Tanned skin and a new favorite beer: A Hawaiian Getaway

No one who knows me or reads this blog will be surprised to learn that a vacation with no inherent beer-related focus became just another part of my ongoing beer education. It finds me wherever I go!
I had a 3-day port stop in Honolulu in the midst of a nearly 3 month long trip away from home and Reed was game to join me. Though it was a short time, we definitely held to the Miller family motto – “maximize the awesome!” We probably would have been happy sitting on a park bench in Omaha catching up after being apart for 2 months, but having the reunion set in such an idealic spot was a nice bonus. First stop for me was, predictably, the bar nearest the dock. Reed’s plane landed a few hours later, and that is where he found me, mai tai in hand. The rest of the day was made up of settling into our temporary home and playground, Waikiki. A real bed (no railings necessary!), windows that open, and un-timed meals are a real luxury after life on a research boat, and I reveled in all three while also enjoying the humid tropical breeze and a steady supply of wine.

I imagine this turtle making airplane noises as he swims.

The next morning we struck out for Hanauma Bay, taking The Bus and planning to spend the better part of the day. I, for one, can snorkel for hours on end without getting tired, cold or bored. Even people not as ocean-obsessed can enjoy a full day at Hanauma Bay; there is a glorious beach that gets busy but is never packed (visitor numbers are limited), a visitor’s center, a snack bar with decent meals, a shady picnic area dotted with roaming chickens, egrets and mongooses, and nearby hiking.
We saw all the main attractions – turtles, fish, eels, crabs, urchins and sea cucumbers while swimming in the protected bay. We caught the last bus out after a full day that also included naps on the sand and garlic fries on the grass.

Happiness is…

Next stop: Kona Brewing Company restaurant in Koko Marina, right along the road back to Honolulu, for beer and pupus (appetizers). It was an excellent way to relax after a busy day of – well, relaxing. Swimming always makes me really hungry, and the excellent food at Kona really satisfied. We sat out on the deck overlooking a small marina and enjoyed the sunset and good company. Reed and I each ordered tasting flights of Kona beer; I focused my attention on the dark  end of the spectrum – stouts, porters and browns. Oh, and what a brown! Kona Koko Brown is my new favorite brown ale, and maybe even beer in general. It tastes like toffee – need I say more? Hopefully I can find it in San Diego, apparently they only bottle it for part of the year. They do all the actual brewing on the Big Island – one more incentive to get back there. I went in high school, and it was my favorite of the islands I visited; snorkeling there was the impetus to start diving, the vast stretches of underwater scenery tempting me further and further from shore, and the volcanic landscape also left a lasting impression.
The rest of the evening was spent with some of my fellow shipmates, drinking rum and POG (passion orange guava juice, a research vessel staple) on the beach and stargazing with the help of an iPhone app. A pretty much perfect day.
Our plans for the next (and last) day involved renting a car in Waikiki and spending the day along the north shore. On our 5-block walk to pick up the car, we passed at least a dozen ABC stores, which are convenience stores akin to 7-11. Having come from Japan, a land that loves its convenience stores and has one on every block, this didn’t seem too out of place – but it is a strange phenomenon. They all sell slightly different things, which we found out while trying to buy some of the Kona Koko Brown and other supplies for our day trip. I think it took stops at 5 different ABC stores before we had everything we needed for the day. We set out with a few of my coworkers who were also ready to get out of Waikiki, and made our way across the island, Reed at the helm (there’s nothing like 2 months of not driving to quell my confidence, especially considering in Japan they drive on the left). We stopped along the way to visit turtles hauled up on the beach and scope out Waimea Bay, which had poor visibility for snorkeling but that didn’t stop some people from jumping off a large rock into the water while the rest of us did some sun worshiping. Our next destination was the cluster of food trucks near Kahuku for a late lunch, one I’d been dreaming about for weeks. Sitting in the shade eating 3 flavors of shrimp (garlic, ginger and lemon pepper) and drinking my new favorite beer was as close to a perfect picnic as I can imagine.

…good food, good beer and good company.

We continued the drive along the windward coast, took the Pali Highway through the mountains into Honolulu and finished the day with a hike to Ala Moana Falls. Though buggy and muddy, hiking the trail through a beautiful jungle was worth doing. I was so sweaty by the time we reached the end that I contemplated a dip in the pool below the falls, despite all the warning signs not to do so. A few people were clearly more hot than cautious and there was even a happy doggie swimming around, howling at the rocks, which made me smile. On our way back into Waikiki we stopped at Leonard’s for malasadas and then returned the car and took the beach route back to our hotel, getting in one last swim. Quickly abandoning any plans to go out, Reed and I ordered pizza and watched SportsCenter in our hotel room. A bit boring perhaps, considering the endless options right outside our door, but it’s amazing how comforting something so familiar can be after 60+ days without it.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip! I’m so pleased with all we managed to see and do in just three days. It was a welcome pause after so many days at work, and refreshed me for the 24 more days at sea before my next day off. The warm breeze and total relaxation come back to me quite easily when I close my eyes for a moment of peace. I’m back on the ship now, six days from San Diego. I can’t wait to be home (I’ve been gone since March 10) and am looking forward to spending a long summer at home.