Above and Below the Sea in Honolulu
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Our Adventures Above and Below the Sea on Oahu
We arrived in Honolulu under the darkness of night. Our Captain wanted to beat a storm and strong winds nipping at our stern. We awoke to sunshine overlooking Honolulu, a relatively large urban city with dozens of tall, glass skyscrapers jutting up from the harbor. I love Hawaii – it is my happy place- but we haven’t spent much time on Oahu and are not used to navigating such a big city in Hawaii.
Exploring Oahu above the sea:
A short cab ride took us to the rental car facility at the airport, where we picked up a small SUV for our planned exploration of the island. We planned to explore the island’s eastern coast on our way up to the Turtle Bay Golf Resort on the north shore. We headed out of the city on H3 towards the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail near Waimanalo. The ride through Waimanalo along the coastline revealed stunning aqua-blue water with views of giant rock islands offshore. The wind was gusting to 40 mph at times, which churned up the angry waves. A few bays were protected enough for a dozen surfers to try their skills in the rough, angry waves. Few stayed upright for more than a few seconds. We arrived at the parking lot for the lighthouse trail and took a few more pictures. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to hike the trail, which is too bad as I am sure the views would have been incredible. However, we needed to be on the north shore by noon for our tee time; we had about 2 hours of drive left along the coast to get to Turtle Bay, so off we went.
Spectacular Coastal Drive above the sea on Oahu:
The drive up Route 63 coastal road meandered through small towns, past beautiful bays along towering lush green mountain cliffs on our left. These cliffs rose at a 90-degree angle from the pastures next to us, with their tops often enshrouded in misty clouds. Bob and I had never seen such steep, lush mountain cliffs before. At different points along the way, we could see that these mountains sprawled into large green canyons. We passed the Kualoa Ranch with dozens of horses running around in their fenced pasture. We curved around the coastline through Kaaawa up to Punaluu, Laiea, and finally, from Hauula to Kaela Bay to the Turtle Bay Resort. All along the way, the views of the coast were spectacular, with their emerald and blue-green water dotted with reefs, offshore rocks, or pristine beaches. Much of the road was faced by modest homes, shopping centers, and lush green pastures and parks. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning with that view. I also didn’t want to imagine how scary it would be to face down a hurricane or strong storm along the road.
Playing golf in a Gale at Turtle Bay Resort
We arrived at Turtle Bay with enough time to check in, have a quick lunch, which was good, and drive to the practice facility, a few miles out along the beach road. The wind was still blowing with strong gusts, so we dug deep to find our wind golf skills honed while living in Oklahoma and Kansas years earlier. After 10 minutes of warm-up, the starter told us we were up next. Nearby hills and coastal trees and brush partially sheltered the first holes. The course was well designed, with lots of bunkers, crossing streams, and strategically placed water. Each hole presented a different experience with lush fairways and relatively large greens. Neither Bob nor I had our A game on, but we had fun and just enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and had fun being out in the fresh air on dry land.
The best part of the course was the last three holes, which wandered up towards the north shore beaches. Here, the waves crashed the shore with a thundering, unorganized rhythm, with their tops blown off by the wind, sending salty spray into the air. Our golf game wasn’t that great, but the golf experience was exceptional, and we highly recommend this course to any interested readers.
Heading Back for the Day:
We turned on “The Google” in the car to take us back. We had dinner reservations at Roy’s in Waikiki Beach. We were surprised that Google routed us back the way we had arrived but realized there must have been a car accident on the central H2 highway. We arrive at Roy’s early to find the restaurant packed. The wind was howling through the streets. We headed to the outdoor bar for a glass of wine while waiting for our table and were accosted by the wind. It felt worse at this tiny corner bar than on the golf course.
Dinner at Roy’s
We ordered our favorite Asian ribs and spring rolls, followed by our short ribs for Bob and scallops for me. They were all delicious, but the restaurant was a zoo, filled to capacity by loud, laughing tourists, which took away from the experience. We returned to our ship after sharing the infamous Roy’s molten chocolate soufflé and ice cream.
Luckily, we found gated parking right next to the ship at the cruise terminal, which would make getting out in the morning easy.
Exploring Oahu Below the Sea:
Our second day in Honolulu was short, with a 2 pm departure time, but I found Trident Adventures in one of my diving magazines. They offered an early two-tank dive, promising to return to the dock by 11 a.m. Fortunately, I found two diving buddies aboard the ship, so Allison, Roger, and I headed out at 6:30 am to a part of the harbor only a mile away to find our dive boat. With some backtracking at the harbor, we found the dive boat and quickly loaded our gear after being greeted by our very friendly dive master, Charlene. Only five of us were diving that morning, which made it nice, giving us lots of room to spread out on the boat. We immediately started to get our gear ready as the boat headed out after the mandatory boat safety briefing.
As we headed out into the ocean, the large, sloppy swells that brought our ship in were still there, making it uncomfortable for those prone to being seasick. Luckily, it was a short ride to our first dive, which was the wreck Sea Tiger, which had been a Japanese freighter that was scuttled a few decades earlier. It was 110 ft to the sand, and we descended the bow mooring line to the superstructure. The visibility was probably about 40’, and the current wasn’t too bad. There was a lot of life on and around the boat, starting with white tip sharks sleeping in the sand below, moray eel, and the stars of the show, two giant turtles, which came to check us out. We circled the ship and checked out the superstructure before our short time was up, and we had to start our way up to the surface, doing both a deep decompression stop at 50’ and then another at 15’. We were back on board with the minimum air in our tanks and excitedly talked about the turtles, sharks, and eels.
Dive Two was a 50’ reef located closer to the harbor, which made it a little less rough but still had us rolling a lot. During our dive briefing, the dive master said they had seen a larger Manta Ray the day before, and she hoped it was still there. The Horseshoe Reef was precisely how it sounds, with two intersecting horseshoes. Here, we found the reef to be almost totally brown with not a lot of sea life. The reef was separated by a white sandy bottom. I was pretty disappointed, being spoiled by the dive in Cozumel, until the beautiful and graceful Manta slowly glided around and past us. Wow, that was cool – I never tire of seeing these fantastic creatures. (for more information on Mantas in Hawaii, check out this post from July 2022 – Kona, Hawaii). After another 10 minutes, our dive time was up, and we all headed to the surface, excitedly talking about the manta and comparing pictures.
Visiting Oahu above and below the sea:
Bob and I chose to escape Honolulu to get out and see what Oahu offers both above and below the sea. We found beautiful coastal areas, lush golf courses, and awe-inspiring sea life, including giant sea turtles and Manta Rays. It was a fun and inspiring two days, although our golf scores could have been better. 😉
Cruise excursions in Honolulu
Honolulu Highlights & Pearl Harbor
Panoramic sights and delve into World War II history — Meet your guide at the pier and embark on a scenic drive through Honolulu’s Downtown area and Chinatown district. Witness the magnificent City Hall and the Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil, and pass by Kawaiahao Church, the Hawaii State Capitol, the governor’s mansion, and the homes of early missionaries. After your drive, you will stop at Pearl Harbor, where you will learn about the fateful attack that took almost 2,500 lives. At the Visitor Center, stroll the exhibits that document the events before the surprise attack and its aftermath, including displays of personal memorabilia, dramatic photographs, and artifacts.
Bishop Museum Duration: 4.00 Hours
Extensive Collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian Artifacts — Founded in 1889, the Bishop Museum is the largest of its kind
in Hawaii. Its mission is to preserve the natural and cultural history of the islands and Polynesia through its expansive collection of more than 25 million historical, cultural, and natural artifacts. Upon arrival at the museum, follow your guide on a tour of the vast array of exhibits on display, including artwork, taxonomy, and more. Gain insight into Hawaiian culture and indigenous plant life and peruse the approximately 50,000 volumes spanning culture, anthropology, and more in the museum library. At the end of your tour, enjoy free time to explore more at your leisure before boarding your motor coach and returning to your ship.
Diamond Head Hike Duration: 3.50 Hours
Trek to the Top of Iconic Hawaiian Landmark — Created during a massive eruption approximately 300,000 years ago, Diamond Head is Hawaii’s most iconic landmark, renowned for its striking coastal views. You will transfer from your ship to the trailhead, where you will receive a short briefing from your knowledgeable local guide before starting off on your hike to the summit. Though less than a mile away, your picturesque route will ascend more than 500 feet, traversing a concrete walkway, volcanic cemented switchbacks, and stairs. Once you reach the summit, stop to gaze out over sweeping views of the coast, from Koko Head to Wai’anae and former military installations. After time to recharge, you will begin your descent along the same route, returning to the trailhead and then your ship.
Above and Below the Sea on Oahu – Exploring the history, geography, and culture
Oahu, the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, is a captivating blend of history, geography, and culture. Its rich tapestry is woven with stories of ancient Polynesians, European explorers, and the merging of diverse cultures over centuries. From its stunning landscapes and iconic landmarks to the vibrant traditions of its people, Oahu stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of Hawaii.
Oahu, often called “The Gathering Place,” is located in the central part of the Hawaiian archipelago. It is situated between the islands of Kauai and Maui is known for its diverse landscapes. The island spans approximately 597 square miles and is characterized by volcanic origins, resulting in dramatic mountains, lush valleys, and a varied coastline.
Oahu’s most prominent features are the Waianae Range to the west and the Ko’olau Range to the east. These mountain ranges, formed by volcanic activity, define the island’s topography. The lush Ko’olau Mountains are known for their jagged peaks and verdant valleys, while the Waianae Mountains offer a contrasting, more arid landscape.
Oahu’s coastline is adorned with picturesque beaches, including the famous Waikiki Beach, renowned for its golden sands and crystal-clear waters. The North Shore, on the other hand, is a world-famous destination for surfers, drawing enthusiasts from around the globe with its towering waves.
Oahu’s history begins with the arrival of the Polynesians, who navigated vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean using only the stars, winds, and ocean currents. The first settlers arrived on the Hawaiian Islands around 1500 years ago, establishing a society deeply connected to the land and sea.
These early Hawaiians cultivated taro, sweet potatoes, and yams in the fertile valleys while also developing sophisticated fishing techniques. The island’s ancient religious practices and social structures revolved around a deep reverence for nature and the spiritual significance of specific locations.
European Exploration and Contact:
The late 18th century they marked the arrival of European explorers in the Hawaiian Islands. British explorer Captain James Cook landed on Kauai in 1778 and later visited Oahu in 1779. Cook’s interactions with the native Hawaiians, marked by cultural misunderstandings and conflicts, ultimately led to his death in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island.
Following Cook’s explorations, Oahu became a strategic port for European and American ships traveling across the Pacific. The island’s natural harbor at Honolulu became a focal point for trade and interaction between the Hawaiians and foreigners.
Unification of the Hawaiian Islands:
Oahu played a significant role in the unification of the Hawaiian Islands under the rule of King Kamehameha I. Born on the Big Island, Kamehameha sought to unite the islands and establish a centralized monarchy. In 1795, he successfully invaded Oahu, solidifying his control over the entire archipelago.
Under Kamehameha’s rule, Oahu became a political and economic center. Honolulu, on the island’s southern coast, became the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii and a hub for trade and commerce.
Colonial Influence and Annexation:
In the 19th century, Oahu experienced increased contact with Western powers, particularly the United States. Missionaries established a presence on the island, influencing the local culture and introducing Christianity. As the sugar industry flourished, Oahu became a focal point for American business interests.
In 1893, a group of American and European businessmen, with support from the U.S. military, overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in a coup. This led to the annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1898, a controversial event that significantly altered the course of Oahu’s history.
Language and Hula:
The Hawaiian language, although endangered, remains an integral part of Oahu’s cultural heritage. Efforts to revitalize and preserve the language have gained momentum, with schools and cultural programs contributing to its resurgence.
Hula, a traditional dance form, is special in Hawaiian culture. It serves as a medium for storytelling, expressing emotions, and honoring the islands’ natural beauty. Oahu’s cultural events often feature captivating hula performances that showcase the island’s rich heritage.
Music and Dance of Oahu:
Oahu is a hub of Hawaiian music and dance, reflecting traditional and contemporary influences. The ukulele and slack-key guitar are signature instruments, producing melodies that capture the essence of island life. Visitors and locals alike are drawn to the enchanting sounds of Hawaiian music, often accompanied by graceful hula dancers.
Hawaiian cuisine is a fusion of diverse influences, incorporating traditional Polynesian ingredients with those introduced by European, Asian, and American cultures. Staples like poi (taro paste), Lomi-Lomi salmon, and kalua pig reflect the island’s indigenous roots, while dishes like loco moco (rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy) showcase the multicultural influences that shape Oahu’s culinary landscape.
Festivals and Celebrations:
Oahu hosts a myriad of cultural festivals and celebrations throughout the year. One of the most significant is the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, held in Hilo on the Big Island but with a strong representation from Oahu. This event celebrates Hawaiian art and hula, drawing participants and spectators across the islands and beyond.
Landmarks and Attractions:
One of Oahu’s most iconic landmarks is Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone near Waikiki. Hiking to the summit offers panoramic views of the island and the Pacific Ocean. Originally named Laeahi by early Hawaiians, the crater was renamed by Western explorers who mistook calcite crystals on its slopes for diamonds.
Pearl Harbor, a natural harbor on the southern coast of Oahu, is synonymous with a pivotal moment in world history. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, led the United States to enter World War II. Today, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial stands as a tribute to those who lost their lives and as a reminder of the historical significance of the event.
With its golden sands and iconic silhouette of Diamond Head in the background, Waikiki Beach is a world-famous destination. The beach is not only a sunbather’s paradise but also a bustling hub of activity with shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.
The North Shore of Oahu is a surfer’s haven known for its colossal waves during the winter months. Surf competitions, including the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, draw enthusiasts and professionals worldwide. The laid-back atmosphere of the North Shore starkly contrasts the vibrant energy of Waikiki.
Polynesian Cultural Center:
Located in Laie, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a living museum that showcases the diverse cultures of Polynesia. Visitors can explore traditional villages, watch cultural performances, and learn about the customs and traditions of Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, and Fiji.
Oahu, with its dynamic blend of history,