<< markandrupa

Guam, Palau, Yap & Oahu

march/april 2007

I'd had Palau on my mind ever since reading about jellyfish lake a few years ago, and after a bit of research Rupa managed to put together a nice Pacific adventure.  In addition to snorkeling and scuba diving in Guam and Palau, we are excited to see the giant stone money on Yap and to visit Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach in Oahu.


Watch a slideshow of our favorite photos.

Trip log

  1. Guam - march 24

    Our five-hour flight from Hong Kong landed on time at 5:30 in the morning, at which point we breezed through customs and grabbed a cab to the hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel was booked full and we hadn't reserved a room for the previous night, so we spent the morning napping in the lobby and strolling around town. If Tumon had been more interesting it might have been a fun morning, but instead it was a sad mix of American chain restaurants (Planet Hollywood, TGI Fridays), upscale duty-free shopping (Prada, Rolex, Louis Vuitton) and seedy "massage" parlors and adult book stores. We finally checked into our room around 1pm and sank into bed for a long afternoon nap, waking up just in time to enjoy an early sunset and grab a wonderful dinner at a locally owned Thai restaurant.

    Hyatt Regency Guam, Tumon

  2. Guam - march 25

    We began the day out on the beach, but a blanket of seaweed, a rocky seafloor littered with sea cucumbers and a pesky little fish nipping at my toes sent us running for the pool where we spent the warm afternoon sipping Mai Tais. Around 5pm we rented a car and drove out along the south-west coast in search of a spot to watch the sun set, but we ran into a rain squall and were forced to turn around. On the way back we stopped for dinner at the Old Hogatna Bar and Grill (a Lonely Planet recommendation) and enjoyed a nice dinner of fried calamari, salad wrap and peppercorn seasoned ahi.

    Hyatt Regency Guam, Tumon

  3. Guam - march 26

    We spent today driving around the island before catching an evening flight to Palau. We began with a loop around the southern coast (an American military base eats up much of the northern coast), passing through small villages and stopping at a number of lovely viewpoints. The natural scenery was spectacular - rolling hills, tropical forests and coastal cliffs - but the "villages" were nothing more than sleepy little towns filled with 1970s era houses.

    Along the eastern coast we stopped at the village of Umatec to visit the remains of Fort Soledad, a small Spanish fort built in the early 1800s to protect trade galleons as they re-supplied on their trans-Pacific routes. We also stopped at Inarajan's Salugula Pool, a natural saltwater pool that would have made for a lovely swim had the storm-damaged bridges and diving platform been repaired.

    Our longest stop of the day was Talofofo Falls, a small amusement park built around a scenic two-tiered waterfall. The Lonely Planet gave it an enthusiastic write-up, but it was one of the saddest-looking places we'd been all year (especially given the $20 entrance fee). The concrete ostrich "farm" was empty and overgrown, the flying chair ride was inoperable and rusting out, the fountains were dry and the pathetic lawnmower-engine-powered monorail was closed. The only functional "attraction" was a four-cart gondola ride that ferried us down to the falls. The falls were nice, but the most interesting sight was Yokoi cave, where a Japanese WWII soldier lived and hid for 28 years following the fall of Guam. Sadly, all you can see is the entrance to the small human-sized cave, though a nearby diagram provides a cross-sectional view. To summarize - Talofofo Falls is blight on the island and Guam would be better served tearing down the man-made attractions and turning the falls and cave into a park.

    We started back to town around 5pm and got caught in a surprising amount of rush-hour traffic, arriving at the airport just in time to drop off the car without incurring extra charges. We watched a lovely sunset on the two-hour flight to Palau, and on arrival we caught a shuttle for the twenty-minute, three-island drive to our hotel. During the ride Dennis (a hotel employee) pointed out some things to do around town (places to eat and shop), most of which were located on the small but heavily populated central island of Koror. The hotel itself featured a lovely open-air lobby, and although it was already dark we spent half an hour browsing the beautifully landscaped gardens and peaceful beachfront before calling it a night.

    Palau Pacific Resort, Koror, Palau

  4. Palau - march 27

    Palau is famous for its scuba diving, but we hadn't arranged anything in advance so we got online and found a highly recommended dive shop - Sam's Tours - which set us up with an afternoon refresher dive (since we hadn't dove in over four years). We lounged around the hotel until mid-afternoon when our dive instructor, JR, stopped by to pick us up. We drove back through town and out to the dive shop, which consisted of a shop/office, a large covered deck with a bar/restaurant and a small marina for their boats.

    JR helped us into the necessary gear, reminded us how to connect it all and loaded up a small boat for the short ride out to a protected cove he referred to as Sam's "swimming pool". After one final review we donned our gear and strode into the warm, crystal clear water. Under water, JR walked us through a couple of safety exercises before leading us around on 50-minute swim around the cove. We spotted several nudibranch, a basketball-sized octopus, a crown-of-thorns starfish and dozens of corals and reef fish. By the end of the dive we were both feeling pretty comfortable in the water and ready to spend the next few days diving.

    Back at the hotel we stuck around for complimentary evening drinks and a short ethnic dance performance before catching the free shuttle into town for dinner. There weren't many choices in Koror, but the Taj Indian restaurant was fabulous. Founded by two Indian brothers, the food was superb and we overstuffed on samosas, a couple of chicken dishes, a complimentary sample of some very spicy lamb vindaloo and a pair of refreshing Strawberry Quick milkshakes. Amazingly, we also squeezed in an order of Gulab Jamun before grabbing cash at the ATM (in preparation for Yap, where cash is king) and shuttling back to the hotel.

    Palau Pacific Resort, Koror

  5. Palau - march 28

    Rupa awoke in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in her left ear - our best guess was some reverse pressure caused by sinus congestion while diving. She spent most of the night awake, sitting up to avoid the pain, and was concerned that she wouldn't be able to dive today.

    The dive shop picked us up at the hotel's dock this morning - the five minute boat ride was quicker driving. At the shop JR convinced Rupa to gear up and give it a try - the pain had already subsided a bit and, if it was actually reverse pressure in her ear, another descent might help equalize it. After loading up the boat we joined seven other divers and two guides for a 30 minute ride out to Ulong Channel for our first dive.

    We jumped into the turquoise water and immediately descended to 65 feet where we caught a strong current through the channel. Right away we spotted a few 10-foot long grey sharks lingering in the misty blue, as well as a few white-tipped reef sharks. A little later we hooked onto some rocks and floated in the current, pausing to watch the sharks swim by about 30 feet away. Near the end of the dive Rupa and I got caught too high in the channel and hit a strong up-current over the wall and away from the group. Rather than surface we hung out in our new channel, and before long the group caught up after rounding a bend. Just before surfacing we passed a series of large flat leaf corals nested atop one another like a vertical fish condo, as well as a large bait ball darting through the water, absorbing fish into its hold and avoiding a pair of lazy sharks.

    We ate our bagged lunch on Ulong Island, not far from one of the Survivor campsites, which was recognizable only due to the cleared underbrush. While we relaxed on the beach a fishing boat arrived with a fresh-caught barracuda that they carved into sashimi. They threw the scraps into the sea, and within minutes a couple of black-tipped reef sharks came nosing about.

    Our second dive site was Siaes Tunnel, where we dropped 100 feet along a deep seawall and into a cavernous tunnel. The descent was eerie, as divers below us disappeared into the dark and divers above us were silhouetted against the sunlit water. Light entered the tunnel from two large openings, and though we stayed near the top to conserve air we could see a few small sharks napping on the sandy floor 30 feet below. We only remained in the tunnel for about 10 minutes (you burn through a lot of air at 100 feet) and then followed a shallower 60-foot wall for the rest of the dive, gradually climbing to the surface while observing an amazing variety of corals and reef fish.

    Back at the shop we signed up for a Rock Island tour tomorrow and caught a ride to the hotel. We were too lazy to head into town for dinner so we grabbed dinner at the hotel restaurant and spent the evening relaxing in the room.

    Palau Pacific Resort, Koror

  6. Palau - march 29

    Today we joined a full-day tour of Palau's famous mushroom-shaped Rock Islands. Alex, a diver we met yesterday, and her friend David were also on the tour and we spent much of the day hanging out with them. Not far from the shop our guide pointed out Survivor's tribal council island as well as a photogenic beach used in a Yahoo Super Bowl commercial. Our first stop of the day was a site called Milky Way - a lovely pale-water nook nestled in the shallows between two islands. The seafloor here was covered in a soggy milky-white clay which we scooped up and applied to our skin as a natural exfoliant. From there we cruised over to lovely texture-rich reef for our first snorkel.

    After snorkeling it was time for lunch, so we beached the boat at a popular picnic site. A hundred yards offshore white-tailed tropic birds soared over a bait ball, repeatedly diving to the surface in search of their own lunch. I followed a pair as they flew in toward a rocky outcropping and I waded out for some photos. After lunch I went on a short snorkel just off the beach. The floor dropped off quickly and just over the lip a school of two-dozen remoras (three-foot long suckerfish) were swimming circles above a black-tipped reef shark thirty feet below.

    Our next stop was famous Jellyfish Lake, our inspiration for visiting Palau in the first place. With no natural predators in this isolated inland lake, the "sting" of the jellyfish here is so slight it cannot be felt by human skin. Thousands of jellyfish roam the lake, following the sun by day and descending into the poisonous depths at night. To reach in the inland lake we climbed up and over a rough, porous ridge and out onto a small dock where we donned our snorkeling gear and hopped into the murky-green water. The lake was larger than I imagined, and we swam fifty yards out before encountering our first grapefruit-sized jellyfish. As we swam further out the jellyfish swarm intensified until we were literally surrounded by hundreds of undulating globes. Some were as small as a thimble, and if we were careful we could "capture" them in our hands before letting them squirm away. Sadly, we only had 30 minutes in the water - we could easily have spent another hour drifting among the pulsating orbs.

    After Jellyfish Lake we cruised over to Clam City - a shallow lagoon filled with dozens of enormous Giant Clams. Four-foot wide and over 500 pounds, these giants featured a thick muscular mantle sprinkled with fluorescent beads of green and blue, endowing each clam with a unique "fingerprint". By free diving 10-15 feet below the surface we were able to touch the thick, soft mantle and watch it recoil a few inches. We then moved on to our final snorkeling site, Cemetery Reef - a colorful, texture-rich reef where our guides dropped bread crumbs to attract hundreds of darting reef fish.

    Just as we were ready to head back to the shop our captain informed us that the battery had given out and engine wouldn't start. We were too far out to call the shop, so another boat made the call for us on their way back. 45 minutes later a support boat arrived and we all transferred to the new boat while the mechanics stayed behind and fixed the broken one.

    After showering up at the hotel we shuttled over to the Taj for dinner, where we coincidentally met up with Alex and David. Grant, a friendly diver we had just met at the shop, was finishing up his meal but elected to join us for some conversation as we devoured another fabulous meal.

    Palau Pacific Resort, Koror

  7. Palau - march 30

    Sam's picked us up again this morning for another pair of dives. We cruised 45 minutes out to the southern end of the Rock Islands to a dive site known as Blue Holes, chatting en route with Grant and John, a marine helicopter pilot on two weeks R&R from Iraq. Once in the water we swam along the shallow reef before dropping into a 90-foot hole that opened into a large cavern. We spent ten minutes in the mostly dark cavern before heading out along a magnificent wall featuring thousands of corals of all different shapes, sizes, colors and textures. We spent the end of the dive atop the reef, where we passed some napping white-tipped reef sharks, a pair of beaked sea turtles and a number of inquisitive Napoleon Wrasse (large fish that can reach six feet in length).

    Our second dive site, Blue Corner, was a hundred yards away so we lunched on the boat until it was safe to dive again. Back in the water we dropped down 60 feet to the top of the reef and fought a strong current for 15 minutes before reaching the corner of two converging seawalls. We burned through a lot of air getting to the edge of the reef, but once there we latched on and floated in the current while peering into the depths, where a dozen or more grey sharks and white-tipped reef sharks swam about. We stayed at the corner for 20 minutes before releasing our hooks and allowing the current to pull us up and away. During the ascent JR dropped a trail of bread crumbs that five or six fearless Napoleon Wrasse gobbled up right in front of our masks - close enough for us to reach out and touch their soft scales.

    Back at the hotel we tried some evening snorkeling along the beach in search of the beautiful but elusive Mandarin Fish. Although we weren't able to find any, we did observe various reef fish nibble at the coral, generating an underwater snap-crackle-and-pop that we hadn't previously noticed. Out of the water I dashed back to the room and grabbed my camera gear for a lovely Pacific sunset, after which we showered up and relaxed with an easy dinner at the hotel restaurant (the Palauan Taro Leaf Soup was delicious).

    Palau Pacific Resort, Koror

  8. Palau - march 31

    We checked out of the hotel this morning and headed off on a guided tour of Palau's largest island, Babeldaob. Our guide, Joanne, was very friendly and had plenty to share about life on Palau, including her work as a deck hand for Survivor: Palau. We began the tour with a 30-minute drive to the east side of the island to visit the newly constructed capital complex. Situated atop a remote, forested peak, the site has drawn plenty of local criticism for its distance from urban Koror.

    Our next stop was a small roadside market offering sugar cane, pumpkin soup, betel nuts and a few other local specialties. The betel nut is popular in SE Asia and the Pacific as a mild stimulant. Rupa tried the local preparation involving a dose of lime (as in calcium hydroxide, not the fruit) and a pepper leaf, but the concoction quickly numbed her tongue and burned her throat, so she spit it out and washed it down by chewing on some raw sugarcane.

    A little later we stopped for lunch at a lovely overlook on the north east coast of the island. A short downhill walk toward the coast revealed an arrangement of a dozen or so large stone monoliths, similar to Easter Island's moai but no where near as impressive. Most were simple rectangular blocks standing on end but a few were carved into rough faces, weather-worn from centuries of wind and rain.

    After lunch we made our big stop of the day as we hiked 45 minutes into the forested center of the island to secluded Ngardmau Falls. The hike began with some nicely hewn steps but quickly degraded into a muddy mess as we approached the small Ngardmau River. We carefully picked our way along a slick water-worn rock shelf before dropping our hiking shoes altogether and crossing the thigh-high river in our bare feet. We continued on to falls where we spent 30 minutes admiring the majestic 60-foot drop before retracing our path back to the car.

    Our final stops were a pair of Japanese WWII relics - a retractable AA gun discovered in the late 90s and the remains of a Zero fighter plane. Overall, the land tour was fun, but at $150 it was a bit expensive, especially given that we didn't get to see a traditional Bai house or the Yapese stone money quarry (which is only accessible by boat).

    Back at the hotel we watched another lovely sunset on the beach, freshened up in a room the hotel loaned us for an hour and then headed into town for dinner. This time we chose the local hamburger joint - a food truck on the side of the road with a small party tent and three wooden benches for seating. It came highly recommended and didn't disappoint - the burgers, fries and shakes were all delicious and cheap. We flagged down a taxi for a ride back to the hotel, where we checked email and caught the 10:30 shuttle to the airport. Check-in was a breeze - an agent pulled our pre-printed boarding passes out of a small box - and our flight departed as scheduled.

    Trader's Ridge Resort, Colonia, Yap

  9. Yap - april 1

    We arrived on Yap at two in morning, where the hotel staff met us and transferred us directly to the hotel, along with a group of 13 male divers who had just spent a week diving off a live-aboard in Palau. Within an hour we had checked into our room at Trader's Ridge Resort, a lovely 22-room Victorian-styled hotel. To our delight we had been upgraded to a Grand Suite - a 1500 sqft suite complete with foyer, powder room, living room and double length balcony. We browsed through the guest services book to see what tours we could book for the day, but we were soon distracted by the list of hotel employees. All but four of the eighty member staff were local Yapese and each had included a short statement (in English) about themselves: "I am learning to be chef because I like cooking. I make ice cream for the hotel."; "I can navigate by the stars. I am a good fisherman, one time I caught a 7-foot Marlin."; "I make nuwnuw and I grow flowers for the hotel rooms." We read through the entire list before falling asleep, vowing to pick a tour first thing in the morning.

    We slept in this morning, barely making it to breakfast by eleven. The highlight of breakfast was a thick slice of soursop, a refreshingly sweet fruit with white flesh and large black seeds that must be picked within 12 hours of ripening - the hotel checks their soursop trees four times a day. We relaxed around the hotel for a bit after breakfast before embarking on a private half-day tour of the island. Our guide was Tobias - a pleasant Yapese fellow who was easy to talk to and who shared with us his knowledge of the island and its people.

    Our first stop was a collection of Japanese WWII remains, including a large AA gun, a pair of Zeros, a small bomber and the old airstrip - a long cement slab now overgrown with weeds. While stopped, Tobias offered us each a betel nut, at which point we recounted Rupa's experience in Palau. He promised these would be better, so we each cracked open a nut, added a dash to lime powder and wrapped it in a pepper leaf. For twenty minutes we chewed on the nuts, which weren't particularly tasty but did create a significant amount of orange-colored juice that we spit out frequently. Tobias, like many islanders, added tobacco to his, generating a deep red juice that, over time, has stained his teeth red. He claimed to go through 20-25 nuts each day.

    Our next stop was the village of Gael, where we browsed their large stone money bank. Yap is famous for its stone money, which are circular limestone discs with a hole cut through the center. The discs range in size from a few inches to over 12 feet in diameter, though most are just a few feet across. The money was quarried in Palau - over 300 miles away - and transported to Yap aboard rafts and canoes. The value of each piece is known only by the locals and varies based on the quality, size and history of the stone. Though quarrying of new money ended in the early 1900s (the US dollar is used for everyday transactions) the stones are still traded for ceremonial purposes. Some 7,000 pieces of money can be found all over the islands, and Gael had a nice collection of 30 large pieces lining a grass pathway.

    From there we drove on to Adibwe' to tour a traditional meeting house. The large open-air mahogany house sat opposite a money bank and atop a stone platform, and was lashed together with rope and roofed with woven palm leaves. The hall-like interior was empty except for a fireplace, but is packed beyond capacity when the village gathers each month.

    Our final stop was the men's house at the village at Wuhuu'. Yap is a male dominated society and each village has a dedicated house for the men to conduct village business. The men's house was similar in construction to the meeting house but was enhanced with bamboo walls and a long log "pillow" running the length of the floor.

    After the tour we hiked up a nearby hill to watch an unimpressive sunset and ended the day with dinner at the hotel's lovely open-air restaurant.

    Trader's Ridge Resort, Colonia

  10. Yap - april 2

    We left the hotel early this morning for four hours of kayaking. We weren't sure what to expect, but we had a lot of fun paddling through the narrow waterways of a flooded mangrove forest. It was all very serene and relaxing, with sunlight filtering through the trees, birds calling overhead and waves crashing into the reef a half mile away. After kayaking we toured a nearby stone money bank and men's house before heading back to the hotel for lunch and a laid back afternoon.

    At five o'clock we found our way to the dive shop for our first Yap dive - a twilight dive in search of the elusive Mandarin Fish. We geared up and joined ten members of the dive group for a short 15 minute ride out to Rainbow Reef. It was an easy dive, with a maximum depth of 25 feet, and with a little effort we finally found our Mandarin Fish - a couple dozen of them in fact - swimming lazily among the finger coral. We also spotted a few snake-like pike fish, a pair of triangle-shaped bumphead reef fish and a large finger coral topped with a hundred two-inch long translucent fish. After an hour and half under water we returned to the hotel for a light dinner at the café and then settled in for the night.

    Trader's Ridge Resort, Colonia

  11. Yap - april 3

    We started the day off with a pair of morning dives in Mi'l Channel, hoping to see the Manta Rays which use the channel as a cleaning station. The seafloor here was sandy and visibility was limited, and we didn't see any Mantas until the end of the dive when one passed us from behind. I was in the lead and didn't actually see him until he was gliding by just a few feet above my head. Further back, Rupa watched as he closed in behind me, worried that I might unknowingly kick him.

    On our second dive we saw two more Mantas. The first one glided across about 20 feet in front of us while the second one approached us head on, at which point we dropped down to the seafloor and looked up as he calmly passed just a few feet above. Also on the dive we saw two pieces of coral-encrusted stone money - in all likelihood these pieces were conscripted as anchors by the Japanese during WWII and lost at sea.

    We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel before joining an evening excursion to a local village for a craft and dance exhibition. The excursion began with a 20 minute walk along an ancient stone trail led by a village elder who introduced us to a few traditional customs along the way. Once in the village we were greeted by a young girl who presented us each with a hand-made nuwnuw (a flower lei worn on the head). We then perused a variety of craft demonstrations arranged around the village meeting house, including palm-frond basket weaving, wood carving, palm tree climbing and nuwnuw making. Except for the leis worn around their necks most of the women were topless, though it was clear from their tan lines that the toplessness was just for show. Around their waists they wore traditional grass lavalavas - short woven wraps that they tucked in much like we would a towel. The highlight of the night, though, was the dance show, performed by two dozen villagers who sang, danced and banged sticks together much like in an Indian Dandiya Raas.

    Trader's Ridge Resort, Colonia

  12. Yap - april 4

    Today we left early for a tour of the forbidden island of Rumung. Physically isolated from Yap's other main islands, the Rumungites have elected to keep their island free of western influence and have shunned both electricity and autos -ancient stone paths are the only routes between villages. In order to visit Rumung you need a local guide and special permission from a village elder, both of which our hotel was able to arrange (apparently, permission is only granted a few times each month).

    We docked on the eastern end of Rumung and hiked over to a nearby village to view their stone money bank, which included the largest piece of stone money in the world - a giant 1-foot thick, 12-foot diameter stone doughnut (photos were not permitted). We then hiked down a wide stone path and across a stone bridge to a second village which featured some fantastic stone platforms (for viewing dance performances) and a men's house under construction (it was destroyed by a typhoon three years earlier). Our final stop was a remote beach on the western side of island where we stopped to enjoy a late morning snack.

    After our snack we cruised out beyond the Mi'l Channel to the reef for some snorkeling. The reef was only three feet below the surface of the water and was completely flat, marking the water level at low-tide. We snorkeled and free-dove through small channels in the reef and even came upon a Japanese Zero, barely discernable with large corals attached to its shell. On the ride back to the hotel we happened across an unexpected bonus - a lone Manta Ray performing underwater loops just below the surface, a skill used to funnel plankton into their mouth.

    We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing at the hotel, stopping by the lobby at one point to make nuwnuws with the help of two Yapese staff members. Later in the day the hotel manager showed us a rare hand-made hibiscus fiber lavalava that had just arrived from an outer island. The pattern and colors matched our home décor and the timing was just perfect, so we figured we had to buy it.

    Trader's Ridge Resort, Colonia

  13. Yap - april 5

    Today was a bonus day, as we had originally planned to be in Guam all day before heading off for Hawaii. However, we didn't fancy another night in Guam and instead decided to fly through Guam tomorrow and spend today in Yap. The flight schedules among the Pacific islands are quite irregular, so it was rather fortuitous that this new plan worked out.

    We spent three hours this morning hiking the ancient stone paths with Jiggy, our friendly guide and nine-year hotel employee. The paths started out as wide strips crossing a pair of grassy hills and only developed into narrow stone pathways once we entered the forest. It was hot and muggy all morning, and a brief rain shower made the stonework slippery, especially the algae-covered steps.

    Just like yesterday we spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel. We learned to weave traditional palm-leaf baskets using a single leaf, enjoyed a tropical rain shower from our deck and coordinated with a local artist to have a traditional wooden Tapuanu Mask carved and shipped to us. After an evening nap we caught the 1am shuttle to the airport, said goodbye to Yap and boarded our flight to Guam.

    Trader's Ridge Resort, Colonia

  14. Waikiki - april 5, part two

    Our flights to Guam and on to Hawaii went smoothly, though our boarding passes were checked eight times in Guam! We slept most of the eight-hour leg to Hawaii and arrived on Oahu at 5pm (the day before we left, thanks to the international dateline). We picked up a rental car at the airport and drove up to Waikiki to check into our beach-side hotel. The Outrigger was a fabulous hotel, with free WiFi, free nationwide calling, large and lovely rooms and a couple of nice restaurants. We walked around town for while, but other than a bunch of shop-lined streets there wasn't much to see, so we headed back to the hotel for dinner at the atmospheric Duke's Canoe Club. The food was delicious but the highlight was the fabulous Hula Pie - a macadamia nut ice cream sundae.

    Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, Honolulu

  15. Waikiki - april 6

    We slept in a little today, resetting our internal clocks, and then made our way over to a nearby Jamba Juice for lunch. We then spent a lovely afternoon out on the beach reading books and watching the swimmers and surfers. The beach itself was a narrow 50-foot-wide strip - much narrower than I had imagined for such a famous beach - and was packed full of bodies backing in the sun. We were lucky to find a spot, and especially lucky to find one under the shadow of an umbrella.

    Once the sun set we did a bit of shopping up and down the beach-front strip and then grabbed dinner at the Ocean House restaurant in the other Outrigger Hotel (the Cajun prime rib was fabulous). On the way out we noticed a Jamba Juice in the hotel lobby and realized that we were clearly staying at the wrong Outrigger! We did a bit more shopping after dinner and then made for the room, knowing that we had an early morning tomorrow.

    Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, Honolulu

  16. Pearl Harbor - april 7

    We were up at 6am this morning and off to visit the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. We arrived a bit late to catch the first few ferries out to the memorial - there were 400 people in line ahead of us - but we managed to get tickets for the 9:15 ferry and waited around in the departure terminal.

    Our tour began with a 20-minute documentary film about the planning of the attack and the world-wide political situation in which the attack took place. We then caught the short five-minute ferry ride out to the arch for a look at the shallow underwater remains of the USS Arizona. The ship was more visible than I had expected, especially through a pair of polarized lenses (which cuts the glare off the calm water). We skipped our return ferry and instead caught the subsequent one, spending 30 minutes at the arch instead of the allotted 15.

    Back on land we walked next door to the USS Bowfin - a WWII era submarine that's been restored to near operational appearance. We grabbed the complementary audio tour and worked our way from the torpedo bay in the bow all the way back to the diesel engines in the stern. We then spent a half hour touring the attached museum before catching a shuttle bus over to the USS Missouri, docked on Ford Island along Battleship Row.

    The only way to get below deck on the Missouri was to take a tour, and lucky for us we had a fabulous tour guide. For two hours he walked us through the bowels of the ship, detailing how the ships numerous control stations functioned and describing various aspects of life at sea. The tour finished at the memorialized spot on deck where WWII came to an end, but before leaving we spent time out on deck and stepped into one of the ship's massive deck guns, which could fire 3,000 pound man-sized projectiles 23 miles and required a hundred men each to operate. By the time we left we both agreed that the Missouri was the highlight of the day.

    We hadn't planned to spend the entire day at Pearl Harbor, but there was enough to see that we barely had enough time before meeting Grant (our diving friend we'd met in Palau) and his wife for dinner at Sam Choy's, a popular local bar and restaurant. It was dark by the time we made it back to the hotel and, having been up since 6am, we crashed.

    Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, Honolulu

  17. Waikiki - april 8

    Today was Easter Sunday and we spent the day out on the beach and in among the shops. We hiked down to the far end of the beach, which was relatively empty today, and grabbed a late lunch at a surfer bar named LuLus. A little later we found ourselves sitting on the beach outside the hotel listening to a local band play for the café crowd. We'd had such a large lunch we skipped dinner and spent the evening relaxing in the room.

    Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, Honolulu

  18. Oahu - april 9

    We decided to get another day's use out of our rental car and started out on a loop around the island. We began on the south east coast, driving past popular Hanauma Bay and out to the Halona blowhole, which unfortunately wasn't blowing due to a low tide. However, we did spot the carrier USS Ronald Reagan anchored offshore, waiting to sail into port at Pearl Harbor.

    Our next stop was Makapu'u Head, where we hiked one and a quarter miles up an old asphalt road to the 500ft seaside peak. It was a popular, if not slightly exhausting, hike with little in the way of scenery other than a lovely ocean view and a number of WWII era bunkers nestled in the rocky landscape. However, the climb suddenly became rewarding once we spotted a humpback whale performing breaches 500 yards offshore.

    We continued north to Kane'ohe Bay in hopes of kayaking out to an offshore beach, but kayak rentals were nowhere to be found - apparently we were supposed to rent one in Waikiki and strap it to our car. At high tide the beach is submerged, but it was low tide today and quite a few pleasure boats had purposefully beached themselves along the 300-yard strip of sand. We continued around the bay and out to water-worn La'ie Point, stopping nearby for some refreshing Hawaiian shave ice - like a snow cone but so finely shaved that it immediately melts in your mouth.

    Up along the north coast stopped twice to watch hardcore surfers tackle massive 20-foot waves. The most impressive stop was the Bonzai Pipeline, where large cresting waves created perfect surfing tunnels. From there we began the rather boring drive back across the island to Waikiki, though two uncharacteristic navigation errors on my part landed us first at the gates of a US Army barracks and later at an Air Force base.

    Before heading back to the hotel we stopped at the large and upscale Ala Moana Mall where we picked up board shorts and fried coconut pies at McDonalds - apparently it's still PC to serve the fried ones out here. It was late by the time we pulled up to the hotel so we grabbed dinner at Dukes (including another Hula Pie) and crawled into bed.

    Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, Honolulu

  19. Waikiki - april 10

    We checked out this morning and drove to the airport to catch our flight back home. We arrived on time, checked in and trekked half a mile back to the gate, only to be told that the plane was having mechanical problems and wouldn't be ready for another 12 hours. There is literally nothing to do in the Honolulu airport so it looked to be a rather long day, but to our pleasant surprise Hawaiian Airlines really took care of us. They shuttled all 200 of us back to the beach and gave each of us a day room at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa along with $35 for lunch and dinner. Sadly, our new board shorts and other beach paraphernalia were still checked at the airport, so we spent the afternoon reading and watching the sunset from our balcony - a wonderfully relaxing end to our six week vacation. We took off for home as scheduled 12 hours later and arrived the next morning safe and sound in Seattle.

    Hawaiian Airlines flight #28

Souvenir List

  1. Palau: Two Sam's Tours long sleeve t-shirts
  2. Palau: Sam's Tours ball cap
  3. Palau: Sarong
  4. Palau: Marine coral butterfly pendant
  5. Palau: Cotton head hankie
  6. Palau: Glass fish trinket
  7. Palau: Magnet
  8. Yap: Fiber lavalava from outer islands
  9. Yap: Blue cotton lavalava
  10. Yap: Pink cotton lavalava
  11. Yap: Traditional wood mask
  12. Yap: Wooden monkey man keychain, to make into a magnet
  13. Oahu: Pearl Harbor magnet
  14. Oahu: Missouri souvenir pennies
  15. Oahu: Two pairs of board shorts