An April 2003 trip
to South Pacific by smmmarti guide
Quote: Would you like to spend Easter on Christmas Island? Would you enjoy basking in the warm waters of a vast blue lagoon, snorkeling to your heart’s content through giant colorful reefs, swimming with the dolphins, dining on poisson cru, exploring the culture that inspired Gauguin? Let Princess take you there!
The sight of dozens of romance laden cottages, sprawling through a beautiful grove of coconut trees fronting the western shores of Kauai, forced us to turn our explorations to the Waimea Plantation . Strolling the idyllic grounds and discovering the restaurant/bar, with a brewery no less, gave us reason to sit a spell.
A black and white kitten with raccoon eyes wandered in and out of the opened doors. We took a seat in a booth on the broad lanai just outside the window that revealed a few copper kettles and a brew room smaller than we had expected for producing the eight different blends that Waimea Brewing posts on their menu. The kitten watched us with expectant eyes, while paddle fans whirled overhead and we waited. And then we waited longer.
Service is not a strong point at the Brew Pub, yet immediately one gets the feeling that one is welcome to sit all day if one so chose. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if one only had a beer to quench ones’ thirst. Assign the lackadaisical attitude to the languid setting, the far-out location as America’s most westerly beer joint.
I strolled inside the large tavern to find a menu and caught the kitten jumping on a table. Wishing to ignore the implications of this violation, I turned my attention to t-shirt sales. Before I’d even tried the beer I knew I liked the logo and bought a few t-shirts emblazoned with "Pakala Porter" and an image of an old Hawaiian style surfer on the front.
My husband and I both ordered the Pakala Porter and found it a decent brew. It was stout, robust and flavorful and after our drive, like manna in the dessert. The waitress had promised that their ahi poke was fantastic and she didn‘t mislead us. Poke is a favorite Hawaiian style dish made of raw fish and a collections of spices and shoyu. The salty, spicy flavors make it the perfect accompaniment for beer as it is a healthier choice than peanuts or chips. If raw fish makes you nervous, the poke is also served seared in a wrap with various vegetables. The "gut-busting" nachos, touted on the menu is no exaggeration. Waimea Brewing seems to make up for their relaxed service by offering generous portions of good tasting food at reasonable prices.
If you take it for what it is, an easy-going, way-out brew pub on the fringes of American civilization, a relaxed, tranquil hide-away far removed from the rat race, set in a grove of swaying coconut palms, you’ll adore Waimea Brewing Company. There is only one way to take this place - easy.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 19, 2003
Waimea Brewing Company
9400 Kaumuali'i Highway
Waimea, Hawaii 96796
+1 808 338 9733
On our port day in Kauai, I let "the other type" be uppermost since we had visited Kauai recently and felt secure driving around on our own. When the "other" waved off the 4WD vehicle I had reserved, however, I started to become uneasy. It’s just not like him to take the sedate sedan over the Humvee assault vehicle on exploration days.
I took the wheel, hoping to retain a bit of control. We headed down the highway, beyond the south shore beaches of Poipu and then just before the famous Na Pali cliffs came into view in the distance, I was instructed promptly, "Turn here!"
The cane road snaked through coastal plains that border the Shifting Sands beach. It started out harmless enough, but soon, I was navigating foot-deep potholes on both sides of a single lane; then two foot deep with a foot of mud. Somewhere into mile two, it was no fun anymore.
On a former trip, the road had been manageably decadent; just bumpy enough to be a cheap thrill. But since it has been discovered by thousands of visitors like us seeking "off the path adventure," the road has been dug into deep ruts and moguls. Our rental sedan had bottomed out for the last time.
"I’m going back," I stated, no room for negotiation in this decision.
I tried to turn the car in the other direction at a rare smooth point in the road while dodging the caravan of rented Jeeps bouncing past us as. Or, should we would reconsider and tough it out? We knew that just one more mile of this teeth-gnashing torture and we would be rewarded with the beach of our memories; far-fetched expanses of deserted beach, a few grazing cattle for company. We could hike down the beach for miles and feel as we did years ago - a million miles from anything. We''d gaze at the sun setting over the outermost reaches of the Hawaiian island chain and be starry-eyed.
Just then, a thrill seeker flew by, spraying bright red Kauai sugar cane mud onto our windshield. We looked at one another, shocked. Then, in a unique moment of heightened accord, I cranked the wheel, floored the sedan, spun a donut in the mud, and sent an enviable splat onto the other side of the vehicle.
"What do you suppose our deserted beach really looks like down there?" Hubby pondered this a moment.
"On second thought, let’s keep it as we found it," he agreed, and we turned back toward Waimea.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 19, 2003
After abandoning our trek to Polihale Beach, we drove back ‘round the shoreline road to the 552 Kokee Road approach to Waimea Canyon. The views, which I had captured from the air during our past helicopter trip, had been satisfyingly stunning and the vision from land was no less so.
From there we headed into Waimea, where the Waimea Plantation and Brewing Company beckoned as an obvious choice for lunch. After a bit of refreshment, we drove on into Waimea town, noting the Captain Cook monument and the Russian Fort Elizabeth remains located at the mouth of the Waimea River State Park. I was interested in this Historical Sight having visted another of such forts at Princeville on a former visit. We followed Kaumulalii Hwy to Hanapepe , described in the Drive Guide as a delightful little Old Hawaiian settlement. It appeared that Hanapepe had seen better days and, unless you are searching for ghost towns, you could be disappointed.. Instead we stopped at original Lappert’s Ice Cream , drive-up just outside of town. Behind the walk-up window visitors can peek into the secret hiding place where that fabulous flavor and creamy refreshment served all through the islands originates.
Another interesting stop just outside of Hanapepe is the Salt Pond Beach Park, where the familiar Hawaiian red and white sea salt is captured by families who have earned the unique honor to work the saltpans from their ancestors.
"I wapi kope nau?"For miles we’d been driving past coffee plantations, stirring an insatiable desire for a pick-me-up brew. The Kauai Coffee Company sign welcomed visitors and tours. Turning down the plantation road we found an insightful, enchanting little coffee center where visitors can learn about the coffee growing process and taste the many blends the 3,400 acre plantation produces.
With renewed vigor, we drove Koloa Road to one of Hawaii’s most photographed and visited blowholes. A legend of Mo’o, the lizard, casts an intriguing spell as the water spews upward of 50 feet and retreats with a mournful howl.
The best discovery of the journey was the captivating plantation town, Koloa. Rivaling Hanalei, though far less busy, the town features the oldest buildings in Hawaii, as it was the site of the first sugar plantation. Reproductions and refurbished village shops hold a slew of small town attractions that made leaving so soon difficult. But the ship was waiting, so we drove through the alluring eucalyptus tree tunnel and waved Kauai fond farewell.
Although I’d formerly visited the Kona side of the island, Kilauea continued to be familiar to me only in mythical tales,, photographs and documentaries. How could I live in Hawaii and not have confronted one of the earth''s true marvels?
Disembarking the ship at Hilo Harbor, we easily found our way to the rental car agency and headed directly to the Volcanoes National Park entrance a few miles south of Hilo town.
Our first stop was the Park Visitor Center, where we collected trail maps and explored National Park-style displays and volcano facts. Then, flooded with a lust for lava, we hit the road in search of Kilauea''s hot spots.
Crater Rim Drive makes an 11 mile loop around the caldera with points of interest clearly designated by the map and signs. Our first stop was the steam vents, where evidence of Pele’s hot breathe deep in the earth transforms into a misty vapor above ground. Unlike the dangerous fumes at the Halema‘uma‘u Crater down the road, these steam vents do not present respiratory hazards. Nevertheless, hold your breath, pose for a photo engulfed in the steam, and move on to the Kilauea Overlook . From there visitors can peer across the giant caldera that displays a spectacle of color when the sun shines.
Next, stop in at the Jaggar Museum , named after volcanologist, Thomas Jaggar, who came to Hawaii in 1909 to study the island''s unique geology. The center houses a brilliant layman’s description of volcanic activities along with a collection of fascinating eruption byproducts including Pele’s tears, hair and other spatter. What is surely the widest-ranging collection of books, tapes and posters celebrating volcanic science, lore and legend are available for purchase.
Driving the Crater Rim Drive, it is apparent that the constant eruptions and flows over the years have been both destructive and productive. Entire communities and countless antiquities have been destroyed, even as eruptions have created 560 acres of new land mass. Considering the potential gravity of such forces and the unique opportunity to watch the earth as it gives birth to new land, it is not suprising that thousands of visitors make the trek to behold such a spectacle - and take such chances. Indeed, in small print the park map states, "The park, situated on two active volcanoes, contains hidden hazards that may be life-threatening. Stay alert and heed warning signs." Pele may be ready to stomp her feet at any time.
Now, prepare yourself for a stroll through a lava tube!
Beyond the crater overlook and museum, drive onward to the wide open lava field and gaze awestruck at what appears to be dozens of bonfires smoldering in the distance. Steam vents, revealing a tiny hint at the forces at work below, encourage wandering across the lava fields to take photos and indulge the urge to touch the rock. Not surprisingly, they are hot, driving home the point that you are standing on a volcano, indeed.
Notice how the road weaves and humps over lava spilled onto its former path. For twenty years Kilauea has been constantly erupting and although most of the flow is at the end of the Chain of Craters road, Mother Nature, or Pele, in particular, bears close watching.
The Halema’uma’u Overlook lies ahead. This point gives visitors an alternative view of the Caldera seen from the Jaggar Museum. But beware! The sulphur fumes are dangerous to those with respiratory issues. Instead, you may want to check out the Keanakako’I Lookout, glimpsing into an entirely different crater of the same name.
Next, encounter Devastation Trail, a great place to take a walk in pleasant weather. This trailhead is the starting off point for various hikes from a short .5 to the 3.9 mile Kilauea Iki Loop which is also accessed from the Thurston Lava Tube. Allow enough time for a visit to the Lava Tubes, as it is unlike anything you’ve seen before. This is the largest lava tube in America, and superlatives such as this are always worth a look.
After a short hike to the entrance of the Lava Tube through a tropical forest rife with pohole ferns and (Hapu’u), enter the dank, dark, cave ten feet high and 600 feet long. You’ll likely step into puddles unaware, be dappled with dripping water, and occasionally loose your footing in the slippery darkness. Equipped with a miner’s helmet and boots, you may even venture into the deeper recesses of the cave for some true exploration.
A further option is driving the Chain of Craters Road, a 20 mile drive through "the most desolate land on earth" revealing Hawaii’s mugshot at birth. One section of the road was closed 13 years ago when a lava flow covered seven miles of the road with a bubbling black blanket of lava up to 30 yards thick. At the end of the road, take the twenty minute walk over lava toward the ocean where active flows pour into the sea. But, in the rain on a gray day, visibility was not good enough to warrant the drive. Besides, it is best to make the trek at night by the light of flashlight and with the help of sturdy shoes to protect yourself from the sharp, jagged trail. Do so, and be rewarded with the high-contrast sight of red glowing surface flows and the a’a and pahoehoe that light up the distant mountains.
They long to come here, traveling light, to build a hut on the beach, fish in the crystal oceans, nap in a hammock. All cares and worries would vanish, the surrounding beauty inspiring and elevating their spirits to new heights of understanding. It would be mystical and magic.
One look at the island’s astonishing towering emerald peaks surrounded by aquamarine lagoons elucidates the reputation, illuminates the dream--and made Bora Bora the port most anticipated on our cruise. Rising early, I found the decks buzzing with passengers. Artists, photographers, and romantics had established their chosen positions at the rail, had set their tripods, and were watching gap-jawed at the scene unfolding before us.
We slowly entered the sheltered Bay of Vaitape, the only entrance into Bora Bora’s reef, just as morning broke beyond the mountain, casting a magical pink-gold light on the island.
We sailed first past the idyllic cottage resorts fringing the island which, true to their storied brochures, rise on stilts directly over the azure sea. The only thing audible was seabirds and a gentle lapping of the water as our ship moved forward so smoothly and slealthily that we didn‘t disturb a single slumbering honeymoon couple.
The Paul Gauguin was already berthed in the bay when we arrived, and her passengers were enjoying their coffee on private balconies waving gaily just a stone‘s throw away. Yet the stillness persisted as passengers instinctively paid reverence to the mountains, the lagoon, the morning--and the decidedly amorous.
Earlier, I had been disappointed to find that all water-based excursions were already sold out when we boarded the ship. Now, staring into the tranquil, pristine, crystalline waters beneath us, diving into the sea of limpid aquamarine couldn’t have been more inviting.
However, our 4 x 4 jeep excursion was arranged, and though I developed second thoughts while riding the tender to shore, the tour promised an exotic island overview with glorious views of the lagoons--a photographers dream. After tendering to the harbor, we followed behind the ubiquitous "lollipop" that designated our tour group (and seems so antithetical to rugged exploration) before meeting our island guides.
We packed into brightly colored jeeps festooned with flowers and headed out in a convoy driven by engaging and informative locals. After a 20 minute trip along the sole road ringing the island, we turned suddenly onto a path no wider than a bike lane. It obviously hadn’t been graded since the U.S. Army cleared this path back in WWII during Operation Bobcat.
- Wild Ride in Paradise - continued in Bora Bora: Part Two
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2003
One lane roads demand an essential courtesy, so when the convoy ahead of us decided to retreat down the mountain, our jeep pulled off to the side, balancing tenuously over a steep ravine. The dust kicking up from the passing four-wheelers, mixed with the super-saturated humid air and the sheer nerve-wracking component of the experience, began to merge in the rivulets of sweat trickling down my face.
Suddenly, Bora Bora was not seeming particularly romantic.
Thankfully, the convey bounced along and we resumed our ascent up the rugged mountain road just short of our melting. Our first lookout point redeemed the uncomfortable path. Awesome views revealed the full scope of Bora Bora’s tranquil lagoon. We wandered through the jungle, snapped photos, listened as the guides narrated a story of the area, explaining the presence of the seven-inch naval cannons at most of Bora Bora‘s prime viewing locations.
Weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Operation Bobcat was put into force to protect the island. Fortunately, Bora Bora never saw combat, but from 1942-1946, 6,000 military men remained stationed here serving what must have been seriously tough duty. (How did that go again? "We got sunlight on the sand, we got moonlight on the sea, we got mangos and bananas we can pick right off the trees…")
After sharing tales of the South Pacific, our guide expertly carved a number of luscious pineapples and invited us to indulge in the sweet refreshment before packing us back in the truck for a trip to the local artist‘s community. The specialty here is brilliantly hand-painted fabrics for sarongs, the South Pacific’s celebrated mode of dress. Strolling among the palm-shaded studios amid a profusion of tropical foliage, it was obvious the source of the artists'' inspiration.
The Jeep Brigade then made a final, welcome stop in town at Bloody Mary’s. The famed restaurant is essentially another "Cheeseburger in Paradise," but we liked it just the same. We especially enjoyed the sand floor, the relaxed atmosphere, and the open-air pavilion ambiance. In the ladies’ room I searched for the wash basin and only after some time thought to pull the chain dropping from the sky. That released a rush of water down a lava rock waterfall where I splashed my hands, cleaned my face and smiled at the whimsy of it.
What we liked most about Bloody Mary’s, however, were the bloody marys! After one, we waved the jeep on without us. We were in Bora Bora, after all.
Attraction | "Port Day: Christmas Island Part One"
I spent the previous day inserting new lyrics to the song, "Christmas on Christmas Island." I’d buy a palm basket from the locals and the Easter Bunny would arrive on the back of a great seabird to hand out colorful, exotic eggs. I’d wade into a renown bone-fishing flat and snag a giant fighter, later joining in a jump-up celebration in the square where I‘d share my catch with other revelers.
Reality wasn’t exactly as I imagined.
Thirteen hundred miles south of Hawaii, our ship anchored within site of the largest coral atoll in the world, Kiritimati, or Christmas Island as it was dubbed after Captain Cook named it on December 24, 1777. The island is part of an archipelago called Kiribati, a British Colony until it won independence in 1976. The island nation sprawls across an incredible expanse of sea, a staggering two million square miles, yet encompasses a landmass of only 280 square miles with a population of a only a few thousand.
We were the first cruise ship to settle outside Christmas Islands’ fragile coral in over two years. After two days at sea, our arrival was something of an event to the locals and passengers alike. The eagerness to tread terra firma was palpable as the anchor dropped and tenders, chock-a-block with people, plied the crystal waters for the thirty minute ride to the harbor.
We took a leisurely approach to the situation. Within a few hours passengers were already returning to the ship, reporting that Christmas Island offered nothing much to see. No shopping, no restaurants, no distractions. Hearing this, my husband and I shared a knowing look. Cool!
After the eager throngs had returned to roost in the sun-drenched decks within easy access to bars, hotdog grill, and pizza café, we packed a provision bag, boarded the empty tender, and made our through the Bay of Wrecks.
Some locals had gathered to great the cruisers dressed in traditional island garb of ancient Micronesia. Performance over, they now sat wilted and weary under a make-shift canopy. A group of teeny, brown-skinned school children continued to dance, encouraged by a new round of camera flashes and contributions to their fund. The local women seemed more intent on gossip and visiting with friends than hawking their wares to the tourists. It was obvious the inhabitants were not overly familiar with the razz-ma-tazz of tourism.
Save one. A flat-bed truck had been outfitted for the day, equipped with a bench along one side with a number of plastic patio chairs providing additional seating. After selecting the single seat I deemed as "safe," I thought to ask, "where do you go?"
"Hotel. Good hotel," the driver laughed, cranking up his radio and revving the engine.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 23, 2003
Christmas Island (Kiritimati)
Republic of Kiribati
Attraction | "Port Day: Christmas Island Part Two"
At last we arrived at the bedraggled lane leading to the Captain Cook hotel. A weathered sign suggested what lie ahead. Indeed, the hotel comprised an open-aired lobby reception area with an assortment of tables and collapsible chairs huddled under the shade of the ubiquitous palms. A series of single-story motor-lodge style buildings painted in calypso colors dotted the property.
"Who comes here?" I asked the desk clerk after snagging a local brew.
"Fishermen," he replied, directing me to a wall sized map of the area’s fishing lakes. It was obvious that those birds I had noticed were fortunate foragers of the island‘s numerous flats.
I set off exploring, hoping to find a picturesque reminder of my Easter visit. A rugged, sandy beach ringed the property, where waves hurl in an array of shells and driftwood. Two long-abandoned thatched cabanas faced the ocean like steely sentinels. A small gathering area provided for fishermen to grill their catch and trade stories was empty save for fellow tourist truck passengers.
"Truck’s leaving!" my husband called to me suddenly over the roar of the wind and waves.
The ride back provoked questions. Where do the people buy food? What do they do for a living? Where do they go for medical care? Could you live here? Could you stay for a week?
On the return trip I noticed much more than coconuts; collections of colorful laundry hung to dry, flapping in the sand-strewn breezes; three sided buildings, presumably dwellings, positioned so that the wind was at the door. A community center hosted a holiday party where children ran barefooted, jumping, laughing and rushing to the road, waving at the truck as if it were the Good Humor van.
At the port we walked through a small settlement and poked our noses into a few doorways where we had noticed comings and goings. No signs announced the enterprise within, but shelves of meager provisions were evidence that this was the local grocery. A generator out back chugged out enough energy to produce ice.
"It appears they have all they need here to be happy," I said to my husband.
"Amazing how little it takes, isn’t it?" he agreed.
If you want a beach/snorkel/surfing day, that’s easy. In Lahaina there are marvelous places for all water related activities. Or rent equipment from Snorkel Bob’s, near the wharf, then take a shuttle to Kaanapali or Kapalua and have a great day in the sun. If you choose to get out and see all there is to see, choose from this jam-packed itinerary.
1) 7:30am. Take the first tender to Lahaina, having arranged for a rental car in advance to meet you near the docks.
2) 8:00am. Grab a coffee to go from the Sunrise Café, just one block from the tender dock.
3) 8:30am. Head out of town by driving south on Hwy 30. Stop at Olowalu and wade into the water. You may catch sight of the Green Sea Turtles that frequent this area. If it’s whale season, stop at McGregor Point just beyond the tunnel. It is located at Maui’s chin (if the profile of Maui is seen as a person.) Here, find fantastic photo ops and whale sightings where the Pacific Whale Foundation hosts naturalists and guides.
4) 9am. Keep your eyes on the road around na pali, the oceanside cliffs that lead toward Maui’s valley; the roads can become dangerous if you become distracted.
5) 9:30am. Stop at Maalea Harbor and visit the Maui Ocean Center. Although you could spend hours here, you have many other things to visit, so limit your explorations to the outdoor exhibits and Whale Adventure center. Sagging energy? Try the coffee shop and Maui Cookies outlet located at the adjacent Harbor Shops.
6) 10:30am. Follow the signs to Hwy. 380, and travel toward Kahului to Pu`unene Highway 350. This little detour takes you to the Sugar Plantation Museum and is worth a stop.
7) 11:30am. Take Hansen Road to the Haleakala Highway 37 and continue to Haleakala National Park. The last miles of the approach are purported to be the steepest and most winding road in the U.S. Behold the wonders of the volcanic peak, take a hike, head back down to Kula.
8) 1pm. You deserve a great lunch at the Kula Lodge just about a mile beyond the base of Crater Road on 377.
9) 2pm. After lunch head the opposite direction on 377 to find the Kula Botanical Garden, a beautiful garden representing many of Hawaii’s most famous and fabulous blooms.
- continued in Part Two
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 27, 2003
9 B) 3pm. Or, if you’ve had enough upcountry views, cool breezes, eucalyptus trees, and pasturelands, head back the direction you came toward Kahului and choose one of the following:
10 - A) Drive toward the charming town of Wailuku, as Haleakala Hwy turns into Hana Hwy. 36 and into Hwy 32 (consult your maps for this). Just outside Wailuku is the dramatic and historical `Iao Valley and Cultural Park. In Wailuku town, find the Bailey House Museum and dozens of surprisingly delightful shops, markets, boutiques and cafes.
Note: from here you could take the exhilarating highway back via the West Maui Mountains to Kapalua, but it‘s truly not for the faint of heart or the short on time. However, you would be rewarded with magnificent views over steeps cliffs that drop into the ocean. Stop at the Nakalele Blowhole, or Honolua Bay if the swell is up. If you take the alternate, recommended route back to Lahaina via Hwy 30, you could also stop in Waikapu at the Tropical Plantation time permitting.
B) Or, from Kahului take Hana Highway to the delightful hippy town of Pa`ia, which also has great shopping and one of Maui’s best restaurant experiences, Mama’s Fish House. If you choose this option, be sure to stop by Ho`okipa beach, where world-class windsurfers defy gravity and challenge the forces of nature. If instead of going to Haleakala you took the Hana Hwy. directly here, you would have time to explore the lovely waterfall hike called "Twin Falls" located just outside Pa`ia.
C) Take the highway back to 380 and turn down 31, Kihei Road, to south Maui. Traveling through Kihei can be congested but along the route find fabulously accessible snorkel beach parks. Past Kihei are the exquisite resorts of the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea, where a break for pupus (appetizers) and a drink are a treat in themselves.
Again, if you didn’t take the upcountry tour, you would have time to venture past Wailea to Makena to the end of the road which gives way to a startling landscape of Maui’s last lava flow. Here you will find rather isolated beaches, great snorkeling and a sense of being away from it all.
Following any of these recommendations will leave you with a spectacular memory of your day in Maui. Just be sure you arrive back to the ship in time and be aware that traffic can become congested at any time.
Please, don’t miss the boat but in case you do, there are daily flights to Hilo, your next port of call, which leaves you time for a Luau!