I apologize for the blog delay. Aside from the yearly family vacation that I take with Dan, his daughter and son-in-law, and our two grandsons, I managed to come down with both a sinus and an ear infection. So, as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men (and authors, too) often go awry.
But let’s hit the highlights of the trip, shall we?
How Many Hours Have We Been Awake?
We live on the East Coast of the USA. Specifically, we live in New Jersey, the butt of many jokes in America. Some consider us to be the armpit of the USA. Guess what? We don’t care. That’s right. We don’t care. Parts of our state have the population density of Mumbai. We live in a pressure cooker of honking car horns, impatience, and store and restaurant staff who’d just as soon ignore you as wait on you. Don’t ask us to smile. And don’t ask us to care about what you think in your pretty, perfect little state of smiling people who are always polite.
Okay. I’m totaling exaggerating. But New Jerseyans do have a bit of an attitude. Just sayin’.
Now, where was I?
Oh, yes, getting the heck out of NJ.
This is not easy. First you have to pack the car. Kristina and Mike (Dan’s daughter and son-in-law) have a nice-sized SUV, but when stuffed with six people and all their luggage, it converts into a rather close environment.
Your next hurdle is getting to the airport. This means traveling one of our major highways and attempting to navigate the rabbit warren of roads surrounding Newark Liberty International Airport. This is the point where you get to hear your GPS system spew instructions like, “Stay straight to turn right” or “go right to turn left.” I’m not kidding. This is a real thing.
Now all you have to do is park. You can go to EWR’s long-term parking lots and wait for a bus to pick you up to take you to your terminal. Or you can, as we did this year, park with an independent parking company and have them take you to your terminal. This year’s choice greatly reduced our stress. The people at the company were ready for us, friendly, and made getting to the terminal a pleasure.
Once you are inside your terminal, you need to go through the check-in process and through TSA. Sufficient it to say, it’s hideous and stressful.
The actual flight to Hawaii takes about 11 hours. If you have a layover, it’s longer. But since Dan and I are not exactly spring chickens, having a break during which you can stand up and walk around is helpful. Keeps us from throwing a blood clot!
We left EWR around noon (eastern time) and landed at Kona’s little airport around 7:30 p.m. (Hawaii time). Once we were safely ensconced in our giant behemoth of a rental SUV, Mike got behind the wheel and drove the 30-minute trip to Waikoloa.
As we staggered into our condo, Dan asked, “Does anyone know how long we’ve been awake?” We decided it was somewhere in the vicinity of 25 hours. Thankfully, no one had started hallucinating. The pink elephants and dancing hippos happily will confirm this.
The next morning, we woke up to this.
Hawaii has some stunningly beautiful scenery. The Big Island’s environment runs the gamut from a moonscape of lava fields, to areas reminiscent of dry California foothills, to forests, to tropical jungles. The side of the island where we stayed was the “dry side.” The more humid environment was on the other side, where Hilo is located. If you like variety and gorgeous sites, you’ll love the Hawaiian islands.
While Mike and Kris pack their vacation with lots of activity for themselves and the two boys, Dan and I usually are more laid back. But we also do several things as a family unit. Here’s one.
Hapuna Beach State Park
If you visit the Shore (our term for the beach in NJ), you must pay a per-person admission price to get on the sand and then you’re going to sit directly in the sun. It’s strictly a bring your own shade type of place.
Hapuna Beach State Park on Hawaii charges $5 per car for parking, has a large parking lot, restrooms and showers, food vendors and places to sit where there is natural shade. You need to get there early, of course, to get that shade (so you might want to BYO shade if you think you’ll be late). We staked out our turf under some trees and were joined on one side by a Chinese-speaking family and on the other by a local family of Japanese-Hawaiian descent.
By the way, Hawaii is intensely multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-racial. And it’s beautiful. I love it. Not only is the state itself that way, but you’ll find the same dynamic even among the visitors at a resort. Ours was filled with Americans of European, African, Hispanic, and Asian backgrounds, as well as with Japanese and Spanish-speaking tourists, among people from other nations.
So Dan and I sat in the shade at Hapuna enjoying the view and the ambience, while Mike and the boys jumped the waves in the ocean. Kristina joined them later. It is a great place for some old-fashioned family fun and picnicking.
Dan belongs to the Hilton Club in New York and always seems to have a gazillion Hilton points, so we stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa resort facilities, specifically Kohala Suites. The entire resort has plenty to do, including several swimming pools, places to dine, and activities for families. It is served by a shuttle bus that can get you to the various locations.
And, of course, sunsets. Absolutely gorgeous sunsets. These photos do NOT do them justice.
However, despite all the lovely facilities found at a resort, I recommend that you get out and visit the places where the locals go, too. It's well worth it.
On Monday (I promise!), we’ll go on a visit to the Kona Forest Reserve, take a trip partway up Mauna Kea, one of Hawaii’s volcanoes, where a controversy currently is raging, and end up in the town of Kona.
Until then – aloha!
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Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder