Oahu, known as "The Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian
islands; however, it is home to about two-thirds of the population of the state
of Hawaii. The island is 44 miles long and 30 miles across, with 227 miles
of shoreline. Oahu is a fusion of city and country, Polynesian and
American (and Asian), modern and historical. From urban metropolitan to
small-town charm, from tourists packed Waikiki beach to local favorite sandy
beach on the Windward Coast, from the historic architecture of Iolani Palace to
the timeless memorials of Pearl Harbor, from the lush rainforests and waterfalls
to the scenic views at the top of Diamond Head, you will find all different
varieties at every turn on Oahu.
Getting there ...
We had not had a family vacation during Thanksgiving holiday for a long time
(it was 10 years ago last time...).
Although Linus was not coming home for Thanksgiving from college, we decided to
have a trip to Hawaii, which was our first family vacation without him. We
had an early flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, but our airplane had some
mechanical issue which could not be repaired in time, so we had to unboard/unload
the airplane, changed to a different gate, got updated boarding passes and
boarded another airplane (the new plane had slightly different seating
configuration and less seats), and were finally on the way to Honolulu after one
and a half hours of delay.
First Day (11/25) ...
- Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace, the only official state residence of
royalty in the United States, was the residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s
last two monarchs from 1882 to 1893: King Kalakaua and his sister and
successor, Queen Liliuokalani. Influenced by European architectural styles,
this royal residence included Hawaii’s first electric light system,
flush toilets and intra-house
telephones. In 1893, a provisional U.S. government was established
after opposition forces overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. Hawaii became
the 50th state in 1959, and Iolani Palace was used as the capitol building
Since our flight was delayed, I had to cut down other plans
in Honolulu, and headed to our hotel in Waikiki after visiting Iolani
Palace. Waikiki is Oahu's main hotel and resort area and a vibrant
gathering place for visitors from around the world with world-class
shopping, dining, entertainment, activities and resorts.
Second Day (11/26) ...
- Sunrise at Lanikai Beach
We all got up early and drove to Lanikai
beach (a detour from the main destination, Kualoa Ranch, today). I was
not sure if we could have a decent sunrise since the weather report was
always changing, but we were very lucky to have one of the best dramatic
morning skies. There was another lucky couple who were
getting married and wedding photos on the
- Kualoa Ranch
In 1850, King
Kamehameha III sold approximately 622 acres of land at Kualoa to Dr. Gerritt
P. Judd, who came to Hawaii in 1828 and served as personal advisor to King
Kamehameha III and translated medical journals into the Hawaiian language.
Today the Kualoa Private Nature Reserve, 4,000 acres of sacred lands, is
legendary to ancient Hawaiians and to the Hollywood film industry, and is
also a working cattle ranch and farm, preserved and managed by the sixth
generation kama’aina family.
I booked an ATV Adventure Package which
includes 1-hour ATV tour and two other 90-minute Hawaiian Experience tours
(we chose the popular movie tour and mountain jungle tour). Riding ATV
was a fun experience and we all had a sore right thumb because we had to
press the gas button hard with our right thumbs. Unfortunately, it
started to rain harder and harder after mid point, and we did not have time
to put on our rain ponchos. I could not see much with rain drops over
my glasses; we were totally soaked when we were back to visitor center, and
Iris and I got to buy some new clothes...
The Ka’a’awa Valley, known as Hollywood’s “Hawaii
Backlot”, is where over 50 of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies and TV
shows were filmed, including the infamous Jurassic Park fallen tree, Godzilla's
footprints, Windtalkers battlegrounds, road site from 50 First Dates, house
structure from Mighty Joe Young, and numerous Hawaii Five-0 and LOST areas.
We also stopped at a WWII army bunker, built into the side of the mountain
After buffet lunch, we continued with the Jungle Expedition tour.
However, it started to rain hard again; therefore we had to keep our rain
ponchos on while sitting in the jeep truck, and we could not get off the truck
at any sites or vistas.
- On our way back to Waikiki, we stopped by
Makapuu Lookout and Hanauma Bay.
Since it was raining again, we decided to call it a day (and actually got a
refund for the $1 parking at Hanauma Bay!).
Third Day (11/27) ...
- Doors-off helicopter
I booked a "doors-off" helicopter tour from
Makani Kai Helicopters.
The cool thing about "doors-off" helicopter is, there are no doors! It
is not only good for photography (no window glass), but also good to feel
the thrill of having only air between me and the views (and air blows
hard!). The commercial
advertisement video from Makani Kai is a good introduction for the
helicpoter tour, but I found another
video of the same tour (with the same pilot) that features the
highlights of the ride. We were exceptionally lucky because during our
flight, there was a perfect combination of sunlight and rain for the pilot
to chase down a few shimmering
rainbows for us.
While Iris and I enjoyed the exciting helicopter
ride (8AM), Woanyu was enjoying her relaxed
spa/massage at the hotel....
- Pearl Harbor
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese
Navy launched a surprise military strike against the United States naval
base at Pearl Harbor, and this attack led to the United States' entry to
WWII. Two waves of total 353 Japanese fighter plans, bombers, and
torpedo planes, launched from six aircraft carriers, attacked Pearl Harbor
and US air bases across Oahu, starting at 7:48AM Hawaiian time. Ninety
minutes after it began, the attack was over. In total, 2403 American
died and 1178 were wounded. 18 ships were sunk or run aground,
including 5 battleships. For Japan, it lost 29 planes, 55 airmen and 9
- Battleship Missouri
USS Missouri is the site where World War II
formally ended. Born in the midst of WWII, the battleship USS Missouri
(BB-63) was launched on January 29, 1944, and commissioned on June 11, 1944.
On September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri, representatives
of the Allied and Axis powers met in solemn ceremony to "conclude an
agreement by which peace can be restored", and Japanese Foreign Minister
signed the copies of the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Emperor
and Japanese government.
After completion of Operation Desert Storm in
March 1991, the USS Missouri paused briefly in Hawaii en route home to Long
Beach Naval Station. On December 7, 1991, the Missouri returned to the
historic waters of Pearl Harbor for the 50th anniversary commemoration of
the attack on the Hawaiian Islands. Her final mission complete. On March 31,
1992, the Missouri was decommissioned for the final time; the last active
service battleship in the world.
- USS Arizona Memorial
The USS Arizona Memorial was built over the
sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the
1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941. Today, the USS Arizona
Memorial honors the lives lost on the day of the attack.
- Waikiki Beach
After Pearl Harbor (we had to skip Bowfin submarine
because it had a power shortage in the afternoon), we headed back to Waikiki
and bought some Hawaiian shirt and
Fourth Day (11/28) ...
- Diamond Head
I originally booked a "Shark
Cage Dive" tour from Haleiwa at the north shore. It was supposed
to be the highlight of our trip, but unfortunately, the tour was cancelled
due to high wind alert. Both Iris and I were so disappointed that we
almost cried (just kidding...).
Our back-up plan was to go hiking at the
Diamond Head State Monument (and we also got to sleep a bit longer).
This broad, saucer-shaped crater was formed about 300,000 years ago during a
single, explosive eruption. The trail to the summit of Lē‘ahi was
built in 1908 as part of Oahu's coastal defense system. The 0.8-mile
(one-way) hike to the summit gains 560 feet as it ascends from the crater
floor. The mostly unpaved trail winds over uneven rock, ascends
74 steps, then through a tunnel and up another steep 99 steps. Next, the
trail passes through a small lighted tunnel to a narrow spiral staircase (43
steps) inside a coastal
artillery observation platform built in 1908. From the summit, there are
stunning views of both Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean.
- Waikiki Beach
We finally got wet in the world famous Waikiki Beach.
It was a relax stroll around the beach and shallow water until some
rain mixed with sunshine made
- Queen Emma Summer Palace
Known as Hanaiakamalama in Hawaiian (the
Southern Cross), the Queen Emma Summer Palace served as a summer retreat for
Queen Emma of Hawaii from 1857 to 1885, as well as for her husband King
Kamehameha IV and their son Prince Albert Edward. It's a pleasant
place with some collection of Hawaiian antiquities in exhibition.
- Nuuanu Pali Lookout
The Pali Lookout is the site of the Battle of
Nuuanu, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united
Oahu under his rule. The Pali Lookout is also known for its
strong and howling winds. You’ll understand why the Nuuanu Pali Lookout is
one of Oahu’s best scenic points when you feel the wind push up against you,
hear the winds whistle through the mountains and see the breathtaking views
of Oahu’s lush Windward Coast.
- Manoa Falls
This waterfall is not only the closest falls from
Waikiki, but also one of the most stunning Oahu Waterfalls worth visiting on
the island. The trail tends to be a bit muddy as it rains a lot in
this region. In fact, Manoa Valley receives the most rainfall on Oahu.
When we got to the waterfall, there were a few people climbing down the
cliff through the water.
- Sunset, Dinner, Shopping at Waikiki
It's time to relax and have a
nice Teppanyaki dinner, and then go shopping at the busy Waikiki downtown.
The Last Day (11/29) ...
Going Home ...
||It was the first time to have a family vacation trip
without Linus (while he enjoyed his stay at his friend's home in New
Jersey...). Although we had lots of fun, this trip was definitely
very different from our last Hawaiian
trip (Big Island) 10 years ago: Iris enjoyed shopping more than
playing on the beach; Iris could do more adventurous activities (like
ATV ride) than before; and Iris had to study her SAT in the hotel
at night. When we got to the airport and waited for
boarding, I remembered this picture
from 10 years ago...
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