When imagining Hawaii I always envisioned sandy beaches, lush palm trees and beautiful flowers. Blame it on years of watching Magnum PI and Hawaii 5-0. While it is true that Hawaii has all of these things, that was certainly not what I experienced when first arriving in Oahu for our 25th wedding anniversary.
In planning for this dream vacation I knew that Oahu was the most industrialized island and that Honolulu was it’s major city but I still was not prepared for the 8 lane highway that would lead us to Waikiki Beach. As we were turned down Kalakaua Avenue toward our hotel I felt like I was on the strip in Las Vegas, not in a tropical paradise. There were literally thousands of tourists walking up and down the street shopping at the upscale department stores and shops that line the busy road.
But when we pulled into our final destination, the Moana Surfrider Hotel, and the valet greeted us with the Lei welcome I had been waiting for I knew that I was home. Located directly on the beach with a view of Diamond Head that can’t be beat, the Moana is the oldest hotel in Waikiki. That was one of the things that drew me to this hotel. I wanted to experience vintage Hawaii but of course wanted all of the luxuries of a 4 star hotel and this place has it all!
The lobby features a beautiful wooden staircase and you get your first glimpse of it’s famous banyon tree in the courtyard. The ocean is just beyond that courtyard, but it would have to wait until we checked into our room. The hotel staff was amazing as we made our way to our home away from home. Of course the most important part was the ocean view and as we stepped onto our balcony for the first time it was breathtaking! Despite the hustle and bustle of the beach below you there is a peace that comes from listening to the waves, smelling the ocean air and feeling the warm breeze upon your face.
Maybe it was this sense of relaxation, or maybe it was the lack of sleep the night before, but the first thing we decided to do is take an afternoon nap. We are so old!!! Intending to take a short nap and then get something to eat and start exploring we were very surprised to wake up MANY hours later at 4:30 am! While disappointed that we had slept away our first day in Oahu, sometimes I think things happen for a reason and waking up this early allowed to us see our first Hawaiian sunrise.
Sitting on the lanai of our hotel, we had a perfect view of the surfers out trying to catch some early morning waves as we ate. It truly felt like heaven on earth! I wish there was a way to describe the calm and relaxation we felt, but there really are no words, it has to be experienced.
We decided to spend the rest of the day exploring Waikiki Beach so after putting on our bathing suits, the official wardrobe of Hawaii, we set off to explore. We walked in the sand along the beach, stopping from time to time to take a picture.
We literally walked for miles, ending up at the marina where we got to see fishing boats, that although my hubby didn’t know it yet, would also be part of our Oahu adventure. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
That night we decided to eat at Duke’s. A true Hawaiian icon, it also just happened to be right next to our hotel. Afterward we went to the banyon courtyard of our hotel to listen to live music and we got to see our first Hula dancer. Elegance and beauty. That’s the best way I know how to describe her as she swayed to the music. Perfect way to end our evening.
In talking to friends who had been to Oahu one of the places we knew we had to visit was the Dole Plantation. So we set off in our rented Jeep toward Wahiawa. On the way, though, we decided to stop at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. I LOVE to shop so this was right up my alley, and my husband tagged along without too much complaint. There are countless stands set up selling “authentic” Hawaiian goods. However, on closer inspection a lot of the merchandise are actually made in the Philippines. Although disappointed, I did manage to find some true Hawaiian items to bring home and shopping is always a good time in my book so we continued on our journey.
Another stop you should never visit Oahu without seeing is Pearl Harbor. My husband’s grandfather is a WWII veteran so this place was especially important for us to experience. I learned so much on the tour of the USS Arizona Memorial. I had no idea that it was directly over the what remains of the ship which now serves as the permanent resting place for many US military officers who lost their lives that fateful day. It was very somber and with daily visitors of the loved ones of those who have fallen it truly makes you thankful of the sacrifice of those who protect our wonderful country.
As we continued on our journey to the Dole Plantation it started to rain and we worried that it might ruin our plans for the day. Although we found that is does rain frequently in Oahu, it is unlike the deluge of water that we experience in the Ozarks, but is a most often just a nice little sprinkle that refreshes and washes everything clean. After arriving at the plantation the sun came out as the “Pineapple Express” took us on a tour of the facility that now serves as a major tourist attraction. There is a gift shop, large garden maze and of course lots of pineapple!
After filling our bellies with the world famous Dole Pineapple Whip we returned to our hotel and decided to explore more of Waikiki. That night we walked along Kalakaua Avenue, that during the day is a busy tourist hot spot, but at night turns into a beautiful oasis. The palm trees lining the walkways are lit with fairy lights, giving it an almost magical appearance.
Looking back on our time in Oahu it’s hard for me to imagine all that we experienced in just the first few days of our Hawaiian anniversary trip. Because although we had seen and done so much we never felt rushed or busy. We just felt excited to experience more of what Hawaii had to offer as we continued to collect (Hawaiian) memories as we went along.