Hawaii: Day 3 (North Shore, East Shore, Stairway to Heaven)

I really need to pick up the pace on these Hawaii posts. . .

We left our hotel by 7:15 am and started Day 3 with breakfast from Eggs 'n Things

At first they told us they didn't do takeout, but then they let us order through the Cafe. 

The food was a little on the slow side, so we had time to pose for pictures. Does anyone remember that picture of Shawn Bradley and his wife, who was standing on a chair? Here it is, recreated by Heidi and Steve:  

(And yes, Steve has two "Howz it" shirts from South Africa. . . and apparently he likes to wear them on consecutive days.)

When we got our Strawberry Whip and saw the packaging required for a takeout order, we understood their hesitation: 

These pancakes are what made Eggs 'n Things famous. I'm not sure if the picture above does justice to the size, so here's anther one: 

After this meal, we realized that if you want fresh fruit with your pancakes, your only option is bananas. We ate our pancakes (and drank the coconut syrup) as we drove to see the record-breaking swells on the North Shore. We had been cautioned of horrendous traffic due to all of the locals and tourists flocking to see the waves, but the roads were actually pretty decent. We made such good time that we arrived at the Dole Plantation before they were even open: 

We weren't really planning for much of a stop anyway, so we weren't too bothered that it was closed. Mahalo: 

Mahalo means thank you. But I think it's actually the Hawaiian equivalent of the :) emoticon? You can add Mahalo after anything that could be interpreted as brazen or coarse, and then it's okay. You can be direct and say something like, "No shoes allowed in the house." And as long as you add "Mahalo" at the end, you're good. I'm going to try implementing this into my vocabulary and see if it helps. There will be so many great applications. "You have bad breath and need to brush your teeth. Mahalo."

Anyhow, back to the pineapples. We drove by the pineapple fields: 

Pineapples take a really long time to grow. I'm sure I would have learned some amazing things and technical details from the tour at the plantation, but instead, I watched this YouTube time lapse video of a pineapple growing. The person who made the video needs some help with their spelling. Mahalo. 

Did you know that Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee commercially? I ran across the two-lane highway to take this picture. I forgot to look both ways and about got hit by a truck, so I just yelled out, "Mahalo!"

Okay, I'll stop. Plus, I'm joking. 

We inadvertently drove right by Turtle Beach because Hawaii tourism officials have recently blocked off access to the parking with cement barricades. There's some controversy over the whole issue, but they say that visitors were creating too much of a traffic jam. 

We arrived at Waimea Bay Beach Park right at 9:00 am. The lifeguard was just unlocking the gate, so we were some of the very first visitors of the day. 

We spotted some campers: 

A multitude of chickens: 

And a local going to the bathroom. With his dreadlocks. And his ukelele: 

We also spotted this squatter. . . who has one of the very best views of the North Shore: 

Here's a better look at his set-up: 


Caution tape was set up along the entire perimeter of the beach, keeping people a good thirty or forty yards from the water: 

It seemed a little restrictive. The waves weren't all that impressive. . . 

Until you jumped over the Caution Do Not Enter tape and got a closer look: 

Here's the Lost and Found Tree: 

And one of the ten million warning signs. . . seriously, there were so many: 

We missed the record-breaking waves by a day, but we also missed all of the people. (And the biggest tides come in later in the evening.) 

Since there were only a few people around, we hurried and posed for some pictures: 

Because as soon as more people started gathering on the beach, the lifeguard motioned for me to move back behind the caution tape. 

The McKays and Trahers went and sat on the beach: 

But Steve went and found himself a bench. Because he is an old man. 

It was funny to sit there and watch the locals walk right up: 

And go under the caution tape: 

It wasn't okay for us to get close to the water. . . but it was okay for them to get in the water?

Once there were surfers out there, it really put things into scale and helped me see how big the waves were. 

It seemed as if the surfers were possibly checking in with a lifeguard further down on the beach? We had no idea if there was even anyone over there, but we theorized that he was putting them through some sort of physical test before sending them out into the relentless ocean. 

We watched those surfers exert a tremendous amount of time and energy battling the waves, just to get out to the surf: 

And then we cheered as our favorites caught some waves: 


In hindsight, we may have spent too much time at Waimea Bay. But that's what happens when you are in Hawaii: 

Without any kids! 

We passed Sunset Beach School and saw some elementary kids working on their hula hooping skills: 

We found parking and stopped somewhere just past the Bonzai Pipeline.

Somehow this picture didn't capture the huge cloud of sunscreen, but I just wanted to document Scott McKay with one of four bottles of sunblock he used throughout the trip: 

We went straight for this man, selling coconuts out of the back of his truck: 

Prior to this trip, I had no idea that the Trahers were such devoted surf fans. (They named their son after a surfer and I'm still not sure which one of them has the bigger crush on Laird Hamilton.) So you can imagine the excitement when we stumbled upon a real-life surfing competition: 

I also stumbled upon this. I am a horrible person.

More warning signs to go along with all of the big waves: 

These surfers had it easy. They were pulled out to the waves with wave runners: 

We could have sat there all day, but we had to keep moving along. . . 

After you drink the coconut milk, you take your coconut back to the guy who whacks it open with his machete so you can eat the meat. But the coconuts were too young, so they weren't great. 

We kept driving until we saw the sign for Giovanni's: 

Which led us to Giovanni's Shrimp Truck:

Something strange happened while we were there. Steve asked me to take a picture of them standing in line at the shrimp truck: 

And then, he even offered to pose: 

Steve and I shared the Shrimp Scampi ($13), which was covered in enough garlic to keep the vampires away for the next three decades. There may or may not have been some other effects. 

The McKays also ordered a Jumbo Garlic Hot Dog (only $3.50). 

Then we were back in the van to find the Laie Hawaii LDS Temple. We actually drove right past and had to turn around: 

There might have been a moment there that I wished that Steve's parents were serving their mission at the Visitors' Center in Hawaii, instead of Arizona

The two Visitors' Centers are actually extremely similar. They both have replicas of the Christus statue: 

And they both have similar displays, including this one of Book of Mormons in over 100 different languages: 

The only real difference I could see is that the sister missionaries in Hawaii get to wear matching muumuus. We watched a video about the history of the Saints in Hawaii and felt bad that we didn't have any names to give to the sister missionaries. . . things looked a little slow. 

We walked around and admired the flowers: 

Took some more pictures: 

And then we drove a half-mile over to Brigham Young University-Hawaii

Rachel has been telling me for quite some time that she is going to college at BYU-Hawaii, and now I am completely on board. 

1. It's beautiful. 
2. Perfect temperatures, year-round. 
3. Small college (only 2500 students). 
4. Diverse student body (from 70 different countries). 
5. It's in Hawaii. Which guarantees us a few more trips. 

I started to work things out in my head, and I was thinking that it would be really nice if Lucy skipped a grade or graduated early. (Because you know. . . she's tall enough.) Then they could go off to college in Hawaii together. But as soon as I said that to Rachel, she replied, "Then I'm not going!"

Laie Point, just a mile away, is a state park literally tucked away behind a neighborhood: 

It's the sort of place that makes you wonder what other hidden gems you've missed out on. 

This natural arch was created on April Fool's Day in 1946 when a tsunami punched a hole through the long, narrow island:

It's beautiful. . . so we all posed for pictures. And yes, the husbands coordinated their outfits: 


The lookout provides some pretty amazing views:

I'm pretty sure we could have spent the entire afternoon exploring the sandstone formations: 

And just taking in the beautiful sunshine. . . but we had to keep going. 

Next, we did a quick drive by of the Polynesian Cultural Center, which occupies 42 acres and is located less than a mile from BYU-Hawaii. Owned by the LDS Church, the Polynesian Cultural Center was opened in 1963 as a way to provide employment and scholarships for students at BYU-Hawaii. Seventy percent of the center's 1300 employees are students at the nearby college. 

We ooooohed and aaaaahed at the scenery as we drove along the windward coast of Oahu. This picture shows the mountains of the Kualoa Ranch, which operates as a beef cattle ranch. The ranch has been used as a film location for movies including Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, and Godzilla. 

As much as I ended up loving Kauai, I would really like to go back to Oahu and spend more time exploring this area. It was painful to see so many amazing things without enough time to stop. Next time, I am walking out to Chinaman's Hat. (This is the second time I've linked to www.unrealhawaii.com in this post. I've just discovered this website today and it's . . .  unreal. I wish I would have found it before we planned our trip; it is making me want to move to Hawaii.) 

My next trip to Hawaii will also include a real stop at the Byodo-In Temple. (That's link #3.) The temple was built to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. It's actually a replica of a 950-year old Buddhist temple in Uji, Japan. Part-monument, part-place of worship, it's a popular tourist destination. The entrance fee was only $3, but we were short on time, so we just drove through the Valley of the Temples (a cemetery) and admired the beauty of the Koolau Mountains. 

We took the H-3 Highway back to our hotel, driving right over (and through) the Koolau Range. The H-3 is one of the most expensive interstate highways (yes. . . somehow it's classified as an interstate highway) ever built. The 16-mile elevated road cost some $80 million per mile to build and took 37 years to complete. 

Just before driving through the tunnel, we caught a glimpse of the metal stairs. . . the Stairway to Heaven. 

The Stairway to Heaven, or Haiku Stairs, was at the top of my list of things I wanted to do in Hawaii. It's literally a steel staircase made up of some 4000 steps that ascend a cliff, overlooking the Haiku Valley. There's a lot of hype around this hike because it's awesome. . . and because it's illegal. We looked for information about his hike and found varying reports. I'm just going to go ahead and copy this description from Oahu Revealed

"One of the coolest places on Oahu is the Haiku Stairs. Wooden ladders were originally strung up the ridge of Haiku Valley during WWII to facilitate the creation of a tower anchoring part of a mile-long ultra-powerful radio antenna stretching across the valley. The military would use this antenna to communicate with their ships throughout the Pacific and supposedly into the Indian Ocean. (Their goal was to have a transmitter so powerful that it could transmit to submerged submarines in Tokyo Bay.) Those access ladders were replaced by wooden stairs and finally a metal staircase. The 3,922 stairs climbing 2,200 feet became one of the coolest hikes on the island until vandals damaged part of the staircase in 1987. The local government was all set to reopen these stairs in 2005, going so far as spending almost $1 million to fix them up for hikers. But then intra-government squabbles and intransigence took hold, and today there is a guard posted at the base of the stairs to keep hikers out while the politicians point fingers at each other."

We asked around, both on the plane and when we were in Hawaii, but everyone gave us the same answer. . . the Stairway to Heaven hike is illegal, and you can't go. Luckily, we had some inside information from my cousin, Holly, and her husband, BJ, who kindly offered to be our guide. 

There were some concerns about safety if we hiked early in the morning or late at night (in the dark) to avoid the guard. And hiking in the middle of the night didn't sound all that fun. But we had been watching the #stairwaytoheaven and #haikustairs hashtags on Instagram and knew that the guard had not been seen by afternoon hikers. So we tentatively aimed for Friday at 3:00 pm. There were also some concerns whether the hike was the best use of our limited time in Oahu. . . What if it rained on us? What if we couldn't even find it? What if we were turned away by the guard? It was decided that we would go spend the rest of the afternoon/evening at the beach adjacent to our hotel. 

I texted my cousin, apologized for the change in plans, told her that we weren't going to do the hike, and apologized if we messed up BJ's schedule. 

I was feeling a little heartbroken about missing out on Stairway to Heaven. (More than just a little.) Everyone else wanted to go back to our hotel and spend some time on Waikiki Beach. So that meant they didn't need the van. As we got close to the Hale Koa, I asked Steve if he would still go with me, and he said yes. So I texted my cousin again and told her we were back on. 

We dropped the others off at the hotel. (And they ended up having a fabulous time. The boys surfed, they saw sea turtles, and they all enjoyed the sunshine.)

I called BJ, who was just finishing up with his Navy Reserves stuff for the day. He hurried home, grabbed some shorts, and met us in Kaneohe. 

He drove us over to the Haiku Village, and we parked in a neighborhood near this stop sign: 

It was a nice, easy one-mile hike to the trail: 

We went around a fence: 

And walked through some crazy jungle growth, directly underneath the H-3 highway: 

As we approached where the guard was supposed to be . . . all uneasiness about breaking the law disappeared. I had pictured a militaristic guard securing the area, not this

He sits in this battered lawn chair. . . not much of a deterrent: 

Here are Steve and BJ, pre-hike. (Even BJ knew that the color of the day was green.)

I was a little apprehensive about taking my camera on the hike. (We read somewhere that you shouldn't wear a backpack. Because the stairs were so steep that the weight of the backpack would pull you over. . . NOT true.) Anyhow, my pictures aren't anywhere near as good as Unreal Hawaii's, so check theirs out as well. 

The batteries on Steve's GoPro camera ran out just as we started on the stairs. . . (of course). 

The hikers in front of us had a GoPro camera with them and told us they would trade videos for photos of their bums: 

We haven't received any videos from them. . . but I did find this 12-minute time lapse video of the hike on YouTube. 

The view of the H-3 highway from the trail: 

The views really were amazing. You kind of wanted it to be a nice, casual hike so you could take it all in. . . but it wasn't. 

Steve might have been dying. Sometimes I encourage him to go to the gym (to make me feel better about paying our monthly membership fee). But he tells me he skis and that's enough exercise. It wasn't. 

Some sections of the trail are near-vertical. It's a cardio killer. And the sheer drop-offs make it intimidating: 

The handrails are actually what make this hike doable. It would be super dangerous without them. I think you would definitely have to hike a lot slower at night. (It's also recommended that you wear grippy gloves if you go in the rain.)

I got tired of looking at other people's bums, so I hurried up to pass the hikers in front of us. I kept going at a good pace. . . I really didn't want to get caught in the dark. Steve was sore from a ski injury and he got worried that the hike was going to make things even worse. (He actually went and got a massage the day before our trip, but instead of helping the pain, it just aggravated things.) Since BJ was there to keep going with me, Steve decided to wait for us on the first landing. Not a bad place to hang out. . . this was his view: 

We continued on without him. (He probably would have been fine to keep going. . . especially if I would have slowed down. The hike to the first landing was definitely the most strenuous.)

He kept the camera, so he played around and took some pictures: 

BJ and I passed this graffitied, cement building; it looked like someone had slept there the night before: 

The bright colors provided a dramatic frame around the view of Kaneohe Bay:

BJ had been on the hike twice before, but never when it was clear. The views of the mountains were spectacular: 

The plants we encountered were beautiful as well: 

Before we knew it, we were at the summit. And I was still smiling! (I should have dressed a little differently. . . I had on too many layers.) 

BJ timed us, and we made it up in less than 1:30. We didn't stick around at the top for long because it was muddy and smelled like pee. 

That's a genuine smile. . . I really was pretty happy about making it to the top. BJ ran a marathon in December and I asked him to compare the hike to a long distance run. He said he felt like it's somewhere between a 10K and a 10-miler. (Which, of course, is completely doable. . . just remember the part how I had been completely sedentary for two months and had only worked up to running two miles before we went to Hawaii. It was a big accomplishment for me.) 

Steve caught some pictures of us coming down. (We had just passed the hikers we started with, who were still working their way up towards the summit.)

There were actually quite a few hikers on the trail. Passing other hikers on the 18-inch stairs required someone to straddle the handrails to make room.

As I hiked down, I was in some serious pain. I love this picture. And you can see that I was trying to put more weight on my arms to preserve my calves: 

There were some treacherous parts, like this one, where I just turned around and climbed down backwards, like a ladder: 

We met back up with Steve, who had fully enjoyed his time on the mountain. (Except for the part when some guy walked by and teased him about his wife being up at the top without him.)

Going down felt more precarious to me. (Probably because my legs were about to give out.) One misstep on those narrow, metal stairs would be ugly. 


We were back to BJ's car in less than three hours. Although the Stairway to Heaven hike is illegal and the city sites liability as its main issue of reopening to the public, tens of thousands of hikers have climbed the stairs with no reported serious injuries. (Despite the fact that most of the climbs start in the dark to avoid the security guard.) In recent years, the number of hikers has remained fairly steady at a reported 100-150 climbers per week.  

(The Oahu Revealed app gives directions on how to get to the Haiku Stairs from the Honolulu side, via a 5-mile legal access from Moanalua Valley Park. . . but we didn't have time for a 10-mile hike. Before you attempt, you should read Unreal Hawaii's post on the Moanalua Saddle to Haiku Stairs hike. . . wow.)

Steve recently watched a television program on Hawaii that talked about a group that wants to develop the Haiku Stairs into a ziplining tour.

We returned to the Hale Koa just as the McKays and Trahers were finishing dinner. I limped to the hot tub with Steve as the others went to watch the fireworks on Waikiki Beach. We met up with them afterwards for ice cream, and then we finally went and found some dinner. (Steve and I were starving!) We felt bad that we missed out on their fun afternoon at the beach. . . but wow, what a cool hike. Needless to say, I slept well that night. Actually, I did need to say it. Over and over again. (Inside joke.)