ALOHA! (Finally!)

March 15, 2018

Note: All photos are copyrighted. Ask permission before using.

I had to go. I was obligated. I’ve been writing Americana for 26 months now and had never been to two of our US states. Now I’m down to one and we’ve already planned a trip for the summer that will knock off that last one. I’ll have a perfect set!

Jeff planned a fun trip and once again, succeeded in providing 8 days of fascinating culture and history, and a variety of fun hikes, wondrous snorkeling and spectacular scenery. . .all on a relative shoestring. (Costs at the end.)

oil rising from the sunken battleship Arizona in Pearl Harbor

We started out with a visit to Pearl Harbor. We got there early and got the free tickets for the boat out to the Arizona Memorial. The whole park is solemn, but rich in context of the times and mindset of all the warring countries. The sunken Arizona is one of three ships that was not salvaged and put back into commission during WW2. About  2 gallons of oil per day leaks up from the engines of the battleship turned tomb.

BEST of Arizona Memorial

In fact the Arizona itself is an active Cemetery. The bodies of about 940 soldiers are currently entombed there. Men who survived the attack on the Arizona have the option of having their remains laid to rest with their shipmates when they die. There are currently just 5 men remaining, ranging in age between 93 to 99. Two of those men have arranged to be cremated and have their ashes interred with their shipmates. It’s a holy place. The names of the men who died that day, Dec 7 1941 are inscribed on the back wall. The Arizona had the highest casualties because the Japanese bomb hit the Armory and detonated all of the ammunition on board.

Later that day, we toured the USS Missouri, which is now a museum. This ship was under construction on Pearl Harbor Day and didn’t enter the war until 1944. But she fought in subsequent wars, even the Gulf War, most recently. The guns on the deck are never fired to the front, but must be turned so that the percussion doesn’t blast a hole in the gun deck.  It is most significant because the instruments of the Japanese surrender were signed on board in Tokyo Bay. This is the deck on the USS Missouri where the Japanese signed the papers that ended World War 2. It’s hard to comprehend what a powerful event that was! How many hundreds of thousands of lives were saved!

This is a little hard to read, but this is propaganda, dropped on American positions. Psychological warfare takes its toll, too.

Overall, Pearl Harbor and other sites around Oahu give context and incredible detail to help us understand what happened in Japan and in Germany that they could perpetrate the vast evil on the world that they did. Pride and power lust are a deadly combination.

On  to the eastern side of the island for some spectacular views.  This is Hanauma Bay. (below) It’s actually the ancient crater to a volcano. The open side eventually eroded enough to let in the sea and coral reefs grew. The amazing variety of colorful fish entertained us for a couple of hours snorkeling. But the weather was a little chilly and we needed to bask for a awhile just to warm up. (I didn’t expect the water to be so cool.)

Unexpected company as we ate our picnic on the grass above Hanauma Bay. 

We hiked to this 100 foot waterfall, Manoa Falls. Lush, wet jungle and LOTS of other hikers.

I do look fat in this picture, but I’m wearing a bathingsuit with bunchy shorts underneath because I thought we could swim at this waterfall. We did swim later that day.

We hiked to the top of Diamond Head. That’s Waikiki in the background. Diamond head is actually the front edge of a volcanic crater. It was used as sort of a natural fortress during WW2. See the pill box on the little rise on the right side of the picture? One of the flights of stairs inside the Diamondhead crater. I’m standing opposite a long tunnel. There are 100 stairs in this flight.

Jeff on the Manoa Falls hike.

The Hawai’i temple in La’ie is more grand and impressive than we had realized. Attendees move from room to room in symbolic progression upward.

The Polynesian Culture Center is an Amazing highlight. Here are a few pictures I’m not using in the Americana column.

It is impossible to get a still photo that depicts the violence with which those ladies wiggle/shake their hips! I didn’t know I had joints that would do that! 

roasted pig at the Luau

They were teaching us to twirl the fire sticks. Thank goodness they were not lit! See my temporary tattoo on my wrist?

Jeff getting ready to go into the water at Waikiki

That’s Waikiki from the other direction. We were lucky to have a warm, sunny morning even though rain was forecast all day. It wasn’t crowded at all, and on the Diamond Head end of the beach, there was good snorkeling a few feet off the beach. (Not good for regular swimming, however.)

Diamond head from a huge park on the end of Waikiki (plenty of free parking on that end of the beach, too.

Much too windy for sailing!

View from a steep hike to the Makapuu lighthouse overlook.  

I have always had a fascination for lighthouses. They’re so wonderfully symbolic and each seems to have interesting tales associated with it. A WW2 plane was patrolling along the coast in bad weather during WW2. It mistook this lighthouse for the one below Diamond Head and crashed into the cliffs just behind the camera angle. 9 soldiers lost their lives.

This is the living room of our Air BnB

This is the kitchen of the Air BnB where we stayed in Aiea     Cliffs like these are all over Oahu. Violent natural forces at work!

After snorkeling and basking at Waikiki in the morning, we explored another area of the island that was purported to have the most beautiful beaches of all. Yes, they were lovely. Though this beach was on the leeward side of the island, it was so windy that these kitesurfers were taking flight. On the left of the pictures, there is a guy doing a flip with his board. He looks kind of like a fly on the lens. There were about a dozen people windsurfing.

this 250 pound sea turtle was basking on Turtle Beach. Volcanic rocks surround the island and punctuate each beach.


We also went to Waimia Valley, but forgot our good camera. This has a fun hike to a swim-able waterfall and lovely botanical gardens. It was raining that day, so impeded our enjoyment somewhat, but still worth it. There are archaeological ruins with interpretive signs that depict native life before the pineapple growers took over the island (very literally). The gardens are conducting research for countries all over the world in preserving and improving native plants. It’s organized by country, too. If it hadn’t been so wet, we could have spent 5-6 hours there very easily. I also got to blow a conch shell. I thought it would be difficult but it’s about like blowing a trumpet. It squeaked a bit when I first tried, but I got the hang of it.

I had always wanted to see the Pipeline where the surfers are roaring down 40 foot swells. It’s hard to tell, but some of these waves were probably 20 feet! The picture doesn’t do it justice, but they were the biggest waves I’ve ever seen. . .

The Dole plantation was mostly a tourist trap. Stop in and have some pineapple soft serve ice cream, (Dole whip) It’s like gelato. . .expensive but worth it. We went to the botanical garden which was fun, but overpriced. Go up the highway a little farther and you can see the pineapples growing in the fields.


So. . .costs. Flights combined were a little under $1100. Lodging was an Air BnB $475 for 7 nights. (Incredible deal. Nice apartment, good location, excellent hostess) rental car $200 Picked up and dropped off at the airport. $150 in Restaurants and treats. $73 on groceries, (We made lunches most days.)

The Polynesian Cultural Center gave me free press passes but the day admission, all-you-can-eat-luau and dinner show and Ha, Breath of Life show in the theater (with astonishing firedancers and great entertainment) would have been $115 apiece. SO WORTH IT! If you go all the way to Oahu, bite the bullet and go for the gusto at the PCC!

The Arizona Memorial is free to everyone, but reserve tickets in advance, or get there early in the day.

The USS Missouri museum costs $27 per adult, but those tickets were also given as a press pass. Also worth it for adults. (Kids, not so much.)

Parking for hikes, Admission to Hanauma bay, etc, total about $75.

We spent about $50 on souvenirs.

All total, about $2025. If we’d had to pay for the USS Missouri and PCC it would have been  almost $300 more. We were gone 8 days.





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