The name Hawaii is sure to send shivers of excitement down anyone's spine as it has been known for decades (centuries, even) as one of the most coveted travel destinations and with the silhouettes of swaying leaves from the tall coconut trees and the picture of feet buried in the sand or deckchairs with a drink in bikini clad women's hands, the place is just synonymous and one step away from the paradise on earth.
An earlier civilization and later coined as part of the huge continent of the United States of America, Hawaii has maintained much of her nativity and secrets in the many islands of the Hawaiian family.
Polynesian culture, taboos, food, and lifestyle are all that defines the Hawaiian neighborhood, and they are guarded with such sacred sanctity that it is respectable and honorable, to see such a close community amidst the strong waves of development and modernization.
I count my blessing to be able to enjoy the first phase of my new marriage as we celebrate our honeymoon on the well-known and all time romantic destination; gracing the beautiful moments of being called husband and wife as we take our strolls down the beach during sunset and enjoying the cultural dances and performances in the villages.
While Hawaii is made up of many islands, my first stop was at O'ahu, which is home to the capital city of Hawaii; Honolulu. If you hail from the city like myself, you will enjoy O'ahu to bits, as there is almost everything under the skies of this popular and well-developed island.
City life is not uncommon here, and while it is not hustling bustling like New York or any other megapolitan cities around the world, Honolulu is nothing short of the daily brisk and modern living you witness every day in your own city back home.
Most of the actions are in downtown Honolulu; where most of the city skyscrapers are lined by the mega corporations establishing their offices in this booming yet charming city made popular by the countless calls of tourism every year. While you may think you have left the sights of traffic jams back at home, you may be surprised by the peak hour traffic in Honolulu throughout your day.
Shopping malls, premier outlets, arcades, towns, museums, harbors are all part of the city's offerings and there is no short of attractions to keep the city lovers within the district itself. It is the island's way of saying that "We have more to offer than just sun, sand and surf" and I can definitely attest to that as I enjoyed the whole island as a package; the beach lovers' paradise while keeping in touch with my city genes at the same time.
There is no worry if you have left anything at home, especially if you are staying right smack in the middle of the city as convenience stores are everywhere and some of the stores are even open until 10pm, or some are even 24 hours. The city doesn't seem to really sleep, or perhaps, not that early, as there are always people enjoying the walks on the streets in the cities and I am one of them, especially with the lovely cool wind from their early winter season blowing their kisses on my cheeks).
If you are tired of the city, take a drive or road trip to the northern part of the island to enjoy the breathtaking views of sky-high waves, or even try your luck at whale watching (usually recommended during the winter season as the whales are migrating in schools). Enjoy the many activities for the beach lover in you; from surfing the high waves to swimming in the freezing cold water under the warmth of the sun, or snorkelling to enjoy the protected corals at the famous Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park.
Be warned, however, for the waves can be dangerous at times and it is best to maintain a certain distance from the shores especially along the coasts of those notoriously known for their rough waves.
Northern O'ahu shores are where you can watch these scary waves, which makes one shudder at the sight of the overpowering white rage rolling in large movements, one after another.
There is almost something for everyone; and the list of things to do is just endless -
~ Enjoy ogling and getting acquainted with the friendly sea creatures at the huge Sea Life Park
~ Get adventurous and revel in the famous movie locations at the homey Kualoa Ranch: here, here, and here
~ Enjoy walks at the Diamond Head, or the less touristy parks or crater parks such as this
~ Take in the various angles of O'ahu island at all these lookout points; or you may have chanced upon more while driving along the coast. Check out this, this and this
~ Take a tour around the city to understand the brief history of Hawaii or O'ahu herself through the various musuems such as this and the memorials in the famous Iolani Palace and the King Kamehameha I statue
~ For a 360 degrees view of the city, Aloha Tower Marketplace is your best bet
~ Cultural insights can be experienced at the local Chinatown (found in almost every country in the world), and the famous replica from Japan built here amidst the backdrop of the towering mountains of O'ahu
Polynesian culture lends its exotic touch to making up the unique part of Hawaii, and understanding the culture is essential to enjoying what the Hawaiian islands have to offer. It is interesting to take in the cultural sharing through the shows, live performances, meals and the tours offered on site to see for ourselves the way of living, beliefs and the beauty of the nativity of these unique population, still inhabiting most of the precious parts on the map.
O'ahu has the answer to it all, through their large Polynesian Cultural Center, set to mark that part in your memory and knowledge bank about the exotic and enviable lifestyle which has attracted many to their islands for years.
From culture to history to sands and sea, and breathtaking views, and also the hustle and bustle of the city, there is no end to O'ahu's offerings and time and a passion for enjoyment is all you need while keeping an open mind on this mystical island.
Be mindful and respect the local taboos and lifestyle practised by the locals here, and you will find that you will be enlightened along the way.
Food is never a problem here, as being part of the United States continent means food is just in abundance and is a haven for travellers who have no idea on what to eat, as one might just be spoilt for choices with the varieties available here. From burgers and fries to meatballs and sauce, there are even noodles and stir fries from the East to please every palate in the world.
Be even prepared or be surprised by the large food trucks by the sides of the road; particularly popular along the coastal lines and they serve good and filling meals at affordable prices.
You will be also mindblown and surprised with the exotic tastes of the wild fruits and local tastes here; as I did when we were introduced to this unique fruit which was a cross breed of a cherry and a berry, or a citrus fruit. The taste took me by surprise, yet it left that lingering taste on my mind till this very day.
(Normally I won't take something which is unusual to me, but hey, an open mind during travel really did wonders for me!)
I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and I look forward to returning again, definitely, as there is so much to look forward to and the Hawaiian hospitality was nothing short of warm as I have met and shared banters with many who were just so generous with their versions of the tales and taboos of Hawaiians and also the local attractions; particularly those off-the-beaten-paths.
While O'ahu may be associated with all the fun under the sun, this is also the site which holds one of America's most tragic and darkest history in the world war, in Pearl Harbor. Pay your respects to the courageous soldiers and you will find that you walk away, not feeling the same after learning of the sentiments and setting foot on one of the most historical and memorable places in the world.
From the mystical and sacred secrets guarded by the volcanic mountains to the beckoning sea and waterfronts, I could not stop singing my praises for this island and it is no wonder its allure still continues to woo visitors from all part around the world to the wonders of the island which has it all; surrounded by the beautiful waters and under the lovely sun, and the beachfront city.
O'ahu is not a mirage, but it is also just like any other neighborhood we know, peaceful and serene. Of course, while this may be a tourists' and lovers' paradise, that does not mean safety should take a backseat as is always better to take precaution wherever we are - be it home or on the road.
Walk by the beach at sunrise/sunset, shop at the marketplaces or the local farmers market, or the streets, and if you are a major shopaholic, there are even luxury retail shops for you to indulge in.
Enjoy the cultural relics and sights at the various historical sites and take in the Hawaiian touch to the local Chinatown; and enjoy the stories told of the native forefathers who earlier founded and resided on the island.
Surf the waves, watch the whales, and enjoy the gorgeous views from almost everywhere on the island, and if you have done everything else, just sit back and enjoy the tropical weather which feels just like home
It is O'ahu in a nutshell...
ALOHA....and I will see you SOON~