Thursday, March 17, 2016

Hawaii: The Island of Oahu

Laura and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. I had never been there before, but I've wanted to visit since I was little. At some point, though, the prospect of someday visiting Hawaii started seeming like a more and more distant dream, until eventually I just stopped thinking about it completely.

But here I am: an adult who can now (barely) afford to visit one of the coolest states in the nation. I'm pretty sure that at some point as a kid I specifically said that I wanted to go to Hawaii on my honeymoon, and it's kinda weird to think that actually happened.

Our trip to Hawaii can be pretty cleanly broken up into two halves: the time we spent on Oahu, and the time we spent on the Big Island. Today I'm going to recount our experience on Oahu:

Oahu is the most populous island, with the biggest city (Honolulu) and the biggest airport (also Honolulu). We landed at Honolulu Airport sometime on Monday afternoon and took a shuttle out of the city to the place we'd be spending most of our time while on the island: the resort area known as Ko'Olina.

If you're visiting Hawaii for the purposes of exploring beaches and cultural areas, Ko'Olina is probably not the best place to stay. It's a resort town, constructed for the purpose of giving people a manufactured paradise experience. The area includes a golf course, a small village-like shopping center, and a handful of massive resort complexes, each situated at the shore of their own little man-made lagoons.

If your goal is simply to find a nice place to relax, though, Ko'Olina is perfect. After several solid months of seemingly non-stop busyness, a day or two in manufactured paradise was exactly what I needed.

Our first day was spent mostly just walking around the resort area, enjoying the facilities, and swimming in the Pacific Ocean for a while. We stayed at Aulani, a Disney Resort (that's the name, you have to say the whole thing), which featured a small water park, restaurants, performances, storytellers, and all sorts of things we didn't have time to really explore. You can say a lot of things about Disney, but their attention to detail is phenomenal. Aulani, a Disney Resort, is extremely impressive. Also, we definitely found some hidden Mickeys in our room.

My first ever steps into the Pacific Ocean were at one of the lagoons called Paradise Cove, where a couple of wild sea turtles were swimming around to the delight of the tourists (including myself and Laura). I never thought I'd see a live sea turtle up close, but there one was, hanging out, and starting right at me when he popped his head up out of the water. It was pretty magical.

We also saw a Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species, hanging out on one of the beaches to rest. There are barely over 1,000 of these things alive, and I got to see one sleeping on a beach. The resort staff had its section of the beach cordoned off for safety and to allow it some rest.

After a day of relaxation and really, really expensive food, Laura and I were ready to leave the resort for our second day on the island. Rather than spend $70-100 trying to take a shuttle or a cab into town, we decided to have an adventure and use public transportation. We got on the wrong bus, so it took us nearly two hours to reach Waikiki instead of just one hour, but the trip only cost us $2.50 per person, and later the same on the way back. Way worth it, especially since I don't want to admit how much resort food cost us on that first day.

Speaking of food, after walking around Waikiki, watching the surfers, and checking out the aquarium, Laura and I had lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise. After such an affordable and good meal, we never went back to the expensive stuff. And although Hawaii offers an incredible selection of native and Asian foods, there's an undeniable charm to eating a nice cheeseburger beautiful place, far from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The restaurant is well-named.

The coolest thing to me about Waikiki was the coral reef. It comes practically right up to the beach, and you can see the abundance of sea life right there in the super clear waters. There are a few man-made walkways that penetrate into the water a ways and allow you to see more of the reef, further away from the shore. From that vantage point I could see crabs, schools of fish, and, of course, the colorful reef itself. It was weird, not just to see into such beautiful, clear water (I come from Louisiana, where the water is black and brown), but also to see such diverse wildlife living protected, so close to a beach being enjoyed by thousands of people

After spending the day walking around the city, we eventually worked out way back to a bus stop and returned to the resort. The next morning we caught a plane to Hilo, one of the two major cities on the island of Hawai'i.

I'm a little sad we never got around to properly exploring Oahu, getting away from the resorts and the cities to see the rest the island had to offer. However, we made up for it on the Big Island, and it gives me a reason to go back to Oahu some day. I'm looking forward to it.

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