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Another early morning for us, as I say though, when in Hawai’i one must not waste time. Today we had preplanned a trip to Diamond Head with my Japanese sister and new hubby/fiancé. (They legally got married in Japan before coming to the USA for the wedding.) My sisters’ firefighting girlfriend and wacky brother came along for the fun too.

Japanese bro-in-law preplanned the time to get to Diamond Head but forgot to double check the opening time. (None of us did, oops…) So we got there early, along with a zillion Japanese tour buses. Hawai’i really made me feel as though I was transported into my Japanese lifestyle instead of my American one. I’m still trying to get over my homesickness for Japan.

Once you arrive to Diamond Head, you must go through this tunnel that has been carved out of the side of a volcanic crater and pay for a parking/walking in fee. You are transported into the volcano center and feels like one is in a valley. It’s so interesting for the first time but a little creepy all the same one you think you are in the middle of a volcano. The entire time I kept thinking Jurassic Park, the movie, for some reason. Don’t ask… Lol. Then everyone walks up this long trail and up the side of the crater with what seemed like a million stairs. We didn’t have problems with the stairs but the walking tunnels had me a little since they are very cramped. I have a slight issue with small area that people like to call tunnels. At the top is a sprawling view of the crater inside and the ocean on the opposite side. Truly amazing! It truly is breathtaking.

My sister wanted to go off and eat Pho for breakfast before going off to do some wedding plans. We had a full day planned with sightseeing so we said our goodbyes at the gates. Off to a fast breakfast at the local 7-11 which for those of you that aren’t aware is now owned by a Japanese company. In Hawai’i, the stores are more Japanese than the ones back home on the mainland. To my surprise they had Japanese onigiri (rice ball rolls) that I am addicted, mmm! They are generally filled with fish but can also come vegan with seaweed, umeboshi (pickled plum), pickled mustard greens and etc. We picked up a few onigiri, some freshly cut Hawaiian pineapple (so sweet) and a large bottle of water. Then we were off on our way to East Oahu.

Our first stop was the Private Spitting Cave of Portlock. This is a strange location for a “park” but is worth the trip. It’s easiest to find if you have a GPS system since it’s near the end of a residential cul-de-sac. It’s literally just a small little path between two houses. It is quite steep so I do not recommend this cave for everyone. If you are physically able, I highly recommend this hidden treasure. The path opens up to the ocean and a steep multi-layer cliff, each layer placed by a different explosion. There were only three other people on this large hidden cliff next to the ocean. We were thankful to see a wild seal and two turtles swimming in the ocean, something we would not have seen other places.

Next we were off to a Japanese Fishing Shrine alongside the road in Hawai’I Kai on Route 72. It’s told to have had a historical that dated back before WWII. It’s just before the popular Halona Beach (the beach used on From Here to Eternity) and the Halona Blowhole. Again, it reminded me of the fishing shrines alongside the road in Japan. It’s truly authentic and worth the five minutes to check it out. There is free parking alongside the road and wasn’t busy when we were there.

Off again to Koko Crater Botanical Garden which is a free public garden that is totally worth the drive. The botanical garden is right in between Route 72 and a residential area. The botanical garden was setup to have different areas of the world such as Hawai’i, Africa, North America and so on. My favorite part was the Plumeria section which has this scent hugging everyone that goes around each and every person. Glad the husband was there because I would have totally tried to get a tree inside my camera backpack. We probably took about two hours looking around and taking in the smell and views.

By the time we left, we were starving so we chose a Thai Restaurant called Thai Valley Cuisine, less than ten minutes away. It’s located at: 501 Kealahou Street, Honolulu, HI 96825. It’s a little unnerving going into a new restaurant, especially as a vegan and this was no different. It is a small restaurant that an outsider can tell is usually only frequented by locals. It’s like going into Cheers as an outsider and no one says your name and stares. But hey, I once lived in the deep south of Japan where I was the only blond head for hundreds of miles. The husband is cute though, he gets all shy and quiet.

We got some lovely vegan curry and summer rolls but didn’t really feel the stares were well for digestion so we took it to go. The prices were reasonable compared to what we were used to and the sizes were just as reasonable. Unfortunately we found it really strange that when you buy curry, you must also buy rice since it doesn’t come with it. Everyone is separately priced so it does get a bit more expensive than normal. We took our hot meal to a black lava beach just down the road near Makapu’u Beach Park. It’s not a sandy beach really but rather a black lava filled piece of land near the ocean. There is a bit of beachy sand but not the nice clean white sand in Waikiki. There were a few locals around fishing. So we ate our hot Thai food while listening to the waves and staring at the Manana (Rabbit) Island and Kaohi-ka-ipu Island.

Even though we were tired by now we decided just to drive and see a few sites before we returned to the hotel for the night. We chose to go see Tantalas Drive in the daylight since it is referred to as one of the few original “Hawaii forest” experiences, basically since Oahu is densely populated and taken over by tourist destinations. At the top of Tantalus, there is a park that is well worth taking a few minutes to check out since you are already there. It’s called Pu’u Ualaka’a State Wayside. It’s free to enter and I highly suggest going to the lookout point. It was raining a little but it was a gorgeous view, better than Tantalus in my opinion. Besides one other local family, it was completely empty. Then we took a trip to Walmart to purchase a few little Hawaii gifts, minus the tourist price tag.

We got home and ate leftovers- exciting I know… but then we went ahead and went out to eat with my Japanese family and a few other important family guests.  We ate at a lovely Thai restaurant once again.  Lol  Glad we love Thai food!

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