Monday, March 23, 2015

Hawaii Trip Report Part 6: Dole Plantation and the North Shore

Trip Report so far:

Vacation Video
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: Hiking Diamond Head Crater
Part 3: First Day at Aulani 
Part 4: Tuesday in Hawaii (Girls Version)

Part 5: Tuesday in Hawaii (Boys Version)

Part 6: Dole Plantation and the North Shore

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday was a great day full of small surprises. We had planned to visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation and maybe the North Shore if we felt like it before returning to Aulani in the afternoon.

Prior to our trip, I had researched a lot of things to do on Oahu and narrowed our list down to 4 things I absolutely wanted to see/do on our trip that were unique to the island: Diamond Head, Dole Plantation, whale watching trip and Kualoa Ranch. I didn't want to plan too many trips in different places around the island because I didn't want us to be stuck in traffic all day and not be able to fully enjoy Aulani. On the other hand, I also didn't want us to spend the entire week at Aulani and miss out on some great sights in Hawaii. So we tried to strike a balance between the two.

We slept in until 5:30 a.m. Woohoo! We got our breakfast around 6 a.m. and then waited for the sun to come out. We decided to go for a walk on the beach before heading to the Dole Plantation.

We went past the pools and to the Aulani beach and turned right. We heard that turtles sometimes appeared in a nearby cove.  On our way there, my son found this huge acorn or nut:

Then we saw something running in the grass and we went to take a closer look:
Was it a squirrel? A ferret? No, it was an Asian Mongoose!
(We didn't know what it was at the time--I had to Google it later). These are not native to Hawaii, and you can read more about the mongooses here.

We walked on a paved sidewalk until it ended, and then we walked on a sandy path to the next cove. Instead of seeing a turtle, we saw a Hawaiian monk seal! A volunteer had blocked off part of the beach to protect the seal. This animal is an endangered species, and there are only about 1000 of them left. Oahu only has 40 monk seals. This one was a pregnant female just taking a little nap on the beach. We talked to the first volunteer for a while, and then another volunteer came to take over a shift. The second volunteer told us that he had lived on Oahu for 3 years before he saw one of these seals.

This cove also had some neat rocks and tide pools.

While Brian and I were talking to the animal volunteers, the kids played at the beach for a while. We were on our way back to Aulani to head to the Dole Plantation when another visitor told us there was a turtle at the cove just south of Aulani. So we headed the other direction on the path and saw this guy:
I wish we could have gone for a walk on the beach every morning! Here was our view of Aulani as we walked back:
We left Aulani around 9:30 a.m. and arrived at the Dole Plantation at 10:00. This was probably the most touristy place we visited the entire week. The parking lot was full, and there were several large tour buses parked. The first thing we did was buy train tickets. The kids explored this Dole Whip (yes, they had Dole Whips here, just like at Disney World):
Soon we saw the first train pull up. It filled up, so we waited for another train.
Alyssa was SO tired!
The Pineapple Express pulled up 10 minutes later, and we boarded.
The train ride was about 20 minute long. It took us past several different crops and had a recording that explained the history of pineapples in Hawaii.

We learned that pineapples are not native to Hawaii. And that Hawaii once produced 75% of the world's pineapples. Here are the rows of pineapple plants:
I enjoyed the train and thought it was educational with pretty scenery.

After we got off the train, we stopped for some photos:

The Dole Plantation had some beautiful gardens, but the garden tour was a separate admission and we skipped it.
We also skipped the maze because we were worried that we'd never find our kids in there! But this would be fun for older kids:

We shopped in the large gift shop. Joshua got a stuffed pineapple bear, and Nathan and Alyssa both got custom bracelets with their Hawaiian name equivalents.

Since the North Shore was only about 15 minutes up the road from the Dole Plantation, we decided to go there and check it out. I sort-of wanted to see it, but it wasn't on the top on my list. We had packed lunches but planned to supplement with some food from a shrimp truck.

I hadn't done a lot of research on where to go, so I think we got lucky when we ended up in the right place. We saw this cluster of food trucks and found some parking. We saw this fish taco truck and got some to split. It said it had "Hawaii's best fish tacos", but I was skeptical.
But after I tasted them I decided they were right! I think they were some of the best fish tacos I've ever had. The fish was SO fresh, lite and grilled.
We also got a combination plate at this shrimp truck:
We tried garlic shrimp and coconut shrimp. Again, SO good! We were surprised at how good the food was at both of these trucks.
In the same cluster of food trucks was also a coconut stand. We split a coconut water and I tried some raw coconut:

Before we arrived at the food trucks, I thought I saw a sign for Matsumoto's shaved ice. That place is supposedly the best shaved ice on the island and is very popular. We had no plans to seek it out, but since we were right there, we decided to try it. It wasn't labeled very well, but it had a large parking lot in back.
The line was a little long but it moved very quickly.
That is a size small shaved ice in a bowl.

And guess what? Again, the place lived up to its legend. This Hawaiian shaved ice was superior to any we had ever had. The ice was shaved so finely, and the syrups were different somehow. We were so glad we stopped here!
In addition to the food trucks, there appeared to be a lot of eclectic mom and pop stores at the North Shore. And of course beaches. Before we went here, I expected it to have more of an Aspen, Colorado feel. But it was so different! Everyone was so laid back and friendly. Brian and I liked the North Shore way more than we thought we would. Locals told us that the other islands are more like the North Shore--smaller towns, less traffic, etc.

On the way back to Aulani, 2 of our 3 kids fell asleep. They needed it!  Too bad the ride was short.
We arrived back at Aulani around 2:30 p.m. The kids wanted to play in the pools, so that's what we did.

At 5:00 p.m., we dropped the kids off at Aunty's Beach House for a premium event called Surf's Up with Chip and Dale. This was another one of our splurges on this vacation. It cost an extra $79 per kid, but it was a 3-hour program that included private time with Chip and Dale.

After we dropped them off, Brian and I walked across and down the street to Roy's restaurant inside the Ko Olina Golf Club. Roy's has 6 restaurants on the Hawaiian islands as well as a location in Tokyo, Japan and even Plano, Texas! (and probably other locations). I ate at Roy's a few times while I was on a business trip in Tokyo and it was SO GOOD! But I read reviews that the location in Plano is not as good as the ones in Hawaii or Tokyo, so we have never gone at home. But tonight was another date night, and we decided to give Roy's a try. Would it be as good as I remembered it from Tokyo?

We were offered outside seating and had a pretty view of the golf course:
Our server brought us a bowl of seasoned edamame:
We decided to order the prix fixe menu, which included an appetizer sampler, entree and dessert. We each got this appetizer plate that included a barbeque spare rib, a spring roll and blackened ahi. All 3 were out of this world delicious!
Brian had the short rib for his entree. It was so tender and flavorful: (we sampled each other's food)
And I had some macadamia nut crusted fish. It was outstanding!
Somehow I forgot to take photos of our desserts...but I had a chocolate souffle and Brian had some sort of macadamia nut dessert. Both were delicious! The food we had at Roy's was even better than I remembered from Tokyo, and it was better than our food at 'Ama 'Ama the night before. The restaurant doesn't offer a beach view, but the food more than made up for that.

After dinner, Brian and I walked to another nearby beach to see if we could find any more turtles. We didn't, but we needed to walk off our dinner anyway.

The staff at Aunty's told us to come watch our kids through a window 10 minutes prior to the end of the program because they would be having a dance party. I figured that one of my kids (Joshua, age 7) would be dancing, but my youngest is usually too shy to participate and my 10-year-old usually thinks he's too cool to dance. Much to our surprise, when we looked through the window, all 3 of our kids were dancing the night away!

As part of the program, the kids decorated these surf boards: (14 1/2 inches long, 3/4 inch thick)

And they each got a nylon backpack from the event:
My kids are not forthcoming with information, so all I know about their 3 hours at Surf's Up with Chip and Dale is that they ate dinner, decorated surf boards, hung out with Chip and Dale and apparently had a dance party at the end that we witnessed. I was glad the kids had the chance to do this special activity because we aren't sure when we will ever make it back to Aulani, and when we do my oldest son will certainly be too old for Aunty's Beach House.

What a great day this was for everyone.

Up next: Out to sea

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