We have had a wonderful year traveling and exploring this beautiful country of ours and we wanted to write one final post in 2014 to wish you a very Happy New Year and thank you for reading our blog this year.
In 2014 we traveled 7,600 miles, visiting seven states including a month in Baja, Mexico and a short visit to Canada.
25 mile long Ross Lake
Mt Hood from the south side skiing lodge
We finally made it to the world famous Yosemite NP
Overlook of Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki Beach hotels
In 2015 our plan is to visit the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park with many places in between! We will be spending two months in New Zealand beginning in February. We also plan to fly to Florida in late fall to visit loved ones.
May you have good health and many blessings in the New Year!
Here is a panoramic video made of the Waikiki and Honolulu area:
cut and paste this link to your browser
In this post we will describe our drives along the north and west sides of Oahu.
The North Shore area of Oahu is made up of beautiful beaches with dramatic mountains towering above the shore. This area is famous for its “pipeline” waves, the massive waves you see at the beginning of the tv show “Hawaii 5-0”. It is a surfers paradise. We saw larger waves than we had seen on other parts of the island, but the massive pipeline waves usually occur during the winter months.
Turtle Beach with no turtles
Watching the world go by
We stopped for lunch at a shrimp truck. While these roadside trucks are usually not our dining choice, our audio tour companion encouraged us to try one. We stopped at one called Romy’s, which was more of a shack than a truck. Bill got the garlic shrimp and he said it was without a doubt the best garlic shrimp he ever had in his life. I think it is going to be very hard for him to find garlic shrimp ever again to match the meal he had at this little shrimp shack. They farm raise the shrimp out back so it is super fresh.
Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp has really GOOD butter & Garlic shrimp!!!
We stopped at Nuuanu Pali State Wayside Overlook which at an elevation of 1200 feet had amazing views of Oahu from a stone terrace on the edge of cliffs. The Hawaiian word “pali” means cliff. This area is of historical importance to the Hawaiian people because on these cliffs in 1795 is where King Kamehameha won a battle that united Oahu under his rule. The battle was fierce and during the battle hundreds of soldiers lost their lives, including some who were forced off the edge of the sheer cliffs.
Impressive view of windward O’ahu from Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside (cliffs) at 1200 feet elevation
A view of Waimea Valley and the northern shoreline from the Puu O Mahuka Heiau on O’ahu
Puu O Mahuka Heiau historical site (religious site or temple) on O’ahu
Another day we drove along the western side of the island. We wondered why there was not an audio tour included for this part of the island and after reading up on the area in our trusty tour book, “Oahu Revealed”, we think we know why. This is considered the poorer side of the island and decades ago the islanders were not friendly to tourists. Years ago tourists were often attacked on this part of the island. We read this has stopped and the area is considered safe, though still a less desirable area. We felt it was safe to drive around and we had no problems. The beaches here are beautiful and much less crowded since tourists do seem to avoid the area. We did see more evidence of homeless camps set up along the beaches, though this too has been discouraged by the police on the island. We read that at one time there was a very large homeless camp on the west shore of the island but all that has been cleared out.
We noticed this part of the island seemed drier and less lush than other parts of the island. Bill took some pictures showing the difference in the mountain landscapes. We enjoyed our drive through this area of Oahu even though we really did not see anything to do except for the beautiful beaches. Other than several fast food restaurants we didn’t even see any good places to eat.
It may be hard to see the color difference but the foreground mountain is brown and the background mountain is green from plenty of water
We loved our month in Hawaii visiting Kauai, Maui, the Big Island, and Oahu. Our favorite island? Hard to say. Probably if you twisted our arm and made us answer, we would say Maui and the Big Island. Kauai is beautiful but small with less choice of restaurants and stores for supplies and the snorkeling was not quite as good. Maui had great snorkeling and beaches and lots of places to eat and shop. It definitely has a resort feel to it. The Big Island has great snorkeling with beautiful weather and plenty of restaurants and stores on the Kona side. The Hilo side is rainy and chilly with a very limited choice of restaurants near Volcanoes National Park, but how often do you get to see an active volcano??
Oahu is very busy with freeway traffic, noise and tons of people, restaurants and shopping opportunities. On our way to the airport to fly back to San Diego we stopped in Honolulu and took some pictures of Christmas decorations and the famous statue that also appears in the opening credits of “Hawaii 5-0”. This is one of the places we saw tourists snapping pictures. The statue is of King Kamehameha the Great (1756-1819), perhaps Hawaii’s greatest historical figure. There are four statues of the King; this one in downtown Honolulu, on the Big Island at his birthplace, another in Hilo, and in Washington, DC at Statuary Hall.
Mrs. and Mr. Santa in front of city hall
The shaka sign, sometimes known as “hang loose” to convey the “Aloha Spirit”
King Kamehameha the first
Red-Crested Cardinal it was introduced around 1930
One last comment. All of our flights on this trip were on Hawaiian Airlines. We have only good things to say about this airline. The planes were on time and very clean, the flight attendants friendly and helpful, and on both flights to and from Honolulu and San Diego we were given in flight meals with complimentary wine. Not bad for a non first class seat!
Aloha until the next blog posting!
Our last view of Diamond Head from the Honolulu airport
You absolutely cannot visit Oahu without going to see Pearl Harbor. The tickets to see the Arizona Memorial are free but I forgot to order them online and they only give out 2,000 tickets a day at the memorial. We were a little nervous about being sure we could secure tickets while we were on Oahu because when I tried to get two of the 300 tickets available online each day, it said the next available date was a week from when we were due to leave! We arrived early in the morning and we were very pleased when there was no line at the ticket counter. The lady handed me two tickets with no problems with a very short wait for our turn to take the boat over to the USS Arizona memorial. I had read that during busy tourist season the wait could be as much as 3+ hours. We purchased headphones which gave us an audio tour of all the exhibits at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center as well as an audio tour at the USS Arizona memorial.
While waiting for the boat we were taken into an auditorium where we watched a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor. We then boarded a boat for the very short trip over to the memorial. I have no adequate words to describe our time there. How does one possibly write anything that would do justice to such a hallowed spot? The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the sunken hull and honors the 1,177 crewmen who died. The memorial was dedicated in 1962 and the hull is a tomb for over 900 sailors who died inside.
Display of what the USS Arizona looks like underwater
No smiles, just deep emotions here
The names of all those who died are on a wall inside the memorial
Some survivors later chose to be buried inside the memorial
Also nearby is the USS Oklahoma honoring 429 sailors who died when the ship capsized, as well as the visible hull of the USS Utah Memorial commemorating its 58 dead.
When we returned from the Memorial we spent some time touring the Visitors Center with the
The ships in red were sank during the attack
aid of the audio tour. The Visitors Center has excellent detailed exhibits on the attack and aftermath. While we were there they were beginning to set up for Dec 7th ceremonies the next day.
After lunch Bill took a tour of the Battleship Missouri Memorial which was docked nearby. The USS Missouri was launched on January 29, 1944, and is the last U.S. battleship ever built. We toured the USS Iowa battleship in a previous blog “October 18, 2014 Huntington Beach, California” both ships are identical but have important but different roles. She is three football fields long and towers over 20 stories tall. Most importantly, after joining the battle of Okinawa, she became the site of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.
We visited Pearl Harbor on December 6, the day before the 73rd anniversary of the attack. We were excited to learn that the next day, December 7th, there would be a Pearl Harbor parade down the main street in Waikiki, a block from where we were staying. We walked down the street from our condo and found a seat on a lava rock wall. The parade was very patriotic, with the grand marshals being four of the survivors of Pearl Harbor. There are only nine remaining survivors of the USS Arizona and approximately 2,000 to 2,500 Pearl Harbor survivors alive today of the approximately 60,000 survivors on the day of the attack. The attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,400 people and sank or damaged 21 vessels and 323 military planes.
In the parade we saw many bands, all playing patriotic music, including bands from Roanoke, Virginia and Sanford, Florida. Bill and I love to watch the TV show “Hawaii 5-0” and we were excited to see in the parade the guy on the show who has the garlic shrimp truck. Since the parade was held at night it was especially hard to get clear pictures of moving people.
Hello, Oahu! The last island on our Hawaiian adventure. We picked up our rental car and headed to Waikiki Beach where we had rented a condo for our seven day stay. We immediately noticed that compared with the other islands there was lots more traffic and people. And we do mean lots! We had a nice view from our balcony on the 17th floor, but it was noisier than the other islands with city noise.
Can you find Bill?
Having onion rings with a pretend flower behind my ear
We spent most of our time exploring the island by car, dividing Oahu into four sections. Like on Kauai, Bill was able to purchase and download to his phone an app that gave us an audio driving tour of the island.
The first day we explored the Waikiki and east side of Oahu. If you love to shop, love beautiful beaches, and don’t mind hordes of people, you will love Waikiki. We were able to walk to eveything from our condo, and it was especially nice to have a wide selection of restaurants to choose from each evening within a short stroll.
Houses are built everywhere
Getting ready for sunset on Waikiki beach with Diamond Head Crater in background
Asian tourists have their own bus
We followed our audio tour as it took us to Diamond Head, the most recognized landmark in Oahu. The actual name of the volcano is Le’ahi. It is believed to have been formed about 300,000 years ago during a single brief eruption. The broad crater covers 350 acres with its width being greater than its height. The southwestern rim is highest because winds were blowing ash in this direction during the eruption. Since the eruption the slopes of the crater have been eroded and weathered by wind, rain, and the pounding sea.
Diamond Head got its nickname because in the late 1700’s, Western explorers and traders visited Le’ahi and mistook the calcite crystals in the rocks on the slope of the crater for diamonds. Imagine their disappointment when they discovered it was not diamonds! Because of its panoramic view, Diamond Head has been used over the years as a site for coastal defense. Most pictures of Waikiki will have Diamond Head in the background.
We stopped at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to do some snorkeling. We had high hopes for this location because it was advertised as the best snorkeling in Oahu. It is the only place during our month in Hawaii where we had to pay to park and snorkel. We were required to watch a short video on protecting the coral and sea life before we were allowed to ride a trolley down to the beach. It was low tide and the coral in that area is very tall, so in some places we had to be very careful not to touch the coral or scrape ourselves. While we saw some fish, the experience was not nearly as good as the wonderful snorkeling we did in Kona on the Big Island.
Hanauma Bay has a big reef to snorkel over
After changing clothes and eating a picnic lunch, we continued driving along the coast and came to the Halona Blowhole. Since it was not high tide the spouting was not magnificent, but we still got a picture.
We stopped by the Puu Ualakaa State Wayside Park which is on a cinder cone with a breathtaking sweeping view of downtown Honolulu and Diamond Head. We reached the park by driving on Tantalus Drive, a narrow winding canopy-covered road that steadily climbed to the park. We were rewarded not only with a great view but also with a lovely rainbow!
Overlook of Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki Beach hotels
Houses are built everywhere
We ended the busy day by visiting The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, otherwise known as the Punchbowl. The cemetery is located in Punchbowl Crater, an extinct volcanic tuff cone that was formed 75,000 to 100,000 years ago. The Hawaiian name is Puowaina which means “Hill of Sacrifice” because the area was first used as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods. In 1948 Congress approved funding to make it a national cemetery as a permanent burial site for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
It is a very lovely, peaceful setting with beautiful views of Honolulu and Diamond Head.
This posting is dedicated to the main reason we traveled to this rainy, cool side of the island, Volcanoes National Park. We were now at an elevation of 4,000 feet and it was very chilly!! Our little cottage in the rain forest had a heater in the living room and an electric blanket on the bed, and we used them both during our four night stay. I never thought we would ever be using an electric blanket in Hawaii!
Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916 and became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The Big Island is the largest and the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, home to the world’s most active volcanoes, and this park is a good example of why and how this is true. The overcast sky is due to increases in gasses called “volcanic smog”, also called “vog”. This vog blows west towards Kona during trade wind weather. The park is 33,000 acres of lava land on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano which you may remember from an earlier blog is the world’s largest mountain by volume and the world’s tallest when measured from the ocean floor.
Mauna Loa is not only 56,000 feet above the ocean floor but also has a large volume
The first day we stopped at the Visitors Center and watched a very informative movie about volcanoes as well as an excellent Ranger talk about the five volcanoes that make up the Big Island. We then drove Crater Rim Drive to the Jagger Museum which had interesting exhibits on Hawaii volcanology and spectacular views of the Kilauea volcano and Halemaumau Crater emitting a steady gas plume. This volcano is responsible for the current threat to small towns near Hilo. Kilauea is a relatively young volcano estimated to be 600,000 years old and first erupted 2,500 years ago. Its present eruption began in 1983 when fountains of lava shot 1,500 feet into the air. Since 1983 it has created 500 acres of new land and destroyed 214 homes, with more homes and businesses currently threatened.
Kilauea Crater leaks lava through its top and side rift zones
Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume at the summit of Kilauea Crater/Volcano
The newest Hawaiian island, already named Loihi, is being created 22 miles offshore from volcanic activity growing on the ocean floor. It will be thousands of years before the new island emerges, so don’t let anyone try to sell you a cheap condo there!
After sunset we drove back to the Halemaumau Crater to see the plumes of gas dramatically lit by the lava below.
Night view of Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume
We drove to the Thurston Lava Tube, a 500 year old massive lava cave. It was an easy walk through the well lighted cave.
Thurston Lava Tube
Thurston Lava Tube
The next day we drove the 38 mile Chain of Craters Road dropping 3,700 feet to the coast where we could see a 2003 lava flow that reached all the way to the ocean. We saw a beautiful sea arch there and found a geocache.
Kilauea Iki Crater created in 1959
Kilauea Iki Crater with Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume in the distance