Week 1 in Hawaii was spent on Oahu Island. We had 7 full days to explore this lovely island. The island was not very big so 7 days was enough for us. Our accommodations were all located near Waikiki beach which was on the southern part of the island. To move around to other parts of the island we had a rental car. From Waikiki to the most northern part of the island took only about an hour or less.
We went for three hikes. The Makapu Point Lookout hike was the easiest, the Diamond Head Summit hike was tiring but manageable and the most difficult one was the Crouching Lion Hike which was tiring and a bit dangerous. Though the hikes were strenuous the views at the summit were well worth the effort.
Singapore to Hawaii via Fiji
We went on Fiji Airways from Singapore to Honolulu, transiting at Fiji. It was a 10 hour flight to Fiji, followed by a 6 hour stop then another six and a half hour flight from Fiji to Honolulu. Flying via Tokyo would have been faster but the flight cost 30% more. Considering that we were both “free from obligations” we certainly had the time to spare. We did not mind long transit as we found having break along the way less tiring and better for getting over jetlag before we reached final destination. The airport lounge in Fiji seemed great and comfortable which meant we could stop for a good rest and we might even popped out of Fiji airport for some sights!
We boarded flight FJ360 at 11pm at Changi International Airport and the plane flew off on time. Oh dear! Thirty minutes into our flight the two TVs in front of us were stucked at the “Welcome Page”. No matter how we touched or meddled with the “Welcome Page”, it stayed frozen! It seemed like this was a common issue as the air stewards dished out Ipads as alternative.
This was certainly the first indication that the plane was not well maintained. We touched down in Fiji International Airport, Nadi just slightly after 11am. The day was bright and sunny and the weather was good. We did not really sleep well on the plane for the 10 hour flight so we were all for some good rest at the airport lounge during the transit. Six hours of transit was too short to squeeze in some Fiji-sightseeing.
At the airport arrival terminal we were welcomed by “Three guitar-strumming natives”, nice…….. Our opinion of Fiji moved up a notch after experiencing the “poorly maintained” plane.
We found the Fiji Airport Lounge which accepted our “Priority Passes”. The lounge was certainly impressive. To us it was the best lounge we had ever been to. It was huge, beautifully furnished, with plentiful of delicious looking food. The service staff were polite and most happy to help.
In the lounge was a “luxuriously” shower room which came with clean towels, shampoo, bath lotion, hair dryer, moisturiser etc. It was huge and private!
After a good meal and a hot relaxing shower we were ready for a nap to sleep away the jetlag!
Oaho – Hawaii
My first awareness of Hawaii was from the TV dramas “Hawaii-Five-O”. It was all about Honolulu/Wakiki, hula girls, beaches and tropical greenery. It was only later in life that I learned that Honolulu was just a city of on the island of Oahu. And Oahu was just one of eight major islands (liveable) that was part of an Hawaii Archipelago consisting of 137 islands spread over 2400 km!
At the southern end of the archipelago was eight main islands: Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui and Big Island (also known as Hawaii Island). Oahu was the third largest of the Hawaiian Island but it was home to about one million people which was about two-thirds of the entire population of the Hawaii!
Honolulu was where all international flights would land and from there we would get to the other islands. We had earlier thought that we could go to the other islands via boat/cruise but found out that there was no interisland cruise only interisland flight!
A car from Avis
We picked up a car from an Avis outlet on the third day and used it for five days. The rate was USD$325 with “$0” excess CDW, which was a pretty good rate. We did not need a car for the first two days as my brother (who resided in Hawaii) was free to bring us around. But after that without a car it would not be possible to continue our exploration of Oahu.
Before arriving at Oahu we were checked many the car rental rates of several rental agency and all of them were pretty expensive especiall when we needed “full” insurance ($0 excess CDW) coverage. My brother had strongly recommended taking up “full” insurance coverage as accidents in Hawaii was very costly for the driver without “full’ coverage.
We were on the verged of going for “Turo” (an Airbnb equivalent for car sharing) when we chanced upon Avis’s good deals. Using different links to Avis websites the rates quoted were different. The best rate was via a link directly on google map page after selecting the avis outlet. Somehow from the link through google map, the car rental cost provided “full” insurance with no additional charges. Using other links to Avis, “full” insurance was an optional item with charges and the total cost came up to about 40% more. Looked like an IT- hiccup? Any way we completed the online reservation, printed out the agreement document and hoped that on the day we collected our vehicle, Avis would honor the agreement.
Picking up a car from Avis Car RentalWe picked up our rental car at an Avis outlet at Sheraton Hotel Wakiki at the agreed price. From our stay to the outlet was just a 10 minute walk. The outlet kiosk was on the ground floor podium of the hotel and after the payment we went up to the highest level of the hotel multi storey carpark to pickup our car.
Even though there was a “0” excess CDW in our rental agreement we still did a “round the car” inspection, documenting all dents and scratches. The car was definitely not tip-top shape… minor dents and scratches here and there!
Waikiki and around
Waikiki was a very touristy neighbourhood in Honolulu and about 14 km south of Daniel K. Inoyue International Airport. We stayed in three places and all were just a short walk away from Waikiki beach. The proximity meant we got to see the area day and night.
We did a late morning walk from Kahanamoku Beach to Waikiki Beach (1.5 km apart). On the way we past Ala Wai Boat harbour, Hilton lagoon, many resort hotels and swimming pools and went all the way down to the beaches. It was a hot but breezy. The sand was very white and clean, the sea and sky was incredibly blue. The whole place was very cosmopolitan, full of high rise resorts, high class shopping malls etc etc.
On our last evening in Waikiki we went to Rumfire at Sheraton Hotel Waikiki. RumFire had an outdoor area facing the sea. We sat and chatted from from 5 pm to near 7.30 pm, watching the sun set over the sea. It was a lovely sunset.
After the sunset we took a walk along Waikiki Beach. The hotels and resorts along the beach brightened up the skyline, the waves were rolling in strongly and loudy and the breeze was very welcoming. The many highrises in a way reminded us of Singapore but Singapore just did not have this “holidaying” ambience.
Nested among the luxurious hotels and high class shopping malls was a very fascinating Waikiki icon.This 160+ years icon was housed in “International Market Place”. It was an old Indian Bayan tree (planted in the mid 1800) . Rather than to say that the tree was housed in International Market Place we thought the Market Place was built around the tree.
Walking into mall we felt like we were in a big tree house. The tree was about 20 m high with huge branches rising up and thick roots trailing down. Looking upward we could hardly see the sky as the top was covered by a dense canopy of leaves.
Million dollar views
South of Waikiki about 1 to 2 km away were many private properties with million dollar views. These private properties stretched continuously “blocking” off access to the beach/coast. So when a friend of my brother was viewing some beach front properties for investment we “tagged” along.
We went up a pent house of a apartment that was listed for sale and its balcony view was breathtakingly beautiful. The blueness of the sea and sky was stunning. The ocean ahead stretched endlessly into the horizon and for a half an hour we “lived” like the “rich and famous”.
The second “on sale” properties was a private house with its own beach/cliff front.
The last property was site on a hill overseeing the southern coast of Oahu.
Diamond Head was an extinct volcano crater south of Waikiki. The drive took only 11 minutes and just before we reached the destination we drove through a short tunnel (Diamond Head Tunnel) that ended in a huge open carpark.
The entrance ticket was $5 per car or $1 per person if not driving. The “park” operation hour was 6 am to 6 pm, and the last entry was at 4.30 pm. With the entry tickets we were also given a map that showed the hiking route to the top and the “highlights” along the way.
Before the start of the hike uphill, there was a rest area with toilets. There would be no more rest room/toilet along the trail up to the summit and a round trip would need about 30 to 45 minutes.
Rest area at the start of the hike up Diamond HeadDiamond Head was a broad, saucer-shape crater formed about 300,000 year ago. Its Hawaiian name was “Lēʻahi” which had no relation to “Diamond”. It was given the name “Diamond” Head due to British sailors mistaking the sparkling volcanic calcite crystals as diamonds.
From the trailhead to the summit was 1.3 km hike. The hike started on gradual slope, zigzaging up a path up the hill, mid way we entered a tunnel followed by a steep long stairs.
The hike to the top was pretty strenuous especially near the end. There was nothing “fascinating” to see along the way though the hike did provided a form of good exercise. Even near the top we could not see the round crater basically we were too small and the entire crater was too big for us to see its full round form. From where we stood, we could only see a part of the crater wall that looked like a hill blocked by trees and shrubs.
But at the summit we got an unexpected view of the land/city below and the view was stunning. It certainlly made all the effort climbing up all worth it.
We thought it would be fantastic to stay up here till the sunset, unfortunately the Diamond Head park closed at 6 pm so no such opportunity.
Fifteen km east Diamond head was Hanauma Bay. The first time we passed Hanauma Bay was on a Tuesday and the route leading to the carpark of the bay was barricaded with a sign “Close”. We thought the beach was close due to “maintenance” for a period of time. It was later that we found out that every Tuesday the beach was close to visitor
We returned to Hanauma Bay on another day. There was charge of USD$1 for car entering into the carpark. The carpark was big and there were already many cars parked.
We found that the carpark was right on a cliff at the top of the bay. To go down to the bay there was another entrance fee, at USD$7.50 for a day for one person. Apparently local residents did not have to pay. We did not bring our swimming gears or beach chairs/umbrella so we decided not to trek down to the beach but to come back another day. The view of the beach from the top was nice though.
Practically next to Hanauma Bay were several interesting sights. There were Koko Head (another extinct volcano), Lanai Lookout, Halona Blowhole and a nice local beach (Sandy beach).
Koko Head/Koko Crater was another extinct volcano. The walking trail to the summit was an incline abandoned old railroad tracks. The tracks was once used to transport equipment and supplies to pillbox style bunkers on top of the crater.
We parked our car at a carpark (co-ordinates: 21.275296, -157.695794) by the side of Kalanianao’le Highway and came down to have a look at Koko head/crater. From afar, we could see the abandoned rail track that started from the base to the summit. We could see hikers trekking up/down too. The hike would mean going up 1048 steps which was pretty strenuous considering that the steps were rather high as there were not build for human but for the old train!
From the ground level at the carpark there was no way to see the round crater. Koko Head looked just like a normal hill.
Lanai Lookout & Halona Blowhole
Lanai Lookout was located at the southern end of Koko Head/Crater. On one side of Kalanianao’le Highway was Koko Head/Crater amd on the other side was Lanai Lookout. From the highway we turned into a carpark just next to lookout.
Lanai Lookout was just by the sea. The rock formation on the cliff edge at the lookout was fascinating. It seemed like enormous volume of liquid rocks had flowed through here into the sea. These “liquid” rocks had cooled and hardened eons ago. All these were obvious in the different shades of “flow-lines” that colored the sides and floor of the cliff/coast.
We came to know that this place was named “Lanai Lookout” because on a fine day a person standing near the water edge of the lookout could see the island “Lanai” some 90 km across the water.
A Short distance (1,3km) north east of Lanai Lookout was a blow hole, “Halona Blowhole”. The coast over here was very rugged. At the carpark there was a “viewing platform” where we could see the blowhole below. We probably came at the wrong time of the day because the water coming out of the blow hole was pretty trivial. Just a vague gush of water mist once a short while, definitely nothing spectacular.
Makapuʻu Point Lookout
On the first day we picked up our rental car, we drove from Waikiki to Makapu”u Point Lookup Trail carpark. The distance was about 23 km and took us about 30 minutes. We travelled on Kalanianao’le Highway and it brought us past Diamond Head, Koko Head, Hanauma Bay, Lanai Lookout and Halona Blowhole and Sandy Beach.
We reached the carpark (21.305340, -157.655273) which was at the trailhead of Makapuu Point Lighthouse trail. The trail was 1.5 km and it led up a slope to Makapuu Point Lookout. On the way we should also be able to see a lighthouse.
The trail was a paved walkway, it was gently inclined and easy on the feet. The day was getting hot, and the sun was bright and high in the sky. Soon we found ourselves quite highup on a hill and looking back we could see the carpark and the highway far away.
The higher the trail brought us the better the view of the coastline got. It was so so pleasant to find a nice ledge to sit down and looked out to the lovely view of the coast. Shades of green, blue and white came together, contrasting beautifully forming a colorful landscape!
We continued our walk to the summit and soon we spotted Makapu’u Point Lighthouse. Beside the main track was a smaller side-track that led down to the lighthouse but we were okay with staying at the top to “admire” the lighthouse against the sea. It was a simple lighthouse erected on the slope that went all the way down to the water.
Soon we saw a raised platform on a small hill and many people were already standing on it. We were not in a hurry to get to the platform as we were distracted by the birds around us. One of the birds that we had spotted in several place on Oahu was the “red crested cardinal”.
Standing on the viewing deck of Makapuu Point Lookout we had a gorgeous view of the south-eastern side of Oahu. We felt so minute compared to the vast landscape ahead.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
One of the mornings we drove north to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. We were not too sure if we would be visiting a place that had no “memorable sights” for us. Would it be nicer than the Singapore Botanical Garden we had back home which was already a World Heritage Site.
The drive took only 30 minutes and it was a place that did not seem to be very popular with tourists/visitors because while we were there we did saw only a couple of visitors. As with many botanical gardens, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden was immaculately trimmed and pruned. The most impressive sight was the ribbed mountains that formed the backdrop of the entrance driveway.
We were tempted to stop our car by the side of the main entrance driveway to photograph the impressive mountains. Unfortunately there were no “parking” signs everywhere along the driveway. It seemed that too many previous visitors had the same idea about stopping to take photos, that the garden ended up making it illegal to stop by the main driveway! I could only take the photo through the windscreen while Yat Thong drove through slowly.
We drove around a bit before ending up at a visitor center to pick up a map. We followed the route of the map and we wentd down a trail to the lake. Along the trails were plant exhibits with their name displayed. The weather was gloomy so our photos of the place did not look as nice as they would be on a fine day, but the downcast sky made our walk very pleasant as there was no hot sun beating down on us.
Byodo-in Temple was one of the severals memorial structures in Hawaii Memorial Park Mortuary. We had seen a picture of the temple and was very impressed by the beautiful landscape around it so we decided to visit it.
The memorial Park was about 7 km north of Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. It was a place for funeral, cremation and cemetery. The memorial park was also called Valley of the Temple and its most famous icon was Byodo-in Temple
We drove through the entrance of the park and went into its interior. The ground was vast and we drove past of buildings (one with a cross). The whole place was pretty quiet till we reached the carpark of Byodo-in Temple. It was packed full of cars and we had to wait a while for a vacancy. It seemed like all the visitors came to visit the temple!
We had to pay USD$5 per person to get into the temple ground. The temple with the mountain backdrop was stunning. We spent some time exploring the ground and the temple building. In a hall by the side of the prayer hall we saw a group of Japanese ladies gathered in a circle, dancing to the rhythm of a traditional Japanese music.
Crouching lion Hike
When we first read about Oahu’s “Crouching Lion Hike” it sounded like an adventure – a doable adventure for us. So on sixth morning we drove to the hike area from Waikiki. It was 42 minutes for about 42 km.
We arrived at “Crouch Lion Parking” (co-ordinates 21.557748, -157.866709) which was marked on google map. Crouch Lion Parking did not look like an official car park. It was just a set-in by the road and we saw several cars already parked there. We parked our car and walked backward down the road where we we came from. We were looking for a specific lamppost and signboards which we read on the internet was the entry point to the trail. We saw two sign boards, one said “Area Closed Do not go beyond this sign” and the second one said “Hazardour Cliff!, You could fall and be seriously injured and killed. Stay back from the edge“
Oh dear! The signboard sounded very serious! We saw some hikers coming back and they told us that they had no problem reaching the top. We decided to go ahead, we agreed that would not take unneccessary risk and would turn back without going to the summit if the trekking got too tough for us.
There was no proper path, just dirt trek full of tree roots. It was not easy going up without steps, luckily we were wearing proper trekking shoes! Some parts of the trek certainly looked dangerous we were very careful not to step on dangerous ground!
The view of the bay was lovely from the summit. We stayed at the summit for a while taking in all the scenic landscape around us.
Cultural Hawaiian Performance
On the 2nd evening of our arrival we went for a Cultural performance. The Polynesian Cultural Center was on other side of the island and the drive took about an hour for 56 km.
We arrived at the cultural centre at about 7 pm, the ticket cost was USD$68 for each adult for just the cultural show “Ha: Breath of Life” which started at about 7.30pm. There were another packages, like those that were couple with dinner, or visit to some villages and the cost of a ticket could go up to hundred of dollars.
There was a huge car park and from there was a short walk to the “theatre”. Along the way was souvenir carts, food carts, food halls etc. Many people were already waiting outside the “Pacific Theatre” entrance for the doors to open.
The theatre was a sheltered podium with seats that faced an large open stage. Photography was not allowed once the performance started. But I managed to capture some video sniplet during the performance.
It was a beautiful performance, never a dull moment. The performance consisted of several acts, these acts were stringed to form a story of the evolution of the polynesian people. Polynesian covered Fijian, Samoan, Tahitian, Maori (New Zealand) and Hawaiian. Each play had its own unique costumes, dances and move. There were the quick “hip shaking” Fijian dance to the “slow hula hip swaying” Hawaiian dance. The male dancers were impressive too, there were fire throwing and twirling and war dancing etc etc.
Haleiwa Town was on the north shore of Oahu. It took about 45 minutes of driving to reached Haleiwa.
The first stop was Haleiwa Beach Park. It was a sunny day and the beach was stunning. The sand was more gold/yellow than white, the sky was a vivid blue and the huge white clouds glowed brightly. Though it was hot we could not resist but stay under the hot sun to admire the view.
We drove into town to explore. This was a small town with many quaint shops and cafes. It was totally different from Waikiki where everywhere we saw were modern building and highrises. It was very pleasant to move from one shop to another, looking at the products and displays.
The weather was hot so after a while we were all for a nice coffee break at somewhere cool. We found a beautiful cafe, it was “Coffee Gallery” where we bought coffee and cake and sat in their beautifully “flower” decorated pouch for over an hour.
Turtle spotting at Laniakea Beach
Three and a half kilometer from Haleiwa Town was Laniakea Beach which was famous for turtle spotting. We drove out of Haleiwa going in the direction of Laniakea Beach and found ourselves in a heavy traffic jam. The vehicles were bumpers to bumpers and were crawling slowing forward. Apparently everybody was going to Laniakea Beach! There was no proper carpark at the beach and after two slow trip of going up and down the road we managed to squeeze our car among the other cars at the side of the beach. There were many people on the beach looking out for turtles.
We stayed for about an hour and looking out but there was no turtle in sight!
Waimea valley was located on the North Shore just 8 km from Haleiwa Town. After the entrance there was a huge carpark but the place was packed so we had to wait a bit before we could find a place for our car. At the visitor center we found out that we had to purchase ticket at $12 per person to go further into the valley to explore a waterfalls. The staff at the ticketing counter told us that the water volume at the waterfalls was down to a trickle so it would not be nice at all.
Apparently the highlight of visiting the valley was the waterfalls and since that was “not nice” at this time of the year there would be no point going into the valley. Instead we spent some time at the visitor center exploring a farmer market. There were many local products, fruits, chocolate, nuts, jewellery, painting etc etc.
We stumbled upon a Macademia Farm just outskirt of Haleiwa. It was just after Haleiwa Beach Park , there was a big signboard that said “North Shore Macademic Nut Company” (co-ordinates: 21.600465, -158.101583). We turned right, onto a dirt road and came to a shed selling nuts and coffee. We bought two bags of macademia nuts. It costed USD15.75 per kilogram.
On our last day in Oahu we visited Pearl Harbour. Pearl harbour was about 19 km northwest of Waiikiki and it took about 25 minutes to drive to Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
At destination there was a huge carpark which was a short distance from the entrance. Entry was free but carriers like backpacks had to be “checked in” at USD$5 per bag. We squashed one bag into another and paid USD$5 dollar to check in one bag. On hind sight, we should have left our bags in the boot of our car for free!
After the entrance were ticketing counters where different types of ticket were sold for entrance to some of the exihibits (warships). The visitor center and the memorial halls were free. The USS Arizona Memorial Programme was also free (limited free tickets based on first come first serve basis). USS Arizona was a sunken warship still sitting in the water out at Pearl Harbour. The USS Arizona Memorial Progamme provided short boat ride to a floating white structure/platform that was built just near/above the sunken warship to allow visitors a have a closer look. Unfortunately… the floating platform was under maintanence!
We saw several warships docked by the harbour. They were certainly huge.
At the exhibition hall we walked around slowly reading the information/history of Pearl Harbor during the WWII. Some stories were “sad” and some showed the bravery and resilient of the people.
Where we stay
We stayed at three places for our seven nights in Oahu. We stayed at Ilikai Marina, Ilikai Hotel and Luxury Suites and my brother’s apartment. All three places were lovely. Ilikai Marina and Llikai Apartment were short-term rental apartments owned by brother’s friends, it was available during our visit so we got to stay there too.
The Studio Apartment at Ilikai Marina had a beautiful marina view. It was spacious with a bedroom, a living room and a full kitchen. It was the first time we saw red color washer and dryer!
The apartment was luxuriously furnished and spotlessly clean! We loved the view of the marina and when the sun set the view was fantastic.
Next to Ilikai Marina was a huge condominum “Ilika Hotel and Luxury Suites”. We got to stay in a two adjoining suites. Each suite was independent and sufficient with its own beds, lounge, full kitchen and toilet . The connecting door between the two suites allowed big family or group of friend to stay comfortably closeby. This apartment could hold up to 6 people!
Ilikai Hotel and Luxuru Suites had a fantastic view of the beach from its balcony!