Cindy and John in the boom operator’s compartment. They observed an in-flight refueling of two F-22 fighter aircraft from the KC-135. Photos by Cindy Gardner.
It’s not that we’re experts. It’s just that we’ve been visiting the island of Oahu for 14 years. We are blessed with many island friends, so we’re out and about with them all the time. Hopefully we can share some insider tips to make your next trip more enjoyable. In this article we’ll talk about the non-touristy things to do; next time it’ll be places to eat; and finally, military lodging.
Our Space-A flight out of Travis Air Force Base, CA, on Feb. 2 this year was comfortable and exciting. The KC-135 did some in-flight refueling with two Air Force F-22 fighter aircraft en route, which is always fun to witness.
After landing at Hickam AFB, HI, now called Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, we walked across the terminal lobby to Enterprise car rental. We had reserved in advance by calling 808-423-1005. You can get around Oahu on The Bus, www.thebus.org, which is cheap and efficient, but most of the off-the-beaten track sights we will mention require a car.
The Arizona Memorial. Photo by Cindy Gardner.
Our list of things to enjoy on Oahu does not include the usual tourist spots. Oh sure, we walk Waikiki Beach at least once, but we prefer to experience the local flavor, with military advantages whenever possible. For instance, instead of going to the Arizona Memorial with a huge crowd, call 808-471-9988 and make a reservation for the Admiral’s Launch. You have to make reservations well in advance for this marvelous free tour. You see the Arizona Memorial like everyone else, but you are treated to much more: a pictorial accounting of the attack on Pearl Harbor, actual film footage of the attack and aftermath, a boat tour around the harbor to see where other ships were moored on Dec. 7, 1941, and an oral history from a well-informed Sailor. This tour is open to all military personnel and their guests (two guests per ID holder).
The USS Missouri is docked on Ford Island. Admission is $17 at the ship; reservations are not required. It’s interesting to do this tour following the Arizona Memorial to visualize where the war in the Pacific started (USS Arizona) and where it ended (USS Missouri).
There are a couple of related military museums on Oahu: the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island; and the Hawaii Army Museum at Fort DeRussy located next to the Hale Koa Hotel.
On the lighter side of museum life, the Bishop Museum offers island history, a planetarium, a gift shop, and lovely grounds. They have two special exhibits at the present time (March, 2013) one on “Hero’s” depicting the 442nd Nisei soldiers, which will be permanently housed at the Smithsonian after leaving Hawaii; and “Bugs”. Both kids and (most) adults will like the arthropod presentation. The Bishop Museum is open 0900 to 1700 Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesdays) and costs $12.95/10.95 adult/seniors with military ID. It’s located at 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu.
If you have time on a Wednesday (0800 to 1500), Saturday, or Sunday morning (0600 to 1500), a trip to Aloha Stadium is fun. The locals call it a “Swap Meet”, but the items are all new. The cost is $1 per person. You can buy clothing, luggage, souvenirs, food, Hawaiian fabric and much more at reduced prices. Go early because it gets hot in the sun, and bargain for all your purchases. The stadium is located next to Pearl Harbor near the entrance to Ford Island.
For musical entertainment, try the Royal Hawaiian Band. Check the TGIF magazine that comes with the Friday Honolulu Advertiser newspaper. It lists all the band times for the whole week. We highly recommend the Friday noon performance on the grass at the Iolani Palace.
Iolani Palace, is the only official royal residence in the US. (on South King and Richards Streets.) It has guided tours every 15 min. The cost is $16.75 for the military. First you watch an excellent video then start the interesting tour. Please check the website for all the particulars as the times vary, http://www.iolanipalace.org/.
Keri and Rob (the Gardner’s daughter and son-in-law); Photos by Cindy Gardner.
There are several options for exercise on Oahu. There are waterfalls and ridges to hike, or try a walk up Diamond Head for spectacular views of Honolulu. Some rocky terrain on the path, and some stairs (first 99 stairs, then 77), but many families do this hike. Take water with you, also a flashlight. There are two tunnels that you walk through and they’re dark. The fee is $5 per vehicle or $1 per pedestrian. The parking lot is located inside the crater on Diamond Head Road. The hours are 0600 to 1800. Check out the following website for history and description of the Diamond Head hike: http://diamondheadhike.org.
For additional hikes consult the book “The Hikers Guide to Oahu”, available through Amazon Kindle and other bookstores.
Our favorite hike is up to Manoa Falls at the end of Manoa Valley just minutes from downtown Honolulu.
The Byo-Do-In Japanese Buddhist Temple on Oahu. Photo by Cindy Gardner.
By driving over the Like-Like Fwy to the town of Kaneohe you get to experience the magnificent Ko’olau Mountain Range. Take the Kahekili exit and go through five signals to Valley of the Temples Memorial Park on your left. Byo-Do-In Temple, Japan’s 900-year-old architectural treasure is duplicated in exact detail inside the Park. You go thru a cemetery, to get to the Buddhist temple and will feel like you’ve arrived in Japan. Whether you just walk around the grounds, meditate, or appreciate the beauty of it all and admire the koi and peaceful surroundings, you’ll soon forget that you’re in Hawaii. Cost is $3/$2 per adult/senior.
For a relaxing movie in very unusual surroundings, try the Movie Museum in Kaimuki. It’s where the locals go. For $5 per person, you sit in a recliner chair, watch a great movie, and you can bring your own food/drinks. There are only 20 chairs to view this 30 ft screen, so call for reservations, (808) 735-8771. Check the website to see what’s playing: http://www.kaimukihawaii.com/calendar/200603/868.html. Location: 3586 Harding Ave Suite 4, Kaimuki, HI, 96816. Access to the theater is through the adjacent municipal parking lot.
Cindy and John (on the left) with friends at the Movie Museum in Kaimuki. Photo by Cindy Gardner.
It’s amazing how many free attractions there are on Oahu. A drive on the Pali Highway to the Point yields spectacular views of Kaneohe Bay and Kailua, plus there are plaques with historical notations. Warning, hang on to your hats as the wind is usually quite strong. Go to the North Shore for the huge waves and to watch the surfers. Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline are just two of the beaches where you might want to pause. The North Shore has a totally different feel of island life.
These are just a few of the less expensive, interesting, and non-Waikiki things to do. Of course there are many more, but we really have to get back to island life ourselves now.
With our Aloha, Cindy Gardner and LCDR John Gardner, U.S. Navy, (Ret.) San Rafael, CA. email@example.com
Reprint from May–Jun 2013 • Volume 43, No. 3