signaled the first heat, we waited for the first surfer to take a wave. In our 30+ minutes of watching, we saw maybe three or four strong runs.
After taking countless pictures of the trees from every angle (and probably looking like idiots in the process), we finally made it inside. The store is huge, with every variety of pineapple-related treat you can imagine. We ended up with pineapple and pineapple/strawberry candy, pineapple crunch, and the magical mango-macadamia waffle mix I already discussed here, but it was hard to choose! There were so many yummy-looking local goodies to choose from. They had t-shirts and other souvenirs as well, which, looking back, we wished we'd bought.