Tuesday, January 24, 2017

what I did on my winter vacation

Several months ago, my dad told me that he was planning a vacation to Hawaii for the family, both as a celebration of his lymphoma being in remission and as a mini-reunion of sorts, since it's extremely rare for all of us to be in the same place at one time, scattered across the country as we are.  Not only that, but he said G was welcome too!  Were we interested?  Uh, duh.

Fast forward to January 13th, when we took off on our big Hawaiian adventure.  We spent 4 days in Kona on the big island, and then 5 days in Maui, though most of that final day was spent in the airport.  It would be a bit cumbersome, and probably quite frankly very boring for most of you, if I went over every single thing we did, so instead I'll list the highlights and lowlights of the trip.


  • Our hotels were fuckin' DOPE.  In Kona, we stayed at the Mauna Lani Bay, which had a beautiful (if somewhat rocky) beach, big rooms, and a terrific breakfast buffet.  In Maui, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which also had a gorgeous beach, huge rooms, delightfully fast wi-fi, easy walking access to lots of stores and restaurants, and---check this---penguins in the lobby!  There were two big downsides to the Hyatt, though, which I'll cover later. 
  • Speaking of the birds at the Hyatt, they also had flamingos, cranes, swans both white and black, and parrots and cockatoos.  One of the cockatoos was named Samson, and I got the bright idea of playing assorted iPhone ringtones to see if he'd imitate any of them.  He listened to most of them with either a cocked head or disinterest, but two of them made him fluff up his head feathers, spread out his wings, and bob his head back and forth.  (I checked online to see what this behavior connotes; if it had been fear or aggression, I would have stopped immediately, of course.  Fortunately, it means he was excited and/or happy.)  So if you ever have the chance to play an iPhone ringtone for a cockatoo, try "Choo-Choo" and "Sherwood".
  • We got to see cool animals out in the wild, too, including sea turtles, eels fighting in a tidepool, and---from the safety of a submarine---stingrays, white tip sharks, and assorted fish.  We also saw several feral cats but they wouldn't let me love them.  :(
  • Took a really good bus tour, which stopped at a coffee plantation with a gorgeous view, a caldera which glowed bright orange in the dark, and a lava tube, and it also included a brief night hike through the rainforest.  At one point, the guide asked us to turn our flashlights off, and it was completely black except for the incredible night sky.
  • Took a bus tour on the famous road to Hana, which was very zigzaggy but included stops at beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and lookout points.
  • Took ANOTHER bus tour, this one to Haleakala State Park to see the sunset.  The sunset wasn't as spectacular as I would've hoped, but being high above the clouds and seeing them spread out before us like a massive white carpet was pretty damn cool.
  • Some great food:  prime rib, iberico pork belly with blueberry pancakes (an odd but delicious combo), macadamia crusted chicken, ube ice cream, a piece of hula pie that was the size of my head (and I have a huge fuckin' head).
  • Getting to spend quality time with my family and G.
  • Everybody knows Hawaii is gorgeous, but my god is it STUNNING.  We even saw double rainbows on the way back to the Maui airport, like one last parting gift.


  • Everybody ALSO knows Hawaii is expensive, but I wasn't really prepared for just how spendy it really is.  ($42 for half a rotisserie chicken with no sides?!?  $3 for a Coke Zero?!?  Almost ten bucks for a GALLON of MILK?!?!?!?!?) On our way to the submarine excursion, G was chatting with our shuttle driver, who told us that he and his wife work 5 jobs between them, their property taxes are $14,000 a year, their electric bill was $400 last month, and he was happy about driving the shuttle that day because it meant he only had to work a 10 hour day instead of his usual 12- to 16-hour shift.  He said, "I can't wait to retire and move to Massachusetts!"  (Sounds random, but his daughters are there, and he likes snow.)  Personally, I'd rather live large in a boring state and not have to work 60+ hour weeks, because what good is living in paradise if you're always too busy to enjoy it?
  • Remember when I said the Hyatt had two big downsides?  The first was the unbelievably cramped bathroom, and the second was the massive influx of people who were there as a reward for exceeding their sales goals last year.  (Nice perk!)  They were EVERYWHERE, clogging the restaurants and pools and beaches, and we always knew exactly who they were because, to a person, they carried tote bags emblazoned with their company's name.  Now, obviously they had a right to be there too, but they had lots of pool parties with a loud and annoying DJ who could be heard pretty much anywhere in the hotel, often quite late at night, and it was irritating.
  • This isn't Hawaii's fault, but a water pipe broke at LAX when we were flying out and made the bathrooms in our terminal unusable.  If you wanted to use a bathroom, you had to go to another terminal and then go back through security!  No thanks.  So we sat there for 3 hours, parched as hell but afraid to drink anything lest we have to pee.
  • This also isn't Hawaii's fault, but on the redeye back to Los Angeles, we had a screaming toddler (after landing, I heard his mother say "And now we're part of someone's nightmare travel story!") and the guy sitting next to me (the travel agent couldn't get seats together for G and me, although we were across the aisle from each other) was a shameless manspreader.  We also hit the kind of turbulence that makes you start praying.  On the plus side, at least once we got to LAX, G and I were home within a couple of hours!  My brother had a 3 hour layover, and my dad and stepmother had a SIX hour layover, then a delay, and then they landed in Tampa to discover there was a tornado warning.  The bridges were out, so they had to take a detour while driving home.  They got home about 30 hours after leaving Maui, but at least they got there safely!
Overall, it was an excellent trip, full of quality time with my loved ones, fun excursions, and beautiful scenery.  I'd love to go back some day, but I'll need to take out a loan first!