A plus sized series: Oahu Part 1 – Oahu and Pearl Harbor

The first time I went to Hawaii, my family and I went to Oahu and stayed in downtown Waikiki.  I was not a worldly traveller yet, in fact, the 5 hour flight was only the second time I’d gotten on a plane in my life.  Now, I don’t remember precisely what I was expecting, but the drive from the Honolulu Airport to the hotel was a crazy disappointment.  Was I expecting grass huts everywhere?  Not really.  Was I expecting a huge metropolis?  No.  This was before the internet, mind you.  Or, at least before I’d gotten the internet.  I had not done any research at the library or done any prep at all, really.  My how times have changed.

To be fair, we didn’t rent a car for more than one day, so the majority of my time was spent in Waikiki or on a city bus.  I didn’t love Waikiki beach.  The sand was less sand and more rocks and it seemed to be packed to the gills.  We didn’t go to a luau, or really do anything cultural, so I was left with a sad feeling about Hawaii.  Like, it was just a tourist trap nightmare.  The one positive thing that came from this trip, however, was I fell in love with the underwater world and snorkeling here.  Hanauma Bay has since never been surpassed as one of the most amazing and beautiful marine preserves I’ve ever snorkeled.  However, even this experience wasn’t enough to make me a big fan of Oahu.  It wan’t until I got to Maui that I found my perfect version of Hawaii.

I’ve since learned, however, that Oahu cannot be defined by Waikiki.  I was wrong for oh, so many years… And the fault is mine.  It’s as though I went to Disneyland and thought I’d learned all there was to learn about California.  Oahu is so incredible and diverse – but you have to go looking for it, in order to find it.  This time I rented a car and did my research – and found plenty of places to see and experience.  Slowly, over the span of four days, I found myself falling in love with the island and regretting how long it took me to return.

I found the Oahu to love especially along the North Shore of the island where the majority of locals prefer to live.  And, as I am forever the nerd, I had a great time finding filming sites from one of my all time favorite films, 50 First Dates!

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As I am a activities concierge on Maui, I get a lot of guests who are island hopping and of course, Pearl Harbor , being the number one travel destination for people traveling to Hawaii, I figured it was high time I get out there.  Add in some recreational activities and you’ve got yourself a great little mini break!  I decided that Kahoma Ranch was the first place I wanted to visit after Pearl Harbor and I’ll make a separate post since there is much to cover.

My Mom hadn’t been to Pear Harbor either, so we traveled over together and stayed at the Aston Waikiki Circle.  Waikiki again? Yes… it’s central and can be very inexpensive and this time I had no delusions of how Hawaii should be.  I booked a Polynesian Adventure Tours excursion for Pearl Harbor since it can be very difficult to get tickets into the Arizona Memorial and included a guide.  I didn’t know what to expect, so I didn’t book us onto the Mighty Missouri or the Bowfin Submarine, however, I did make sure we had tickets in the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.

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The number rule regarding Pearl Harbor, is that they do not allow any bags to enter their gates.  No purses, no camera bags, not even a diaper bag for your baby.  If something can be concealed inside of it, it cannot come in.  So, plan on leaving anything you can hold or put in your pockets either in your car, on the bus or at the locker area for a fee.  A good little trick, however, is once inside the gates, you can buy a bag to carry stuff around in.  My Mom purchased something at the Bowfin Submarine gift shop and was given a reusable shopping bag for free so we kept our cameras and water bottles in there.

I would completely recommend your renting the audio guide for the day.  It’s narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis and is incredibly well done and informative.  We had about an hour before our boat left for the Arizona Memorial, which was a good amount of time to go through the two main museums.  The hardest part about visiting Pearl Harbor is no matter who you are, no matter what your age, you will be humbled, moved and deeply effected.

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Before the boat out to the Arizona Memorial, you’ll be sat in a theater (the seats are totally fluff ball friendly, yay!) and you’ll see the infamous attack footage.  Then onto the boat, which is super easy, but keep in mind you can’t take up more than one seat.  They fill the boat to capacity so scootch over until you can scootch no more so 4 can sit to a row.  The memorial itself is as intense as you’d imagine, and yet there is also beauty to be found amongst the carnage.  I was happy to see the sunken ship has created an artificial reef where life can grow from death.

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The worst moment for me, however, was seeing oil is still leaking from the ship, mere drops at a time, almost 76 years later.  It made the boat a real living thing for me and much more than just a sunken ship from the history books.  I can’t say why this was the hardest thing for me to see, it just simply was.  Who knows.

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Anywho, we later visited the Pacific Aviation Museum with real life replicas of both Japanese and American planes from the attack time as well as replicas of the bombs and torpedoes used during the attack.  Make sure if you go, take time to see the exhibit dedicated to the Japanese plane that crash landed on Niihau, a small privately owned Hawaiian Island off the coast of Kauai.  It’s a very interesting story.  My specific tour also visited the Punchbowl Cemetery and then did a downtown Honolulu tour before returning us to our hotel in Waikiki.  I personally am already planning my return to Pearl Harbor in order to see the Mighty Mo and the Bowfin.

PSG Rating Pearl Harbor:  1-2

Regardless of your politics, your history, your gender or your fluff,  Pearl Harbor is a must do for any American.  I personally left with a great deal of respect for everyone involved.  We are not impervious to attack, no matter how big or great our military is.

I’ll leave you with this last thought though.  I live in Hawaii, in Maui to be exact.   And currently our teachers are being trained with precisely how to deal with nuclear attack and being given provisions for their whole classroom to perhaps live in until it’s deemed safe to come out.  We’re having townhall meetings on what to do in the event of an attack.  We are on alert.  This is because Hawaii is the likeliest place North Korea will launch if provoked into nuclear war.  Scary, eh?

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