Hawaii - Waikiki, Pearl Harbour, and Touristy Stuff!

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April 9th 2014
Published: June 15th 2014
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OK, so I’m up with the blog for our latest trip, to Hawaii in April 2014. Here goes…….

Day One

Day one was mostly spent travelling. We started out early from Christchurch, and hit an immediate frustration of being on a domestic flight prior to an international one, and trying to book our luggage right through. Air New Zealand has a ridiculous system of making all people in the same situation queue in one queue, regardless of when they leave, and of only having one counter to process everyone. It’s probably the most frustrated I have ever been in a queue actually, because for the majority of the time, there was some issue with the person at the front, and the queue literally didn’t move for 30 minutes – not something you want to really have happen at 6am, when you have a day of travelling ahead of you. By the time we got to the front we thought they were going to say it was too late to check in, but luckily they didn’t, although the customer service guy was in a foul mood towards us before we even stepped up. Given that Air New Zealand can often be an OK airline, it was pretty substandard, but anyway. Eventually we made it onto the plane and up to Auckland. We had a bit of a wait in Auckland (about three hours), so we left the airport and went for a walk up to the shops there. It was still early (and it was a Sunday), so a lot of them weren’t open yet, but it was something to do, and good to keep our legs moving prior to being crammed in on the long haul flight.

We made it back to the airport in plenty of time (after stocking up on goodies for the flight, as we had gone for the cheap non-food option – not sure if it actually saved us much in the end), and boarded our long haul flight. Luckily we were seated in a row of three, but the third seat wasn’t taken by anyone, so although we didn’t get an exit row seat, we had a bit more room, and the flight wasn’t too bad. It was night time again by the time we arrived, and we flew past Honolulu in the dark, which looked really pretty. The landing was non-eventful and we managed to make our way to our hotel by pre-booked shuttle. The hotel was a block back from Waikiki Beach, and although it was almost midnight by the time we checked in and got sorted, there were large convenience stores on every block, and plenty of bars and restaurants open, so we went for a walk and stocked up on the essentials (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, and American snack food), and then took a stroll down to the beach. There were teenagers everywhere, as apparently it was prom season, and we lined up at McDonalds with all the kids and sat around outside for a while, just watching them all congregate. It was blindingly obvious that they were nothing like teenagers back home, where generally (at least, that I have noticed in Christchurch), they are often all over the road, drunk, yelling and screaming at each other down the street, damaging property, etc. I sound old, I know, but it was refreshing to see younger people out enjoying themselves without the extreme level of obnoxiousness that usually accompanies that age group in New Zealand. We even had multiple groups of them checking whether we were in the queue for burgers, and then patiently waiting behind us. I can’t remember the last time I saw that back home – haha! Essentially I guess it just contributed to the overall laid back beach vibe, and it was already really pleasant. We walked along the street by the beachfront, but there were a number of homeless people around, so we didn’t venture down onto the sand – larger populated beaches have a lot of rules in the US, and we weren’t quite sure if we were even allowed down there at night. There would be plenty of time to check out the beach anyway. Eventually we headed back to the hotel because even though we weren’t overly tired, we knew we needed to try and sleep so that we could get up at a reasonable time in the morning. Even though I had been to Waikiki before as a kid, I didn’t really remember it, so I felt like we had had a nice introduction to the area, despite the late hour.

Day Two

We had a mini sleep in and stood out on the balcony to check out the weather – the balcony was on the side of the hotel, and in one direction we could see the ocean (although not the beach itself), and in the other we could see the street. It was windy, sunny and warm (but not too hot or humid). We ventured down to the street and along to a place called Mac’s 24/7 for breakfast. It was AMAZING! They had a pancake challenge (a stack of large dinner plate sized pancakes that I was sure Vaughan would order), but in the end Vaughan ordered chicken friend cheese steak, and I ordered a normal portion of red velvet pancakes. And of course, there was the very American bottomless filter coffee, which is half the reason I like eating out in the US. After doing our best on breakfast and basically rolling out the door, we headed for the beach. On the way we noticed some of the small local homely-looking houses in between the hotels, and the pick-up trucks with surfboards strapped on the back, parked in the driveway. If not for the tourists, I’d imagine that Waikiki to almost be the best of both worlds – it’s part of Honolulu, which is a large city (population 375,000), but still has that relaxed attitude, where everyone goes surfing in the afternoons. But because Waikiki is predominantly geared towards tourists, I can’t imagine it being any other way really.

We walked past all the surfboard and watercraft for hire, and walked through the water – so warm! The sand was fairly yellow, and quite rough in texture in places. Heading towards the more populated part of the beach, we basically just walked for an hour or so, past sunbathers, teenagers, families and couples, all out and enjoying themselves. There were hundreds of people learning to surf, with their coaches telling them to go for it, and smiling and waving excitedly when the beginners managed to get up on their boards for the first time. The waves were perfect – very small, but powerful enough to push an adult along. The beginners were of all ages, and the waves were based about 50m offshore, which left the shoreline for all the little kids, and the teenagers with their boogie boards – we watched them for a while, and it was quite cool to see them run along the beach, up to a small set of waves, leap on their boogie board, cut up a wave with an awesome manoeuvre, and basically end up almost back on the sand, ready for the next set. I’m not sure I’d seen this kind of almost land-based version before. I’ve posted a photo here of it specifically, so you can see what I mean.

Everything was so bright – the boats, the boards, the swim suits, the ice slushies, the Hawaiian shirts. It was really pleasant, just wandering along. We took the boardwalk that went between the water and the large hotels, and generally had a wander. At one point we stopped to watch some people play handball on an outdoor court. It seemed like some locals had a pretty hardcore competition set up, and it was fun to watch their skill at the game, as well as the way that they gave each other good-natured grief over the result. At several points the hotels gave way to parks on the non-beach side, and there were little native birds everywhere, BBQ’s and outdoor tables, as well as ice cream shacks where you could also buy cocktails and beer. While it was populated (and getting busier by the minute), it was still actually pretty relaxed and enjoyable. We walked through a park and ended up down at Fort Derussy Beach Park, where we watched some people muck about playing a friendly game of beach volleyball. From there we decided to get out of the sun for a while, as it was getting a bit hot by that time. We walked down a small lane and ended up on Kalakaua Ave, walking back in the direction we had come, on the other side of the resorts, but now amongst all the touristy super label stores (Gucci, Armani, etc). We went up into the Royal Hawaiian Centre, which was a multi-storey outdoor mall, and found a gun range on the top level (of course), so we watched people shooting at targets for a while, and decided to come back towards the end of our holiday if we had time. In the middle of the mall was a massive open garden space where a brass band was playing, and they were really quite good, so we stayed and watched them from an upper level for about half an hour. Eventually we kept on walking back towards where we had started, and the high end stores gave way to restaurants and local art galleries, and I found a bunch of Hawaiian-style art that I really liked (given my propensity for buying art while on holiday, it took a great deal of effort to move on without making a purchase!!). We stopped off back at the main part of Waikiki Beach at a food shack and got a giant rainbow ice slushie thing – it was enough for about 10 people. I walked a few metres back to the water to take photos of people surfing, while Vaughan made his way through the slushie as he sat in the shade. The beach was crazy-busy by this time, but somehow it still didn’t feel too crowded. Close to our hotel we discovered a miniature English-style heritage town that went for about a block. Most of the buildings were operating as shops, but many were empty – however, there was a lot of signage around for local food market hours, and after a brief look, we decided we would return when the market was on instead. It was late afternoon by this time and we had had quite a lot of sun - I’m usually OK as long as it’s not too hot, but Vaughan can get a bit overwhelmed, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a while. On the way we stopped at a liquor store and I bought a few mini bottles of flavoured vodka (that you can’t get in New Zealand), plus some more American snack food. Back at the hotel I had a swim in the pool because it was really quiet there, and Vaughan sat in the shade, looking through the photos I had taken all day on the camera. The hotel lobby had free fruit juice, coffee, newspapers and fruit, so we grabbed pretty much one of everything and went to sit out on our balcony for a while. The wind was starting to come up really strong, which helped keep the heat down. It was really pleasant.

As dusk was falling we decided to go and get some dinner. We wandered back down to the beach. There were tourists everywhere, and every bar and restaurant was really busy, but yet just like the beach, it wasn’t overwhelming or completely crowded. We looked in a couple of shops (one that sold real mini musical instruments, and another that sold witty t-shirts), and eventually made it to the Moana Surfrider Westin Resort, where I knew that the famous Duke’s (Restaurant and Bar) was located. It’s reputation preceded itself, and we could completely see why – named after Duke Kahanamoku (Olympic swimmer and US representative, Godfather of surfing, Sheriff of Honolulu, Hawaiian Ambassador, etc etc – you get the idea), the place was massive, yet still had all these amazing nooks, that didn’t make you feel as if the place was quite as large as what it was. It was going off in there – so incredibly busy, and really, quite exciting. Cocktails and memorabilia everywhere, it had managed to completely retain it’s charm 9despite it’s size), and didn’t for one second seem cheesy. We put our names down for a table, but the wait was quite long, so we went next door to the large outdoor beach bar area of the Westin resort itself, and I ordered cocktails, while Vaughan tried several local Hawaiian beers. Eventually we got in for dinner, and we both ordered local dishes. I had seared seven spice ahi (tuna), and honestly thought it was the tastiest and most skilfully prepared/coked seafood I had ever had at any restaurant (a miracle, given that I don’t really like fish that much). We had some more cocktails (a mojito with cream was the house specialty), but we were both so full that we couldn’t even finish them. We pretty much had to roll home after that – dinner was quite late in the end so we didn’t mind too much. We knew we had to make sure we were up in time to make our pre-booked Pearl Harbour check in time in the morning (you can’t go without pre-booking tickets). Overall, a really nice walking, relaxing beachy kind of day with lots of fantastic food (too much). Waikiki may be geared towards tourists but it’s just not as tacky as so many places out there. It was interesting to note that there were people of all ages and all races there, and Waikiki seemed to cater successfully to absolutely everyone. It was great!

Day Three

We woke fairly early and got ready for our shuttle to Pearl Harbour (bussing seemed to be difficult and very time-consuming, and we were worried about missing the check-in time, so we caught a shuttle this time). Another couple jumped on board too, and we headed off – it took about half an hour or so to get there. I am sure that most of you have heard of Pearl Harbour before, so I won’t explain it, but if you’re interested, click here. I had also been to Pearl Harbour as a kid, but only really have one memory of it, where we were on a boat tour and some older Japanese ladies were crying, and my Dad asked why they were crying and they said it was because they were so ashamed of what their country had done to the Americans (and of course this resulted in the Americans retaliating by bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki). We arrived at the memorial centre, which is on the side of the current Pearl Harbour Military Base (although not really part of it anymore). We entered the site and decided to get additional tickets to go on the USS Missouri battleship, and also an audio tour headphone set, that would tell us more about the sites as we moved around. Interestingly, the tickets to enter the site and also visit the USS Arizona Memorial are actually free, but because you need to take a boat to the memorial, tickets are limited, and this is why you need to have these in advance. We wandered around the complex for a couple of hours, reading the displays, watching the movies and listening to the audio tour. I’m not into history that much but I found it really interesting. I had never realised how much of the population in Hawaii was actually of Japanese descent prior to the war, and how much they were treated as second class citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbour (7 Dec 1941). Additionally, I also hadn’t been aware of how many ships, planes and war machines in general were taken out by the first wave of the Japanese fighters (almost everything), and how much of a complete surprise it was to the Americans.

Vaughan posed for the obligatory shots in front of a giant anchor, and soon it was time for our boat ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial. Before getting on the boats, everyone with our ticket time sat down for a 15 minute movie more specifically about the USS Arizona. The Arizona is generally at the forefront of people’s minds when thinking about the bombing of Pearl Harbour – a huge 185, (608ft) long battleship, it remains on the ocean floor to this day, and is the final resting place of 1,102 sailors and marines that were inside at the time. The memorial is basically a small building that straddles the sunken hull of the battleship, without actually touching it. The memorial has a hole in the bottom that you can look through, to see the ship below. For more information on the memorial, click here. Unfortunately the weather was windy, cloudy and a bit ominous, so the waves on the water kicked up enough that it made it difficult to see the ship through the water while we were there. However, it was still a fitting and quiet place of reflection, and although I found it sad to think about what it must have been like amongst the chaos on that day, I was still glad that we had made the effort to visit.

Once we got back we jumped on a bus that took us over to Ford Island, where we could have a look around the battleship USS Missouri. Ford Island is part of the current
Fantastic FoodFantastic FoodFantastic Food

Clockwise from top right: Portuguese malasadas, moco loco, white chocolate caramel macadamia nut cheesecake, Stuffed Thai chicken wings, red velvet pancakes, stuffed crepes, BBQ shrimp, Kailua pulled port, fresh local pineapple (centre)
Pearl Harbour base, and it was interesting to see the neighbourhoods and kindergartens where the armed service personnel lived with their families. Unfortunately we didn’t have too much time left in the day to look around the Missouri, but we went on a short guided tour, where the guide pointed out things of interest, and we stood on the deck where the surrender of the Japanese was signed off on 2 Sept 1945. From the ship we could also see the size of the Pearl Harbour base itself (massive), but no photos are allowed to be taken in that direction for “national security” purposes, of course (I’m sure I probably could have, but just didn’t, because we’d been asked not to). My apologies to my American friends because obviously I keep referring to it as Pearl Harbour, not HARBOR. I’m not going to change it now! So anyway, after the short guided tour we could wander freely around a lot of the areas. We only had about half an hour doing this, and I think we probably could have spent at least an hour looking around a little better, but we had to get back on the bus to go back to the main complex so that we could be picked up by our shuttle back to the hotel. Luckily I had given us 3 ½ hours to look around everything (plus an additional hour prior to our check-in time), which was almost long enough – the other people that had gone to Pearl Harbour on our shuttle had only given themselves 1 ½ hours, and we were both sort of like “Whaaaaat?”. Anyway, we made is back to our shuttle bus just in time, but then our driver said he had to pick up a group of people from an outlet store complex on the other side of Pearl City (in the opposite direction from where we were going), and it was rush hour so the freeway was jam packed. Nevermind – we just relaxed about it because we didn’t have anything else planned, and the driver was chilled out and nice. We talked heaps about Hawaii and New Zealand, and the different types of tourists he sees. He said that he was really pleased we were Kiwis because a lot of people get really upset when their shuttle is delayed or detoured, and Kiwis tend to be more easy-going about timetables. Essentially for us it was almost kind of like a free tour, really, so we were happy, and we all just chattered away good-naturedly for about half an hour or so until we reached the outlet mall. Then six others got on board (a young Australia couple, an older couple possibly from New Zealand, and two large African American ladies). Instantly, the vibe in the van got serious – the Australian couple were shitty that the shuttle was delayed, and the girl kept snapping at her boyfriend, the older couple whinged a bit about the delay, but at least the American ladies were ridiculously funny, so that helped a bit. The drive back wasn’t half as fun, but still part of the experience. We eventually made it back to Waikiki, with the driver dropping us off first because we had waited for so long. I actually kind of enjoyed myself, despite the traffic, and the irritable Aussies.

When we arrived back we went back to the liquor store and bought a few more of the tiny bottles of flavoured vodka (basically it’s only enough for maybe two drinks), because I was enjoying trying the different flavours, and Vaughan bought some more Hawaiian beer. We sat out on our balcony again with our drinks (and of course, the ever present snacks – this time pretzel M&Ms), and watched the street as dusk fell. Eventually Vaughan suggested dinner because it was getting quite late, and we walked back towards the resorts by the beach, stopping in at the Cheesecake Factory, pretty much because it’s where Penny works on the Big Bang Theory (and we had seen the excessive menu earlier in the day, including a million incredible desserts). We both really enjoyed the food there, and took a big slice of caramel white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake back to the hotel. We lingered around the stores on the way back, just kind of window shopping – everything is open really late, and apart from the wind, it was really pleasant. It was sort of a bittersweet day, given that we had been at Pearl Harbour, but it was awesome!


15th June 2014

Good to see you posting blogs again!
And that you enjoy traveling to the USA. We had a great time in NZ in 2012.
15th June 2014

Hi Bob. Thanks for your comment! It was about time we went on another trip. Not sure what will be up next. I'm glad you enjoyed New Zealand. It looks like your travels have been extensive and amazing (*jealous*). I hope you continue to enjoy the big wide world out there! :)

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