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.
|Diamond Head souvenir shot.|
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.
|Halona Blowhole viewing area.|
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 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.
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.
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.
|Bromeliads blooms at the DOLE's Pineapple Garden.|
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)
|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.|
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.