We decided to finish off our Hawaii trip with a luau on our final night. After some research, I picked the Ali’i Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Polynesian Cultural Center is about 15 minutes away from Turtle Bay Resort and includes replica villages of the different Polynesian cultures. You can choose from a variety of tickets options, and the Center offers discounts for advanced purchased and the military (over the phone). Your ticket for the Ali’i Luau also gives you admission to the villages starting at noon. You have from then until your time for dinner to explore the full center, including the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. Once it’s time for dinner, you are seated as you enter by party size. The dining area has several buffets, and the food is good if not overwhelming. While you are eating, you watch a traditional luau.
The Ha: Breath of Life show was the highlight of the evening for me. After the luau, we headed over to the theater for the show. Ha: Breath of Life tells the story of a man’s life, from birth through adulthood. Each culture represents a stage in his life through their traditions and dances. If you attend the luau, you have reserved seating near the stage. I absolutely loved the show, but Mac wasn’t as impressed. I would recommend checking out the Polynesian Cultural Center even if you don’t go for the luau.
On one of our last days in Hawaii, we decided to book a kayaking excursion with Shaka Kayaks through Turtle Bay. The package lasts about two hours. It includes an hour of kayaking, a light snack, and a quick nature walk around that edge of the property. We headed out at 8 am with a guide to Kawela Bay, a U-shaped bay on the edge of the Turtle Bay property. After watching a quick safety video, we geared up with life vests and prepared to get in the water. The water varies in depth, and you feel the effects of the tide and waves. I get seasick pretty easily, and I didn’t think this was the smoothest water. Our guides said it was one of the calmer days in recent weeks.
Kayaking with the turtles
Turtle Bay definitely earned its name on our kayak excursion. The number of sea turtles we saw surprised me. Several swam around and under our kayaks, and we had to steer to avoid hitting them. We started off from the beach in the middle of Kawela Bay. From there, we paddled over to the northern side of the bay, looking for spider crabs and other wildlife. We then headed out to the mouth of the bay into deeper water. You could definitely feel the waves and tide pulling on the kayaks here. We circled around to the southern side of the bay to check out some of the million-dollar properties on the shore. After one more trip over the middle of Kawela Bay, we paddled back to shore and went on the nature walk. The walk covers a short, sandy path to a pillbox used during World War II.
All photos were taken by Shaka Kayaks and provided to us at the end of our excursion.
Waimea Valley sits right off the highway between Haleiwa and Turtle Bay Resort. We stopped there to hike the park on the way back from Honolulu. If you’re looking to experience your own little slice of Jurassic Park on Oahu, Waimea Valley is the place for you. A bunch of movies, including the newest Jumanji, have also been filmed in Waimea. The park path is pretty easy and paved, but there are a few steep spots. I enjoyed the stunning scenery, especially the all the different species of plants, flowers, and trees. Considering I bought a $7 hibiscus Hello Kitty notepad at a gift shop in Honolulu, I was thrilled to find a hibiscus garden.
You hike about a mile and a half round trip to the waterfalls at the back of Waimea Valley. The weather is very tropical; it sprinkled on and off most of the time we hiked through. If you want, you can swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall. Before you enter the water, you have to check in with the lifeguard and wear a life vest. A good number of people were swimming, and most of them carried their towels and other gear in with them.
When I was researching places to visit in Honolulu, I came across Iolani Palace. Hawaii has the distinction of being the only American state to have been a monarchy. Since I am fascinated by monarchies, I knew I absolutely needed to visit.
The palace sits smack in the middle of the government district in downtown Honolulu. You may have some challenges finding the building and parking lot depending on your GPS. We parked in an hourly spot on the street and fed the meter twice. You buy on-site tickets in the barracks where you’ll also find a gift shop and a quick video about the Hawaiian monarchy. We chose the self-guided tour (I think it was about $15 a person). The guided tour takes you through the two main floors of the palace and is self-paced.
From the barracks, we headed over to Iolani Palace for our timed tour. You pick up an audio headset for your guided tour, and you also have to wear the provided shoe booties. King David Kalakaua, the last king of Hawaii, built the palace to elevate Hawaii’s monarchy on the international stage. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last and only queen, was also imprisoned in the palace after her monarchy was deposed.
The first floor features the throne room, a formal parlor, and the dining room. The throne room is beautiful and displays Lililuokalani’s stunning peacock dress from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Celebration. You then walk up the single staircase to the living quarters. One room showcases the quilt Queen Liliuokalani and her attendants made during her imprisonment. Once you’ve finished in the main palace, you walk outside and into the basement. The basement has a really interesting timeline and history of Hawaii, including an exhibit on the Hawaiian leprosy epidemic. We happened upon another gift shop where we grabbed a purple Liliuokalani monogram ornament (basically everything I love).
Mac and I headed out early one morning to catch the Hawaii Duck Tours. We’ve done duck tours in three other cities, so we were excited for the Hawaii Duck Tour. Since the tour picked up at the Ilikai Hotel, we ate breakfast on property. We parked in the public, hourly lot behind the hotel near the water. We hopped on the Ducky Tour and headed down Ala Moana, the main drag along Waikiki Beach. It was a quick trip past the sites we saw walking down the beach the previous day. From there, we headed up the road near Diamondhead and took in breathtaking views of the Pacific. We passed the building that broadcast the infamous incoming missile alarm. We then circled back through town, past the zoo, and along one of the canals in Honolulu.
One thing we love about the Hawaii Duck Tours (and all of the other ducky tours we’ve done) is the amphibious portion of the tour. We put to sea at the harbor behind the Ilikai and went for a pleasant cruise around Mamala Bay. The absolute highlight of the Ducky Tour was seeing several sea turtles swimming in the bay. You aren’t that close to shore, and the water is deep enough for the turtles. Our tour lasted a bit over the advertised time because we sat out on the bay watching the turtles. We also enjoyed watching surfers of Waikiki and the views of Diamondhead from the water. The weather was perfect, and the ocean and sky were stunning shades of blue. After that, we headed back to shore. The tour guides work for tips only, so please make sure you tip them when your tour ends.
I would highly recommend hopping on the Duck Tour while you’re in Honolulu!
What we know as Pearl Harbor is officially the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The site includes the visitors’ center on Oahu, the USS Bowfin, the USS Arizona memorial (reached by boat), and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah memorials on Ford Island (reached by bridge). The memorial is a sober and fitting tribute to the tragedy of December 7, 1941.
We opted for the USS Arizona narrated memorial tour. Through the National Park Service, you can make reservations for Pearl Harbor two months in advance. I didn’t book tickets ahead of time because we weren’t 100% certain when we would be traveling. The tickets sell out online in a few days. Book ahead if your travel dates are confirmed or if Pearl Harbor is somewhere you cannot miss. Other options include tickets released 24 hours in advance or walk-up tickets. At writing (June 2018), the USS Arizona memorial is not accessible, so plan accordingly.
Once we arrived, we stamped our National Park passport and then strolled around the Visitors’ Center. We then picked up the guided audio tour included with our tickets (I used it, Mac didn’t). The property is an open-air museum with the exhibits arranged chronologically starting to your left when you enter. At your designated time slot, you watch a short documentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor. We chose to sit next to the exit door to have the best options for seats on the tender to the USS Arizona.
From there, you board the tender for a quick journey to the USS Arizona on a Navy-operated boat. You disembark and have 15-20 minutes to pay your respects on the USS Arizona memorial. I would recommend listening to the audio of the survivors as you walk around. The memorial itself is perfect. Open to the sea and the sky, the memorial allows you to see where the Arizona and her crew lie and can get a sense of the loss from that day.
At the far end of the memorial, you will see the wall of names of those lost on December 7, 1941. Two smaller walls note the survivors who chose to be laid to rest with their shipmates. The USS Missouri, where the peace with Japan was signed, sits behind the Arizona; the ships serve as the bookends of the American Pacific theater. Looking out towards the Missouri, you can still see oil leaking from the ship into the harbor.
USS Oklahoma and USS Utah
From the USS Arizona, you should consider visiting the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah memorials. Ford Island is part of the active duty naval base, so you need a military ID card or be part of an approved tour to get on island. The USS Oklahoma memorial sits in front of the USS Missouri. A white column remembers each man lost. Across the island lays the USS Utah. A small dock allows you to walk out over the water to within a few hundred feet of that ship.
The Dole Plantation sits between Turtle Bay Resort and Honolulu, so we decided to stop one day driving back to the resort. The Dole Plantation has three main attractions: the train, the maze, and the gardens. We opted to do the maze the and the gardens. Overall, this was a great place to visit. The only thing I didn’t like was that it isn’t very agricultural; I was hoping to learn more about the cultivation process and to be able to tour the fields. After we finished the maze and the gardens, we stopped in the Plantation Grille for the must-try Dole Whip. We split a small, and it was a delicious and refreshing treat at the end of our day.
We hit up the maze first. The maze is set up with eight different stops (one for each of the Hawaiian islands); each has a stencil that you color in on the card they give you. The stops are set up in a way that you can start or finish at either end. Mac is an Army officer, so he is really good at land navigation. He directed us through the whole maze from the map and without really looking up.
We then walked over to the Dole Plantation gardens. The gardens feature native species from across Hawaii and Polynesia, including lots of the tropical fruits. The gum tree with the striped bark was by far my favorite plant there. The colors are so vivid that it doesn’t even look real. The garden has a loop path with a gentle slope and is incredibly beautiful. If you only have time for one of the Dole Plantation attractions, my vote is to see the gardens.
After a tasty breakfast at Lulu’s Waikiki, we headed across the street to visit the Honolulu Zoo on our first full day in Hawaii. Mac and I love zoos, so we definitely wanted to check out Hawaii’s option. The Honolulu Zoo is a bit smaller than many of other zoos I have visited, but it has a decent selection of animals and lots of beautiful flowers. The zoo is easy to walk around, and they offer a military (and local) discount. We went right after they opened, so we didn’t deal with any crowds. There were a fair number of field trips, though. We took around an hour or so to walk through and see almost every animal.
The Waikiki Aquarium
From the zoo, we walked the half mile or so down to the Waikiki Aquarium. The aquarium was also pretty small, but it had some nice native fish exhibits and a habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seals. The Waikiki Aquarium has several rooms off of a main hallway that you work your way through before going outside. The touch tanks for rays, the monk seals, and a few more animals are outside. They also offer military and local discounts, and it’s a nice detour along the main drag just off Waikiki Beach. Since the Waikiki Aquarium is smaller, it took us about 30 minutes to see every exhibit.
Hey, there! Sorority Life to Army Wife is now Extra Black Olives! After 6 years, I decided to rebrand with a shiny new design (thanks, Fran!) and restart my blog after my semi-hiatus during grad school and the past year.
Why the new name? A few reasons. One is that Sorority Life to Army Wife is really long. It is catchy, but it’s a lot to type and spell correctly on a regular basis. Another reason is that Sorority Life to Army Wife doesn’t feel like me anymore. I didn’t blog a lot during grad school, and I felt like my blog name was very me anymore. (I am still a sorority woman and an Army Wife). Extra Black Olives is very “me” because I always order extra black olives on anything and everything (pizza, subs, tacos, you get the idea). I also love purple, and I wanted my blog design to be more me than a coordinating palette for my name (I’m going to overuse parentheses in this post. I really did love the Americana theme and colors of my latest Sorority Life to Army Wife design, but it was time for something new.).
A big shout-out to Fran with 259 West Designs for the facelift and domain migration. I could not have done this without her because I have truly no idea how to move a website from one domain to another. If you are in the market for a fresh blog look, I highly recommend her. I’m still in the process of updating links and some other stuff, so you may still see stuff from the old website for a few days.