Hawaii is a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific. Once a proud independent Polynesian kingdom, it was gradually taken over by foreign powers and turned into vast white-owned plantations. In 1893, a group of American businessmen overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. Soon after, the US government formally made Hawaii part of the USA.
Hawaii is actually an archipelago of eight major islands. Oahu is by far the most popular island, especially for honeymoons. After landing at Honolulu airport, I was welcomed with a big "Aloha" sign, Aloha being hello in Hawaiian. Next to the entrance were women in leafy skirts and coconut bras, gently swaying their hips, just like in the Hollywood movies. It was the impetus to don a garish floral print shirt, and conform to the local cliché.
Kailua is the most beautiful of all Oahu beaches, it's everything you see on Hawaii postcards i.e. calm tranquil aqua blue waters and powder white sands. The nearby Lanikai beach is also highly rated, but the coastal home developments have eroded much of the sandy beach there.
Flying to Big Island
The airline Hawaiian operates flights between the islands. At the airport, they were playing Hawaiian music (songs were about the ocean, the sun shining, pearly shells on the beach etc), and the flight attendants were all wearing floral print shirts.
Big Island, as the name suggests, is the biggest island in Hawaii. The geology is very varied, there's an active volcano, and you can go skiing and swimming at the beach in the same day. The weather on Big Island divides the island in half. The Hilo side is mostly rainy while the Kona side is mostly sunny. And unlike Oahu, there's not much public transport so on Big Island renting a car is the main way to get around.
Kilauea is the most active volcano in Hawaii. The area around it is called Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can see roads that were cut off by lava, hike through trails with volcanic vents, or observe the active crater from a distance.
Just outside of Hilo, lives a lady who bought acres of land many years ago to grow coconuts. After painstakingly growing the trees for five years, Kilauea erupted, completely destroying her plantations. She rebuilt her house over the hardened lava, an area which is now off-grid and off-jurisdiction due to the constant volcanic risk. The lady soon switched to taking people so close to the lava, that they can poke a stick at it. After signing a liability disclaimer, we bound over swathes of solidified lava, like wrinkled elephant skin. The sulfur smell in the air was getting stronger, I could feel the ground getting hotter, fumes and heat waves more becoming, and finally we saw the lava. It was flowing very slowly, enough to get very close. I whipped out a chicken from my bag, put it on a stick, then attempted to barbeque it over the hot lava. But with the intense heat I was roasting at the same time. Much of the hardened lava I was standing on was less than 24 hours old so I won't lie if I say I was not nervous!
On a side note, I had some coconut M&M's in my bag during the lava hike. On the pack, it clearly states that M&M's will only melt in your mouth, so I sent Mars an email complaining that the M&M's melted in my bag when I was standing next to lava, that their label is therefore misleading and I should be given one year free supply of coconut M&M's as a result. I am yet to hear a response from them.
Green and Black sand beaches
Two of the most unique beaches you will encounter on Big Island are the Green and Black sand beaches. The Green Sand Beach is also known as Papakolea Beach. The green sand comes from green olivine crystals that erode over time from a nearby cinder cone. The Black sand Beach, known as Punaluu Beach, is a beach between Pahala and Naalehu. The beach black sand was created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools.
Mauna Kea telescopes
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano standing at 4,200 meters above sea level. At the summit high above the clouds, are the largest telescopes in the world. There's a road to get there but the last 5 kilometers is steep unpaved gravel, a 4x4 vehicle is therefore required. The telescopes are pretty cool, on the way back down it was almost dark, we stopped by the Visitor center at 2800m where you could stargaze, look through telescopes, and buy all kinds of space-related paraphernalia.
Bback in Oahu, the Aloha festival was ongoing which is a colorful Hawaiian parade. There was also a surfing competition, as Hawaii is world renowned for surfing. The pros can usually be observed on the North Shore. For a novice such as myself, I opted for the crowded Waikiki beach instead. It had hundreds of surfers all trying to catch the same waves, so most of the time I was just trying to avoid other people or their loose boards.
Oahu has many hiking trails, some of the good ones are Olomano, Maunawili, Kuliouou, Kamehame and Kealia. During jungle hikes, you can sometimes find wild fruits such as guava or avocados.
Polynesian Cultural Center
The PCC is a Polynesian-themed attraction that offers an authentic showcase of 6 Polynesian cultures (Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa, Fiji, Tahiti, and Tonga). You can visit recreated villages and mingle with natives from each culture as they demonstrate their arts and crafts from their native islands in the Pacific.
Hanauma Bay is a marine life conservation area. Here you can snorkel and swim with some of the most colorful fishes and corals in the bay's pristine blue waters.
When World War II started in 1939, the Americans didn't immediately join in. Instead, they were busy racking it in by selling arms to the Europeans in exchange for cash and land ownership rights. While the Germans were conquering Europe, Japan was trying to swallow China. The US was determined for a variety of reasons that Japan should not dominate China. Talks between the US and Japan kept getting nowhere. In December 1941, Japanese airplanes swarmed down upon Pearl Harbor, destroying most of the US planes and ships. The next day, the US joined World War II. Remnants and memorials of that attack can be found at the current Pearl Harbor site.