Hawaii in a Campervan | Part 1: Bellows Beach, Liliha Bakery, and Nakalele point

Before getting lost — and then most likely sidetracked for a couple years per usual — in photos from our most recent trip to Hawaii I thought I’d go back in time to the first/last time we visited. Even though I was blogging back in those days (mostly long tirades about how much I hated my job), I never really blogged about our trips, nor did I ever include photos from our travels. So for the sake of memory — some old photos and stories. It should be interesting to see what, if anything, I can remember.

I had hoped to only write one LONG post to cover this trip, incorrectly assuming that I didn’t take that many photos back in those days (when camera phones were just barely in their infancy), but there were just too many pix for one post. Looks like we have weeks of photos from Hawaii (old and new) to look forward to… Gulp.

bellows beach park

great use of pattern mixing, veronika. 

Sly’s brother, who was living in Oahu at the time, picked us up at the airport upon arriving in Hawaii and took us back to his place where we dropped off our things and got to know each other. It was my first time meeting anyone from Sly’s side of the family so I was a tiny bit nervous, though mostly because i’m incredibly awkward at making small-talk. As it turned out, I bonded instantly with my future niece, Coco, and felt right at home at Sly’s brother/SILs’ house. The remainder of the day was spent at Bellows Beach Park where several of us were stung by jellyfish, and then dinner at a dimly lit, wonderfully kitsch, Hawaiian themed restaurant. On the way back home we played a made-up game with Coco where I hit two rocks together — either slow or fast — and Coco danced according to the speed of the tapping rocks.


This photo is solely responsible for the realization that strapless clothing looks terrible on people with long torsos and broad shoulders (me). Just focus on the fake looking rainbow, please.

The next morning, before flying out to Maui, we ate breakfast at Liliha Bakery. It was our first introduction to Hawaiian food! We ordered loco moco and spam and eggs with a side of sweet potato crescents.

Even though we arrived early — like 6am early — we had to wait some time for seats at the bar. Coco was adamant about sitting with us so when a couple seats opened up, she came along. Throughout breakfast, Coco would imitate my every move. When our food finally arrived I clenched my fists and shook in mock excitement — and Coco copied that exact motion. When I made an over exaggerated chomping into food face, Coco did the same. It was very very cute. Coco was only about 2 1/2 at the time so she doesn’t even remember us visiting when she lived in Hawaii, yet somehow, despite gaps of time where we weren’t physically able to see one another, she still remembered us so fondly. Funny how memory works.


outdoor dining room


After breakfast, Sly’s bro dropped us off at the airport where we caught a quick flight to Maui. From the Maui airport we caught a cab to some strange nearby warehouse-y part of town where we met up with a guy to pick up our Westie. Our next stop was a dive shop where I rented some fins, and then it was off to the Western Coast in search of some ‘secret’ snorkeling spot.

But first, we stopped at a roadside taco stand to eat even more food. As I recall, the tacos were good, but expensive — something like $9 for a taco? Considering the only other places to eat in that part of Maui were resort restaurants, I guess it was a bargain.


Stuffed with food and ready to snorkel we drove down to Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve to find this place called “The Fishbowl” — at the time it was supposed to be some secret snorkeling place that you could only get to by hiking through a lava field and counting telephone posts. Our friends and the Maui Revealed book we were following raved about it. We tried for hours to find the place, even though there were signs posted that the area was closed. We even caught a ride in the back of a pickup from a local (he didn’t know what we were talking about). Finally, a park ranger came by and told us that the area was closed for 2 years and it just happed less than 30 days prior. (Note: I think The Fishbowl is open again, and a LOT easier to get to. We were in Maui at a time when Yelp and various online travel sites did not really exist in the way they do now. PLUS back then we could not get Google maps to work anywhere in Hawaii. We literally relied on word of mouth and telephone post counting to navigate the island. Kids these days… they’ll never understand.)

Anyway, a nice couple saw us walking on the side of the road and gave us a ride back (it was raining this entire time). We tried to check out a snorkeling site one beach up but by that time, the water was too choppy and cold. And gray. And there were lots of shark attack warning signs. So yeah, there was no way. We gave up and decided to explore the northwest coast of Maui instead.


Typical of our trip, we went in search of the Nakalele blowhole and instead found something else. According to our fuzzy directions, we thought that this was the place. Instead, we found a random labrynth


Once again, we were lost.

But then again, there were worse places to be lost.


It was nice knowing ya, Sly


Debating whether I should climb down. Please note the broken rung(s)


still debating…


meanwhile…sly made it down safe and sound


one of my most favorite photos ever taken of sly. I should  really print out some photos one of these days…

For some reason we kept thinking that the blowhole would magically appear before our eyes — like we were just somehow overlooking it. Except that it never did — at least not at this location. We did, however, find a suspiciously rickety ladder that led down to some salt water pools were a few guys were fishing.

Sly quickly climbed down to explore but I couldn’t get past the fact that the first few rungs of the ladder were broken. From my vantage point it wasn’t happening. Yet looking at the ladder from Sly’s point of view (after climbing down the ladder) it doesn’t look that menacing at all. [ Insert profound statement about perspective here.]

I have no regrets about staying up top while Sly befriended the fishermen– who apparently had been out there for three days straight participating in some fishing contest — down below. 1.  I didn’t have to risk my life on a broken ladder and more importantly, 2. I didn’t have to make small talk with strangers.


Our quest to see a blowhole — any blowhole would do at this point — continued.

But first, another labyrinth. What is it with Maui and labyrinths?

We stopped and walked the entire spiral of this one. People left tokens at the end of the labyrinth. I left a piece of ribbon found on a tree (probably marking some obscure trail, come to think of it).


FINALLY! We found Nakalele Point!


To get to Nakalele Point we had to cross through private (?) property, which seemed to be a pretty common scenario in Hawaii. There’s an unofficial parking lot up near the road with a sign that essentially said “Enter at your own risk.” This was a pretty popular place noted in many guidebooks so we weren’t hugely concerned about trespassing.

Since it took us forever to finally find this blowhole, by the time we arrived nobody was around, which made the whole experience just a bit on the spooky side. Water — specifically the ocean — both fascinates and terrifies me. Being that close to crashing waves and an angry spurting blowhole put the fear of god in me. I had read up on blowholes prior to visiting Hawaii — mostly horror stories about people being sucked in**, or in most cases, getting too close to the edge of the rocks when a wave crashed. Either way, I had no plans of being sucked out to sea. I mean, even the crabs didn’t get close to the blowhole which was pretty telling.

Getting sucked into a blowhole may seem like one of those far-fetched old wives tales but the forces of nature tend to have a way of getting the last laugh. As waves crash along the coast, water is pushed in through the hole with a force similar to a geyser. When the water retreats, it creates a vacuum, sucking everything back through the hole and out to sea (or somewhere worse — I don’t want to know).

We witnessed a group of people who arrived after us get *THIS CLOSE* to the spouting hole. Other than getting wet nothing significant happened. They played in the water for about 15 minutes and then left. Were they just better at reading the waves or was it just dumb luck?

Meanwhile, we kept our distance…and NEVER turned our backs to the ocean.


We were extremely ambitious travelers back in those days. Now when we travel we usually just pick 1-3 places and focus on experiencing those places. Not so in Maui, 2008. We zoomed all around that island in our Westie, chasing daylight in hopes of checking off everything humanly possible there was to see. MUST. SEE. EVERYTHING.

At some point with night approaching and with no place to stay (and with an extremely early morning planned for the next day), we turned the Westie around and headed back towards civilization. We ate dinner in Lahaina at Aloha Mixed Plate. We sat on the patio and caught bits and pieces of the luau next door which included a guy in ceremonial Hawaiian attire riding into shore on an outrigger of some sort and flickering tiki torches everywhere. It was a lovely evening.


After dinner we drove around in vain searching for a place to camp. As mentioned previously, access to travel apps and Google maps was limited at best. Also, booking campsites — at least back then — was a bit of a process. I vaguely remember things like needing to get permits in person (nothing seemed available online in those days) and restrictions on camper vans parking at beaches or parks, I’m assuming to prevent people from living there. Furthermore, the Western side of Maui was filled with millions of resorts, not campsites. We began searching for a private place to pull off on the side of the road but considering the cliff hugging roads in Maui, it was not as easy as it seemed. We knew of some campsites maybe an hour or two away but we had plans to go diving the next day and needed to meet up with our crew around 6:30 in the morning.

Essentially we were screwed.

We drove up and down and around searching for a place to park and decided if there was no place to sleep that night then that no place might as well be as close to our dive site as possible. As we headed in that direction we noticed some flickering lights off the side of the road. There, among a small patch of gravelly asphalt, we spotted a couple cars, a few tents, a good amount of people with large coolers of beer, and a lone porta potty. Home sweet home.

The gravel patch was somewhat small — literally the length of our Westie. We backed into what space we could find, the tip of our Westie barely clearing the edge of the highway. It was one of the most uncomfortable nights of sleep we have ever experienced. We quickly realized after popping our camper that it would be way too hot to sleep up top. Instead we opened the back of the van, made the lower bed, opened all the windows and pulled down the mosquito net. Then we tried our best to fall asleep in the sweltering heat and humidity, sweating profusely all the while trying to ignore the sound of crunching gravel as people walked to and fro near the head of our bed. Meanwhile, a nearby party raged on well into the night. Thank god for earplugs and the stupidity of youth.

** A couple years later a friend of a friend of a friend was tragically killed at this very blowhole when he was sucked in by a crashing wave. Blowholes are no joke.

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  • funnelcloud rachel
    August 12, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    1. I love this so much!
    2. I have so much to say that I can’t even type it. I feel like we should discuss Hawaii in person…
    3. But I’m awful at small talk, too…so that might be awkward…
    4. Maybe we should have cocktails first…
    5. Oh my, this sounds like a blind date.
    6. Anyway, what is it with Maui and everything being hidden/hard to find? I can assure you that technology did not help us when we were there in 2013.
    7. I mean – all the things you’re supposed to see on the road to Hana? It all seemed to involve trespassing and walking around in circles in the jungle. We quickly gave up.
    9. Speaking of Maui, I never finished blogging our trip there. Oops.
    10. Also, speaking of Maui, I wish we had gone to Kauai instead. I feel like that’s a major hole in our HI experience. I will go back some day!
    11. Western Maui looked like FL to me. I can’t really complain about being in Maui, but the whole resort area was not my scene. I never even saw anything in western Maui that looked like the blowhole area you wrote about…but if it was on the north shore, we read that the roads were treacherous there and cut into the side of a cliff, and Larry said hell no.
    12. Love that pic of Sly! Especially love that his shirt appears to say STINK/STINKY – perfect for holding a dead fish!
    13. Can’t wait for Part Two!

  • veronika
    August 13, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Ha! I feel like I am able to come off as extroverted sometimes but my true core being is very introverted. I am perfectly ok with silence over small talk which really weirds people out! Plus, Sly always says I have a thousand mile stare which people find intimidating. I’m not quite sure how I come off on this blog, but given how much I blabber online vs how little I like doing that in person, I figure people would be confused and disappointed with me IRL.

    I know I’m making it sound like I have no friends. I DO HAVE FRIENDS! Somehow…

    It’s too bad we never met when I was living in VA — well outside of the del ray art fair. This will sound creepy, because it actually sort of is, but I think I could have walked to your house via the trail that comes to the back of our town home. I may be wrong about that — and don’t worry, I never walked by and stared into your window late at night or anything.

    ANYWAY, yes — we should prob be drunk if we meet. i’m starting to sound even weirder than I am.

    We had all the same issues regarding Maui: private land, finding things, and the friggin’ red sand beach. Did you find the black one but not the red one? Weren’t they supposed to be like right next to one another? There were so many places like that — where we thought we were going one place but ended up at another. I do remember lots of yelling at each other and silent hours being pissed off in the car bc of it.

    Agree with going to Kaui. I heard Big Island is also good. Sly has to go to Hawaii once a year for work so I’m hoping I’m able to tag along each time and explore the other islands. We just stayed on Oahu this time around.

    PS: Sly’s shirt says “Stinky’s Fish Tacos”

  • veronika
    August 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    …and while I’m on the subject…what the hell is with hawaii and roads that don’t circumnavigate the island…?!(*)$)#(#