The Hawaiian Islands are volcanic in origin. Each island is made up of at least one primary volcano, although many islands are composites of more than one. The Big Island, for instance, is constructed of 5 major volcanoes: Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Hualalai and Kohala. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on Earth. Kilauea is presently one of the most productive volcanoes on Earth (in terms of how much lava it produces each year). In general, when you move along the island chain from East to West, the volcanoes become older and older. The two primary volcanoes that make up Oahu (where Honolulu is) have not erupted for well over a million years! Along with its geology, Hawaii is a place of legends & natural wonders. Our 50th state, the islands are waiting... come along & discover the magic that is Hawaii!!
The Hawaiian Islands are definitely not the same as they were 17 years ago when I last visited! Progress has found its way to this tropical island paradise. The islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island all offer nonstop service from the mainland. The most frequent service from the mainland however is offered to Honolulu so that is where we will begin our journey.
Flying in to Hawaii has never been easier at the Honolulu International Airport. Located 4 miles northwest of the city, this aiport location offers easy hotel shuttle service to Waikiki, rental car service, and easy inter-island connections to the other Hawaiian Islands. When flying to Hawaii, you need to arrive at the airport early as you cannot check your bags curbside. Also, upon exiting the islands and heading back to the mainland, you and your bags must go through an agricultural inspection.
If you plan on spending more than a day on the Island of Oahu, then your best bet is to plan to rent a car. Most major car rental agencies offer competitive rates. If you really want to see the island in style, then rent a convertable! Just be sure you put plenty of suntan lotion on before you take the top down!!! I rented my car from Alamo - all the major car companies work well.
Accommodations on the island of Oahu are as varied as one can find at any resort location - from the extremely upscale to the hotel not more than a shack near the water! If you want to play tourist and stay in Waikiki, I suggest you choose from the many Outrigger properties. There should be one within your budget (depending on how close you want to be to the ocean). Keep in mind that the closer to the beach, the more expensive the hotel.
My trip to Oahu took me to the north shore where we stayed at the Turtle Bay Hilton Hotel, a magnificent self contained property located on a secluded cove, far enough away from civilization to call it "paradise". They have a golf course, riding stables, their own beach and snorkeling equipment, nice pool facilities, and several fine restaurants - what more could one need? Be sure and check on special room rates at different times of the year - you might be pleasantly surprised! We paid $99 per night and were upgraded to a waterfront lanai suite with its own patio!! I highly recommend the Hilton when staying in Oahu!
Food in the islands is very varied - much like you would find in Southern California. Most island dishes are a mix of Hawaiian, Chinese, and Japanese fare. For instance, even at McDonalds, you can find breakfast consisting of Portuguese sausage and eggs that is served with white rice, which is definitely an island staple.
Whatever your budget is for food, you must try at least one Hawaiian meal while in the islands. If you can, attend a luau where you can sample Hawaiian specialties in an informal and fun setting. The word "luau" is a contemporary expression depicting a traditional Hawaiian feast. Here is where you can find food (typically pork called Kalua Pig) cooked in earthen pit ovens with hot rocks and leaves. Even the ceremony of the removal of the pig from the ground is quite festive.
Other specialties include Laulau; pork and fish, typically cod steamed while wrapped in spinach leaves, Haupia; coconut milk custard, Poi; pounded starch made from cooked taro root. Most Hawaiian meals include Kim Chee - a Korean side dish, Macaroni Salad - which hails from the mainland, and Teriyaki Beef.
Dinner is not complete without a delicious dessert and if you are staying on the north shore then its off to Matsumotos General Store for a flavored ice with homemade ice cream at the bottom. Served in a paper funnel shaped cup, one serving is more than one person can eat! You can sit outside on a bench (or the hood of your car) eating your flavored dessert (so many flavors to choose from, yummy) and watching the world go by. Watch out for those bees though - they like it too!!!
If you don't do anything else when you go to Oahu, you must visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Located in Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial sets above the sunken battleship as a tribute to the American fighting men killed during an attack in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941. The USS Bowfin, a restored WW2 submarine is on exhibition next to the Arizona Memorial ground facility. The national park service runs the exhibit, and admission is free. You see a movie about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent entry by the United States into World War II. After viewing the film, you are shuttled by boat to the memorial. It is a sombering sight, yet a part of history you should not miss.
The Aloha Tower in Waikiki was originally built as beacon to guide ships safely into Honolulu harbor. As recently as the 1960's it remained the tallest building in the city of Honolulu. Today, besides harboring cruise ships, it is now the sight of the Aloha Tower Marketplace. You can find boutique shopping and many restaurants here. It is worth a closer look.
This world renowned landmark bounds Waikiki Beach to the north. Diamond Head, an extinct volcano, it is said to have been the home of Pele, the Fire Goddess. It is quite an impressive sight. Don't miss your picture opportunity especially if you are heading to Hanama Bay.
Hanama Bay is a wonderfully delightful sea cove in Koko Head Park. It's rugged grandeur was originally created by volcanic action 10,000 years ago. Legend says that this volcanic eruption was Pele's last attempt to find a home on Oaho. Here at Hanama Bay you will find swimming, picnicing, and snorkeling. You can even rent your snorkel equipment in the cove. The fish are plentiful here but so are the people. It will be crowded, but quite enjoyable. Be sure and bring some frozen peas - the fish love them!
The Dole Pineapple Gardens are located approximately 40 minutes north of the city on the way to the North Shore. Although there are fields after fields of pineapples covering the Hawaiian Islands, the only thing you will find here are wonderful gardens with various varieties of pineapple plants growing on plants (no they do not grow on trees). It takes 18 months for the pineapple plant to produce its first fruit and pineapples are grown year round to keep up with the demand. At Dole, the facilities do include a large gift shop and picnic areas. Here you can find anything pineapple, including ice cream, fresh pineapple slices, even pineapple salsa, candy, mustard and pasta. There are great souvenirs to take back to the mainland. It makes a wonderful place to take a short break.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is located on the North Shore of Oahu. It's mission statement says it is a unique treasure created to share with the world the cultures, diversity, and spirit of the nations of Polynesia. This outing is an all day event - you can explore the villages and lands of several different polynesian cultures. There are also demonstrations of crafts, fire building, cooking, etc. You can end your day by having dinner, either a buffet meal or a fullfledged luau, following by a spectacular night show with stadium seating. There is a cast of over 100, including fire knife champions, fire walkers, and dancers. The cost of entry, buffet dinner, and show is $47 per person. Entry, luau, and show is $64. Be sure and check out the coupon booklets that are located all over the islands for a discounted price.