As I went to Hawaii for my honeymoon two years ago, I have promised her a blog post with some photos and great places to go. So this one's for you Rachel.
First stop, Honolulu - Oahu.
The first thing that hit me when I stepped off the plane in Oahu (other than the jet lag), and the thing I loved most about the island was the smells and the scenery. You don't have to drive more than ten minutes and you will find totally different scents; the sweet honey scent of the tiare flowers crushed under foot as they fall from the trees, the smell of freshly cooked fish from the roadside shrimp shacks, the grass, the sea, the rain - it's all new and lovely. The scenes; miles of beaches, jagged cliffs, mountains, dessert, lush green fields, little brightly coloured surf shops and the houses - every one is different and full of its own unique character.
On our first day in Oahu, we had a walk along the beach from our hotel to Waikiki beach. We walked through the marina and watched hundreds of tropical fish swarming around the rocks - a rainbow of colours flickering and glimmering beneath the water like hidden treasure. We walked all the way into Waikiki. I had not expected to like the area much - I envisaged the kind of scene you see somewhere like Tenerife - row after row of sun loungers, lobster red tourists just hanging on that minute longer until sunstroke really is inevitable... but it wasn't like that at all. In Honolulu, time stops still. Minutes merge into hours and hours into days.
Waikiki beach was beautiful; powdery white sand, crystal clear water, turquoise sky and swaying palms. The vivid colours of sun umbrellas and lifeguard huts; a contrast against all the blue and white.
We stopped for a drink in "The Oceanarium" a bar which encircles a huge aquarium full of every kind of fish you could imagine - spotted eagle rays, manta rays and even a shark! I had the best Mojito I've ever tasted in there whilst completely mesmerised by all the fish just floating around me. I felt like Ariel and half expected a crab on the steel drums to start singing "Under Da Sea" at any minute.
On the way back found a nice International market, very similar to the Hutong in China; selling pearls, shells, carved wood and lots of other things.
On day two, we tried to go to Hanauma Bay (a giant crater which is famous for wonderful snorkelling) but there is very limited parking and because it is so famous, after driving up and down for an hour we gave up and went to Manoa Falls instead. We had to hike up a really steep, really muddy slope to get to the falls but we saw some amazing plants (like nothing else on this earth) on the way.
Ferns, twice the size of me. Trees with roots growing down from the branches and wrapping themselves around the trunk or forming arched walk ways. We visited Lyons Arboretum which is thousands of acres of ten thousand year old trees with really bizarre names... like the bread fruit tree (?!)
On day three we visited Byodo-In temple (we saw an identical temple of the same name in Japan this year). It was a long drive but well worth it. It was set high up on the mountain side over looking the sea and a beautifully kept grave yard (you could reserve your spot for when the time comes with sea view, mountain view or temple view!)
The temple was only small but it had a moat around it full of gigantic koi karp, turtles and black swans. You walk across a beautiful Japanese bridge to get into the gardens surrounded by trickling streams and big shady trees.
It was the most peaceful, tranquil place I've ever been to. The only sound around was the gentle bird song and the giant gong - I could have stayed forever.
We decided to drive the long way round the other side of the island (you can drive the circumference of the island in one day and it's definitely worth it - just follow the ocean road all the way round), stopping at various beaches along the way to enjoy the view.
A perfect way to end our stay in Oahu. Tomorrow: The Big Island.
Note to Rachel: A couple of tips - Wherever you go in Hawaii, hire a car. There is so much to see and you just wouldn't be able to do it all if you were using public transport. Also, make sure you take a SatNav with you - in the centre of Honolulu, it's all one way systems and a complete bugger to find your way around!!!
We stayed at Ala Moana Hotel in Honolu - very reasonable prices and gorgeous hotel and pool. Very close to the Marina and plenty of restaurants around for your evening meal. Including a huge shopping centre with great food court just opposite.