Whenever we are lucky enough to get to Oahu, the response on arrival is always the same, a deep breath releasing all the tensions. Even though on Waikiki there is certainly the towering condos, the collective energies from the visitors from all over the globe must rise in a wave and wash over us all with a deep sigh, leaving only a dedication to recuperation and relaxation.
Wanting a 2 bedroom apartment, we chose to stay at an apartment in the Waikiki Sunset complex which we found on Homeaway.com. It is in a fantastic location, near enough to dining and facilities but still on the edge of things a bit to provide tranquility. So close to the zoo that you can sometimes hear the animals. Claire is the ever dedicated and caring host, she met us on our first day to take us for a tour of the condo and the neighbouring streets for points of interest and as to where we might eat. Thank you Claire!
Still jet lagged but eager to get about, on day 2 we hit the Zoo, which was just a blocks walk away.
Honolulu Zoo dates back to the 1870’s. Particularly, the exotic birds are quite a feature, we were spellbound by the tiniest birds I had ever seen (so tiny they didn't show up in any of the photos I took!). And it was our first view of Flamingos.
Still wilting somewhat with the heat of the tropical climate, we stopped here and there to be fortified by a shave ice - always does the trick!
One of the next places on our list was a historic railroad on the island we had heard about and seen on the Australian Getaway TV show. To get there, we hopped on the bus network to get to the other side of the island, which was an adventure in itself. We wondered around somewhat lost, and obviously the family of 4 wandering through residential streets bearing bags and cameras was a dead giveaway. A car with 2 young ladies pulled up and offered us assistance, which we gratefully accepted. Squeezing in, we then enjoyed chauffeur driven service to the railroad station - thank you Hawaiian locals!!!
As a side note, on this trip we purchased a bus pass with unlimited hop on and offs, which were valid I think for 5 days. So well worth the investment as it makes getting around so easy. On other trips we have mistakenly saved the money by not buying the bus pass, but the outcome is always hot, tired and frustrated family members.
The Hawaiian Railway Society - where else could you have both views of Costco (!!), and then as we got further out, some quite pretty country.
With the heat and the gentle rocking of the train, and still recovering from jet lag, we would have been quite happy to enjoy a nap!
Hanamau Bay is one of the major destinations for visitors to Waikiki. A naturally formed pool of water in the remains of a Volcanic crater, it is a fabulous place to snorkel, for both beginners and the more competent snorkellers alike. One can see Turtles, Moray Eels, Parrot Fish, Trigger Fish, just to name a few, amongst living coral. You do have to make the effort to get there early though. With such a unique environment, it is no surprise that many visitors want this exceptional experience, and that in itself raises questions of preservation. Almost a million people a year attend Hanamau Bay, and without control the damage to the coral and habitat is inevitable.
Once the car park is full (if you are driving), and it can be full by 9am easily, the car park is closed. We took the bus. That is in itself always an adventure, for the buses can also get very full, and we have learnt to wait at a stop at the beginning of the line so we can be assured of getting on. Part of the family tradition has been waiting at bus stops for buses that go straight past, packed to the brim and no longer stopping for passengers.
As you step off the bus on arrival though, you will realise how the planning, carting family stuff and organizing kids is all worth it when you are greeted by a magnificent vista. You will be greeted by another queue, so be sure to relax and wear a hat!, this to gain entrance to the visitor centre where you will be shown an educational movie about the locality and sea life and how to care for the reef.
After the viewing, you can then make the trek down hill to the bay, to find a position in shade (well warranted) for the next few hours. Turn around and a Mongoose is likely to be scurrying behind you, travelling from bin to bin. It is work to get here if you don’t have a car, and we promise ourselves every time that next time we will hire a car for the day (maybe next time!), but once you arrive you do conclude all the preparation well worth it.
After a full day of snorkelling and enjoying the bay, the return means a walk through the hot sun uphill. If you really can’t do it, there is a fabulous jeep that runs up and down the hill collecting passengers for $1. Sometimes it is just worth it!, as you then have to get that bus back to Waikiki, and quite likely, it will be standing all the way back.
For a more gentler change of pace, one of our favourite walks is to Manoa Falls.
From our accommodation, we took a bus to Ala Moana shopping centre and then changed. You will end up in the suburbs, which is an experience in itself.
It is a bit mind bending to be dropped off in the suburbs, and then all of a sudden a few metres away and you are in the wilderness. There is a beautiful trail through rainforest and bamboo. One totally expects a T-Rex to pop its ugly head out of the tall trees
The falls themselves are not huge, it is a case of the journey rather than the destination, but nonetheless lovely with a pool at the base with signs warning against bathing (due to some horrible bacterial disease), but that didn’t seem to stop anyone because tourists were splashing around in the water around the sign.
The walk can be wet in places with a bit of mud and steeper sections, which just added to the fun! It wasn’t that difficult, if you have a little bit of fitness (mine is marginal!).
As you get back down, and how cool is this, you can sit down in the cool with an overhead fan and Shaved Ice at Rainbows End!
Of course, sometimes you want a more frenetic pace, and then there is WetnWild.
For ease, we booked a tour which meant we could hop on a coach for a 30 minute trip.
It certainly is the most beautiful setting of any Wet n Wild we have been to, and the overcast conditions made it more enjoyable than the blazing sun of the Australian WetnWild.
An hour before the parks close we had to assemble at the bus point, but we were ready to do that anyway, everyone quite exhausted.
Grand Circle Island Tour Oahu
Oahu has so much more to explore than Waikiki, and we chose to do the Grand Circle Island tour for an overview, the informed commentary always fascinating.
Nuuanu Pali Lookout was a place we stopped at, with absolutely spectacular views, and a howling wind. The formation is of the steep hills creates a natural wind tunnel. Many a hat would have been lost here. It is the scene of Hawaii’s biggest battle back in 1795, where warriors arriving in canoes at Waikiki led by Kamehameha fiercely fought Kalanikupule’s Oahuans (and ultimately won, at great cost to the Oahuans.
Some of the local wildlife here too (not used to seeing wild chickens in Australia so for us this was quite a novelty)!
Other stops on the tour include the Dole Plantation (where I picked up the most awesome coffee grounds, and which we meant to get back to, but just ran out of time for), Halona Blowhole, and Sunset Beach (renowned surf spot).
Pacific Aviation Museum
A visit to the Aviation Museum was in order. It is located fairly close to the Battleship Missouri Memorial. We had heard about a flying show, and dutifully arrived, only to find model airplanes in the air!! Nonetheless, the exhibits were impressive, the flight simulator a hit with the kids, and the setting interesting.
As a fan of the tv series Ghost Hunters, our excitement was twofold, with reportedly haunted hangars featured in one of their investigations. There is a manequin that is said to move at night!
Our 10 days flew past, and all of a sudden it was time for a final dinner cruise to say goodbye.
But, give us a bit of time and we will undoubtedly return.