Hawaii 2023 Trip Report Part 6 - A Lighthouse

Hawaii Trip 2023

As our Hawaiʻi trip in June 2023 continues, we drive through the mountains to church and then hike to a lighthouse. If you have not done so already, you might want to read the previous part.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Once again, we followed our usual routine of getting up at 7:00 AM and eating breakfast on the Riedels’ balcony. We are definitely creatures of habit. No complaints from any of us about that.

Sunday is church day, even when we are out of town. I had asked Matt, a friend of ours whose family lived in Honolulu for a few years, for some church suggestions. He told us of Kailua Church of Christ, where they had attended. He also gave a few other sugggestions that might be closer to where we were staying. After checking them all out, we decided to go with Kailua, which was about a 45 minute drive from Aulani. We had also talked about finding some adventures in that area after the church service and lunch, so we all packed a change of clothes, too.

While I was out in the hall waiting for everyone else, I met Gene Pearl, who was our room hostess. I was surprised that we had not run into her sooner, actually. She was quite friendly, wishing me a Happy Father’s Day. She asked if we were there for any celebrations, and I mentioned to her that both couples were celebrating our 30th anniversary. She made a note of that and told me to pass along her greetings to the others. Friendly people are always a joy to talk to.

Our drive took us in the general direction of Honolulu for a bit. But then we turned more to the northeast instead of heading to town. As we drove along, the landscape changed. We were going up into the mountains, and they were beautiful. The sky was overcast, and there was a slight bit of fog in the air, which gave everything a bit of a mystical appearance. We all enjoyed the views of the mountains and trees as we drove along further up into the mountains.

And then, we got to a tunnel through a mountain! It was really cool to drive right into the mountain, almost as if it were swallowing us up. The tunnel went along for a good distance, and the tunnel lights flashed around us as we drove. Suddenly, we reached the end of the tunnel. Soon, down below us was the city and the beach out past it. Plus, the sky was sunny and blue. What a change just from going through the tunnel! While the mountains had been a beautiful sight, the beach out past the city was beautiful, too. Hawaiʻi never seems to disappoint with its beautiful views.

We followed the directions that Apple Maps was giving us on the Car Play screen, driving through a neighborhood to get to the church building. We were slightly early, but not all that early, but there was only one other car in the parking lot. We got out of our car and walked toward the building. As we walked up, we were greeted by Janice, one of the members there. She welcomed us and asked some questions about where we were from, and I mentioned to her that back home we go to church with Matt and his family. She was delighted to hear that, as she had fond memories of them when they were there, and their families still keep in touch. We had a good chat as others were starting to arrive, and Janice would introduce us to the others as they came in. She asked us how far we had driven, and we said 45 minutes. She remarked that it sounded like a long way, but I replied that Laura and I drive that far every Sunday to church at home. She explained that because you can drive across the whole island of Oʻahu in just a few hours, a drive of 45 minutes is a good chunk of that and most people do not drive that far there. Just another difference of living on an island versus living on the mainland, I guess. Or living in the country far away from everything, which does not happen on an island.

It was a small congregation. On that day, there were only 20 there, and nine of those were visitors, the four of us and a family of five from Oklahoma. But it was a good service. We enjoyed talking to more of the members after the service ended, and everyone was very friendly. They even took a photo of us with them, which they later mailed to us in a card, which was a nice touch. They were also more than happy for us to change our clothes in their restrooms before we headed out. It was a good church experience for us, as is very often the case when we are traveling. Always nice to feel welcome.

We checked the map for somewhere to eat lunch and decided on Subway, because it was not that far away. When we arrived, the parking spaces were pretty tight, especially for a Pathfinder, but we managed to get into a space. As we walked up to Subway, it looked closed. Sure enough, there was a sign on the door that said that it was closed for Father’s Day. I do not know that I have ever seen a restaurant closed for Father’s Day, but good for them for getting to spend time with their family. In the same strip center there was a Panda Express just a few doors down, and they were open, so we chose that. No complaints, and we were all full by the time we finished. Apparently, Pandas do not take off for Father’s Day like Subways do.

We had decided to give Diamond Head a try. After all, it is one of those iconic Hawaiʻi landmarks, so why not do one of the popular things there? As you may know, Diamond Head is a long-dormant volcano, and there is a hiking trail to the top of it. Just our kind of thing. So Laura punched it in to our navigational computer (that is, her iPhone), and we were on our way.

As we were driving along, we were enjoying the mountain views. We saw a sign for a scenic overlook, so I pulled the car over for us to take a look at the overlook, which overlooked the valley down below and the ocean in the distance and the mountains all around us, and it was indeed scenic. The sign did not lie. It was also a good spot for some photos, so we took a few. Or maybe a lot. But who is counting?

Laura and the view from the scenic overlook in Hawaii
Laura and the view from the scenic overlook.

Mountains and ocean, all in one view in Hawaii
Mountains and ocean, all in one view.

Karen and Laura at the scenic overlook in Hawaii
Karen and Laura at the scenic overlook

Group photo at the scenic overlook in Hawaii
Group photo at the scenic overlook

When we arrived at Diamond Head and were at the traffic light to drive through the one-way-at-a-time tunnel into the crater where the parking lot is located, I saw a sign that said, “Reservations required,” or something along those lines. Whatever it said, we did not have reservations. There really was not any turning around from where we were, so once the light turned green, we drove through the tunnel, told the guard at the shack that we had to turn around because we did not have reservations, and then drove back out at the next green light. As we were turning round inside the volcano crater, I said, “Look quickly while we are here in case we don’t get to come back!” Oh well, lesson learned. As we were driving away, Laura looked on her phone and was able to get us reservations for Tuesday afternoon, so we would give it a try then.

After discussing some other options, we decided to visit the Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse, which involved hiking up a trail. It was not that far away from Diamond Head. Plus, it was free. So off we went.

A parking lot greeted us when we arrived. And lots and lots of cars also greeted us. We ended up parking along the drive along with several other cars. I got to put my parallel parking skills to the test, and fortunately, that went well. But it was obvious that we would not be the only ones out there on the trail. We grabbed bottles of water from the car and started on our way.

The trail leading up to Makapuʻu point was paved, so that was a benefit. However, the trail was also quite sunny with very little shade. And since it was already warm out, we knew that we were in for a sweat. But the views as we went along made it all worth it. As we were starting out, we saw some people with beach gear, and at first we were a bit confused by that. But then we realized that at one point the trail split, and a separate trail led down and out to the beach instead of up to the lighthouse. It looked like almost as many people were going to the beach as to the lighthouse. How can you not love a place that has mountains and beaches so close together? But we pressed on up the hill.

The view from halfway up the trail in Hawaii
The view from halfway up the trail.

Laura and Karen halfway up the trail in Hawaii
Laura and Karen halfway up the trail.

We did take several breaks going up the trail to take pictures of the beautiful views. And to catch our breath, too. I am not sure which one was more important, but I have lots of photos of the views if that tells you anything. But they were indeed beautiful views of the coast, the mountains off in the distance, and some amazingly blue water. Definitely worth stopping to catch my breath for that.

Along the way, there were also interpretive signs to help us catch our breath. I was interested in one sign in particular that pointed out what the land masses were that we could see in the distance. We were looking at Molokaʻi, Maui, and Lanaʻi, the eastern Hawaiian islands. How cool to be able to see them from here!

You can barely see them, but there are islands over there in Hawaii
You can barely see them, but there are islands over there.

Laura checks out a side path at Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Hawaii
Laura checks out a side path.

A storage building at Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Hawaii
A storage building at Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse.

After a bit more climbing, we reached the top of the trail, which was actually up above the Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was down below us just a bit. I can understand why they limit access to the lighthouse, but I did not expect to be up above it.

A peek at Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Hawaii
A peek at Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse.

The views from the top were amazing. We had been able to see the coast to the south of the lighthouse on our way up. But once we were up there, we could see the coast to the northwest of the lighthouse, and it was amazing. We could have stayed a while longer enjoying the view, but we were getting ready to be back to air conditioning and more cold drinking water. So we started back down.

The view from Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Hawaii
The view from Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse.

Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Hawaii
There it is - Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse.

See another view from Makapuʻu Point in this post.

Earlier in my life, I would never have thought that we would become bird watchers, but here we are. We had noticed some birds that had gray bodies, white bellies, and red heads. Back home, you would automatically say that was a woodpecker. But these birds were not pecking on any wood. They almost had a cardinal look to them, except for their coloring. What were they, we wondered? (Spoiler alert: We found out a few days later that they were Brazilian Cardinals, different from the solid red Kentucky Cardinals that we have back home.)

Brazilian Cardinals Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Hawaii
Brazilian Cardinals Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse.

Walking down the trail from Makapuu Point Lighthouse in Hawaii
Walking down the trail from Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse.

When we reached the car, we drove to a nearby beach park for a quick restroom stop, and then we headed back to Aulani. Because it was the late afternoon, we once again encountered a good bit of traffic, similar to the day that we first arrived. It was slow going for a while, and that did make me miss our uncrowded country roads back home. But sometimes you have to put up with some traffic to go some good places, so I did not complain. Besides, the air conditioning in the car was nice and cool.

During our drives, we passed a football stadium a few times. At first we thought it was some part of the University of Hawaiʻi, but then during one drive we saw the school and realized that was not it. So Brant looked it up and found that it was Aloha Stadium, where the NFL Pro Bowl used to be held, among other things. The stadium is slated to be demolished and a new stadium and complex will be built in its place. So I guess in the future we will be able to say that we saw the old stadium, even if it was just from passing by it on the highway.

When we reached Aulani, we parked the car and went up to our rooms to drop off our stuff. There, we found that Gene Pearl had made towel swans (or maybe lovebirds) on our beds and had left a note wishing us all a Happy Father’s Day and a Happy Anniversary. How sweet! Little touches like that are always nice.

Lovebird swans in our room at Aulani in Hawaii
Lovebird swans in our room at Aulani

By that time, it was really too late for us to go to the pool area. Not technically, of course, since all of that stayed open well after dark. But it did not fit into the routine that we had started. We were hungry and wanted to go ahead and eat. And we did not want to swim after dark, figuring that it would feel a little cold without any sun to heat us up. So we skipped a day of pool stuff. This would be the only day that happened, though.

We had talked about what to do for supper that night. Because we had been hot and sweaty from our climb earlier, we did not really want to go out anywhere. Over the last few days, we had seen signs for pizza from Ulu Cafe. In fact, there was a sign advertising their pizza right by the door that we would go through when going to or coming from the garage. That sounded good, and we would not have to leave, so we decided to give it a try.

We went down to the Ulu Cafe to make our selection. One pizza should be good for the four of us, and we decided on sausage and pepperoni. They did not have any Cherry Coke in the cooler, so Laura and Karen went upstairs to Kālepa’s Store, because she had seen them there, while Brant and I waited for the pizza. We found a table underneath the canopy to wait. There were lots of people waiting for food. Every so often, a cast member guy would come out and shout names for all of the food that he had. Soon, he called Brant’s name, and the girls got there around the same time. After our day of activity, we were all happy to eat.

Something was going on over at the Wailana Pool, where we had camped out the previous day during our pool time and which was close to the Ulu Cafe. There was music coming from that area. Not the usual calm music, but music with a heavy beat. And we could see lots of people over there, too. Laura went to check it out. She said there were people dancing, but she could not really tell what was going on. But as we ate, some girls in dresses and guys in suits passed by on the walkway near where we were sitting. And then two who were obviously a bride and groom also passed by. That was when we realized that the Wailana Pool was the site of a wedding reception, and the wedding itself had just recently happened somewhere else on the property.

After we had finished eating, we decided once again to go for our traditional evening walk along the lagoons. This time around, we were getting an earlier start than the previous night, because the sun had not yet set. So we got to walk a little longer that way. And we also got to see another beautiful sunset. You can never see too many of those, after all.

Another day, another beautiful sunset in Hawaii
Another day, another beautiful sunset

Another day, another beautiful sunset in Hawaii
One more sunset photo, although I have lots more to share.

Also, see a few more sunset photos from this night in this post and this post.

Walking back through the Makaʻala in Aulani
Walking back through the Makaʻala in Aulani

We then walked back up to our rooms, ready for the night’s rest that was ahead of us. All of that walking and sweating had made us good and tired, but it had all been worth it.

Next, Part 7 - The North Shore. Check the Hawaiʻi 2023 page for more about our trip!

Other posts from this day:
The View from Makapuu Point in Hawaii
Hawaii Coastline From Above

Hawaii Trip 2023


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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.