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David and I took a short flight from the Big Island to Honolulu, Oahu. We settled into our Airbnb in Waikiki. We didn’t have big plans for the next few days, except our one goal: Pearl Harbor.
Oahu Geography Lesson
Oahu is the small island where Honolulu is located. Honolulu is the major airport in Hawaii, and Hawaiian Air flies to most of the islands of Hawaii from Honolulu. Waikiki is a subdivision of Honolulu and is much more touristy than downtown Honolulu, which is more of a business district.
Pearl Harbor – Arizona Memorial
The biggest thing to see in Oahu is the USS Arizona Memorial. The Japanese bombed the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, and shortly after the US entered WWII. It’s also the only part of Pearl Harbor where you need a time slot to visit, as it requires a short boat ride. The museum puts tickets up for sale two months in advance. Additional tickets are released at 7 am the day prior. Finally, the museum holds 1,300 tickets for the morning of opening for walk-in visitors. David and I got in line behind at least five hundred people. And, amazingly, I think because we were just two people and there were many families, we got tickets on the 7:45 am boat tour.
Before the ride, we watched a 20-minute video talking about the history of Pearl Harbor. The highlights of the video were the actual footage in both Pearl Harbor and Japan. It was witnessing history as it actually happened that was most amazing.
The memorial was stunning. It was beautiful to see and stand over the remains of the USS Arizona, which also serves as the tomb for the sailors who died aboard. Additionally, when the surviving servicemen who were stationed on the Arizona pass, the military inters their remains in the wreck, bringing the crewmen back together in their resting place.
Back at the main site, we went through the Valor Museum, viewing memorabilia and learning even more about the causes and events of World War II in the Pacific.
Pearl Harbor – USS Missouri
We skipped the submarine and the air museum, since we’ve seen really similar things before, and took the shuttle to the USS Missouri. The US stopped building battleships after the launch of the USS Missouri. It is also the location of the Japanese surrender to the Allies. A guided tour around the deck taught us a lot, and we were able to stand right where the surrender was signed.
Inside the vessel, there are exhibits on certain aspects of the war. I felt the most impact by learning about the “Kamakaze” fighters in the Japanese military. They even had letters from the pilots, and it was harrowing to read the letters written by these young men to their parents or finances, knowing they are going to die.
The USS Missouri actually had a part of the deck called the Kamakazi deck, named because it was the site of a kamikaze attack. The crew of the USS Missouri gave the Japanese pilot who died in the crash a burial at sea with full honors; quite the display of humanity. A baker with excellent timing and a camera caught photos of the plane grazing the decks moments before the crash.
All that took us over four hours. You can spend so much time at Pearl Harbor, and I’m so glad we did. It seems to me that I know so much more about the war in Europe than I know about the war in the Pacific, and I learned massive amounts while touring the museums.
Dining in Waikiki, Oahu
During our stay in Waikiki, Oahu we had two fantastic dinners worth mentioning. Then we had dinner at Tiki’s, with a pretty decent view of the sunset and the Friday night fireworks show. (Boy, let me tell you, we were so spoiled back in Kemah with the amazing fireworks show put on by the Kemah Boardwalk and our fantastic view from our roof). Our last night, we had dinner at the Top of Waikiki restaurant, which was a great view of the water.
Walking the Waikiki Boardwalk
When staying in Waikiki, Oahu, it’s a great idea to walk along the beaches and the adjoining boardwalks. We took one walk in the afternoon, enjoying the people watching on the beach, seeing the boats out sailing, and watching the surfers. After dinner, we walked along the tiki-torch lit boardwalk and found the Pan-Pacific Festival, where we watched dancers compete in a hula competition.
If there’s one food you should have in Hawaii, it’s a malasada. Ok, maybe poke first, then a malasada. These doughnuts filled with cream or jelly are so deliciously good, especially straight out of the frier. Just don’t think about the calories.
Next Visit to Hawaii
For our first time in Hawaii, we got a lot done, with our time in Honolulu and touring the Big Island. Someday we will be back though, as there’s so much to see:
- Touring the Na Pali coast by boat
- Diving with manta rays at night
- More food in Oahu
- Red sand beaches
- Hiking Diamond Head on Oahu
- Exploring Maui
- Exploring more of Oahu
Flying Hawaii to Vava’u
We had a pretty terrible experience with the Real Tonga Airline – the only domestic airline in Tonga – on our way out of Tonga. Coming back in, we decided to try to grab the only international flight from Vava’u – a flight between Vava’u and Nadi, Fiji.
There is only one flight a week from HNL to Nadi, and depending on the season, there are two flights a week from Nadi to Vava’u. The way our schedule worked, we could fly to Nadi, spend two nights in Fiji, and then fly on to Vava’u. Otherwise, we would have to fly from HNL to Sydney or Auckland, fly to Nukalofa, have a one-night layover in Nukalofa, and then fly to Vava’u. I priced out both options and determined that flying through Nadi was the cheaper option, and less of a hassle for us.
Flight to Fiji + Layover
We boarded our 2:50 am flight direct to Nadi. Shockingly, we managed to fit everything into two large checked bags and two boxes (for big boat parts…). Each checked item ended up weighing almost exactly 23 kgs – the limit. As I described in a previous post, there’s only one flight a week direct to Nadi. Then from Nadi there are two flights a week to Vava’u, so we ended up spending two nights at a layover in Fiji. David worked on a video, and I read and wrote, mostly by the pool. We stayed at the Oasis Palms Resort, a short ride to the airport with a fantastic restaurant. And it was cheap!
Flight to Tonga (Vava’u)
We had a much harder time getting on our second flight. Fiji Airways was concerned about our letter, because we had an approximate date in the letter and it had been stamped when we left Tonga. It’s understandable; they said that Tonga is not consistent with their rules, and they don’t want to get fined.
They also told us two of our checked bags would have to fly on standby – they would only get on if there was enough room. We opted to send the bags with most of our clothes standby and prioritize getting our boat parts to Tonga. Then, we had another issue. As I was going through security with my carry on bag, they told us we could not bring the rope on the plane. I ran back, planning to check that bag only to find our standby bags were moving down the conveyor belt. The staff helped me grab the bag and quickly swap out some items.
Whew! It was hectic and we made it to the gate with just enough time for breakfast and some duty-free shopping before we boarded. It’s a good policy to always pick up liquor in duty-free – in places like the South Pacific, you can save almost $100 a bottle. The gate attendant (the same lady who checked us in) told us there was room for our standby bags as we boarded. Yay!
The last hurdle was getting into Vava’u. They took our letter, we paid our fees, and we were in – just one thing. We have to leave the boxes of boat parts behind for customs. The boxes would be available for pick up at the customs office on the wharf that afternoon.
Glad to be Home
Our friend Kjell picked us up and took us to the dock. We were able to bum a lift out to the boat. Starry Horizons was floating happily on her mooring ball, very happy to see us! That afternoon we had no trouble picking up the boxes. As they were appropriately labeled for a yacht in transit and we had a receipt showing $0 value, we didn’t have to pay anything. More on the boat parts later…
We noticed on this trip that we’ve lost our tan lines. Between visiting home, road tripping around New Zealand, and our time on S/V Julia, we’ve spent a mere 47 nights out of the 165 this year on Starry Horizons. Spending most of our time away from the boat, losing our tan lines…can we really call ourselves cruisers?
That’s debatable, but I do know that we are most assuredly travelers. I’m very proud of what we’ve seen and done so far this year. But for right now, I’m very glad to be home!