We're back home now safe and sound.
I asked YB what his favorite part about our vacation was. Take a guess what his answer was. Go ahead. I'll give you a moment.
Was it swimming with dolphins? Nope. Was it playing in the pool and going down the waterslide? Nope. Was it seeing the volcano? Nope. His answer: "Drinking POG on the airplane."
Another funny story from the plane ride. I was trying to teach ES about the way the plane operated and what was happening when things changed. When the noise happened that I knew was the landing gear going down, I asked ES what that noise was. He responded with an open-mouth gasp and yelled, "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIEEEEEE!" LW and I both quickly shushed him, put on a sheepish grin and assured everyone around us, no, no, no, everything's fine, there's nothing to see here, move along please.
Let's see... where did I leave off last time? Oh yeah, at the end of the snorkeling trip.
We made it back to the hotel with enough time to do a lot of this...
And some more of this...
And otherwise enjoying the beauty of the swimming pool at the hotel...
...Albeit under a gray sky (vog). All the while, I drove LW nuts whistling, humming, and singing Like the Weather, because it was stuck in my head for the rest of our vacation.
I forgot to mention earlier, this is the first time I've been in a "saline pool." It was actually really nice. Instead of that really nasty smelling chlorine in the water, this water was like a very mild salt-water. Whenever I accidentally get regular chlorinated pool water up my nose, it really stings my sinuses and it's really annoying. With this saline pool, an accidental splash of water up the nose was no biggy. It didn't sting or annoy - just drained like a gentle saline solution.
Monday night we didn't want to go far for dinner because we were tired of being in the car. We walked across the street from the hotel and ended up going to the Merriman's Market Cafe. It had mixed reviews for poor service but good food, so I was a little wary of going there for dinner, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The service was good and the food was fabulous. I planned on just having a salad and some smaller tapas dishes until the waitress told us the specials, and I couldn't resist the seared ahi with pine nut foccacia crust. I know I previously raved about how the seared ahi at Duke's was the best I had ever had, well this tied for first place with Duke's. It was THAT good.
Walking back to our hotel after dinner was one of those moments I really enjoy being a dad. ES was humming the national anthem, so I asked him if he knew the words to the song or what the song was about. He said no. So I walked him through the words and explained what the song was about, and he thought that was pretty darn cool that it was a song about a battle. We talked about the War of 1812 for a bit, then he asked me what the Civil War was and we talked about that for a bit, too.
Tuesday morning, after having gray skies the entire time we were there, we woke up to find the weather like this:
We went to the pool for a couple of hours before we had to get cleaned up and check out of the hotel.
Not long after arriving at the pool, YB declared he needed to use the restroom, so off we went to the LBR by the pool. I had another one of those occasions where I wish I had a video camera in my hand. Imagine if you will... YB standing at the little-boy sized urinal, goggles up on his forehead, swim trunks down around his ankles, doing a little dance wiggling his bare bum back and forth while humming the Indiana Jones theme song. There was an echo in the bathroom, too, so he kept humming louder and louder until the echo achieved a sort of resonance. I thought it was pretty funny, but maybe you just had to be there.
On our way driving out, I was thinking we should have collected some white coral rocks to write some graffiti of our own on our way out of town. The Waikoloa resort area is surrounded by miles upon miles of barren volcanic wasteland. For several miles driving down the road, you'll see the brown lava rocks are covered with things that people have made out of white rocks - names or sayings or drawings. It's like a locally tolerated version of graffiti.
After we turned in the rental car and got checked in at the airport, we visited the Onizuka Space Museum right there at the Kona airport. It's pretty small, but there were a lot of hands-on activities for the kids to do, and they seemed to enjoy it.
The Kona airport is a little bit more rural looking than the Hilo airport.
Comparison of our vacation in Maui versus the Big Island.
If you are now or are ever in the future stationed in Pearl Harbor, then I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to hop over to one or more of the other islands for a visit. I'm really glad we have had the opportunity to visit Maui and the Big Island. I doubt we would ever have the resources to go visit those places on a family vacation from the mainland.
So which was better? If I had the opportunity to take another vacation to another island, I would still like to go see Kauai. However, if I had to choose between going back to Maui or going back to the Big Island, I would go back to Maui. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad we went to the Big Island and got to see the volcano and all. As for a resort-type of vacation destination though, I think Maui was better than the Big Island.
Keep in mind, we're partial to Marriott. We've been staying at Marriott properties for many years and using the Marriott Rewards points for free stays here and there. I realize there are many other hotels to choose from, so my impressions of our vacations could be biased by where we stayed.
That being said, here's a quick comparison of Waimea (Maui) versus Waikoloa (Big Island):
Outside Restaurants and Shopping:
Waimea (Maui): Surrounded by a lot more stores and restaurants to choose from.
Waikoloa (Big Island): Surrounded by miles upon miles of barren volcanic wasteland. There are like 5 restaurants to choose from in Waikoloa itself, and you'll need a home equity loan to pay for dinner at any of them. If you don't want to eat at any of those restaurants in Waikoloa, then you have to drive 20 minutes to the north to go to Cafe Pesto, or you need to drive about an hour to the south to Kona. I suppose if we had stayed somewhere down in Kona then we might not have felt so isolated, but I had no idea going into it how isolated Waikoloa is.
Waimea (Maui): Costs an arm and a leg, but has a long menu with lots of choices. Plus, they give you chips and salsa with this edamame puree stuff that was AWESOME.
Waikoloa (Big Island): Still costs an arm and a leg, but the menu is really short and didn't give you much to choose from.
Waimea (Maui): No feral cats to bother you.
Waikoloa (Big Island): A feral cat wandered through the hotel restaurant while we ate our dinner. It turns out there was a feeding station on a nearby walking path with a sign explaining that volunteers fed and cared for the cats there.
Recreation (this is pretty hotel specific):
Waimea (Maui): The Waimea Marriott had that really cool water park with two water slides (that was FREE). The downside was the lack of beach access, but who needs a beach when you've got that free water park?
Waikoloa (Big Island): The Waikoloa Marriott saline pool was really nice, but there was only one water slide and it was really short. While they did have beach access, they charged you a chunk-o-change extra to use any of their gear (kayaks, waterbikes, snorkel gear, etc).
Waimea (Maui): Breezy, nice, fresh air.
Waikoloa (Big Island): Got vog? Got a husband whistling an annoying song about the sky being coal gray for the duration of your vacation?
Bang for the Buck:
Waimea (Maui): The Waimea Marriott was cheaper per night, but we had to pay like $10 per extra per day for internet access.
Waikoloa (Big Island): The Waikoloa Marriott was more expensive per night. Thumbs-up for including "free" internet access in the resort fee, but the Waimea Marriott was still cheaper if you added the $10 per day for the internet access to our room cost though. The cats and vog were free, too.