It is possible to get to Hawaii from Grand Cayman. Just be prepared for a long trip and time spent exploring more than one airport.
Waikiki, Hawaii – Why, I was asked, would you want to leave one tropical island to vacation on another?
Because I’ve never been and it was one of the items on my mother’s bucket list.
So husband Glenn began doing research and before I knew it I was on a plane headed to New Orleans to meet up with mom. We overnighted at the Hyatt near the airport in the Big Easy and were up early the next morning to wing our way to Oahu. First stop was Dallas, Texas, where we had about a three-hour layover. And then on to Hawaii where a suite awaited us at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
In reality, we could have stayed at the resort and not ventured out of its confines. There are more than 90 retail shops and 20 places to eat and drink there.
But we are both adventurous.
The 2010 Ford Escape we rented at the airport proved to be adequate transportation for island exploration and discovery of all things ancient.
The island of Oahu is breathtakingly beautiful, from its sugary sand beaches to its majestic mountains.
We set aside one day to drive around the island.
Before setting off for your Hawaii vacation go to www.gohawaii.com and order a planning guide. They have them for each of the islands. Mom and I did, so we knew in advance where we wanted to go.
First stop was the Dole pineapple plantation on the road from Honolulu to historic Haleiwa Town.
We took the 20-minute train tour, learned the story of pineapples in Hawaii and heard how James Drummond Dole founded his world-famous agricultural empire where Dole Plantation stands today. In the plantation’s gift shop we noshed on fresh pineapple ice cream.
There are so many attractions and tours to do on Oahu so plan, plan, plan, but also leave some time set aside for doing some unexpected things.
Pearl Harbor is on Oahu and on our list of attractions to visit because of the area’s history created on 7 December, 1941, when the Japanese bombed the naval base, marking a turning point in the war.
Unfortunately we did not do the necessary preparation for this tour. If we had, we would have learned that just about everything from purses to diaper bags is prohibited. You can pay to have staff store your bag for you, but mom and I weren’t willing to have our purses – which contained our cash, credit cards and passports – overseen by someone we didn’t know. So we took a picture of the entrance to Pearl Harbor to prove we’d been there and did what any two smart women would when they’ve found their plans suddenly altered – we found an outlet mall and indulged in some much needed retail therapy.
We dedicated one of our days to a road trip, leaving Waikiki to trek to the north shore, famous for its awesome waves and surfing greats. There are many fascinating sites on that side of Oahu and time seems to literally slow down. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere than the hustle and bustle of Honalulu and Waikiki.
While we didn’t make it to the Polynesian Cultural Centre, it is strongly recommended by others who have visited to sign up for one of the tours and activities. We chose not to go because our package with the Hilton included our own, more intimate luau dinner and show.
As we were trekking the windward side of Oahu we stumbled on the amazing Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. The cemetery’s gardens honour many faiths including Christianity and Buddhism. A replica of Japan’s 950-year-old Byodo-In stands in the Temple of Equality.
After we meandered through the memorial park, we drove on to Ka’a’awa and the Kualoa Ranch for a cold drink. At the ranch, family-owned since 1850, visitors can take part in a wide variety of activities and educational programmes, such as horseback rides, all-terrain vehicle tours, movie tours, a Jungle Expedition, a Hawaiian Fishpond and Garden Tour, hula lessons and a snorkelling excursion to Kaneohe Bay with a picnic on a “secret” island. Kualoa Ranch also has a shooting range, a petting zoo and a visitor’s centre with a gift shop. They have individual half- and full-day tour packages.
Kualoa is also known as one of the most sacred places on the island of Oahu. There are many legends and myths surrounding the Kualoa Valley. For example, it is believed that the ranch’s Moli’i fishpond was built by the Menehune, the legendary little people of Hawaii, within just one night.
We set aside one day to ensure we made the trek to Diamond Head, which we could easily see from the beach at our hotel. We took the challenge and made the climb. It’s not for the faint of heart as Diamond Head is a 760-foot tuff crater and the terrain is rugged and pot-holed. Oh, and there’s a lengthy dark tunnel you have to get through to get to the top – not pleasant for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. It’s a moderately difficult hike, but the stunning views that greet you at the top of Diamond Head are well worth the effort.
The trip down was easier, but you do have to take care not to slip. We were hot after our hike and the snow cone that greeted us at the bottom was also well worth the effort.
From Diamond Head we drove to Nuuanu Pali Lookout taking the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests. We watched as the city of Honolulu disappeared and the tranquil beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape emerged. The change in the weather was phenomenal. We were as chilled standing at the lookout as we were hot at Diamond Head with temperatures in the high 50s at Nuuanu Pali and in the high 80s at Diamond Head – on the same day.
Perched over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline amid mountain peaks shrouded by clouds, the stone terrace overlooks the areas of Kaneohe and Kailua, Mokolii (a pointy island locals call Chinaman’s Hat) and the University of Hawaii’s marine biology research centre, Coconut Island. Other notable landmarks that can be seen are Hawaii Pacific University’s Windward campus, Kaneohe Marine Corps Base and the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, which is part of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens.
Note that the Pali Lookout is also known for its strong and howling winds, which push up against you. We could hear the winds whistle through the mountains and see the breathtaking views of Oahu’s Windward Coast.
There is so much beauty to take in on Oahu. Don’t forget to see the King Kamehameha Statue in front of Aliiolani Hale in downtown Honolulu and Honolulu’s Iolani Palace, which was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs from 1882 to 1893: King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani.
Of course there is snorkelling, surfing, island hopping – more than we could fit in during a week.
But by the end of our stay I was ready to come back to my own tropical island and left mom behind in New Orleans.
Hawaii is a beautiful place and I’m glad to be able to say I’ve been there. I’m even happier to say I live in the place I love the best – North Side, Grand Cayman.