Journey to Paradise: Oahu

Trip Start Aug 09, 2008
Trip End Aug 23, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Saturday, August 16, 2008

Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club is located in a gated community on the west side of Oahu. We fell in love with the place. It is different from the crowded Waikiki.  The environment is beautiful and peaceful. It is close to the ocean and the lagoon is within walking distance.
Our room was located in the Hale Moana Tower. As we came in the receptionist greeted us with Kukui nut leis. We also received information packet and directions to the places we plan to visit.  The receptionist told us that if we plan to visit Pearl Harbor we need to do it on a weekend because the traffic is less and we need to leave by 0630. As an owner we also received a discount card that entitled us to a 10% discount to dining and shopping in Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club and JW Marriott Ihilani Resort.
Our room was located on the second floor with a view of the swimming pool and the grill. We were disappointed at first. We expected our room to be on the higher floor with a view of the ocean or the mountain. At least it is within the level of the parking garage, the swimming pool (and the grill). We don't need to use the elevator at all.
Our room was big. It has a full kitchen equipped with complete cookware and tableware.  It has a dining room table that sits six, living room area with a pull-out queen size sofa bed for the kids to sleep in; a small sitting area that led into the bedroom which has a king size bed with six pillows and duvet blanket. The shower room was very spacious with a separate room for the tub and another lavatory. The closet has iron and ironing board with extra pillows and blankets. We have two cable TVs; one in the living room and the other one in the bedroom. Our room has free high speed internet access.
I did the laundry while the rest of the family went to the pool. It also gave me time to start typing our travel journal.
We arranged a wake-up call and woke up at 0600.  We arrived at Pearl Harbor around 07:30. We even got lost on the way.
While we were in the garage getting ready to leave I told DH that I want to go back to the room to get the direction the receptionist gave us. DH said not to worry because he has a good map. While we were on the highway I told DH to take the right lane to Nimitz Highway but he stayed on the left because the sign says airport and Pearl Harbor is near the airport. (But I'm the one who has the map!) Needless to say, we turned around after getting direction from someone at the stop light.
DS can't believe how long the line was. It was only 0730 and we were already standing across the parking lot where the tour buses parks. He complained last night when I said that we need to wake up early in the morning. I just gave him the "I told you so" look. We know that backpacks and purses are not allowed inside. We carried our camera without the case. We were wearing shorts with plenty of packets for our wallets, cell phone and small camera. As we were near the entrance I heard the security guard telling the tour bus driver that small camera case is ok inside. The tour bus driver collected the camera cases from his tour group and was bringing it back to the bus. I also saw someone with a wristlet. We got our free tickets and we're group 3. We purchase the audio tour. DD1 signed up for the Junior Ranger Program.  We watched a film of live footage from the Japanese invasion of December 7, 1941. Then we took a navy boat trip to the USS Arizona Memorial.
USS Arizona was a battleship that was destroyed and sank at her berth during the Pearl Harbor attack. Its wreckage remains at Pearl Harbor, a memorial of the thousands crewmen who lost their lives during the attack. A memorial structure was built over the mid-portion of the sunken ship. It consists of three sections: the entry and assembly room, a central area for observation and the shrine room that has the names of all the crewmen killed engraved on the wall. DD1 finished her Junior Ranger workbook here.
When we came back from the boat trip, DD1 handed in her workbook and answered some questions from the Park Ranger then she received her badge. The visitor center has a snack stand. We bought some snacks and stayed a while to finish the audio tour. Then we went to Waikiki. DS wants to have lunch in Cheeseburger in Paradise. Ever since he saw the place last week he was obsessed by it. He loves cheeseburger. I don't know how long we circled around to find a parking. Not even a space in Honolulu Zoo parking lot. DS said there is one in Ala Moana, its called Cheeseburger Waikiki. DS said they're the same. He read it in the blue book. BTW, in addition to the blue book, DS read the cruise critic board too.
We finally found a parking space and got seated at Cheeseburger Waikiki. We ordered cheeseburger, of course. Yikes! The cheeseburger was tasteless.
After lunch we went to Punchbowl National Cemetery, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific for those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. The place is so serene; very relaxing. We climbed up the monumental staircase from the crater floor to the top where the statue of Lady Columbia (symbolizes all grieving mothers) greeted us.  The memorial on top consists of chapel, map galleries, Court of Honor and Court of the Missing. We walked to the left of the memorial towards the lookout where it has an awesome view of the city of Honolulu from Waikiki, Diamond Head to Pearl Harbor.
Then we went to the Pali lookout. This place has spectacular panoramic views of the windward coast of Oahu and the Koolau Ridge. The wind here was so strong that the children had fun trying to lean on it. We started to take the trail to the right side of the lookout. The trail looks like an old road. We don't really know where the trail leads to or how far. We asked the people that were on the trail. Most of them do not know either. The last person that we asked said there's a waterfall. We're not really interested because we already saw a lot of waterfalls in Maui so we turned back.
We went to Kualoa Regional Park to take a picture of the Chinaman Hat. The park has long, grassy lawn and the white-sand beach was so inviting. If I did not hold on to DD2 she would have run towards the beach. There were people having picnic. The park was not crowded. Walking back to the car, I was awed by the Koolau Mountain Range which provides a spectacular backdrop. I definitely like Oahu.
On the way back, we made a right turn to the Valley of the Temples to see Byodo-in Temple, a replica of the 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple located in Uji, Japan on the southern outskirts of Kyoto. The temple became more popular when it was used as a film location in the TV drama series "LOST". In the gate, the person told us they close at 5PM and it was already 4:50PM. We told him we just want to take pictures. He said he has to charge us. It's supposed to be $2.00 per person. Since it was closing time he made us pay $2.00 for all 5 of us. After we parked the car, we crossed the bridge and to the left is the Bell House that contains a five foot high, three ton brass bell, called bon-sho (sacred bell).  There is a soft wooden log to be use to strike the bell. It is customary to ring the bell before you enter the temple. DH did just that and it was really loud. Ringing the bell is supposed to bring you happiness and good luck. Inside the temple is a towering 18 feet golden Buddha. The ground has a pond full of Japanese Koi carp.
Today is PCC day for us. We plan to check Laniakea Beach and the Banzai Pipeline or Ehukai Beach on the way. It is hard to locate these beaches because there is no name. Most of the people on the beach do not know the name either. We were disappointed when we did not see any sea turtles in Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach). In Ehukai Beach, we did not see the classic tube-shaped waves rolling ashore since it is summer time. We know about this. We just want to check out the place. The lifeguard there was friendly and informative. We saw Ted's Bakery and stopped to try their chocolate haupia pie. DD1 likes it. I'm not really crazy for it. It's like a chocolate pudding on a pie crust with coconut cream on top.
We stopped at Giovanni's Shrimp Truck for lunch. We love their shrimp scampi. It was easy to peel off. Luckily, we had wet wipes with us. We ordered hotdog for DS. He does not like shrimp or any seafood.
In Polynesian Cultural Center, I can't believe we have to pay for parking. It's only $5.00 but still...... We gave the coupon from the entertainment book at the Customer Service and they credited us $40.00. Each kid received a Passport to Polynesia activity booklet. We took the canoe tour ride first. It was so hot. (Don't forget the sunscreen). Then we visited and learned about the customs in each village. DD1 and DD2 tried their luck in fishing in the village of Tahiti and they each got a tattoo. In Tonga the kids and DH participated in Tongan spear tossing. We watched the Coral Reef Adventure at the IMAX Theater. The movie was really interesting and very informative. It showes that beauty of the coral reefs and the different school of fish. The movie also teaches us on how to take care of the reef and why it is important to take care of it. Then we went to see the Canoe Pageant. It was so hot. I wished I had an umbrella with me. In the Village of Samoa, DD1 was determined to make a fire by rubbing sticks. We joined a small group of Japanese tourist. The crowd was small and it is under a shade. The instructions were in English and the tour guide who was also an interpreter interprets it to Japanese language. After the demonstration on how to open a coconut with just bare hands and a small stone, DD1 thinks she can do it too. The two girls lined up to get a piece of coconut meat. They didn't like it. It was hard for them to chew. I gladly took it. Yummy! The girls had fun learning the hula dance in the village of Hawaii. We also tried the early Hawaiian games.
For the passport activities the kids need to get at least 4 stamps to get a gift. The girls got all stamps. DS does not want to do it. He's almost 13, a teenager! Why did I forget that? We went to the Pacific Marketplace to receive their gift. It turned out to be more tattoos. We were tired to walk and do anymore activities. We just sat down and waited until the luau opens. We got the Ali'i package. As we entered we received an orchid lei greeting, had picture taken and they seated us to our table. We were seated in the front table with another couple and their friend. Before dinner they had a show by the native Hawaiians.The show represents King Kamehameha and his court offering an ancestral welcome of songs and dance. The hostess called the couples who were celebrating their wedding anniversary that month to the stage. The kids and our tablemates were urging us to go. The hostess serenaded us. The two men on our table were the one who removed the roasted pig from the imu and placed it on the table on the stage. The food in the luau was good. The baked taro was soft and sweet.  I never had lilac-colored (taro) bread before. It was really good. The Ali'i menu also includes Kailua pig, Island fish and teriyaki chicken. They also served hot dog and chicken nuggets. The lady on our table told us to go to Turtle Beach at 3PM because that's when the turtles come out of the water. She also told us to try the shaved ice in Matsumoto in Haliewa. Paying for Ali'i package entitled us to a reserved seating to the Horizon show. The show was spectacular; really entertaining. Even DD2 stayed awake to the entire show.
We woke up early because the kids want to participate in the 7AM fish feeding in lagoon 1 in front of JW Marriott Ihilani. There were lots of fish and some of them were jumping out of the water.
After fish feeding we took Highway 93/930 up to about mile passed Yokohama Beach, parked our car and hiked along the volcanic coast to Ka'ena Point, the western tip of Oahu. It was a very long hike under the heat of the sun. Along the way, we saw tide pools, natural stone arches and heard the blowhole. As we were approaching the Point we saw sea birds flying around. The place is their sanctuary. It is important to stay on the trail so not to disturb them. We can see their burrow in the sand as we passed by. When we reached the Point, there were two locals trying to catch fish and two women hikers. I went to the left side hoping to see sea turtle but there's none. The two women were showing the kids the small sea snake they saw. I joined the group but I did not see it. As I looked up ahead I saw a monk seal that was lying there for who knows how long. It was easy to overlook it. You may think it's just another rock. DS took plenty of pictures until the camera's memory ran out. There were a group of people who just arrived and were eating lunch. As we were hiking back we saw seabirds in their burrow. We also saw an egg on the ground. The view of Wai'anae Mountain Range and the Makua coastline was beautiful but the heat was terrible. We ran out of water. It's a good thing we almost reached the car. We saw people hiking without water. I wondered how they can manage. We had lunch in the car. We stopped by Makaha Beach to swim. We did not stay long. The surf was a little rough. We saw numerous tents pop up along the beach. We found out later that they were homeless people living there.
Back in Ko Olina we snorkeled in Lagoon 2. The water was not clear but still good enough to snorkel. We stayed until sunset. I was able to take picture of the sunset. The picture is one of my favorite shot in Hawaii.
We're going to Hanauma Bay today. We were hoping that since it was close on Tuesday, the place and the water will be cleaner and clearer. Because of traffic, we plan to leave at 6:30AM. We forgot to arrange wake up call. We woke up at 0630. We left about 0700. There was heavy traffic on H1. It was unbelievable. DH said there was an accident. I thought they already cleared that. We took the express lane. If you take this lane make sure there are more than 3 people in the car because the cops are really strict in enforcing it. I saw at least 3 cars with 1 or 2 person that were pulled over.
We reached Hanauma Bay around 9AM. After paying the entrance fee we watched a movie and we walked down to the beach. It was a little crowded. Even though they told us after the movie to just "see not touch" a lot of people still touching the reef and try to touch the fish. There were even people standing on the reef. It was really upsetting. We had fun swimming and snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. We saw different varieties of fish. We stayed until around noon time. We passed by the Halona Blowhole but the parking was close for renovation. DH parked on the side of the road behind another car. While the rest of the family stayed in the car, I followed a couple down to the cove and towards the blowhole area. The ocean was not cooperating with me at that time. We stopped by Makai Pier to take picture of Rabbit Island and Makapuu Lighthouse.
 We wanted to have a sit down lunch. The only sit down lunch we saw on Hwy 72 was Ono Shrimp Truck. I ordered steak and shrimp. I did not like the shrimp. The steak was good.  We plan to hike Koko Head crater. We stopped by 7 Eleven at the traffic light from the shrimp truck to buy some bottled water. There's a Kaneke's Plate lunch and BBQ next to 7 eleven. They have a big selection of lunch plate. We could have had lunch there. We just ordered ice cream; macadamia nut ice cream for me. Yummy! After lunch we stopped by the Makapu'u Lookout to take more pictures of Rabbit Island then we went to hike the trail to Makapu'u Lighthouse. DS did not feel well. DD1 and I continued on the trail while DH took DS and DD2 back to the car. About a quarter of a mile hike to the right side is a view of Koko head crater.  The hike has scenic shoreline all the way to the top. You can see the Makapu'u Lighthouse from the top. Take this hike early in the morning or after 4pm because it is really hot. The view was very rewarding. After this hike we decided not to hike Koko Head crater. From here we went beach hopping to see which beach to go swimming to the next day after hiking Diamond Head.  We went to Kailua Beach. This beach is nice but you have to climb down to go to the beach. Then we went to Lanikai Beach. This beach is hard to find unless you are familiar of the area. We took Aalapapa Dr. and around the loop. We stop at the first sign that says public access to the beach. Unfortunately, the beach area was only arms length. Then we stopped in the next two or three blocks. That was not a beach at all. There were people there. One lady said that it used to be a long stretch beach and she used to run on it but now there are houses on the beach with seawalls. I wondered if these houses that were built close to the beach caused the erosion. The other lady told us to go down two blocks more to see Lanikai Beach. We found the beach. The beach was stunning with its turquoise green water. This beach is great for swimming especially for younger children. The water is calm.
The traffic from Ko Olina to Honolulu was really terrible. DS said "6 lanes one way and still heavy traffic". Imagine NYC without the Subway, Metro-North or LIRR?
As we started to climb up Diamond Head DD2 wanted to be carried. That's not a good sign. DH only carried her when it is a rugged terrain or crossing a stream. We decided for DH to wait with her while I and the two kids climb up. We started the hike on a paved walkway then the trail becomes pitted dirt and rocks. We stopped in every stop area to take pictures and rest. Then we climbed up 74 steps into the tunnel. The tunnel was cool and adequately lit. Coming out of the tunnel to the right was the daunting 99 steps. We let the other people go ahead of us because there's no way I will rush climbing up those steps.  After the 99 steps we went through a short tunnel in to a 3 story spiral staircase. Then we exit into a Fire Control Station lookout. I was like, "This is it?" Then someone said no you have to get out and go up to the top. Getting out was ducking our heads and exit the station to the left to another 54 steps metal staircase. The breeze on the top was a welcome treat. The 360 degree panoramic view from the summit was really awesome. On the way down in the control station they were selling a certificate for making it to the top. It's $2.00 each. DD1 wants one but I don't have any money with me. I left my purse in the backpack with DH.
We met DH and DD2 down on the crater. They started to walk up. DS wants to hike up again with DH. Us, girls waited in the car. When the boys came back, DH was bragging they made it to the top in 15 minutes. Yeah, right! DS bought a certificate for climbing Diamond Head.
From Diamond Head we went to Chinatown. We had lunch at Mabuhay Restaurant. Their fried shrimp was good. It taste like Giovanni's without the grease but the serving was small. They don't serve the fried crispy pork that the kids like.
We went back to the resort to rest. Then around 2PM we headed out to Kahe Point Beach Park to snorkel. We stopped at the beach pass the electric power plant. There were two people swimming. We don't think this is the place that the Hawaii Snorkeling Guide mentioned. We decided to just go swimming in Makaha beach instead. Along the way, we saw those tents on the beach again and decided to go back and just swim in the lagoon. On the way back, we saw the pavilion that the snorkeling guide mentioned. We parked and looked around. There's no way we can snorkel there. The surf was strong.
Back in the resort we tried to snorkel in Lagoon 3 but there's no visibility there at all. We moved to Lagoon 2. There's more variety of fish this time and more colors.
We plan to explore North Shore on Friday. Our first stop was the northwest, the Mokule'ia Section of Kae'na Point to see if it is a shorter hike from there and it was. We saw the YMCA Camp Erdman. This place was also used as a film location of "Lost". The Mauka side cabins were used as the home of the "others" in season 3. In season 4 as the "others" moved out, the castaways moved in. We stopped at the Mokule'ia Beach where there were some people kite surfing and some were swimming. Mokule'ia Beach was the actual film location of the plane wreckage and most of the beach scene in season 1. We stopped at Matsumoto's for their famous shaved ice.
We went swimming in Waimea Bay. Even though there was a warning sign to stay off the rock, there were a lot of people, kids and adult jumping off the rock. The kids had fun swimming. DH snorkeled there for a while. Then we had lunch at Giovanni's. We just loved their shrimp scampi.
We took pictures of the Three Tables and Pupukea tide pool then we snorkeled at Shark's cove until we got tired. I was really impressed by this area. The water was clear and there were lots of marine life. The water was also shallow that DD2 had fun looking at the different fish around her. It's like swimming/snorkeling in a giant aquarium. While snorkeling there was a sea turtle that swam by. I was scared at first when I saw this big thing that was really close to me. When I realized it was a sea turtle, I didn't know what to do whether to just look at it or take a picture. I took 2 pictures and told DH. He went running after it but the sea turtle was fast.
We stopped at Ted's Bakery to buy some snacks. I love the cakes here. If you're a chocolate lover, try their Dream Cake. It is heavenly.
We went to Laniakea Beach to see the green sea turtle. The lady at PCC told us to come here after 3pm and it is already 4PM so we should see one. At the left side of the beach there was this guy pointing at the turtles swimming. The turtles don't stick out there head long enough for us to take good pictures.  We stayed for about 10 minutes and it seems that the turtles were not coming out of the water. We decided to leave. There were a group of people to the right side of the beach. I told DH maybe there are turtles there. But he brushed off the idea. As we were about to head back I looked towards the crowd again and I thought I saw a turtle on the sand. I told DH and the kids. DH said it is only a rock. I insisted. When we got closer it was indeed green sea turtle and there were two of them; Genbu and Squirt. There was a Naturalist who protects the turtles as well as educate the people. She answered all our questions. We told her we saw a monk seal in Ka'ena Point. She told us we were lucky. She said monk seals are endangered species in Hawaii.

We had a great time in Paradise. We've been to different volcanoes: Haleakala in Maui, which is considered dormant, (although not volcanic in origin but exists in volcanic mountain) Kilauea, an active volcano in Hilo and Diamond Head, an extinct volcano in Oahu. We also visited different beaches and exotic beaches like Green Sand Beach in South Point, Red Sand and Black Sand Beach in Maui. We saw a monk seal and green sea turtles. We did a lot of hiking and snorkeling which we enjoyed so much. Hawaii is truly a paradise.  It's hard to choose as to which island is the best. We like Kona (snorkeling and green sand beach) then Kauai (beaches and hiking). Oahu is what we like the best. There's mountain to hike and beaches to swim and snorkel. If you crave for city life, Waikiki is just nearby.

Helpful website of Diamond Head Crater with map:

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Mousey on

Your travel journal was as awesome as your pictures. I read the whole thing and am looking forward to our trip to Hawaii in one week on the POA. Thank you for taking the time to write this and share it and your incredibly beautiful pictutres. You have a lovely family.

bakasyonista on

Thank you. Hope you had a great time.

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