We spent a night in Santa Cruz so we could have a mini vacation.  Our sightseeing consisted of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the nearby pier and coast, the Mission, and a stop at U.C. Santa Cruz.  I’m normally hesitant about the coast because of the potential for cold and fog, but the weather was just about perfect for our day at the beach.

Take a look at the photos:

Hawaiian Cardinal

For our last full day in Oahu, we rented a car.  This let us explore other parts of the island beyond the tourist center of Waikiki.  We drove around nearly all of the island and made various stops listed in our guide book.  We even doubled back a little bit so we could drive along highway H-3, which was well worth it and quite scenic (the route is somewhat notorious for its price of $80M per mile for a total of $1.3B).



View the photos from today:

Today it was back to the outdoors.  Nearby to Hanauma Bay (a world renowned snorkeling spot) is Koko Crater.  This was a short hike…but straight up.  It rises about 1000 feet in around 0.7 miles.  It goes up a funicular track that is abandoned, so it is basically stairs all the way up.  We did this in the morning so we could avoid the hottest part of the day.   The climb was challenging, but we made it to the top.  The view is pretty good, but probably not as good as you deserve after the uphill.   You also get to listen to the nearby shooting range the entire time which is not the most pleasant of background noises.

After the much easier decent, we headed back to Hanauma Bay.  First up was lunch and ice cold sodas.  We then got on line to get tickets  which is followed by waiting to watch the enviornmental movie about the area.  The movie is okay, but we felt it was kind of a waste of time.  After the movie, it was down to the beach.  L’ did a little snorkeling while I read my book and relaxed.

Pictures from the hike and beach:

We went for more urban activities today with a trip downtown.  We again took the very efficient and convenient bus to the Iolani Palace.  Both times I’ve gone to visit the palace on past trips, it has been closed so I was glad to finally tour the inside of it.  Only guided tours are allowed which was fine because the docent was knowledgeable about both the palace and its former occupants.   It is strange seeing royal things in the U.S.

Iolani Palace

Since it was the weekend, the nearby capitol was closed, but we took in an exterior view of it and the Hawaii Supreme Court.  They are filming episodes of “Hawaii Five-O” here so there were some extra police cars on display.

After lunch nearby, we headed back to the hotel for some vacation naps.

Photos from today:

Today we hiked to the top of Diamond Head.  I had not done this on my prior trips to Oahu and was looking forward to the view at the top.  This hike is interesting because you start from inside the cinder cone.  Diamond Head is thought to be extinct at this point.  The top used to be a military look out, but now it’s a National Monument.  The hike up is 3/4 mile, but it’s not too steep, although the last part goes up with stairs unless you take the longer, well graded detour like we did.

View of Waikiki

View of Waikiki

The view at the top was good as you can see all of Waikiki (which is quite a densely populated zone with lots of high rises).  The ocean is a pretty shade of blue as well. The only down side of the hike is that it’s fairly crowded and the viewing area at the top is filled with people.  It’s still well worth though.


View the pictures of Diamond Head:

Looking for a somewhat more relaxing vacation than we usually have, we decided to go to Waikiki for a week.   I had not been to Hawaii in the summer in a long time, so it was nice not having to worry as much about rain.  This was L”s first trip, but there is enough to do that the only repeat for me was Pearl Harbor.  This was actually a good thing because the visitor center at Pearl Harbor was built after I was there and is now greatly improved.  I highly recommend it.   It was very informative.  It even had movies recorded by the Japanese which was certainly something I had not seen.   Having never really studied much about the Pacific Theater of World War II, I found it really interesting.

USS Arizona Memorial

We spent most of the day at Pearl Harbor touring the visitor center and  USS Arizona Memorial first.  In addition to those, we toured the USS Bowfin and Submarine Museum.  Having toured the USS Midway last summer, we didn’t feel the need to stop at the USS Missouri.    While it would be neat to see where the Japanese surrendered ending the war, we didn’t really have time nor the interest to tour another military ship.

View the photos of Pearl Harbor:

It was spring time so that meant we went to the East Coast to visit the families.  While in the DC area, we experienced the whacky weather that’s the new normal – snow in late March.  A couple inches of accumulation made for some snowy pictures and cold weather.  We stayed inside for the most part to avoid the cold.  Our blood has thinned after many years in California. We don’t do winter.

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery

For an afternoon of sightseeing, we visited the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located near Dulles Airport.  This is part of the National Air and Space Museum.  It is a couple of large hangers with lots and lots of airplanes and exhibits related to the space age.  The primary interest for me was the space shuttle Discovery that is now on display following the end of the space shuttle program.  While I saw a shuttle launch as a kid and the shuttle fly by the Bay Area on its way to retirement, I had never been this close to one.  It was fun to see, although bittersweet to think that the country no longer has a permanent manned space program.   Other sites of interest here were an SR-71, the Enola Gay, and a Concorde.  The museum was a fun afternoon.

See the photos from the trip:

For our last couple days in Palm Springs, we kept things low key.  On Friday, we hiked the South Carl Lykken Trail, North (yes, it’s a very confusing name).  It’s a thousand feet of elevation gain over a pretty well graded trail.  The view at the top was nice and of course coming down much easier.  Our evening dinner at Lulu’s was enjoyable.

Saturday, we browsed a nearby arts & crafts fair that we could walk to from our hotel.  It was similar to the Art Festivals we have back at home.  I took a nap and L’ went on an extra hike (but I thought about exercising, so it counts as a workout).  The weather clouded over a bit in the afternoon so it was far from optimum pool/spa weather.  We even saw a few brief sprinkles of rain.  Our dinner nearby at Johannes was excellent and definitely our best food of the trip.

There weren’t as many photos from these couple days, but the relaxation factor was very high and made it well worth it.

View the final pictures from Palm Springs:,%20Palm%20Springs/index.html#


Joshua Tree

We got an earlier start today than the past few days to have more time at Joshua Tree National Park.  It’s not too far from Palm Springs, but it gets dark around 4pm as the sun goes behind the mountains; we wanted to maximize our daylight adventure.  We picked up sandwiches (I find it a little odd how Subway’s are now often at gas stations) on our way to the visitor center .  With our brochures in hand and park fees paid, we were on our way into the park.

Many of the sites are part of short (1-2 mile) nature trails as opposed to longer, more strenuous hikes.  This was fine as it was cold out.  Some of the park is as high as 5000 feet above sea level and thus considerably colder than Palm Springs.  Much of our day was spent wearing all of our gear to stay warm in the 43 degree weather.  At least the sun was nice and warm.

We stopped at Hidden Valley, Barker dam, Keyes view, Skull Rock, Arch Rock and the Cholla Cactus garden .  Each of these let us see different aspects of the park.  There is a lot to see beyond just the namesake Joshua Trees (which technically aren’t even trees).  To top it off, we watched the moon rise over the mountains as the sun set.   We then headed out the southern entrance and returned to Palm Springs.

View all the pictures from today:,%20JoshuaTree/index.html


Today we went to The Living Desert, a zoo located in Palm Desert (a few towns over from Palm Springs). It took surprisingly long to get there so by the time we made it to Palm Desert, we stopped for an early lunch. We finally made it to the zoo by the early afternoon.

palmsprings145The zoo is reasonably sized and we were able to see the whole place. There are two sections, North American and African. We saw a variety of animals and met up with friends from home who were also in Palm Springs for vacation.

While in the snack shop, I spotted my college friend and his family who I haven’t seen in several years.  Small world, since they live in Seattle. It was nice to briefly catch up.

Getting back to town, we went to the Fisherman’s Market & Grill, which was very good. You pick your fish and then they grill it for you. Tasty, reasonably priced, and quicker than a full sit down service restaurant. A good end to another fun day.

View the photos from today:,%20The%20Living%20Desert/index.html


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