Grandpa Points: Hawaii Rookie Looking for Your Kokua (Help)

May 11, 2019

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I am now well into my 71st year, and while I have always loved to travel, I have never been to Hawaii. If we are getting specific, I’ve actually never crossed an ocean — and I’m unlikely ever to again.

“Why not?” you may be asking.

Although for many years, before airline miles and points entered my world, financial reasons would have been a considerable factor, it is more likely that the 3,800 miles and the eight-plus hours of flying from Houston to the Hawaiian Islands has been my biggest objection. I am not good in airplanes for long hauls, and if I am going to do them, I need a window seat to survive. I am an observer of life and need the distractions of the tapestry and the topography of the land, the small and large cities, and the roads that connect them.

A coastal area of Hawaii. (Photo by Casey Allen/Unsplash)
(Photo by Casey Allen/Unsplash)

On a flight to Hawaii, somewhere over the California or Mexico coast that view gives way to hours and hours of blue rolling water. I am not a good reader, a good sitter or a good napper. Similar to dog years, every hour in the fuselage of a passenger jet feels like three or four to me.

Even the news of Southwest launching service to the islands didn’t immediately sway me toward a Hawaii itinerary. But I am finally putting on my big boy surfer shorts, biting the proverbial pineapple and heading west to the Aloha State about a month from now. Yes, I am going to be a malihini (newcomer among the Hawaiian people).

What I Know About Hawaii

While I’ve never been, I know a few things about Hawaii. I know it became our 50th state in 1959, as I was going into the fifth grade. I am obviously aware of Dec. 7, 1941, and the significance the attack on Pearl Harbor played on my parents’ generation and on the modern history of our world. I know the Big Island of Hawaii is a living meteorological laboratory with its diverse climates ranging from tropical to alpine. I know the NFL Pro Bowl used to be played there, that the Hula Bowl still is and that the University of Hawaii athletic teams are called the Rainbows.

The PGA and LPGA tours each spend a couple of weeks there each year. I am aware that Elvis made three movies that were Hawaii-based and that Gidget went Hawaiian. I watched Tom Selleck zoom around Oahu in a red Ferrari on Magnum P.I. and heard “Book’em, Danno” a thousand times on “Hawaii Five-O.” The song, “Mele Kalikimaka,” is a Christmas staple at our house because of the movie “Christmas Vacation.” I have seen countless breathtaking sunrise and sunset photos and numerous videos of the hula being done at tiki torch- lit luaus. I have seen the beautiful beaches and the translucent waters on the Facebook Page of many a visitor and I am familiar with Kilauea‘s eruption that started this time last year.

What We’ve Planned for Hawaii

On Oahu

I will be on the islands of Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii with my wife, daughter and two grandchildren for 10 days. We have some destinations on our “to do” list that we will certainly visit. Pearl Harbor and The USS Arizona is one. The gravity, solemnity and national significance that this site represents puts this at the top of our list. We’ve narrowed down our must-sees based on things to do at Pearl Harbor while the USS Arizona is temporarily closed for repairs. We’ve also studied what to do in Oahu with kids, including a list of options if we have a rainy day in Honolulu.

Aerial view of Arizona Memorial and Mighty Mo Missouri battleship at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. (Photo by Sean Davey / Auroroa Photos / Getty Images)
Aerial view of Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri battleship at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Sean Davey/Auroroa Photo/Getty Images)

On the Big Island

On the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will surely get our attention, and there are new adventures to try due to Kilauea’s recent eruptions. We hope to see the lava flow, visit a lava tube, drive the Chain of Craters Road and take in a nighttime sky filled with twinkling diamonds. A waterfall or three, ‘Akaka, Rainbow and Umauma, will call our name as will the Kalapana–Kapoho scenic drive. Hopefully we will experience a black, white and green sand beach and I assume we will stroll, sun and swim at Hapuna Beach (near The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort for 35k Marriott points per night, or use a 35k free night certificate, and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for 50k Marriott points per night). A chilly visit to the top of Mauna Kea and later a refreshing shave ice seem like a dynamic duo too cool to pass up. The ancient petroglyphs and their unique tales will undoubtedly capture some of our media and personal memory space.

Hapuna Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island. (Photo by Kris S/Getty Images)

On Kauai

On Kauai there’s plenty to do with the grandkids — I’m pretty sure the points we used to book the Grand Hyatt Kauai will be put to great use in the lagoon pools and waterslides.

Grand Hyatt Kauai (image courtesy of hotel)
Grand Hyatt Kauai (image courtesy of hotel)

But it is Waimea Canyon that is loudly echoing our names, urging us to visit-visit-visit. The intense colorful geology and lush vegetation here looks like a gilded invitation to witness nature at its finest. The nearby Koke’e State Park seems to offer similar worthwhile vistas. We would love to be able to see the rugged beauty of the hard-to-get-to Na Pali Coast, and anticipate many pullouts and stops as we traverse Highways 56 and 50 from Princeville to Waimea. Hanalei Bay, Tunnels and Shipwreck Beach will likely bear our footprints on their sandy shores. A stop at one of the famous farmers markets looks like a great and satisfying break in the middle of some long and busy days. And, of course, we also want to witness some jaw-dropping, eye-popping epic sunrises and sets with colors so vibrant and rich that we will want to put our cameras down and just absorb them. That’s not asking too much, is it?

Kauai
Kauai’s Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. (Photo via Getty Images)

What Else Should We Do in Hawaii?

We have an outline for our (likely) once-in-a-lifetime Hawaii vacation. But because this is (very) new territory for me, I am reaching out to the TPG Family for expert advice. Let us hear about the Hawaii venues and sights that left lasting impressions on you and that are high on your recommendation list: your hidden gems and secret coves, your favorites and your don’t bothers. We don’t care so much for the fancy or expensive, but value quite highly natural beauty and exploration.

Mahalo and safe travels!

Planning your own Hawaiian getaway? Don’t miss these resources:

Featured image by Getty Images

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