Entrance to the 'Iolani Palace in Honolulu

We got up nice and early, and headed directly for the 9am opening of the ‘Iolani Palace, the only actual Royal Palace on U.S. soil. The building was beautiful inside and out. I snapped photos all around our waiting space on the front porch area. As part of the welcome address and rules, they informed me that the camera would be strictly off limits from then on.

detail of a door at Iolani Palace

ceiling detail

Inside the palace is a wonderfully restored museum of what it was probably like at the time Queen Iolani lived there. Woodwork, books, photos, clocks, furniture, and even the rugs and drapes were collected, restored and/or created with utmost care. We even saw one of the original copies of Don Quixote (in two volumes!) in the office. Our tour guide told us several stories about how things “want to return to the palace,” as evidenced by the furniture and other items that had been auctioned off by the royal family many years ago… somehow were returned.

Ridgeline road up Mt. Tantalus

Our next plan was to hike up Mt. Tantalus. We drove up another one of those narrow, winding roads into the jungle. Because of low clouds the view was more mysteriously compelling than usual. The views were usually obscured, but not completely, and we had the chance to spot fabulous lush steep cliffs fading into and out of view through the fog. We hiked up a dreadfully muddy trail and soon it began to rain. As we got closer to the mountain peak, the rain became steadier and heavier.

Tara hiking the muddy trail ahead of me.

Inside the bamboo forest. The forest seemed young, as the bamboo wasn't any larger than my fist.

Along the trail we made our way into a real bamboo forest. It was fascinating, otherworldly, beautiful. When the wind blew, the bamboo stalks clacked and knocked against each other. (I’ll add a video of it at the end.) We climbed higher and higher along the trail and were soaked through in the warm rain by the time we found the peak. We watched sheets of rain pound through the tops of the bamboo forest. As we stood at the peak of Mt. Tantalus and watched, there was a break in the clouds, and the sun illuminated a rainbow for us. Perfectly Hawai’i.

rain-soaked Tara, hiking ahead of me

V gazing at a twisted tree within the bamboo forest

We backtracked a little and moved along a ridge toward a lower peak. V knew just where to turn despite the narrow trail that wound through the bamboo. We dropped down a steep slope and in a short while came into the wooded bowl of a dormant cone of a cold volcano. There was a pond in the center (since the rain had no outlet), with marshes and forest spreading out from it.

Rainbow from the peak of Mt. Tantalus

Pond, marsh meadow, and forest inside the dormant cone

Honolulu from the trail, on the way back down

Red-crowned Amazons

It was lovely not to be so uncomfortably hot for a few hours. So much so that we really didn’t mind the rain. All of us managed to slip on the steep slopes of clay mud in the rain, at one point or another. The clouds had lifted somewhat, by the time we had views of Honolulu again. We stopped to admire the sun across the city, and then hiked to the car again and spent a good bit of time de-mudding before we climbed in! On the way home we stopped briefly at the Keaiwa Heiau State Park where I was able to walk through the ruins of a sacred site, and take some photos of Red Crowned Amazon parrots!

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