the north shore

Tuesday was adventure day!

Destination North Shore. Waimea Bay. Sunset Beach. The Banzai Pipeline. Sea Turtles. Shave ice.

Known for its big surf in the winter, it was usually filled with world-class surfers and championships.

But it was late spring now on the North Shore and the waves were moving to the southern portion of the island.

It’s a short trip and we took the back roads across the island; finally free of the intense traffic congestion.

Long lines of bushes with green adolescent pineapple stretched along both sides of the highway. They grew low and close to the earth. For some reason, I expected them to be on trees.

Our first stop, Waimea Valley and Botanical gardens. Almost 2,000 acres of Native Hawaiian history surrounded in astounding beauty.

It’s less than a mile to the Waihi Waterfall, so we strolled at a leisurely pace taking in the exotic flowers and wildlife along the way.

That day, our hike showed me a new side to Mia. She was a stop and smell the roses kind of kid. She took her sweet time and walked slow, her steps deliberate. Walking to her own beat. She sang little songs and soaked in everything around her.

As Ava and her dad hiked ahead at a quicker pace, I slowed down with her. We weren’t in any particular hurry, so I just went with the flow and meandered along.

We picked up fallen flowers, examined bugs, absorbed the unique beauty and inspiration of this sacred place.

I was thankful for her pace, which she embraced for the entire trip. She simply would not be rushed, no matter how far behind she would get. It was just easier to slow down and be with her. She helped me see the world through her eyes.

Before long, we reached the waterfall. Thirty-five feet high with a large cool pool below. It beckoned us after the hot hike. Two guys manned the life jacket distribution. A requirement to swim. Friendly and efficient, we were outfitted quickly.

The rocks were slimy with moss, so it was challenging to get everyone in. The current was also surprisingly strong, so I placed Mia on my chest and pushed us out. Ava and her dad swam hard and tried to reach the base of the waterfall, but were sent far left. It was like one of those lap pools you can install at your home where you swim without going anywhere. The pool was deceiving in its calmness. We loved it. Surrounded by high walls of jungle greenery encased in blue sky and white fluffy clouds.

Paradise found.

We walked back in our swim suits, letting the sun dry them along the way. As Mia and I made our way down the trail, we stumbled across a roadside shrine of the ancient Hawaiians. We read the story written on the sign, so Mia made an offering of flowers she had collected along the way and made a wish.

And as we exited the park, the girls discovered giant leaves. Perfect for hiding. Bigger than Mia in every way. Jurassic Park come to life.

This guy ran up to our car to say goodbye as we drove away. This photo doesn’t do him justice, he was HUGE.

Next stop lunch. Ted’s Bakery was recommended, just a few miles up the coast. Chicken Katsu, scoops of rice, and macaroni salad; a quintessentially Hawaiian meal. Ava pretended to surf in front of a large painted mural located next to the restaurant’s front door.

No visit to the North Shore is complete without stepping onto one of its famous surfing beaches, so we paused at Sunset Beach.

The shoreline was long, the drop off steep, and the current strong. The water was beautiful, but there were no easy waves to run in and out of, and swimming required a buddy if you were under seven. Mostly, they bobbed just off shore, taking turns with their dad.

Pineapple vendors dotted the shoreline. Pineapple freshly cut while you wait, served with a straw and orchid. Freshest pineapple juice on the planet.

A little further down the road, we discovered an extra-large tidal pool protected by an outcropping of reef. Clear and full of sea life, it was only waist deep. Little schools of fish swam around my ankles.

As it was getting later in the day, we didn’t want to miss Laniakea Beach, famous for its sea turtle population. Angry clouds had started to fill the sky and rain was threatening, so we hurried on our way.

Upon arriving, there was only a few turtles left on the beach. Our first turtle was named George or in Hawaiian, Keoki. Thirty years old and two-hundred pounds, he was majestic. A long red string surrounded his place on the sand, marked with a sign telling us all about him.

Other visitors had snorkel gear and bobbed up and down in the shallow reef water, swimming with the masses of turtles just off shore.

Other turtles rolled around in the ocean break. Heads and flippers popped out as the waves crashed onto the reef.

And as the tide rolled in, our beach turtles slowly turned back towards the sea. Chomping on seaweed to get the energy to move an inch or two; each turtle exuded deep primal patience as they worked their way back into the water. I think Mia probably understood the turtles better than anyone else. Take it slow, you’ll get there eventually.

As each turtle made its way to the water line, he or she would give one last push into the rolling waves. The ocean would wrap around the turtle like a blanket and pull him or her back into the sea. When George made his run, everyone cheered.

While all this was going on, it began to rain. As the rainstorm intensified, we ran back to our car. Caught in a typical tropical downpour. Wet and sandy; our rental car was a mess, but I’m pretty sure they are used to it.

On the way back, we stopped in the town of Haleiwa, known for its art galleries, surfing, and shave ice. We parked, ran through the rain, and discovered Matsumoto Shave Ice. It wasn’t hard to find, the line was out the door.

Forty-one syrups. Four combinations. Choose Azuki beans or ice cream or both.

The girls selected the rainbow combination with ice cream. Huge in size, the girls’ eyes glowed with anticipation.

We were wet, but it wasn’t cold. As the rain poured down, we settled under the covered deck and shared our dessert.

It was getting close to dinner, so it was time to cross the island once again.

The girls quickly fell asleep in the backseat as we drove towards our hotel. Dreams of turtles, surfing, and shave ice.

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