Hawai'i One-3, Day 7: We go Head Over Hilo

We wake up in the morning, wave hello to the cruise ship in the bay -- another sign of the recovering economy is the return of a cruise ship dropping off tourists almost every day -- and prepare for today's outing, our obligatory trip across the island to Hilo.  Well, technically, it's going around the island, not "across" -- Saddle Road, which cuts over Mauna Kea, is still under construction, dangerous, and generally prohibited by car rental companies; so that's not really an option for us.  For tourists, the two options are to go up and around the island through Kohala / Waimea, or down and around through Volcanoes and Puna; since we're planning on visiting Volcanoes in a couple days from now, we opt to head up and around (which is also actually the only way we've ever done it, since going the southern route can take about an hour or so longer.)

For the trip up, we stay on the coastal highway along the Kohala Coast, up past the airport, all of the various white sand beaches and high-end resorts, and through the lava fields until we reach the turnoff for Hawi.  Since we're planning on doing that tomorrow, we head away from Hawi and go through Waimea, past Parker Ranch, passing and waving hello to Waipio Valley, and making our first stop at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company in Pa'auilo.  Remembering our last adventure when Google Maps tried (successfully) to get us lost, we use the driving directions on the vanilla company's web site and arrive without incident.

The store is technically open, but in a strange turn of events, there's absolutely nobody around when we arrive.  No tour buses, no lunch events, and no other drop-in tourists; it's just us and the teenage son of the owners, who happens to be around in the kitchen -- "if I hadn't been here, you'd be out of luck because there's nobody else here today," he says.  However, it's a good thing for them he is here, because we give him the biggest sale he's seen in a while; buying various baking items, lotions, soaps, teas, and snack foods, and we also decide to have a light lunch while we're here.  
The light lunch is actually just a dessert course, since that's kind of what they specialize in -- Lucie gets their vanilla liliko'i pound cake, I get the vanilla bread pudding a la mode with vanilla rum caramel sauce for myself, and we split the vanilla fudge brownie.  The pound cake is incredibly powerful passionfruit flavor, sharp and intensely sweet, if a little dry; the brownie is slightly crispy on the outside and just gooey enough on the inside, more dark chocolate than vanilla flavor that we can taste but still delicious; the bread pudding is just freaking INCREDIBLE, light and sweet and boozy, crazy hot out of the oven tempered with the frozen vanilla bean (of course!) ice cream, chewy and dense and just fantastic.  I don't even want to know the calorie count of the thing, but this is an absolutely amazing dish.  I'm a little afraid of blinking after eating this thing, since I'm pretty sure my eyeballs have crystallized because of all the sugar I've just eaten and the sugar crystals might scratch the insides of my eyelids.  Plus, it's HUGE -- I'm unable to finish the thing and need to bring part of it and half the brownie back with us for later that night.

We take a few minutes to digest, then head out to our car and continue on along the Hamakua Coast until we get to Hilo.  We continue through Hilo to the far side of the city, and stop at Hershey's Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation and Haole Tourist Air-Conditioned Shopping Mega-Emporium where we buy some stuff (which is -- you guessed it -- macadamia nuts) for friends, family, and coworkers, and possibly for our own snacking purposes later.  Form there, we go to Hilo Hattie's, where I stumble across a nifty find -- because of 1) the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, 2) the 200th anniversary of coffee being introduced to Hawaii (first brought to O'ahu in 1813, though not to Kona until 1828), and 3) Hilo Hattie's 50th anniversary, all of their coffee themed clothing is on sale for 30% off.  I buy coffee-themed T-shirts, coffee-themed Hawaiian shirts, some coffee (also technically coffee-themed, I suppose), Hawaiian salts and other food items, and some other souvenir-type stuff.  After that, we head to Ken's House of Pancakes for lunch, because all of that shopping had made us hungry.

Ken's still has their late 1960s look and feel, quaint and comforting; some people may criticize them for not having the tastiest food in Hilo, but for us it's not just about the food itself, it's about the experience... and besides, the food we have is pretty darn good so it's all a win as far as we're concerned.  I go for the corned beef hash and Lucie goes for the char siu noodles, lightly pan fried noodles with the smoky sweetness of nicely glazed pork.  And, because it's the main thing we remember from our last trip here, we feel the need to have the pineapple upside down cake for dessert... it's still steaming hot, dense syrupy cinnamon pooling around the base, ice cream on the side per our request.  It's a good lunch.

While we're eating, we try and locate our next planned stop for today, Big Island Candies.  We both use our iPhones to find their location, and we opt to use the directions from Lucie's iPhone 5 instead of my new iPhone 5s.  See, there's an issue with the new phone's GPS sensing (which has since been fixed, but not on this day) which -- possibly combined with what I feel is Hawaii's attempts to get us lost when we use technology -- that has it telling us we need to drive into the ocean to get to the candy factory.  I don't remember seeing anything about an underwater secret lair on their website, so it's possible that my phone
may have the location of Big Island Candies a little bit wrong.  Using Lucie's phone, however, we find them without incident -- it's actually only about 5 minutes from Ken's, which is nice serendipity -- and head past a small crowd of Japanese tourists with their translators waiting for the tour bus into the store.  They specialize in shortbread cookies and chocolate, so we buy large amounts of both in our survivalist goal of staving off future carbodehydration (I've heard that's a real thing and we must at all costs avoid it.)

We head back out past the tourists (now much larger in number) and head back toward Kona.  It's about a two and a half to three hour drive, so it's about dinner time once we get to Kamuela, about two thirds of the way back.  Lucie's heard about a burger joint that's supposed to be very good -- picked as the best burgers in the state of Hawai'i by USA Today a while back -- and she wants to give them a try.  It's a little difficult to find -- we have the address available, but the restaurant is tucked into a corner of a strip mall and we drive past it a couple of times before Lucie sees their sign -- but the food is definitely worth it.

I get their gorgonzola burger, a 6.5-ounce patty made with local Parker Ranch beef cooked to a light pink medium and topped with a crazy-thick slab of gorgonzola cheese and bacon, served on a pleasingly crunchy toasted roll from a local bakery -- everything that Village Burger makes is done using local ingredients.  When I first see the size of the slab of gorgonzola cheese, I'm more than a little concerned that the cheese will completely overpower everything else as blue cheeses are prone to do, but these fears are totally unfounded -- the flavor is mild enough so it works perfectly with the bacon and the beef, and it's overall a succulent, juicy, and downright awesome food experience.  Lucie goes for their Kahua Ranch wagyu beef burger with bacon and avocado -- it also looks amazing, but she says afterwards it's a little gamey for her tastes though not too bad.  We share an order of their twice-cooked french fries -- all good fries should be twice cooked for optimal crunch and creamy interior texture -- with wasabi mayonnaise, and I get a vanilla milkshake with 2 shots of espresso to stay alert for the drive home.

We opt to drive back to Kailua-Kona using the more inland Mamalahoa Highway instead of our outgoing choice of the coastal Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway; not that much of a difference in times but a different driving experience with the narrower mountain road and lush foliage.  It rains a little bit on the way back so we need to put the top up on our Mustang (whom we have dubbed "Betty" -- we used Mustang Sally last time, so went with a different name but still a Ford), but nothing too bad at all.  It's dark when we get back into town, but decide to head upstairs to bed instead of heading down to the bar.  It's been a long day, filled with good food and scenery; no need to supplement with plastic drink-accessory monkeys.  Those can wait until tomorrow.


Hawai'i One-3, Day 6: Coffee Run

We wake up earlier than usual on our first full day in the Big Island, so Lucie can make it to Big Island Running Company for their 06:30 couch to 5K group.  This means we need to get up around 5 or so, which for a vacation day that doesn't involve greeting the sunrise on Haleakala is just weird; but Lucie is very eager to get some running in, and we end up being the first people there.  Within just a minute or two, however, the rest of the group shows up (maybe they were hiding in the bushes making nene noises to mess with people -- not sure and don't want to hazard any guesses [it was nene noises, I'm sure of it]) and they head out for their run along Ali'i Drive.  My knee is only begrudgingly willing to do any kind of distance walking, and certainly not willing to do ANY kind of running, so I force myself to go over to Kona Haven for a leisurely breakfast while Lucie exercises.

She runs south along the road, away from all of the shops and traffic, up and down the rolling hills ("they said it was a flat road, but they lied" she says about it later), sweating and pushing herself; I sit at a small table facing the ocean and have a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant sandwich and a hand-drip cup of Kona de Pele medium roast private reserve coffee.  She gets sweat in her eyes; I read the latest issue of Marvel's Avengers Arena comic book on my iPad Mini.  I do, however, exert myself a little when I buy a bottle of cold water to have available for her when the group returns from the run -- I'm not *completely* lazy.

From there, we drive down Ali'i Drive (Lucie has a few flashbacks to the run when we go uphill) to Keauhou, just a few miles south of Kailua-Kona and the location of this year's coffee festival.  We arrive at the Keauhou Shopping Center, but take a quick side trip at the farmer's market that's also taking place here today.  We wander through the stalls; I buy a couple bags of coffee from new farms I discover, some extra-spicy macadamia nuts, and a few jars of handmade jams -- chocolate macadamia nut (think Nutella, but with macadamia instead of hazelnuts) and POG (passionfruit-orange-guava, one of Hawaii's favorite drink flavors) -- and when it gets closer to lunchtime we wander over to the coffee festival.

Last time we came to the festival, it was being held at the old Kona airport location, had a parade along Ali'i Drive on the final weekend, and even had a one-mile running event; this year, however, it seems very much downsized... no parade or Miracle Mile (Melissa at the Big Island Running Company says it wasn't financially feasible to close Ali'i Drive only for the run once they couldn't piggyback on the parade), and several of the art exhibits have been moved to other venues like a quilting store (for the coffee quilts) and the nearby Keauhou Resort's convention area (their coffee-themed art exhibit.)  They do have several small coffee farms exhibiting their wares, so I stock up on several new bags of medium roast whole bean, we stop for a minute to appreciate the Polynesian dancing, buy a Kona Coffee Cultural Festival tote bag, and have lunch at their food vendors.  We look through the options and decide on the local high school volunteers offering mix plates -- Lucie gets the Korean chicken and chicken long rice; I go for the Korean chicken and smoke meat.  The chicken long rice is chicken pieces cooked in thick rice noodles, funky glassy appearance and pretty mushy in texture, but good flavor; the smoke meat is essentially a char siu without the barbecue coating, satisfying with a densely smoky hit; the Korean chicken is fried chicken with a slightly sweet note to the crispy coating, perfectly cooked and crunchy, slightly peppery and oily but in a very good way.  We also have two huge bottles of water -- it's very muggy and humid today --
and some "Bradda Pops", the Hawaiian version of Otter Pops, for dessert.  The strawberry flavor is a pure sugary delight, and the lemon blast with li hing mui is refreshing but confusing to the taste buds, which seem unable to comprehend the salted plum and lemon combination.  I spend a few dollars at their game area, shooting suction cup darts at paper cutouts of coffee tree pests and throwing rolls of toilet paper at giant spiders perched on toilet seats and other, less Hawaiian, carnival standards, before we head out on the road to participate in our own version of the coffee festival parade -- namely, driving along the Mamalahoa Highway and visiting all of the coffee farms along the way.

Our first stop along this leg of the tour is once again also the first coffee farm (we do tend to visit the farms in the order in which they're encountered; doesn't seem efficient to backtrack on the winding narrow roads just to mix things up), Hula Daddy.  We stop by, take a picture of the large clock tower they have nicely decorated for the Christmas season still a month and a half away, take part in a sampling they're doing as we arrive -- it's a dark roast, slightly bitter but pleasingly strong -- and buy a bunch of coffee and coffee related items.  From there, we cruise down the road a ways and stop at UCC, or Ueshima Coffee Company, a Japanese-owned farm.  They're not very busy at the moment, so when we inquire about taking their Roastmaster tour where we roast our own beans (which we've done at UCC every visit to the Big Island), they say we can do that immediately if so desired, which we do.  Our shopmaster is Jeff, who hosted the Roastmaster tour on our last trip; our host this time around is Bertha, who walks us through the roasting process using their bank of tiny cement mixer coffee roasters.  Newly roasted coffee in hand (slightly more than medium roast -- they're using non-prime beans for the customers to roast so the bean sizes aren't very uniform and some of them come out a bit darker than I normally prefer) and additional bags of professionally roasted beans, Coffee Pretz, a cup of coffee ice cream (which Jeff gives us for free, along with a cup of nicely strong iced coffee which I gladly accept), and other coffee items added on, we bid goodbye to UCC and continue on down the road just as a large contingent of Japanese tourists pulls up.

Our next stop is Blue Sky, in the town of Holoalua, there's a large crowd here already -- another sign of the recovering economy, there's a tour van filled with Japanese tourists that seems to be pacing us along the drive -- so we just stop by long enough to pick up a couple of bags of coffee (their estate coffee, whole bean, medium roast, which is all we're trying to buy when we buy coffee) before continuing down the road.  We make a quick stop at a roadside store for cold bottled water and some cookies, then make our way down through Kealakekua until we reach Kona Joe, home of the downright best-ever espresso smoothie I've ever had.  It's slightly changed from our last visit, now called a Kona Joe Coffee Smoothie, and they've added a subtle little cinnamon flavor from what I remember, but this actually only improves the flavor for me, adding some of the sharp sweetness of cassia to the smooth and deep coffee baseline -- I need to stop myself after having two, or I'd end up sitting on their covered patio overlooking the ocean with a frozen coffee beverage in hand all day (which isn't really all that bad an idea, but probably a lot higher in calories than is recommended by any sane dietician.)  We mosey through the gift shop, grab a bag or two of their coffee offerings -- not too much, as Kona Joe tends to run a little on the more expensive side and it's not like we're really hurting for Kona coffee at this point so we can be a little choosy -- and head back up the Mamalahoa to our hotel for dinner and drinks and drinks.

We drop off the several armloads of coffee in our hotel room, then head down to Don the Beachcomber's restaurant -- or, more accurately, to Don's Mai Tai Bar located outside on the patio and walkway, and not to the actual restaurant itself.  Same menu available, but those wonderful, comfortable, relaxing lounge chairs facing the sunset (which by this time has already gone down, but we're not going to stop our relaxation plans because of that.)  Lucie gets the standard burger with sweet potato fries, and I go for the Bleu Hawaiian burger with bleu cheese and sautéed mushrooms -- the sweet potato fries they have here are Lucie's favorite, which is both great (because she can enjoy them while on vacation) and horrible (because she can only enjoy them like every two years or so) -- accompanied with a ginger aioli, they really are spectacular.  I also partake (a little more than is wise,
some might say) of the drink menu, going first for a lava flow sampler -- miniature versions of the lava flow, with different flavor options (I go with mango, liliko'i, papaya, and guava; the guava is really really good) -- then continuing in the sampler vein with their mojito sampler (standard mojito, pomegranate, mango, and ginger peach variants) and finally my go-to vacation drink, the mango daiquiri.  I am for some reason immensely entertained by the fact that the glasses are decorated with a variety of festive doodads, from the classic paper umbrellas to pineapple wedges, to little brightly colored plastic monkeys hugging the rim of the glass.  I decide on a whim to collect the plastic monkeys while I'm here, and end up at the end of the night with a six-monkey troop.  There are no doubt several more technicolor monkeys in my future when I return -- and probably not just alcohol-fueled hallucination monkeys, either.

We relax for a bit longer as the ocean crashes onto the rocks in front of us, then head upstairs for the night.  While we were sitting in the chairs, there was apparently some remodeling done on the hotel that I didn't notice, as the floor is now a little tilted and blurry-looking for some reason.  I hope they fix that by tomorrow.


Hawai'i One-3, Day 5: Living Big

 We wake up -- once again a little bit early -- on our last day on Maui; we don't have much time to dawdle this morning as we need to complete packing our suitcases and head down to the main lobby for Ka'anapali Beach Hotel's lei ceremony for their departing guests. Started after the 9/11 attack as a way of showing support for their guests who were stranded in the hotel (airlines stopped flying, a lot of financial issues with banks and credit companies, and people who had only planned to stay for a few nights found themselves staying for a month or more), and to demonstrate their welcoming attitude and aloha, the hotel gives a brown kukui nut lei to each guest; and every time a guest returns (and brings along the lei) they exchange one of the brown kukui nuts for a white one, to signify an increasing of the light which the kukui symbolizes. During the ceremony, Malihini gets a little emotional as she explains its history and significance -- she does nothing, it seems, without putting her entire heart into the act. After a warm hug, she bids us aloha, we respond mahalo and a hui hou, and we drive back across the island to Kahului's OGG airport. I drop Lucie off at the departures area, return the car (as it turns out, we didn't actually drive nearly as much this trip as we did last visit, but I'm still very happy we traded in the town car for a 300), and grab the shuttle back to the airport for the flight.

There's a long wait at the departures gate, as the arriving plane is running a bit late, and the impatient tourists are a bit chaotic once the plane finally arrives and is cleared for boarding; but First Class has its privileges and we get to board the place ahead of the crowd. The Hawaiian Airlines inter-island shuttle is relatively unexciting, save for the fact that we're headed to the Big Island, our favorite (well, favorite island so far, since we haven't been to them all yet), to hit the last few days of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. Once we land on the Big Island, there's also a long wait at the car rental place (the economy's recovery also means a larger than usual surge in tourism, which is great for Hawaii's economy but in all honesty kind of a pain for our hopes for a quiet vacation), but eventually I get our vehicle -- a Mustang (nice!) convertible (of course!) -- and we head down to Kailua-Kona. We drive past all of the stores along Ali'i Drive, and check in to the Royal Kona Resort.

Once checked in, we take just a minute or two to get reacquainted with our hotel (same corner oceanfront view, only we're on the third floor this time instead of the 6th or 7th like the last few times), then venture back out into the humidity for a walk along Ali'i. The previous trips, I wasn't in good enough shape (more than a little embarrassed to admit that) to walk for very long; but this time around I'm a bit lighter and have better endurance (though ironically a worse knee), so looking forward to being a pedestrian tourist for a change.

Our first stop is one that Lucie has been looking forward to ever since she started running, the Big Island Running Company. They're Hawaiian, they're a running company, and they have branded clothing that says "Run Aloha" and "Run Big" -- what's not to love? It's surprisingly close to our hotel, only the first cluster of businesses on the other side of the street, tucked back a little ways behind a sand volleyball court, and it's staffed by a wonderfully friendly and enthusiastic gal named Melissa, who encourages us to take part in their weekly Saturday morning run the next day. My knee isn't up for running, but since it's a "couch to 5K" running group Lucie believes she's up for the challenge -- she already completed a couch to 5K on her own back home and thinks she can handle the Hawaiian humidity -- and makes plans for tomorrow morning. We buy a bunch of Big Island running items, for ourselves and for family, and move on.

Our next stop is next door at Kona Haven, a coffee shop (I know, right? In Kona?) where I buy an iced coffee with a couple shots of espresso added, grab some bottles of water, and a bag or two of their coffee offerings, a brand called Kona de Pele. I'm assuming they're referring to the Hawaiian volcano goddess instead of the soccer player, but the coffee is mighty tasty regardless of the moniker's inspiration. From there, we figure it's about time for a light early dinner, so we look at our options and decide on Thai Rin, about a block away. It's not one of the busy and loud bars or cantinas that are everywhere, which we'd just as soon avoid; it's not a chain like Bubba Gump or Subway, and it's not very crowded. As it turns out, this might be because the food isn't exactly spectacular... it's not bad either, just average and a little bland, which is surprising for Thai food. Lucie has the chicken pad see ew, and I opt for the tofu in Thai garlic sauce. I locate the container of chili sauce that's available, and do get the food to my desired level of spice and flavor after several scoops (probably about a third of the container.) We continue along the road, past the farmer's market, until we get to Kona Henna Studios.

We've been here twice before, getting temporary tattoos to celebrate our visit, and have always appreciated their artistry and skill with henna; this is no exception. Lucie gets a hibiscus pattern on her right ankle and a honu on her left foot; I go for my own designs -- the same tribal take on the San Jose Sharks logo that I got last time on my right calf, and something a little different on my right forearm, a coffee mug with some coffee bean honu swimming into it. I describe what I envision, using the store's child-distraction device of a magnetic drawing pad to explain in
better detail (something that amuses Lucie a lot, because that's really kind of a geek thing to do on my part), and our artist does a great job making it a reality. We realize belatedly that since Lucie now has henna on her foot and can't wear her sandals for the next few hours until the henna sets, that we kind of need to head back to the hotel instead of walking further along Ali'i. Oops.

We take our time meandering back, not only to go easy on the soles of Lucie's bare feet, but also because there's still a lot to see and do... we stop at a bike rental place and look into renting bicycles -- it's a good idea and one we'll definitely do next vacation, but they only rent the bikes, helmets, and locks, and we'd need some serious hydration if we wanted to ride; so we make a mental note to bring our Camelbak bottles and backpacks, and our own helmets, for next time. We poke around at the Keoki's Donkey Balls store, buying some of their huge chocolate covered macadamia nuts and some other coffee-related items for us and for friends and family. We also take a short break and have dessert at the Daylight Mind coffee roasters restaurant, where we find a quiet table by the ocean and nosh a bit. We share some chocolate covered strawberries, Lucie has their chocolate coconut cake, I go for their brownie sundae, and also have a chocolate spiced rum coffee milkshake. The combination of sweet, sweet, sugary, and intensely sweet proves to be -- surprisingly -- very sweet. Very tasty, a good combination of textures with the gooey crunch of brownie, the cold smooth ice cream, and thick milkshake, and all of it refreshingly cold on this hot and humid evening... but very very sweet.

We take a brief poke around the goods for sale in the lobby, I pick up a couple bags of freshly roasted coffee from two of the roasters' local affiliate farms (Kona Earth and Papa Kona) and an aloha shirt for this year's Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, and we continue on our way. The roadside walkway is a little rough on Lucie's feet, but we make it back nearly without incident -- the only casualty is that the exercise and humidity makes me sweat profusely, and the henna on my forearm slides a little and becomes less clear. You can still tell what it's supposed to be, but it's not as sharp as the Sharks logo or Lucie's patterns, so that's a bit of a bummer, but certainly not in any way anything that subtracts from the appreciation and enjoyment that we feel being back on the Big Island.

After the henna dries, we clean it off and admire the results, then head to bed for the evening; we've got an early morning ahead of us.


Hawai'i One-3, Day 4: Sea Trek

Our day starts relatively early once again -- not as early as the day previous when we exercised before breakfast, but earlier than usual for us. Actually, we both end up waking up somewhat early every single day during our vacation -- might be the time change between California and Hawai'i, might be different beds than what we're used to, might be the thought of not wanting to spend time sleeping when we could be doing vacationy-type stuff; could be any number of reasons.

The reason for today, however, is that we have a morning launch out of Ma'alaea Harbor for a snorkeling adventure with Trilogy Tours.  We had used Trilogy last time for our day trip to Lana'i, and trust they'll provide a similarly great experience this trip as well.  Our drive along the oceanfront highway is a little slow due to road construction (because the highway sits right up against the ocean in some places, there's a near-constant amount of repairs that need to be done to combat the erosion and water damage to the roadway) so we get to the harbor and onto the vessel, Trilogy V, right on time instead of early as I'd hoped; but still not a problem as the crew is on their version of island time and takes a somewhat casual approach to schedule promptness.

Once on the boat we're introduced to the captain, Captain Martin Kirk (who oddly wants to be called Captain Martin instead of the so much more obvious and geekily awesome Captain Kirk), and to the rest of the crew -- snuba instructor Chad, and mates Akeoi and Ted, and also someone else whom I forget but will call Bert (but only twice and to whom I won't refer for another five paragraphs because I don't remember anything else about him or what he did), and after a quick briefing as to our plans for the day we head out of the harbor and toward our first stop, an area off the Wailea portion of the island called Makena Beach.  Makena Beach is also referred to as "turtle town" because there are two large submerged lava tubes in the reef which are popular nesting and feeding areas for Hawaii's famous green sea turtles, also called honu (who knew?  I knew) and turtle sightings are very common.  We're also slated to snorkel at Molokini, but we can see a large number of boats at Molokini while Makena Beach is nearly deserted, and Captain Martin wants us to have the best possible snorkeling experience without the large crowds.

His plan pays off, as I do indeed see a honu swimming near the surface.  It's a relatively large adult, maybe four feet (and definitely four flippers, but that's not the same thing), serenely munching on sea grasses or seaweed or plankton or turtle chow, or whatever the hell honu eat; possibly poi.  I use my handy-dandy and technologically obsolete underwater camera to take several shots of my Chelonian chum, that herbivorous honu, before it drifts down to the sea floor.  Honu breathe air but can sleep submerged; while awake, they normally surface to breathe for a few seconds, then sink below the waves for several minutes.  One unfortunate way that honu can die is if they feel threatened -- whether by natural predators or harassment by overzealous tourists -- they submerge and can actually drown before they feel safe enough to surface to get another breath of air.  Heeding the admonishment from Captain Martin's morning lecture, I make sure not to get too close as I take my pictures.  Shortly after we return to the boat, several other tour boats arrive from Molokini, and the water becomes positively infested with loud and disruptive haole.  This is our cue to leave, so after the crew takes roll call (no re-creation of Open Water for us, thankyouverymuch) we carefully weave our way through the swimmers and head over to Molokini.

A quick side note -- one of the reasons we like Trilogy Tours is that they purposefully underbook their tours -- the boat itself can fit 50-60 people, but there are maybe 30 customers on board, probably more like 25.  This allows the crew to maintain very good control and care for the clientele, as opposed to some of the other boats out there... we see one double-decker boat with easily 75-90 swimmers, and almost no crew oversight.  This can easily lead to animal endangerment, unsafe practices, and the like; there's a comment on tripadvisor that mentions the Trilogy crew having to assist with another boat's customer when they needed help and their tour boat didn't notice.  We prefer our vacation adventures with a little less danger and a lot more enjoyment.  We prefer Trilogy.

After another half hour or so of cruising, we arrive at Molokini just as the last other boat is leaving, essentially giving us the entire area to ourselves.  There aren't any turtles here, but because of Molokini's crescent shape (it's a partly submerged volcano crater) the water is remarkably calm and clear.  We head out again and wander through the water, looking at all of the different fish looking at us.  Crewmate Ted beckons us over, where he gives me the opportunity to hold a red pencil urchin in my hand; Lucie also seems intrigued and interested until Ted says "you can actually feel all those tiny feet grabbing your skin", at which point she politely demurs and leaves the experience to me. The red urchin does indeed have a strong grasp, its hundreds of tiny tube feet creating a surprisingly powerful suction.  I take a picture -- I'm a bit close, so unfortunately I find out later that it comes out pretty blurry -- and hand the urchin back to Ted, trying not to think too much about the mouth with its sharp pointy teeth so close to my skin.  I hope my palm doesn't taste too much like poi.

As we swim back to the boat, we suddenly find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a school of black triggerfish, unafraid of the interlopers in their territory.  We slowly make our way through the crowd -- there are maybe 30 to 40 fish surrounding us -- and eventually get back on board the boat.  A light lunch of barbecued chicken, green salad, and taro rolls is provided, and we head back toward Maui.  Captain Martin cuts the engines partway back to try and sail us back in, but the wind doesn't want to cooperate and he eventually takes us back to the harbor with the engines propelling us.

We exit the boat, thanking and handing out tips to Captain Martin and the mates, and even Bert (and there's the second time he's mentioned!), and get into our rental car.  Including the attempts at sailing, the trip back to Maui from Molokini has taken almost two hours, and we feel like a quick bite is in order, so we head south along the coast toward Wailea.  We stop well before then, in North Kihei, at Ululani's Shave Ice -- this is one of three different locations on Maui, and all of them are highly rated on every food review site.  Lucie orders their "Ka'anapali" flavor combination of grape, lime, and cherry for us to share; and head next door to the Sugar Beach Bake Shop and order a "da kine pie", a tartlet-sized quiche with kimchi and grilled onions, with an asiago crust.  The pie is delicious -- the right combination of sour, spicy, creamy, and sharp; the shave ice is one of the best examples of shave ice we've had -- the consistency they manage to create with their ice is lighter than newfallen snow, and the flavors are intense while somehow managing not to be overly sweet.  As Lucie puts it, we're almost afraid to have any more shave ice for the rest of the trip because we know full well it won't measure up.

After the snack, we head back up north along the coastal highway to our hotel.  We take a short break, then decide to get a little more exercise by walking along the beachwalk path to Whaler's Village.  It's less than a half mile from our hotel, so it's a relatively quick walk, and the scenery along Maui's pale golden beachfront is always nothing less than beautiful.  We get there and wander along the shops, skipping the more ridiculous ones (Louis Vuitton, Coach, a scrimshaw place), poking our heads briefly into others (Totally Hawaiian, PacSun), and spending some money in a few more -- we renew our appreciation for the shortbread cookie at Honolulu Cookie Company, Lucie gets a shirt or hat or something (in all honesty, I've forgotten exactly what -- possibly poi) at Crazy Shirts, and I buy a new pair of "slippahs" at the Flip Flop Shop.  The pair I've been wearing all trip has been a pair I got at a bike swap meet, made from repurposed bicycle tires (rubber soles, inner tube toe thong, and knobby top straps from mountain bike tires; entertaining as all get out to me, but not much in the way of arch support and I'm a bit wary of their aquatic durability, something which becomes more important on the beaches of the islands), and I upgrade to a pair of Olu Kai sandals -- designed to double as water shoes, fast drying, and with very good support to fend off any plantar fasciitis issues.  Plus, Hawaiian company and made in Hawai'i, so we're supporting the local economy in multiple ways.

Dusk has come and gone while we wander the shops, so we walk back to the hotel by the light of the stars (okay -- aided greatly by the lights along the pathway, but "by the light of the stars" sounds so much better) and have a seat at the outdoor stage for some more live music and hula dancing.  I have a drink or three, Lucie has one or two of her own, we have a light dinner (Lucie opts for chicken strips and I have a small Hawaiian pizza, which I consider a light dinner because it's topped with Mozzarella cheese, which is light in color), and enjoy the show for a bit.  Starting tomorrow, Ka'anapali Beach Hotel is hosting their annual "Hula o na Keiki" event, a showcase/competition of traditional hula by children ("o na keiki" in Hawaiian is "of our children" [o = of, na = plural possessive indicator, keiki = child]), a competition which attracts entrants from all over Hawai'i, the mainland, and even a few groups from Japan; so many of the hula dancers during our visit have been students from the halaus that will be competing; it's great to see such a graceful and mesmerizing art form being passed on.

After the band is finished for the night, we decide we are as well; we've got a flight to catch tomorrow for the Big Island and suitcases to pack before then, so we head upstairs for the evening.