In April, our family went on a vacation in Hawaii. My parents went with us, and we spent a week on Oahu, the “main island”. We stayed in Waikiki Beach, which is just southwest of Honolulu.
Wednesday was a long travel day. We woke up at 3am to get ready for our early flight out, hopping across the country, finally to arrive in Honolulu at 6pm (plus six hours time zone difference). By the time we got to the hotel and had supper, it had been a 24-hour travel day.
Thursday started at 2am, when Foong’s ipod alarm clock (still on Eastern time) went off. She woke us up, claiming that it was 8am and that we needed to get ready for our “orientation breakfast”. After our long day before and a half-night’s rest, no one wanted to get up. It would be several hours before some of us were alert enough to figure out what had happened.
At the real 8am, we were ready to get up, and so we went to an “orientation breakfast”. That’s a free welcome breakfast, sponsored by the hotel and many local businesses, where they tell you all about Hawaii and give suggestions on what to do. We got suckered into taking a shuttle bus “to our hotel” by way of a museum and jewelry store, where they show you how coral is collected and polished into jewelry. I spent most of my effort convincing Sydney that she would not get to open an oyster and discover (purchase) a pearl. This game would last all week.
When we finally caught the shuttle back to our hotel, we decided tp declare our independence from our breakfast-feeding captors. So we took our van and drove through Waikiki beach and to Diamond Head crater. The trail to the top was closed for repairs, but we got to watch a helicopter taking supplies up to the top of the trail. We found a geocache, and then headed out to explore some more.
One place we explored was Safeway. We wanted to pick up breakfast stuff for the hotel, and some snacks and drinks for when we’re out. They had a full lunch buffet, so we ate there and we watched the locals shop… an adventure in itself.
We spent the afternoon at our hotel, on the beach and at the pool.
On Friday, we visited Pearl Harbor. We saw the submarine USS Bowfin, the Arizona memorial, and the USS Missouri battleship. It wasn’t a day that will live in infamy, but it was a sobering, educational trip.
We spent Saturday at the Polynesian Cultural Centure, which is on the Northeast side of Oahu. This is a Polynesian-themed park that is run by the nearby Brigham Young University – Hawaii. Like most of the park’s employees, our tour guides, Liam from New Zealand and Kotona from Japan, were BYU-H students. We visited villages from Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti and Tonga. Each village had activities which showcase some aspect of Polynesian life. We had dinner at a Luau, and later saw their eveng show, “H?: Breath of Life”.
The trip to the Polynesian Cultural Centure was definitely a highlight of our visit to Hawaii.
On Sunday, we drove to the North Shore to visit the Dole Plantation. We took a ride on their mini-train, where they showed all of the different types of tropical crops that are grown in the area. The most surprising part of our visit was learning that pineapples grow as blooms on the top of small bushes (I had always imagined them hanging from trees, like bananas or coconuts). While we were on the train, it started raining. Unfortunately, this was a long tropical mountain rain that did not let up, and so the rest of our visit was spent inside the gift shop.
We left the plantation and drove on to the North Shore. Although the drive was only 8 miles, the landscape and weather changed dramatically along the way. It was sunny and warm in Haleiwa, and so we got out and walked on the beach. We also spent some time just up the road at Waimea Bay Beach Park. The sand on the North Shore is a beautiful mix of shell fragments and volcanic pieces (especially compared to the sand at our hotel in Waikiki, which is trucked in from somewhere else, because of years of erosion).
On Monday, we went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, a bay that formed in an old volcano crater. The floor of the bay is covered in coral, and you can easily see tropical fish and other wildlife. This was an excellent place for a family to try snorkeling for the first time, because there are few waves and currents, the water is not very deep, and it’s easy to go from the snorkeling area back to the beach. We saw all sorts of fish, and we even saw an octopus — and on the shore, there were chickens!
In the afternoon, we walked over to the Hilton to see their “Hawaiian Village”, which I thought was supposed to be some sort of display of native Hawaiian culture. Instead, what we found was a collection of fancy shops that surrounds the Hilton’s pool pavilion. It was nice, but not what I had expected. The real shocker was seeing their display of African Black-Footed Penguins… in Hawaii??
We spent the rest of the day hanging around the pool and the outdoor restaurant at our hotel.
We did some rough calculations, and we decided that it would be a good idea to do at least one load of laundry before we had to start “recycling”. So we consulted the internet and made an elaborate plan to have our breakfast in Waikiki, just down the street from a laundromat. This would also give us a chance to explore downtown Waikiki. So we got the van, found a place to park, started a load, had breakfast, found a geocache, moved the clothes to the dryer, explored Waikiki some, and picked up our clothes. We were so proud of how clever we were. (Later, we discovered that our own hotel had a coin laundry in the basement, but it never occurred to us to check that close to home base!!!)
From there, we headed into downtown Honolulu to explore the ‘Iolani Palace, which was the official residence of King Kal?kaua and Queen Lili’uokalani. Inside the palace, we learned about how the many tribes of Hawaii were united by King Kamehameha, and later how the queen complied under protest to the forceful annexation by the United States.
From there, we visited the Aloha Tower, which overlooks Honolulu Harbor, and is surrounded by shops.
I had made up my mind that it was time to experience an authentic Hawaiian meal, so we went to a place called “Kaka’ako Kitchen”. It’s not much in terms of atmosphere, but it’s supposed to be good food. I had Loco Moco and Nalo Greens… which I discovered was really just country chopped steak with gravy and a green salad. So much for culture.
We woke up Wednesday morning and headed back over to the Hilton’s “lagoon”, where the girls rented a paddleboard, which is like a large surfboard that they stand on and paddle with a long oar.
We had already seen the beaches, volcanoes, the city, and Pearl Harbor, but we still had not seen the tropical rainforest. So after lunch, we decided to take a hike on the Manoa Falls trail. According to the guide book that we read, this was supposed to be an “easy” trail, perfect for families. In reality, although it was less than a mile long (one way), it was steep and muddy, and slippery in many parts. The scenery along the path was amazing, with a thick forest at the base, then twisted viney trees, large clusters of bamboo, and finally an opening at the foot of a 100-foot waterfall.
After our hike, we had a little bit of afternoon daylight left, so we drove up to punchbowl crater, which is a large dormant volcano surrounded by a residential neighborhood in Honolulu. Inside the crater is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Our flight back home was at 9pm, so we had most of Thursday free to explore. We packed up and checked out of the hotel, and then Audrey and I bought one last souvenir, a ukulele.
Our final tourist attraction was Bishop Museum, which has exhibits on everything from early Polynesian culture to lava and volcanoes.