Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Oahu, Hawai'i

Our next stop was at the island of Oahu. Here we were going to meet Ankur Bhaiyya and Astha (Ankit's older brother and his wife). Last year, in April, the four of us got married and here we were celebrating our first anniversaries together. It was a dream trip, really. 

After about an hour of boarding from the Big Island, we arrived in Honolulu, the capital of Hawai'i. I loved travelling by Hawaiian Airlines. The flight was comfortable, spacious and they served the best tropical fruit drink I've ever had. 

The four of us decided to stay together in a condo, on the west of the island, near the beautiful Makaha Beach. We wanted to be away the hustle and bustle of busy Honolulu.  More information on the condo will be posted in the next entry. 

Oahu is such a small island that you can literally do a round-trip of the island in a car in less than three hours. We weren't so worried that we would miss out on the fun parts of the island because Waikiki Beach or North Shore were just about an hour and a half drive away from where we were.

Astha and I had a list prepared of all the places we wanted to see. There are lots of places I'm about to mention so this post is going to be long. Be patient and enjoy :D

Our first stop was Dole Plantation. In 1950, it started as a fruit stand. Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawai'i’s "Pineapple Experience" in 1989. Today, Dole Plantation is one of Oahu’s most popular visitor attractions and welcomes more than one million visitors a year. The pineapple industry in Hawai'i was developed by James Drummond Dole. also known as the "Pineapple King".

Dole Plantation provides fun activities for the entire family, including the Pineapple Express, the Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple Garden Maze. In 2008, Dole Plantation’s giant Pineapple Garden Maze was declared the world’s largest maze and that is what we decided to do. It was fun.

We were each given a map of the maze and we were to find treasure. By treasure I mean there were little booths all over the maze with a stencil of some image. Every time we found a booth, we had to draw the shape on the back of the card using the stencil. We found a bunch of these before we got tired. It was just so huge so we decided to head back to check out the shops and see the pineapple cutting presentation.

Me inside the maze
After this we went into the gift shop and walked around. There was a lady giving a presentation on how to cut a pineapple and general information about pineapples. We got to eat it too at the end. I thought it was a nice place. The garden was closed that day but I've heard it's beautiful. If you have kids, you must go here. It'll be fun. 

Address: 64-1550 Kamehameha Highway, Wahiawa, HI 96786

Our next stop was Waimea Valley. We were actually looking for the farmer's market but ended up here instead. I thought the ticket was overpriced. Waimea Valley is a historical nature park including botanical gardens. The garden valley is approximate 0.75 miles in length, with a small waterfall and swimming hole at the valley's high end. It is $15.00 per person and $7.50 for kids and seniors. 

Waimea Falls

After the hike through the garden, the four of us took a dip in the pool. It was freeezing! But fun in a way. Tip: If you ever plan to swim here, wear waterproof shoes because it will hurt. There were all these stones and rocks; we were all in so much pain walking over them.

59-864 Kamehameha Hwy., Hale`iwa, HI 96712

And we met this pretty peacock, too. He was friendly.

This area is also famous for the world famous Kuhuku shrimps. The best place to get super awesome shrimps is Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. The garlic shrimp is to die for. Around here there is a little flea market to buy Hawaiian souvenirs as well as get barbecue corn and really yummy fried banana sticks. 

66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
Our next destination was the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is is a Polynesian-themed theme park or living museum located in La'ie, on the north shore of Oahu, Hawai'i. You can easily spend a whole day here. It is Hawaii's #1 paid attraction and offers an authentic showcase of seven Polynesian cultures, Luau, an IMAX theater, and more

We first saw the movie (about Hawai'i) and then did the canoe ride. Then we saw the canoe pageant and visited authentic villages from six Pacific cultures: Hawai'i, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Aotearoa, and Tonga. The whole place is just gorgeous and feels so authentic. In the end, we saw the main attraction of the Center; an evening show called Ha-Breath of Life. It's a play about the life of a boy called Mana and it showcases Hawaiian dance forms with a world renowned fire dance.

Dance form of Tahiti

Most visitors buy a package tour of the place which include a luau and buffet. The prices are quite steep so you sort of have to figure out what you would like to do before booking it. I honestly didn't think it was okay to spend so much and when I got here, I figured out why it was so expensive. You get a personal tour guide, you get a flower necklace or the Hawaiian stone necklace (according to your package) and get to have a buffet dinner, etc. We toured the place on our own and we saw pretty much everything. We only paid to watch the evening show which isn't very expensive. It totally depends on your priorities. You can check out the packages on their website:

On the other hand, if you have come to Hawai'i and not rented a car, you can buy the island tour package and see all the famous areas around the island. They have buses, limousines, minibuses, vans, etc. to take you around. If you come to Oahu, this place is a must-visit.

55-370 Kamehameha Hwy. Laie, Hawaii 96762

There was a free bus tour within the center which took us around La'ie and to the LDS temple.
Very close to the Polynesian Cultural Center is La'ie Point. It is quite a nice place to visit just for the sake of the views. Also, I've heard it is a nice place to go fishing and snorkeling. We didn't get in the water because it started raining quite heavily. You should have the address and a GPS to get to this place because there are literally no sign boards to find this place. In fact, pretty much all over Hawai'i, the sign board system is pretty crappy. You can easily get lost if you don't have a GPS. 

Off Kamehameha Highway (Hwy. 83) at La'ie town via Anemoku Street to end of Naupaka Street.

La'ie Point
The next day we went to see the Pearl Harbour Memorial. The complete tour includes Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine, USS Missouri Battleship, Pacific Aviation Museum, Historic Honolulu City Tour and Punchbowl National Cemetery. USS Arizona Memorial is the only free one, I think. The rest charge like $10-15 per person.

Within the grounds of Pearl Harbor are a number of exhibits, displays, memorials, and museums, honoring not only the 1,177 victims of the Japanese attacks, but all of those who bravely served in World War II. Built over the wreckage of the USS Arizona, the Memorial is a sobering experience where visitors come to pay their respects.

1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96818

From here, we went to see the Byodo-In Temple. The Byodo-In Temple is located at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It was established on June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Byodo-In Temple in O'ahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan.

The Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple which welcomes people of all faiths to worship, meditate or simply appreciate its beauty. The beautiful grounds include a large reflecting pond, meditation niches, and small waterfalls. It was beautiful, peaceful, and restful.

47-200 Kahekili Highway, Kaneohe, HI 96744

And look who posed for me!

We went to Waikiki Beach because we just had to see for ourselves why it was so famous. It is beautiful. I loved it. It is however very touristy and always crowded. It is madness trying to find parking there but because it's so lively, it is fun to be there.

There are little shops and hotels all over the place. People walking all over the place, music, street shows, etc. You should however be careful because someone will try to rip you off. I wanted to buy the little flower clip I'm wearing in my hair in the picture above. A woman sold it to me for like $3.00 and when I walked further, the same clip was being sold for ¢99. I did however return the expensive clip but still. Walk around and explore a bit before you want to buy something because someone might be ripping you off.

Overall, the people in Hawai'i are really friendly and welcoming but theft is a big issue here. Never never leave anything in your car; not even the trunk. Chances are, it will be stolen. Car break-ins are quite common in Hawai'i. 

While you're in Honolulu, you must get the shave ice from Waiola Shave Ice. It is the best in Hawai'i. Don't forget to get the lilkoi sauce over it. I got litchi, watermelon and mango flavor. It was delish!

2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826

Another really famous point in Honolulu is the Diamond Head Crater. If the weather is nice, it will be worth doing the trail. Here is a little bit of history behind this place: Diamond Head is believed to have been formed about 300,000 years ago during a single, brief eruption. The broad crater covers 350 acres with its width being greater than its height. Today, Diamond Head is the most recognized landmark in Hawai‘i. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968 as an excellent example of a tuff cone. It is now a state monument. The elevation at the trail head on the crater floor is about 200 feet. There will be a lot of stairs that you'll need to climb and a lot of uneven terrain so I suggest you wear appropriate shoes for the hike.

Diamond Head Rd Honolulu, HI 96815

At the entrance of Diamond Head

Another super popular place to visit in Oahu is Lanikai Beach. It was by far the most crowded beach I have seen after Waikiki and North Shore. But it was beautiful nonetheless. We didn't spend a lot of time here because it was way too busy for our liking. It is a great place to hang out if you want to make friends or if you enjoy being in touristy places.

Mokulua Dr, Kailua, HI 96734

Lanikai Beach
We also stopped by Mokoli'i Island. Not a great place to swim but definitely great place to see corals. It is known to be the home of sharks and they can often be spotted in the morning. To get to the island, you should kayak or surfboard from the Kualoa Regional Park. Some people swim, too. If you do get to the island, the one hike to do is the Chinaman's Hat trail. I guess they call it that because the island sort of looks like the straw hats that the Chinese immigrants wore. We didn't go to the island. It is a nice place to just hang out, have a picnic, look for sea shells, etc.

49-479 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahaluu, HI 96744

Mokoli'i Island
Coming down south from Lanikai, you will want to cross the Pali Highway to get a glimpse of a beautiful lookout. It is just really pretty to drive from here to Honolulu. Check out the view:

State Route 61, Honolulu, HI 96817

Pali Lookout
While you are in Honolulu and are looking for a good Indian restaurant, I'd suggest trying Cafe Maharani. This was by far the best food (not just Indian food, but overall) I have had in Hawai'i throughout my trip. The food in Hawai'i is generally expensive and quite bland and tasteless. Finding this place around the end of our trip was like a cherry on top. We love to eat and ending up here was just perfect. We ordered kadai mutton, butter chicken, dal makhani, pindi chholey, rice with lots of garlic naan and tandoori roti. Also, the mango lassi was quite nice. They are kind of slow at service but at least they served good food. This would be a good place for a meal if you like Indian cuisine. 

2509 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96826

This picture is making my mouth water.
Hawai'i is a great place to get fresh, yummy, tropical fruits. Go to the closest farmer's market and pick up fruits (especially pineapples). You will develop a new perspective on fruits. I did.

Fresh tropical fruits
Also, the best thing to do in Hawai'i is go snorkeling. I would say go scuba diving but then you need to get a license and all that jazz. Also there are all sorts of stories about how people died scuba diving; it's just nerve wrecking. I would love to try it one day, though. If you don't want to go through the hassle of all the training and certification, the second best way to experience the ocean is by snorkeling.

Ankit and I, snorkeling together

Ankit and I have never snorkeled in our life but we decided to try it while we were here. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. It felt as if I was swimming in an aquarium and watching the fish swim from a distance. Ankit and I held hands and swam around in the sea and saw beautiful corals and fish. Ankit got pretty good at it but I felt like I still needed to hold on to the boogie board. Unfortunately, I have no pictures for this but if I ever go back, I'll make sure to bring a waterproof camera. The best place in Oahu to go snorkeling is Hanauma Bay. They call it the "Snorkeling Mecca".

Warning: Don't snorkel in murky water. You won't realize if a shark sneaks up on you. Don't paddle too hard (because to a shark, lots of bubbles mean fish). Stay calm and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Also, we rented a car from Hertz and we were really disappointed with the service. We had to wait like half an hour to get a car. When we went to return the car, their billing system stopped working so we had to wait at the reception to get the bill. Not cool. Alamo on the other hand was very quick and efficient. We didn't have to wait to get the car or to return it. 

I think I have summed up pretty much everything there is to know about Oahu. I hope my points will help you decide what to do and where to go when you plan your trip to Hawai'i.

:) Loads of love!

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