“The City That Never Sleeps” certainly showcased why it got its nickname in the scant few days that I was in New York City for work. For three nights (I don’t count the first one because I arrived at my hostel at 9pm, dead-tired from a trans-Pacific flight), I returned to my hostel past 9pm because there was always something to see, even at the late hour.
First night: outside Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral
We started walking from Instituto Cervantes on E 40th St towards Times Square (where a co-delegate was meeting his aunt) on W 46th St, but with a slight detour to pass by Grand Central Station on E 42nd St. It sounded near enough in my head, forgetting to take into account the width of NYC’s blocks.
Before I start, please note that allocating only one day to see Manhattan is absolutely ridiculous. There’s just so much to see and do that you can easily spend three days or more just in Manhattan, not to mention the rest of New York City. However, I was in NYC for work and had only one free day between meetings and had no way to extend my stay, so making the most of that one full day was imperative.
Part of what made this itinerary work was basing out of Manhattan already. I stayed in the Vanderbilt YMCAand had a mostly good experience, except for a major grievance that resulted from Front Desk not talking to Security. I started this itinerary at 9 am, but I would have had to start it much earlier if I weren’t in Manhattan already.
I passed St. Patrick’s at night on my 2nd day and took photos (of course), but it’s still something else to see it in the daytime. The architecture just amazed me. It felt weird to take photos inside the church but the staff said it was okay. Still only took a few though. Also managed to squeeze in some quiet time.
We woke up slightly early so we could hike down to the the Kīlauea Iki Crater lava lake before we left for Mauna Kea but it turned out to be a drizzly, windy, AND foggy morning so that plan was canceled real quick.
We did manage to take a few photos of the endangered nene (pronounced “nay-nay”, YES like the song and YES my friends made a ton of corny jokes ) that was hanging out in front of Volcano House.
After that, we went back to Holoholo In to pack our bags and head to Mauna Kea via the long way AKA a scenic drive along the coast. We wanted to get to Mauna Kea just before sunset so the long way, with the postcard-perfect views and casual driving, was perfect.
One last full day, a huge city, and a ton of places to go to.
I organized my Honolulu city tour around three things: the Bishop Museum, food, and Hawaii Five-0. Although I really wanted to dedicate a day to each of these things – the most popular unofficial Five-0 tour takes you to McGarrett’s house AND gives you the opportunity to possibly meet some of the actors if they’re available (past attendees have met Chi McBride (Lou Grover) and Dennis Chun (Sgt. Duke Lukela)) – I didn’t have that luxury 🙁 Next time!
First stop of the day: Wailana Coffee Shop and their macadamia nut pancakes. Wailana was just down the street from the Ilikai Hotel so it was the perfect spot to have breakfast and start the day. McGarrett was right: they do serve the best pancakes. They’re so soft and fluffy!
Second stop of the day: Liliha Bakery. As I mentioned in great detail in a previous post, I mistakenly thought that the Kuakini St. branch would be closed on a Sunday so I ended up at the much-farther-away Nimitz Branch instead. I (somewhat) didn’t mind because hot damn, Liliha Bakery makes amazing coco puffs. Really. These pastry puffs, with their chocolate cream filling and chantilly cream frosting, are my favorite food from Hawaii, which is saying something since I’m picky with pastries and I loved poke too. I bought a box of six pieces (four coco puffs and two cream puffs, about $4 each), ostensibly to share with my friends, but the puffs were so good that I could have eaten them all by myself.
We took Hawaiian Airlines’ 5:00 am flight to Hilo because it was the only one I could book using my Delta Skymiles. Used to NAIA’s rule of being at the airport two hours before a domestic flight, we were at the airport by 3:00 am. Too bad Honolulu International Airport and the check-in counters only open at 4:00 am so we had to wait outside on the concrete steps.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Kea were our non-negotiables for this island. Pro tip: prepare for cold weather. We think Hawai’i is all endless sunshine and humidity but it does get cold, rainy, and windy, especially as you go up the volcanoes. Wear layers and a woolly hat and bring a rain jacket. Also wear comfortable hiking shoes (no to flip-flops and sandals!) as you’ll be scrambling over areas of uneven terrain in the parks.
While most of our labmates and bosses were going home two days after ICRS, some of my friends and I decided to extend our stay in Hawaii for another week to make the most of our trip. We spent two more days in Oahu before flying to the Big Island.
Our major lesson learned: touring the North Shore is more fun and much easier with a car. We considered renting a car for just the one day but weren’t sure if that was possible, and my companions didn’t want to join a tour group because of the added expense. We ended up taking TheBus, which meant that the trip from the Ilikai to Sharks Cove took 3 buses and almost 3 hours, while Waimea Valley back to the Ilikai took 2 hours. This doesn’t include the time we spent walking from Sharks Cove to Waimea Valley, as the #55 bus only comes every 30 to 45 minutes.
The bus route we took from the Ilikai to Sharks Cove consists of three buses:
1. the County Express Bus to Ewa Center, get off at the Alapai Transit Center
2. the #52 Wahiawa-Haleiwa bus, get off at Haleiwa
3. the #55 Honolulu-Ala Moana Center bus, get off at Sharks Cove
One of my main accomplishments during the Hawaii trip was getting to go around Oahu without sacrificing my time at ICRS (except for that one morning, but that doesn’t count because there weren’t any talks that I wanted to attend) and without a car (a bit inconvenient but doable). I’d like to thank TheBus for being reasonably on time, though the Android app could be more user-friendly and bus drivers were hit-or-miss in the friendliness and helpfulness department.
Going up Diamond Head was something we had to do early in the morning as we had to attend the conference and the hiking trail would be too hot later on in the day. The Diamond Head State Monument opens at 6am but because we missed the first #23 Bus because someone overslept, we got there close to 7am. Diamond Head gets over 3,000 visitors a day and we definitely felt that, as there were a LOT of people there even at 7am. If you have a car, it’s best to get there when the gates open.
Diamond Head’s original Hawai’ian name is Le’ahi, which means “brow of the ‘ahi [tuna] fish” (I included a tuna photo for reference). British sailors in the late 1700s called it “Diamond Head” because they thought the sparkles coming off of the volcano were diamonds and that they were going to get rich. Too bad the sparkly rocks were actually calcite crystals that weren’t worth anything (poor guys).
Photo by Robert Lindsell on Flickr
See? Diamond Head definitely looks like the fin of a tuna.