Welcome to Paradise… If you’ll be asked of what is your ideal paradise, how will you describe it? Beaches with sprouting palm trees? Hula dancers accompanied by island songs? Unending tropical summer weather? If I’m asked to describe mine, I would say the same words to describe my ideal paradise. Why? There is no place on Earth like the alluring paradise of Hawaii. The fresh, floral air is energizing. The warm, tranquil waters refresh you. The breathtaking, natural beauty renews you. Its islands offer distinct experiences that will entice any traveler. Hawaii is warmly inviting everyone to explore its islands and discover your ideal travel experience.
Honestly, I don’t know how to start narrating my Hawaiian experience as I am bombarded by my senses to describe everything I had there. But one by one, I know I’ll be able to narrate all of the wonderful and unique travel experience in full blast. I can say it was an ultimate travel experience. I experienced the best of Hawaii. From natural sights, historical trip, city tours, cultural experience up to cuisine exploration, I sample what every visitor of the islands must have in Hawaii!
So in the last week of August, I have commenced my longing to visit Hawaii. Weeks before I have already indulging and browsing in Wikitravel and gohawaii.com to see the places to visit there. It just made me more excited to experience Hawaii. The flight was a 10-hour trip. The plane leaves Manila at 1545H and arrives at 0715H the same day. The point of entry is its capital Honolulu. I this trip I am with my mom and sister. (Philippines Airlines flies 3x a week and Hawaiian Airlines flies 4x a week direct to Honolulu)
The early morning arrival is suited time for travelers. You’ll easily appreciate the tropical and sunny weather of Hawaii. It is also perfect for those who want to savor right away their itinerary in visiting the places of the island. I find it a perfect fitting welcome when the aircraft blocks on the gate, I saw from my window the airport’s tower with emblazoned red colored greeting – Aloha.
Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States of America. Situated nearly at the center of the north Pacific Ocean, Hawaii marks the northeast corner of Polynesia. While it was once a major hub for the whaling, sugar and pineapple industries, it is now economically dependent on tourism and the U.S. military. Hawaii is an archipelago of over nineteen distinct volcanic islands located over a geological "hot spot" in the Central Pacific. There are eight major islands, six of which are open to tourism - Hawaii (Big Island), Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai. (http://wikitravel.org/en/Hawaii)
Oahu is the most populous and developed island. It is the third largest of the islands of Hawaii (the Big Island and Maui are both larger), and the most popular tourist destination in Hawaii. It is the governmental and commercial center of the state. Its southern shore is home to the city of Honolulu; four out of every five Hawaii residents call it home. 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. Rainforests and hiking trails are located just minutes from Waikiki Beach, one of the world's best tourist destinations. In the winter, large waves on Oahu's north shore turn the normally sleepy area into the surfing capital of the world. As the location of Honolulu, the state capital, and as home to over 85% of the state's population, the island is appropriately nicknamed "The Gathering Place." (http://wikitravel.org/en/Oahu)
Honolulu is the capital and largest city of the state of Hawaii. It is the center of government, transportation, and commerce for the state; home to a population of nearly one million people in the metro area (80% of the state's population) and Hawaii's best known tourist destination, Waikiki Beach. The majority of visitors to Hawaii enter through this city, meaning this is definitely not the place to go for a "get-away-from-it-all" Hawaiian vacation - It is as fast-paced and dynamic as any city, with all its problems such as heavy traffic, drugs, crime, and homelessness. But Honolulu still has the charm of the Islands' laid-back atmosphere and culture. In the Hawaiian language, Honolulu means "sheltered bay" or "place of shelter". (http://wikitravel.org/en/Honolulu)
Images from paradise: Palm Trees in Waikiki as sign of being in the paradise (top), Sailing is popular in Waikiki (middle) and the world's famous beach - Waikiki Beach (bottom).
Honestly, we have done nothing in our first day. When we arrived in the hotel, I immediately proceeded to the terrace to see the beautiful view from our hotel. It is a city view that can be seen from the terrace. I can see numerous skyscrapers of the city and from a distance, hotels of Waikiki and mountains. Later, I feel so sleepy at that day and not tired. I looked at my watched and it is midnight in Manila local time. As much as I want to explore the nearby places right away, I rest to have my bio body clock adjust to the different time of Hawaii. It is 18 hours behind Philippines. But before I retire my first day, I did not fail to catch the stunning Hawaiian sunset among the skyscrapers of the city.
8 am the following day we immediately went out to discover the world famous and perhaps the best beach in the world - Waikiki Beach! Our hotel is just one-street across this world famous beach. I say its approximately 40 steps from the hotel. There were early beach goers already. It is really best to appreciate the fresh ocean breeze in the morning while it is less crowded in the beach. There are public sitting benches facing the beach for viewing. On the opposite side of the beach is the Kalakaua Avenue – the ultimate commercial strip of Waikiki where numerous hotels, restaurants, shops, public amenities and boutiques are located.
Waikiki is a district of the city of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Waikiki is the area of Honolulu bounded by the Ala Wai Canal to the north and east, the Diamond Head crater to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. One of the best known beaches in the world, Waikiki was the favorite playground of Hawaiian royalty in the 19th century. The name means “spouting fresh water” in the Hawaiian language, for springs and streams that fed wetlands that once separated Waikīkī from the interior. (http://wikitravel.org/en/Honolulu/Waikiki).
The beach of Waikiki that we explored that day was near Kuhio Beach Park. There is a sheltered swimming area, making it a popular beach for family outings especially those who are bringing kids. The waters here are good for swimming especially in the sheltered area. It is also shallow enough for families to enjoy the beach. But beyond the area are huge waves suited for surfing. The water is so clear that you can see the fishes swimming with you too!
The number of crowds is growing later. It happened that today is Duke's Ocean Fest in Waikiki. It is a variety of sports competitions and events that pay tribute to Duke Kahanamoku, one of Hawai'i's greatest athletes. A statue of Duke Kahanamoku is located inside Kuhio Beach Park in Waikiki. It is a known landmark in Waikiki where numerous tourist were having their photos taken with the statue. That also includes us! About Duke Kahanamoku - Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890-1968). Although a descendant of Hawaiian royalty, Duke is a given name, not a title. He is known as the "Father of international surfing" and was Hawai'i's Ambassador of Aloha. He is one of Hawaii's greatest athletes and a 5-time Olympic medalist in swimming.
Our next stop is International Market Place Waikiki, just right next to our hotel grounds. The International Market Place is a home to over 130 shops and carts. The place is in open-air setting located in the heart of Waikiki and a must-see-and-do for visitors looking for special gift or souvenir in Hawaii. We snap a photo by a cascading waterfall under a century-old banyan tree. International food eateries are also located inside the market place serving Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, and Mexican dishes. Shoppers should be cautious in buying goods and souvenirs from one shop to another as some shops especially the carts offers cheaper prices but same quality of products.
In the afternoon we went on a city tour of Honolulu via an open-air trolley. Trolley Tours on Oahu is widespread. Actually it is the most common and preferred transportation of tourists in visiting the places of Oahu as the open-air and wide views gives a great view of the sights around the city. Japanese tourists favored it heavily and surprisingly the most numbered nationality touring Hawaii. They are everywhere which led to believe that this must be their second country. (Or Hawaii is just the nearest holiday spot that the Japanese enjoy) As we go on our city tour, we saw the skyscraper sights of downtown Honolulu. I also see the financial center and business district of Honolulu.
In downtown, we mainly visited Aloha Tower Marketplace, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex. It also houses attractions like Honolulu Harbor and Aloha Tower. There is a viewing area in the second floor of the marketplace where you can see an expansive view of Honolulu Harbor as well as the ships docked in the piers. We went next to Aloha Tower which is just beside the marketplace. The Aloha Tower is a lighthouse that is considered one of the most important landmarks in Hawaii. Opened on September 11, 1926, the Aloha Tower is located at Pier 9 of Honolulu Harbor. The public is welcome to take the elevator to the tower's observation decks. It’s free but unfortunately we came late and it is already close.
Continuing our exploration of Honolulu Harbor, we dropped by Hawaii Maritime Museum (which was closed at that time for renovation) and sees Falls of Clyde docked at Pier 7. Falls of Clyde is the last surviving iron-hulled, four-masted full rigged ship, and the only remaining sail-driven oil tanker. It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1989. It has been open for public before a ship museum but currently closes for its restoration. Pier 7 is also the pick-up point of Atlantis Submarine tours.
Night scenes in Waikiki
All of our tours were just all-our-own itinerary and not from travel professional packages. I select the places we visit base from the information I saw in Wikitravel and gohawaii.com. The tour brochures from the airport and street sides of Waikiki were very helpful. All tips, how-to-get there information and maps that visitors needed in Hawaii and about its places were all detailed in those tour brochures. It was proven helpful and handy in all the places I visited in Hawaii. We returned to hotel exhausted from sightseeing and visiting shops around Waikiki. The whole day was a full blast of Waikiki experience and Hawaii’s best. This is just the start of “Aloha” to Hawaii’s paradise.
Aloha to Hawaii's Paradise is a series of my travel stories to Honolulu, Hawaii trip last August 24-29. Please also do read the other parts.