The flight from San Francisco to Oahu was less than enjoyable. The girl in front of me insisted on reclining her seat from the moment the plane was in the air, then fidget and wriggle constantly so my knees were regularly bashed. I was also fretting about driving. I’d never driven anywhere out side of the UK and I was nervous about operating an automatic car on the wrong side of the road! I shouldn’t have worried though, once I was in the car (despite turning the wrong way out of the car park) we had no problems for our entire trip. Unless you count the astronomical car parking fees we incurred.
It took us about half an hour to get to our hotel, after a few wrong turns. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we sat on the terrace with a guava juice and enjoyed our surroundings. We were staying at the Moana Surfrider hotel Waikiki. An absolutely stunning hotel that sits right on the beach front. We really scored with our room too, we had previously decided to save a few pennies on this hotel and splash out on our North Shore room. When we opened the door to our room we were more than surprised to find we had a balcony over looking the elegant courtyard where the huge Banyan tree sat, just beyond that was Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean. From our room we could hear the sound of the waves and traditional Hawaiian songs being played on the ukulele. From the moment we arrived in Hawaii we knew it was something special.
That afternoon we had a walk along the beach front and got our first real glimpse of Diamond Head. Waikiki isn’t exactly the most beautiful of beaches, but just standing there looking up at the volcano with the hotels to my back I got goosebumps.
We spent the evening on the hotels terrace watching the sun go down, drinking cocktails, eating delicious food and listening to beautiful traditional music. A little later a few hula dancers performed to some of the songs. It was at this point that Has leaned over to me and said “Can you believe we’re actually here?!”
We went back to our room and sat on our balcony for a little while until I fell asleep in my lounger, by this time we were 10 hours behind UK and the different time zones had really confused my sleeping patterns.
The next morning we woke up and grabbed breakfast in a small coffee shop next to the hotel. We wanted to visit Pearl Harbour and had heard that it can get very busy. Tickets to visit the USS Arizona memorial are free but limited, so we left early to ensure we’d get to see it. When we arrived we were given tickets and had a little wait until we were due for our tour. We watched a historical film about the events leading up to the attack then made our way to board the boat that took us to the memorial. It was a surreal place to visit, knowing that the USS Arizona had gone down with so many men still trapped on board. The ship, after all these years, is still leaking oil. The guide had told us that it’s such a minimal amount that they do nothing about it, only monitor it. There were plenty of fish swimming around and they didn’t seem to mind too much. Standing on the memorial platform looking out, parts of the ship are visible above the water like the gun turret, vents and funnel.
At one end of the memorial platform is a wall dedicated to all the men who lost their lives. It was chilling to see how many brothers, fathers and sons went down with the ship. We spent about an hour on the platform before returning to the land and then leaving the museum.
Even though neither of us are huge fans of sunbathing, we couldn’t resist the chance of spending the rest of the afternoon lounging on one of the World’s most famous beaches. Has admittedly spent most of his time floating about in the Pacific, with me constantly keeping an eye on him as he swam further and further out to sea. I’d wave my hands frantically at him motioning him to come closer and he’d just wave! I knew he’d be ok, but I knew the tide was strong and I’m a worrier. Not being a strong swimmer myself it made me nervous to see him drift away.
Once the sun had started to set and the temperature dropped slightly we went back to dress for the evening. We’d enjoyed the hotel’s terrace entertainment and food so much the previous night we decided to go back there. We spent another lovely evening listening to the music, devouring the delicious food and sipping drinks.
We then took a stroll along the beach front, you can only walk so far in the one direction but it was fun to see what entertainment the other hotels had on offer. Most of them lit fire torches which looked amazing, we walked back the other way and out on to the main road. The main Kalakaua Avenue runs behind Waikiki Beach, and is peppered with souvenir shops, restaurants, designer boutiques and hotels. Among the fire torches stands the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, a Hawaiian Olympic winner credited as the Father of Surfing. People honour the statue by placing lei’s around his arms and neck. Numerous tourists were posing and having their picture taken as we walked past. We’d heard a lot of negative comments about Waikiki before we left about it being too touristy and not the “real Hawaii” but we honestly loved it. The whole place is clean, beautiful and very welcoming. Yes it’s touristy but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We left the lively street and headed back to our room, another early morning was on the cards.
From the very beginning of honeymoon planning I had a bee in my bonnet about climbing Diamond Head. Has was worried. He’d got a bad neck and I had a bad ankle. He was concerned we’d be pushing ourselves too much, neither of us had proper shoes for the occasion but I didn’t actually care. I knew I HAD to climb that volcano. So Has gave in reluctantly and we drove early(ish) to the Diamond Head National Park. With our back pack of water, Mountain Dew, sun cream and our camera we headed up the trail.
It starts off relatively easy. Cement path, small incline – nothing too challenging. Then the paved trail gives way to the uneven, rock covered slightly steeper path. I’d read on the Internet that the trail does get more and more difficult towards the end and not even half way there I was sweating and my breathing was heavy. I was a few steps behind Has and there was no way I was going to admit to finding it hard. Every now and again I’d call out that I wanted to take a photograph and he’d say “Come on let’s just get to the top, we can take pictures on the way down” By now the trail was hard going, rather than just walking it you had to climb over rocks, up steep steps and all the while the sun was relentless. Another thing I’d read about the trail on the Internet was the steps. Oh the steps!! First a series of 76, with people behind you, there was no chance of stopping. One thing I should probably mention, the way you go up is the same way you come down. So whilst you’re huffing and puffing looking a little red in the face, other hikers are steadily making their way down the same narrow staircase. After the steps is a dimly lit tunnel, I’m pretty sure the incline in this tunnel is minimal but it felt huge!
Once we’d made it through the tunnel, we looked up and saw what we feared most. More steps. Thankfully just off the the left is a small rest area, we sat for no more than a minute just to get our breath and take a few sips from our water. Then we faced the 99 stepped staircase. My legs were shaking and I’m pretty sure Has was cursing me under his breath at this point. I have to point out we weren’t the only unfit ones, everyone around us seemed to be heavy breathing and sporting a face the charming shade of lobster. With those stairs out of our way, there was another short tunnel then, yup you’ve guessed it more stairs. This time in the form of a 3 storey spiral staircase. I’d given up thinking at this point and my legs just seemed to move without instruction from me. Once the climbing was over we walked in to the Fire Control Station Lookout, from there you have to crawl outside under a very narrow exit. The wind up there was incredibly welcome, just another 54 steps and we had reached the top. Hallelujah!
Honestly I thought I was going to cry, the view from the top was incredible and although I couldn’t ignore the wobble of my knees and my aching thighs it was all completely worth it. (That’s not to say I would do it again in a hurry!) On one side the crystal clear Pacific licked at the shore line, the high rise hotels of Waikiki stood tall over the beach and the other showed the crater of the extinct volcano. It was a truly remarkable view, one even Has appreciated the climb for. We took a few photographs, then made our way back down.
We stopped in the look out room where a very jolly man sat selling “I climbed Diamond Head” certificates, they were a few dollars and the proceeds went to the park so we paid and marvelled at the man when I asked him if he climbed the mountain every day. ”Of course, it keeps me fit. It’s easy when you’ve done it a few times” We then had the smug pleasure of passing those making their way up, knowing they’d have to climb all those stairs!
Absolutely exhausted and with mouths as dry as sand we headed straight for the refreshments van and ordered probably the best invention ever thought up. Shaved Ice. Yes, crushed ice drizzled with fruit syrup. (Kind of like a slush puppy by far nicer) We sat in the shade and enjoyed our icy treats until it was time to make our way to the lovely air conditioned car. We had planned to visit Hanauma Bay, but when we arrived we found it was closed for the day due to the maximum number of visitors reached. We drove on a little further and parked the car at a rest stop whilst we re-thought our plans. Whilst there we hopped out of the car and found a gorgeous area where the sea crashed against the rocks. Several people had made their way out on to the rocks so we climbed down a little for the chance to snap a few photographs. It really was a beautiful spot, one we wouldn’t have found if Hanauma Bay had been open. When we left we decided to check out the Mall, which didn’t result in us buying very much so we headed back to out hotel and the beach to rest our weary muscles.
That evening we walked down Kalakaua Avenue to Jimmy Buffet’s restaurant. Regrettably neither one of us ordered the cheeseburger in paradise but we did nickname our waiter “Voice Over Guy” - seriously, he could have sold you anything over radio. Has ordered a Lava Flow which, we soon realised was the worst drink ever. Kind of like alcoholic ice cream, and not in a good way. Later that evening we visited the Cheesecake Factory. Neither one of us were hungry but we simply couldn’t resist the cakey-goodness. We took our slabs of calories back to our hotel, where we sat on the rocking chairs on the front porch of the hotel. We watched a group of street performers opposite as they danced, flipped and jumped over each other. They were pretty impressive and gathered a rather large crowd. Once they had finished their act we went up to our room, sat on the balcony and devoured our delicious cheesecakes.
We were sad to leave Honolulu, we had both fallen completely in love with everything about the city. At the same time we were also really excited to see what the North Shore had to offer. The next day we checked out of the Moana Surfrider and loaded up the car ready for the next stage of our Hawaiian adventure…