Oahu is probably the most internationally well known Hawaiian Island, in that it has the most turbulent and tragic history (Pearl Harbour), it has the most famous beach (Waikiki) and it is the home to several well-known TV shows and movies (Kualoa Ranch). To give Oahu justice, I have divided these up into 3 sections.
Waikiki and North Shore
We stayed in Waikiki, not far from the beach. I can’t say our experience of Island Colony was a pleasant one to begin with as we were sharing with several cockroaches the first night, however the hotel scrambled and the next night we were upgraded to a pest-free boudoir.
Waikiki is part of Honolulu, and Honolulu is used to describe a very large residential area in Oahu, in case you always wondered what the difference was!
Waikiki is expensive – as an example parking is not included in your hotel room price so that’s an extra $25/day to be factored in - and if you want to see the island you really do need a car. Waikiki is touristy, plenty of Japanese and Aussies visiting here in addition to mainland Americans, and you need to drive for at least an hour to find the island paradise seen in the brochures. But there is plenty of hiking and nice beaches outside of the city, especially if you are prepared to sit a little while in traffic – the highways are congested between 7-10am and 3-6pm – but traffic does move, albeit slowly.
We visited the north shore in the hope of seeing the Vans surfing tournament, which was disappointing as there was no wind and even the world-famous Banzai Pipeline was a mere ripple that I would have braved if I had a board handy. The north shore is incredibly pretty and would not have been complete without a pilgrimage to the set of Forgetting Sarah Marshall – the resort of Turtle Bay. It has a decent beach but the interior seemed dated, however it’s a hysterical film to watch, and watch it you should! 231k imdb users cannot be wrong.
Some stills from the film: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The day was not without a small tragedy... As we were driving back I saw a tiny white kitten struggling in the middle of the road – it clearly had been hit although there wasn’t any blood but its back legs weren’t moving. It was desperately trying to make it to the other side of the road but traffic was just driving over the top of it – HOW I don’t know as it was very obvious that a) it was a kitten and b) it had been hit. I stopped the car immediately and (yes, this is me and the crazy shit I do) ran out into traffic to scoop it up. Unfortunately it lasted a few more minutes and died in my arms.
If you want to go “out out” in Waikiki (meaning not just to the local for a quick beer, but to get your proper drinking hat and dancing groove on) there are plenty of places, but avoid Sky Waikiki where a watered down vodka will cost you $15 and is served to you in a plastic cup like you’re a 13 year old who can’t hold your drink. To a seasoned Ibizan and Londoner this was total sacrilege and there are plenty of other laid back places (including one where you can write stuff in neon on the bar, my fave below). There were a few marines out in their full regalia - do Brits do this?! I actually thought they were in Halloween costume or on a stag night because it seems weird to be in uniform and drunk but it is apparently a thing! Cap looked better on me though :D
Sunsets are lovely here, and Waikiki is a good place to go for a sunset beer or a sunset sail! You can see Diamond Head in the background of this picture – unfortunately it was closed for hiking when we were there but apparently it has fantastic views over the city. Also if you ask the cap’n nicelyyou get to wear a Viking hat and steer the boat, resulting (in my case) in a look of sheer delight as this has always been a dream of mine.
It would be amiss to visit Oahu and not visit Pearl Harbour. Interestingly enough we were driving there when the US President Trump was literally flying out of Honolulu Airport – the first time in my life I wished I had a ground to air missile strapped to the car.
There’s a lot of national pride in Oahu – we were there during veterans day and the presence of their military force is felt everywhere – monuments, road signs to various bases and barracks – and within their history. Pearl Harbour, for those that don’t know or haven’t been subjected to Bay’s movie of the same name – was a devastating attack by the Japanese on the US navy boats that were moored up in Pearl Harbour during WWII.
Hundreds died and it was a huge blow to the US Navy and Army at the time. 3 ships were sunk that day, the Arizona among them, approximately 1,000 crew (this number varies depending on which site you look at) left belowdecks in their watery grave where they rest to this day. The attack was early morning, 7 December 1941, and was so unexpected they believe the crew would not known what hit them, most of them being incinerated in the massive fires and explosions that destroyed the ship, hence being left in situ. The few bodies that were retrieved could not be identified.
These brave men may have imagined dying in battle, however I’m sure they would never have come close to thinking that in the future their final resting place would be full of people taking selfies using selfie-sticks (yes, we saw it happen), or that visitors local and foreign, including members of the nation that sent them to their death, would be sombrely tramping around over their heads. It’s both moving and somewhat strange and unsettling. Oil still leaks from the ruined hull, and fish dart around in the crystal clear water. In the bright sunshine of another beautiful Hawaiian day I wondered what it would be like in the dead of night. Whilst the monument is literally all-American (we were buying our tickets at 8am and had to pause and remain silent whilst the national anthem was played, people standing with hand on heart), I think that anyone from a country affected by WWII will be called on to remember all the unnecessary loss of life in that war. TIP: We were there early however this place gets busy and they only give out 1300 free tickets to the memorial a day. Get there before the buses and crowds! It takes 75 mins for the movie and the tour. Parking is free. You can't take in bags so leave them in the boot unless you want to queue/pay in the cloakroom.
If you have ever watched Lost, or Jurassic Park/World, Fifty First Dates, Windtalkers, Kong: Skull Island, then you’ll know Kualoa Ranch. Home to hundreds of film and TV shows (including Tales of the Gold Monkey!!) this piece of paradise is a must-see. The ranch stretches back into a stunning valley, which borders a glittering ocean, and in addition to being the world’s most famous movie set it is also a working a working ranch, with horses, crops and cattle. Whoever set it up has the place running like a machine, and the movie tour we did was informative if not a bit short – if I went back I’d definitely do the ATV tour instead. I'd do all the tours, I bloody loved the place. The ranch was used as a military base in WWII, the largest bunker now being used as a movie museum with props from many of the shows and films (Lost fans will recognise the opening to the bunker as The Tempest station of the Dharma Initiative). I think the photos below convey my sheer delight at being in geek heaven.
If you want to learn more about Kualoa please visit their site: http://www.kualoa.com/