4 Fun Things to Do on Oahu
Three years ago, my husband, younger son and I were fortunate to take a trip to Hawaii. My older son, CJ, was stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and was due to deploy to Iraq in October 2008. I had the idea that we should go out to see him “just in case something happens.”
I bought a couple tour books and started doing my research. I figured this would be the only time I made it out there and I wanted to make sure we had a good idea of what was available to us. I scoured the books, made a list of all we wanted to see and do, then started narrowing it down – a tough task.
True to my nature, I had made a day-by-day itinerary. Fortunately for me, the guys made me chill a bit so not every day was planned down to the minute.
We didn’t get to do a fraction of the things we wanted to but here are four we did.
The North Shore
Of course hitting the beaches is the first priority for most people. With the ocean literally within a minute’s walk from our cottage back door, we were able to swim and sunbathe at all hours of the day and enjoyed awesome sunsets in the evening.
If you like to surf (or want to learn), the North Shore is the place to go. It’s famous for its beaches, among them Waimea Bay. This bay was featured in the 1964 movie “Ride the Wild Surf” and has been mentioned in the Beach Boys’ song, “Surfin USA.” It was also one of the filming locations used for the television series “Lost.”
Waimea Bay is also the site of a 25-30 foot rock that people jump from. Technically illegal, it’s ‘jump at your own risk.’ Never comfortable in the water to begin with, naturally I didn’t jump.
Naturally my boys did.
I’m not much of a swimmer (don’t like getting my face in the water) but at the urging of CJ and Sam, I did try snorkeling and loved it! I would definitely do it again if I have the chance.
You can find a map of Oahu with the North Shore beaches here.
Play the tourist
One day when the boys went kayaking, Quincy and I went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We both read James Michener’s book Hawaii ages ago and when I found out about this cultural center, we wanted to check it out (we’re geeky like that!). General admission tickets are about $50 but we were able to buy tickets on base and get a discount.
Polynesia – which means “many islands” – covers a triangular-shaped area of the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii at the northern end, New Zealand in the southwest and Easter Island in the southeast.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a 42-acre living museum that features the people and islands of Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Tonga; as well as a Rapa Nui (Easter Island) exhibit and an1850s-era Christian mission complex.
There was so much fascinating information there, exhibits to see and hands-on activities. If you enjoy anthropology, sociology and history as we do, you’ll love visiting the Center. We only had a few hours to spend there but could easily spend all day.
A visit to Hawaii is not complete without attending a luau. A luau is all about the food and entertainment. At Germaine’s Luau we were served roasted pig (delicious!) and poi (didn’t like) as well as more “traditional” American fare.
The evening’s show began just before sunset with audience participation and comedy shtick. It continued into the evening with a Polynesian Review of Tahitian and Samoan dances as well as the traditional Hawaiian hula.
Hawaii has lots of great places to hike, including a trip to the top of Diamond Head State Park. Ok, technically not a hike in the traditional sense, but a “hike” in the sense it was a bit of a climb.
Diamond Head was formed about 300,000 years ago during a single, explosive eruption that sent ash and fine particles in the air. As these materials settled, they cemented together into a rock called tuff, creating the crater. It got its name when Western traders and explorers mistook calcite crystals in the rock for diamonds. It was once used as a lookout point in the master plan for Oahu’s defense.
Anyone can hike up to the summit – and indeed, many people do it daily – but I opted for us to take a tour with a guide who would share with us how it was formed, the military and geological history behind it, and the fact that most of the vegetation and birds were introduced in the late 1800s to early 1900s. As I said, my husband and I like history, anthropology and sociology and this had it all.
This is a 0.8-mile hike from trailhead to the summit. It starts out at an elevation of 200 and ends at an elevation of 761 feet. The hike is partly on natural tuff surface as well as concrete walkway. Switchbacks, stairs, tunnels and a spiral staircase are all part of the steep climb but the view at the top is worth it.
Stairway to Heaven
Who wouldn’t want to take a hike up a trail with a name like this? The also called the Haiku Stairs, is one of the more popular “forbidden” trails on the island. The narrow stairway has 3,922 steps and climbs 2,120 feet. The stairway was originally built for the U.S. Coast Guard to access the LORAN radio antenna at the top of the mountain. But when the Omega Station ceased operations, the maintenance on the stairs also stopped. The stairs were closed to the public in 1987 but it’s an open secret how to get through the fence to do the climb. In 2003, the stairs were repaired but legal access is still on hold.
My son did climb the Stairway to Heaven as well as this one on Pu Manana, one of the most dangerous hikes on the island.
A day that will live in infamy
No self-respecting Navy family would skip a visit to the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. Located in Pearl Harbor, the two ships bookend America’s fight with Japan during World War II.
The USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated in 1962, was built to straddle the remains of the sunken battleship where 1,177 crewmen died on December 7, 1941. That’s when more than 300 Japanese fighter planes came down from the North Shore between Oahu’s two mountain ranges and bombed Pearl Harbor early on a Sunday morning. The raid lasted from 7:53 a.m. until 9:45 a.m. All told, 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,402 men were killedand 1,282 were wounded.
Nearby is the USS Missouri, which was the site of the Japanese surrender four years later. The Missouri was commissioned on June 11, 1944 and steamed into Pearl Harbor Christmas Eve of that year to join the Pacific Third Fleet. The “Mighty Mo” provided firepower in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. At 9:04 a.m., September 2, 1945.
Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu “By Command and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government,” signed the unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces.
Hawaii was never on my list of “must-see” places. But now that I’ve been there, I definitely want to go back!