Let the Hawaii synopsis begin!
We're now back in not-quite-so-lovely-by-comparison Colorado, hard at work doing our final round of organization before we leave the country for an as-yet-undetermined number of months. We will be spoiling ourselves by attending a Rockies game at some point this week, but beyond that work (wills, financial details, to-do-lists, website stuff :-) is our main priority, as we only have about 4 working days while we are here, plus we have to get our car fixed. But that's all boring, you (hopefully) want to hear about the end of our vacation in Hawaii...
So when we last left you, we had a scant 3 days remaining, and we were headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center, on the far side of Oahu (opposite from Waikiki where our hotel was). Well, it should be prefaced that the PCC was founded in 1963 by the Mormons, and that 80% of its current employees are students who "pay their way" at the neighboring BYU campus by working 6 days a week at the PCC, and that they are all international students (it seemed) who presumably were converted to Mormonism somewhat recently. So, like all things Mormon, something suspicious seemed afoot in our opinion.
All that having been said though, we did have an enjoyable time being painfully tourist-y at a "theme park" for indigenous tribes: there were 7 islands representing 7 ancient Polynesian cultures, with relevant activities on each (hula dancing on Hawaii, fire-starting with dried wild hibiscus in Samoa, etc.) as well as a fancy dinner (cocktail shrimp are always wonderful) followed by an elaborate stage show with over 100 dancers that featured extensive fire dancing. The PCC was an all-day-event, and we had a good time, though it was by far the most tourist-oriented activity that we did during our whole trip.
The next morning we had an excellent change of pace; we awoke at 5:45 am in order to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. We'd been advised that arriving early was the smart thing to do, and we were definitely rewarded, as we saw well over 50 species of fish without having to go very far from the shore. The water was crystal clear, quite comfortable, and teeming this fish. And just for Liz, a large eel appeared for a brief moment. We had a ride with Tommy's Tours, which made our life easy, as they provided our equipment as well our transportation, and our driver on the way back gave us a plethora of local eatery recommendations. That's how we later found ourselves at Ono Hawaiian Foods, which if you are ever on Oahu you must go to so you can try authentic Hawaiian food done right, and Leonard's Bakery, home of these delicious traditional-Portuguese sugary-doughballs called Malasadas.
Our final day on Oahu was mostly spent exploring the Honolulu Zoo, since sleeping in and packing up meant we didn't even arrive until around noon. The zoo is home to over 1000 species of animals, including hundreds of native birds, and has an excellent African section as well. We lucked out and were able to catch two informative talks by zookeepers, one on elephants and the other on chimpanzees. From there we went straight to the airport, since the wonderful world of fear we live in decided our new favorite color should be "orange" and that liquids and gels are simply too much responsibility for we, the people, to handle. Not that we're opposed to airline safety, a complete ban on liquids just seems to be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, particularly since the technology exists for airports security to screen for hazardous liquids/gels, they've just chosen not to utilize it. Nevermind that our whole terminal got cleared out for additional random screening minutes before boarding... what a wonderful use of government funds - but at least the Honolulu Airport is safe from terrorists. We then caught a surprisingly smooth redeye flight, leaving Oahu at 10:15 pm and arriving in Denver bright and early the next morning at 9 am.
So there we go, there's Hawaii in a nutshell, and all we can say is that we highly recommend visiting if you have a chance. The islands are very different (the pace on Maui much slower and laid back), but everyday we did something fun and different. Thanks definitely go to Marcia & Rod for taking us with them to paradise, and congratulations and best wishes are due to Aaron & Jackie on their wedding and marriage.