With only seven days in Hawaii we decided to stay in the most famous place, Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. When we arrived at Honolulu airport we didn't have a clue which hotel to stay at but we met Keith and Maria (from Rickmansworth) on the bus so we went to the same hotel as them which turned out to be really nice. On a road behind the beach road, the Ohana Waikiki West, is a big high rise hotel but with nice rooms (ours even had a kitchenette and a partial seaview) and a nice open air pool on the first floor for $61pn (~£40). We'd arrived at 8.30am after a long flight so by 10.30am we went to sleep for a couple of hours, and woke up at 5pm.
On our first evening we went to see a demonstration of Hawaiian music and hula dances on the beach. This was started by a torch lighting and conch shell ceremony (blowing the conch like a horn to mark the beginning of the ceremony). Note the obligatory hawaiian shirts. It's funny when you are on holiday you even consider buying Hawaiian shirts but when would you ever where it at home. Later that evening we went bar hunting and found a fantastic locals bar (a bit like Cheers!) called Spinners where there was a nice atmosphere (even if it was obvious that we were the only 'foreigner's there), and good music on the jukebox which everyone sitting around the bar was singing along to. Then we dropped in for a nightcap at Nashville - an interesting country and western bar under our hotel.
Most days we went to the pool and then out in the evening, sometimes with Keith and Maria (I especially remember the great golf game in Nashville) but we found that we needed to have ID with us to even get into some of the bars (especially Maria and I). At 29 I couldn't quite believe that they thought I might be under 21, flattering but ridiculous but apparently the laws are so strict that if a bar is found with someone under 21 in it it is closed down immediately. There were some great bars in Waikiki and very friendly people. One night in Spinners some Americans started talking to us (we were a novelty being English) and they took us along to the Irish Rose Saloon which had a live rock band on so we danced and chatted the night away with them. But, the food in America was unbelievable - good food at reasonable prices but I don't think we got more than two-thirds of the way through any meal while we were there. We ordered two breakfasts in Denny's one day when one breakfast would have been too much for both of us to share.
Although it would have been easy to spend the whole week in Hawaii without ever leaving Waikiki Beach we ventured further afield to see the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour, a full day tour around the island, some snorkelling at the beautiful Hanauma Bay and a trip to a big shopping centre to buy some new clothes.
On 7 December 1941 Pearl Harbour was surprised by a massive Japanese attack. Although a huge fleet of aircraft had been spotted on the radar no action was taken because they were thought to be some anticipated friendly aircraft flying in. This was a devastating mistake because in just one day about 2400 people died in Pearl Harbour. A number of ships were hit but the most devastating hit in terms of loss of life was that of the USS Arizona which was sunk with 1177 crew members on board. The Arizona Memorial, which is reached by launch, is a moving tribute which marks the spot where the Arizona sunk and in fact you can see the ship below the surface of the water. On board the memorial is a list of all the people that went down with the boat. Back on land there was an interesting museum with stories from survivors and items rescued from the ship and there was an informative video.
The memorial is almost overshadowed by the USS Missouri a famous battleship moored next to the Arizona Memorial which is now a museum. The USS Missouri had a notable life as it was the site of the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945 which ended World War II and it then participated in the Korean and Gulf Wars before being decommissioned in 1992. On the way back to Waikiki the tour took us through the Punchbowl military cemetery which was once covered with thousands of white crosses that have now been removed to make cutting the grass easier! The tour also included a drive around Honolulu to take in Chinatown, Downtown, the State Capital and various monuments.
This tour covered everything you could possibly want to see on Oahu and some things that given a choice you wouldn't bother with. Multiple stops for shopping for macadamia nuts, face cream and pineapples (at the Dole Plantation) and to see moderately interestingly shaped rocks and islands such as Lion Rock and Turtle Island. The interesting bits of the tour were the stunningly beautiful Hanauma Bay which was so lovely we went back another day to do some snorkeling. Other highlights were seeing the North Shore which has some of the highest surfable waves in the world luring surfers from all over the world. The really big waves (five metres high) are in the winter so we were slightly out of season and the beach was relatively quiet but the waves still looked pretty big. Our tour guide, David, only had 20 minutes of commentary but unfortunately this was an eight hour trip so we were subjected to the same spiel every twenty minutes but everyone restrained themselves so he left the day without being strangled.
Hanauma Bay is a marine sanctuary, a beautiful reef which reaches the shore in a lovely sheltered bay. There is a wonderful information area on the hill above the beach where you can try to identify the different types of fish and marine life you've seen while snorkelling. We saw a monster parrot fish, it must have been one and a half feet long and was by far the biggest I'd seen. There were lots of other nice wrasses, butterfly fish and a spotted box fish which I'd never seen before so that was a treat. Richard, carrying on his luck in the water sliced his foot on a rock cutting short our snorkelling trip.
We had a fantastic time in Hawaii, it has the mad and commercial Waikiki Beach but it also has areas of astounding beauty and we would love to go back to explore some of the other, quieter islands.
American Airlines deserve no praise for our flight from Hawaii to Chicago, they boast that they've taken rows of seats out so there is more legroom but there was less room than other economy flights we've taken such as on Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Bouraq Airlines. Add to that the fact that you had to pay for headphones (we had our own) and alcohol (we didn't have any) on a scheduled flight and we weren't impressed but at least they got us to Chicago and Madison>.