I warned you that it wouldn't be long before we were throwing surf, sun, and sea stoke your way. I tried to hold off for as long as possible but with snow in the forecast (on the mainland, of course), now seems like an appropriate time. So turn your space heater on high, throw on that tank top that's been collecting dust since August, and envision yourself seated at the base of a palm tree with a coconut drink in your right hand and some sunscreen in your left.
First and foremost, thanks to EVERYONE who has offered suggestions on must-dos while in Hawaii. We have a giant list put together, thanks to you, that's sure to keep us busy throughout our time on the island. We've been here for one week already and haven't wasted any time eating our weight in poke bowls and shave ice, swimming in (WARM!) ocean water (I say that because from WA to CA there's no actual swimming unless you don a wet suit), hiking, surfing (Chip), mingling with the locals (farmer's markets, church, and a volunteer event), and catching the famous HUGE surf on the North Shore. I even managed to start that new hobby I mentioned in the previous post, but I'm too sore in really weird places to talk about it. All I have to say is yoga is not for the faint of heart.
We were content departing from California with full hearts thanks to the family and friends we saw including those who visited (seriously, thank you for the boost!). Like the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end, BUT great things were about to commence. This time across the sea to Hawaii, but sadly without Spud. You may not believe me when I say the six hour flight to Honolulu was a breeze but it ended up being easier than I thought. The boys only got out of their seats twice (to pee) and we managed to bust out the iPad for only a short time. A quick sucker on the descent, a toddler tantrum on the way to baggage claim (we were due), and we had made it to my favorite island EVER! Really, I love Oahu. And yes, I've been to others. They are beautiful too but nothing beats Oahu in my mind.
For the following month we are setting up shop in Kailua, a small beachside town on the windward side of Oahu and at the base of the Ko'olau mountains. We are mildly thrilled to have an 800 square foot home to stay put in, to say the least. It comes with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a lanai (deck). Not shocking at all, I get it. But when you've been traveling out of an 80 square foot van for the last six months this small beach cottage feels like a mansion. It even has a blender! You know, for all those pineapple, passion fruit, and rum drinks we've been making. In all honesty though, I think we were all craving a little routine. Bouncing around from place to place is incredibly exciting. We love new places, people, and experiences. But somewhere around the fifth month it lost some of its luster. It's hard to explain but can easily be described as our glasses are overflowing with these experiences. They were empty when we started and are now feeling just right. We know that urge will be back but for now we can't wait to call favorite neighborhood beaches and trails our home for a short time. I suppose that confirms our decision to slow things down in Hawaii.
And slowing down we have done. I learned that the embarrassing way on day three when the yoga teacher giggled as I came flying in to class three minutes early (which would be considered late in Colorado). To which he kindly said "You're not from around here, are you?" I coolly shook my hair and pulled it up into a messy ponytail, as if trying to fool him. "No, no I'm not." Damn, he wasn't fooled at all. Not a soul had arrived yet but he reminded me we were on island time. That there's no need to rush. I've taken that to heart and since then we have driven slower, walked slower, eaten slower, and breathed slower. Unless my children are running towards oncoming traffic. A mama could get used to this slower-paced lifestyle.
With that, we are trying to stay off our "devices" this week (other than working) and Mimi (my mom) just arrived so I'm going to make this post quick. Apologies in advance, however, here's the low down on our FIRST WEEK IN OAHU!!!
This is the beach of all beaches on Oahu! Only a ten minute walk from our house too. Voted as one of the top beaches in the world, the water is insanely turquoise, sand is as fine as flour, and the Na Mokulua islands (aka "The Mokes") offshore make it even more picturesque. This beach holds a VERY special place in my heart. I get choked up even writing about it. My dad used to take my mom and I kayaking here every year. It was a favorite. We would start at Kailua Beach Park, kayak out to Flat Island to snorkel, then make our way out to the Mokes (you can pull your kayak into the one on the left and hang at the beach). Afterwards, when our stomachs were extra grumbly, we would grab a plate lunch (they're so good!) and a shave ice (they're EVEN better!).
Five years ago I sprinkled his ashes here - between those two islands. My heart aches. I miss him beyond words but I'm forever grateful for the memories here. I'm forever grateful for the experience. Especially with my parents. I can only hope I'm offering up the same to my boys.
You'll see more pictures of this place in the weeks to come but here are a few to whet your appetite...
Kailua Beach Park
This is our "neighborhood beach" and is less than a block from our place. You can find us here almost every day, sometimes twice. The waves are a little bigger but that doesn't stop these jibs from body slamming themselves onto the shore break. Which in turn throws sand in every crack and crevice of their body. Trust me, I know. When they're sick of the shore, they "power kick" out further (with us, of course) to the calmer water. As a bonus, Chip can paddle out to Flat Island (he's apparently quite motivated because it's a jaunt) and catch some decent surf. This is also the beach where Chip is learning to kitesurf, a bucketlist item he's been dreaming about for a very long time.
North Shore - Pipeline
In the summer, the North Shore is as flat as a pancake. Come winter though, the swell picks up and Bonzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay are home to the largest surfable winter waves. It's not uncommon for the waves to peak between 20 and 30 feet high. You don't go in unless you are experienced (or have a death wish...). Next time you're walking next to a two or three story building, turn around, look up, and imagine that as an ocean wave about to devour you alive. I would FREAK OUT!
We are visiting at the height of surf season and the epitome of surfing events is upon us: Billabong Pipe Masters! This event takes place at Pipeline, one of the world's most dangerous spots to surf. Not only are the waves extremely powerful here but a massive jagged reef sits just beneath the surface.
We love having the opportunity to pick up and go when we want so when the news indicated that the surf was going to be decent, we decided to make our way to the North Shore. We took the coastal route around (which is less than an hour by car. It is a small island after all), and the drive is spectacular. Like I said, Oahu is IT. You may have images in your mind that this island is all development, high rises, and crowds but that is simply not true. Sure, Honolulu and Waikiki hold the title for being the most developed in Hawaii but even there it is stunning. But outside the city, it's very rare to see a building higher than a coconut tree on the rest of the island. Roads aren't usually congested. People and drivers are incredibly friendly. And the beaches are uncrowded.
We plan to go back to catch the Pipe Masters event this week (it's a waiting game with the waves). But on this day below, it was and always is so humbling to be in the presence of such huge waves (and famous surfers). We were even lucky enough to see John John Florence come popping out of the ocean and run past us to his house. It caught us totally off guard. Chip and I had one of those geek out moments as we both mouthed "OH MY GOD, THAT'S JOHN JOHN!!!!" But like an idiot, we failed to say or do anything. We just sat there frozen and in shock. Damn it.
Pillbox Hike - Kailua
The neighborhood hike that is practically out our backdoor is called the Lanikai Pillboxes and given its short but steep ascent and stunning 360 degree views, I'd say it might be one of the best on Oahu! It doesn't take longer than thirty minutes to reach the first "pillbox" or military bunker and the second is only a few minutes further. Most of your time will be spent "oohing", "ahhing", and "holy crapping" over the view. We hiked the Pillboxes on one of our first mornings here and I'd say we had a warm welcome.
Even years later this is still a place we stop at to stretch our legs and admire the views. Behind us, towering green mountains and in front of us, the ocean and Chinaman's Hat (Mokoli'i Island). I'll never forget this time though. Just before pulling into the parking lot a song came on the radio that totally had us all car-dancing in our seats and snorting water out our noses. We hereby designate this song as the Keller sabbatical anthem! Don't laugh too hard, but wouldn't you agree?!?!
We are definitely becoming regulars at several places around town...
Kualoa Ranch - Travel2Change
We continue to seek opportunities to volunteer or spread kindness while on the road and this one specifically piqued our interest. Kualoa Ranch is the world’s most famous private nature reserve. Their "vision is to be stewards of this land by preserving, protecting and enhancing Hawaii’s natural beauty and culture, while developing recreational and agricultural enterprises that are compatible with the environment" (yes, I ripped that straight from their site).
On this outing, which we found through the travel2change website, the plan was to spend a couple hours helping a local with several "lo'i", or taro patch. The day began with a guided hike which took us through a beautiful forest, over a flowing stream, and to the restoration work site where we got muddy, wet, and sweaty. After an hour and a half of pulling weeds, harvesting taro, replanting starters, and clearing the stream, we made our way back through the forest and passed the home of several different movie sets: Jurassic Park, Lost, and Kong. It felt a little surreal since some places looked oddly familiar. Overall, we had a great experience getting dirty and learning about the history and cultural significance of Kualoa. We are definitely going to check out others on the website. The boys had an awesome time with everyone and continue to learn more about volunteering our time. It's fun to see them participating at our side.
Flight time: LA to Honolulu 5 hours and 45 min
Flight cost: $243 per person (!!)
Number of meals we've eaten on our lanai: every single one
Poke purchases so far: five
Number of shave ices so far: three
Current visitor: MIMI!! (My mom) She will be here for 13 days! Oh yeah!
First purchase on the island: a used surfboard
Second thing: Poke and beer
Thanks for hanging out with us on the blog today. Wishing EVERYONE a warm and special holiday season this year!
Love, The Kellers