#1: You Don’t Have to Go on a Whale Tour
I’ve decided I will never go back to Hawai’i if it isn’t whale season, so it’s a good thing that humpback whale season lasts six months from November to May. Our end of January trip brought us many sightings, and the kids heard them singing to each other while snorkeling underwater. We took a whale watching boat and snorkel trip to Molokini and had great guides along the way. However, once you know what you’re watching for, you will see them anytime you’re near the ocean.
Bring your binoculars on your trip and take them everywhere you go on the beach. Yes, I understand that you might worry about messing up your name brand binoculars with the sand from the beach. However, even after you pay hundreds of dollars for a half day’s humpback whale watching trip, your best whale viewing may just be from the beach while your kids play in the water.
Sit under the trees in the shade, let Daddy play with the kids in the surf, and scan the horizon for the many water spouts, tail flaps, and pec slaps. Maybe, if you’re as lucky as us, mama humpback will decide to stay in the area for ten minutes only 100 yards off the beach straining and struggling with loud tail thwacks (my technical term). You will be glad you have your binoculars and telephoto camera lens when everyone on the beach stops to stand in awe of the view.
#2: Your Beach Shoes Will Taunt You
Water shoes aren’t just a bad fashion accessory you took to overnight camp in your youth. They are an essential item to avoid foot injuries at many Maui beaches. Yes, the sand is beautiful and the aquamarine water is luring you ever further in. But watch out! Many of those underwater areas are covered in sharp, foot-puncturing lava rocks.
You’ll purchase snazzy purple water shoes at Wal-Mart after the first day of pain. Then, after you have them, some of the beaches will have smooth sand, so you won’t wear them until it’s too late and you step on that rock. Even when you buy them for all four kids, they will prefer not to wear them because it’s just not the full Hawaii ocean experience.
Next time, worry about Mom. Dad will mock you anyway. Save your money and, whatever you do, don’t feel pity for the cuts and gouges out of their stinky little feet. They all have brand new water shoes and will never wear them again.
#3: You’ll Never Be Happy with a Snow Cone Again
When your local snow cone places add the extra label “Hawaiian”, there is a reason for the distinction. They’re trying to make those of us Hawaii travelers will believe that we have finally found “the” place that truly made shaved ice like Hawaii. But they just don’t.
Once you have had amazing real Hawaiian shaved ice, you will never be happy with a regular old snow cone again. All other ice will just be crunchy fake sugar in comparison.
And the flavors. Forget the traditional flavors that you like now: cherry, grape, and bad fake vanilla. And why exactly is it blue?!
In Hawaii, your fruit vocabulary will expand to include such words as liliko’i (passion fruit) and calamansi (like lemon and lime) which are made fresh on site from real tropical fruit. No fake colors or added artificial food coloring. A scoop of coconut ice cream topped with soft snow and a rainbow of authentic flavors. It sounds gourmet because it is!
Put it in the budget and on the time schedule. If you want to try a generic shaved ice stand in Hawaii, do it the first night because you just can’t go backward. Once you realize the magic of Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. Or save the money on generic and go for the real deal from the beginning of your trip.
Then, buy the shirt, wear it once a week at home, and go on your mini-vacation in your mind. You might want to buy the kids a shirt in secret because they’re going to be jealous of yours!
#4: Sea Turtles Are Everywhere
Be prepared to have a honu swim past you when you’re fifteen feet into the water. Or three feet. Watch where you put your feet down because that guest may be right under you. And when you have your arms full of miscellaneous towels, snorkel gear, and beach chairs, look where you are putting your next step on the sand. There just might be a turtle only five feet in front of you laying on the path.
Go to Ho’okipa Beach, see a few turtles up close, but don’t give up there. Go back again. On a good morning, there may be one riding the surf onto the volcanic rock beach to rest with his twenty friends in a protected cove. Look further and maybe the monk seal will be lounging nearby. PS: Prepare to stay and watch for a while. These are amazing waves for surfers, and there will be lots of surfers taking advantage of the waves. Not a beach for swimming.
Stay at least ten feet away and respect the laws which make it illegal to disturb, touch, or feed a sea turtle. Don’t be that tourist that gets reprimanded by the locals when you don’t stay behind the rope. Keep the sea turtles safe.
#5: Chickens… In the Parking Lot
Not your typical farm birds. Think pretty chickens with long, iridescent tail feathers. Fancy chickens.
A hurricane destroyed chicken coops in 1990s and released chickens all over the islands. These free chickens found the wild red junglefowl brought over initially by the Polynesians centuries ago and made many, many babies. These are everywhere and became the mascot for our trip.
When you see someone chasing after this bird, assume they are fellow visitors and that it’s the start of their visit. They just don’t know that they’ll see them everywhere on their trip. Surely I’m not the only one to take pictures of chickens, right?
Bonus Story for Nerd Moms
When the sugarcane was brought over, there was a rodent problem. In 1872, 72 mongoose were shipped over for sugar plantations to help take care of the rats. One problem though. Mongoose are diurnal; rats are nocturnal. An animal cannot prey upon an animal it never sees.
While it’s a special treat for a visitor to see a mongoose, just know that in the same way that I’m the only nerd taking pictures of wild chickens, you are in the minority with liking the invasive mongoose. These opportunistic creatures even eat the eggs of the native nesting seat turtles. The locals know that the mongeese causes millions of dollars of damage yearly as it eats its way across Hawai’i. Maybe I just wish we had seen one.