Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cebu: The Charm of Visayas

Cebu is a gateway to thousand journeys. Journeys that can range from splurging to a 5-star resort, to unwind in secluded islands, to endless shopping heaven, to unique gastronomic experience up to immersing to cultural discoveries in festivals and histories. There are thousand journeys to explore and experience the beauty of Cebu that one day or overnight visit is not enough to see all of its charm. On my second journey to the "Queen City of the South", my trip lead me to a historical trip, downtown escapade and food trip of its unique threats and cuisine that continues to charm its visitors then and now.

Arriving at the airport from Manila is just an hour. Mactan-Cebu International Airport is still functional but I think it has reach the capacity of the terminal and needs to modernize, revamp and improve its facilities. The only complain I had in the airport is the lack of public phone facility and if there are pay phones most are not working. This becomes our problem when we arrive and need to have a reservation for our hotel. I'm not sure if the public phone problems is the same in the international passenger terminal. Moreover, I also find public buses rare for within city roaming in Cebu if not almost nothing. Most bus routes are for other town visit outside of Cebu City. Taxis are also helpful in roaming around the city just be cautious on their flagged down rates and price offers.

Welcome to Cebu!

Since I want to savor this short-visit to Cebu, moments after arriving I, together with my friends decided to try SUTUKIL an acronym for "Sugba" (grilled), "Tula" (Soup-based with broth), and "Kilaw" (raw, soaked/pickled in vinegar) at Lapu-lapu, Mactan. This is a popular term for ordering a selection of fresh seafood and meat from the market and cooked any way you like it in an eatery. We tried our seafoods cooked in Sinigang (Sour soup-based dish), and Ihaw (Tagalog term for grilled). None of us were interested in Kilaw style cooked food. Sinigang na Hipon is the best dish I have tasted there. I can't remember the exact name of the SUTUKIL restaurant we ate at as there are other nearby restaurants serving the same style but they are all located near Lapu-Lapu Monument and Magellan's Shrine both of which are place of interests. What I like about the restaurant we ate at is that there's a terrace area overlooking a mangrove-planted river that makes a good ambiance to eat. In addition, cool breeze is surrounding the area which makes it more conducive to relax after a heavy lunch.

Fresh finds at SUTUKIL

Enjoying the food with a beautiful mangrove river (above and below)

It was noon already and the sun is high so we decided not visit Lapu-Lapu Monument and Magellan's Shrine yet which is just near the area and take a rest first. We exited Mactan Island and we cross Marcelo Fernan Bridge to Cebu Island and arrive in Mandaue City. Marcelo Fernan Bridge is an extra dosed cable-stayed bridge located in Metro Cebu that spans across Mactan Channel connecting Cebu Island to Mactan Island. Our thirst for relaxation lead us to visit Ayala Center Cebu at Cebu Business Park. This is also where we encounter a heavy city traffic just like Manila. Ayala Mall's modern buildings has lots of western goods in addition to local stores. It is not just popular to local Cebuanos but also to a lot of tourists in Cebu.

Cebu Taoist Temple - one of the popular landmarks in Cebu.

Entrance to the temple.

Get ready to hike! Stairway to the layered and hill temple of Cebu Taoist Temple.

Dragon ornaments adorned the roofs of the Taoist Temple.

A beautiful view of Cebu can be seen at the top hill temples.

Enter the Dragon!

The Cebu Taoist Temple from a distance.

Next, we visited the Cebu Taoist Temple in Beverly Hills Subdivision, Cebu City. It was built in 1972 by Cebu's substantial Chinese community. With an elevation of 300 meters above sea level, the temple is a towering, multi-tiered, multi-hued attraction accessible by three separate winding routes. The entrance to the temple is a replica of the Great Wall of China. The temple includes a chapel, a library, a souvenir shop and a wishing well. The spacious balconies offer a scenic view of the downtown Cebu. Also noteworthy is the giant dragon statue. One could enjoy moving around the temple in an hour. Though the activity you can do most is sightseeing, admiring the colorful temples and photo ops, the temple has the best overlooking view of Cebu City. You can see the city's skyline, residences and seaport in the view.

By afternoon, we went to Fuente Osmeña, a rotunda park surrounded by various establishments like shops, malls and hotels. Unfortunately, Fuente Osmeña park is not good tourist attraction anymore as it seems dilapidated and not maintained anymore. I wish the government would do something about it. It seems historical and dates back to Spanish rule time. The surrounding areas is the opposite of the park. Malls, restaurants, shops and even bars are booming around for tourists attractions. One notable attraction is the Skywalk and Edge Coaster Adventure of Crown Regency Hotel and Towers which is becoming a popular activity in Cebu. It is also one of the newest activities to try in Metro Cebu. As much I want to try the quite expensive activity, my travel-mates does not prefer such adventure so opted on a food trip. The Crown Regency tower is also beautifully illuminated by neon lights at night which quite a sight to see.

The brightly illuminated tower of Crown Regency Hotel.

Can't get enough of Cebu's best threat - dried mangoes!

Fuente Osmeña at night.

Then we headed to Shamrock - a famous food shop for Otap, an oval biscuit made of flour, sugar, shortening and the ever reliable coconut. Sprinkled with sugar, a careless bite of this fragile biscuit would send fragments of it flying to the floor. One of the famous food "pasalubong" (souvenir gifts) from Cebu. This is also where ended my craving for Cebu's Dried Mangoes. I ate bite after bite of one plastic of dried mangoes until the last chip. Its my favorite! This is one food I don't miss to try in Cebu. It is Cebu's pasalubong! Dried mangoes is good for snacks and desserts. It has a chewy consistency that makes its taste linger in your mouth. With its bite size, you can eat it wherever you are.

The famous Lechon Cebu. Yum!

Food trip time at Golden Cowrie Restaurant.

Our food trip is continued at Golden Cowrie Restaurant in SM City Cebu. This restaurant serves authentic Cebuano and Filipino cuisine that will surely satisfy ones craving for local food. This is where first time I ate the famous Lechon Cebu. It is roasted pig with authentic herb flavors. The whole province of Cebu is known for its Lechon which is known to be the best in the Philippines. I believe food trip in Cebu is not complete without trying the famous Lechon Cebu. It is tasty, juicy and quite sweet in taste. We also heard from the locals at that another restaurant - CNT Lechon also specializes in serving the famous lechon of Cebu. I will definitely try to sample their servings on a next visit. They have a branch in SM Mall as well.

I had a tiring whole day of adventure so it was enough to retire at Sampaguita Suites Plaza Garcia. The hotel is perfectly situated at the heart of downtown Cebu City capitol. It is near places of interests like Magellan's Cross, Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and Fort Santiago as well as shops, stores, market, public vehicle pick-ups and other establishments. It was night already so I have no time to visit those places of interests and just reserved to visit it for the next day. But as I wonder around the room, the window has a perfect view of the Cebu plaza capitol with the chapel that houses Cebu's famous landmark, the Magellan's cross as the main subject.

Cebu is one of the provinces of the Philippines. It is located to the east of Negros island; to the west of Leyte, and Bohol islands. It is located on both sides by the straits of Bohol (between Cebu, anlong narrow island stretching 225 kilometers (140 miles) from north to south, surrounded by 167 neighboring smaller islands, that includes Mactan Island, Bantayan and Bohol), and Tañon (between Cebu, and Negros). Often called the “Queen City of the South” and the Seat of Christianity in the Philippines, Cebu City (its capital) is the country's oldest city. Exploring Cebu City, one encounters a rich historic past. It is one of the most popular destinations in all of the Philippines for foreign tourists. It is the fastest growing large city in the nation with an annual growth of over 5% per year. Moreover, Cebu is a booming metropolitan area with all the conveniences of a modern city.

Cebu's symbolic landmark - Magellan's Cross.

The chapel that houses Magellan's Cross.

The following day, we visited Cebu's famed landmark - Magellan's Cross. Magellan's Cross is a Christian cross planted by Portuguese, and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan (a Portuguese explorer) upon arriving in Cebu and Philippines on April 8, 1521. This cross is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street (Magallanes being the Spanish name of Magellan), just in front of the city hall of Cebu City. The landmark is really popular to tourists and locals that flocked the chapel hour after hour just to see the historical cross that symbolizes the long history of Roman Catholicism in the country. Honestly, there is nothing much to do within the chapel but to appreciate and have souvenir photo with the cross. There are devotees offering candle lighting for granting wishes or prayers inside the chapel. Just be cautious about them as they are very determined, pesky and importunate just to sell their so-called prayer granting candles.

Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is the oldest church in the Philippines.

The main facade inside Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.

Candles for prayerful devotees.

Just across the chapel of Magellan's Cross is the church of Basilica de San Minore de Sto. Nino. This a good place to reflect and exercise Catholics' form of faith. There's also a candle stall for prayers where candles provided are free of charge. Aside from exercising Catholic faith in the church, visitors and tourists must admire the Spanish time architecture of the church. I find it grand, historial and impressive inner structure as well. Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is a 16th century church that was built purportedly on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño, a sculpture depicting the Holy Child Jesus found by Spanish explorers in 1565 preserved in a burned wooden box which was left behind during the 1521 Magellan expedition. (Source) There is also a museum inside the Basilica that showcases the history of Christianity in Cebu.

Another place of interest is Fort San Pedro which is also near the area of our hotel. Fort San Fedro or San Fuerza de San Pedro is a military defence structure, built by Spanish and indigenous Cebuano laborers under the command of Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi and the Spanish Government in Cebu. It is located in the area now called Plaza Indepedencia, in the Pier Area of Cebu City. The smallest, oldest triangular bastion fort in the country was built in 1738 to repel Muslim raiders. It is just almost a walking distance from our hotel but unfortunately we did not visit it. I heard that there is also not much to do there aside from seeing a museum that showcases legacies of the Spanish Government, well-preserved Spanish artifacts such as Spanish documents, paintings and sculpture and the wreckage and treasures from the sunken San Diego galleon from Mexico.

Cebu... if Magellan could see her now. A view from Sampaguita Suites room window.

Fish Tapa - a tasty variety of danggit (above and below).

Souvenirs from Cebu!

Some of the things that I unfortunately failed to see and try in this trip were Lapu-lapu's Monument, Magellan's Shrine, see white sand beaches and island hopping in Mactan. I will definitely reserved an itinerary for these activities and places on a next trip to Cebu as I feel it is a must-do in Cebu. Due to time constraint, our last hours in Cebu is spent on shopping for souvenirs at SM City Mall. I also find that most pasalubong from Cebu are its popular food threats. Aside from Dried Mangoes, Otap and Lechon Cebu, Danggit is also a must-pasalubong on the lists. Danggit is a salted dried fish that is best paired with hot rice and dipped in vinegar. Danggit is the Visayan word for dried or dry and may generally mean as any seafood that were dried under the sun. Cebu has an array of choices when it comes to danggit. There is the danggit na pusit (dried squid), and danggit of different kind of fishes available in the market. But my favorite among these danggit varieties is the Fish Tapa (fish marinated in tapa syrup and then dried). I like its crispy and rich flavor taste after being fried. I also discover a new variety called Fish Tocino. Also marinated but in tocino syrup then dried under the sun.

Whether food trip, extreme adventure or historical walkthrough, Cebu remains to continue to be the charm of Visayas. Cebuanos are warm and friendly. Transportation is easy just read the signboards for those who opt to ride public jeepneys. Places to visit are endless especially if you're going outside the city. Mactan offers beautiful beaches and luxury resorts. Bantayan or Camotes islands offer paradise for peace-lovers. I also think Sinulog Festival time every January is also the best time to visit Cebu. It's a great festival and cultural showcase of Cebuano culture that is very popular in the country. All are just some few journeys that you can take to see the charm of Visayas... Cebu a gateway to thousand journeys.

Finally, my last travel feature of the year. 2010 has been a great year of travel. May the coming year be a great year of travel too for me... and for us travel-lovers!
Happy 2011 everyone!!!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Mahalo to Hawaiian Experience

The past four days in Hawaii was total submersion to a real paradise. I experience the best of Hawaii. The trip was a total exploration and discovery about the beauty of Hawaii, its people, culture, and heritage. And for our last day in Hawaii, we only spend our last hours of stay at Honolulu International Airport as the flight to Manila departs in the morning. This is where I look back to the experiences and memories of the trip full of happiness and wonderful reflection about the real paradise on Earth.

The perfect place to meditate, break and reflect to my travel experiences is the airport's Cultural Gardens. The Cultural Gardens offers travelers a pleasant break from their travel stress via its Chinese, Hawaiian and Japanese gardens that were designed by Richard C. Tongg. The gardens surround the Main Terminal Lobby and the Y Concourse of the airport near the gate concourse. The cultural gardens display the influence of the Hawaiian, Chinese and Japanese heritage upon “island living” in the State of Hawaii. Pathways, bridges and stepping stones connect the three gardens. Waterways flow among these garden ponds and lakes to symbolize the intermingling of the cultures in Hawaii. Sculptures from various artists may also be found in the gardens.

Honolulu International Airport departure drop-off point

Chinese Garden's centerpiece.
Cultural Gardens provide a place in the airport for passengers to relax and have a break from the busy scene of the airport.
Hawaiian Garden seems to have a forest ambiance.

Among the garden, we have only visited the Chinese and Hawaiian gardens which are just near the gate of aircraft. The Chinese Garden has a bright red resting pavilion with a curved roof of yellow glazed tile crafted by Hong Kong masons and artists and assembled in Honolulu. A statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Republic of China, was donated by the Chinese community to the garden. There is an arched bridge symbolic of the hope of spanning the seas to achieve world peace. Goldfish splash about in the man-made lakes amidst lotus and lily pads. Pine and bamboo trees along with other native Chinese flowering trees are strategically placed among craggy rock formations. In the Hawaiian Gardens, there are quiet lagoons filled with koi fish, gurgling springs and waterfalls cascading down lava walls. In a tropical setting, banana, coconut, hala (pandanus) and kukui (candlenut) trees shade ti plants, exotic ferns, such as the lawai and monstera and eye-catching flowers, white ginger, red torch ginger and bird of paradise. At night, Luau torches illuminate the garden where glass ball floats hang from the huge branches of the monkeypod trees.

Mahalo to Hawaiian experience! Doing a Shaka with Japanese tourists.

Hawaiian Garden - one of the featured gardens of the Cultural Gardens at Honolulu international Airport.

The unique open-air style and island living theme of Honolulu International Airport (above).

While in the Hawaiian gardens, we get acquainted with Japanese tourists who are also taking a break in the gardens. We ask to have souvenir photos with them and of course while doing the famous Hawaiian hand greeting gesture - "Shaka" in the photos!. Shaka means all right, cool, smooth, chill or relax. I find Shaka very much associated with Hawaii and Waikiki. It is because everything is smooth and cool in Hawaii that will make you relax. It is also very unique and cooler than the usual and another popular - "Peace" sign. The cultural gardens were good places to have a break from the busy areas of the airport and to have quiet time to meditate or relax while waiting for time to depart. The water ponds, trees and flowers were relaxing and soothing from a stressful situation. Moreover, it is no wonder that most airline lounges are located near the gardens facade area.

As we roam around Honolulu International Airport facades, what I found unique in the building and to any airport I have been is its "open-air style design" and "island living" theme. First, the airport is open-air design which means it has open areas with no close windowed areas or enclosure. To the gate concourse the open-air style design continues in which passengers can have a marvelous and wide views of the airport outdoor ramp and bay side areas which is perfect for plane spotting. I got a great open view of the PAL plane that we are going to ride back to Manila in open-viewing area. Though the whole facility is air-conditioned equipped, the open areas is a great way to breath and smell fresh Hawaiian paradise air all the time. Next, even the check-in counters are island style! It means each counter is lone and separate apart from each other and not the typical one-lined style check-in counters in most airports. This style of the check-in counters feels a private atmosphere while transacting your baggage and boarding passes at the counter. Lastly, endless murals of Hawaiian culture and heritage can be found around the airport. It is also beef up with numerous duty-free and souvenir shopping areas for passengers and travelers.

A hui hou, Hawaii! (Until we meet again)

Our plane ride going home from the open viewing area of the airport.

All I can say is "Mahalo" (Thank you) to all the wonderful travel experience I had in Hawaii. I experience the best of Hawaii's offer. And I felt I have savored everything that a tourist must-see and do in Hawaii. From natural sights, historical trip, city tours, cultural experience up to cuisine exploration, I sampled what every visitor of the islands must have in Hawaii! I know that there are other things I should have done, eat or visit there but so far I am satisfied and cannot complain on the best things I had in this travel. True to its the advertising words of GoHawaii, the alluring paradise of Hawaii is a timeless charm. The fresh, floral air energizes you. The warm, tranquil waters refreshes you. The breathtaking, natural beauty renews you. There’s no place on earth like Hawaii. It's islands offer distinct experiences that will entice any traveler. Hawaii warmly invite you to explore its islands and discover your ideal travel experience. All of these exact words are what you'll experience and discover in Hawaii - the real paradise on Earth.

I find Hawaii as a "real paradise" on Earth because it has everything that a travelers needs to see in a paradise. Warm tropical weather, palm trees sprouting, white sand beaches, vast ocean to swim, cultural discovery, Hulas, island music, endless activities of sightseeing, shopping and sports... all in one can-do and can see in Hawaii. It is an ultimate travel experience that will charm every visitors to its islands. It is also not enough to discover Oahu alone, the other islands of Hawaii like Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai and Big Island are also equally beautiful, must-visit and enticing for any travelers. This is also why Hawaii is not just good for a one-time visit. Discovering its charms is like an epic saga of adventure in the paradise. Moreover, it is a paradise for beach-lovers, sun-worshipers and holiday-goers. Every natural beauty you see is a timeless charm you won't forget and will always be "Aloha" to a good life. Hawaii is truly an alluring paradise to experience!

Taxiing in reef runway.

Honolulu in the air!

As PR101 starts to pushback from the gate and slowly moves to in the taxiway to the reef shore runway, I felt looking back at my travel experience full of happiness. I won't forget all those travel memories. On my window, the shinning reflection from the ocean of the reef runway is glittering endlessly. The plane now turns around, getting ready to ascend the sky, then it started to run. The glittering reflection of sunlight from the ocean water nearby continues to shimmer. The plane now started to fly skyward. A stunning view of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach replaces the shimmering waters in my plane window. I am amazed by the beautiful sight that all I can think of is "A hui hou and mahalo to Hawaiian experience". I won't forget Hawaii. Not only it entices but gets you fall in love with it. No wonder, because the famous Hawaiian word "Aloha" also means "love" and in Hawaii, it will always be Aloha today, tomorrow... always!

Mahalo to Hawaiian Experience is the last part of my Aloha to Hawaii's Paradise series where I share my travel story to Honolulu, Hawaii trip last August 24-29.   

Read the other parts of Aloha to Hawaii's Paradise by clicking the links below:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The girl in Ao Dai

Our last hours in Ho Chi Mihn City is spend on finding a Vietnamese girl in Ao Dai. When we passed through a restaurant along Le Loi street, we saw an attendant girl wearing a beautiful blue Ao Dai. We insist to have a photo with her and she gladly participated. The result is one great souvenir catch of a girl in Ao Dai, when we visited the "hidden charm" country of Vietnam in 2006. I made sure to have a souvenir photo with a girl in Ao Dai because they are fascinating and something that is distinct that can only be found in Vietnam. Ao Dai is a traditional and formal dress worn in Vietnam by both men and women but a woman in Ao Dai defines more about its symbol of grace, elegance and Vietnamese femininity. Like Japan's kimonos, Ao Dais color and design denotes the female wearer's status but since recent times fashion designers and artist creates more elaborate, elegant and colorful designs that suits the choice of the wearer. Since day one of my visit in Ho Chi Minh City, I already notice those Vietnamese women wearing beautiful Ao Dais and flocking every street corner of the city. You may see a woman wearing Ao Dai suddenly passed across you while walking down the streets or riding a bicycle or a scooter while strolling around Saigon. I am intrigued, fascinated and even tried to chase them. In the end, this one came a perfect souvenir of a Vietnamese girl in Ao Dai.

Learn more about my Vietnam travel here.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Aloha to Hawaii's Paradise 5: Discover Oahu

If you are enough of exploring the beaches of Hawaii, another great way to discover its other sights of wonder especially its natural and historical sights is doing a 'round-the-island circle tour of Oahu and visiting the famous historical site of Pearl Harbor. Oahu is the third largest of the islands of Hawaii and the most popular tourist destination in Hawaii. It is the governmental and commercial center of the state. Dubbed as “Heart of Hawaii”, the island of Oahu is great for people who wish to experience the islands and still keep the conveniences of a large city. A tour around Oahu is a must-try as the tour involves visiting famous historical landmarks around the island and sightseeing the popular nature beauty of Hawaii.

Our last day in Hawaii was spend on visiting those historical, natural and cultural sights of Oahu. It is a perfect whole day trip to discover the other sights of Hawaii. It is also a perfect break from the overload beach scene of Waikiki as this time we see the other side of Hawaii. On that morning we meet my mom's friend who is residing there and offered us a circle tour of Oahu via their private vehicle. So we checked out from Sheraton Princess Kauilani Hotel that morning and bid goodbye to Waikiki Beach.

A closer look at the Diamond Head.

Diamond Head souvenir shot.
The opposite side view in the cliff overlook at Diamond Head.

Our first stop is the Diamond Head. Diamond Head is the name of a volcanic tuff cone of a dormant volcano also known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi, most likely from lae 'browridge, promontory' plus ʻahi 'tuna' because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna's dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals embedded in the rock for diamonds. It is approximately between 10 to 15 minutes to reach Diamond Head from Waikiki. The volcano is a symbol of the worldwide recognition of the Hawaiian Islands; because of this, Diamond Head is widely used for commercial purposes like the film and a band name. Many souvenirs from Hawaii and surf shop logos around the world bear the volcano's distinctive silhouette. There's a parking area where you can have a closer view of the volcano at its base or foot which is popular for tourists. There's also the Diamond Head Ligthouse in the area. At its opposite side is a cliff facing the ocean where surfing addicts are surfing around the waves of the ocean.

One of the hundreds of natural sights around Oahu.

Another option to explore Diamond Head is to try hiking it via Diamond Head State Monument. The Diamond Head State Monument is a Hawaii State Park centered around Hawaii's most famous landmark, Diamond Head Crater. The park is located on the Kapiolani Park end of Waikiki and it is approximately 475 acres in size. An observation deck at the top of Diamond Head offers breathtaking views of the southern coast of Oahu - after driving through a short tunnel, you can hike up a 0.75 mile (1.1 km) trail from a parking lot in the crater to the rim, up a couple flights of stairs, through a tunnel and an old coastal artillery to the summit. There is a minimal fee for parking and per person user fee charge. The hike is very popular and not difficult, but the climb can be a little much for the average couch potato according to Wikitravel.

Honestly, I want to try hiking Diamond Head during our third day stay as it sounds an interesting activity but my mom can't do an almost an hour hiking to the summit. I thought I won't be able to have a closer view of the famed volcano of Hawaii but our last day made a dream come true for me to see it. Hawaiian legend says that Hi'aka, sister of Pele, the fire goddess, gave it the name Leahi (which became Le'ahi) beacuse the summit resembles the forehead (lae) of the 'ahi fish.

Experiencing the natural beauty of Oahu.

Beautiful natural sights!

Halona Blowhole viewing area.
It's ready to blow-up!

Full blast! Its the Halona Blowhole!

After visiting the famous volcano tuff cone, we drove for about 20 minutes and while on the road we had beautiful cliffside rock formation and seaview coast of Oahu. The rock formations on the coast were unique sights in Oahu. Its my first time to see it. If only I could stop the car, I will capture numerous shots of those beautiful sights. Then we stop in a parking area and walks down to see what we will see in the area. There's a viewing area where I saw numerous rock formations set against the sea coast and crushing with the ocean waves. There's also a beach where flat rock formation is mixed with its sandy shores. But the real star of the viewing deck area is the rock formation and blowhole named Halona Blowhole. Halona Blowhole is along Kalaniana’ole Highway (Route 72) between Makapu'u Point and Hanauma Bay is a popular roadside stop. The Halona Blowhole is one of many blowholes (ocean caves with a hole in the top, so water shoots out the top) along the coast. On windy days, the ocean breeze sends the waves rolling onto the shore where the rock formation then shoots sea spray high into the air through the cave acting like a geyser. (Source)

Aside from appreciating the water blast of Halona Blowhole, the sides of the view deck area has beautiful rock formations set against the waves of the sea coasts. Every view here is picturesque and I'm sure a paradise for nature photographers. When we leave the area, we past by the entry and got a short glimpse of another popular destination in Hawaii which is Hanaumay Bay. I have heard a lot about it as a must-visit place in Oahu but unfortunately, we weren't able to see it. Hanauma Bay (pronounced "ha-na-OO-mah", in Hawaiian) is a marine embayment formed within a volcanic cone and located along the southeast coast of Oʻahu. Hana means 'bay' and uma means 'curve,' rendering "Curved Bay." Though some call it "Hanauma Bay," this is a tautology: Hawaiians simply call this feature "Hanauma". Hanauma is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hawaii. (Source) The bay is a famoust spot for snorkling, sightseeing natural sights and observing marine life and fauna in Hawaii.

The majestic view of Oahu from Nuuanu Pali lookout.
The viewing area, right side of Nuuanu Pali lookout.
 Next stop is the Nuuanu Pali Lookout. I thought that Nuuanu Pali is just a simple mountain side park but it turned out to be a magnificent viewing and chilling viewing deck too! At the entrance of the state park is a lush greenery space of trees and grass. But as we approached the cliff viewing deck, wow! strong winds greeted us in chill! No one cautioned us that the area is the dwelling place of cold and strong winds. So bring-a-jacket on a next time visit. Likewise, we don't have a decent picture because of the chilling wind! However, the pali lookout is a worth visit as it has a majestic view of the windward coast of Oahu. You can also view the Koʻolau Range (fragmented remnant of the eastern or windward shield volcano) in the pali lookout.

Nuuanu Pali marker.
Are you ready to face the chill?

Nuuanu Pali historic marker.

Strong and fridging cold winds!

Tolerating the cold just to have a souvenir!

Strong winds!!!

Nuuanu Pali is also a historical site as the cliff is the site of the Battle of Nuʻuanu, one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history, in which Kamehameha I conquered the island of Oʻahu, bringing it under his rule. Nuʻuanu Pali is a section of the windward cliff (Pali in Hawaiian) of the Koʻolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley. It has a panoramic view of the windward (northeast) coast of Oʻahu. The Pali Highway (Hawaii State Highway 61) connecting Kailua/Kāneʻohe with downtown Honolulu runs through the Nuʻuanu Pali Tunnels bored into the cliffside. The Nuʻuanu Pali has been a vital pass from ancient times to the present because it is a low, traversable section of the Koʻolau mountain range that connects the leeward side of the mountains, Honolulu to the windward side, Kailua and Kāneʻohe. The route drew settlers who formed villages in the area and populated Nuʻuanu Valley for a thousand years. (Source) For visitors, it is better to stay in the guarded rails of the lookout as the cliff is really high above the ground.

After visiting Nuuanu Pali, we drove away to exit onto windward coast of Oahu to North Shore. Along the road trip we passed by the side columns of the Ko'olau Range and gave me a closer look at the natural sight of a mountain range. Minutes later when I look back, I saw Nuuanu Pali, although in small frame from the distance as the road we are driving down is pointed exactly from the lookout of the mountain range. As we drove to North Shore, we passed by numerous roadside beach parks that let me marvel to the natural beauty of Oahu and Hawaii. One of the natural sights I saw was the Chinaman's Hat or Mokoliʻi, a basalt island in Kāne'ohe Bay. It is known as "Chinaman's Hat" for its likeness to the straw hats Chinese immigrants wore. We also passed by Polynesian Cultural Center and Kualoa Ranch, both of which are places of interest in Oahu. Polynesian Cultural Center is a living museum located in Laie and within it are simulated tropical villages and performers that demonstrates various arts and crafts from throughout Polynesia. While Kualoa Ranch is the landowner of Ka'a'awa Valley and open for tourist activities such as horseback riding and hiking, but is best known as a film location for notable movies such as Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young, Pearl Harbor, Windtalkers, Godzilla, and Lost. Unfortunately we weren't able to visit it extensively as we got a long drive to take our full circle tour of Oahu.

Koolau Range on a closer look while on a drive.

Beautiful coastal scenes in North Shore as we circle Oahu.

North Shore refers to the north-facing coastal area of Oʻahu between Kaʻena Point and Kahuku Point. The largest settlement is Haleʻiwa. This area is best known for its massive waves, attracting surfers from all around the globe. Although the North Shore is known for its large winter surf, there are a number of surf schools that can teach a beginner the basics of surfing in coves that are protected from the larger waves. The North Shore is a relaxed, laid back area, with a much slower pace than in Honolulu and Waikiki. The beaches are wonderful but very popular, especially when the surf is up. Our first stop here is a lunch sampling the famous Kahuku Shrimp along Kamehameha Hwy. We ate at one of the popular shrimp trucks named Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck. It is a great way to enjoy their Hawaiian-style lunch of shrimp dish cooked in either in butter and garlic style or sweet and spicy style.

Waimea Bay from Kamehameha Highway (from Wikipedia)

A road trip to North Shore is a beach tour as well. It is because most of the scenic places while driving around North Shore are beach parks. North Shore is literally where you'll have a beach overload as its coastal area are lined up with a strip after strip of beaches! This is definitely a beach paradise for beach -lovers like me. Some of the best spots to visit there are Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach. Waimea Bay is located in Haleiwa on the North Shore of O‘ahu at the mouth of the Waimea River. Waimea Valley extends behind Waimea Bay. Waimea means "Red Water" in Hawaiian. Waimea Bay is also one of the filming locations used for the television series Lost. While, Sunset Beach is a large and very popular beach in Pupukea on the North Shore as well and is known for its surfing and surfing competition.

Pineapple fields in Wahiawa, Central Oahu.

DOLE Plantation - Hawaii's complete pineapple experience

Kois at the pond.

Pineapple picking at the Pineapple Garden.

Bromeliads blooms at the DOLE's Pineapple Garden.
Varieties of pineapple can be seen in the Pineapple Garden including Philippines' MacGregor.

My complete Pineapple experience!

We exited Haleiwa and drove along in a highway that cuts through a large expanse of pineapple and coffee fields. The end of the drive lead us to DOLE Plantation in Wahiawa, Central Oahu. According to Hawaii for Visitors, it was originally a fruit stand that opened in 1950 next to a pineapple field. It has been open to the public as a visitor attraction since 1989. The central piece of DOLE Plantation is the visitors area or the plantation home that became a living museum and historical archive of the life and work of the industrialist and DOLE founder, James Dole. The visitor's area houses a gift shop, cafe, sweet finds, souvenir stores and plantation fresh pineapples of course! It is quite an attraction in Oahu as there are plenty of visitors on that day. The plantation features the world's largest maze, grown entirely out of Hawaiian plants. Another must see in the plantation aside from the plantation grounds are the pineapple garden where various species of pineapples from around the world are planted (including our own, MacGregor or Ananas comosus) and labeled in a wide garden. The koi pond is also fascinating. There are also colorful and ornamental bromeliads planted around that makes the garden and plantation beautiful. There are separate charges for taking the train ride through the plantation, visiting the pineapple maze, and taking the plantation garden tour. (Learn more about DOLE Plantation here)

Hawaii is the 50th state of USA!

Pearl Harbor marker at the entrance.
Memorials of those who fight during the Pearl Harbor attack.
Historic sites around Pearl Harbor.
USS Bowfin Submarine.
Historic ships used in World War period can be visited in Pearl Harbor.

Our last adventure is visiting one of the most historical and probably the most popular site of Hawaii, the Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor, or Pu'uloa, is originally a lagoon harbor on Oʻahu, located west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Pearl Harbor is most famous for being the target of a surprise attack by Japanese fighter planes on December 7, 1941 that brought the United States into World War II. While it is free to bring camera in Pearl Harbor, they prohibit bringing handbags or any hand carry related items inside the grounds of the historic sites. As we enter the grounds we were greeted a huge floor-wide map of the world where the center is the island of Hawaii. Then we proceeded to watch a documentary about World War II in which Pearl Harbor became a catalyst of its origin for about 15-20 minutes to gives us a fresh background about it.

After watching a documentary, we were supposed to take a free ferry ride to visit USS Arizona Memorial which is one of the famous attractions in Pearl Harbor. But unfortunately it is closed already by that time. USS Arizona Memorial is the final resting place for many of the USS Arizona Battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives USS Arizona Memorial when their ship was sunk by the Japanese  troops on December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona Memorial commemorates the site where World War II began for the United States. So we just visited the USS Bowfin Submarine in which a fee is charge to see the internal side of the submarine and its indoor museum. The submarine was launched for the first time on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was nicknamed the "Pearl Harbor Avenger". The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is located right next door to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center. There are four main visitor attractions in Pearl Harbor - the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine, the USS Missouri Battleship, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. The visitor centers and museums for the Arizona Memorial and the Bowfin Submarine are located next to each other, on the shore of Pearl Harbor. A shuttle bus transports visitors from the Arizona/Bowfin area to Ford Island so they can tour the Missouri Battleship and visit the Pacific Aviation Museum.

War relics in Pearl Harbor visitor center

Floor map size map of the world with Hawaii at the center.
Flags at the entrance site of Pearl Harbor.
Aside from the submarine and ship relics, there are also museums and war relics like World War II canons on displayed for the visitors appreciation. Pearl Harbor as a whole, is a war memorial that pulls you back in time to discover the brave men of America who fought over a battle and discover the historical side of the paradise of Hawaii.

The whole day tour around Oahu is a blast of nature, gastronomic and historical adventure. I appreciate the wonderful and marvelous natural sights of Oahu. The beaches of North Shore are one of the best including a taste of the yummy Kahuku shrimps. Nevertheless, the historical sights like Pearl Harbor is a discovery of the different side of Oahu that is famed for its natural sights and wonders. When all combine, it will definitely entice any traveler that seeks an ideal travel experience as Oahu is totally the "Heart of Hawaii."

Discover Oahu is part of my Aloha to Hawaii's Paradise series where I share my travel story to Honolulu, Hawaii last August 24-29, 2010. To continue reading, read part 6 - Mahalo to Hawaiian Experience. Special thanks to Hawaii for Visitors for additional information about the sites and places of interests of Oahu. Learn more about Hawaii here.

You might also be interested in reading the other parts of the series.
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