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.
Oahu is the most popular island in Hawaii. When I arrived at Honolulu airport, there was a big sign "Aloha, welcome to Hawaii". Next to it 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 enjoy some pacific island hedonism.
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.
Oahu has many hiking trails, some of the good ones are Olomano, Maunawili, Kuliouou, Kamehame and Kealia. During jungle hikes, I picked up some wild guavas and avocados which were very tasty.
Flying to Big Island
The airline Hawaiian operates flights between the islands. At the airport, they were playing Hawaiian music (songs were usually about the ocean, the sun shining, and pearly shells on the beach), and the flight attendants were all wearing floral print shirts.
Big Island! You get the volcanoes and can go skiing and swimming in the same day. Lush rainforest and lava desert. 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.
In Hilo, I bumped into an Australian guy I met in Honolulu who informed me there is a lady who takes people close to the lava. This lady 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.
We went to her house the next day. She made us sign a liability disclaimer then we hiked through the lava desert and underground tubes where rivers of lava used to flow to the sea. The sulfur smell in the air was getting stronger, I could feel the ground getting hotter, fumes and heat waves were becoming more visible, and finally we saw the lava. It was flowing very slowly, giving us enough time to get very close. I whipped out a chicken from my bag, put it at the end of the stick, and tried to barbeque it over the lava. But with the intense heat I was roasting at the same time. A lot of the hardened lava we were standing on was less than 24 hours old so definitely not the sturdiest support and we had to watch our steps carefully.
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, known as Papakolea Beach, is as the name suggests a beach with green sand. 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.
Honolulu - part deux
Back in Honolulu, the Aloha festival was ongoing which was a colorful parade of Hawaiian culture. There was also a few surfing events, as Hawaii is world renowned for surfing. The professionals can usually be observed on the North Shore. For a novice such as myself, I was practicing on the crowded Waikiki beach. It had hundreds of surfers all trying to catch the same waves, so a lot of time is just trying to avoid them or their loose boards.
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). There you can visit authentic 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 enjoy swimming with some of the most colorful fishes, coral reefs, and exotic marine life 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 filling their pockets 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.