Around Honolulu and Waikiki it was very busy and touristy.
We were able to find a lot of quiet, local ‘Hawaiian’ beaches.
Visiting Pearl Harbour was a poignant experience.
We enjoyed our time on the island more than we imagined we would.
Thursday 5th January To Hawaii 15 miles
We were up at 4.20 at Si’s, having spent a week with him and Laure and little Manolo (1 month old).
Simon drove us to Calgary airport for our 7 o’clock flight to Honolulu, via Phoenix. After much queuing for booking in, immigration etc, we had a good flight, looking down initially over snowy peaks, and then dry desert, but a real bonus was flying right over the Grand Canyon, just like having our own personal flight.
We had 2 hours from touch down to take off at Phoenix, but time went quickly. Our second flight, with Hawaiian Airlines this time, was uneventful, but was longer than I had expected – over 6 hours. We tried to make out where we were flying over as we headed out towards the Pacific.
We enjoyed looking down over the Hawaiian Islands as we descended – now 3.00 p.m. local time – 3 hours back from Calgary time.
Having collected our baggage and hire car, we drove through Honolulu and Waikiki to our B&B at Hawaii Kai. We didn’t enjoy the nose- to- tail traffic, and didn’t care for all the high rise buildings, but it was less crowded as we drove past Diamond Head crater and stopped briefly beside the sea.
We met Don and later Phyllis Young, the owners of the B&B, and after they had shown us the ropes, we drove back down to get something to eat. By now we were feeling pretty exhausted, and I wasn’t amused when Adrian tried to pay for our sushi meal and first the card machine wouldn’t work and then the cash machine outside didn’t work either! We sat outside near the waterside to eat our meal, and with the money problem finally sorted (we had to drive around to Safeway to another machine), we returned for an early night!
Friday 6th January Exploring SE Oahu 71miles
We were awake early and up by 7 o’clock.
Our first stop was to view Koko Crater. A German couple had pulled in just before us, and we had a lovely chat to the wife (the husband was sitting in the car, ready to leave.) They were very like minded people who had shipped their German motorhome over to USA to travel for a year, and had flown to Hawaii from Los Angeles for a short trip.
There were lovely views of the coast as we neared Halona Blowhole. Also lots of tourists here! We paddled at Sandy Beach, which was very pretty, but we had heard that there was a strong undertow.
At Makapuu Beach we could look over to strange shaped Rabbit Island. We stopped here for a while – it was devoid of crowds and really lovely. At last we could appreciate theHawaii we had come to see!
Waimanalo Beach was also very lovely. We had hoped to swim here, but the waves were a bit rough and wetted our shorts/skirt as we paddled.
We stopped briefly at Kailua Beach, which was pleasant, but a bit busy. We drove off towards Lanikai beach, walking down to it by a sandy track between the houses. The beach here was lovely and unspoilt, and the sea very calm, so this was the place for our swim – delicious! Afterwards we sat on the sand and ate our sushi lunch. All pretty nice!
Rosie on lovely Lanikai Beach
Now we took the Pali Highway back to Honolulu, as we wanted to visit the Bishop Museum Archives. We stopped by the dramatic but very windy Pali lookout, which gave great views down to the eastern coast.
Back in the conglomeration of Honolulu, we managed, after some trouble, to find the Bishop Museum. We wanted to come here as we knew that letters and documents written by my ancestor Thomas Lawson were kept here, and we wanted to see them.
With the help of the pleasant and capable young archivist, we were able to see 3 folders of articles by Thomas Lawson – the originals plus copies. I must admit it gave me quite a jolt to see the actual ancient handwritten letters. We felt that we owed it to Thomas Lawson to get copies of all his work, so we left it in the hands of the archivist to copy them and send them to us in England.
Pleased with our success, we now made our way through the always heavy traffic (and a few diversions when we couldn’t find our way), to the Punchbowl – another ancient volcano, and the site of the National Cemetery of the Pacific. There are hundreds of graves here to Americans lost in the Pacific during wartime. It is also a great viewpoint over Honolulu, looking towards Diamond Head.
We tried to make our way there afterwards, but the horrendous traffic jams and poor maps made the journey difficult. When we did reach Diamond Head, we found that parking cost $5, and we thought it too late in the day for that!
We continued to Hawaii Kai, where we ate a pleasant Chinese Meal in a small restaurant before coming back to our B&B.
Saturday 7th January Up the Eastern Coast of Oahu 133 miles
The trade winds were still blowing, but we did sit outside for breakfast, and left at 8.40.
We had decided to drive north today, and negotiated the H1 (their M1) around Honolulu with very little traffic problem. We took the Likelike Highway through the lush mountains to the windward side of the island, reaching it just north of where we had left it yesterday.
We pulled into Heeia State Park, a rather ramshackled area reminding us of the Marquesas, but with some lovely views of the coast. It looked as though there was going to be a wedding reception here today. We saw another wedding group later, and in fact Phyllis and Don’s daughter was also getting married on the local beach this afternoon.
We stopped at the macadamia nut farm at Kualoa, and almost beat all the tour groups as we looked around and sampled the nuts and coffee in this very attractive setting. Nearby Kualoa Park had a lovely beachside location, and many locals were camping here – you can camp for free at many of the parks in Hawaii. We walked along the sandy beach, enjoying the steep verdant mountain slopes up behind. We saw 2 birds that we hadn’t seen before. We looked them up later – one was a black necked stilt (it also had a black beak), and the other was a red crested cardinal, with a brilliant red crest and bib.
View from Kualoa Park
At Kaaawa (that isn’t a spelling misprint), we joined a group of local children and had a swim in the pleasant blue sea before eating our sandwich for lunch.
Laie was a Mormon town, complete with temple. We found our way to a fascinating bit of coast with a long island rock offshore, with a large hole in the middle. It was called Puka Rock, and looked very photogenic.
Continuing up this attractive coast, we passed Sunset Beach and stopped at Ehukai Beach to watch the surfers below at this renowned beach, where the ‘Banzei Pipeline’ challenges the most enterprising ones. The wind was blowing strongly from the wrong direction today though, and although many surfers were out having fun, at nearby Waimea beach, the surfing ‘daddy’ of them all, there was virtually no surf.
We continued now past Haleiwa, enjoying the low key feel of this whole area, and made our way right to the end of the road at Kaena Point. The road just stopped in a muddy mess. You could walk on another 2 or 3 miles to the actual point, which can also be accessed from the south - many miles by road – but the road doesn’t join up.
This bit of coast was very wild and unkempt. A few people had pulled off to enjoy the beach, and again some were camping. We just took in the views.
It was now time for us to head back, so we had to retrace our steps a bit before heading south towards Honolulu and then back to our B&B. The traffic wasn’t bad in our direction. We saw a huge high rainbow.
Back at our B&B we chatted to a lady guest from Ontario who had just been on a cruise around the islands and then to Fanning Island. We knew of this remote island, as Thomas Lawson had drawn a map of it, which we remember seeing.
A bit later we drove down to Koko Marina and ate at a Greek restaurant.
Sunday 8th January The Waianae coast 115 miles
We woke later, and after chatting to Don didn’t leave until 9.45.
We had decided to drive up the west coast today, so had to drive right past Honolulu on the freeway again. Luckily it wasn’t too busy.
The west coast is very dry, and so different from the eastern side. We stopped first by Hawaiian Electric Beach (in front of the power station). There were a lot of ‘alternative’ people on the run-down beach – it didn’t entice us to stay!
As we drove on to Nanakuli, the beach was sandy and the sun hot. When we reached Makana Beach, we realised that some sort of surfing contest was going on. We were able to park, and sit on the top of the sandy ridge above the sea, along with dozens of other onlookers, mostly of Hawaiian descent.
Outrigger canoe race
The first contest we saw was of outrigger canoes, like we had first seen on Ua Pou. One of them rode the waves brilliantly, amidst huge cheers from the locals next to us. Next came the surfers on large surfboards, with a type of paddle to help them steer – we had read that this was a ‘speciality’ of this beach. We watched for some time, then crossed the road back to the car There was a refreshment van selling rubbishy American type fast food. Adrian bought a cheeseburger, and I tried the ‘shaved ice’ I had heard about. This is just a bit of fruit juice in a glass of ice, with a straw to drink the melting liquid – I won’t need to try it again! However, we crossed back to the beach to ‘enjoy’ these, just as another contest was starting. This time it was couples on a surf board, with the man twirling the woman above him, rather like ice dancing, as he negotiated the huge waves! It was quite something to watch.
We continued up the coast to the end of the road – it stopped in a muddy puddle on the southern end of Kaena Point, just as it had done yesterday.
After a brief look (again you could have walked 2½ miles to the point), we began the return journey. This time we stopped at all the beaches we hadn’t stopped at on the way up – it was easier, as we were on the right side of the road. The best one was Pokai Bay at Waianae, where a long breakwater meant that the water was really smooth, and we could have a lovely swim. We lazed on the beach afterwards, using the beach mats from the B&B.
We had also stopped by Kaneana Cave – a large cave, right beside the road, which had ancient Hawaiian legends associated with it.
We had really enjoyed our visit to the western side – it was almost devoid of any tourism although there were dozens of golf courses as we approached Honolulu. Once again the freeway was uncrowded, so we arrived back at Aloha B&B, where I had a quick swim in their pleasant pool.
Later we went down to Hawaii Kai, where we ate at ‘The Chefs Table’ – a Germanic restaurant, where my portion of chicken was so big, that they wrapped the rest up for tomorrow’s lunch.
Monday 9th January To Hanauma Bay and Pearl Harbour 40 miles
We were leaving Aloha B&B today, so got our bags packed up, but left the 2 large bags here while we drove off to Hanauma Bay. This was supposedly THE place to go snorkelling. We had been advised to get there early, but were quite amazed to find the large car park almost full at 9 o’clock!
Things have changed since our 10 year old Lonely Planet was written, when entry was free. Now it costs $1 to park, and $5 each to swim! Also, all the world and his friend was there! You could only visit by watching the video first, so groups of 50 or so people descended to the beach every 15 minutes! It was admittedly a pretty bay, formed from a past volcano. We wasted no time in getting into the water. Simon had lent us a snorkel, and we had bought one cheaply the other day. We were glad, as they were expensive to hire.
The coral came right into the sandy beach, and we were soon swimming amongst beautiful fish of wonderful colours. We were really disappointed with the coral though, as it looked dirty and damaged. Also, there was a cool wind today, and the sun was reluctant to shine.
We got quite chilled, so didn’t hang around after our swim. Back at the top, we drove back to collect our bags before heading past Honolulu to Pearl Harbour. It was now midday, and we knew that tours of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbour could get booked out.
We were in luck though, and got tickets for 1.20, which just gave us time to eat lunch (of yesterday’s chicken meal with corn chips) before entering the museum. Admission is free, and starts with a moving and well put together film of the events leading up to 7th December 1941 – the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour.
After this, we were all taken by boat to the Arizona monument – a structure fitted over the sunken ship. It was sobering to visit, and amazing to see how quiet all the visitors were, as they walked around the small area above the sunken ship. There really wasn’t very much to see. I just noticed lots of colourful fish swimming around the submerged wreck.
The Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbour
Back on shore, we looked around the museum exhibits and then it was time to leave and make our way to our next destination – the Ohana Maile Sky Court hotel in Waikiki, taking the H1, which was again boggled with traffic.
We were unnerved by the amount of traffic and the ‘busyness’ of everywhere, after our quiet B&B (we had had to move because our room there had already been booked for these 2 days). We parked on the street while we went to book in. A charming and efficient young girl dealt with us. When Adrian asked if we could chose which floor we were on (there are 42 floors, and we had been booked onto the 34th), the girl said that there was a twin room left on the 12th floor. This delighted us, and it even had a distant view of the sea.
After putting the car into the hotel car park (at great expense), we made our way to the swimming pool on the 5th floor. This all took a while, as the towels were on the 3rd floor! The pool itself was really cool, but there was a lovely jacuzzi beside it. We spent some time relaxing in here, and chatting to the other people. There was a woman from Vanvouver, and her mother, who had come out to Vancouver from London as a war bride in 1946, and not gone back to England since. Then there was a delightful young couple, both born in New Zealand, but living in Brisbane. His family originated from Tonga, and hers from Samoa and they had been visiting relatives in Regina, Saskatchewan.
After our fingers had become wrinkled from the soaking, we returned to our room to prepare for the evening. Feeling rather hungry, we got no further than TGI Fridays, on the ground floor of the hotel. It was warm enough for us to sit outside for our prawn/fish and chips meal. After that we made our way down to Waikiki Beach – not much sand we thought, and what’s all the fuss about? We walked right along past several of the hotels, on the beach, before making our way back through all the happy bustle of shops and stalls, stopping to buy some beer which we drank when we got back to the hotel.
Tuesday 10th January Mission Houses Archives and Waikiki Beach 15 miles
We bought coffee and croissant from the shop opposite for breakfast (there was coffee in the room which they charged you $2 for!)
We wanted to visit another museum today, which had more letters from Thomas Lawson. Also Adrian wanted to cash some outstanding American cheques. He had located some banks not far away (but further than we thought), but it turned out to be a wild goose chase, as, after visiting the first bank, which couldn’t cash them, we were directed to a second one. This one could cash them, although the $5 fee negated one of the cheques! When the assistant saw that the expiry date was tomorrow, she said that it wasn’t enough time to get the cheque to the right bank, so that was that!
We now caught a bus ($2 each) to the Mission Houses Museum, as the records we wanted to see were in the adjacent Children’s Mission library.
Things didn’t go as easily as the other day, despite the typical librarian-looking lady trying to be helpful. We were able to see several letters which Thomas Lawson had written, most of which we had typed copies of, and we were able to get actual copies of most of them. We had to treat all the records very carefully, with gloved hands and ‘tweezers’.
We weren’t sure if there were any other letters, which we didn’t know about, but by now it was lunchtime, so we retired outside to eat our sandwiches before catching the bus back to the hotel.
We now took the car and drove up into the hills behind Honolulu. We had been hoping to do a walk, but at no time did we see any helpful signs as we drove on a constantly winding road through lush vegetation, with occasional views down over Honolulu.
As we wanted to have a swim at Waikiki Beach, we now made our way there, parking the car at the hotel again, and walking down to the beach. The day was warm and sunny, and the beach sandy, but it was stony and rocky underfoot in the water – not our image of the supposedly best beach in the world! Still, the water was pleasant, and we felt refreshed.
Us on Waikiki Beach
Back at the hotel we had another go in the jacuzzi, but no friendly people tonight!
Then it was time to organise all our luggage for our early departure to Big Island tomorrow.
Later we walked out to eat at an Asian restaurant we had passed last night. It had excellent value meals – salad, two fish, corn on cob and chips for $11.95 each and we were served by a convivial waiter.