Hawai’i’s Emerald Valley: Where Humidity Makes Gorgeous Things Happen

Aloha, folks! Forgive us as we go back in time to catch up on our adventures, now that we have more consistent access to WiFi. Though we started in San Diego, we boarded the ship almost immediately and didn’t get to explore the city much – aside from catching up with old friends in new places (hi, Chelsea and Sam!) – we cruised overnight to the Port of Ensenada in Mexico to pick up our 600+ students.


If you squint and look really hard in the background around the San Diego skyline, you just might find the ship.

Hawai’i is about five days sailing from there, so we arrived at the Port of Honolulu a few weeks ago now. We were scheduled for a quick refueling stop, clocking about 12 hours total in port, before powering on to Kobe, Japan, our second port of call. With the prospect of over two weeks of straight sailing and living our lives on a 573 foot-long ship, our excursion in Hawai’i was one of the first we booked.

Presenting: Emerald Valley on the island of Oahu.

We docked early in the morning and were able to watch the beginnings of the sunrise over the mountainous coast as we cruised into the harbor. It took immigration a few hours (a pretty quick turn around, from what we’re hearing) to clear us, so we had some time on the ship to soak up the last of our data and internet while we had an American signal. Once we disembarked, Will and I assumed our duties as Trip Liaisons and wrangled our groups of 15 students/adults, and we were off!


Our first stop was a lookout, perched on a Hawai’ian historical cliff side. Since Hawai’i used to be home to several indigenous groups, there were occasionally wars among the Hawai’ian nations. As King Kamehameha fought to unite the groups under one singular ruling kingdom, the losing side was forced to retreat to this cliff. Rather than be taken hostage or killed in battle, the warriors chose an honorable death and jumped over the cliff instead. Now a peaceful and populated tourist lookout, the picturesque location seems a long way from war-torn indigenous battles.


Tah dah!

A short drive away, we were turned out into Lyon Arboretum, maintained/sponsored by the University of Hawai’i Manoa and home to lots of beautiful birdies, flowers, trees, and bugs, but very few furry wee beasties. With few indigenous mammals, there are no squirrels or chipmunks in Hawai’i. Instead, colorful birds and plant-life thrives in the lush, humid climate. We trekked a short out-and-back trail to a mini waterfall, snapping photos and chatting along the way. Without my own classroom, it was great to get to talk with smaller bunches of students as we went. Though I’d been sitting in on Global Studies, walking around with a microphone and candy during some of the call/response sessions, and monitoring the sign-in sheets, I was most proud to be noticed as “the Harry Potter pen lady” by one of the students, thanks to my Harry Potter wand pen that I’d been offering students to use to sign-in (Christmas present shout-out to Will’s brother and sister-in-law!).

We feasted after this quick hike, chowing down on some local favorites. Our boxed lunch consisted of sticky rice, teriyaki beef, a hunk of fried chicken, a thin pork cutlet, and Spam. We were all offered chopsticks for our fare and tucked into the array of meat without looking back or thinking too hard about our cholesterol consumption, but it was all surprisingly tasty. Spam has been a Hawai’ian staple since the US military days and is a common add-on, so we hear, to fast food burgers and more widely available pretty much everywhere. With as much as we were sweating in the outrageous heat, I convinced myself that I needed every last calorie and happily mowed – which explains why there are no photos available of said delicacy, a pattern you may come to notice as we eat our way around the world.


Of course, Raph and Bats were invited along for the expedition.

Post lunch led us to our second photo-op, Tantalus Lookout, from the Ko’olau Mountains. From this lookout, several of the infamous volcanoes are visible, including Diamond Head, as well as Waikiki Beach and our very own ship home! …Shome? Yes, I’ll be using that instead now. Shome, sweet shome!




Our last stop of the day took us by a snack stand, so we pitched in to get everyone a flavored ice before making our way to my favorite spot of the tour, Likeke Falls. We sloughed our way up the hills and through the mud, which I imagine is never really dry, given all the humidity. We wound our way through overgrown brush and trees that had either grown or were cut into tunnels. We were minutes from a finely manicured golf course, but the second we got on the trail, we may as well have been hours from civilization. We slipped and slid the last bit of the way to the roar of rushing water and stumbled into a lush little cove where water poured down the side of the mountain, pooling in several places before tumbling over more rocks and farther down the mountain.

We watched, holding our breath, as our more ambitious students basically scaled the rock faces, definitely leaving the designated paths. We’re still figuring out what our role is exactly, as the “grown-ups in charge” since everyone is an adult and we don’t want to mother-hen everyone, but all’s well that ends well since every student made it home in one piece. Our tour guide gave us some time to relax and poke around before we tip-toed our way back down the sludgy trail to the bus, savoring our last steps on land, however unsure they may be.

Our guides tossed in one last bonus stop for us before turning us back onto the ship. We have now visited the only palace in the United States, Iolani Palace. Right in the center of Honolulu, minutes from the docks, are several beautifully constructed state buildings and statues devoted to the last of the royal rulers of Hawai’I, including Queen Lliuokalani who was the last royal before the US seized power, and several of her predecessors, like King Kamehameha III, IV, and V.


The large group of people, according to Will, were playing Pokemon. Apparently there was a “legendary release,” whatever that means. 

All in all, we had a very excellent go in Hawai’i! Mahalo, Oahu, for everything you offered. We can’t wait to visit again!

Mahalo readers,


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