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Monday, July 24, 2006

On Hawai'i: Waikiki

On our recent, first trip to Hawai'i we decided to leave a visit to Waikiki for the last few days. We had heard all about it from friends and were happy to spend most our time enjoying the more "local" parts of the island wherever possible.

Play video (0:37 secs)

Sure enough, if you visit Oah'u and only see Waikiki for most of your stay, it is my belief that you really haven't seen Hawai'i at all. Waikiki is a Disneyland version of Hawai'i, all neat and clean and filled with other tourists. It can be beautiful, of course, but during the summer months it is hot and packed with people. The shops are filled with generic tchotchkes and the available food is mainly from chains you would find on the mainland.

That said, there were a few highlights to our day on Waikiki. First was the beautiful restaurant aquarium, the Oceanarium at the Pacific Beach Hotel. While we didn't dine in the restaurant, checking out the aquarium was well worth the short walk from the bus stop. There is actually another, great aquarium in Waikiki, (other than the wonderful Waikiki Aquarium -- more to come on that later). Located in the Duty Free Shop Galleria, this aquarium is a 2-story tank with a walk-through, lucite tube in the middle. It was amazing to watch the numerous rays "fly" over and around you as you walked up the stairs. Quite dramatic and well worth 30 minutes or so of your time.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is also worth a stroll. Hidden behind a lackluster 1980's mall, the hotel is quite beautiful. The striking pink exterior and the lush plantings make you feel miles, and years, away from bustling Waikiki streets. The interior decorations remind me of the Spanish Mission Churches, here in California with their exposed and painted beams.

The Waikiki Aquarium, while small in comparison to some, has high-quality exhibits rivaling some of the best here in California. We spent almost 2-hours touring the various galleries and tanks. I was specially taken with the various jellyfish displays and giants clams, which are their specialty. Like many attractions on Oah'u, the aquarium offered an excellent audio tour as part of your admission fee. These tours really helped Joe to engage in each museum and he often took longer to work through a museum than his parents.

Finally, one hidden museum we happened across turned out to be one of the best of the trip. The Hawaii Army Museum is housed in one of the old batteries on Fort DeRussy. It is a large building, which so resisted demolition that it was re-purposed as a museum. the displays give an excellent overview of the Army's history on Hawai'i, especially the construction of these batteries during World War I. They provided excellent, in-depth information on the Army's role and losses during Pearl Harbor and its continuing presence on the island. This cool, dark museum is a wonderful respite from the hot mid-day sun of Waikiki.

Again, while Waikiki is fine for a short period of time to see its unique sites, I highly recommend you get out into the other parts of the island, especially the more rural sections and dig deeper into the Hawaiian culture and lifestyle.

Watch this space for more "On Hawai'i" in the coming weeks.

Previously: On Hawai'i: Cash Only
Link: Hawaii Trip Photo Gallery
Link: Waikiki Beach Video


At 3:09 AM, Blogger Davis Files 7081 said...

Enjoyed your Oahu pictures! Glad to see you got out of the tourist traps. We have a few of the same pictures on our blog.


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