01. Introduction: Hawaiian island hopping!
02. Alaska Airlines 737-800 economy class San Diego to Kona
03. Island Air ATR 72 Kona to Honolulu
04. Vive Hotel, Waikiki
05. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Honolulu to Ho’olehua
06. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Ho’olehua to Kahului
07. Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Kahului to Kona
08. What to do when it rains for the entirety of your Hawaiian vacation
09. Grand Naniloa Hotel, Hilo
10. Hawaiian Airlines 717-200 economy class Hilo to Honolulu
11. Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Extra Comfort (premium economy) Honolulu to San Diego
The sound of driving rain had been keeping me awake all night, so it wasn’t a big shock to throw open the curtains at 5am and see Waikiki glistening under the street lights. I’ve never been awake this early in Hawaii – this is a vacation destination after all, and prefer to sleep in as much as possible whenever I’m here. But not today. Today is the day of my big island-hopping adventure with Mokulele Airlines, and I had to get a very early start in order to make it to HNL in time to catch that first segment to Ho’olehua.
Taxis are hard to find at this early hour in Waikiki, but the friendly agent at the front desk of the Vive hotel was more than happy to call one for me and I was on my way to the airport less than 5 minutes later. Sleeping in was going to have to wait until tomorrow.
Honolulu, HI (HNL) – Ho’olehua, HI (MKK)
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Aircraft: Cessna 208 Grand Caravan
Duration: 20 minutes
Seat: Row 5 (the last row – I had it all to myself)
It never really occurred to me on the taxi ride to the airport that the weather was so bad. It was raining a bit with a light breeze, but it wasn’t anything I’d consider significant enough to put my flight in jeopardy. I was thinking nothing but happy AvGeek thoughts the entire way, very much anticipating what was sure to be an awesome morning of hopping around the Hawaiian Island chain on a rinky-dink little airplane.
That feeling of excitement and anticipation was squashed in an instant by the Mokulele Airlines check in staff who told me right away that the weather was bad all across Hawaii today and that there was a pretty good chance the flight would be delayed – or even cancelled altogether. There was no official delay or cancellation yet, but conditions were not favorable for flying and I was told to be prepared for the worst. She printed out my boarding pass anyway and sent me on my way.
Damn. This entire trip was build around these flights. More importantly, I needed to get over to the big island so as to not screw up my reservation on tomorrow’s Hawaiian Airlines flights that would position me for the trip home to San Diego. If I couldn’t get to Hilo by tomorrow morning, I’d have to change my HA reservation, which was going to cost $$ I did not want to spend. I was suddenly having flashbacks of my Delta 747 adventure last November and how bad that one got screwed up. I ended up having to purchase a last-minute ticket to get me home from that one, and I did not want to do that again.
I hung out for a bit in the ticketing hall just to see if they would cancel the flight. If they did, well…I really had no idea what I was going to do. I probably would have booked a ticket on HA straight to KOA or ITO, thinking that the larger 717 aircraft that HA flies inter-island would be able to handle the weather better and that there would be less of a chance of cancelled flights. But I decided to cross that bridge if (or when) I came to it…
It didn’t seem like they were going to cancel the flight – and it didn’t even say “delayed” on the flight information boards, so I passed through security and had a seat in the gate area.
I waited for a while. And waited some more. Even though it never changed from being listed as on time, the boarding time came and went with absolutely zero action happening at the Mokulele Airlines gate. There was nobody manning the desk. Heck – there wasn’t even an aircraft parked outside! But the flight information displays still said “ON TIME” and then “BOARDING” before finally switching to “FINAL CALL”. WTF?
Scheduled boarding time had come and gone without any signs of life at the gate, and I started to pack up my things to exit back out into the main terminal to see if I could figure out what was going on. Just before I did that, I saw a Mokulele staff member walking through the gate area – another confused-looking passenger stopped her to ask a question, and he seemed satisfied enough with the answer to put his bags down and continue waiting. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was obvious this flight was still on. I continued to wait as well.
Thankfully, a cute little red and white Mokulele plane zipped into the gate less than 10 minutes later, and boarding was underway shortly after that. It turned out that they never gave me a seat assignment, so the gate agent had to call to the front desk to ask where I was supposed to sit. “Put him in row 5” crackled over the radio, and I took my place in line.
They walked all the passengers out to the plane as a group, handing out umbrellas to anyone who wanted one. Normally the tough guy in me would decline such a thing, but it was raining pretty heavily still to I took them up on their offer and walked my way out the plane.
I don’t fly in little planes like this often, but this was not my first time on a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan. The last time was back in the spring of 2013 from Dangriga to Belize City on Maya Island Air – a short but fun ride over the lush forests of Belize. Today’s flights would be short and fun too, but it was kind of a bummer that the weather was not cooperating. That was sure to limit the sightseeing possibilities.
They fired that thing up and started moving off the gate just seconds after they closed the boarding door, delayed only a second by a quick welcome speech by the captain. There are no PA systems on these aircraft, so he literally turned around and spoke directly to us.
It was a very wet and humid taxi out to the runway, and I was constantly wiping the condensation off the inside of the windows so that I could get decent pics to the outside world. There really wasn’t all that much to see though with all the rain – all the action was inside the airplane, and it was kind of neat to experience an aircraft so raw and analog for a change. There was absolutely nothing luxurious about it – and I loved it!
The sightseeing was still pretty good as we departed to the east out of HNL, flying directly over top of Waikiki and Diamond Head. I couldn’t see much though since we were directly over top of the interesting bits, but it was nice having that entire last row to myself so that I could take pics out the window from both sides.
Things calmed down a bit once we passed over the eastern shores of Oahu and were out over open water. There was really nothing to take pictures of anymore, which was actually a blessing due to how bumpy the ride was. Focusing all my attention on my camera and not on the horizon was starting to catch up to me about halfway thought the flight, and I was actually starting to feel a wave of motion sickness coming over me as we approached the western shores of Molokai. Thank god we were landing soon – I felt an overwhelming need to plant my feet on solid ground, which had me a bit worried since this was only the first segment of the day.
The sun was actually starting to poke through thin sections of the clouds once we touched down at MKK, which by the way, is a tiny little airport in the middle of nowhere. I really had no idea what to expect of this place, but it was neat to finally see it. Mental note: I need to go back to Molokai someday and spend a bit of time there – from what I saw of it, it’s absolutely beautiful!
They made all passengers get off the plane at this stop, even those who were continuing on to Kahului like I was. I didn’t mind – I was looking forward to getting the chance to check out this little airport, as well as to calm my nerves a bit and shake off some of the motion sickness I was feeling before the next segment to OGG.