Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring is in the Air

Before I came here to Hawaii, I didn't think there were seasons in Hawaii. I thought it was just tropical summer weather year round.

The first "season" I learned about here was the North Shore surf season. The big surf and big surf competitions happen in the winter, and it's downright dangerous to try swimming off the North Shore in the winter. In the summer, I hear there are some excellent snorkel and scuba diving spots on the North Shore.

The next season I found out about were the whales. They only come down here in the winter.

In both of those cases though, it's due to changing seasons somewhere else that cause the big waves or the big whales to come across the ocean to Hawaii. I didn't expect to encounter any changes in the plant life because they're stuck here 24-7-365, and the weather sure doesn't seem to change much. I was really impressed by some of the flowers we saw today, but I'll get to that in a minute. I started typing and this just sort of evolved into a recap of our sightseeing trip around Oahu today. However (comma) you will see that "spring is in the air" theme pop up a few times in the course of our adventures today.

Quick Synopsis: Well, today we took our visiting friends on the Tour de Oahu. We did a counter-clockwise tour of the Windward side and the North Shore. We started by going up over H-3 to Kaneohe and went to the Byodo-In Temple. Then we continued up the coast to the Tropical Farms tour. Then we went up around the northern tip of the island past the Giovanni's shrimp truck and down the North Shore to Waimea Falls and Turtle Beach. We wrapped it up with dinner at Breakers in Haleiwa before coming back home via H-2.

First Stop: Byodo-In Temple
(Photo by LW. Click on image for larger hi-res view)

At our first stop at the Byodo In Temple, we were admiring the fish in the pond and almost had a CC moment when first a pair of frogs and then a pair of turtles swam by. The boys thought it was pretty funny that the frogs and turtles were giving each other "piggy back rides." (Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink, Say No More).

Boys watch the fish, frogs, and turtles.

ES took this picture of YB and LW. I thought it came out really nice.

I included this shot not because it's that great a picture, but just because I know you're curious how YB's picture came out from the previous shot.

For more pictures of the Byodo-In Temple, check out my previous post on our last visit.

Second Stop: Tropical Farms

It occurred to me that the last time we went to Tropical Farms was before I started blogging, so I don't have a previous blog post to reference. Tropical Farms is a hidden gem on the windward side that I highly recommend. I think it's one of Oahu's best kept secrets right now. When I did a Google search to try and find their hours and tour information, I found nothing. It's not even mentioned in the Oahu Revealed book. So for anyone else searching for information about it, here are the basics:

What: Ali'i Tour
Business Hours
: 7 days a week, 10:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Except on Tuesdays when there is only ONE tour at 10:45.
Time: The tour lasts 1 hour.
Cost: The shop is free with lots of free coffee and free macadamia nut samples (see below). The bus tour costs $15, and it's worth it.
Directions: It's about 8 miles up the Kahekili Highway heading toward the Polynesian Cultural Center from Kaneohe. It'll be on the right hand side before the park that looks out at the Chinaman's Hat island. If you get to where you can see the open ocean and the Chinaman's Hat is behind you, or if you get to the Kualoa Ranch visitor's center, then you went too far.

You need to keep a sharp eye out. The sign on the road isn't fancy.

In the outlet shop, you'll find a delicious assortment of macadamia nuts with free samples.

You'll also find complimentary Kona coffee.

Here comes the tour bus!

This is "The Chief" and your tour guide. He's a really funny guy. In fact, he's just started a new Polynesian Comedy show on the weekends in Waikiki. First he drives you through the farm and points out several different types of plants found in Hawaii and what they are used for.

Next, the bus drops you off at this little amphitheater for a show. They teach you about some Hawaiian customs and foods, and they teach you to shuck a coconut.

Our friend J and another member of the audience try the fresh coconut juice.

The Chief shaves off fresh coconut into your hands.
Mmmmmm! :-9

They show you how to rub sticks together to make fire, then do some really cool stunts with a twirling fire-baton.

Spring is in the air.

After the show in the amphitheater, they take you on a short boat ride around the fish pond and talk about the history of the fish pond and the recent film-making history of the area.

This is where they filmed Gilligan's Island, Fantasy Island, Lost, 50 First Dates, Tears of the Sun, an episode of ER (set in Africa), Joe Versus the Volcano, Mighty Jo Young, Along Came Polly... I lost track he just kept listing so many different shows. The history behind how the man-made pond was created and used for fishing was pretty interesting, too.

After the boat ride, you get back on the bus and the Chief takes you through the fruit trees. He stops in a couple of places to walk out and pick some samples for you to try. On the "spring is in the air" theme, we got to see quite a few more types of fruit than our previous visit to Tropical Farms. Last time we came, we got to try star fruit, and it was REALLY good. This time, the Chief said the star fruit are out of season, but there were plenty other fruits for us to try.

Chief hands out oranges to the people on the tour bus.

These little half-green oranges were actually really good.

Next up: Guavas!

I had never tried a guava before. It turns out, you just bite into them just like an apple. It was actually really good! At this point, YB was VERY excited because he had collected two of the three ingredients of his favorite POG juice.

He wanted to save them and take them home to make his own POG juice.

Anyway, you're probably saying to yourself, "Self, is he EVER going to stop talking about the Tropical Farms tour???" Yes. Yes, I am. Suffice to say, it's a great tour and I've tremendously enjoyed it both times we've done it.

From the Tropical Farms tour, we continued north along the coast past the Kualoa Ranch and the Polynesian Cultural Center. None of our visitors like shrimp, so we did not stop at the famous Giovanni's shrimp truck. We just ate our picnic lunch as we enjoyed the scenery of the drive over to the North Shore.

Third Stop: Waimea Falls / Audubon Society Botanical Gardens.

I've previously written about how much we liked the Waimea Falls hike. However, along the "spring is in the air" theme, I really enjoyed the beautiful flowers that were out this time that weren't out last time we went.

This Canna was the first to grab my attention.

There were lots of these pretty ginger blossoms.

I think this is heliconia. The sign was about heliconia and ginger, and I know the other one was ginger, so I guessed this one was the heliconia.

Of course, bird of paradise and hibiscus.

These didn't have signs next to them, so I'm not sure what they are.

LW, YB, ES, and our friend J swimming under the waterfall.

ES dries off after swimming under the falls.

J is a Spanish teacher, and ES has been getting Spanish on Tuesdays and Thursdays in school. On our way walking back to the car from the falls, ES impressed J with his vast Spanish vocabulary.
Talkin' shop.

A sign of the age we live in: Noticing the forward curvature of the peacock's feathers, one kid looking at the peacock said it looked like a satellite dish.

We stopped briefly at the Turtle Beach before we continued down to Haleiwa for dinner. I thought it was really cool the turtles had little GPS transmitters on their backs. (Yes, I'm a techno-gadget geek).

We've been to Breakers a couple of times now, and I've been very pleased with the quality of their food and service, the reasonable prices, the variety on their menu (both in terms of types of food and price), and the absence of a long wait. The reason we went here the first time was because of the long wait at the other nearby popular restaurants. If you're looking for a place to eat on the North Shore, I recommend either Breakers or Jameson's. (Breakers being the less expensive of the two).

Okay, that's it for today's adventures. Hope you all had a good weekend!


JoLee said...

Red/Yellow flower unidentified:
Lobster claw Heliconia (H. rostrata)
yellow one next to it is:
Lollipop (Pachystachys lutea)
Keep taking those photos!

Anonymous said... about a full day! Looks like it was a great one though. (Please pass the mac nuts and coffee). Lots and lots of great the one of the wee relaxing on the rocks!

You guys really do a great job of making friends feel at home it seems!

Hope LW is doing well!