Tuesday, June 20, 2023
As was our custom by this point, we started off the day much like every other day. Up at 7:00 AM, breakfast on the Riedels’ balcony. It had been a good routine. But beyond that, things were starting to change. We knew this was to be our last full day at Aulani, so our morning routine would not last much longer. And besides that, we had plans for the day that were a little different from the previous days.
After taking our time and not being in a big rush, we headed down to the Waikolohe Valley pool area. This was our first time (and last time) to go in the morning instead of the afternoon. The Riedels headed off to Starbucks across the street for a coffee run, and Laura and I headed down to the pools. We had all four already gotten our wristbands and towels for the day on the previous day, which was nice. Although there was not that much of a line to get those items, we did not have to wait at all. Laura and I went and found four chairs near the Wailana Pool, which is where we had been before. Securing our chairs with our towels, we got in the pool to wait for the Riedels to arrive.
Once they arrived and found us, they went to the chairs to read while Brant sipped his coffee. Laura and I went out to the beach. I had expected the water to feel cooler because it was still morning, but it was not bad at all. After our beach time, we once again followed our usual rotation of Waikolohe Stream lazy river, tube slide, and hot tub, trying to enjoy it as much as we could for one last time. The weather was just about perfect, at least for what you would consider perfect Hawaiʻi weather. And the location was also just about perfect. I knew I was going to miss all of this when we got back home, but I was thankful for the time we had to enjoy it.
For lunch, we decided to just get something close by. I had been wanting fish and chips from Mama’s Snack Shack in the middle of the pool area. Laura thought about getting something from Ulu Cafe, but she ultimately decided to get chicken fingers from Mama’s as well. We put in our order and only had to wait a few minutes for our food. I was expecting a longer wait, but Mama’s was not all that busy. We took our food back to the lounge chairs, and the Riedels got their food, too. It was a bit of a different lunch experience from what we had done any other day on the trip, but it was fun.
We sat around for just a bit letting our food digest, but then it was time to move along. Hopefully, someone enjoyed finding four lounge chairs all together in that perfect spot in the middle of the day, as we went back to our rooms to get changed for our next adventure.
While we were getting ready, Laura looked out from our balcony. Down below, she could see a man and a woman with ʻukeleles and hula dancers on the lawn next to the main drive into Aulani. I had seen something on the schedule about a “welcome hula” but had not known what it was. Perhaps this was it - a hula dance to welcome those arriving at the hotel. Unfortunately, we could not hear the music all the way up on the 12th floor, but it was still interesting to see.
See the hula dancers way down there?
Once we were all ready, we grabbed a couple of bottles of water and went to the garage to board the Pathfinder and head to our destination: Diamond Head. As you may remember, a few days earlier, we had found out the hard way that you have to have a reservation for Diamond Head. After that revelation, Laura had gotten us a reservation for this day between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM, so we settled in for the drive of about an hour, seeing some now-familiar scenery along the way. On most trips, just about the time that everything starts to seem familiar and I figure out how to get places, it is time to go home. That was the case on this trip as well.
We arrived at Diamond Head just after 2:00 PM, driving through the now-familiar tunnel through the volcano wall into the crater, showing our reservation code to the guard, and finding a parking space, of which there were plenty. We acquainted ourselves with the restroom building before looking at the map on one of the sign boards and then starting up the trail.
Checking the map before we go
As you may know, Diamond Head, one of the symbols of Oʻahu and all of Hawaiʻi, is a long-dormant volcano named Lēʻahi by the Hawaiians. The crater was used as the site of Fort Ruger by the United States military for many years, although there are only a few military operations still in use. A trail leads to the summit of Diamond Head, and so we started the climb up the trail.
Explorers on the trail
Inside the crater, the high walls prevented much wind from getting inside, so there was very little breeze to be felt. However, there was plenty of sun, and that made it feel nice and hot. The trail started off as a paved trail, but rather quickly it transitioned to dirt and gravel, with lots of steps and climbing. There were plenty of handrails to help out, but it was still a steep climb. We stopped more than once to “enjoy the view,” which of course was also an excuse to catch our breath. There was a group of younger guys, probably a college sports team of some sort, that blew past us with some loud music playing, and we gladly let them pass. But they had to stop a couple of times to enjoy the view as well. Steep climbs do not only affect us older folks, after all.
Inside the crater
Not to the steep part yet
Laura on the trail
Karen and Brant on the trail
The view inside the crater was indeed worth checking out. But the higher up we went, the more we could see over the top of the crater cone, too, since we were climbing up to the highest parts of the cone and other sides were not quite as tall. We could see the ocean off to one side, and the city off in other directions. And when we climbed higher, we could start to feel a little bit of a breeze, which was very much welcomed by all of us.
Looking down while going up
Starting to see the ocean in the distance
Stopping to take a photo. And to catch our breath.
Once we got to the top, the views were even better. Down below were the amazing blue water and the shore line, along with some homes that must have some excellent beachfront property. What would it be like to live there? We could also see the Diamond Head lighthouse, which we had driven by earlier, and it looked amazingly small from this height as we towered over it. Off to our right was Waikīkī Beach, with its shoreline and its tall hotels, which looked to be trying to push each other out of the way for the best beach view. Past Waikīkī were the Waiʻanae Mountains, for which Aulani’s Waiʻanae Tower that we were staying in got its name. Behind us, we could see back down into the volcano crater, which was interesting to see from this high up. Beyond that, and beyond the other crater wall, was the city - lots and lots of homes on hills. Looking back down in front of us, we could see lots of sailboats out in the ocean, as the whitecaps of waves broke near the shore to the delight of tiny people, or so they looked from this distance.
Waikīkī in the distance, with the mountains beyond
Laura was on top of the world
A group photo at the top!
What are these birds? If you read Part 6 or further down in this post, you already know they are Brazilian Cardinals.
I kept turning in every direction taking as many photos as I could. While it was definitely a climb to get up there, and while my watch had been registering some very high heart rates during the climb up, it was definitely worth it to get these views.
But there was still a little more to see. Carved into the top of Diamond Head was a military lookout site. I can definitely understand why such a place would be a good watch site, because you could definitely see a long way from up there. And from the ground, the site blends in perfectly with the rest of Diamond Head. To get into it, we had to climb into one of the openings, which was a little intimidating, but we all four did it. It definitely had an old military feel to it, with its concrete walls and grate staircases.
Inside the lookout
Another view from inside the lookout. Not much room to look out, but that kept the lookers hidden.
We went down the stairs and out the back of the lookout and found ourselves outside, facing a long, narrow, descending staircase. As we were coming up, a sign had pointed that the top was a loop, and we could go the easy way or climb lots of stairs. We chose the easy way, of course, and now these were the stairs that we would have climbed had we gone the other way. I was glad to be going down them at this point, just as I was glad that from here we would be going down instead of more climbing up.
Down the long staircase
The views on the way down were obviously the same as the views on the way up. But we got to see them a little more since we were looking out and down instead of up. We still stopped every now and then to “enjoy the views,” because in some ways controlling yourself from going too fast on your way down is almost as much as working your way up. Not quite as much work, but it still takes some effort. And the loud young men passed us again on the way down after we had passed them again as well.
Back at ground level, we took advantage of the water offerings in the vending machines, each getting another bottle of water, since all of ours had run out somewhere along the way. And these were nice and cold, too. I also noticed some of the signs on the restroom and concession buildings, finally learning that the red-headed birds we had seen at Makapuʻu Point and here were Brazilian Cardinals. That was good to know for us nature lovers. Once we were hydrated again, we got back in the car, cranked up the air conditioner, and drove back to Aulani in the late afternoon traffic that we were getting used to seeing.
After talking over our dinner options while we were on our way back, we had decided on another trip to Off the Hook, the same Aulani restaurant we had eaten dinner at on the day we arrived. We had all enjoyed that first visit and had talked about going back, and this seemed like a good time to do so.
When we arrived, we were shown to a table not too far from where we had eaten the first time. However, this time around several of the tables had been moved to make room for a live musician who sang and played his guitar. The singer appeared to know some of the people at the table near us. And at one point, one of the women at the table got up and danced a hula while the singer guy sang, which made me even more certain that there was some sort of connection.
This time, I decided to try something different and got the Crab Cake BLT. It was slightly heavy on the bacon, which I am not a big fan of, but I pulled off a few pieces, and it was good. The crab was tasty! And the fresh pineapple on the side made it even better. It had been a good place to start our Aulani stay, and it was a good place to finish our Aulani stay, too.
After dinner, we took a walk around the resort. I looked for more photo opportunities, knowing that my time for that was just about up, and enjoying all of the amazing views as well as the colorful flowers and plants. I was definitely going to miss taking photos of all of this when we were back home. At least the photos help it to live in my memory longer.
Laura and Karen at Aulani
Group photo at Aulani
Seeing the Stitch statue one more time
The buildings of Aulani. Yes, I took photos of them just about every day.
We then went for one more evening walk. The sun had not yet set when we started out, which meant that we got to see one more sunset during our walk, too. Yes, the sun sets at home just like it sets here, and we sometimes have some amazing sunset skies at home. But there is something about the addition of water that just makes it a bit different. Maybe not better, but at least different.
Heading out on another evening walk
Here comes the sunset!
It was a good one!
After the sun went down
Arriving back at Aulani after dark, we walked through the Waikolohe Valley pool area to get back to the resort buildings. There were still people in the main pool as there always were, although I am sure if we had gone out there in the middle of the night we would have found empty pools because they do close at night. But then I also close my eyes at night.
A lonely tube floats along in the Waikolohe Stream lazy river at night
Our walk back to our room took a detour up to Kālepa’s Store to see about any final purchases. Of course, we were able to find a few more things. I just hoped that we could get everything back home. And that led to our next task when we got back to our room - packing things up. We still had to leave some things out for the next morning, but it was good to take the time to pack what we could so that we would not be in such a rush on our last morning.
And then we headed off to bed for one final sleep in Hawaiʻi and at Aulani before we started for our journey home.
Other posts from this day:
Diamond Head Lighthouse in Hawaii