"I, for one, look back on my Hawaiian experience as everything one envisions this verdant destination to be…and perhaps a little bit more."
Take a dizzying array of ethnicities and add to it a jumbled mixture of languages and traditions. Plop blended mixture onto a jagged volcanic island. Let it settle for a couple generations in the sticky tropical heat and you’ve got a recipe for one of the quirkiest, most dynamic cities in the United States.
Traveling to Honolulu is about the closest thing Americans can get to leaving the country…without actually leaving the country. For many, Honolulu is simply a required entry point before scattering off to the other locales of interest within the “Aloha State.” However, such a delusion is erroneous on a multitude of levels. This vibrantly indelible port city has showcased time and time again a brazen resolve to hold its own against the rest of the state’s illustrious sites and vistas. I, for one, look back on my Hawaiian experience as everything one envisions this verdant destination to be…and perhaps a little bit more.
The crimson sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon upon descent into Honolulu International. As the airplane landed, I couldn’t help but feel giddy about finally being on Hawaiian terra firma. Even the name Honolulu oozed exoticism.
Upon disembarkation from the plane, my travel comrades and I were greeted with none other than the standard Hawaiian welcome; that is, a fresh-flower lei and a kiss on the cheek from a portly little Hawaiian lady. The sweet-perfumed air mixed with the tangible humidity; palm fronds gently swayed in the sultry sea breeze—and we hadn’t even left the airport yet! No wonder Hawaii was epitomized as the vacation destination for so many.
By the time we arrived and checked-in to the hotel, it was nearing midnight. However, given the time change, none of us felt at all weary. So we opted to discover what Honolulu had to offer. As it were, we left the hotel and began our exploration of the city. Wandering through any major metropolitan after midnight is generally viewed as dodgy, so the bunch of us were less-than-enthused when a scruffy, presumably homeless, Hawaiian man approached us in a foreboding manner. I, as perhaps the most naïve of the group, courteously asked him where we might find Waikiki Beach. He responded with a slur of unintelligible ramblings and furiously shook a small, antiquated Tiki statue at us before heading off in another direction with his fraying satchel in tow.
"So there we sat listening to the hypnotic rhythm of the waves, drawing pictures in the sand, and basking in the bliss of a tropical paradise."
The four of us perplexedly looked at one another, utterly confused at such a bizarre occurrence.
“Maybe he put an ancient Hawaiian curse on us,” my friend somberly whispered.
Her suggestion was met with nervous laughter from the rest of us.
“I mean seriously! Haven’t any of you seen that Brady Bunch episode where they find a cursed tiki idol and almost die?!”
We admitted we had, and then quickly went back to continuing our search to find the beach before any more outlandish hypotheses could be theorized.
And find the beach we did. Those who claim Waikiki Beach is too crowded to be enjoyed have never experienced it at one in the morning. The waves gently lapped against the shore and the entire stretch of beach was completely deserted. The water appeared to have an almost phosphorescent glow about it. So there we sat listening to the hypnotic rhythm of the waves, drawing pictures in the sand, and basking in the bliss of a tropical paradise. We had virtually forgotten the ominous demeanor of the homeless man and his foreboding statue.
That is, until the next morning when we awoke. I turned on the faucet in the bathroom sink and discovered the water flowing from the tap to be rust-colored. Not a big deal, I thought to myself. Later that day though, one of our group member’s lost her purse at the International Market Place. Again, it was shrugged off as a mere fluke. But a few hours later when the third member of the group was stung by a jellyfish while snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, we became slightly more suspicious about the previous night’s peculiar run-in with the tiki-wielding man.
These little coincidences followed us through to the next day. We were plagued with a flat tire on the way to Diamond Head Crater, developed severe sunburns while waiting in line at the Pearl Harbor memorial, and another group member had an adverse allergic reaction to pineapple.
“See—I told you! We’ve been cursed by some ancient tribal ritual,” my intrepid friend bitterly retorted as she looked up at the sky that was readying itself to unleash a baleful deluge of water on us outside Iolani Palace.
Nobody really seemed to know how to react to such a preposterous, and yet simultaneously plausible, remark. She did have a point—an absurd, outlandish point. We again shrugged off the possibility of a paranormal power inflicting ancient tribal blights upon unsuspecting mainlanders like ourselves and went on to enjoy the rest of our island getaway.
Even with these few unforeseen glitches during this Hawaiian rendezvous, I was nevertheless impressed by Honolulu and its cacophonous mixture of redeeming peculiarities—especially its ancient culture steeped in tradition.
To this day though, I still cannot fathom the possibility that we were ever truly cursed by a transient hobo and his tiki statue. However, be that as it may, I still have to change the channel whenever a rerun of The Brady Bunch Hawaii episode comes on TV.
Places to Stay
“Halekulani has been hosting visitors to Waikiki Beach for nearly 100 years. Today its reputation for gracious hospitality, impeccable service and magnificent cuisine is unequaled on Oahu and renowned throughout the world. Your Halekulani accommodations will be everything you'd expect in a world-class resort...and more. Surrender yourself to total luxury and unequaled splendor. You'll find everything you'd expect in a world-class hotel...and much more. All Halekulani rooms feature large lanais, designed to let you take full advantage of Hawaii's magnificent tropical climate. Rooms are categorized by view: Garden Courtyard View, Partial Ocean View, Ocean View, Ocean Front and Diamond Head Ocean Front. The majority of rooms offer stunning views of the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.”
“The Kahala Hotel & Resort is Hawaii's reigning luxury resort, set on a secluded beach just ten minutes from the world class shopping and entertainment of Waikiki. This legendary hideaway resort in Honolulu's plush Kahala district is a favorite with presidents, international royalty and celebrities. From the moment you arrive, you will know that you are truly somewhere special. This luxurious oceanfront resort features 338 rooms and suites, five stylish restaurants and a world-class spa. Visit our leisure facilities, Fitness Center, lush tropical gardens and the private lagoon with our own resident dolphins. As Hawaii's most luxurious and secluded beachfront hotel & resort, our tradition of impeccable service will make your vacation with us memorable in every way. The Kahala continues to set itself apart with Kahala Chic, rooms and suites designed to provide guests with a true sense of luxury and refinement, and to ensure guest comfort in every way. With its endearing staff, its new look accommodations and its unique beachfront location, shouldn't you be at The Kahala soon?”
2222 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
“Ready to see another side of Hawaii? Stay at Seaside Hotels to find out what locals have known for years: you don't have to spend a fortune for an incredible Hawaiian vacation. Here, you'll unwind in comfortable rooms cared for by our gracious Hawaiian staff, experiencing Hawaii on your terms. Begin your adventure in our paradise. Explore away! Since 1956, these three Hawaiian family owned hotels located right on the ocean, have welcomed visitors to the shores of Maui and the Kona and Hilo regions of the Big Island. Seaside Hotel's guests experience a generous local spirit and live island style. From hiking to horseback rides, biking to boogie boarding, snorkeling to surfing, Seaside Hotels is the perfect haven for your Hawaiian adventure.”
Things to Do
2330 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
This open-air bazaar possesses all the tell-tale signs of a tourist trap—overpriced tropical drinks with neon-colored umbrellas, desperate shop owners hawking their Aloha shot glasses and knock-off sunglasses, and an overabundance of henna tattoo artists. Yet, it’s also one of the most pulsating and vivacious spots in Honolulu. Every cliché Hawaiian souvenir ever conceived resides within this 4.5 acre complex.
Live performances are presented free of charge on Friday and Saturday evenings.
7455 Kalaniana’ole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96795
Hanauma Bay probably won’t be making it onto any top ten lists for best snorkeling experiences in the world. But in terms of practicality, location, and price—you can’t beat Hanauma. Located just east of Honolulu, this volcanic cone is chock-full of coral reef that acts as a residence for dozens of species of marine life. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a green sea turtle. If you’re not so lucky, you might also catch a glimpse (hopefully nothing more) of a jellyfish.
364 South King Street,
Honolulu, HI 96813
If for no other reason, head to Iolani Palace for the sheer novelty of sauntering through America’s only royal residence. This marvel of grandeur and spectacle was once the dwelling of Hawaii’s monarchical family, headed by King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokolani. Visitors to the palace can immerse themselves in the historical intrigue of Hawaii’s imperial heritage.