Friday, December 11, 2009

Oahu in Four Days

Greg and I are still living in Waikiki, but will be returning to Nashville in a couple of days. My mom and step-dad came to visit last week, which gives me a good excuse to update the blog. Of course, it's not really possible to see ALL of Oahu in 4 days, but with some pre-planning and great weather, we managed to hit most of the highlights.
view of the full moon from our lanai in Waikiki
Mom and Ronnie arrived at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1. I had rented a car for the entire week; there's a Dollar location a few blocks from our apartment and they offered a great "City Breaks" rate of $100 for 7 days (with tax/fees = $129). The best rate at all other companies in the area was $40+/day. Greg and I greeted them at the airport with silk flower and shell leis. We came back to the apartment and gave them a chance to settle in, then had dinner at Perry's Smorgy, a budget buffet place. The food was predictably cafeteria-grade, but offered lots of options for our diverse tastes. We stepped it up a notch for after-dinner drinks at The Banyan Court at the Moana Surfrider on the beach, with Mom enjoying a "Tropical Itch" complete with wooden back scratcher!
After a good night's sleep we were all up and ready to start sightseeing on Wednesday morning. Greg had to stay home and work, but I took Mom and Ronnie to Diamond Head crater to hike. We stopped at Safeway to stock up on groceries for the week and came back home to make sandwiches for lunch. The afternoon was filled with more hiking -- the nature trails at Lyon Arboretum and the more challenging Manoa Falls. We cooked steaks on our poolside grill for dinner.
Manoa Falls
Thursday morning was perfect for a trip to the zoo. It also meant more hours on our feet but we enjoyed visiting the animals; only the cheetahs and warthog remained hidden from view. We again returned to the apartment for lunch and then Greg and I rested while Mom and Ronnie went for an afternoon walk on the beach and around Waikiki. We went to Ono Hawaiian Food for dinner -- a hole in the wall local place which consistently gets great reviews. While the food was pretty good and interesting, the restaurant is pretty shabby and seemed a bit unclean. I'm glad we tried it, but at the same time am sure we would have enjoyed other local restaurants a lot more.
Greg & I bought season passes to the zoo
It started raining that evening and continued to rain during the night, but had cleared off again by Friday morning. Which was good, because we got up early to go to Pearl Harbor and try to beat the lines. We arrived around 7:15 a.m. and were given tickets for the 8:00 a.m. movie. This gave us time to browse around the visitors center and memorial area, which is currently undergoing a big renovation (scheduled to be complete by this time next year). We enjoyed the 20+ minute film and then took the boat across the harbor to the Arizona Memorial, where you can spend about 15 minutes before catching the return boat.
Our next stop was Chinatown for a quick walk around the markets and a delicious lunch at Little Village Noodle House. Then we drove up to the Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) where we spent a couple of hours touring the memorial and enjoying the views of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. We drove the Pali Hwy to Nuuanu Pali Lookout where it was quite windy and much cooler but still offered beautiful views of the windward side of the island. Then we continued heading east to Kailua Beach Park with a scenic loop around Mokulua Drive to Lanikai Beach. From there we drove south along the Kalanian'ole Hwy, stopping at the Halona Blowhole and a few other scenic spots. Finally it was time for happy hour at the Kona Brewing Company at Koko Marina where we enjoyed $3 pints and mixed drinks, a half-price hummus appetizer, and a delicious "Captain Cook" pizza. It was a great day, but we were exhausted so headed home to get some rest.
Nuuanu Pali Lookout
Saturday required another early start. We left the apartment by 7 a.m. so we could be at Dillingham Airfield on the North Shore for our 8 a.m. scheduled skydive. Greg and I were the only ones brave enough to make the 14,000+ foot jump, but Mom decided to ride in the plane as an observer and Ronnie took photographs from the ground. Check out Facebook for photos and watch the YouTube video embedded below to see more of this amazing experience! Despite being the first ones to arrive, Greg and I were assigned to the third group/planeload, which means we did a lot of anxious waiting until our turn. We also had made a point not to eat or drink anything prior to the jump "just in case", so we were all quite ready for some food when we finished around 10 a.m.
We drove into Hale'iwa and had breakfast at Breakers in the North Shore Marketplace. Then we doubled back to the Dole Plantation for a quick look around before getting caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Kam (Kamehameha Hwy) due to sightseers flocking to watch the projected 20+ ft waves. After sitting in traffic for 30 minutes or more, we were ready for a break, so we turned off into Waimea Valley and enjoyed a leisurely hike through the botanical gardens and back to the waterfall.
Ready to brave the traffic once again, we continued on the Kam to Sunset Beach and stood in the sand for quite a while ogling the huge waves. Knowing that we still had a long drive ahead of us, we continued driving east then south, stopping at a roadside stand in Kahuku to buy a fresh pineapple and at Kualoa Park to watch the sunset. Realizing it would be a bit late for dinner by the time we reached Waikiki, we decided to seek out the Hale'iwa Joe's restaurant in Kane'ohe where we enjoyed the outdoor setting and tasty food. A great ending to another wonderful day!
sunset at Kualoa Park
Mom and Ronnie's flight to Maui was at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, so we spent the morning doing laundry and getting them ready for the next segment of their trip. Greg and I dropped them off at the airport at 11 a.m. and spent the rest of the day watching football and generally relaxing at the apartment. As you can tell, these 4+ days were pretty packed with activities and not much, if any, time for just sitting on the beach or by the pool relaxing. I had discussed this with my mom in advance and had given them the option of choosing how much or how little they wanted to see and do. One big advantage for them was having Greg and I to chauffeur them around, with me driving and Greg providing commentary and/or answering questions. This is much less stressful than it would have been if they were driving themselves, completely unfamiliar with the island, and it provided much more flexibility and saved money versus the various tour options or taking the public bus. Note that while I did drive them around downtown briefly, we did not stop at the state capitol, Iolani Palace, or any of the historic sites in that area. This was simply a matter of time and overall preference of what they wanted to focus on seeing.

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