New Underwater Camera (Olympus TG-830)

Fish at Kahekili Beach, Maui

Fish at Kahekili Beach, Maui

Nice huh?

I recently bought a new underwater camera (act like you care). My old Olympus Stylus 850 SW 8MP just wore out. More water was getting inside and it simply refused to take any underwater photos even though it would take photos above water, which is odd… I had the camera for ~4 years so it was time for a new one.

After reading reams of reviews, both consumer and editorial, I decided to get a…

[drum roll please…]

Olympus Stylus TG-830!!

Based on all of the reviews I read they are rated more highly than the Go Pro cameras and other cameras I looked at in that price range. Go Pro does tons of advertising and they are found almost everywhere; bike shops, random retail stores, etc. but rarely do you see an Olympus except maybe in a camera shop.

My TG-830 is waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof to ~7 feet, crushproof under more weight that I will likely expose it to, freezeproof and a few other “proofs”.

It also has a GPS that you can turn off, to save the battery, and a compass. Most impressive is full 1080P HD video. Here’s a sample of the videos I took with this camera, pictures of a spotted eagle ray, turtles, an eel and a few schools of fish. [I love Vimeo by the way…]

The feature that I liked the most when taking underwater photos is the setting that enables me to hold down the button to take a fast series of pictures. For example, it will take 2 pictures a second (or faster if you like) while I swim towards fish I want a photo of. You never know when the fish will swim away or how the sun dancing underwater will affect your photo so I just take 10-12 photos at one time and only keep a few that turn out well.

The pictures are amazing. I don’t have to do any photo editing. The photo at the top is one example I took with this camera. The color of the photo was not been adjusted. I only reduced the size of the photo.

Aloha.

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Kauai (Spring 2013)

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Went to Kauai in the Spring of 2013. I wanted to briefly describe my trip. Below I also provide some details that I couldn’t find in a few Kauai travel books I looked at.

South-western Kauai

Historic Hanapepe is a quiet, old town. You might miss it Kaumuali’i Highway 50. There’s a swinging bridge for pedestrians to cross the Hanapepe River. There were several art galleries and 1 restaurant that I counted. More info can be found here.

Wimea Canyon

The weather was much better weather when we visited this time when compared to a few years ago.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

If it wasn’t for the running water you’d swear this was Mars.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Restaurant suggestions

  • Pizzetta restaurant

It’s in old Koloa town very close to Poipu.

As you walk by the restaurant the smell of fresh pizza baking draws you inside. It’s a cozy atmosphere with 3 slightly different areas to sit; up front, in the middle by the bar (watch sports on TV), or in the rear.

We found their food to be very good. We had pizza, calzone and chef salad. The service was great, nice atmosphere too.

http://pizzettarestaurant.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60621-d530333-Reviews-Pizzetta-Koloa_Kauai_Hawaii.html

  • Chalupa’s Mexican Food

It’s a taco truck (yes, a taco truck) in Old Koloa Town just off the main street. It was very reasonably priced, great food.

http://chalupaskauai.com/

  • Da Crack

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a take-out restaurant in Poipu. They have massive, gut busting burritos. All meals are reasonably priced (zoom in on the menu above). Three people can eat well for the price of two.

http://dacrack.com/about.html

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60625-d2043950-Reviews-Da_Crack-Poipu_Kauai_Hawaii.html

Tunnels\Makua beach

This beach is on the north side of Kauai west of Princeville.

Wow! Just absolutely… WOW!

Tunnels Beach, Kauai

This was the spot where they filmed part of the movie South Pacific (Mount Makana or “Bali Hai“).

Parking can be difficult, so get there early (10am). Here’s some good directions to Tunnels Beach.

The nearest restroom is a few minutes by car further west at Haena Beach Park http://www.hawaiiweb.com/kauai/kauai-beaches/ha-ean-beach.html#detaileddescription

Crystal clear water…

Tunnels Beach, Kauai

The snorkeling is amazing. There’s a very large M or W shaped outer reef (depending how you look at it) that protects an inner reef. You can see a good variety of fish in about 2-3 feet of water. If you snorkel out a little further the inner reef ends and it drops~30 feet down to a sandy bottom. When we were there the snorkeling was very clear.

Tunnels Beach, Kauai

The picture below was taken by snorkeling on the surface yet looking straight down about 40 feet. The fish seem very happy here!

DSC00272_mod_Lowres

Below are a Christmas Wrasse and a Crocodile Needlefish. Apparently, Needlefish impale their prey with their long, sharp snout. They have sharp teeth as well.

Crocodile Needlefish

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I’ve also found the following sites to be good. They offer surf and wave conditions:

http://www.surfline.com/coast-swell-wind/kauai/haena-bay-cannons-tunnels_5523/

http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Tunnels

Overall, this site is where the lifeguards put info about the sea and surf conditions each morning: http://www.kauaiexplorer.com/

Lawa’i Beach

We snorkeled a bunch of times at another one of our favorite beaches, Lawa’i beach or as we call it “the Beach House Restaurant beach”.

Convict Tang

Convict Tang

Below are some stores that may help during your visit:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Groceries Near Poipu:

Groceries elsewhere:

Aloha.

Poipu Beach Park, Kaua'i

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Maui (Spring 2012)

Chang's Beach, Makena, Maui

Chang’s Beach, Makena, Maui

Chang’s is a small, quiet beach. I found snorkeling to be good to the right of the photo above. After you pass the rocks on the right you may see some turtles. There are several inlets underwater where different types of fish like to float and rest during the day.

There are no restrooms, but there’s a small shower.

The parking lot is rather difficult to find since it feels like you’re pulling into some guys driveway. Parking is just off Makena Road. When driving south on Makena Road you’ll see the gold sign for “Makena Surf”, then 2 yellow posts on either side of the parking lot entrance that are used to close the parking lot at night. There’s maybe about 8 parking stalls. Follow the narrow path down to the beach.

I found some additional photos of Chang’s beach.

Another little tidbit. Both Google Maps and Bing Maps are wrong when it comes to Chang’s. They show Po’olenalena Beach which is north of Chang’s. If you find yourself on a wide, expansive beach then you’re not at Chang’s. Although, Po’olenalena is a nice beach too. You can snorkel from one beach to the other as well.

The Pi’ilani Highway

We took about a 1/2 day trip on the Pi’ilani Highway. We drove much further than on our trip over a year earlier.

Pi'ilani Highway, Maui

The Poo Poo Bridge.. Yep…

Poo Poo Bridge, Pi'ilani Highway, Maui

The following was about as far as we got, near mile marker 27-29. Note the little sea arch in the photo below.

Pi'ilani Highway, Maui

Snorkeling (of course)

Kahekili Beach Park

Tried a new place to snorkel – Kahekili Beach Park. It was a great beach and a great place to snorkel.

It’s a little north of Black Rock in Ka’anapali. In the photo below you can see Black Rock sticking out.

There are restrooms, showers, plenty of parking. On Sunday, I believe, there are vendors selling their stuff on the hotel lawns so you can walk over and browse.

Kahekili Beach Park, Maui

On this beach I found the Unicornfish to be rather friendly. Each time I dove to take a picture and returned to the surface these fish would swim very close to me, probably 6-8 at a time.

Unicorn fish, Kahekili Beach Park, Maui

 

 

 

 

 

A nice mound of coral.

Kahekili Beach Park, Maui

 

 

 

 

 

I followed a huge school of Surgeonfish along the bottom.
School of fish at Kahekili Beach Park, Maui

 

Keawakapu beach, near the Kihei Boat Launch

Early morning (before 10am) you may see several turtles. I saw this medium sized turtle taking a rest. I kept a respectful distance while I zoomed in and took his photo.

Green Sea Turtle, Keawakapu Beach Maui

 Near the turtle above was a Whitemouth Moray Eel.

Whitemouth Moray Eel

Honolua Bay

We went snorkeling here again hoping it would be better than when we last visited over a year ago. No such luck, same conditions.

You need to park on the road and there’s only a few spots to stick your car.

There’s a short hike (~10 mins) down a dried mud road surrounded by a dense forest. The beach has mostly bowling ball sized rocks, no sand castles here!

Snorkeling from the shore is miserable. In the water you need to walk through “sludge” (leaves, sticks, etc). You can’t see your feet. After swimming for probably 50 yards the water starts to clear up. I inserted a larger photo below so you can see the line between the sludge and the clearer water.

It’s best to snorkel from a boat. Once in the clearer water it is much better. Lots of fish.

Snorkeling at Honolua Bay, Kapalua, Maui

Snorkeling at Honolua Bay, Kapalua, Maui

 

Aloha!

 

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Oahu

Lanikai Beach, OahuDetailed and personal insights about my trip to Oahu

Every time I mention that I’ve been to any of the Hawaiian Islands people ask me lots of questions. I decided to put together this blog and organize it by island.

Note: Most of my photos here will look “grainy” since they are low resolution to discourage copying.

I’ve been to Oahu twice and really enjoyed it. The island possesses a lot of history, beautiful scenery and great snorkeling.

First, the blue book Oahu Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Honolulu, Waikiki & Beyond  by Andrew Doughty was an excellent resource. Just read the reviews and comments about this book on Amazon.

Here’s a big map of Oahu. We stayed in Kailua which is on the east side of the island. From there we visited Hanauma Bay, Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and traveled as far west as Ko Olina which is where the Disney resort is located. Also, from Kailua we visited the very northern end of the island at Turtle Bay.

Kailua

Kailua is very middle class and has a few shopping centers close by. Here’s some info on it.

The Kailua Chamber of Commerce has a good amount of info on hiking, shopping, pictures of this area, etc.

Also, there are no hotels in Kailua so you’ll need to rent a condo or a house.

Some things we did during our trips to Oahu

Pearl Harbor

Visiting Pearl Harbor was an amazing experience for us.

They recently completed remodeling the main visitor’s center. I saw it before and after the remodeling. You can stroll around for free if you like but you’ll need to pay to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri, USS Bowfin and a few other things. Of course, try to get there early before it starts to get crowded.

The free walk-in exhibits are very nicely done. They show the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the aftermath. These exhibits have lots of memorabilia, pictures, etc.

USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri, Control Tower

USS Arizona memorial

Flag from USS Arizona Memorial

This tour starts with a ~20 minute film that briefly describes the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, the events that took place in the harbor on that day and the days following.

Next, you’ll board a boat and take a short ride to the memorial itself. It was a very moving experience walking into the assembly room, seeing the USS Arizona under your feet and realizing this is where 942 officers and enlisted men are buried. Beyond the assembly room is the shrine where you’ll see the names of everyone killed on the USS Arizona. More info can be found here.

The battleship Mighty Mo

The Mighty Mo is the USS Missouri. Visitor information can be found here.

USS Missouri deck

You’ll need to take a short bus trip over the bridge to Ford Island. You’ll pass the air traffic control tower that actually witnesses the attack on Pearl Harbor. This tower was being restored when we last visited.

Once on board the USS Missouri, you can actually read a copy of the Instrument of Surrender and stand on THE SPOT where the Japanese signed this document ending the 2nd World War. I left the following picture in high-resolution so you can zoom-in if you want.

The Spot where the Empire of Japan formally surrendered to Allied Powers in WW II.

The USS Bowfin submarine

The self-guided tour of the Bowfin was interesting. You get to see most of the sub. Here’s some more info and some reviews.

Pacific Aviation Museum

We haven’t had the opportunity to visit this museum yet so I can’t comment on it. Here’s some links here and here.

 

Beaches and snorkeling

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay, OahuThere’s really good snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. As usual get there early so that you can actually “get in”. They only allow a certain number of visitors to the park each day. One day a week the park is closed so that the coral and fish (traumatized by grabby tourists) can actually recover.

Fish at Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Before you can go down to the water they require that you watch a brief video. The video describes how Hanauma bay was formed, tell you not to step on the coral, etc. You can get your name added to a book so that for the next year you can return to Hanauma Bay and not have to see the movie. We had our name added since we visited several times during a single trip.

I’ve always found the best snorkeling on the left-side. Towards the buoys the surge can get rough so try to stay in calmer waters.

Also, it has facilities on the bottom and a snack shop on the top.

Turtle Bay

No pictures here. When we went the snorkeling wasn’t very good, too murky. Maybe you’ll have (or have had) better luck.

Kailua Beach

This is a huge, long beach. It’s great for kite surfing, swimming, canoeing, lounging, building sand castles and swimming, essentially everything but snorkeling. Towards the southern end of the beach in the park area you’ll find restrooms.

The Kalapawai Market and Deli is near the beach in case you want to grab lunch before heading to the beach.

Lanikai Beach

The photo at the top of this blog entry is from Lanikai. Very nice, huh?

It’s a beautiful beach, has great sand for making sand castles but cloudy snorkeling (or maybe it was just cloudy when we visited). Also, there are no facilities since it’s backed by very expensive homes.

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

Queen’s Beach \ Kapiolani Beach

This beach is horrible for snorkeling. The water is too cloudy and no clear sand path to deeper water.

One day I was in an adventurous mood and decided to go snorkeling at this beach. After consulting an ill-informed lifeguard I basically “crawled” over the lava and dead coral to get to deeper water. I did see some fish but it certainly wasn’t worth the effort or cuts on my hands.

Kahala Beach

I went snorkeling right in front of the Kahala Hotel and Resort. We didn’t stay there, but it’s a beautiful resort in a great location.

The snorkeling was awful – I found it to be too shallow and murky.

Kahala Beach - Kahala Hotel and Resort

They have Dolphin Quest here. We walked into the resort and saw dolphin’s swimming around in their pool. If you’re not staying there they may valet park your car for a few minutes while you take a look around.

There’s parking at a public beach just before you get to the resort. From there, walk past the public restrooms and continue towards the resort.

 

Waikiki Aquarium

The aquarium was really nice. It’s right by the ocean, has lots of fish, seals, etc.

The Waikiki Aquarium site can be found here.

 

Waikiki Honolulu Zoo

The zoo was ok, nothing particularly memorable. Here’s their website.

 

Waikiki by the waterfront

Waikiki, OahuI really liked Waikiki by the waterfront. To me it seemed young and vibrant. There are lots of different stores, waterfront hotels and restaurants all with a gorgeous beach across the street. It’s not as big, busy or crowded as LA, Chicago or New York. I think it’s just a great place.

On the other hand, someone who traveled with me – who shall remain anonymous  – didn’t particularly care for Waikiki. This individual said it felt busy, crowded, etc. and preferred quieter places away from the hustle and bustle.

Now, I didn’t think “hustle and bustle” existed on any of the Hawaiian Islands, but if there is some it might exist here… Well, that’s some info for you to consider if you plan on visiting.

 

Hike Ka’iwa Ridge / Pillbox Hill

This was a very strenuous hike. At the top the wind can be very strong. Also, there are steep drop-offs with no railing. Note: You should read other sources about this hike before deciding whether to attempt it or not.

This hike is very steep. You’ll need at least gym shoes and other supplies. Towards the top you’ll first arrive at 1 of 2 low profile pillboxes, you know like the ones you see in WW II films with machine gunners inside pelting the enemy with lead.

The pillboxes face west. On a clear day you’ll have a beautiful view of Lanikai, Kailua and beyond.

This site has better pictures than we took during our trip.

 

Things we didn’t have a chance see but heard they were great

The Polynesian Cultural Center is suppose to be great. Here’s a map too.

Also, we didn’t have a chance to rent a canoe in Kailua and paddle to one of the nearby islands. Near Kailua beach there is at least one place that rents canoes. I’ve seen them go out in small groups as well.

Well, that’s the important stuff I remember…

Aloha!

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Kaua’i

Miscellaneous travel information about Kaua’i

Every time I mention that I’ve been to any of the Hawaiian Islands people ask me lots of questions. I decided to put together this blog and organize it by island.

Note: Most of my images here will look “grainy” since they are low resolution to discourage copying.

First, the blue book The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed by Andrew Doughty was an excellent resource. Take a moment to look through the customer ratings and reviews on Amazon. Below I’ll try to add some details and practical advice that isn’t listed in this book.

Overall

I’ve been to Kaua’i only once. I found Kauai to be more expensive than the other major Hawaiian Islands I’ve visited. For example, Starbucks, gasoline and food are about 15-20% more expensive than on the West Coast of the US (even at Walmart in Lihue).

Kauai is one of the oldest Hawaiian Islands. It is very green and lush almost anywhere you go. Kauai seems to get more rain than the other islands. You can find the rainfall among the various Hawaiian Islands here and here. The Kauai Revealed book linked above shows the rainfall distribution on various parts of Kauai.

How to find a place to stay?

We’ve used VRBO.com a few times to rent a place to stay on other islands.

If you choose to rent a condo or a house it’s good to book early (6 months ahead) yet still bargain with the owner since they may come down in price. Try to get them to waive the cleaning fee or something, anything.

Also, sites like VRBO.com are open to anyone to post a picture of a house/condo for rent. I’ve heard of some rare cases where people “reserved” a house/condo only to show-up and learn the “owner” wasn’t really the owner and they lost their deposit. You should check whether your credit card company will cover this type of theft.

We stayed in Poipu. Overall, it was a nice area with shopping close by. Here’s a local bird’s eye map of Poipu.

And now… the roosters

You’ll either love them as part of the “charm” of Kauai or truly despise these feathered noise makers when they crow just before sunrise and periodically throughout the day. Roosters are everywhere. They’re in the open air shopping malls, on hiking trails, near the roads, etc.

Some things we’ve done include…

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is similar to the Grand Canyon even though it’s smaller it’s just as beautiful. It’s about 30-40 mins from Poipu. Take 550 Waimea Canyon Drive north from Waimea. You’ll get a nice birds eye view of this area here.

These various pictures are better than the ones we took since it was a little cloudy when we visited.

Day trip from Poipu in the south all the way around to Ke’e Beach in Ha’ena in the north and some points in between

On the way up north we stopped at Wailua Falls. This waterfall was shown at the beginning of the TV show Fantasy Island. The falls can be found at the end of Maalo Road (route 583) – Birds eye view of the road. Overall, the waterfall was a real disappointment since the top viewing area reeked of garbage. It seemed like some people would drive-up and toss their trash over the side without leaving their cars. Also, towards the end of the parking lot was a huge dumpster. Here’s various pictures that other folks took and some more info can be found here.

Further on our trip up north we stopped at Ching Young Village for a visit. The Hanalei Café was good. There were several small shops selling touristy things. It was a nice place to stop and get out of the car for a while.

Hanalei Bay is huge and beautiful.

Hideaways Beach – This was an adventure. As with most Hawaiian public beaches there’s limited public parking. This one had about 10 parking spots, so get there early. The path to this beach was treacherous. I would only attempt it in gym shoes not “flip flops”. It took us about 15 minutes to walk down the stairs (that existed) and navigate the steep muddy hill. The picture below is just one segment of the trail to the beach.

Should you choose to partake of this adventure, once at the bottom you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful little beach. Some folks who were snorkeling there said it was fairly good. There are no facilities at this beach.

Further down route 560 you’ll see an interesting cave formed by volcanic activity:

Finally, we get to Ke’e Beach where the road ends. We find a parking spot and walk to the beach. We see lots of people standing around on the sand but no one in the water. The lifeguard tells us the beach is closed due to jellyfish (great). Some info about this beach can be found here and some pictures here.

Poipu

Seals and turtles think they own the beach! In the middle of the day they just beach themselves and hog prime locations. Below are 2 lazy sea creatures we saw:

I’m kidding of course. When seals and turtles beach themselves a volunteer usually marks off the area and plants a sign that says to stay away while they rest. It must be difficult for these sea critters to swim in that beautiful ocean just eating… and eating and… hanging out with their friends all day.

Here’s my list of best snorkeling beaches on Kaua’i

We only went to 3 snorkeling spots and had really good snorkeling compared to the other major Hawaiian Islands.

1) Lawa’i Beach

We probably spent most of our time at this beach. It has restrooms, showers and I vaguely remember a dive shop close by. Also, the beach is right next to the Beach House restaurant.

Towards the center of the beach is a narrow path of sand that leads to deeper water. A detailed map can be found here.

The Raccoon Butterfly fish were very friendly which means someone has been feeding them. You shouldn’t feed the fish. All you have to do is reach for a pocket on your swim shorts and they’ll come running/swimming. Near the beach they swarmed around me. I stuck my camera in the water and took this photo:

2) Poipu Beach Park

There is good snorkeling on the Marriott Waiohai side of the beach. I’m not sure about the other side of the beach.

3) Between the Marriott Waiohai and Kaihuna Plantation is a little cove perfect for kids

The water is shallow and protected and one can easily see several different fish. It’s kinda hard to explain the location, so here’s a picture:

What didn’t we do?

It was just one trip, so there were a few things we could have done (more hiking, snorkeling up north, etc). However, I am really regretting not taking a cruise along the Na Pali Coast, these miscellaneous pictures show the beauty of this area and why I’m kicking myself.

Well, that’s the important stuff I remember. I hope you leave Kaua’i with pictures even more beautiful than mine and countless memories from a wonderful vacation.

Aloha!

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How I take underwater photos while snorkeling.

People sometimes ask me about my camera equipment and software that I use for taking underwater photos. I put together this quick post that describes how I get fairly good underwater pictures and movies without spending a fortune or sitting at a computer all day “editing” a photo.

My underwater pictures aren’t “professional”, but they’re good enough to show friends and family. Also, they’re good enough to enlarge to 11×14 prints, hang on the wall and daydream about returning to the Hawaiian Islands again someday.

Note: The images I inserted into this blog will appear “grainy” since they are low resolution to discourage people from copying them.

My first underwater camera

Several years ago I started with a camera like the one below. You’ll see them in most ABC Stores. Here’s a link to this camera on Amazon.

Your typical picture will look like the ones below (these were adjusted by the folks who developed the film).

No matter how much you try to adjust these photos with photo editing software they just won’t look very good.

These cameras have a built-in flash. This can be a disadvantage since it tends to “light up” the debris that naturally occurs in the ocean.

Also, the film can be expensive and you only get about 24 shots which isn’t nearly enough.  For example, on the Big Island I went snorkeling and took about 70 photos in 2 hours. I went home with about 200 photos from that trip.

My current underwater camera

I have been using an Olympus 850 SW 8mp for a few years  Here’s a link to this camera on Amazon (although, I don’t remember it being this expensive).

The absolute best photos I’ve taken with this camera (you know, the one where people say “you should sell that photo”) are the ones I’ve posted in my blogs here about the Hawaiian Islands.

These cameras are waterproof to 10 feet, so they’re not for diving, just snorkeling with the occasional dive. I don’t have the waterproof case (they can cost as much as the camera).

This camera saves images as .jpg. I’m sure newer cameras save images in various formats.

You may try taking the same photo with and without the flash. It’s difficult to determine how the photo will look until you see it on a big screen. The flash might work well in some cases but other times it reflects too much debris. For example, these guys below were taken with a flash and they’re a little too bright and unnatural:

 

I can take underwater movies too?

Yep! The nice thing about this camera is that it takes underwater movies as well. In case you encounter that rare turtle or Spotted Eagle Ray and a still picture just doesn’t work you can flip to “movie mode” and take a movie like I did Spotted Eagle Rays (1:30 min long, I added some interesting info as well). It may look foggy but they were about ~30 feet below me.

Of course, taking movies really limits your battery life.

I have spare batteries and extra memory cards that I swap out on a regular basis just in case my camera floods. I invested in a float strap too.

Just point and shoot, right?

Well, not exactly. Underwater photography while snorkeling can be difficult for the following reasons:

  1. Fish don’t pose. They think you’re going to eat them so they avoid you.
  2. Even small ocean currents can push you around while trying to center a fish in the photo.
  3. Ocean debris can obscure the most beautiful fish.
  4. The sun is essential but not always present when you need it. A flash can’t compensate for the beautiful natural sunlight shining through the water onto the natural color of fish or coral.

Now you know why I usually take 20-30 underwater photos each time I go snorkeling.  It’s a little challenging but rewarding when you get great pictures.

I’ve heard that underwater photography while diving is much easier since you don’t have to deal with some of the factors above.

As an aside: Let me mention a little something about the Green Sea Turtles you’ll see in Hawaii. Several times when snorkeling alone or nearly alone I’ve had a turtle swim within ~10 feet of me and stay there for a few mins. They’re curious who you are. As long as you gently flap your fins (no arm movements) they’ll swim next to you for a few minutes.

However, some of the more obnoxious (or uninformed) snorkelers begin yelling “Turtle! Turtle!” and try to cuddle with it like a household pet. Of course the turtle is going to swim away when they see and hear all that! Also, it is illegal to touch or come within 10 feet of these turtles. Read more about these turtles here and at the Hanauma Bay site.

I only adjusted the photos on this blog a little with some photo editing software, which leads me to my next point.

Photo editing software

I use an old copy of Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006. It was cheap and it works for me. I’m sure there is newer software by other manufacturers that does the same thing. In a few minutes I can remove the green haze, some debris floating in the water and make a photo look acceptable. For example:

Underwater photo sites

Finally, I wanted to include my favorite underwater photo sites. I’m sure there are many more but these are the ones I use alot. They’re instructive, well organized and have tips for taking underwater photos. I’ve taken photos of strange fish then later I used these sites to find fish names. These sites have truly professional photos.

Aloha!

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Maui

Miscellaneous information about Maui

Every time I mention that I’ve been to any of the Hawaiian Islands people ask me lots of questions. So rather than send a unique email I put together this blog. I organized it by island.

First, the blue book Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty was an excellent resource. Just look through the reviews and comments on Amazon. I’ll try to add some details below that aren’t listed in this book. I also have practical advice like where Safeway is located.

We’ve been to Maui a number of times over the years. We tend to stay in Kihei for several reasons listed below. We’ve seen every part of the island except for the north-east corner past Paia and west of Hana. Over the years what we’ve seen includes Haleakala, Iao Needle, the road to Hana, Maui Aquarium, Lahaina and other places further north and south.

Note: My photo’s used in this post will appear “grainy”. They are low resolution photo’s in an attempt to discourage people from copying them.

I love the Hawaiian Islands and appreciate their history.

Overall

I suggest staying on the south western side of Maui. It gets less rain. Farther south it’s dry like Arizona with cactus, etc. This typically includes Kihei, Wailea and Makena.

Overall Kihei is middle-class and affordable. Wailea and Makena are south of Kihei, very nice but expensive. For example, the Shops at Wailea are like a mall on steroids.

No matter where you stay on Maui the beaches are all public. In most cases there’s some parking. There’s a number great beaches in Kihei, Wailea, and all the way south. Some overall photos on this area that I found are here.

From this area you can see Molokini in the distance. Molokini is the sunken half crater volcano. More on Molokini snorkeling below.

In Kihei is the Dolphin Plaza. It has espresso, Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, a Mexican restaurant, Sushi, etc. Snorkeling is right across the street at Kamaole 1 or 2.

Here’s a beach camera that you can control that points to Kamaole 2. We always go for an evening walk on Kam 2, watch the sunset and look at little fish swimming in the tide pools. Here’s another live beach camera at Kamaole 1 beach in Kihei.

How to find a place to stay?

We’ve used vacation rentals by owner (VRBO) a few times to rent condos.

If you choose to rent a condo or a house it’s good to book early (6 months ahead) yet still bargain with the owner since they may come down in price. Try to get them to waive the cleaning fee or something, anything.

Also, sites like VRBO.com linked above are open to anyone to post a picture of a condo\house for rent. There are some rare cases where people “reserved” a condo\house only to show-up and learn the “owner” wasn’t really the owner and they lost their deposit. I believe Visa and the other credit cards will cover this type of theft.

Some things we’ve done include…

Hana highway drive
Yep, I did that once and vowed I’d never do it again. “…59 bridges, 46 of which are only one-lane bridges, requiring oncoming traffic to yield and occasionally causing brief traffic jams if two vehicles meet head-on. There are approximately 620 curves” Source: Wikipedia.

Eat at Mama’s Fish House once or twice

Yep, that’s a good aspirational goal. $11 dollar Mai Tai’s on their lunch menu may convince you to just sit there and eat a loaf of bread. Lunch is cheaper than dinner. It tends to rain over there, but still beautiful. Good food. Mama’s is north of Paia which is a beach town. Big waves, surfer dudes, etc.

Drove part of the Pi’ilani Highway

We drove to about mile marker 25. When you reach the southern part of the island it’s very desolate but interesting. If you start from Kihea/Wailea/Makena to this mile marker 25 it’s a good 1/2 day trip.

Here’s a picture I took.
Pi'ilani Highway, Maui

 

Sunrise at Haleakala and a hike in the forest

You’ll need to leave the house at 3am or so. Dress warm since the temperature can get near freezing. Very windy too! Hiking in the wilderness is more restrictive than you might think. For example, most of the land along the Hana drive is owned\leased by a company for the water rights. They don’t want random touristas traipsing through their forest. I believe you need a permit to hike Haleakala.

Here’s some information on Haleakala and misc. pictures.

Ka’anapaali

Ka’anapaali is on the northwest part of the island. It’s windier with occasional drizzles. If you stay up there and have questionable weather head south to Kihei and Wailea, it’s only a 45 min drive.

Maui Aquarium

The Maui Aquarium is kinda expensive but worth it.

The Town of Lahaina

You’ll either love it or hate it. We really like it. Lots of touristy shops, restaurants and art galleries. Also, walking along the waterfront is nice. The old banyan tree across from the Pioneer Inn is interesting.

What some people don’t like about it… well, it has lots of touristy shops, restaurants and art galleries. This is where the cruise ships let off their passengers so it’s “that” kind of town.

Practical info…

Where to get groceries?

Depending on how long you’re going to stay, you could shop at Costco (Costco info on Yelp) or Safeway.

Local Weather info

http://www.hawaiiweathertoday.com/maui.php?page_id=&zone=HIZ021

Secret Cove

Just a beautiful little beach. A place where small, intimate weddings occur.

Here’s my list of the best snorkeling beaches

(drum roll please…)

1) Molokini (of course)

Why? Well, just look at these pictures!

You can take half-day snorkeling trips since it offers incredible snorkeling. Although the weather can be difficult to gauge, it can be “hit or miss”.

The boat charters that leave from Maalaea Harbor take about 30 mins to reach Molokini. There are boats that leave from Kihei boat ramp. I took the Kai Kanani catamaran twice that leaves from Makena Beach and Golf Resort and in less than 15 mins we were out there.

Kai_Kanani_2

 

My favorite south Maui beaches for snorkeling:

1) Keawakapu beach, near the Kihei Boat Launch

Park at the north entrance in the gravel lot near Sarento’s On the Beach restaurant. Alternatively, down the street a little there’s public parking on the other side of the street. Snorkel north and you should see turtles.

2) Maluaka Beach / Makena Beach

In-front of the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. Beautiful spot, has bathrooms, showers, etc. To snorkel, go to the south end of the beach, hop in the water, go around the corner and keep going 🙂 you’ll eventually see this:

 

3) Mokapu Beach. Ulua and Mokapu are next to each other

As you walk down to the beach and just as you pass the restrooms follow the trail to the right, walk about 200 feet then head towards the water. Mokapu is a very quiet beach with good snorkeling whereas Ulua is like Disney World with all the floaters (aka: snorkelers). These beaches are such an odd contrast.

I saw this Spotted Eagle Ray at this beach.

I also have seen lots of Green Sea Turtles (they’re around lots of western beaches)

4) Palauea Beach

No facilities, but great snorkeling. Quiet beach. You have to walk through a small forest to get to the water.  

This photo was taken from the northern end of the beach out in the water of course. Lots of fish!

 

My favorite northern Maui beaches for snorkeling:

1) Kahekili Beach Park

Just a little north of Black Rock (you can see Black Rock sticking out in the photo below).

Has bathrooms, showers, plenty of parking. Gentle slope into the water which continues into the ocean. Lots of fish. The water was very clear when we were there. We visited twice during one trip since we enjoyed it so much.

Kahekili Beach Park, Maui

 

2) Kapalua Beach

Can get crowded. Has bathrooms, showers. Gentle slope into the water but very deep in the middle of the bay. Great beach to bring the kids, nice sand, etc.

NA) Honolua Bay

I snorkeled here on our last trip. Park up on the road and spend a few mins walking through the dense forest. No facilities.

Entrance to the water is very murky. In fact, it was disgusting. When snorkeling from the shore you must swim through near zero visibility, through leaves and brown debris for about 50 yards. At that point it starts to clear up. After about 75-100 yards from shore (where the boat is in the picture below) it’s really clear. Saw some fish. Nice coral but I dreaded finding my way back to the beach.

You can kinda see a line in the photo below that deliniates the sludge. It is natural debris, but still murky.

Snorkeling at Honolua Bay, Kapalua, Maui

Here’s some other Honolua Bay pictures.

NA) Black Rock / Ka’anapali Beach

This is probably my least liked beaches for snorkeling. It’s good for beginners and kids but after a few minutes of bumping into other snorkelers you’ll be looking for a less crowded beach.

Here’s some Black Rock pictures.

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