Published: February 1st 2012February 1st 2012
After landing at the airport in Honolulu, we picked up our rental car and proceeded to our destination. We headed east from Honolulu and drove the winding road which took us along the coast to Waimanalo where we had rented a place on the beach for our stay in Hawaii. There was no AC but one didn't need it as the breezes blowing in from the sea were quite sufficient. The scenery along the beach could have been on a postcard as it was spectacular. The road going to Waimanalo was the scenic route, Hwy 72, which winds around the coast past Diamond head, Koko Head. and the Halona Blowhole. Our first day was spent at the Honolulu Zoo which is one of the most attractive zoos we've ever visited. It is the only zoo in the U.S. that originated from a king's grant of royal lands to the people. It is the largest zoo within a radius of 2,300 miles and over half a million people visit it each year. The tropical flowers and other plants were very colorful and the huge banyan trees were reminiscent of the trees we saw at the Angkor ruins in western Cambodia. The place
had the usual assortment of animals (elephants, tigers, giraffes, etc) and a visit was a relaxing way to spend a few hours and unwind on the day after our long flight over. It's located close to the beach and there is a large area before the entrance that could be construed as a park.
The following day, we stopped at the Halona Blowhole and took some photographs of the beautiful scenery and then drove over to Diamond Head Crater. This is the most famous volcanic crater in the world and is located on the South-east Coast of Oahu at the end of Waikiki overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was originally named Laeahi by the ancient Hawaiians. The name meant "brow of the tuna" and looking at the silhouette of the crater from Waikiki, you can see the resemblance. The current name was given to the crater by British sailors in the nineteenth century. When they first saw the crater at a great distance, the calcite crystals in the lava rock appeared to glimmer in the sunlight. The sailors mistakenly thought there must be diamonds in the soil. Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years
and is 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit.
I found Diamond Head to be somewhat disappointing. I've seen photos of the craters of volcanoes with pools of lava emitting sulphurous fumes, however this one was nowhere close to that. It looked more like a valley with mountains surrounding it. After driving through residental neighborhoods, one finally drives through a tunnel and suddenly he is in the crater. People park there and go for hikes around the area. We turned around and drove downtown and visited Aloha Tower where we got some great photos of the surrounding area. This building was built in the 1920s and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. We were disappointed to find that the Maritime Center was closed for repairs but we did get to take some photographs of the sailing vessel Falls of Clyde. The vessel looks run down and is badly in need of maintenance, however it has an impressive history. It was built in Scotland in 1878 and named after a group of waterfalls up the River Clyde. The vessel wound up in Honolulu in 1899 and was registered under the Hawaiian flag. In 1907 an oil company bought it
and converted it to a bulk oil tanker. In 1927 the vessel became a floating fuel depot in Alaska. Later, in 1963, it was brought back to Honolulu where it has been ever since.
We then walked a few blocks over to Iolani Palace and took a tour of the place It's quite an impressive structure and is over 130 years old. Before the tour, we watched a 15 minute film about the history of Hawaii and the building of the palace. The cornerstone was laid on Dec 31, 1879 and, in Aug 1882, King Kalakaua and Queen Kupi'olani took up residence there. The palace had the most up-to-date amenities including indoor plumbing and gas chandeliers which were later replaced by electric lighting. Later, a modern communications system was installed when the telephone was invented. The building was restored and open to the public as a museum in 1978.
Lili'uokalani inherited the throne from Kalakaua, her brother, in 1891. She proposed a new costitution which threatened the interests of American and European businessmen. In 1893, a group of Americans and Europeans formed a Committee of Safety and its main purpose was to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, depose the
Queen, and seek annexation to the U.S. The committee expressed concern for the safety and property of American citizens. The U.S. Government Minister called for a company of marines and sailors from a naval vessel to take up positions around several governmental offices. This ended up with the Queen being deposed and her throne relinquished to the military forces of the United States. A provisional government was then established until annexation with the U.S. could take place. In 1893, the U.S. Minister proclaimed Hawaii a protectorate of the U.S. It became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959 just after Alaska which became a state earlier that same year.
The ride to the USS Arizona takes about five minutes. Prior to that, there is a 20minute film on the events leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After spending about half an hour at the memorial, we took the boat back in and went through two museums with related topics. The best part of this attraction is that it is free of charge. However, with the financial shape that the government is in, it seems about time that a fee should be established. Millions come each year to
Hawaii and this is one of the top attractions. It would bring in needed revenue and contribute to the upkeep and maintenance of the memorial and museums. Contrast this to the USS Bowfin Museum which is located next door. There is an admission charge in order to tour this WWII submarine. The USS Bowfin (SS-287) was launched on 7 Dec 1942 exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Because of this, the vessel was nicknamed the "Pearl Harbor Avenger." During the course of the war, the Bowfin amassed an impressive war record. She is credited with sinking 39 Japanese merchant ships and 4 Japanese warships. The sub also sank a Vichy French merchant vessel off Saigon in convoy with Japanese ships. Also on the grounds is an interesting museum which has a lot of history about the submarine service. There is also a Kaiten located there which is a WWII one man Japanese torpedo. Nearby is located the conning tower of a sub as well as torpedoes and deck guns.
We drove over to Ford Island in order to take a tour of the USS Missouri (BB-63). The Iowa Class Battleship was the last battleship ever
built by the U.S. and was launched on Jan 29, 1944. It was christened by Margaret Truman, the 19 year old daughter of the future president of the United States - Harry S. Truman, and came to be known as the Mighty Mo. In early 1945, the Missouri was assigned the job of safeguarding U.S. aircraft carriers during the invasion of Iwo Jima. She was 65 miles from the island when the attack began and shot down her first Japanese plane. The Missouri also heavily bombarded the southeastern section of Iwo Jima. Later she provided fire support during the invasion of Okinawa.
It was quite interesting to tour this piece of history where WWII finally ended. It's ironic that it sits in the harbor where the war started and overlooks the USS Arizona which is a symbol of the action that got us into that war. I've seen photos and documentaries of General McArthur presiding over the signing of the surrender documents but to be standing in the same spot was really special. We spent several hours walking through the various compartments and other sections of this great battleship. The large 16 inch guns are really impressive. It's secondary
guns are the 5" 38 mounts of which there are several located throughout the vessel. The only other U.S. battleship that I had been aboard previous to this was the USS Texas but this one is much larger. Before one reaches the entrance to the pier where the Missouri is located, he passes an impressive memorial to the USS Oklahoma. This battleship had the second greatest loss of life resulting from the attack on Dec 7, 1941. Everyone should take time to look at this memorial either before or after visiting the Missouri. Following this, we drove over to the Pacific Aviation Museum which is also located on Ford Island. The main building is filled with aircraft and other exhibits. After touring this building, we walked over to Hanger 79. Located next to the hanger are several aircraft and many more inside. Some of the aircraft date back to WWII and up through both Korea and Vietnam.
The Army Museum is located next to a beautiful park and is close to the beach. There is no admission charge for this museum and I can't understand why as it's worth an admission charge. We spent a couple of hours
here and found it very interesting. It's located in Battery Randolph which is a battery that was built in the early part of the 20th century and contained some really huge guns. Later, after WWII, they tried to destroy it but found that it had been built very well and that explosives was the only way that they were going to bring the battery down. Of course, this was out of the question due to the fact that there were so many residential structures nearby so they left the building intact. The place has a lot of information on Hawaiian history as well as the units from Hawaii whose members fought in the nation's wars. Located outside of the building are pieces of military equipment which include tanks and field pieces from WWII of both Japanese and U.S. origin. Inside the museum is located a Cobra helicopter on the second floor. Most of the museum is located on the ground floor and contains photographs and other items from decades of history. There are all types of military equipment including revolvers, pistols, shotguns, machine guns, field pieces. etc. One area has Japanese equipment from WWII and another area is devoted to
General Shinseki, a native of Hawaii who graduated from West Point and rose to the rank of general.
Another day was spent at the Dole Plantation. The drive north from Pearl Harbor, most of which was on Interstate 2, was quite scenic and gave us the chance to see some of the countryside. We took a ride on the Pineapple Express, a train which runs around the place, and listened to a narrative on the history of the pineapple in Hawaii. Following this, we took the Plantation Garden Tour and walked through the garden which is filled with beautiful plants, flowers, and trees. The main building has quite a few shops which are quite adept in separating the tourist from his money. We had dinner at the restaurant and later ordered coffee from the coffee shop. We sit outside and listened to live music throughout our dinner. On the way back we stopped at the Tropic Lightning Museum at Schofield Barracks. One can easily find this museum by the military equipment sitting outside.
Queen Emma Summer Palace is a short drive just off the interstate on Pali Highway. It's actually a pleasant drive uphill most of the
way. The home was built in 1848 and is filled with antique furniture. The grounds are beautiful and well kept. For the price of admission, one is given a tour of the place which isn't all that large. Cool breezes seem to be blowing through the place most of the time. It's easy to see why she choose to locate her summer palace here. Out in back is located a gift shop and there is parking in front. Photos are allowed outside but not inside.
We drove in town to the Honolulu Academy of Arts which covers two floors. Just across the street is a park where homeless people and the Occupy Honolulu groups mingle. In fact, it's hard to tell them apart except that the latter seemed to have tents set up in which they live. One doesn't usually think of homeless people or protest movements as being in Hawaii. It's as if Hawaii is different from all of the rest of the states. A $25 admission fee will get you into the museum and will also get you a tour of Doris Duke's Shangri La mansion which is located near the Diamond Head Crater. She was an
heiress who traveled the world extensively and became interested in Islamic art. The entire mansion, which is located on the beach, is dedicated to this type of art. A van takes you from the museum to the mansion and back and a guide takes one through the mansion and explains the history behind each room. This place was quite impressive, however, I think that anyone is capable of building a place such as this if they have a fortune like hers.
In the movie, The Descendents, George Clooney points out how people somehow think that Hawaii is different from the rest of the states but that it's not. The state has crime, poverty, street people, deadbeats, drug addiction, and everything else that one sees in the other 49 states. It's probably no better or no worse than the rest of the country. People get sick and go to the hospital and some end up dying of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.
It also has its share of beach bums and people who "hang out" and do practically nothing but surf and spend time on the beach. Of course, in order to survive, they have to become street smart
and learn to sponge off of tourists and other people. A friend told us about some that he had met with names like Aloha Joe and Wakiki Pete. After hearing these names one could let his mind wander and think of names such as Maui Mike, Hilo Harry, Kileaua Kate, Kona Kim, and, well, you get the picture.
While driving around, I noticed graffiti such as one sees on the mainland. It was on the sides of buildings and fences and on underpasses and various other places where these artists of the street do their masterpieces. Actually, some of it is attractive and takes talent. I've heard that some cities have even enlisted the aid of some of these people to help decorate various parts of the city and thus channel this energy into something useful.
We also noticed some rundown areas where the homes and apartments weren't kept up and the grass wasn't cut. There were others where pieces of furniture were sitting outside. Whether or not they were placed there for trash pickup is anyone's guess. No matter where one ventures he is sure to find all sorts of people. Some take pride in their neighborhoods while others just don't give a damn. A lot of it was the result of government policies to get everyone into a home which was a failed endeavor as not everyone is responsible enough to own a home. Some, in fact, should be living in caves or under a rock as that seems to be part of their character.