A Hawaiian break

Monday 6 to Sunday 12 May

Bruce had always wanted to stop before he got home. A sort of wind down after a long journey. So this time we made a stop in Hawaii. It might have been nice to see some of the other islands but that didn’t make this a true R&R. And Bruce thought staying in Waikiki would make the perfect break.

Of course I didn’t know when I made the booking that the hotel I chose had a decent coffee shop with espressos made from locally grown coffee beans and a brew pub featuring local IPAs. Bruce couldn’t take the grin off his face as the receptionist explained these facilities.

The hotel was pleasant. Certainly not the fanciest in the strip but with a café and a brew pub what more do you want?

We wandered out to get our bearings the first afternoon and ate dinner in the brew pub. It was worthy of another visit.

Honolulu is certainly a holiday makers mecca. We recognised a lot of Australian accents. The first Aussie we met had cruised here on one the boats returning to the northern hemisphere sailing season.

There were also a lot of Japanese tourists, some doing wedding shots, others dressed in matching Hawaiian shirts and dresses.

We took the trolley bus around the Waikiki tourist areas. As it turns out there are a lot of trolley buses and each services a different market eg Japanese tourists, hotel guests from one hotel chain or another etc. We found ourselves waiting nearly an hour for the trolley bus that serviced our hotel, whilst a heap of others passed us.

The main attraction on the trolley bus route is Diamond Head, a volcanic crater just to the east of Waikiki beach.

After a couple of photo opportunities we stopped there, much to Bruce’s reluctance. And we climbed to the edge of the crater, much to Bruce’s reluctance.

It was an easy climb up a gentle slope with lots of switchbacks, some steep stairs and a tunnel which was very dry inside, as it missed much of the rain. The top of the crater is about 300m and the views over Waikiki beach to the west and Koko to the east were stunning. Bruce didn’t complain at all!

There was a regular Hula Dancing show beside the beach most evenings – it was free. People brought chairs and waited hours for the best vantage point, however we seemed to crack a good position behind the seated crowds.

Dinner in the evening brought an interesting experience. We looked at the restaurants next door which were either too pricey at $USD50+ per course or too casual – no we don’t have wine in bottles.

We went the the Cheesecake Factory which was very popular. After a wait we were shown to a table and started our order. A beer for Bruce and a bottle of wine to share. The waiter couldn’t give us two wine glasses whilst Bruce had a glass of beer on the table. He could have glasses of beer and a spirit but not glasses of beer and wine. Some strange Hawaiian regulation. I suppose I could have consumed the whole bottle of wine without an eyebrow being raised.

There are a lot of regulations on the beaches, mostly for people’s comfort. No littering, no alcohol, no smoking, no open fires, no ball games, no horseshoe games, no camping, no repairing of surfboards, no renting of surfboards or other equipment, no shopping carts.

Sadly, the ban on tents and shopping trolleys is to keep the homeless off the beach. It is a common and sad sight to see so many people in all parts of the United States with shopping trolleys – their home on wheels.

We hired a car and toured the island of O’ahu. There isn’t much distance to cover, just over 200km. It is like many other tropical paradises we have visited but on steroids. The peaks are close and high and heavily serrated, providing a stunning backdrop. The beaches vary from full on shore breaks to rocky coves and reef breaks. We followed the well worn anti-clockwise route. At times we found it difficult to get back on the road due to heavy traffic.

The island is divided into two parts – the country and the city. The city is Honolulu and Waikiki. The rest is the country and it is sparsely populated.

We thought we would visit Pearl Harbour and have a look at the National Memorial from the Visitor Centre. Somehow we got ourselves lost trying to cross the bridge to the museum which is on Ford Island. We were very quickly turned around by some bemused marines. Fortunately our Australian accent became useful.

We drove into downtown Honolulu and visited the Iolani Palace, the official royal residence of the Kalãkaus Dynasty from 1874 to 1893 before it was deposed by a provisional government.

Most of our days were spent relaxing, taking little walks and enjoying the warm beach weather.

We took a long walk down to the point of Diamond Head. There are residences there and beyond the point. Some of Honolulu’s most expensive homes sit on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the islands of Moloka’i and Maui in the distance.

Most of Waikiki beach is gentrified, some of it sandy but with artificial reefs to create safe swimming and sea walls to create a promenade. Patches of sand around the Duke’s statue and in front of the Sheraton provide sunbathing opportunities.

The parks behind the shoreline are beautiful with massive Banyan trees and a variety of tropical flowering trees. Colourful birds hang around for morsels of food.

There are 178 hotels with about 27,000 rooms in Waikiki. Accommodation along the Waikiki strip is punctuated by shopping and restaurants. Up market shopping is punctuated by ABC Stores which sell blow-up pool toys, bottled water, Hawaiian shirts and dresses and everything in between. There are 42 of them in this district.

Restaurants are expensive or sell bad food. The local delicacy is loco moco, a beef patty sitting on rice and covered in gravy. I couldn’t bring myself to try it. Açaí bowls are also popular. We made the mistake of ordering them for breakfast, enticed by the granola and fresh fruit. This thin layer sits on top of a bowl full of rich, frozen, sweetened açaí, the berries of the açaí palm from the Amazon forest in Brazil.

Our local café and brew pub became our regular for breakfast and dinner.

We enjoyed the Waikiki Saturday Farmer’s Market, pastries, fresh juice and fresh fruit.

We visited the Ala Moana Shopping Centre – largest open-air shopping centre in the world, with a massive food court. Once again the clientele was a mix of families and very well dressed Asian ladies. Many high-end shops were represented. Bruce found a ‘modest’ Hawaiian shirt and baby SM scored. It’s exciting to start looking at baby clothes.

So this was the end of journey. We had been on the road for just 3 months, explored 10 countries, four of them new to us. We had journeyed through 11 states in the United States, adding to previous journeys. We had experienced -5C to +35C weather and circumvented the world.

We plan to be back in Germany in September to meet baby SM. We will constantly be drawn back there.