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Now UPDATINGfor 2010!!! Fun stuff to see and do on the island of Oahu. I had the opportunity to revisit a bunch of places and try some new stuff so this is my latest "Best Of".
Off-duty fire fighters provide surfing instruction on a quiet beach west of Waikiki. Transportation is provided from the student's hotel to the beach. The biggest advantage this school has over other surfing classes (besides the really hot fire fighters) is that the instructors are the same men and women who RESCUE the people that are beyond the resources of the life guards! Reserve your class in advance - classes fill up quick.
My NEW favorite sport. Its not ranked #1 because I could get disinherited for putting the fire fighters 2nd. This was an awesome experience. The instructor starts by getting you measured for a paddle (you need to be able to grasp the end of the paddle with your arm stretched above your head), takes you out onto the beach for some dry land instruction and then gets you on the water at Ala Moana beach for real time instruction. You will need good balance for this activity so you may want to work out on the WiiFit at home before signing up for lessons.
Swim with dolphins in the wild. Skip the artificial hotel dolphin experiences and go where the dolphins are able to roam free. Morning Wildlife Charters leave from the Waianae boat harbor in the morning and passengers are able to snorkel a reef and swim among pods of Spinner dolphins. Other cruises are available through the tour company.
Shopping, people watching and high-end stores. This gigantic mall has something for everyone. The street level food court is true Pacific Rim dining with offerings from Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Chinese vendors. Be sure to check out the offerings from Town & Country Surf, the Crack Seed Center, and the St. Germain Bakery.
Two story Japanese department store in the Ala Moana Shopping center (next to Macy's). First floor is filled with Japanese electronics, jewelry, movies, books, dolls and other decorative items. Second floor is dedicated to imported Japanese food stuffs, kitchen items, ceramics and a cafeteria / market where diners can pick up lunch or dinner.
Malasadas (Portuguese fried donut balls) come dusted in sugar or cinnamon and can be filled with custard, dobash (chocolate) or the current "special" flavor. Best of all - the bakery opens really really early and closes really really late.
November-December. Watch the bravest (or craziest) watermen challenge the winter surf on the North Shore of Oahu. Wave height can range from a choppy 6' to a towering +25'. Competition days are announced the night before so check the web site frequently.
New for 2010 - The visitor center is undergoing a complete renovation. The ticketing window for the Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin and USS Missouri have been centrallized. Arrive EARLY! Passes to the Arizona Memorial are free but limited in number. Large tour groups will increase wait times for the Arizona Memorial tour (it is possible to have a 1.5-2 hour wait if you show up at 10am). This site is a beautiful but sad tribute to the soldiers that died during the attack on Pearl Harbor. On display in the visitor's center are rockets, torpedos, periscopes, and other memorabilia salvaged from the war. Dress is casual (and slippers are allowed) but show some respect since you are visiting a grave site - save the swimsuit coverup for the beach.
Fresh island fruits & vegetables, local products and ready to eat foods. Sample locally made snack foods, jams & jellies and baked goods. Discover that there is more grown on the island besides coconuts, pineapples & papayas. Market opens at 7:30am on Saturday and the parking lot fills up quickly so getting there early is recommended.
North Shore surfer haven. During the summer the town is like a sleepy little village, but during winter, the population triples in number (especially when the surf contests are running!). When visiting, please be courteous to the locals - don't stop in the middle of the street to take a picture, don't park in someone's front yard, do pull completely off the road if you want to stop and do drive at the same speed as the rest of the traffic.
Japanese cream puffs. These treats can be made either sweet (dessert) or savory (crab salad) when you place your order. Various locations in Waikiki.
A beautiful collection of plants from around the Pacific growing within the confines of Waimea Valley. Frequent visitors to Hawaii will probably recognize most of the plants on display but there are several unusual ones growing that are extremely rare. The main walking paths in the valley are paved and approximately 3/4 of a mile from the ticket gate is a small waterfall & pool that you are allowed to swim in. Water stations and port-o-potties are provided. Bring insect repellant if you don't want to feed the local mosquitos. Admission for an adult is listed at $13 with cheaper rates available for children, seniors and military personnel.
A beautiful showcase of Hawaiian art and artifacts. This museum has undergone a recent rennovation so its worth a repeat visit if you've been here before. Take time to read the plaques accompanying the displays - some of the information can give you "chicken skin" when you find out that the statue you are looking at likes being indoors and has resisted all attempts to move it outside the building.
Buddist temples honor their ancestors with night time festivals. Hawaii's version incorporates the traditional dances with a carnival like atmosphere that is open to everyone. Check the local newspapers during summer for a temple's dates & location.
According to the NFL - The Pro Bowl will be returning to Hawaii in 2011. Check on-line for the activities that are planned. An entertaining weekend to be on Oahu. Air fares are cheap, hotels are expensive, and there are a lot of free and pay events being held all over Honolulu. In 2007, organizers of the event held the first ever FREE Pro Bowl block party on Kalakaua Ave. The entire street was closed along Waikiki Beach as restaurants, vendors, entertainment stages and the public had a great time. One of the most surprising aspects of this event (besides being free) was the great job the security patrols & Honolulu police did in keeping the peace.
When the waves are flat - Waimea is a peaceful, calm little beach. When the waves are cranking - watch out! Waimea explodes with big waves, high-level surfers, and the people that love to watch them.
See fish in their natural environment. Water clarity in the shallow areas that most visitors snorkel is mediocre. The divers get the best views in the deeper areas past the warning buoys. This preserve fills up fast with tourists so arrive early. First-time visitors (and visitors who haven't been by in a year) are required to watch a short video on how to not damage the Bay environment before they are let loose on the beach. Fee required for parking and access to the park. Snorkel gear & lockers available for rent. Bathrooms & showers are free.
Tip: If you have never worn fins before, keep in mind that the fins only work if they are in the water. Snorkeling is not the same as swimming in a pool - when using fins, move your legs as if you were riding a bike and keep the fins submerged at all times. Not only will it be more effective in going from point A to point B, you won't scare the fish away with all the splashing.
*Note: PLEASE DO NOT STEP ON THE CORAL - If you have to stand up, look down for a patch of sand before putting your feet down.
Small park featuring creatures found in the waters surrounding Hawaii. Fun for kids (just don't tell them that its educational too).
Casual dining restaurant. Quality of the food varies. If you're lucky, you may even see Dog and his crew on a break from their bounty hunting.
Shopping, shopping and more shopping. The vendors are spread out on the parking lot of Aloha Stadium so there is very little shade. Another "arrive early" destination.
A very sanitized summary of the many cultures that comprise Polynesia. Worth visiting if you don't already have your trip to the south Pacific planned. Skip the luau if you have your heart set on Mai Tais & Pina Coladas - its a "dry" feast.
New for 2010 - You get to pay to park! It will now cost you $3 to drive into the lookout parking lot. Panoramic view of Honolulu and a great spot for photos. Bring a jacket just in case the winds are blowing. My ranking for this attraction has dropped however because of the new fees. There are plenty of other places on Oahu with photo opportunities so don't feel obligated to go out of your way to visit this spot.