Written by Alan Hart, Canada.
View of Diamond Head from
We arrived in Honolulu on the island of Oahu at around 10PM.
local time. We took a taxi to our hotel in Waikiki, just a few
blocks from Waikiki beach. The hotel was a 42-story edifice and our
first surprise was that the reception area was all-open. There was
a roof but no doors and even in the late evening the temp was
around 30C. Our room however had air-conditioning so that was
The first thing you notice when waking up in Hawaii is the sun.
The sun in Hawaii is obviously a star of a different magnitude to
the feeble orb that we experience in these latitudes. It doesn't
shine it blazes. A fair skinned Anglo-Saxon like me can get burned
right through their clothes in a matter of minutes.
Day one, we visited the beach, shops
and restaurants. Our room had a nice kitchen area with stove, sink,
microwave, etc. so we were able to save money by buying food and
eating it in our rooms. Prices weren't outrageously high in Waikiki
but when your dollar is only worth 60% of its US counterpart, it
pays to save a buck where you can. The Hawaiians were anxious to
help us it seemed. We were presented with wads of free coupons
everywhere we turned. The hotel handed out booklets full of them
and people would thrust them into your hands as you walked down the
street. On closer examination the coupons were nearly always of the
buy-one-get-one-free variety and there was always some reason why
they weren't a very good deal. And really, when you're on holiday
there is a limit to how much farting around you want to do with
coupons. That is just way too much like everyday life.
Day two, I began to realize just how
brown everyone is and just how red we were all getting. On the
beach I made the discovery that sunscreen is just a joke. All it
does is make embarrassing patterns in the flaming crimson one's
skin. Before long I achieved that puffy red purulent flesh peculiar
to Brits in hot climates, complete with strange markings and
striations courtesy of the sunscreen. Needless to say we carried on
regardless. Most Hawaiians are dark skinned and can take any amount
of solar radiation. Sometimes, it just don't pay to be white.
Day three, Roz and I got up early to
hike up Diamond Head. Actually it seemed we got up too early, as we
had to wait almost an hour to get a bus out there. You see a lot of
the life of a city when you get up early and try to take a bus
somewhere. Hawaii is a natural paradise; every shrub, bush or tree
is laden with blossoms. The breezes are full of fragrances, jasmine
and spices. Palm trees line the streets. But at 6AM you got
workaday people trying to get to their jobs, and the odd drunk who
still feels like shouting, and the guy in the Seven Eleven who
starts to look downright dangerous when the coffee runs out on him,
and groups of little Asian women chattering about who-knows-what.
The streets are also filled with turtle doves (they look like
miniature pigeons) and, it seems, they would rather walk than fly.
I can never understand why some birds just seem to give up flight.
These doves just wander in and out of traffic around pecking at
things too small to see.
We finally get out of town and begin our hike to the extinct
volcano. At 7AM it is already brutally hot and we are glad we
brought water. Going through a cool rock tunnel we enter the crater
of the volcano. Then we pass through the park gates and get started
on the trail proper. The frustrations of public transit dissolve in
the heat. The trail is just a couple of miles across the floor of
the crater and up the other side, which is much higher...close to
1,000 feet. Trudging through the barren dust and scrub we rejoice
that the kids refused to come with us as we would surely have gone
crazy from all the whining that this trek would have produced. The
last part of the hike actually goes through the volcanic rock.
Ninety-nine steep steps lead to a spiral staircase and some
concrete tunnels. Eventually we emerge back into light through what
used to be a gun port. The sun and the exertion has turned our
faces beet red, but the view makes it all worthwhile At the top we
are surrounded by old concrete the gun emplacements. This point
used to guard Oahu against enemy shipping in the war. It had an
impressive battery of huge guns plus a primitive radar system. The
panorama of Honolulu and the Pacific is stunning. On the walk back
a taxi driver with a beat-up VW bus offered to take us back to town
for only $2 each so we jumped in.
Day Four is actually the 4th of
July...American Independence Day. Jamie and I decided to stay with
the military theme and visit the US Military Museum. Admission is
free and we learn a lot more about the history of the islands and
the US military presence there. Jamie loved all the weapons and was
full of questions about WW2. The peacefulness and the beauty of the
islands make a strange contrast to the mayhem of war. But even
before the US presence there were wars between the different
islands, until the Hawaiian king Kamehameha finally united them
after a bloody campaign. The museum had two movie presentations:
one about the history of the US military in Hawaii and the other
about the battle of Midway. I think Roz and Marianne spent the day
shopping. Later that day we all went to a big 4th of July fireworks
display. Everything was going great but came to a sudden halt when
one of the bigger rockets exploded at ground level. That was really
spectacular and we thought it was all part of the show. I guess the
arrival of emergency vehicles and the cessation of pyrotechnics
should have tipped us off. Anyway, no one was badly hurt and as we
were walking away the display started up again, so we stayed for a
Day Five, we boarded a minivan and
were driven out to Huanama Bay and given snorkels, etc.
Soon we were exploring the coral reefs and abundant sea life. It
was most excellent. I wore a white tee shirt in the water to
minimise the sun damage to my back. Later I made another amazing
discovery. You might think that being underwater would protect you
against ultra violet radiation, well forget it! My back did okay,
thanks to the tee shirt, but the backs of my legs, which were
underwater 99% of the time, were totally fried. However the
experience was worth the painful aftermath.
Day Six, we rented a car and drove
around the island of Oahu: first stop, Pearl Harbour. After a 2
hour wait, during which we explored the museum. We took our seats
in the auditorium and watched a movie about the events of December
7th 1941. It was really well done and contained a lot of original
footage of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Then we boarded a
launch and were taken out to the Arizona Memorial. This where the
USS Arizona was sunk with great loss of life and the remains of the
ship can still be seen, only the forward gun turret breaks the
surface but the rest of the ship can easily be seen in the clear
Nearly all the ships that were sunk at Pearl Harbour were
recovered and restored. Some of them actually saw action against
the Japanese. Only the USS Arizona was left as a memorial to those
After visiting the Pearl we continued to drive right around the
island of Oahu. The next stop was the Dole Pineapple Plantation
where we enjoyed some ice cream. The birds enjoyed pieces of my ice
cream cone. They are so tame they will eat right out of your hand.
We took a look around the gardens and the world's biggest maze
(in the shape of a pineapple, naturally).
Next we drove to the North Shore of the island, which is reputed to
be a surfer's paradise. But the surf just didn't seem to happening
so we drove on in search of the elusive blowhole. It was on the map
but somehow we missed it. Pity, it is supposed to be quite a sight
when a big wave hits and it drives a plume of water out the
Can you see the Blowhole?
Day seven, Maui is much greener that
Oahu and has a lot of farmland. There are no big cities like
Honolulu, it is all small towns. We picked up a rental car from the
airport (brand new Ford Escort) and drove
off in search of our Condo, located somewhere around Kihei and
Wailea. After the usual wrong turnings, illegal U-turns and
recriminations, we found our way to it and were pleasantly
surprised to find it spacious and air-conditioned with 2 good sized
bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen with all appliances, 2 TV's, a VCR,
several radios, washer and dryer, balcony with patio furniture and
close up view of the ocean. It also came with cookware, cutlery,
towels, overhead fans, etc. We quickly made ourselves at home and
soon we were out exploring the beaches.
We stayed here in the end unit near the
It's easy to lose track of time in Maui and I'm not sure now
what things we did on what particular day. Our first major outing
was to the town Lahaina. On the way there we stopped to see the
lobby of the Hyatt hotel, which is famous for its penguins. The lobby is
enormous with all kinds of trees and flowers, plus a grotto with
real, live penguins. The town of Lahaina was the centre for whaling
in the old days and has an interesting little museum devoted to
relics of the whaling business. It also featured a movie
presentation, which gave some insight into the life of a whaler.
Whaling was a stinking business in every sense but the spirit of
the average person under those difficult conditions makes it
interesting. The way the bored sailors would turn whale's teeth and
bits of bone into miniature works of art was rather inspiring, too.
They call this artwork Scrimshaw.
Later we had a good look around the old town, which is home to
many art galleries, a historic prison for out-of-control whalers,
not to mention the famous Cheese-Burger in Paradise café,
immortalized by Jimmy Buffet in his song of the same name. One of
the art galleries was particularly fascinating as it featured just
about every famous rock band. All of whom, it seems, have visited
Lahaina and had the picture taken with the proprietor. Either that
or he has real talent for photo editing. The Voodoo lounge section
had many pictures painted by Ronnie Woods of the Rolling Stones and
they were just brilliant. It seems that many pop stars went to
art-college in their early days and we saw many examples of their
The next trip we made was to the town of Hana. A lot of people
start out on this drive but do not complete it: partly because of
the narrow, winding highway, and partly because all the interesting
stops along the way take up so much time. We had an audio- tape
that informed us of all the roadside attraction as we went along so
we only missed a few of them. We promised ourselves to get 'em on
the way back, but we still missed some.
Jamie & me with giant bamboo.
Roz, Jamie and me with giant
This Hana side of Maui is tropical rain forest. That is why
everything is so big. On the way back from Hana we stopped at a
beach (name forgotten), which is famous for
its black sand. The sand is composed of very coarse granules of
volcanic rock, guaranteed to get the dead skin off your feet in two
seconds. The waves funnel into the bay and get quite large. Jamie
instantly recovered from his car sickness and jumped right in. A
huge wave engulfed him. Anxious moments elapsed as we waited and
hoped for him to reappear. It didn't help our state of mind to note
that the beach was cluttered with warning signs about riptide and
dangerous shore-breaks and no lifeguard, etc. Much to our relief
Jamie bobbed up and seemed to be enjoying it. I decided to join
him. I got pounded by the waves and swallowed a pint or more of
seawater. That was enough fun for me but Jamie stayed in a while
longer. He said it was the best part of the whole vacation.
A day later he had to revise his opinion as some really big
waves started coming ashore right on our doorstep. He spent many
happy hours on our rented boogie board (its like a
surfboard for beginners). We also rented snorkels and masks
but we never did see any amazing marine life on Maui. We kept
hearing about the sea turtles but they never materialized -- on the
upside, nor did the sharks.
He's in there somewhere.
We made one more trip while on Maui. This one required a really
early start, so once again, no kids. We left around 3AM to drive to
Haleakala National Park. This is the site of another volcano and it
is much higher than Diamond Head. Haleakala (house
of the sun) has not erupted for 200 years but is not
considered extinct. The summit is over 10,000ft. Driving up there
in the wee small hours we went through several layers of cloud and
rain and experienced a big drop in temperature. It can snow up
there in the winter months. The road seems to wind onward and
upward forever but finally we arrived at the top and saw the stars
as you never see them in the city. The sky was jet black and the
stars were diamond bright.
We were not alone however in our contemplation of the heavens.
At about 4.45AM the car park is darn near full. Watching the
sunrise from Haleakala is very big on the tourist to-do list. Did I
mention it was about one degree above freezing up there? All the
well-prepared tourists huddled shivering in their parkas with the
hoods up, trying to adjust their cameras on tripods aimed at the
eastern sky. I don't like crowds and I don't like abrupt
temperature drops of over 28C. I shivered in my jeans jacket and
twice returned to the car to warm up. When the sun finally showed
up it was spectacular, though. Roz got some nice pictures of
That was our last trip. After that we stayed close to our condo
and just enjoyed the beach, etc. All too soon we were sitting
aboard a crowded plane winging our way back to Vancouver.