• Jessica Stough

Remembering Previous Trips - Our Honeymoon in Hawaii - Oahu & Kauai

Since I ended 2021 with reminiscing, I decided I would start 2022 the same way. As you may have noticed, I have started a mini-blog-within-the-normal-blog that is all about remembering our previous trips (starting at the beginning with our first few trips: Wyoming; Tennessee, Kentucky, & North Carolina Road Trip; and then the beloved Colorado). Following the timeline of our travels, next on the list was “the” big one – our honeymoon.

 

Back in August of 2015, when we were all blasting the feel-good tune Cheerleader, Zac and I were preparing to get on our first plane ever. Everyone laughed at us when they found we had never flown, and that our first trip was to Hawaii, with flight times totaling over ten hours. We just smiled, laughed along with them, and responded that we might as well go big or go home.


I created a vacation book for our honeymoon, much like I did for our first few trips (then eventually stopped doing – since we started going on vacations too often to keep up!). In the introduction to our honeymoon book, I wrote:


Before we had even decided where we wanted to get married – or any of our wedding plans, really – we had decided on our vacation destination: Hawaii. While I was slaving away with wedding planning, Zac was slaving away to decide on honeymoon plans to make it more memorable than we could have ever imagined. The weather also helped us out in this department, in the sense that while we were in Hawaii, Hurricane Ignacio decided to also visit nearby.

 

Oahu


I still remember the excitement – after multiple connecting flights and a lot of over-priced airport restaurant food – when we finally got off the plane in Oahu. As we came down the escalators to collect our luggage, there was a big sign overhead that said “Aloha!” It was at that moment that I realized our vacation and honeymoon had officially begun.

Our first full day on the island, our internal clocks were way off, and I believe we woke up around 2:00 AM. When it was finally acceptable to leave the hotel and start our day, we began exploring by car. That day, we didn’t have any official plans set in stone, so we were happy to just go with the flow.


We happened across Hanauma Bay that morning, a state park with incredible views. It was the very first time Zac or I had ever stepped foot in ocean water, and it was so incredibly blue that it was just unreal. We rented snorkeling equipment to swim around and spot ocean critters too.


We then continued driving, and happened across another incredible adventure – Kualoa Ranch. To this day, I still can’t believe that we hadn’t pre-booked an ATV tour at Kualoa Ranch. We had looked into it, but just never pulled the trigger. All I can say is thank goodness we decided to stop there that day. The ATV tour was absolutely amazing.

Kualoa Ranch is a very popular filming site, having been the background for over 200 Hollywood movies and TV shows. We were lucky enough to see areas where Godzilla, Lost, and Jurassic Park had several filming scenes shot.

The coolest part of visiting the ranch, though, wasn’t actually the movie or TV scenes we were able to “be a part of.” The coolest part was that we were able to ATV our way to those locations. It was so amazing to ATV through a private nature preserve with a backdrop like that of Kualoa Ranch. Even cooler, our tour guide was incredible. Although we had to stay in a single-file line, and were technically not supposed to take pictures or video while operating the ATVs, we were allowed to drive at whatever speeds we wanted to do (as long as we didn’t fall off).

The next day, we were able to have one of the most eye-opening experiences Hawaii probably has to offer – the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Being there was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that really hit me. There was an unexplainable heaviness to the air, stemming from the thoughts and memories of all of the fallen soldiers. Oil continues to flow out of the remains below the memorial to this day. The oil visibly darkens the ocean below and expels the familiar smells of oil to those visiting above, adding to the literal and figurative heaviness of the air there.


After our visit to Pearl Harbor, we were then off for a guided tour of the island. This tour was so much fun. I’m sad to say I cannot remember who offered the tour. However, all of the island tours offered probably look much different than they did in 2015. For our tour, we were able to hit a lot of the “must-sees” of Oahu in one day. We visited the Dole Plantation, a macadamia nut farm, and many beaches. We even got a few “insider” tips from our tour guide – including where to get the best freshwater shrimp, and how to appropriately pronounce ukulele in Hawaiian-English (oo-koo-lay-lay).

 

Kauai


The next day, we were off to our second Hawaiian island of the trip – Kauai! Oahu is amazing, but very commercialized, while Kauai is an adventurer’s dream. I would compare the majority of Oahu to a bigger city – there are places and buildings everywhere, traffic backups, and McDonalds and other fast food options around every corner. Kauai, on the other hand, had no roads with speed limits over 55, miles and miles of luscious green vegetation, and a small-town vibe everywhere we turned.

While on the island of Kauai, we visited two botanical centers. Both botanical centers were outside, which is certainly a new experience for people from Iowa. One of the two involved a short hike through the property, where we were even allowed to taste fruits straight from their trees. That botanical center had also been a filming site – for Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean.



In addition to the botanical centers, we also visited a few tourist attractions. One of our stops was to Spouting Horn, a blowhole on the southern coast of the island. Crashing waves on the southern coast erodes the lava rocks, which can create openings and cause blowholes – how Spouting Horn was formed. We also drove through the Maluhia Tree Tunnel, a long line of Eucalyptus trees. The islanders call the tree tunnel the “natural gateway to Kauai’s South Shore.”


That day, we also drove out to Waimea Canyon State Park. To be honest, I’m surprised it is not a National Park. I would easily compare it to the Grand Canyon National Park. We could see miles and miles of canyons, complete with waterfalls. We watched and listened in awe as helicopters flew above the canyons, getting what I can only imagine were absolutely out-of-this-world views.

The next day in Kauai was definitely the most notable day of the honeymoon, and arguably the most adventurous. It was the day that we ventured out for our first kayaking trip ever. Remember earlier when I said we like to go big or go home? We decided we might as well try kayaks for the first time on the Na Pali Coast, kayaking the open ocean.

Neither one of us had any idea how we would do on the kayaks when we started, but I am still so happy with our decision to sign up for the excursion. Similar to the Oahu island tour, I unfortunately cannot remember the tour company we went through for the activity, but there are multiple options for kayaking tours. However, I think the excursion is so amazing that there would not be a single tour guide to go through that would create anything less than an exceptional experience.

The hurricane that had swooped in had caused excessive rain in the area. Although the original plan for the tour was to kayak the entire coast, that excessive rain had caused flooding. With that, the trip was altered to allow us to kayak out to a beach – only accessible to hikers or kayakers – for lunch, then back to our original put-in point.


It was hard for me to grasp when we first got rained on in Hawaii, but the rain there is not unpleasant in any way. In Iowa, the rain always feels disgusting and cold. Because the Hawaiian temperatures are always warm, though, their rain is also warm. We had sunshine and beautiful open skies for the majority of our tour, but did get some rain too. Instead of being awful, it was beautiful. There were small waterfalls along the coast as we kayaked by, but the rain created more and more tiny waterfalls. We ended up seeing dozens of them as we kayaked through the rain.

We set up our “camp” at the beach for lunch, had some sandwiches and drinks, walked around and found the hiking trail, and were then off to head back to our put-in point. By the time we finally got back, Zac and I were absolutely starving and our arms were beat (or, at least, mine were). I remember we were too hungry to find a fancy place to eat and pulled into a McDonalds for dinner. I also remember scarfing down a Big Mac because, man, had I earned that giant burger!


We slept well that night, then headed out for another adventure the next day – a ziplining tour! The tour was supposed to bring us out to a hiking spot, where we would then see an incredible waterfall and have the chance to swim in the water below. Again, though, the hurricane and rain got in the way and caused some flooding. Instead, we were able to complete all of the ziplining course and both got complimentary T-shirts as restitution for missing the hike and waterfall.

After all of the adventures on Kauai, we flew back to Oahu. Our last full day of the honeymoon was spent at the Polynesian Cultural Center. They had fun cultural learning activities, a luau, real flower leis, and even fire dancers. I absolutely loved learning about all of the cultures and customs. I especially loved learning about and tasting foods native to the island, like the Okinawan (the Hawaiin purple sweet potato).

Finally, on our very last day in Hawaii, we spent some time shopping, ensuring that we had plenty of souvenirs to remember the trip with. We leisurely checked out local shops, small strip malls, and even got some shaved ice before heading back to the airport and to our normal (but married) lives.

There are 136 Hawaiian islands, 7 of which are inhabited. Interestingly enough, only 6 of those inhabited can be visited, as the seventh island is called “The Forbidden Island,” and does not allow anyone to go there (Sources: hawaiiliving.com; to-hawaii.com). There is actually an eighth main island too, which was used for target practice for bombing in World War II and is considered uninhabitable.


Now, I’m switching gears, back to our miles-long bucket list. The Hawaiian islands are, of course, still on that list. There are too many to see to just cross them all off simply because we visited a few. As we continue to check National Parks off our bucket lists, I would love to visit the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. If the opportunity presented itself to go back to Kauai, too, I definitely would.

 

Remembering our Hawaiian adventure, along with thinking forward to 2022, has got me upset because I realized a lot of our videos and pictures got deleted when we transferred to a new computer. However, it also has me so excited for what adventures this next year may bring. I cannot wait to finalize our vacation dates and start planning away. Until then, though, I’ll just have to continue living vicariously through … myself … by sharing our previous trips.


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