Every time I mention that I’ve been to any of the Hawaiian Islands people ask me lots of questions. I decided to put together this blog and organize it by island.
Note: Most of my photos here will look “grainy” since they are low resolution to discourage copying.
I’ve been to Oahu twice and really enjoyed it. The island possesses a lot of history, beautiful scenery and great snorkeling.
First, the blue book Oahu Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Honolulu, Waikiki & Beyond by Andrew Doughty was an excellent resource. Just read the reviews and comments about this book on Amazon.
Here’s a big map of Oahu. We stayed in Kailua which is on the east side of the island. From there we visited Hanauma Bay, Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and traveled as far west as Ko Olina which is where the Disney resort is located. Also, from Kailua we visited the very northern end of the island at Turtle Bay.
Kailua is very middle class and has a few shopping centers close by. Here’s some info on it.
The Kailua Chamber of Commerce has a good amount of info on hiking, shopping, pictures of this area, etc.
Also, there are no hotels in Kailua so you’ll need to rent a condo or a house.
Some things we did during our trips to Oahu
Visiting Pearl Harbor was an amazing experience for us.
They recently completed remodeling the main visitor’s center. I saw it before and after the remodeling. You can stroll around for free if you like but you’ll need to pay to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri, USS Bowfin and a few other things. Of course, try to get there early before it starts to get crowded.
The free walk-in exhibits are very nicely done. They show the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the aftermath. These exhibits have lots of memorabilia, pictures, etc.
USS Arizona memorial
This tour starts with a ~20 minute film that briefly describes the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, the events that took place in the harbor on that day and the days following.
Next, you’ll board a boat and take a short ride to the memorial itself. It was a very moving experience walking into the assembly room, seeing the USS Arizona under your feet and realizing this is where 942 officers and enlisted men are buried. Beyond the assembly room is the shrine where you’ll see the names of everyone killed on the USS Arizona. More info can be found here.
The battleship Mighty Mo
The Mighty Mo is the USS Missouri. Visitor information can be found here.
You’ll need to take a short bus trip over the bridge to Ford Island. You’ll pass the air traffic control tower that actually witnesses the attack on Pearl Harbor. This tower was being restored when we last visited.
Once on board the USS Missouri, you can actually read a copy of the Instrument of Surrender and stand on THE SPOT where the Japanese signed this document ending the 2nd World War. I left the following picture in high-resolution so you can zoom-in if you want.
The USS Bowfin submarine
Pacific Aviation Museum
Beaches and snorkeling
There’s really good snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. As usual get there early so that you can actually “get in”. They only allow a certain number of visitors to the park each day. One day a week the park is closed so that the coral and fish (traumatized by grabby tourists) can actually recover.
Before you can go down to the water they require that you watch a brief video. The video describes how Hanauma bay was formed, tell you not to step on the coral, etc. You can get your name added to a book so that for the next year you can return to Hanauma Bay and not have to see the movie. We had our name added since we visited several times during a single trip.
I’ve always found the best snorkeling on the left-side. Towards the buoys the surge can get rough so try to stay in calmer waters.
Also, it has facilities on the bottom and a snack shop on the top.
No pictures here. When we went the snorkeling wasn’t very good, too murky. Maybe you’ll have (or have had) better luck.
This is a huge, long beach. It’s great for kite surfing, swimming, canoeing, lounging, building sand castles and swimming, essentially everything but snorkeling. Towards the southern end of the beach in the park area you’ll find restrooms.
The Kalapawai Market and Deli is near the beach in case you want to grab lunch before heading to the beach.
The photo at the top of this blog entry is from Lanikai. Very nice, huh?
It’s a beautiful beach, has great sand for making sand castles but cloudy snorkeling (or maybe it was just cloudy when we visited). Also, there are no facilities since it’s backed by very expensive homes.
Queen’s Beach \ Kapiolani Beach
This beach is horrible for snorkeling. The water is too cloudy and no clear sand path to deeper water.
One day I was in an adventurous mood and decided to go snorkeling at this beach. After consulting an ill-informed lifeguard I basically “crawled” over the lava and dead coral to get to deeper water. I did see some fish but it certainly wasn’t worth the effort or cuts on my hands.
I went snorkeling right in front of the Kahala Hotel and Resort. We didn’t stay there, but it’s a beautiful resort in a great location.
The snorkeling was awful – I found it to be too shallow and murky.
They have Dolphin Quest here. We walked into the resort and saw dolphin’s swimming around in their pool. If you’re not staying there they may valet park your car for a few minutes while you take a look around.
There’s parking at a public beach just before you get to the resort. From there, walk past the public restrooms and continue towards the resort.
The aquarium was really nice. It’s right by the ocean, has lots of fish, seals, etc.
The Waikiki Aquarium site can be found here.
Waikiki Honolulu Zoo
The zoo was ok, nothing particularly memorable. Here’s their website.
Waikiki by the waterfront
I really liked Waikiki by the waterfront. To me it seemed young and vibrant. There are lots of different stores, waterfront hotels and restaurants all with a gorgeous beach across the street. It’s not as big, busy or crowded as LA, Chicago or New York. I think it’s just a great place.
On the other hand, someone who traveled with me – who shall remain anonymous – didn’t particularly care for Waikiki. This individual said it felt busy, crowded, etc. and preferred quieter places away from the hustle and bustle.
Now, I didn’t think “hustle and bustle” existed on any of the Hawaiian Islands, but if there is some it might exist here… Well, that’s some info for you to consider if you plan on visiting.
Hike Ka’iwa Ridge / Pillbox Hill
This was a very strenuous hike. At the top the wind can be very strong. Also, there are steep drop-offs with no railing. Note: You should read other sources about this hike before deciding whether to attempt it or not.
This hike is very steep. You’ll need at least gym shoes and other supplies. Towards the top you’ll first arrive at 1 of 2 low profile pillboxes, you know like the ones you see in WW II films with machine gunners inside pelting the enemy with lead.
The pillboxes face west. On a clear day you’ll have a beautiful view of Lanikai, Kailua and beyond.
This site has better pictures than we took during our trip.
Things we didn’t have a chance see but heard they were great
Also, we didn’t have a chance to rent a canoe in Kailua and paddle to one of the nearby islands. Near Kailua beach there is at least one place that rents canoes. I’ve seen them go out in small groups as well.
Well, that’s the important stuff I remember…