Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bridesmaiding

I got asked to be a bridesmaid recently and I could not be more excited.  The wedding is in Boston next August, so we're going to try to build in a vacation in New England and possibly a road trip as well.  Plus, there are four bridesmaids and three of them are friends of mine from college, and they are super-easy-going, and the MOH seems really nice too.

So I'm trying to follow the rules of bridesmaiding that I have come up with, through several years of reading blogs, acting as the emergency person, being a bridesmaid, and getting married myself and having an awesome crew:

1.) Be involved and be available.  If possible, make time to go dress shopping and squeal over magazines, or at least share a pinterest board.  It helps the bride not feel like a bridezilla that is the only one that cares about looking at fluffy dresses.

2.) Reign the bride in.  Sometimes it is your job to say, bluntly, "do not cook all of the food for your wedding yourself", sometimes it is your job to say, "you are taking on too many DIY projects" and sometimes it is your job to say, "I'm not wearing four inch heels, that is insane."

3.) Don't make her wedding about you.  It's fine for you to obsess over your hair and makeup, and you should discuss it with the bride a bit so that she knows that you're excited, but don't spend the day of the wedding acting like your hair is a priority, or pouting because you hate it.  It will make the bride feel upset that she asked you to get your hair done.

4.) Don't wait too long to order your dress or your shoes (if the bride is particular about shoes).  Don't order your dress three sizes too small just because you are planning on losing weight.  (If you are heavily dieting, consider trying to order dresses from a retail store that lets you do returns, but you might have to suck it up and pay for alterations.)

5.) Don't gripe about looking fat.  It will upset the bride, because she thinks you are beautiful and she doesn't want you to feel upset or out of place.  If you want to lose weight, lose weight, but don't make a huge deal about it or make the bride feel like you did it because she wanted you to.  (Note: it is acceptable to politely mention that certain lines of bridesmaids dresses do not carry sizes large enough for you.  This is not something that many people who have skinny privilege think about.  It is also acceptable to politely request to shop at a place that carries dresses in multiple sizes, so that you are not squeezing a size 16 person into a size 8 dress.)

6.) Don't give her much input about the bachelorette party.  She is allowed to request a particular weekend or a particular activity.  Bachelorette parties are a big thing that leaves the bride feeling sad and upset - often turnout is low, people bail at the last minute, or nothing turns out exactly as planned.  Better to not know what is planned.

7.) Do NOT complain about the dresses.  Especially not after they come in.  Complain to somebody that doesn't know the bride or isn't going to go to the wedding, and then put on a big smile and tell the bride that you love it.  (I loved my bridesmaids' dresses.  My bridesmaids' did not.  They all totally faked their enthusiasm when I squealed about them, and for that I am forever grateful.)

8.) Put your makeup on as quickly as possible on the day of the wedding, so you aren't still getting ready when everybody else is ready to go.  Do it in an area away from the bride, so you aren't crowding her and you are all at the same sink.  Bring a mirror for you and/or the other bridesmaids.  Test run your makeup beforehand and don't ask everybody annoying questions about whether they think a particular lipstick looks good.

9.) Get your dress altered.  One wedding I emergency crewed for, two of the bridesmaids were standing in front of the mirror complaining about how their dresses didn't look right.  One had lost a lot of weight, but not gotten the dress altered.  It looked terrible.  I shortened her straps for her and ten minutes later, the whole thing looked a lot better.  This is not me tooting my own horn - it took ten minutes, it would not have cost much at an alterations place, and she should have gotten it taken care of.  The other one was fixed up with some artful safety pinning, but she would have been much better off if she had gotten it altered.

10.) Have fun and be nice!  Have a good time.  Even if you're not a dancer, get out there on the floor and have fun.  Even if you hate stupid games at showers, play them and get into them.  Make friends with her family members and act open and inviting towards everyone - don't act jealous or weird of the other bridesmaids or of her family or close friends that aren't in the bridal party.  For example, in Bridesmaids, while I think the Helen character was kind of out-of-line in the way she acted, Kristen Wigg got super-possessive of her friend, which was a total turnoff and I wound up hoping that the bride would make new friends soon.

Those are my rules (more like guidelines, really) - what are yours?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hawaii: Manta Ray Night Dive

I went on the Manta Ray Night Dive when I was 22.  My parents took my sister and I to Hawaii as a last hurrah before we started grad school, and it was awesome.  One of the things we did was the Manta Ray Night Dive, and I came back and talked about it for four years.  Whenever anybody says they are going to The Big Island, I respond with, "go on the manta dive".  When we were originally planning to go to Hawaii, we were planning to go to Oahu.  There were a couple reasons why we decided on the Big Island, but I would be lying if I said it didn't have a LOT to do with wanting to experience this dive again (and I knew it was something my husband would love.)

It is one of the top ten dive experiences, consistently rated, and it is definitely the top snorkeling experience.  It's also just one of the coolest things you will ever do.  You totally think that I'm overselling this and nothing could ever be worth $70 to lie on top of the water or sit around a campfire, but I'm not.  I was a little concerned before we got in the water that I had oversold it and that my husband would be disappointed in the dive.

Guys, it just isn't possible.  (Unless they don't show up.  But there is an 80% chance.)

(Photos by me. Tip - don't bother bringing a camera. Most of the pictures are terrible 
and it messes with your buoyancy.)

You sit in a circle and you hold your dive light above your head and the mantas swim over you and they do backflips and they smack you in the head with your fins and it's just the coolest thing.  It's absolutely magical, and one of the coolest things is that it's totally silent.  It's not like one of those tourist experiences when you're at the Grand Canyon and all the parents are warning the kids to be careful, or when you're on the boat out over the Arizona memorial and all these bitchy high school kids are complaining about how bored they are, or when you go to the zoo and everyone crowds around the tiger cage to catch a glimpse.  I'm a total wuss about night dives (and I'm terrified of the dark) usually I spend night dives clutching my buddy's hand and freaking out about the tarpon following us, but this is the easiest night dive in the world. It's 35 feet of water, it's lit up like a football field, and you sit on the bottom.  (Sit down, don't try to kneel.  You will be much more stable.  And Frank the Eel might come hang out by your fin.)

If you are a snorkeler, you are equipped with a light and a raft and you hang on to the raft and the mantas come up and they do back flips underneath you and they come (seriously) belly to belly with you.  As we were heading back to the boat, a couple mantas followed us and I can thoroughly say that the experience is as cool as a snorkeler as it is as a diver.

I highly highly recommend doing the two-tank dive if you are a diver.  Why?
If you go to the same site during the day, you see mantas during the day.  It's seriously seriously cool.  And it's only $10 more, so even if you don't see mantas, you get an awesome dive with other cool stuff. 
(Why am I not in Hawaii right now? For serious.)
I also highly recommend Big Island Divers.  They provide you with water, juice, snacks, a sandwich, hot cocoa, dry towels after each dive (bring a sweatshirt - it gets REALLY cold after the dive), and they set up and break down your gear for you.  They provided one guide for four divers, which is a perfect ratio, and they have a counter on their website to show how many mantas came to last night's dive.  If the number is high, your chance of seeing mantas is pretty good - they apparently hang around for awhile.  

Something to keep in mind is that it can get chilly - definitely rent a full wetsuit for this one, even if you wear a shorty.  Even Mark was cold, and he doesn't usually have a problem.  Another thing is that the boat doesn't have a bathroom, which is a concern for some.  They encourage using the ocean once you have taken your wetsuit off, so it's a little weird because people get on the boat, take off their rental wetsuits, and then jump back in, so it's just awkward, I think.  Kona Honu has a bathroom on their boat, if that is important to you, and I think we went with them last time - everyone on our boat totally respected them, so I would guess they are a good operation. Big Island also has a big boat which they use for people only doing a one-tank dive, so if you are snorkeling, try to get on that.  

Anyone else ever do this dive/snorkel? What did you think? Am I overselling it?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hawaii Guide: Shore Diving

Diving in Hawaii is expensive, so when we planned the trip, we planned for shore diving.  Shorediving.com had several sites listed, and the reviews sounded pretty good, so we made a reservation with Big Island Divers and picked up tanks and weights our first day.  Our first dive was at a site called 4 Mile Marker, which is right next to the 4 mile marker on Alii Drive.  The entry itself wasn't bad, but our navigational skills were pretty poor and there are supposedly awesome caves and swim throughs at this site, but we didn't find any of them.  The entry wasn't bad, but the current underwater picked up and started pushing us towards the shore. 
Just a little rocky.

After that, we tried to do the Old Airport, which was listed in every guidebook as a good shore dive.  When we mentioned it to the woman at the shop, she looked outside and said, "check the entry first, then decide if you can do it" because the entry gets really rough when the wind picks up.  We checked the entry and it looked okay, but by the time we got our gear on, the swell had picked up and I lost my footing and stepped on an urchin on the way in (I just got the last bit of the spine out last week).  Not wanting to repeat that experience, we decided to go to the harbor, which was supposedly protected.  Not only is the harbor protected, it involves a rocky lava pile to get to it.  Walking with all your gear over the loose lava rocks is challenging at best, but the entry was totally worth it - it was a very easy beach entry, no rocks.  However, we got lost in the harbor and wound up surfacing on the wrong side of the boat channel, which meant we then had to go back down and swim across.  We called our first day of shore diving a disappointment, but decided to try again. 

A lot rocky. This was taken from one of those giant boulders.

The next morning, we decided to try 4 Mile Marker again.  We had a dive plan, a depth plan, and followed the instructions to go to the left.  It was a nicer dive, but we wound up swimming back in about 12 feet of water and getting pushed very hard against the reef by the current.  Swimming out further to do a deeper dive didn't seem like an option, so I'm not sure what we should have done to make it better.

Once we got out of the water, swearing about the current and our general failures, I suggested we go to Two Step for the second dive.  Two Step was where I had done most of my dives when I was here with my family, and I knew the entry was easy and the dive was beautiful.  It was a long drive (30-40 minutes) down there and once we got there, I made a wrong turn (or rather, a failure to turn) and we wound up driving down a one lane road for four miles.  (I remembered the entrance not being part of the park, but you have to turn where the sign for the park is, and then make a right.)  After the dive, we went for a hike that our guidebook recommended where there are lava arches that look down on the water.  We planned to go to the park, but were pretty exhausted and wound up just driving home. 
Arches

The next day, we decided to go to the Airport again, but the entry still looked rough (and I was so freaked out by stepping on an urchin that I was chicken about it) and we wound up doing the harbor again.  That night we had the two tank manta ray dive with Big Island Divers and we got to see what we were missing by not doing boat dives.  The dive shop set up our gear for us, and then rinsed it at the end of the night.  They provided sandwiches, juice, and snacks, and helped us in and out of the water.  The dive guide found us all kinds of neat stuff underwater, which was just awesome, and overall, we both wound up deciding that in the future, we will boat dive.  The next day, we did a single tank dive at Two Step, and then we decided we didn't need to do a final day of diving.

What are the take-aways?
1. Boat dive.  It is worth the money to do fewer boat dives than more shore dives.  We probably could have gotten as much out of as few as 2 two tank morning charters and the manta ray night dive. 
2. Rent gear.  I was really shocked when I realized that Big Island Divers rents the same WSD BCD that I use (SeaQuest Diva) and that if you were on the boat, they rented you a dive computer free of charge.  We spent a lot of time stressing over the weight of our single checked bag, which had all of my gear in it, and I spent a lot of time cold because my wetsuit fit poorly due to recent weight loss.  I honestly think I would have been the same/better off if I had rented gear, and I would have been able to bring home a giant suitcase of Caramacs and Volcano wine.
3. If you do shore dive, don't go through a single shop - find tanks closer to where you are going to be diving, so you can swap them out between dives if you don't take two at once.  If you shore dive and you are not a regular rugged-terrain shore diver (that is, you have shore dived but only in Bonaire or places with a beach/pier entry and little to no surf, you do not have enough experience), this is my suggested schedule for shore dives:
Day 1: Rent 2 tanks, drive to Two-Step. Do the southern route first (early, so you can see dolphins), then the northern route.
Day 2: Dive the harbor, then hang at the beach for lunch and then catch a boat for the Manta Ray Night Dive.  Do the two-tank, it is worth more than the extra $10 it costs.  I'm going to write a whole separate post on the importance and value of the Manta Ray Night Dive.
Day 3: Dive 4 Mile Marker, but try to get a map first.  If you have a map, you might be able to figure out where the lava tubes and everything else are.  Then maybe check out one of the other sites reviewed on ShoreDiving.com like Kailua or Ke-ei (I think we did not do that one because it looked like the entry would not be good in our Crown Victoria.)
If you try to get in more than 3 days of shore diving, you are really gambling on the winds and the swell.  Puako and Mahukona are supposedly great, but they are pretty far north, so if you are going to do them, I would recommend staying up near Puako for a night and hitting them super-early.
You should also rent something with a hatchback.  We "sprang" for a midsize car and got upgraded to a Crown Vic, which had a trunk so deep we could dive in that.  This is impossible for shore diving.  Get a 4WD or at least a Nissan Versa, which seemed to be the most commonly rented hatchback at our rental car place.

The relative cost of shore diving is significantly cheaper than boat diving, but it isn't worth it. What you realize pretty quickly is that mostly locals shore dive - people who are just looking to get in a couple dives on a weekend.  There aren't maps of the dive sites readily available (although Big Island Divers had some, which were extremely helpful), and it's kind of dangerous to be on your own if you don't know the area.  The total cost for shore diving for two of us for five days was around $260.  The total cost of boat diving would have been something like $130 per person per day.  But since I think if we had done boat diving, we would have been satisfied with 3 two-tank charters, the relative expense would have been worth it to really enjoy our vacation - the first two days of shore diving were really stressful and also so exhausting that we just went home and ate cold pasta salad instead of walking around Kona and enjoying ourselves and vacationing. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hawaii: Activities

So what do people do on the big island?  There are some beach resorts, but it doesn't feel like as much of a paradise island lie on the beach type of vacation destination.  But we didn't fly halfway around the world to lie on the beach, that is what the Caribbean is for.  So what is so great about Hawaii?
-Diving (see tomorrow's post) and Snorkeling!  If you don't dive, you have to go snorkeling.  Firstly, you have to do the manta night snorkel (we'll discuss this later), but also you should go snorkeling at either City of Refuge/Two Step or at Captain Cook (Kaileakea Bay).
(Reef squid!)
-Captain Cook - this bay is just kind of cool.  Apparently at some point in history, a big chunk of the island just kind of fell off, and then the bay was there.  So you show up, you rent a kayak (it was $50 for us, the guy in the mustang that pulled up right after had to pay $60...), you paddle yourself over to the monument, you eat a picnic (see "eating" post), and then you snorkel.  The bay is really calm, the visibility is excellent, the fish life is incredibly diverse here, and it's probably one of the best spots to snorkel that we went to.  Then you kayak back and drive home past the fruit farm / honey stand / coffee tasting place that gave us free samples of everything and had macadamia nut ice cream.
- Volcano Park - excellent hiking. Bring lots of water.  I highly recommend the Kailuea Iki crater trail.  They say if you only have a day, you should drive the crater rim, but I was pretty happy with just hitting the overlooks and then hiking the Iki trail, the Thurston lava tube, the sulfer trail, the museum, and the final trail that I'll just call the Land Before Time trail and not really recommend it.  (I think it was the "hairy hill" trail, or part of it.)  Your mileage may vary, but we were pretty happy to just spend a day in Volcano park.

- Volcanically heated swimming pools.  We went to Ahalanui Park, which wasn't terribly crowded (but go early or you will not be able to park) and it was pretty cool.  The water is ocean water, but it's heated by lava so it's kind of like taking a salty bath where fish try to bite your legs.  I'm not selling it well but it was neat.
- Ziplining - We went with UmaUma Experience and it was definitely a splurge, but it was pretty cool.  You zipline over waterfalls, the guides are all really fantastic and have a lot of fun, and it felt extremely safe.
(That's me.  Right before this, I was flying upside down. It's awesome.)

- Beaches.  I don't mean to undersell the beaches on The Big Island, because the beaches are gorgeous and awesome and you should go to them, but clearly there is other cool stuff too.  There are several great beach parks along Alii drive where they offer surf and SUP lessons - the weather was bad for SUP on the one day we decided to go, so we passed on that.  We also spent several hours at the Old Airport beach park, which has good diving if you don't step on an urchin.  There is also a nice beach close to Mile Marker 4, which is a dive site, and a lovely little protected beach at the harbor dive site, which is really nice as long as you don't mind hiking over lava.
- Black sand beach.  When you drive around to volcano, check it out, it's pretty cool and there are turtles.
- Running.  Running along Alii Drive south out of Kona is awesome.  I wish we could have run all the way down to "the end of the world" where people jump off cliffs, but we just ran two miles from our hotel and two miles back.  There are beach parks with water fountains, there are amazing views of the waves crashing, you can see locals out for their morning surf, and it's fabulous.
- Driving.  I highly highly recommend you drive the island.  We went south to north because we were staying in Volcano.  Guidebooks recommend you rent a four wheel drive, and maybe if you get free upgrades or something, it's worth it.  We cheaped out, saved $200, and rented a Crown Vic (don't let them give you a crown vic), and there wasn't that much that we couldn't do because we didn't have a four wheel drive.
- Hiking waterfalls.  We didn't make it to Rainbow Falls or any of the other awesome waterfalls, but that area of the island is all just beautiful jungle and I really wish we had managed to put in some time there.
-Wine Tasting.  Volcano winery is located near the park and it was a fun diversion.  For $5, we got a decent amount of delicious wine and had a lovely conversation with the salesgirl about tropical plants and winemaking.


Anyone else have activity recommendations?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hawaii Guide: Food

Kayce warned me before we left that we should be prepared for sticker shock, and we were.  We were also prepared to cook for ourselves for most of the trip.  But vacation food is tricky, so I wanted to share some of what we bought and why it was useful for us with the particular trip we planned.  For both diving and hiking, it was preferable to have sandwiches with us on the road, and our place came with a cooler.

We brought two packages of pasta salad with us, because pasta salad is delicious, packs light, and is good to have on hand.  Other things we could have brought if we had room were milk, peanut butter, crackers, microwave popcorn, and olive oil.

We went to Costco our first day and bought:
-gourmet pitas (10)
-sliced cheese (we ate almost all of this but probably should have bought 2 normal sized packages at Target)
-GoPicnic meals (4 came in a package - two hummus and crackers, two turkey and crunch - we bought one package)
-freezer meals (one package of four Indian microwaveable dinners)
-trail mix (that giant blue bag - finished it in five days - diving is hungry work)
-babybel cheeses (these were a mistake, because we bought the full-fat ones that are not as good as the light ones)
-a pizza ($10 for a large and was surprisingly good)
-bananas (I get foot cramps and needed to eat them before diving)
-a pineapple ($3 - not the best pineapple I've ever had, but cheap and local)
We also hit Target and picked up:
-OJ
-Milk
-Cereal
-Tomatoes
-Deli meat
-Potato chips (these were insanely expensive, hence the recommendation to bring popcorn in the future)
-Gatorade

Later in the week, we went to a grocery store to buy local fish and produce to grill out.  We ate the following for dinner:
-Pizza (1 night and several breakfasts)
-Indian microwaveable meals (2 nights)
-Grilled cheese and tomato soup (bread and soup bought in volcano at a steep markup)
-Grilled fish & veggies and a side of pasta salad

(Kona Canoe Club)
We went out for the following meals:
-Happy hour at the Kona Canoe Club (highly recommend - cheap happy hour, delicious nachos)
-Happy hour at one of the touristy places on the water front
-Sushi
-Thai food
-Lunch at the Kona Brewing Company (highly recommend, but pricy)
-Brunch at the Kilauea Lodge
-Lunch at Tex's Drive In (go here and get Malasadas. Seriously. Also other food.)

If we had had an extra night, I think we would have grilled out again.  Sitting on the deck, watching the sun set, and enjoying a bottle of wine, fresh fish, and grilled zucchini and eggplant was spectacular.  I also would have maybe bought a couple more dinner in a box meals instead of the microwaveable ones.  I also would have made a point to seek out the local Volcano wine and bought a bottle of that when we got there, because it was delicious.  I think they sell it at Hilo Hatties, the ABC stores, and supposedly at Costco though I didn't see it there.

Kona didn't feel like a huge food town, and the amount of research we would need to do to guarantee we had a good meal for a good price was huge, so we decided to stick to happy hour and cooking on our own, which worked out well for us with our style. When we go to Bonaire, we bring a whole suitcase of food for the week and eat out maybe one night, so this was a step up from that.  If that feels like sheltered eating and not experiencing local culture, then you should absolutely eat out and enjoy yourself on vacation. Kailua-Kona felt like such a big tourist town with so many potential tourist trap restaurants with high prices and mediocre food that we decided that cooking was a better bet.

If you have restaurant recommendations, please share them!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hawaii Guide: Lodging

Lodging is actually the big cost saver in Hawaii, especially during the low season.  Our condo was $65 a night, plus a 13% accommodations tax and some fees.  Our second venue, which was a lovely guesthouse in Volcano, was a similar price range.  Both of these facilities have kitchens, which is both a big cost saver and a necessity if you are going to be diving and/or hiking.

Food is expensive in Hawaii.  Dining out even moreso.  So we bought sandwich materials at the beginning of the week and ate sandwiches every day until we ran out of bread.  We also brought some pasta salad mixes with us, which is a good thing to toss in the fridge and pick at after a day of diving.  Our condo had a grill, and one night we bought some local fish and some produce and grilled out and watched the sunset.  It was a beautiful meal with an unbeatable view and it only cost $20.  Some people don't like to cook on vacation, and I totally get that, because some nights we decided it was vacation and we wanted to go out. (More on that later.)

If you want to rent a condo, and you go to VRBO, you get pretty overwhelmed by the options.  The places aren't listed on a map and you don't know where they are really and it's hard to know where to stay. It mostly comes down to what do you want to do, which I can't answer for you, but try to find somebody who likes what you like and then stay where they stayed.

In our case, we like to be able to walk places, we wanted to be able to easily go to the dive shop and to dive sites, we wanted to be close to the beach, and we didn't want to have to drive home late at night down a dark road.  So staying in downtown Kailua-Kona seemed like our best option.

We stayed in Kailua on Alii Drive at Alii Villas. It was lovely and right close to town so we could easily walk the mile into town or the half mile to the local beach.  Keauhou is another good option, and is really close to a grocery store.  I would say that Keauhou is about as far as I would have wanted to be from town, giving how much driving we did to the dive shop. 
Everyone gathers at the end of the condos to watch the sunset. It's pretty cool.

Your options that are further out of town are places like Captain Cook, which is a 20 minute drive from Kailua-Kona but a fun-looking small town, Honaunau is further still - close to City of Refuge, which is a 30 minute drive from Kona - but you get some great looking places (and this one comes with dive weights and kayaks), or Kealakekua Bay which is near really fantastic snorkeling and fabulous ocean views, and pretty close to City of Refuge if you are planning on diving there.  These are also near places like coffee farms, which don't interest us at all, but might interest you.  The biggest disadvantage of staying in a place like Captain Cook or Honaunau is that the drive home after the manta night dive would have been really, really tough.  There are also places that are north of Kailua, like Puako and the big long resort stretch.  I didn't research them at all, although it looked really nice when we drove through that area. 

We also stayed in Volcano - Volcano is a surprisingly pricy area, and food is of limited availablity and expensive there.  We stayed at the Volcano Hale in the Lokelani room - if you are looking for a place to stay and relax and stretch out, this isn't it.  The Volcano Hale is basically an upscale hostel - shared kitchen, shared common area, and barely enough room for suitcases and people in your bedroom.  We loved it.  Everyone was friendly, and it was great to have a kitchen in a town with two restaurants.  We were looking for someplace to crash after a lot of hiking, not really a place to luxuriate.  If we were looking to luxuriate, we wouldn't have stayed in a room described as "tiny" and would probably have gone for one of the larger rooms.  The description was accurate, but the room was clean, the bathroom was lovely and well stocked with towels, shampoo, soap, etc., and the kitchen was well supplied, although it didn't have any basics like olive oil and salt (which our condo had), so don't count on anything being there.  The management was also great about the fact that we forgot to check out and had to mail our key back to them from a post office an hour away.

Anyone else have lodging recommendations?

Hawaii Guide

So we got back from our trip to The Big Island of Hawaii two weeks ago and I really wanted to share some stuff with you guys.  This is only the second long trip that we have taken together that didn't involve family or friends, so it's always a learning experience.  I think that navigating how you travel together is deeply personal, and at the same time there is a lot to benefit from others experiences.  Hawaii also has a ton of stuff to do and it's really overwhelming, so I wanted to share what we did and you can decide if it sounds awesome or terrible. (Except the manta night dive. That one is non-negotiable.)

A couple book recommendations are Hawaii Revealed (I also wish we had gotten the app, that would have been really helpful).  The tone is light and funny, but also serious (environmental cautions, reviews of places that are truly mediocre, etc.) and it was a great resource.  It gave great instructions for hiking trails and off-the-beaten-path tide pools, waterfalls, and other awesomeness.  We borrowed it from a friend, so ask around if you know others who have gone there - a lot of people swear by it.  I also recommend Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes.  It's a book about the history of missionaries in Hawaii and also the history of Hawaii from the 1830s forward.  I very much like reading books about my destination before I get there, so I was very pleased with this suggestion from my friend C.

So this whole week will feature posts about some of the stuff we did - some of it will be very boring for most of you (there is a very long post on shore diving) but it is information that I wish we had, and wanted to pass on for others.