I’ve just returned from a two week family trip to Hawaii and I thought it would be nice to share some of my photos, to showcase the beauty that is Hawaii. I know we’d all agree that Alex is part of the beauty that is Hawaii but I’m not sure even HE could compete with some of the gorgeous scenery we encountered on our trip. We were on Oahu mostly but also spent two days on The Big Island. Out of more than 2000 photos that we took, here are some of the highlights. I’ve had a really hard time picking out the best shots but at least they give some impression of Hawaii. Click on the individual collages for a better view of the smaller pics. Oh, and I’ve included some travel tips because I am a frustrated travel writer at heart :).
(As an aside, despite much eye-rolling on the part of my husband and my two teenage kids, I did go in search of H50 filming locations and we were lucky enough to see some filming of episode 3.23. I’ll save those pics for a special Champ Box fangirl post. Now, don’t get too excited as unfortunately we didn’t see Alex but it was amazing to see filming nonetheless.)
OK, so here is our first photo op: the Pali lookout. It’s really windy up there, but the views are amazing!
Not really being a resort person, I found a cottage online for us to stay in at Waimanalo Beach, on the eastern side of the island, about a 20 minute drive from downtown Honolulu. We had a hire car – McBriz is brave enough to drive on the opposite side of the road thankfully, and I was happy to be a passenger. If you can, I recommend hiring a car as there’s so much to see around the island and it’s much easier to get around if you have your own transport. Oahu is way more than just Waikiki Beach. Anyway, the cottage we stayed in was on a street that led down to the beach. We had a beautiful beach at one end and glorious mountains at the other:
Just to illustrate that the aloha spirit is alive and well, the owners of the cottage were just lovely. We arrived on Easter Sunday and they had Easter baskets for our kids and an egg hunt around their property. Adorbs! They were also terrific for local information and traveler tips. And they are H50 fans to boot! This is our little cottage:
First up, we went shopping. Because that’s what Australians do when they are in the US! Clothes and shoes are way cheaper than they are here and my teenage son had been hanging out for months to buy Nikes at a third of the price we have to pay in Australia. This is the boot (sorry, trunk) of our car after our shopping spree. Oops, there goes the budget!
Next up was the North Shore, famous for surf beaches and lately as the location for baby SEAL training in episode 3.20. Squeeeee! If you go up the eastern side of the island, the drive is really lovely. Stop at Laie Point because it’s spectacular.
Being on the North Shore and H50 fans, of course we had to have shave ice :). We bought ours from Matsumoto’s, one of the well known shave ice places in the main part of Haleiwa town. It’s nice if you have ice cream in the bottom, I reckon although the boys went all out and had condensed milk on top, too.
We enjoyed the beach and wandering around the markets and galleries:
If you do get the chance while in the North Shore vicinity, I recommend that you visit Kualoa Ranch. It’s a working ranch but it is used continually for film and television sets. Lost and Jurassic Park were filmed there and Hawaii 50 has used the ranch to stand in for North Korea in a number of episodes. Joe White, seen in ‘Montana’ in 3.20, was actually at Kualoa and the mountains were added in later. There are lots of activities you can participate in on the ranch including horse riding and ATV tours. We did the movie sets tours – so awesome to be ‘in’ Jurassic Park and in familiar H50 territory.
Hawaii is a great place to visit if you love the outdoors and walking/hiking. There are lots of hikes you can do to take in the beautiful Hawaiian scenery. Here’s the most famous one, at Diamond Head.
(Traveller’s tip: This hike is very popular as it’s close to Waikiki and not too difficult a climb. Be prepared to do the hike with loads of other people! There’s also little shade along the way so go early and take plenty of water. Refreshments are available at the park, though, including a shave ice van.)
We also did the spectacular Lanikai pillboxes hike. Lanikai is a gorgeous beach on the eastern side of the island.
(Traveller’s tip: You can simply hike up to the pillboxes and back down again and this takes about half an hour each way. It’s a tricky climb though as there’s not really a pathway and you have to do a little climbing over tree roots. But it’s sooooo worth it for the views. We did the complete circuit (see pic in the bottom right hand corner) which took 2 hours all up. We climbed up and down several mountain ridges and it was slippery at times, especially on the last slope on the way down, but there are plenty of trees and their roots to hold on to.)
For something a bit more genteel, there’s the Makapu’u Point walk (to the lighthouse) and the Halona Blowhole:
(Traveller’s tip: The lighthouse is an easy walk as it’s a gradual climb and you walk on a sealed pathway the whole way. The blowhole is right by the road and there’s no walking required other than from the car park.)
Also, Manoa Falls – not a huge waterfall but the rainforest is beautiful:
(Traveller’s tip: If you do this walk, wear old shoes. As you can see from the top middle picture, it can be very muddy and a bit slippery. It’s not a long or hard walk, though and it’s lovely and cool in the rainforest.)
By far the most demanding hike was at Koko Head. This was featured in H50 in season 2, when Lori and Steve raced up a few of the steps before Lori fell and had to be carried down to a waiting ambulance. It’s a hike of 1048 steps up to an old WW2 bunker. The view is worth it, as is the sense of achievement, but it’s probably one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. The steps are just old railway sleepers so you have to be careful. We did the hike on a Saturday morning, so it was very busy. Also, part way up is a bridge of sorts and I needed my husband’s help to get across it (because I have woeful balance!). The last section is really steep so you feel like you are doing lunges and using a stepper at the same time. Put off yet? Don’t be – I was so thrilled that I made it to the top! Note that there is nothing at the base of the walk other than a car park so make sure you take your own supplies. Two women who started with us gave up halfway because they didn’t bring water with them. And it’s really hard work!)
After all that hiking, my legs were killing me 🙂 So we went to Hanauma Bay which offers fantastic snorkeling and a safe swimming area. It’s a nature preserve so you need to pay to get into the park and there’s a film you need to watch on how to protect the coral and sea life before you are allowed to snorkel. It’s beautiful there because the bay is protected and there are palm trees on the beach.
Hawaii has beautiful scenery but there’s also so much history to soak up. We spent a day at Pearl Harbour and visited all four historical sites – the Arizona memorial, the USS Missouri battleship, the USS Bowfin submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. I like that, despite the thousands of people who visit the memorial each day, it is suitably somber and respectful. The ticketing system allows for a only a limited number of visitors to be on the Arizona memorial at any given time so it’s not too crowded. There is also a short documentary on the bombing of Pearl Harbour that you must watch before going on to the memorial which I think is a grand idea to try to ensure that visitors are fully aware of what they are commemorating. The USS Missouri tour is a must, and not just to relive the H50 episode from season 1 where hostages are taken on the ship :). The tour is really interesting and you then have the chance to roam around the battleship.
(Traveler’s tip: If you go to Pearl Harbour like we did, on our own and not part of a tour, get down there early. Tickets are issued for the Arizona at particular times and if you don’t go early, you may have to wait all day to get on. We turned up at 7.15am and our tickets were for 11.45am but we did the Missouri tour first anyway.)
Another must-see if you are interested in WW2 history is the cemetery at Punchbowl. It is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and service people and their families are buried there, including a number of Medal of Honour recipients. The memorial at the back of the cemetery commemorates those service people ‘whose earthly resting place is known only to God’. Their names are recorded on the memorial.
The cemetery is immaculate and the memorial a fitting tribute to the fallen. It’s been featured several times in H50, of course. There is also a lookout at the cemetery which affords glorious views of downtown Honolulu and Manoa Valley.
I have to say we didn’t spend much time at Waikiki. It’s always very crowded so you practically have to step across other people and fight for a piece of sand. We preferred Waimanalo, where we were staying, as usually there was hardly anyone on the beach. Like in these pics:
Waikiki is a lovely beach in terms of being framed by Diamond Head, though, and this is an iconic scene.
We had a really nice day wandering around Kalakaua Avenue and the International Marketplace. My daughter had a henna tattoo done there and I had delicious Korean BBQ for lunch. Lots of H50 stuff to see there, too: there has been filming in the Marketplace itself, the Treehouse Café, and along Kalakaua Avenue.
While the beach during the day at Waikiki is a bit chaotic, it is magical at sunset.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village is also in the Waikiki area. If you are there on a Monday, they have special screenings of H50 in one of the restaurants. There’s a small store in the complex that sells H50 merchandise. (I bought a bookemdanno t-shirt there!) Best of all, every Friday night at 7.45pm, there are fireworks on the beach. We watched the fireworks on our last night in Hawaii.
We were lucky enough to spend two days on The Big Island while in Hawaii. Each island is quite distinct, I think. I have been to Maui before and it’s quite different to Oahu. The Big Island, outside of the main town of Kailua-Kona, is much less touristy than Oahu. It is the biggest island – hence its name – so everything is more spread out and less densely populated. The main attraction is of course the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park but there is some beautiful scenery on the island, including a gorgeous white sand beach, Hapuna Park, and several waterfalls.
Here are some of the highlights:
There are also several lookouts on the northern and eastern side although they are a bit tricky to get to – one lane bridges and windy roads. But well worth it for the views:
Akaka Falls Park was a highlight for me because I am a bit of a waterfall nut:
And I’d never seen a black sand beach before. Or a massive turtle up close:
But of course the most amazing thing of all was the volcanoes national park. There’s loads to see there, including the Thurston Lava Tube (middle pic on the left), the hardened lava across the road on Chain of Craters Road, the steam vents inside a crater and of course the volcanoes themselves. Walking on the hardened lava (bottom left hand corner) was amazing.
(Traveller’s tip: If you want to see as much as possible in the national park, you need the good part of a day to do so. Make sure you stay for sunset so you can see the volcano at night (main pic) – it’s a spectacular sight.)
This is just a small snapshot of my time in Hawaii. My family and I had the most amazing holiday. The people of Hawaii are friendly and welcoming – the aloha spirit is everywhere – and I can totally see why Alex has embraced it and loves living there.
I hope you’ll come back to visit The Champ Box soon. My next post will feature some 3.23 filming we were lucky enough to see and also pictures of H50 locations that I dragged my family to under the guise of exploring Honolulu. Despite the eye-rolling though, my husband is all set to watch Show from the beginning now so we can spot the places we have visited. Resistance is futile!