There’s planning and then there’s doing – which doesn’t always turn out the way you plan – at least, not always. Probably the biggest take-home message is this: whenever possible, book everything in advance if you want to avoid the wait and missing out entirely. So here’s how our week in Hawaii really went down and what we learned from it…
We absolutely loved:
Ruth’s Chris Steak House (Oahu)
- The stuff we ordered that we really liked: fillet steak, creamed spinach, potatoes au gratin, and the chocolate sin cake (especially that last one…)
- Don’t miss Happy Hour from 6 to 7pm
- Book ahead!
Pineapple’s Island Fresh Cuisine (Big Island)
- Really, really loved the service! Even though they were so busy, they were so nice!
- The steak with the cheese sauce was awesome!
- Gotta book for this one, too. We were really lucky to get a table.
Lappert’s Ice Cream and Coffee (Waikiki, Oahu)
- It’s ice cream. Need I say more?
- Seriously, they had some pretty awesome flavours. If you can’t decide on one flavour, you can take the 5 half-scoops. I recommend – Kona Lava Java and Heavenly Hana.
Eggs N Things (Waikiki, Oahu)
- I saw a magazine article on pancakes during the flight to Big Island which featured Eggs N Things so we added this to the list of food places to visit.
- What was good: the Ahi steak, the macadamia nut pancakes
- The portions are insane, though – as lovely as those macadamia nut pancakes were, five is way too many for me. I would have loved to try their other items.
The Japanese Food Court in Ala Moana
- Lots of choices – not everything is great, but there are some good stuff to eat here
Halona Blow Hole – Oahu
Hanamau Bay – Oahu
Hanamau Bay is the recommended site for newbie snorkeling. It’s pretty picturesque with lots of fish and coral to see underwater.
The boys had a go on the snorkel set but only G1 followed me out to the coral.
It was G1’s first snorkeling experience and we got to see some pretty interesting water flora and fauna.
Pearl Harbour – Oahu
In retrospect, the Passport to Pearl Harbour was a little too much for one day. By the end of the day, the boys were wilted and ready to collapse from heat and exhaustion. There is a LOT to see and much of it under the unrelenting heat of the sun. Even I was exhausted by the time we were done around 3pm – I can’t imagine how the kids must have felt.
The USS Missouri Battleship
This was the first stop and probably one of the highlights of the tour. There was air-conditioning, the boys were still fresh and full of energy, and our guide was extremely informative about the historical significance and details of this ship.
The big guns:
Meanwhile… in other parts of the ship, this is where the rest of the crew sleep:
They also have a dental surgery! The equipment reminds me of the old Dental hospital in Melbourne.
The signing of the documents that marked the end of World War II took place aboard the USS Missouri.
The Pacific Aviation Museum
The hubby was probably more excited about this than the boys…
But G1 enjoyed the flight simulator:
The USS Bowfin Submarine
Extremely close quarters and not advisable for anyone with claustrophobia. There is no air conditioning either so the heat is stifling down there in the afternoon even with all the fans on.
The USS Arizona
The USS Arizona can be seen below the floating memorial. Unfortunately, there is no way to secure tickets except to get to the visitor’s center early and queue up for your tickets – the Passport to Pearl Harbour does not secure a spot to see the USS Arizona. When you arrive at the visitor’s center, there will be two queues – make sure you’re waiting in line for the USS Arizona pass first before queuing up for the other passes. Passes to the USS Arizona are free but they are given on a timed basis so the earlier you get there, the earlier your time slot will be.
The USS Arizona tour begins with a movie at the visitor’s center. It is followed by a boat ride out to the floating memorial before returning to the visitor’s center by boat. G1 was invited to help steer the boat – his highlight for the whole day, I reckon.
Atlantis Submarine – Oahu
The entire process runs for roughly 2 and a half hours from the time you get to the pier to the time you get back to land again. The submarines need to stay in deep water so we had to take a boat out from the pier to the submarines.
We went to a depth of 109ft…
… and saw things like shipwrecks and marine life like this sea turtle.
Our knowledgeable tour guide shared loads of information about Hawaii, the marine life, the history of the shipwrecks, and even the physics of being under water! All in all, an interesting underwater experience that G1 enjoyed but was lost on G2.
Nuuanu Pali Lookout – Oahu
Just a short drive from the city, Nuuanu Pali lookout offers beautiful views of the island. It also sports some powerful winds that can hold you up even if you lean into it.
This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip – the boys had a blast running against the wind. You do need a bit of luck and good timing because the winds aren’t always blowing. When they do, however, it is quite an experience to remember.
Laniakea Beach – Oahu
Located on the north-west part of Oahu, Laniakea Beach is a popular spot to observe the Green Sea Turtles that are natural to this part of the world. The best time to see the turtles is during summer when the sea is calmer and quieter. Unfortunately that also means you don’t get to the the giant waves that the North Shore is famous for.
Mount Kilauea – Big Island
Even though Kilauea is said to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world, it’s still a bit of hit and miss whether we’re lucky enough to see fresh lava. As it turns out, Pele was smiling for us when we went…
If I’d known we were going to be so lucky, I would have booked a helicopter tour in advance. As it turned out, they were solidly booked the days we were on the Big Island since everyone was hankering to see lava. These are the helicopter tour companies that offer volcano tours covering Kilauea:
- Blue Hawaiian: Ring of Fire plus Waterfalls
- Safari Helicopters: Big Island Tours
- Paradise Helicopters: Volcanoes and Waterfalls
- Sunshine Helicopters: Volcano Deluxe
- Discover Hawaii: Circle of Fire and Waterfalls
- Viator: Volcanoes and Waterfalls Helicopter Adventure
By land, the lava can only be viewed from three points:
1. Jaggar Museum lookout – the easiest to get to but you need to be there at the right time and you need some high-power viewing lenses. We managed to get this shot with our DSLR on full magnification:
The other two options require a four-mile hike to the lava under some pretty harsh hiking conditions. The trail is completely exposed – there is no cover from the sun and the heat is compounded by the lava – and can take as long as 2 hours one way.
2. The end of the Chain of Craters Road Drive.
3. Kalapana Lava Viewing Area which is located at the end of Highway 130.
Hikers MUST be prepared. Carry about a gallon of water per person, bring snacks, wear sturdy closed-toe hiking shoes or boots, gloves to protect the hands from sharp lava rock. Wear sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. Plan to stay after dark? Bring a flashlight/headlamp with extra batteries. There is little or no cell phone reception in this area.
As a strong caution to visitors viewing the new ocean entry: there are additional significant hazards besides walking on uneven surfaces and around unstable, extremely steep sea cliffs. Venturing too close to an ocean entry exposes you to flying debris created by the explosive interaction between lava and water. Also, the new land created is unstable because it is built on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand. This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf causing the new land to become unsupported and slide into the sea. Finally, the interaction of lava with the ocean creates an acidic plume laden with fine volcanic particles that can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.
Lastly, a kind reminder to please be pono, and respect Hawaiian culture. Do not poke or prod the flowing lava, or throw rubbish and other items into flowing lava. Not only is it offensive, it’s illegal.
If you didn’t get any of those, there is some nice footage of the lava flow from Youtube:
Although we didn’t make the hike or the helicopter tour, there was still a lot to see along the Chain of Craters Drive:
Thurston Lava Tube
Old Lava Flow
End of the Chain of Craters Drive
At the end of the Chain of Craters Drive is a lookout point where you can see lava rock formations, similar to the 12 Apostles, that have been shaped by the awesome power of the sea.
Akaka Falls – Big Island
Rated as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, Akaka Falls is an easy paved-walk to a beautiful site. Located 20 minutes by car from Hilo, it would be criminal not to make the trip out there.
Just in case you’re wondering – no, you cannot swim in Akaka Falls. It seems a number of people wonder about it. There is no man-made access to the base of the falls which is located in a protected national park.
KCC Farmer’s Market
Open only on Saturdays, the KCC Farmer’s Market is strongly reminiscent of Fremantle Market. The fresh pineapples were a lovely treat but the coffee was hmmm… The boys enjoyed an ice treat from Ono Pops while we walked through the rest of the stores.
We saw two places – Ala Moano Shopping Center and Waikele Premium Outlet.
Waikele Premium Outlet
Apart from shopping, there’s not much else out there – food options are crap. Located quite near the airport, this outlet is quite far from the main attractions in Waikiki.
Ala Moano Shopping Center
This is the largest shopping mall in Hawaii and it is about the get even larger (we saw extensions in the works while we were there). With over 300 stores in there, the walk from one end of the mall to the other is a workout in itself.