Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii - Day 9

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USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

What: Historic site
More Info: Parking is free; Admission to USS Arizona Memorial is free on a first come, first serve basis

Pearl Harbor

We reached Pearl Harbor at 8.30am and the earliest available tickets were for 11.15am. Until then, we walked around looking at the pictures and reading placards about the attack on December 7, 1941, which resulted in killing over two thousand people and drove the United States into World War II.

USS Arizona Memorial

At 11.15am, they took us to a theatre and we watched a 15-20min show about the history of the Pearl Harbor attack. It is hard to not shed tears thinking that such a devastation happened in that same place I was standing. Then a 5min boat ride took us to the USS Arizona Memorial, where we stayed for 20min and took the boat back to the shore.   

Inside the memorial

Sunset from Waikiki Beach

Sunset from Waikiki Beach

We got our free Princess Punch drink from the hotel and walked to the Waikiki Beach to see the beautiful sunset. We the strolled through the neighboring streets, enjoying the new year vibe and watching the dazzling new year preparations.

Dinner at Bucca De Beppo


We made dinner reservations at Bucca De Beppo and ordered an appetizer platter and tiramisu. The tiramisu was huge and this was the best that we have ever had so far!

New Year Eve at Waikiki Beach

New Year Eve at Waikiki Beach

We walked to the beach and sat on the shore, among a million of people waiting for the fireworks. The clock struck 12 and boom, the first New Year firework lighted the sky. We gaped at the fireworks for 10minutes, took pictures, walked aimlessly, looking at people going crazy and reached the hotel at 1.00am.

Happy New Year!

New Year Day

We woke up at 8.30ish in the morning, packed our bags, checked out from the hotel, got Kona coffee (second most expensive coffee and one of the best coffees in the world), drove to the airport and reached the Honolulu International Airport 2 hours before the flight departure.

Luckily we had checked in online; there was a long line for those who had not checked in. With an hour stop over at Los Angeles, we reached the San Francisco International Airport very late in the night. Could not believe that this amazing trip was over and it was time to get back to the grind!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii - Day 8

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After a wearisome long day in the Big Island, we woke up pretty late in the morning and drove to the north shore. We stopped again at the Turtle Beach and by a roach coach (Giovanni's white shrimp), where we treated ourselves with a snack-Baja corn.

Giovanni's Roach Coach

Goat Island or Mokuauia Island

What: Scenic, Water sports
More Info: Parking lot in Malaikahana Recreation Area; No parking fee

Goat Island or Mokuauia Island

As we drove along the north east shore, we stopped at the Goat Island, also called the Mokuauia Island. Contrary to its name, there are no goats on this island, but it is a seabird sanctuary. The goat island can be clearly seen from the Malaikahana Recreation Area and is a few yards away from the shore. I believe the tides were low when we visited this place and we noticed a person coolly walk from the shore to the Goat Island. However, high tides do occur and may pose a threat to novice swimmers. The La'ie Point can be evidently seen to the right side of the shore.

La'ie Point

What: Scenic lookout, Legend
More Info: There is a parking space (no parking fee) next to the Laie Point; No restrooms

La'ie Point

The La'ie Point offers breathtaking views of the ocean, Windward coastline and the Ko'olau mountains. The Goat Island can be seen from here. This place has a legend, where Kana (a legendary warrior) killed the Mo’o (giant lizard), smashed its head into five pieces, which are now seen as five islands from the La’ie Point. We spent close to an hour here, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of this place. It is not a place that is safe for diving or swimming.

Cliff at La'ie Point

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Big Island, Hawaii - Day 7

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We had booked the Big Island Volcano Adventure Tour through the Polynesian Culture Tours about a month in advance of our Hawaii Travel. We called them 24 hours before our travel to confirm our pickup from the hotel. The day started by the sound of the alarm go off at 4.00am and the tour bus picked us up from our hotel at 5.00am. We took the Go Mokulele flight at 7.00am and it was a 35min journey to Hilo Airport, Big Island.

Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens

Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens

Our first stop was at the 30 acre Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens, which is named after Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. This beautiful garden was built to honor Japanese immigrants and is popular among locals and tourists.

Banyan Tree Drive

We drove through the historically significant Banyan Tree Drive, where the banyan trees were planted by political leaders, movie actors, local Hawaiians. Each banyan tree has the person’s name and the year that it was planted.

Richardson’s Beach

Richardson's Beach

Our next stop was at Richardson’s Beach, which is a very popular snorkeling destination in Hilo. It is a common sight to see honu (green sea turtles) near the beach shores. It is the closest black sand beach to Hilo. When you take a close look at the sand, you can see green particles that were formed by lava.

Leleiwi Beach

Leleiwi Beach

Adjacent to Richardson’s Beach is Leleiwi Beach, which is also a popular snorkeling destination because of its vast marine life.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

We then stopped at a very picturesque Rainbow Falls, which falls 80feet into a large pool. Behind the waterfalls is a cave that is said to be home of Goddess Hina. A small trail up the waterfall took us to Boiling Pots, where some of the water flows beneath old lava, then suddenly bubbles up. We were told that it resembles a steaming Jacuzzi, but it did not.

Macadamia Nut Factory

Our next stop was at the world famous Macadamia Nut Factory for about 20min. We thought that the nuts would be cheaper to buy them at the factory site because there is no middle man involvement, but we were wrong. We later learned that Costco is selling them at a cheaper price!

Orchid and Anthurium Nursery 

We stopped here for about 30min, the nursery has a huge collection of bonny orchid plants. I did not enjoy this place because I am neither interested in gardening nor am I big fan of flowers.


We stopped at a local café for lunch and then drove to the Jaggar Museum.

Jaggar Museum

View of Kilauea Crater

The observatory at the Jaggar Museum monitors four active Hawaiian volcanoes. The observatory itself is not open to public; but the museum has exhibits on the work done in the observatory (i.e) information about volcanoes, lava, etc. The observatory deck near the museum offers spectacular views of Kīlauea Crater which is emitting an ash-laden fume.

Steam Vents and Steaming Bluffs

Steam Vents (Image from website)

About a mile or so from the Jaggar Museum are the steam vents. Here, underground water seeps through the hot volcanic rocks and returns to the surface as steam. I started sweating after standing next to the steam vents for a few seconds; was like taking a steam bath.

A short walk from the steam vents took us to the steaming bluff, where we caught another breathtaking view of the ashes from the Kīlauea Crater.

Kilauea Visitor Center

View point on Chain of Craters Road

We then drove to the Kilauea Visitor Center and stopped there for 20min. This is a good place to get hiking information and latest information on the current lava conditions. We drove through the Chain of Craters road to see a 2003 lava flow that crossed the road.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Our last stop in the Big Island was at the Thurston Lava Tube, which was discovered in 1913 by a local newspaper publisher. Several hundred years ago, a red lava river rushed through this tube. These lava caves are formed when lava solidifies, forming walls and ceilings. The lava tube was lit by electrical lights and the walk was for about 10-15min.

We drove to the Hilo airport to take the 7pm flight to Honolulu and in 35min we landed in the Oahu airport. The tour bus dropped us back to our hotel. Overall, we were disappointed with the one-day volcanic tour through the Tourist Agents. The reason is, they cover a lot of places in a quick span of time; leaving no time to explore something or hike a volcano.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii - Day 6

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Hanauma Bay Preserve

What: Snorkeling
More Info: Open on all days except Tuesdays. There is a parking lot, which is occupied on a first-come first-serve basis. When the parking lot is full, cars are turned away. $1 (cash only) fee for parking; $7.50/person (cards accepted) admission fee; $7 (cards accepted) to rent a small locker; $5 (cards accepted) to rent snorkeling gear; $5 (cards accepted) to rent a life jacket; $5 (cards accepted) to rent fins. There are restrooms near the parking lot and near the bay and a snack bar near the parking lot.

Hanauma Bay

This is probably one of our favorites!

Once upon a time being a volcanic crater and eventually being flooded by wave erosion, Hanauma Bay today is one of the most beautiful snorkeling destinations in Oahu. We reached Hanauma Bay at 8.45am and the parking lot was 70% full. We heard from a few visitors who were turned away when the parking lot was full by 10.30am. The sooner you arrive, the better.

There is a $1 parking fee (cash only) that we paid just before entering the parking lot. While walking towards the bay, there was a long line to buy the $7.50/person admission fee.  After paying the admission fee, they took us to a theater where they showed a 15min mandatory presentation on how the Hanauma Bay was formed, what kind of marine life exists in the bay and to create awareness to protect the Bay.

After watching the presentation, we walked down to the bay (the parking lot is at an elevation); takes about 5 min to get to the Bay. Near the bay, there is a booth where you can rent a locker, snorkeling gear, life jackets and fins. Please feel free to bring your own snorkeling gears.

As both of us were new to snorkeling, we took some time to get accustomed to breathing through the snorkeling gears. The water is pretty shallow and we were amazed by the colorful marine life that we could see in shallow waters.  The water is so crystal clear that most of the time you would even be able to see the fish with naked eyes, while standing in the Bay.

Crystal clear water in Hanauma Bay

We saw about several varieties of fish and the Fish Identification Card will give you an idea of the rich marine life in the Hanauma Bay.

We had bought our lunch (Buffalo Chicken Sandwich) from Dennys in the morning before we started to the Hanauma Bay. We had a good lunch and jumped back into the waters.

The Hanauma Bay closes at 5pm and the snorkeling gears need to be returned by 4.30pm, else there is an insane fee for every 15min you are delayed. By 4.00pm, we were exhausted; we returned the gears, walked up to the parking lot, captured a few good shots of the bay and drove back to the hotel.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii - Day 5

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Laniakea or Turtle Beach

What: Green sea turtles, Water sports
More Info: There is parking space opposite to the beach

Laniakea or Turtle Beach

Although the Turtle beach is popular for water sports, it is probably more popular for honu. “Honu” means turtle in Hawaiian.

Green sea turtles come ashore to this beach to bask in the sun and to feed on the seaweed growing on the rocks, hence the name. It is said that normally, turtles come to the shore at 2ish in the afternoon and in the evenings.

Hawaiian Sea Turtles

We went to the Turtle beach at 2.30pm and saw 2 turtles basking in the shore; one was 35 year old male and the other was a 25 year old unknown gender. The gender of a turtle can be determined from the length of its tail; males have longer and thicker tails than the females.

There were a couple of volunteers in the beach who used a red rope to mark off a “no-go” zone around the turtles and placed signs to keep visitors informed.

We spent an hour and a half in the beach, relaxing, taking pictures and watching the sea turtles.

Shark’s Cove

What: Snorkeling
More Info: There is parking space and follow the small path near the parking lot to take you to the beach

Shark's Cove

Shark’s Cove is a beautiful reef where a variety of marine life can be seen, including sea turtles and white tipped sharks that are not aggressive.

We did not go snorkeling, so spent a few minutes taking pictures and left to the Sunset Beach.

Sunset Beach

What: Water activities
More Info: There is parking space near the beach.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is one of the longest sand beaches in Oahu, stretching to about two miles. Like several beaches in Oahu, this beach is not safe for novice swimmers, specifically due to extensive coral formations.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii - Day 4

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Sunrise near Diamond Peak Lighthouse



Sunrise in Oahu is simply gorgeous and an undisturbed view can be seen from one of the lookout points near the Diamond Peak lighthouse.

Leonard's Bakery
Leonard's Malasadas
Malasadas at Leonard's Bakery was recommended as a "must-have"; and we bought 4 malasadas (in 4 different flavors) from this bakery. We then understood why this should not be missed in Oahu! The hot malasadas literally melts in the mouth; absolutely yummy. The only thing that stopped us visiting this bakery again was the high fat and sugar content in the malasadas.

Polynesian Cultural Center

What: Polynesian cultural shows, Dinner, HA (Breath of Life) Show
More Info: $8 parking fee (cash only) for the car; No food allowed inside the center; There are a couple of snacks bars inside the center.

Polynesian Cultural Center

We made reservations to the Polynesian Cultural Center Day Pass + Ali’i Lu’au (Royal Feast) Dinner + HA(Breath of Life) show about a couple of weeks before travelling to Hawaii.

The Polynesian Cultural Center occupies 42 acres of land and simulates seven polynesian villages – Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, Marquesas Islands and Aotearoa (present-day New Zealand).


Canoe Parade - Tahiti

Canoe Parade - Hawaii

The center opens at 12 noon and each village organizes shows every one hour until 5pm, with each show lasting for about 20-25min. The 30minutes canoe parade that showcases the signature dances of each Polynesian culture/village was pretty entertaining. This map will help in planning the day at the center.

Ali’I Lu’au Dinner

Ali'i Luau

The Ali’I Lu’au Dinner is from 5pm to 7pm and it is a traditional Polynesian dinner, which includes pork cooked in an imu (an underground oven). The dinner is accompanied by live music and hula dance. The buffet included taro rolls, kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, fish, rice, salads and desserts. The food was horrendous, I would not recommend the Ali’I Lu’au dinner at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

HA (Breath of Life) Show

HA Crew

The HA (Breath of Life) Show is from 7.30pm to 9.00pm with a short 5-10min break in between. Although the performers did an excellent job, the show by itself was so-so. The fire dance in the last 20min was very impressive.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii - Day 3

On the third day, we hiked the Diamond Head and drove along the south east coast, stopping at several lookout places and beaches

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Diamond Head State Monument (Leahi)

What: Iconic state monument with a moderately challenging hike to see a panoramic view of Honolulu
More Info: Park is open from 6am to 6pm; $1/person if you walk-in or $5/car parking fee (cash only). The parking lot is at an elevation of 200 feet and there is limited parking on a first-come, first-serve basis. Get there early, else you will have to park the car about a mile away from the park. There are restrooms and water fountains in the park and we also saw a roach coach selling shaved ice and some snacks.

View of the ocean

Here is the map of the trail that we received, after we purchased the tickets.

The trail to the rim is 1.6 miles roundtrip and took us 45min to climb up to the observation deck and 25min to climb down to the parking lot. The trail is paved for the most part and there are two sets of stairs; one with 74 steps and the other with 99 steps. There is also a 225-foot narrow tunnel. The hike is certainly worth the breathtaking, unparalleled view of the entire west side of the island. The observation deck is at the highest point of the crater.


There is no shade and it can get pretty hot up there. So get there early, at least before 9.00am. We started our hike at 9.00am and were back to the parking lot by 11.00am and spent about half an hour up at the observation deck. Wear your cap; take water bottles and perhaps some snacks.

Although it is said that the hike is moderately challenging, we found it to be a cake walk, perhaps after hiking the 2600feet pitons in St. Lucia in December 2010.

View of the Diamond Head Crater

The 760-foot crater was formed more than 100,000 years ago and was used as a strategic military lookout beginning in the early 1900s. The crater was named Diamond Head by the 19th century British sailors who mistook worthless shiny calcite crystals on the slopes of the crater for diamonds. Ancient Hawaiians originally named the crater as Leahi, which means “brow of the tuna” in Hawaiian.

Today, the Diamond Head is one of Hawaii's most famous landmarks and the most famous crater in the world. It is a popular hiking destination that offers panoramic views of Waikiki and Oahu's south shore. 


Zippy’s is a popular restaurant chain among the locals. It is not a fancy place and their beef stew and won ton noodle soup was decent. Chocolate lovers, please do not miss the Dobash cake here, it literally melts in your mouth.

Lanai Lookout

What: Scenic lookout point; one can see Lanai and Molokai islands on a clear sunny day
More Info: There is a parking lot and there is no fee to park the car.

View towards the parking lot from Lanai lookout

Lanai Lookout is the first scenic lookout point after the Hanauma Bay and is one of my favorite places. Although there were vivid signs that do not recommend going past the rock wall of the parking lot, we saw several people climb over the wall to get a closer view of the ocean. We followed suit, but would not recommend it to anyone because the waves are unpredictable. The day being unusually tempestuous, the sight of the strong ocean waves frothing, crashing upon the rocky shore and spraying water was stunning. 

Lanai Lookout

On a clear day, one can see the Lanai and Molokai islands, hence the name. We sat on the rocks for a long time, simply enjoying the heavenly view.

Halona Blowhole Lookout Point and Halona Beach Cove

What: Blowhole lookout point; Sandy beach lookout point; Whale watching
More Info: There is a parking lot and there is no fee to park the car.

Halona Beach Cove

Halona Blowhole lookout point is a few miles away from the Lanai lookout point. The blowhole is formed by the rock formation that spews water out of the blowhole, looking like a water fountain. Being a marvelous sight, it is a big tourist spot in Hawaii. Never climb down the rocks to go close to the Halona blowhole. It is said that Halona is one of the most dangerous currents in the world and there have been several deaths when people went close to the blowhole. 

During winter (Oct to March), this is a good spot to see humpback whales as they leave the North Pacific, but we did not see the whales. 

This place is also a look out of the gorgeous Sandy beach. 

On the right side of the Halona blowhole lookout point is the Halona Beach Cove. It became popular in the movie “From Here to Eternity,” hence it is also called the “Eternity Beach”. We hiked down the rocks to get there and saw people swimming, snorkeling and fishing in the Eternity beach.

Sandy Beach

What: Popular for water sports
More Info: There is a parking lot and there is no fee to park the car.

Sandy Beach

Although popular for water sports, Sandy beach can be treacherous due to shore breaks. Due to strong waves, the locals also call it the “break neck beach”.

Sandy Beach and Halona Blow Hole to the right

 To the right of the Sandy beach, we saw water spraying out of the Halona blowhole.

Makapu’u Beach Lookout Point

What: Scenic lookout point of Makapu’u beach and Rabbit island (or Manana Island)
More Info: There is a parking lot and there is no fee to park the car.

Makapu'u Beach Lookout

Makapu’u lookout point is a few feet away from the Makapu’u beach park that offers a sweeping view of the Makapu’u beach and the Rabbit Island (or Manana island).

Manana island is off of the Makapu’u beach and you cannot miss seeing this island. The Manana island also became popularly known as the Rabbit island because rabbits were raised in the island until 1994, after which they were removed because they destroyed the native ecosystem of the island. Today, it is a protected sea bird sanctuary and it is illegal to get to the island without permission from the Hawaii Department of Land Natural Resources.

Makapu’u Beach Park 

What: Water sports, Manana or Rabbit island, Makapu’u Light House
More Info: There is a parking lot and there is no fee to park the car.

Makapu'u Beach and Rabbit (Manana) Island

Makapu in Hawaiian means “Bulging Eyes” and it is the projection of land that marks the easternmost tip of Oahu. Similar to Sandy beach, the Makapu’u beach can be dangerous due to shore breaks, making it unfriendly especially to novice swimmers. We could see the Makapu’u light house from the beach. I read that there is a moderately challenging trail to the Makapu’u lighthouse that greets you to the spectacular view of the ocean and Molokai and Lanai islands, but we did not hike because we were dog-tired.
Driving along the south east coast of Oahu reminded us of driving along the CA-1 South.

Marukame Udon

Shrimp & Eggplant Tempura; Inari; Curry Udon

We accidently bumped into this place, though we were not in a mood to eat udon soup for dinner. There was a big line outside the restaurant (yes, on the sidewalk). Luckily, the line was moving pretty quick and in 20min, we were ordering our food at the counter. We shared a large portion of Curry Udon, shrimp tempura, eggplant tempura and inari and simply loved it so much that we came back again another day for dinner. They accept only cash and do not miss this place if you are in Waikiki area.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii - Day 2

On our second day in Oahu, we planned to visit:
  • Nuuanu Pali Lookout
  • Kailua Beach
  • Lanikai Beach
We watched the gorgeous sunset from the Waikiki beach and ended the day with a sumptuous dinner as Assaggio, an Italian restaurant.

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Nuuanu Pali Lookout, Oahu

What: Scenic spot with panoramic views and historical landmark
More Info: $3 parking fee/car (Credits cards accepted)

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

The Pali Lookout is known for its strong and howling winds, so make sure you bring your jacket when you visit this place. We spent about 30minutes in the Pali Lookout. Don’t take your caps or things that might fly away, because they will. Hold on to something or someone while you walk, else the winds will grab you over the cliff (OK, just kidding).

“Pali” means ‘cliff’ in Hawaiian. The Nuuanu Pali Lookout is perched over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline and offers panoramic views of the lush Windward Coast. It overlooks several landmarks such as Kailua, Coconut island, Chinaman’s Hat (a pointy island), Honolulu Botanical Gardens, etc.

The Pali Lookout also has a deep historical significance. It is the site of the fierce battle of Nuuanu, where King Kamehameha I united Oahu under his rule.

Kailua Beach

What: Popular for water sports
More Info: There are restrooms and a parking lot (no fee)

Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach

We did not do any water sports and spent about an hour in the beach, taking pictures and strolling on the rocks near the edge of the beach, where you might be able to get your eyes on tiny crabs on the rocks and schools of fish near the shore.

Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach stretches for half a mile and is popular for its white sand, turquoise water and gentle breeze that makes it ideal for water sports such as boogie boarding, kayaking, parasailing, snorkeling. There are rental kayak shops located conveniently near the beach.

Lanikai Beach

What: One of the best beaches in America and Popular for water sports
More Info: There is no parking lot; as it is nestled between residential housing. We parked the car on a street parallel to the beach and walked to the beach.

Sandmad in Lanikai Beach

I was not planning on getting wet, but the water was so gorgeous that I could not help but jump into the waters. We spent a couple of hours at the beach, treating our eyes with its beauty, taking pictures and playing in the beach.

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is east to Kailau beach; Lanikai and Kailua are sister beaches. Similar to Kailua, Lanikai beach is breathtaking with its turquoise water and perfect for water sports. To the east of Lanikai beach are the Mokulua Islands, commonly known as “Mok” or “Twin Islands”. The Mokulua Islands are a part of the Hawaii Seabird Sanctuary and one needs special permission to get to the islands.

Sunset from Waikiki Beach

Sunset from Waikiki Beach

Sunset in Oahu should not be missed and the Waikiki Beach offers a breathtaking view of the sunset. You may check out the Oahu sunrise and sunset schedule.


Assaggio Ristorante Italiano

We made dinner reservations at Assaggio Italian restaurant. As this restaurant is in one of the malls, you can park the car in the mall parking lot. Their complimentary bread and butter are to die for. We shared a large plate of Shrimp Assagio, which was absolutely palatable. Their chocolate chip cannoli dessert was fair to middling.