The Five-0 Dream comes true, part 2: sneaking away to visit the sights

One of my main accomplishments during the Hawaii trip was getting to go around Oahu without sacrificing my time at ICRS (except for that one morning, but that doesn’t count because there weren’t any talks that I wanted to attend) and without a car (a bit inconvenient but doable). I’d like to thank TheBus for being reasonably on time, though the Android app could be more user-friendly and bus drivers were hit-or-miss in the friendliness and helpfulness department.

Going up Diamond Head was something we had to do early in the morning as we had to attend the conference and the hiking trail would be too hot later on in the day. The Diamond Head State Monument opens at 6am but because we missed the first #23 Bus because someone overslept, we got there close to 7am. Diamond Head gets over 3,000 visitors a day and we definitely felt that, as there were a LOT of people there even at 7am. If you have a car, it’s best to get there when the gates open.

A photo posted by Jem Baldisimo (@findingjemo) on

Diamond Head’s original Hawai’ian name is Le’ahi, which means “brow of the ‘ahi [tuna] fish” (I included a tuna photo for reference). British sailors in the late 1700s called it “Diamond Head” because they thought the sparkles coming off of the volcano were diamonds and that they were going to get rich. Too bad the sparkly rocks were actually calcite crystals that weren’t worth anything (poor guys).

Diamond Head Volcanic Cone, Honolulu (503263)
Photo by Robert Lindsell on Flickr


See? Diamond Head definitely looks like the fin of a tuna.

The trail to the summit is 1.3 km long and took us about 1.5 hours each way. The trail is established (of course) but only the first 300 meters is paved, so expect the natural tuff surface, loose gravel, and dust the rest of the way.


The slope is generally steep, especially at the end (Why must it be at the end? Are you trying to kill my legs?!). There are also no drinking fountains or toilets along the way, so refill your bottles and do your business at the start. The trail also goes through scrubland with very few trees, so expect the hike to be HOT. My Hawai’i tan came from hiking up Diamond Head, not from snorkeling. Sunblock, a hat, and water are your best friends. The view was absolutely worth it, though.




Oh wow. No space is wasted.




This is the view we came all the way up here for.

A photo posted by Jem Baldisimo (@findingjemo) on


This house is #goals. Eventually.

Most of the birds we saw were introduced species, which made me sad.

The hike down was more crowded, which made me even more grateful that we came early. We took the #2 bus back to the Ilikai instead of the #23, as the #23 only passes by every 30 to 45 minutes (WHAT?). Thank you to the very nice person who directed us to the stop for the #2, which was maybe 75 meters down the road at Kapiolani Community College.

We took another early morning trip to visit the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, the marine research station of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Much thanks to Romy for the tour! 😀 HIMB is on Moku o Lo’e (Coconut Island) in Kane’ohe Bay, on the right side of Oahu. Since we didn’t have a car (story of our life), we took the first #55 bus from Ala Moana Shopping Center and turned a 35-minute drive into a 1-hour bus ride. We got off at Windward Mall, where we met Romy, a former student in MSI who’s doing his postdoc in UH. The jump-off point to HIMB was another 1.8 km walk (waw). A short speedboat ride across Kane’ohe Bay and we were finally on hallowed ground.




HIMB was fabulous! Lots of equipment that we could only dream of having, including 2 big research boats. They were also researching sharks so there was a big pond with several juveniles in it, including black tips and hammerheads (joy!). We geeked out at the bound PhD dissertations in the library, where I found Dr. Gregor Hodgson’s dissertation on the effects of sedimentation on Indo-Pacific corals, which was one of my references for my master’s thesis (hi Gregor!). His study site was El Nido so major bonus points on that. We also got to see the late Dr. Paul Jokiel’s lab (it was only at ICRS at that I found out that he passed away). He was a great scientist.




On a lighter note, I found out that Coconut Island is the island featured in the opening credits of Gilligan’s Island and that the island was donated to UH by the very rich people who owned it (this explains the swanky neighborhood we passed through to get to the HIMB pier). Power and water for the island pass through underwater cables, though there are backup generators just in case.


Very swanky area.

On the sad side, I was pretty shocked to find out that mangroves are NOT native to Coconut Island (to the entire Hawai’ian Archipelago, actually) and are an invasive species. The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) was introduced to Hawai’i by sugarcane farmers in 1902 to control the sediment runoff from slopes converted for agriculture. It’s now the most widespread of the several mangrove species introduced. Coming from the Philippines, I thought that mangroves were present in all tropical estuarine areas (apparently not!). As an invasive species, mangroves screw over the native plants and animals by crowding out native plants, providing an attractive habitat for other invasive species, and taking over over habitats (paper here!)

Our behind-the-scenes tour of the Waikiki Aquarium happened the same afternoon (many, many thanks to Mark Dimzon for the tour!). Compared to the massive aquariums I’ve been to (e.g. SEA Aquarium in Singapore and Ocean Park in Hong Kong), the Waikiki Aquarium is your friendly neighborhood aquarium, which suited me just fine.



Mark showed us the coral propagation tanks and plantkon culture tanks (the fish have to eat!). He also showed us the tanks where they breed yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens).





And last but not least, Kuhio Beach Park. The long Waikiki shoreline is chopped up into several beaches but for simplicity in my head, I kept referring to the entire area as Waikiki Beach. The actual Waikiki Beach is from The Royal Hawaiian hotel to the Duke Kahanamoku statue, while Kuhio Beach Park is from the Duke Kahanamoku statue to Kapahulu Avenue. The fantastic MSI community in Honolulu – consisting of MSI graduates and friends and their families – organized a beach barbeque in the Sans Souci State Recreational Park (beside the Waikiki Aquarium). After chowing down on poke, ribs, and chips, Bryan, Lexie, and I decided that it was finally time to go swimming.



Poke (pronounced po-kay, which is hilarious if you’re Filipino and have a very juvenile sense of humor) is my second-favorite Hawai’ian food (Liliha Bakery’s coco puffs are still #1).

The worst thing I can say about Kuhio Beach Park is that the water is FREAKING COLD. Ugh. It felt like it was around 26 degrees Celsius. That is HELLA COLD. The average water temperature I experience is around 28 to 31 C. Water at 26 C needs a wetsuit @_@ But aside from that, Kuhio Beach Park was great. Sure there were a lot of people, but the beach was clean, the ocean was clean, there was a shower area to rinse off, and decently clean public toilets (I don’t think they can do anything about the sand and mud people keep tracking in). Something like this in the Philippines would be a dream come true.



Did I mention that the sunsets were gorgeous?



I wanted to rent a stand-up paddleboard but alas, Hawai’i is expensive. Swimming will do for now.

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