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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
It is a very lovely, peaceful setting with beautiful views of Honolulu and Diamond Head.
Beautiful end to a perfect day.