From lovely lush Kauai, we headed on to our next destination – Oahu. The island of Oahu is definitely a very popular tourist destination. While we did not see many in Kauai, Oahu and especially Honolulu was flooded with tourists. The island is lot bigger than Kauai but just as beautiful. We were totally spoilt by all the lovely sights and incredible weather throughout the duration of our trip.
Here are top 5 sights not to be missed while visiting the island –
1. Lanikai Beach– After having read innumerable blog posts and articles about this beach, I could think of no better way to start exploring the island. Just a short distance from the busy Kailua Beach is this incredibly lovely beach. Parking can be a bit difficult since the area is primarily residential but a couple of rounds later, we managed to find a spot not too far away. At the end of the alley that led to the beach, we could see the glistening blue water. The blue I had only seen in photos and movies. It seemed unreal and in that moment I found myself feeling extremely fortunate for having seen some of the most magnificent sights over the past couple of days. Overwhelmed and excited, we decided to come back at 4:00 am the next morning to watch the sunrise. The experience wasn’t over yet.
We were the first ones on the beach the next morning. We picked a nice spot overlooking the Mokulua Islands and settled down to witness the grand spectacle. The sunrise was definitely one of the prettiest I have seen. We just sat there, the two of us, listening to the gentle waves and taking it all in. Later that morning, we kayaked out towards the Mokulua islands and spent the afternoon lounging in the sun. The beach is also great for snorkeling and paddle boarding.
2. Laie Point and the shrimp trucks – The drive along the North Shores is a must do in Oahu. The road gently meanders along the coast and the pretty blue water looks so inviting as you drive up the Kamehameha Highway (83) along the Eastern side of the island. Along the way, it passes a succession of small coves and bays and miles of white-sand beaches, some nearly deserted. There are some lovely snorkel spots and as you go further up north, the waves are ideal for surfing!
Oahu Revealed, the popular guide-book by Andrew Doughty gave us some great suggestions on places worth visiting, away from all the tourist traps. That is how we found Laie Point. According to local legend, this peninsula was originally a “Mo’o” or giant lizard. Standing upright ready to kill any intruder. After Kana (a legendary warrior) and his brother had rescued their mother from Moloka’i and had taken her back to Hawaii. Kana set out on a journey to kill all the Mo’o in the islands. In time, he arrived in La’ie where the Mo’o had been killing many people. Kana easily defeated the Mo’o taking its head. He chopped it into five pieces and flung them into the ocean. The pieces of the lizard’s head can still be seen today as five small islands lying off-shore their original names were Kihewamoku, Moluaaniwa, Pulemoku, Malualai and Keauakaluapa’a’a. (Source: “Hawaiian Legends” by William Rice, Bishop Museum Bulletin, Honolulu, HI 1923).
The rock formations are a stunning sight and beautiful to photograph. At Laie Point you can also see what the locals call “the hole in the rock.” Located in the rock island to the far left of the point, a hole can be seen in the middle of the island, which was created after a tsunami hit it in 1946. This is also the point where Mila Kunis and Jason Segel jumped off in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘. We didn’t see many cliff jumpers the day we were there because it was terribly windy and giant waves were crashing on the rocks! Would love to go back and jump off the cliff on a day when the waves aren’t as intense.
After about an hour of wave watching and some soul-searching at the tip of the cliff, we realized we were famished and we decided to go look for one of the popular shrimp trucks in the area. We chose Giovanni’s based on all the reviews and were not in the least bit disappointed. Hot fresh buttered garlicky shrimp was just what I needed. For non shrimp lovers, there are some other trucks in the area that have other options as well.
3. The spitting caves – On day 3 at the island, we started heading towards Honolulu, our final destination. We decided to drive along the southern coast for more scenic views and so we could stop at the famous Hanauma Bay. As luck would have it, the parking lot was already full by the time we got there so we just had to settle for a view of the bay from one of the lookout points. We had read about the spitting caves just a short distance away, so we decided to go check that out instead. It isn’t very easy to find as the access path is in a residential area and not very well-marked. I am glad we didn’t skip seeing this place because the natural rock formations really make this place stand out. The spitting cave is where the ocean smashes against a few huge rocks and there is a cave where the waves go in and the pressure pushes the water out. Quite an amazing sight and it wasn’t crowded at all.
4. Honolulu – Crowded and bustling like any other tourist city. Downtown Honolulu is literally a mixture of old buildings, new buildings, bars, shops and restaurants. We checked into a hotel right on Waikiki so we wouldn’t have to drive out much on the last 2 days of our vacation. It was nice to just walk around, catch some of the FIFA World cup matches at the local bars and sample some delicious Japanese food.
The day we arrived also happened to be the day of the Pan-Pacific Parade down the Kalakaua Avenue, the main strip next to Waikiki beach. The main street is temporarily closed down to vehicular traffic from Lewers Street to Kaiulani Avenue to accommodate this festive parade. Thousands of participants included colorful performers, taiko drummers, dancers, ethnic cultural groups, and high school marching bands. It was a true feast and we felt lucky to have witnessed it.
The next morning we drove up to Mt. Tantalus (Puu Ualakaa State Park) to get a glimpse of the lovely skyline of Diamond Head and the city of Honolulu. It is a beautiful drive up the hill and the views are just stunning! (Opener photo)
5. Pearl Harbor – What a beautiful memorial! The exhibits are great and the grounds are very well maintained. The atmosphere is somber and everyone so respectful of the site. There are four main exhibits and if you choose to see them all, it will probably take up most of your day. Do make sure to reserve a ticket to see the USS Arizona online a few weeks before your trip. A small number of tickets are also given out each morning. The office opens at 7:00 AM, but an employee recommended arriving at 6:00 AM to get in line. The tickets assign a time to view the film. Directly after, the audience boards a boat to the USS Arizona Memorial. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they only had late afternoon slots available and we had a flight out that afternoon so had to miss seeing it. We did get tickets to the USS Bowfin, so we did an audio tour of the submarine. The tour was extremely informative and included personal accounts from veterans and residents to bring the story to life. This was very helpful, as I found the amount of information displayed quite overwhelming, especially in the submarine museum. Will definitely go back to visit the USS Arizona and USS Missouri on the next trip.
The trip ended on a very good note and I have just picked up a copy of Hawaii – The Big Island Revealed, to start planning a trip back to the gorgeous islands.