This island is deceivingly big. At only 30 miles long, and 112 miles around, you’d think a week would be more than long enough to discover and explore each corner – wrong. I’m already realising that when we fly out next week, I’ll be writing a list of things to do next time.
Hawaii is undoubtedly one of the most tropical destinations I’ve had the pleasure of visiting; it’s hot, legit. What’s crazy about this place is the micro-climates – drive 10 miles north and you’ll find yourself perspiring in the closest humidity I’ve ever experienced. Down in Makaha, where we’re staying, the sun blazes – it’s dry, sandy. Over to the east coast of the island, it’s a mix of the two – sunny, humid, cloudy.
We’ve spent the past few days exploring outside of the local area – Oahu is home to Honolulu, the state capital of Hawaii. It’s a beautiful city – very clean, easy-going. We ventured to the Aloha Stadium for the weekly “swap meet” – a huge market set up in a ring surrounding the arena, independent sellers pushing all kinds of goods. From clothing to surfboards to ukuleles, you could literally find anything here. We buy coffee grown on the island, on the side of a volcano; we try the exotic abiu fruit, which tastes like caramel. We laugh at signs declaring, “We don’t skinny dip, we chunky dunk”.
Walking along the beach front in Waikiki, the diversity is almost unbelievable – don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful, white sandy beach. But the people, oh the people; hundreds, nay THOUSANDS of them, towels criss-crossing the shore, umbrellas akimbo, children screaming, sun tan lotion spraying, music booming, waves crashing… Anarchy, I say, anarchy.
I’m exaggerating – it’s just that after staying on our deserted paradise to the west, I couldn’t hack being so close to so many people. The ocean is full of people – I don’t know how anyone surfs or body-boards without crushing someone else, but they do it. The children here are the incredible ones – the native Hawaiians, kids of 7, 8, 9 years old with absolutely no fear, facing the ominous waves head on. Fearless. It would have been fun to grow up by the ocean, I imagine.
We spent a lot of time people-watching here – there is a lot of homeless, in stark contrast to the rich and famous who make this part of Honolulu their holiday/honeymoon/wedding destination of choice. Huge, glamorous high-rise hotels line the beach front; Sheratons, Hiltons, Marriotts. Luxury shopping is available at every turn – from Gucci to Louis Vuitton.
This is not the spot for such a humble (aka, broke) traveller, such as I.
Regardless, it was great to see the city – the parks are beautiful, all manicured lawns, towering banyan trees reaching their tentacles to the ground, searching for vital sources of life.
To end the day, we drove up to the Nuuanu Pali lookout. By the time we got up there it was raining; still about 30 degrees, but a fine mist was showering over us. We read about how King Kamehameha had used this point to state his claim over the island of Oahu – he’d backed his enemy into a corner, so to speak, then driven them off the cliff using sheer force.
The North Shore of Oahu is a world-renowned surfing spot. We drove up to check it out in blazing sunshine – every day here begins the same, ie, paradisiacal. We spent the day perusing the many food trucks dotted around; it became instantly apparent that this end is the “foodie” end of the island. Mexican food, Thai food, hot dogs, sandwiches; I was gutted that we’d eaten breakfast – for the Boy and I, this is, quite simply put, heaven. We chowed down on garlic prawns (he, not I), and tried a hot dog from the “as-seen-on-tv” Hula Dog truck. It came in a purple bun… But tasted damn good.
Sunset beach is the most famous beach up here – home to many a surfing competition and known to see monster waves, it’s quite the site to see. Surfing is something I’ve never tried but am desperate to, scary as it looks. The waves were only small, we didn’t get to see any monsters; the qualifiers for the Vans Triple Crown surfing competition were taking place, but no waves = lots of very disgruntled, disappointed surfers sulking on the beach.
Driving around we saw many sights: La’ie Point, with it’s incredible rocky structures – volcanic activity put it there, the ocean slowly wears it down, turning sharp points into soft, porous stones. The set of Jurassic park, with towering canopies and giant leaves dappling the sunlight on the ground.
We visited the Byodo-In temple; the temple itself is an almost-exact replica of its counterpart in Japan, set into beautiful grounds – there are no headstones in the cemetery, only humble stones set into the ground. Each grave is marked with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We rang the sacred bell, marveled at the thousands of koi in the moat surrounding the temple.
I don’t follow a religion, but if I did it would probably be Buddhism – there is such a sense of peace about it. And I’d probably be a Buddhist here, in Hawaii.
I caved. I bought another GoPro.
$400 later and it’s worth every penny – once you GoPro, you’ll never go back.