My husband, Rick, and I got married in May of last year and decided to wait a few months to take our honeymoon. Rick had the brilliant idea to go to Hawaii. We thought it’d be warm, relaxing, and he’s always wanted to see Pearl Harbor. So we decided to take a break from January in Wisconsin to travel to Oahu.
We didn’t research Oahu all that much before we went. (So unlike me.) We asked people we knew who had gone for suggestions on what to do, and we read a few travel blogs online to get ideas. We knew we wanted to take an island tour, see Pearl Harbor, snorkel, hike, eat sushi and go to a luau. Before we left, we had our hotel, the Hilton Waikiki Beach, booked. We also booked the Grand Circle Island Tour through Roberts Hawaii, but we thought we’d see how that went and play the rest of the vacation by ear.
DAY 1: EXPLORING WAIKIKI
We were still on Wisconsin time the morning after we arrived, so woke up around 4:00 a.m. and decided to explore the Waikiki strip. We saw all kinds of fancy stores, restaurants, hotels, joggers and homeless people on the beach. We bought some sunscreen and a quick breakfast, which we took back to our room to enjoy on the balcony.
We explored more after breakfast and discovered ABC stores, which are small convenience stores. They carry fruit or vegetables cups, salads, sandwiches and a few other food items there. Many of these items were reasonably priced, and we ended up buying these types of things for lunches or snacks throughout the week.
We read on the beach in the morning and got acquainted with the ocean. We went to lunch at Lulu’s, which had a great view of the ocean and the people walking down the strip. Rick and I both had large salads with fish and shrimp. In the evening, we watched a fireworks show on the beach. The view wasn’t perfect, but it was still cool that fireworks are show every Friday night.
DAY 2: GRAND CIRCLE ISLAND TOUR
We woke up Saturday and hopped on our tour bus for the Grand Circle Island Tour, one that Rick’s mom had recommended. We had just started out, and the tour guide was discussing the itinerary for the day. All of a sudden, all the passengers got text alerts of a ballistic missile headed toward Hawaii.
Shoot. We’re going to die on our honeymoon.
The bus driver calmly said, “We’re going to take a little detour, folks. If you don’t already, it might be a good time to get to know Jesus”. We were all confused and a little panicky. The bus driver decided to continue the tour along the coast and wait for further instruction. After about 35 minutes, we all got alerts that the previous alert was a mistake. Big sigh of relief.
After the scare, we stopped at Hanauma Bay and saw the beautiful turquoise curved bay. It is a nature preserve, and a lot of people snorkel there. We decided we’d have to come back later to check it out. Next, we swung by the blowhole, but it wasn’t active. We stopped for a bathroom break and coffee in Waimanalo before making our way up to Nuuana Pali lookout that had nice views of Oahu’s east shore.
Next, we saw the Byodo-In Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple surrounded by a koi pond and serene gardens. Just outside the temple, there was a huge gong set up for tourists to ring. The area was otherwise quiet.
Driving further up the east coast, we stopped at a coffee and macadamia nut shop called Tropical Farms of Hawaii. I’m somewhat new to coffee, but I have to say their Kona sampling was exquisite. There were also about 7 different ways the nuts were prepared, and we sampled all of them: salted, unsalted, caramel, cinnamon, honey, onion and garlic and Kona coffee. I liked the coffee flavored one while Rick fancied cinnamon.
Our next stop was Kualoa Ranch for a quick tour and lunch. They offered tours on horseback and ATVs, but ours was on an open wagon-like bus. The ranch has also been featured in a few movies, so kinda cool.
We saw Chinaman’s hat, which is an island across from the ranch that looks like a rice picker’s hat. People kayak or paddle board to the island from shore, but at low-tide they can actually walk out to the island.
After lunch, we got back on the bus and headed to the North Shore to see the big waves and surfers. The waves were gigantic, and not too many people were brave enough to head out that day. We saw a guy on a ski-doo rescue a surfer that was in over his head.
Next stop was the Dole Pineapple Plantation. Not at all what we had expected. The bus driver let us off by a gift shop filled with pineapple everything. There was big talk of the pineapple ice cream, so Rick and I shared a scoop. It had the flavor of sherbet but the texture of ice cream, something a little different from what we’re used to.
We walked around outside and saw a small garden displaying the different types of pineapples. For some reason I had always thought pineapples grew on trees, but they actually grow up from the ground as shrubs.
The Dole Plantation was the last stop on our way home. Rick wondered whether the tour was worth it. It lasted 9 hours and was $81.50 per person plus tax. I think it was a great way to get the lay of the land and have someone with experience guide us through Oahu. We hit some touristy spots; some good, some not quite as good. But now we can say we’ve been there, and we did enjoy ourselves.
I’d say the day was a hit. But not literally -thank goodness!
DAY 3: DIAMOND HEAD
After an early morning mass, we put on our hiking gear and walked over to Diamond Head, a national monument and formerly active volcano. It was probably a 2 -2.5-mile walk to the entrance from our hotel, and then a 0.8 mile hike up to the top. It only cost us $1 each, and the effortful hike was well worth the views from the summit. We did go through some tunnels and hiked up some steep steps. You definitely have to be able-bodied for this hike And forget about it if you’re claustrophobic. But, yes, the views were terrific. You could see Waikiki Beach and the southeastern shoreline of Oahu.
DAY 4: MANOA FALLS
We took TheBus (the city bus) to Manoa Falls after lunch. The path started out paved, but turned to gravel and then dirt, rocks and tree roots. It was a little muddy and slippery in some spots, but not as bad as what I had read about online. Apparently, some people had died on the trail and others had to be air lifted out for medical attention. We had no trouble, and the waterfall was beautiful. It was blocked off for safety, but we still got a great view. We continued on to a steep trail that was made of more rocks, dirt and tree roots and saw some awesome banyan trees and bamboo.
DAY 5: PEARL HARBOR
Pearl Harbor was Rick’s favorite excursion. They give 1300 first come first serve tickets, and gates open at 7 a.m. We got there around 9 a.m. and there was no line. We picked up our tickets, walked around and waited for our tour to begin. It started with a 23-minute movie that explained some of the details of the attack and events leading up to it. Then we took a boat trip to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was neat to see the wreckage, and you could still see some of the oil coming up from the sunken ship. It was a solemn excursion, but really cool to learn about all the history.
Rick also wanted to take a tour of one of the submarines. It was a $15 ticket, and I wasn’t that interested, so I just walked around while he explored. There were interesting facts to read about the attacks and the people and ships involved mounted on signs in a little park.
After we returned to the hotel to freshen up, we went to the Farmers Market to try some new fruit. We had passion fruit, guava, little bananas, and rambutan. All good, but the little bananas were the best! We also tried a mango jelly-filled donut called masaladas. We decided we would have to go back to the farmers market later in the week to try more.
We were in the mood for sushi, so went to Sensei for dinner and some amazing sunset views. We had an award-winning mango crab salad hand roll, which consisted of ripe mango, blue crab, fresh greens & crunchy peanuts, wrapped in mamenori, with a sweet Thai chili vinaigrette. We tried a few other rolls that were also delicious, and the sunset view was spectacular.
DAY 6: POKE BOWL & LUAU
We spent more time on the beach this day, bought a poke bowl at a stand by the beach along with some spicy grilled shrimp for lunch. The poke bowl consisted of raw ahi tuna, onions and rice. It had a creamy, spicy sauce that tasted like yum-yum sauce. It was a little heavy on the onions and sauce, but I otherwise enjoyed it! Rick wanted to cool off with some shave ice for dessert. I was told it was amazing and different from a snow cone, but it tasted just like Rainbow Snow to me.
Our big event for the day was the Paradise Cove luau. Our tour bus picked us up a couple blocks from our hotel around 3:00 pm. We could not have asked for a better tour guide. Cousin Sexy was hilarious, professional, and took time to get to know a little bit about everyone on the bus.
When we reached the cove, we were handed Mai Tais and leis as soon as we got off the bus. We took a picture with some of the dancers in luau attire and were then shown to our table for the evening. We scoped out the rest of the cove and found some fun activities! We saw colorful parrots, went canoeing, threw a spear and took a hula lesson. During the hula lesson, a man came up behind Rick and tied a grass skirt around his waist. He had been selected and was taken away.
Rick was gone, so I watched a man climb a tree with a bag of flowers tied around his chest. When the man reached the top of the tree, he opened his bag and showered the crowd with the flowers. We then walked over to the shore for a short hula dance and hukilau. Men threw their nets out into the ocean, and Rick and a small team of other men in grass skirts came to the front and did a little dance to call in the fish before pulling in the nets. So much butt-shaking and thrusting.
Next, we headed over to the pig roast. More hula dancing, and the dancers pulled the pig out of the ground where it had been cooking. We then went to a buffet dinner, which consisted of salads, salmon, chicken, kalua pig, poi, rice, pineapple, vegetables and dessert. We were satisfied and impressed by the variety of tastes.
After dinner, we sipped on fruity drinks and watched the hula show. The dancing was AMAZING! They incorporated the different styles and Hawaiian influences into their pieces. The lighting and music were very well done, and the most spectacular part of it all was the fire dancing. It looked so dangerous and cool!
The luau ended around 9:00 p.m., and we headed back to our bus. But that wasn’t the end of the party. Cousin Sexy had us doing the YMCA, Cha Cha slide and lip syncing to Adele all the way home. He gave us a big hug at the end of the night and complimented Rick on his exceptional hukilau performance.
DAY 7: SNORKELING
We booked a Hanauma Bay snorkeling shuttle, and a man in a van picked us up from our hotel in the late morning, took us to Hanauma Bay, gave us snorkel gear and briefly taught us how to use it. We were instructed to watch a quick video about the reef and how to snorkel safely and respectfully. We headed down to the water and put on our gear. It took awhile for me to work up the courage to get all the way in to that cool water, but it was really neat once I got going. There were so many different kinds of fish, and they didn’t seem bothered that we were swimming with them.
When we got back to the hotel, we went to the Farmers Market to get more little bananas and masaladas. The chocolate-filled one was even better than the mango! We went to Duke’s for dinner, which was right on the beach. It had live music and nice views of the ocean as the sun was going down.
DAY 8: FINAL BEACH DAY
After packing up our things and getting ready to go home, we went to lunch at Maui Brewing Co. We both had burgers, mine was veggie, and Rick had a beer. He was really excited about this place! We sat on the third level and looked out over the strip. There was a roof over our heads, but otherwise open air. We spent the rest of the day reading on the beach and exploring until it was time to go to the airport.
I cannot imagine a better honeymoon. It was the perfect mix of relaxing togetherness time and exciting excursions. People were so nice and friendly. We ate some good food and were well entertained. The weather was beautiful, mostly sunny and in the 70s and 80s. We’d definitely like to go back some day, and we’d like to see what the other islands have to offer!