Zoom. Weeeeew! Woahahahaha… 1…2…3!!!!!
That’s how we convinced LeLe that it was fun to take off and land in an airplane. Oh, and suckers. Which she insisted on sharing with both of us and smearing all over my t-shirt. That’s right, I wanted to smell like Tootsie pop for our 10-hour travel day to Hawaii. But I set my sights on warm waters and sunshine, and left one foot of snow at my doorstep. We really needed a break. We really needed family/hang/chill time. It was tempting to fall into the trap of “oh…we are going to Hawaii… we need to cram every day full of adventure as much as possible!” But after taking LeLe on a trip to Cali last summer, and realizing that we pushed her a little too much, we decided to approach this trip differently (although, one hour into our longer Hawaii flight (LAX to HON), we were seriously doubting our sanity in even taking a toddler to Hawaii).
Our first approach: rest time. We decided that our best shot at succeeding on this trip was to take full rest days (we ended up doing two of those out of the 15 days), lots of hang time with my cousins (ages 8 month to 9 years) and only one major trip or activity each day. Day one was a recovery day. We napped and lounged and ran in the grass. We ate at a delicious shrimp truck (they are all over the island!). That evening we met my cousins at Malaekahana State Recreation Area where they were camping for three days of their winter break. Here we got our first taste of the warm ocean. We grilled sausages, caught up, and explored the woods a bit.
We are so very thankful that our family (pastors here on Oahu) opened up their home for us to stay in. We camped out in their living room, took over their couches, used tons of beach towels and drank a lot of their coffee. Having a home base to cook, sleep and just hang in made the trip much more relaxing than a sterile hotel room (and chasing said toddler around the hotel room, trying to keep all of the TP on the roll without her willing assistance… oh wait… even at a home my toddler got into their TP!).
The Stricklands host the best trip on the Island. They know all of the great hiking spots, the best beaches, when to go where, and how to play reggae music. Really, we owe them hotel fees, travel planner fees, and definitely continental breakfast and several lunch fees. Oh, and LeLe definitely took advantage of the warm weather to just hang in her diaper. She is one tan little bug now, with golden beach hair. Sigh. Oh the cuteness!
On our first Friday, the Stricklands took us to a great little beach cove in Ko Olina. It’s a little beach behind several huge sea rocks, so there’s lots of tide pools and only gentle wave lapping. This is where LeLe really took to the beach. We played for hours. And best of all… we saw TWO honus, up close and personal. This experience was at the top of my Hawaii bucket list. I seriously love sea turtles. And then we had sushi. Seriously, could that day have been any better?
On our first Saturday on the big island, we ventured out for a hike at the Lanikai Pillbox trail in Kailua. To get to the hike, we drove the H3, one of the most beautiful highways…ever. Flanked by ragged peaks covered in jungle flora, the highway was built above the jungle (one of the bloodiest highways in the history of the U.S.). When we arrived at the trail, there’s no real marker for where to begin, just an old set of stairs with broken rusty guard rails. But, the steep scramble up these old bunkers offers some gorgeous views of the island. This was LeLe’s first time in a hiking backpack. She really did rock it. She was excited to drink out of a real water bottle. She was a little nervous at the end of the hike when we were navigating the steep downhill path, and so to comfort herself she kept humming. And we kept telling her that she would be okay.
One of my other favorite adventures was ocean kayak fishing with RJ. We got up early in the morning and then headed out to the beach by their house (surrounding pearl harbor, actually). RJ did most of the work. He paddled and gave me all sorts of histories and explanations of how he became a Hawaiian fisherman (and he now owns a spear fishing business!). We only caught one fish… a 5 lb or so papio… but oh was that fish delicious! We baked it with garlic and coconut oil.
Our first Sunday on the island, we helped lead worship for LivingWaters, the church plant my cousins help start about nine years ago. It is a really beautiful and sweet congregation, with lots of music and celebration of local Hawaiian culture. They’ve done such an amazing job of integrating into the culture of the island and serving the people here (homeless shelters, tutoring and mentoring, spear fishing contests, surfing, etc.). Their willingness to serve the community humbles me and gave me a fresh contemplation of what God has called me to do with my life (an ever-evolving conversation with Him through each season of my time here on earth). After church, the Stricklands took us on an island driving tour. Stops included the Halona blow hole and other famous beach sightings (we even saw seals!).
We knew we had to get back to Kailua and try out Lanikai beach (by far our very favorite!) with luxurious velvety white sand and gentle waves. LeLe definitely loved this beach and really adventured into the water. We also tried out Island Snow, president Obama’s favorite shave ice joint (seriously…it was delicious…) and we stopped at a restaurant for fresh ahi (mine was prepared with teriyaki, Matt’s was prepared in a red curry sauce). And… we went to the grocery store. Again. I think we went to either Safeway, Target, or Costco once a day. Even today on our last day, we had to stop and pick up some sippie cups. But I digress.
We also knew we had to get back to the North Shore. We salivated at all of the coastline as we drove by our first day on the island. We started the day at the Dole Plantation (kinda boring, pretty touristy, yummy Dole whip!). Then we made our way up the coast and stopped at different places to watch the waves. The white foam of the roiling ocean crested at 12 feet. And there were crazy people out surfing them (mainly professionals). We also took the short hike inland to Waimea Valley and Waterfalls, a gorgeous peaceful outdoor botanic garden ending with a waterfall pool (aren’t those fan palm trees so cool?). On this walk, I realized what types of vacations I look for – ones where I can wander through nature, explore oceans and mountains (even though I am really not hard core about it, i.e. I don’t surf or backpack). But something inside me resets and restores as I drink in this world and all of the infinitely beautiful ways we can experience it.
One quiet morning, we grabbed some coffee and headed to the beach here by the Strickland’s house to watch the sunrise. This photo in no way does it justice, but even on this foggy morning, the run rising over the ocean was breathtaking and peaceful.
By far my favorite part of the island is the West side. And that’s saying a lot, after taking in all I saw at other parts of the island. The west side is raw, wild power. Strong waves (higher than the north shore on the day that we went) pummel black lava rocks along winding paths cut into the mountains. We took a walk up to Ka’Ene point state park, and even in the midst of sluggy mud (and an ankle sprain), I couldn’t get over the beauty of this desert place. This side of the island is quite the contrast between all other parts of the island, as 1000s of homeless people camp there in villages, and the poverty level is similar to third-world status. My first time to this part of the Island (in 2008), my wallet was stolen. This time, RJ (my cousin) left his wallet on the roof of the car… and then we never found it again. Perhaps a third time would be better? We ended this trek by tasking authentic Hawaiian food at The Highway Inn Restaurant. I’m pretty food adventurous, but i think a lot of this food would take my taste buds a while to get used to. We did enjoy the pork, the steak and the haupia. And, of course, Lele adored the pork.
We won’t forget this beautiful trip. We loved being in rhythm with the baby, and she relaxed so much. And we really desperately needed two weeks off together. We are feeling refreshed and ready to take on another semester. We are prayerfully walking through schedule change needs and hopes that we will do even better this semester. And now I sign off to enjoy my last night of Island life – a BBQ at the beach.