Six or so years ago, the Sailor promised me that when he made Chief, he would take me to Hawaii to celebrate. Shortly after that he made Chief and moments later I was told I had the big C. Needless to say, any plans, regardless of promise, was forgotten while we dealt with that shit blip. Years passed, the Chief got saltier, my hair fell out, then grew back and we moved to Japan. I never let him forget that he still owed me a some authentic Mai Tai’s on any one of the Hawaiian Islands many beaches.
Lo and behold, shortly after arriving at Yokosuka, the Sailor informed me that in February, the command was sending him to Oahu to take a class for a few weeks and he asked me if I wanted to join him when his class was done, for a little vacation. I mean, did he even need to ask? Because yes, my answer is always YES to traveling anywhere especially a tropical paradise.
I had never been to Waikiki and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I could have done without the traffic and human congestion downtown but, Waikiki is a city so it wasn’t exactly a surprise. But the country side, oh the country side; Lush green jungle covered mountains and valleys with cerulean waters as a back drop to white sandy beaches. Needless to say, those off the beaten path areas were my jam.
My first day there Kyle had class right after he picked me up from the airport. I literally took a coma for the day to try and deal with the jet lag. I literally traveled back in time to experience that same morning again. The next day was Valentines Day but Kyle only had the morning off and had the night portion of class that evening. So we spent the day together and I spent that evening with a delivery pizza in my PJs still working off that jet lag. After that, it was nonstop fun and sightseeing.
We went on base at Pearl Harbor a few times. Twice to sight see and a few other times for grabbing stuff from the base store. The times we visited the base to sign see walked around the Ford Island Loop, took a short boat ride out to see the Pearl Harbor Memorial, went to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and Toured the USS Missouri.
The Ford Island Loop is just over 3 miles and is an easy paved walk with some cool views. Blue dots embedded in the walk way direct you along with frequent informational boards and plaques pointing out memorable things to see at that point and interesting information. The most poignant thing on the walk for me were all the strafing marks from the attack in 1942 still found in the concrete. Here is this beautiful blue bay and palm trees everywhere then suddenly, in the side walk a line of pitting reminding you this beautiful place was once bombed chaos.
The boat ride out by the Memorial takes you by the Battleship Missouri and the Memorial that resides over the wreck of the Arizona. Unfortunately the dock to actually visit the memorial was damaged in a little ship fender bender and was not open for guests so, we couldn’t go through.
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum wasn’t exactly on my top list of places to go. I mean, I didn’t MIND but, that’s the Sailor’s gig. I was pleasantly surprised as how much I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was by far the hangar or planes being restored, some even being worked on as we wandered around. When the Sailor asked which plane was my favorite, I had no hesitation, it was Swamp Ghost. She’s a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress piloted by Captain Frederick ‘Fred’ C. Eaton, Jr, that ditched in a swamp on Papua New Guinea during the WWII. It was a really interesting story which you can get a glimpse of at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum website. You also really should read about the Disney Swamp Ghost Nose Art which helped in my selection of this beauty being my personal fav of the day.
Hangar 79 were the planes on display are kept in have doors at either end. The original blue glass still show the bullet holes from he Japanese attack. Again, another somber reminder of this area’s significance to our history.
We went on the USS Missouri and opted for the fancy guided tour because, you know, ship stuff. I learned a bunch of cool stuff from the very nice guide as well as my own personal salty Sailor.
Our first evening out exploring had us basically just driving around the island looking around taking it in. We ended up on a basically deserted beach at sunset in Makana. We stopped to just enjoy the view for a bit before heading back to the hotel.
The next day we decided on a ride to the North Shore. Along the way we planned to stop at the Pali Lookout. Cold, rain and fog didn’t stop us but, didn’t make for the greatest pictures. Thankfully we went when we did because that evening there was a landslide that closed the main highway down to the point making it inaccessible for the rest of out trip.
If you know Kyle and I then you know we have a love for Disney. Every trip to any of the parks in the US is not complete without Dole Whip. If you don’t know Dole Whip, you are missing out! It’s a creamy delectable pineapple soft serve that Dole invented specifically for Disney to offer. Official Dole Whip can only be found at The Polynesian Resort and Aloha Isle in Adventure Land at Disney World in Florida, at the Tiki Juice Bar in Disneyland in California and at the Dole Plantation. It just so happens that the Dole Plantation is on Oahu on the way to the north shore. Needless to say, we went specifically for that personal favorite icy treat.
When I first saw Disney’s Moana, I, like everyone else loved Heihei the empty headed chicken. I just assumed that he was a creative liberty taken by the animators and story creators to include the trademark silly/adorable/laugh getting animal that every Disney animated film has. And that’s true BUT, there is fact behind that feathery knucklehead. These guys are literally EVERYWHERE on the island and I loved them. I couldn’t help but yell out, “BABY CHICKENS!” every time we drove or walked past a fluffy little brood peeping along in the sandy grass.
The North Shore is known for surfing. The Banzai Pipeline or just, Pipeline is notorious for huge waves which break in the shallows just above a jagged, vast reef, forming large, hollow, thick curls of water. If you have seen a movie with surfing, where the surfer rides through a tube of water as the wave bends and curls over as it breaks, that’s what the water is like at Sunset Beach Park. Many people have died or been seriously injured at Pipeline and it’s been called one of the world’s deadliest waves. We were content to just sit and enjoy the view listening to the crash, than be in it.
There are lots of cool hikes around Oahu. One was within walking distance of our hotel. Diamond Head is a slightly rugged hike up an extinct volcano. Some of it is paved, some not and some consisted of concrete stairs through a tunnel. It was a crowded, hot, sweaty workout that resulted in some beautiful panoramic views of Waikiki.
After the day of hiking in the sun, we treated ourselves to a quick walk and swim at Waikiki Beach at sunset. It was the closest beach to our hotel but, also a really crowded one being that it’s right along the shore of the city. At dinner time though, many people and their families trickle back to their rooms and condos to go to dinner and the beach is bearable and the sunset beautiful.
I have never been snorkeling. Listen, I come from a land locked state in the US so swimming, not my strong suit. My parents weren’t the type that signed me up for lessons either. I vaguely remember being tossed into a pool and hearing “kick your legs,” so, really no surprise I haven’t partaken in a lot of water activities in my life. Pair that with an irrational fear of carnivorous fish and deep water and you have yourself me, an awkward, fear filled swimmer. I want to change that a little. I mean, I’ll never be the one at the pool gracefully swimming laps but, the though I just floating on the surface looking down at cool coral and colorful fish, yeah, I can try that. Knowing my level of experience (none) Kyle suggested Hanauma Bay, a beautiful protected marine life conservation area and underwater park where there is little to no waves and guaranteed fish in the reef. The first time we went, the wave break was so uncommonly bad that sand was churning to where you couldn’t see even a few inches below the surface which explained why it wasn’t as crowded as we expected. We opted to hike the ridge that day rather than battle the churning waters. But, Kyle had bought me a mask, a snorkel and even got me some fancy flippers, I was going to try my hand at floating above some fish dang it so, a few days later we went back. It was a beautiful day; sunny with just a few wispy white clouds for occasional reprieve from the sun. I won’t lie, I struggled with panic the first few times I tried to lay face down in the water. Kyle patiently waited floating around me popping up to look at me and make sure I wasn’t freaking out. Eventually though, my internal screaming silenced and my tensed body begging me to run to shore, eased and let me tell you, it began to be fun and the views, awesome. Needless to say, I loved it. So many fish so brightly colored and anemones blooming like flowers on the reef. My shoulders ached the next day from all the breast stroking and wiggling over and around coral without touching it for fear of hurting a single thing. It was a shame that SOMEONE (cough ** Kyle** cough, cough) forgot to bring the GoPro with the waterproof case with him or I could have shared some sweet underwater pics. He promises next time he won’t forget.
Oahu has been the setting for scenes in several major motion pictures. One of the most famous, Jurassic Park. That scene were the dinosaurs are “flocking this way” and Alan Grant with Tim and Lex almost get trampled by a stampede of Dinos? You know, this one:
It was filmed on Oahu. The Sailor being a huge Jurassic Park fan (me too but not as big as that guy) wanted to see it. Turns out there is a nature preserve called the Kualoa Ranch where you can do just that… for a price. A very hefty price we learned when we arrived. They had horseback tours, ATV tours, zip lining, boat tours, small dune-buggy like off-road vehicles they called Raptor tours or the easy peasy open sided bus tour. All for hundreds of dollars each. While we both did contemplate forking over the cash, ultimately we felt that the amount of money could go a lot farther elsewhere, especially since it was raining and muddy mess that day. Instead we opted to just drive back out to the public roads and look around the outskirts of the valley. Luckily on one of the drives (because we came back that direction a couple of times) the skies cleared up and we happened upon the back side of the reserve and were treated to a pretty spectacular view into the valley with the ocean merrily crashing behind uson the shore across the street we parked on.
As we continued our drive that day we ended up just up the road about 30 minutes at Pounders Beach where we practically had the place tp ourselves other than the few body surfers and boogie boarders. So we sat in the sand and enjoyed it for a while.
Another day, another hike. This day was Makapuu Lighthouse. I had hoped to spot one or two humpback whales while we were in Hawaii and the Sailor told me this would be the place most likely. And he was right. It was a pretty walk up a paved trail along the cliff edge with regular look outs for breaks and whale watching. I stopped at every single one and danced with glee at every breach I was lucky enough to witness. We both tried our hardest to catch one in picture or video and the Sailor was mildly successful but it’s hard as they were a distance out. Even without the performances by the giant mammals of the sea, the views were beautiful.
All of our previous hikes on Oahu had been practice, appetizers to the main course, to get me feeling confident that I could conquer Koko Crater trail. It’s an abandoned railway-turned-trail to the peak of the crater. Reviews said it was difficult and occasionally reviews used the word “grueling”. The Sailor assured me that I could do it, that we could stop as much as I needed and wanted on the way up. So I agreed. I agreed to 1,043 steps straight up. Below, you will not see any cute smiling pictures of me glowing with joy and sweat because I died half way up and this is my ghost writing this. JK. I didn’t die but, I though I might at the time. 10 out of 10 would do it again for the spectacular views and sense of utter bad ass accomplishment. Shout out to Kyle for having the patience of a saint as I literally stopped every 5-15 steps of so for the last half of the epic climb. Even telling me to stop and sit down if he saw I was trying to just push through red faced and on shaky legs. For also not being embarrassed by me crab walking on the way back down on the part that was suspended off the ground by like 8 feet. We had taken a little detour around that part on the way up for my benefit and I had insisted that I was fine to do it going down. I was wrong. Several steps down I panicked juuuuuust a little and then I couldn’t trust myself to not slip a leg between ties and break a femur by walking down it bipedal. So i sat my ass down and carb walked the rest of the way like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. A tiny ancient Japanese lady breezed by me while I did it and I still have no shame in my crab walking game.
During the week I insisted on trying as many local food spots as possible. Zippy’s for Chili and Korean fried chicken. L&L for Kalua pork and cabbage. Leonard’s for Malasadas. Eggs n’ Things for Loco Moco not to mention food trucks along whatever beach we happened to be driving by. The one thing that I needed in my life, which I frequently told the Sailor throughout the week was some fresh delicious Poke. Now, i knew this was one of the few things that he would NOT be interested in but, I NEEDED it. So I asked (forced) him to take me to Fresh Catch on the way back to the hotel from Koko Head to do just that finally. It was a tiny place with old school glass deli cases that held dozens of types of fresh fish made into every flavor combination of Poke you can image among many other fresh seafood options. To be fair, I picked this place because they also served BBQ and fried chicken for him. It had plain concrete floor and there were a couple wooden picnic tables for those that wanted to stay and eat their purchases. The moment we entered the tiny place I knew I’d be leaving with my Poke and Kyle would be leaving as fast as possible. As we stood in the short line to the register, he leaned over and with a wrinkled nose said, “It smells like fish in here.” So I got my Firecracker Ahi Poke Bowl to go and we left. When we got back to the hotel, the Sailor walked over to McDonalds to get him self some cheeseburgers and I tucked into my coveted ahi tuna tossed with spicy chili, scallions and roe. It was spicy, savory, roe poppingly delicious.
After the day, our last day of vacation, spent conquering Koko, we earned the reward of one final Mai Tai (or two) from the famous Duke’s. The Sailor had surprised me taking me there for dinner the night after Valentine’s Day since we hadn’t gotten to be together the previous night. I didn’t know about Duke’s until we walked up and I did a quick google to find it pretty fancy. Color me impressed. Kyle’s not one for fancy restaurants ever! Apparently he remembers it fondly from his early Navy career and drinking Mai Tais at the bar with the other knuckleheads on his ship when they were in port at Pearl Harbor. I started with a famous Mai Tai per the Sailor’s recommendation for my cocktail and then had a swoon worthy macadamia encrusted sautéed Mahi Mahi. The Sailor ordered something called a Tropical Itch that came with an actual back scratcher in it which he left in while he drank it.
It was only fitting to go back and end our last night there sitting on the back patio listening to the sounds of Waikiki waves while we got tipsy going over all the amazing sights and sounds and food we had crammed into the 12 days we were there.
It was a perfect end to an amazing vacation full of adventures. ❤