Hawaiian Monk Seals and Wai’anae Sunsets – A West Side Story

Hawaii has exceptionally nice weather all year around, so mid-November is as good a time as any to take an evening stroll along the beach. Avoiding the bustling crowds of Waikiki and determined to find a bit of tranquility, Rebecca, Selah and I decided to head to the western side of Oahu.  On the westward or Leeward side of the island lies the quaint community of Waianae. The area is home to beautiful beaches, various sea-life, and real small-town living. Waianae is also a very tight-knit community and it once was home to the legendary singer, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

Rebecca poses for a picture as Selah counts coconuts at the top of the tree.

The evening turned out even more beautiful than we had imagined. Along the way, I managed to capture some pretty fascinating scenes.

Rebecca and Selah standing between a rock and a hard place.

When I told Rebecca she would have to hike over that mountain to get to the beach, she almost didn’t want to go. Sure, she was carrying a baby but…. Joking!

My two girls looking pretty as a picture!

Although Rebecca didn’t have to hike over any mountains to make her way to the beach, she still experienced quite a bit of apprehension just getting there. Between you and me, the girl has a serious phobia when it comes to walking on sand. I am not making any of that up. Watching Rebecca walking on sand is similar to watching Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon.

I don’t know what it is about me and selfies, but I always come out looking like a deranged sociopath.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt. “Finders, keepers” is the law of the land and I scored a few amazing items along the way!

After a thorough inventory, I had acquired a green coconut, a cracked boogie board, some pretty coral, and a Hawaiian monk seal. Not bad for a 15-minute walk along the shore!

There are only about 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals alive today.

Rebecca had no problem with me keeping the coconut or the small chunks of coral, but she got all bent out of shape when I told her I also wanted to hold on to the seal.

A Hawaiian Monk Seal napping in the sand.

I asked Rebecca to give me one good reason why I couldn’t keep the monk seal, and she spouted off about ten of them. First of all, she said there was probably some sort of law against transporting an unrestrained, 500 pound sea mammal in the back of a Toyota Venza. I passed her my smartphone and asked her to point to that particular ordinance. She must have known there was no such law because she didn’t even attempt to reach for my phone. Rebecca then asked me if I was aware that a monk seal could eat upwards of 50 pounds of fish per day. I responded by reaching into my wallet and producing my Sam’s card, “Isn’t that just the sort of thing I carry this for?”

I don’t remember what all else Rebecca said, something about seals not being house-broken and them being really hard on carpet and furniture. Truth be told, none of it sounded all that convincing. Had she not told me I would be required to walk it and bathe it every day, I would have stuck to my guns and brought the seal home with me. Although it killed me to let Rebecca win in an argument, she had a pretty good point. Walking and bathing a 500 pound monk seal is a big responsibility; especially when I don’t even remember to walk and bathe myself every day.

On a serious note, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is an endangered species. It is the only seal native to Hawaii and several laws have been passed against harming, harassing or encroaching into the animal’s personal space. We were really lucky to get a glimpse of the seal on the beach; but as a general rule, any person in the animal’s vicinity should attempt to remain at least 50 feet away. Monk Seals can be very aggressive and it’s really hard to look cool when your screaming and crying, all the while being chased down the beach by one you got a little too close to.

A Wai’anae sunset in November

Although I couldn’t keep the monk seal, I managed to get some pretty spectactular sunset photos that I can share with all of you. While these pictures certainly don’t give the scene the justice it deserves, I think you will enjoy them just the same.


I love how I managed to capture that sea foam just as it came crashing against the rocks.



Only God could create a scene so beautiful as this!


That dark cloud coverage and choppy water has some sort of eerie effect on me.


This scene is one of beauty, sorrow, and everlasting peace. From the erected cross at this beachfront memorial, It is only obvious that some poor family experienced great tragedy here. Although our walk started out very light-hearted, we ended it on a rather sobering note. Looking now at this photo, it is a bible verse that comes readily to mind:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Happy travels,

Big John

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Fantastic Food Trucks and More Scenes from the North Shore

Anybody who has spent more than a few days on Oahu will tell you that some of the best food on the island is found at food trucks on the North Shore. These colorful restaurants on wheels first began springing up around Honolulu in the 1970s. Back then it was mainly burgers, hotdogs, and the traditional Asian cuisine. Now-a-days, a person can satisfy any cravings from zesty street tacos to wasabi-flavored poke bowls.

Some of the best food trucks on Oahu are found on the North Shore, directly across the street from Shark’s Cove.

If Rebecca and I had to pick a favorite mobile eatery it would definitely be Aji Limo Truck!

All of Aji’s dishes are made with the freshest local fish and organic produce bought from the nearby Pupukea Garden Farms.

Don’t worry, the beers were all mine! This little mommy always plays it safe and refrains from consuming raw fish or adult beverages.

This California inspired dish consisted of Sashimi, rice, avacados, and salad…. Yes, it was every bit as good as it looks!

Rebecca had the Thai poke (only she had them throw the fish on the grill to make her meal pregnancy-friendly). This tasty dish consisted of fresh salmon, mango, cilantro, crispy coconut and coconut sauce over rice and organic greens.

Our friend, Foghorn Leghorn, decided to show up for dinner unannounced. He’s lucky I had a little extra corn to spare!

This truly is my happy place!

If tacos are your thing than don’t go far. You’re not going to find anywhere better than North Shore Tacos.

North Shore Tacos offers shrimp, fish, chicken, beef, steak, pork, and even a vegetarian option as well… Yum!

For a little slice of heaven right on the North Shore, come visit Jerry’s Pizza! He also has some pretty amazing subs, salads and desserts.


Get your surf lessons and rentals at North Shores Surf Shop

Your momma warned you never to enter the water right after eating… but then again, your momma has probably never been to Hawaii’s North Shore!

Rebecca thought it would be fun to hide her baby-bump behind this purple Hawai sarong.

I would probably be the scariest mermaid you could ever meet at sea!

Cars line the strip in front of shark’s cove.

Shark’s Cove is a popular tourist site for snorkeling and it is fairly shallow. The water does get up to 20 feet at the cove’s mouth and many scuba divers explore the areas just outside the cove. A few caves can be found around the cove’s northwest point, and to a lesser extent to the south. The area to the left of the cove offers excellent night diving. The origin of the cove’s name is uncertain, but sharks are not any more common here than other places on Oahu.

Laniakea Beach in North Shore

Probably one of the best places to sea a Hawaiian green sea turtle basking in the sun is at Laniakea Beach.

The Hawaiian green sea turtles arrives onto Laniakea Beach most regularly around lunch time. The sea turtles and I share that in common, since lunch time is also my favorite time to visit the area. But regardless of whether you’re coming to surf, snorkel, chow down, or simply bask under a Hawaiian sun, there is never a really bad to to visit Oahu’s fabulous North Shore!

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John

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The Spirit of Aloha at Germaine’s Luau

Just recently, Rebecca and I had the pleasure of attending our first luau on the island of Oahu. Finding my knowledge of Hawaiian culture a bit lacking, I first read up a little on the history of these fascinating, food-centered events. It may be of interest to some to know that in ancient Hawaii, men and woman ate their meals completely apart. Furthermore, commoners and women of every social class were forbidden by the ancient Hawaiian religion to eat certain delicacies. When I first read this, I thought it made a whole lot of sense. The last time I had breakfast with Rebecca, she ate all of the blueberry waffles. I went to work that day with a cold hard-boiled egg and one of those crummy end-pieces of toast. If I had eaten first, or if she had been forbidden to eat such delicacies, I would have enjoyed a really tasty breakfast. I shared the idea with Rebecca just this morning, and for some reason I didn’t eat any breakfast, nor did I get any lunch.

Big John at Germaine’s Luau

Separate meals between the sexes continued all the way up until 1819, when King Kamehameha II finally abolished the practice by throwing a feast where both men and women could attend. The king’s symbolic act forever ended the religious food taboos on the islands and the Hawaiian luau was born. Had Rebecca been around back then, and the king had been forced to share waffles with her, it’s highly doubtful that he would have been in such a festive mood. For that reason alone, I hope the Hawaiian people are truly thankful that Rebecca did not come to share a meal with them until some 200 years after the food ban was lifted…. and also thankful they weren’t serving any blueberry waffles.

Rebecca is all smiles at Germaine’s!

Rebecca smiles for the camera, oblivious to the fact that if history had been any different, she could have easily destroyed the luau that so many have come to know and love!

Germaine’s Luau is located next to Barber’s Point lighthouse on the west side of Oahu.

Far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Waikiki, Germaine’s location is both beautiful and serene. Visitors to Germaine’s Luau can experience all the tradition of a luau and capture much of the essence of that old Hawaiian culture.

A fisherman casts his net near the beachfront property of Germaine’s Luau.


Germaine’s Luaua is a family run event.

To ensure that the family would be forever united and always remain Keiki o Ka ‘Aina (children of the land), an individual coconut tree was planted for each member of the Stephenson family throughout the property.

Rebecca stands in line to use the ladies room…. Joking! It’s just a hut that people probably don’t use the restroom in.

Many may not know my former title as “Outrigger King of the Pacific”. I try not to talk about it much because I don’t want all of that publicity and fanfare.

This kid had some real skills working the luau fire dance…. I taught him everything he knows.


A pretty hula dancer at Germaine’s Luau

Here is a helpful piece of information for all you ladies coming over from the mainland. A flower worn on the right side of your head means you’re available. A flower worn on your left side, or closest to your heart, means that you are spoken for.  When Rebecca heard about this she said that it was always nice to have options… joking!

The strength and beauty of Polynesian culture on full display at Germaine’s Luau.


Two strong men pull the roasted pig from the imu, or underground oven.

The word kālua, which literally means “to cook in an underground oven”, is used to describe the way in which the pig is prepared at luaus. The word Luau, in Hawaiian is actually the name of the taro leaf, which when steamed for a few hours, resembles cooked spinach. The traditional luau was eaten on a floor of mats woven together by the leaves of the hala tree.

Traditionally, a hardwood fire is built inside a pit large enough to contain the food being cooked. Large stones and vegetation are than used to cover the food. Stones are placed on top of the fire in the pit, taking around 2-3 hours to reach their maximum temperature. Special care is made in the selection of stones to ensure they contain very little moisture. It could become vey dangerous if stones exploded from the steam during the intense heating process.

Once the stones become extremely hot, they are spread out over the coals and the pit is lined with vegetation such as banana trees that have been pounded out to make them pliable. Sometimes these hot stones are also be placed inside the body cavity of the pig to ensure the meat is fully cooked. The end result will be some of the best pork you ever tasted! Don’t take my word for it though, you need to experience a luau for yourself.

Do you even lift, bruh?


A luau is more than just a feast, it is a culturally-themed party with magnificent pageantry. 


The food at Germaine’s is fantastic!

All though Germaine’s advertises themselves as being an all-you-can-eat buffet, I could only manage one really big plate of food. Of course I had a healthy portion of the kalua pork, then I tried a little poi, some Hawaiian sweet rolls, rice, Lomilomi salmon, Haupia (coconut pudding), island fish, fresh pineapple, teriyaki beef, pineapple slaw, green salad (I’m dieting), Hawaiian Pulehu chicken, potato-mac salad, chocolate cake… and beer.

Once the sky goes dark the show really begins to heat up!


The Tahitian and Samoan dancers really bring out that warrior spirit! 


From the allure of the hukilau hula to the thrill of the blazing fireknife dance, the entertainment of Germaine’s was something we will never forget!


The one thing I loved most about Germaine’s Luau was their abundance of “Aloha” spirit.  The Hawaiian word Aloha means many things to include love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. To participate in a luau, and share that experience with ohana (family), is what the word aloha is all about. Thank you for visiting Big John’s Adventures in Travel and please feel free to explore more of my site.

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John

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