A new paradise…

Not all of my trips have been while I was working.  I have been afforded a lifestyle through work to set my own schedule and fulfill some of the dreams that I have.  In my quest to see all 50 states, I knew I couldn’t just sit around and wait for an assignment in Hawai’i.  So, I decided to just plan out a vacation there with another travel friend of mine.  We planned it a full year ahead of time, not knowing where either of us would be working when the time came to get on the airplane.  I figured that if everything else was planned, getting the ticket to and fro wouldn’t  be much of an issue.  As it turned out, it wasn’t.

We went at the end of January 2014 for a week.  I had just finished an assignment in New Jersey and she was in the middle of a contract in South Dakota.  So, we met up at our hotel in Honolulu.  I stopped in Baker City, OR on my way out there to break up the incredibly long flight of Maine to Hawai’i.  I didn’t realize it, but even from California (I left from San Francisco) it is still about a 5 hour flight to Honolulu.

We spent 3 days on Oahu and 4 days on Maui.  We seemed to find some way to torture ourselves every day with somewhere early we had to be.  The first morning we were there, we took a tour that went to the Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona exhibit.  I would highly recommend a tour because tickets are free and it is a first come, first serve type thing.  The gates open at 7am and we were in line at 6:30.  The tickets we ended up getting to go out on the memorial were for 8:30.  The website says they are busy all year-long and there is always the chance that you might not get a ticket for the day you want if you don’t show up early.

The area has lots of exhibits and small museums to explore while you’re waiting for your time slot out to the memorial.  Once you are in line to board one of the tenders, there is a film to see and then you go out.  They allow you 15 minutes on the memorial and it is quite moving.  The park rangers are there to answers questions and you can also speak to the Navy personel.  One of the most interesting facts that I found was that survivors of the Pearl Harbor attacks have the option of being buried on the ship they were on at the time.  There is a ceremony on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, when anyone who has passed and wishes to be placed on the ship is taken care of.  It is a huge honor to be the diver that puts the urn into the ship.  The following is fact found on the National Park Service website: “The majority of the USS Arizona’s crew went down with the ship; however, 337 crew members survived. Today, interments for deceased USS Arizona survivors are conducted on the ship. Over 25 interments have been conducted on the USS Arizona.”  This is also true of the USS Utah.  That ship is not nearly as accessible at the Arizona, but the option is still there.  A memorial for the USS Oklahoma is also on display near the USS Missouri; where the Japanese surrendered to conclude World War II.  We were able to take a tour and wander all over that ship.  She has a lot of historical significance in that she saw the end of WWII, fought in Korea and Operation Desert Storm and was the last battleship built.  The USS Arizona lies very close to her bow.  It is hard not to be awed by such historical significance as you can see the exact spot where the Japanese surrendered or where a kamikaze plane crashed into the ship and dented it.

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The next day was another day long tour.  It was of Oahu and again, it started pretty early.  We were able to see Hanauma Bay, (which can be tricky to gain access to if you’re not with a tour) the North Shore including Pipe Line, the Dole Plantation, Kualoa Ranch, (which is good for shopping and has MANY spots including in films) Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, Halona Blowhole and many other picturesque spots on the island.  The photos that I have do not do justice to most of the island and I was surprised at the amount of rain that we ran into.  Winter in Hawai’i is a very rainy season, so don’t go there expecting a whole lot of sunshine.  Once on Maui we had the perfect Hawai’ian day.

The next day we set off for Maui after spending some time on Waikiki Beach and taking pictures of Diamond Head.  It was a short 30-minute flight to Maui, we got our Mustang convertible and headed to the hotel.  (Both hotels we stayed at were wonderful.)  We had dinner that night at the hotel and saw pods of whales swimming by and also saw a big downpour while we sipped our tropical drinks.

Over the next few days, we explored the island, went snorkeling with Hawai’ian green sea turtles, snorkelling in Molokini Crater, watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen that followed a beautiful rainbow.  We took a tour of the Road to Hana-I thought about driving it myself, but am SO glad that I chose not to.  I would have missed so much of the island and the road can be very intimidating.  We also took part in Luau and had a wonderful time.  The food was great and I really enjoyed being able to try native foods.  The dancing was mesmerizing.

I will say this for Hawai’i-I don’t think you could run out of things to do and see very quickly.  If I had unlimited funds (don’t let anyone tell you that it is not expensive to go there) and unlimited time, I could easily fill a couple of months and not see any repeats.  I had plans of sitting on a beach and just soaking up sun, but all the activities beckon so much that they can’t be ignored.

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