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Time Flies When You’re Having Rum

[Oahu, HI, Dec 30, 2018]

On our last full day in Hawaii, we ended up all over the island – from the southeastern shore to the westernmost tip.

Our first stop was Hanauma Bay, one of the most popular snorkeling spots on the island. Hanauma Bay was created by a crater explosion along the eastern shore of Oahu. Wave erosion along one of the walls of the crater gradually created the bay. Tourism increased steadily, peaking in the 1980s when more than 13,000 visitors descended on the beach on some days. In the 1990s, commercial filming in the bay was banned, and the city started turning visitors away once the parking lot was full. In 2002, a Marine Education center was opened at Hanauma bay. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee, watch a film that educates them about conserving the bay, and sign a form before they continue on.

Hanauma Bay. The reef is clearly visible.

Despite the efforts to control the number of visitors, we knew that the bay would get crowded quickly, so we got there super early – shortly before it officially opened at 7 am. Since the Marine Conservation center hadn’t technically opened yet, we did not have to watch the movie, but the guard at the entrance made sure to let us know to not trample the reef and to generally be good tourists. With that, we walked down to the bay and plopped ourselves on the sand.

Conveniently, there was a snorkeling gear rental shop at the beach. The weather was great for the beach (warm) but not great for snorkeling (cloudy and windy). But I couldn’t come to one of the best snorkeling spots on the island and not give it a try, so I rented a mask and spent about 15 minutes in the water. I did see a few fish, but the snorkeling was not nearly as good as at Kahulu’u beach park on the Big Island, where I snorkeled for the very first time. By 9 am, the beach was getting crowded and the wind was kicking up, so we decided to call it a day. Two hours on the beach is a valiant effort, at any rate. I took one final photo of the bay as we were leaving.

Since it was still pretty early in the day, we decided to drive up the west coast of the island. The leeward coast is home to secluded beaches few tourists venture to because they tend to go to the North Shore or the east (windward) side. This part of the island seemed economically depressed, and we saw many tent cities along the beaches. But the area was also beautiful and pristine. We only saw one resort along the whole coast. The other strange thing was that the road ends at Ka’ena Point state park at the westernmost tip of the island and does not connect up to the North shore. The air force has a satellite tracking station there.

On our way back, we stopped at a small poke shop I had heard about from a Bulgarian travel blogger I follow on Instagram. I fell in love with poke on my very first visit to Hawaii and I was excited to try this place. It was so good even B got some, and he’s not a big poke fan.

We wanted to hang out with my friend Vanya and her family one last time before we left, so we headed to Wahiawa next. I was navigating, as I normally do. We were only 10 minutes away from Vanya’s house when I saw a sign pointing left that said “rum tastings.” I had barely finished reading the sign when B took the left as directed – he loves rum and was not going to miss an opportunity to try some!

We found ourselves at Ko Hana Rum – a distillery that uses sugarcane juice rather than molasses to make its rum. They pride themselves on being farm to bottle and a family operation. The tasting room was sleek and modern, and B loved sampling their rums. I am not a rum person, but even I liked the Kokoleka – their cacao and honey rum. They also let you sample sugarcane juice!

After spending some time at Vanya’s house, we made it back to our hotel. The next day (Dec 31), we slept in, grabbed one last pineapple drink and headed home. We were actually in the air at midnight, which I think is the perfect place to be on New Year’s.

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