The Hawaiian Islands are paradise in the Pacific. From Kauai in the north to The Big Island in the south, the best of everything I love is there.
This tropical treasure trove has world class scuba diving, the best waves on the planet, unparalleled nature, bustling cities, sleepy seaside villages, amazing skydiving, incredible skate parks, and more magnificence than I could name. However, I will cover a bit of the beauty here in the blog! We started by renting a car to live out of on Oahu.
At the end of summer in 2005 my brother and I packed a bag, and set out to do some island hopping. We started the journey on Oahu. Where we rented a car and set out to explore. My friend Mandy lived in Honolulu in a cute little apartment that had an amazing view of the city. She showed us around some southern surf spots, took us to interior island waterfalls, and let Jeremiah ride her scooter. Still, on several occasions we ventured off on our own.
My brother and I are both dive masters in SCUBA, so the underwater world was high on our list of places to explore. We dove several wrecks, reefs, and even the underwater exhaust vent of a power plant. That ranks near the top of my most unique dives. There is a huge port that blast out water. It is almost like an amusement park ride (see video below). You swim into the current, and the rushing water propels you across the see floor. Then once you have had your fill of flying underwater. You can stop and relax among the tropical fish, sea turtles and sharks.
My brother and I are also B licensed skydivers. So, the fact that one of the most scenic drop zones in the world is on the North Shore doesn’t hurt. We only jumped there a couple of times, but punching through a cloud at 10,000 feet to reveal Oahu in its entirety below was an experience I’ll never forget. We had to cruise down to Aoki to cool off with their world famous shave ice afterward. Then it was off to stay with my buddy Ethan on Kauai!
Ethan was the brother of my team manager at Billabong, and an incredible surfer. We started with a beach camping surf mission down the street from Ethan’s house, at Targets. Then, in the following days, we toured the rest of the island. There was a crazy natural water-park with slides, shoots, cliffs, waterfalls, rope swings, and trees that towered over it all. You can see me as a speck in one of the pictures above, back flipping out of one of the lofty branches. Ethan also lives quite close to the Hawaiian version of the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon! After our island expedition, and a bit of fence building (gotta pay to play), Jeremiah and I set out to explore.
You could see this towering waterfall across the canyon, and that was exactly where we wanted to be. It took a little bit of hiking to get there, but the paradise we found was well worth it. I honestly don’t think you could have created a place more magical. We sat in cascades, shaded by lush foliage, looking out down the vast sheer walls all the way to the ocean. The lazy tourists took the helicopter ride in, and got a bonus view of our full moons as they swung wide over a cliff-side. Just incase we had made it on to any sort of wanted list for our hedonist behavior. We headed to our next destination, the Big Island!
This is possibly my favorite island of them all. It is larger than the rest of the islands put together and plays host to just about every climate imaginable. There are arid desert areas, lush rain forests, snow peak mountains, and even a volcano!
Starting out, we knew no one on this island. The rental car was our home, and most nights I slept in my board bag. While Jeremiah popped a tent. Hawai’i is a very easy going place, where you are seldom hassled for being bohemian. Shirts are almost always optional, and showers are at just about every beach. While looking to buy a house on the island was our main objective, exploring was high on the list as well.
Night one we stayed on a black sand beach. Which turned out to be a sea turtle nesting area. We were very careful not to disturb the process, though I did snap a few photos, at a reasonable distance – fifteen feet. We made a pilgrimage to the south point (my favorite cliff jumping spot on the planet), and hitch hiked to what I believe is the world’s only green sand beach. It was there that we made friends with some locals who invited us to a family reunion karaoke party! But that was after our manta dive on the Kona side of the island.
I know this blog contains a lot of boasts about the best, but the manta dive is otherworldly! It is like sitting around a campfire underwater while the ghost stories you tell manifest above you. Mantas feed on tiny marine life like plankton. Which are attracted to light. So you take flood lights to the bottom of the ocean and sit around them whilst shining your own light into the blackness above. Much like terrestrial bugs to light, so too are microscopic marine life. Soon airplane sized sea creatures start to swarm overhead. Mantas can have a wing span of twenty or more feet, and when five to ten of them are looping the waters around you, reality becomes warped in a way you can’t imagine. I’ve since swam with mantas, and whale sharks, but nothing has quite compared to that night. And this was all before our brains were further fired on a hike out to the lava fields…
Us Haney boys have always had a fascination with danger. Warning signs only serve to peak our curiosity, even when we are talking about volcanoes and lava.
And that is how one night we wound up hiking out onto a newly formed portion of the Big Island, in flip flops.
We started out at the visitor center at Volcano National Park. We took in all the safety briefings and did some hikes in the less life threatening locations. The Thurston Lava Tube was pretty incredible, a cave formed from flowing magma! You really feel like you are burrowing into the core of the planet. Though the actual lava has long since gone. By then end of the day we had made our way down to the coast. Where you could actually see the formation of the island taking place as the elements clashed in a furious show of force.
We walked roads almost completely reclaimed by the earth.
It illustrated sharply how little contest there was in pitting man against nature. Still, for some reason, the signs meant to halt us in our pursuit of visceral verification only served to heighten our spirit of adventure. The rangers too had warned us that only a month prior several miles of shelf had crumbled into the sea. Nothing beyond those ropes was certain, especially any expectation of escaping with ones life.
A first hand account our exploration are available at the end of the below video. Spoiler alert – We Lived!