So, before my sister got married, we would do year end holiday trips with each other. In the year of 2014, I made plans with her to go all the way to Australia! And luckily with the airline routing rules back then, we were allowed one stopover. So what's the only place on the way to Australia that was a great stopover point but Hawaii! We've both been there together before with the entire family, but we had so much stuff that we still needed to see.
However, let me rewind back and tell you about the first time I was in Oahu, which was with my entire family. I believe this was our first ever family trip together as adults. We all told each other that we would not fight or argue on the trip, and that we would all be on our best behavior. Because who wants to have drama or arguments on family trips? And guess what, we didn't have any fights or arguments at all! We actually really enjoyed being a family unit that we kept doing it for years to come. Now, during our first trip to Oahu, I had an entire itinerary planned but forgot to keep the 1,000 Places list in mind. But I did still manage to knock some off the List. One of them was to attend the Polynesian Cultural Center, which was actually pretty awesome. We didn't go as a tour group (which a lot of people end up doing), so we were kind of on our own. But I recommend doing the same and exploring on your own time and convenience, cause it’s not a complicated activity you would need a tour guide for. We attended a Hawaiian song class, learned cultural Polynesian history, and took a basket weaving class. Even though it can be quite touristy, I would definitely recommend this for a family.
Next up was Waikiki Beach, which you can't miss if you are staying in Waikiki like we did. Take some time to just lay on the beach and tan like my sister and I did the last day we were there. The blue water is always at a great temperature and you’ll feel great about swimming in this part of the ocean. But also remember that during certain seasons you’ll need to be aware of avoiding specific marine life (ie. jellyfish season when I was there). And I would suggest going early to snag a spot on the beach because it can get very crowded during peak season. Don’t forget to check out the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, a well-known surfer that made Waikiki into a surf hotspot. And if you’re Instagram-friendly, there are aisles of surfboards nearby the statue that is a great spot for pictures.
Now, fast forward to my 2014 Bro-Sis trip, I was determined to check off as much stuff as we can on the list. Actually, the entire trip was centered around it. And I'll have to give a shout-out thanks to my sister for being so easy going about it! I think she's one of the best travel partners I've had to this day. Alright, so on this particular trip we first started with the Iolani Palace. This may have been the only true cultural tour we experienced on this trip, and it’s always nice to learn new things about a culture. Tours started every 15 minutes it felt like, and the admission for the guided tours were $27 (at the time of writing). However, if you wanted to do your own tour, there is a self-guided tour available.
Since it was such a quick visit of the Palace, we headed off to hike the Diamond Head State Monument. Just a tip when you get there: Try driving more closely to the top because there are like 6-7 parking spots up right by the entrance you can park at. We parked at the very bottom of the mountain, and walked up the paved road to discover those empty spots. So check there first to see if there's a space available before parking on the bottom. Now, once you get to the top, it has amazing views of Oahu! Everyone talks about hiking this mountain and for good reason, it's worth the hike up. But also you're hiking inside an inactive volcano, so the greenery inside it is also lush and beautiful too. Definitely recommend!
And to reward ourselves at the end of the night, we had dinner at Chef Mavro's. How can I put into words how the food is there! I thought the tasting menu we had was very good, and I would recommend it for a special occasion. This restaurant is also slightly away from the scene on Waikiki and off the beaten path. If you don't mind spending $200+ a person, then go for it. But if you're on a budget, then you should try another (less expensive) spot like Alan Wong's. Now, dinner at Alan Wong's is more mainstream and a quicker dining experience than Mavro's. And you can tell because it was quite busy the night we went. And although it wasn't like "Oh My God" memorable, it was still really good. I think on any trip you should have at least one night of fine dining, and I can say in confidence that I would recommend this and Mavro's as one of your options.
Our last full day in Oahu, we decided to go to check out Pearl Harbor, the USS Missouri, and surrounding attractions. I’d suggest going there during off-peak hours because parking can be limited, and you’d also be able to avoid the crowds. Now, with admission to Pearl Harbor comes a self guided audio tour. The facilities itself included several “exhibits”, such as the Pacific Aviation Museum and USS Bowfin. I was not at all impressed with the Pacific Aviation museum and I lost interest in it pretty quickly. But, it’s part of your admission ticket so it’s not like you were losing money on it. The USS Bowfin submarine museum cost extra for admission unfortunately. If you’ve never been on a submarine before, I would recommend paying the fee to enter. It was pretty cool to explore one, and even cooler sitting on the cannon shooters. Another popular attraction on site was the USS Arizona Memorial, which is probably their star attraction. You would first need to get a timed ticket to go on the tour boat, which is the same place you got your audio headset. You then proceed to the theater for a 15 minute video introduction on the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After that, you’re lead to the tour boats that take you to the USS Arizona Memorial. Unfortunately, we couldn't go into the USS Arizona Memorial due to renovations. So instead, we were given a boat ride close to it and to the surrounding battleships. I’ve also heard that you wouldn’t be able to enter the Memorial during high tides, so I would suggest calling ahead to see if they'll allow people in before you head over there once renovations are complete. The only attraction in Pearl Harbor that is not on site with the rest is the USS Missouri. For that battleship, you’ll need to take a transfer bus over there that’s provided for free. The battleship is pretty cool as well, so I think you should go check it out too. It was quite interesting to look over all the separate quarters of the ship and how it was structured to support a crew.
Overall, I love and will always love Hawaii. I mean, who doesn't? I'm already anticipating the day I'll get to go back!