Oahu Fun

After a week on the Big Island, and after an Ironman Hawaii that I’ll never forget, we moved our family to Oahu for a real “family vacation.” Most of our trips are built around events, so this trip within a trip was a welcome departure from our normal approach. The race was done and we had five days to relax and have some fun.

From our base at a friend’s house off of Hawaii Kai Drive, we made some long drives around the island paradise of Oahu. On day one, we explored the eastern part of the island, including Mokapuu Point Lighthouse and Kailua. In Kailua, we had lunch at an excellent Mexican restaurant. Hawaiians seem to love Mexican. Of course, most people in Hawaii really can’t be called Hawaiian. They are just residents that moved from the mainland. We drove the Kalanianaole Highway along the coast over to Kailua and we took the Pali Highway on the way back. There were several awesome scenic viewpoints on both roads.

On day two, we spent some time in Honolulu and visited the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor. It was a special visit to a historic place. The Holocaust, World War II, and the following years played an important role in shaping our family, much like it shaped the families of millions of people around the world. We spent several hours walking around the grounds near the visitor center, we watched a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. One memorial was to the World War II submarine fleet. I noted that the USS Grunion, which was lost in the waters off the Aleutian Islands, was one of the honored subs. I previously blogged about the Grunion, so it was neat to see the monument for the sub. It brought the story of the Grunion full circle for me.

We had an awesome lunch in Honolulu at the Loving Hut. It sounds erotic, but it wasn’t. I didn’t know that this chain existed. It isn’t really a chain. I actually have to learn more, but the one on Oahu was built around a Thai menu. Each location is independently owned and has its own vegan menu. The linkage is through the branding and the vision. It is a vision we like, and the food was excellent, so we had a great meal.

After lunch we went back to the house, Debbie, our baby daughter, and I split from our group. The others visited my cousin, Amy, and went to the beach. We hiked up the Koko Head Crater. There is a lot of military history around Oahu, and Koko Head has its own place in that history. The volcanic geologic history is neat too. We hiked up the extremely steep Koko Head Crater Trail to the 1200+ foot summit. A railway had been built into the hillside to shuttle supplies to buildings on the summit. The rails and ties remain and act as steps, several hundred of them. We had a blast hiking up and down on a hot day. My legs were tired from the race, but it was nice to be on a hill.

After our hike, we visited Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and its beautiful beach. We were required to watch a video before going down the steep hill to the beach. It gave us an overview of the park’s geology, history, fragile ecosystem, coral, turtles, and fish. We merely wanted to cool off and see the wonderful water.

No visit to Oahu is complete without a stroll through Waikiki, so to celebrate our anniversary, we checked out tourist central and confirmed that it wasn’t for us. We couldn’t find anything healthy to eat on the “strip,” so we did some people watching and then headed over to the Umeke Market and Deli Downtown, which also had a nice menu. Debbie does a good job at finding health food stores all over the world. We are planning a book about the best of the best.

Day three was all about the North Shore. We drove into Honolulu and then took the H3, an amazing road that cost more than $100MM/mile to build, over to Kaneohe. Then, we drove the scenic Kamehameha Highway all the way to Haleiwa. We stopped a few times to take photos and visit a fruit stand.

Then, we spent a couple of hours at Waimea Beach State Park, which was a lovely spot. The waves were much bigger than the south side of the island, but small by North Shore standards. Still, we had to watch the undertow, especially with the kids. We stopped briefly at another beach known for sea turtles, but didn’t see any, so we continued to Haleiwa.

In Haleiwa, we visited the Patagonia store, which was neat to see, and then we had lunch at Opal Thai Food, a cool spot. The restaurant is actually in a converted RV and located with several others just outside of town. We were told that the owner was vegetarian. He was very helpful, got creative with our dishes, and chatted with us. The food was excellent.


For dinner, we were joined by my parents at the Kona Brewing Co. location at the Koko Marina. We didn’t get to the original pub on the Big Island last week, but I had tried one of the brews after the race, so it was cool to go to the brew-pub. We had a fun meal and the beer was very good.

On our last day, Debbie and I got to go out and play on our own for a few hours. My parents had hiked Diamond Head earlier in the week and they suggested that despite its popularity, that we check it out. So, we paid our $5 to park at Diamond Head State Monument, and joined a lot of other tourists for the trip up to the summit. We went up and down in 35 minutes, of which 10 was spent taking photos at the top. The views were cool.

This wasn’t enough exercise for Debbie and  my legs were getting better by the minute, so we returned to Koko Head Crater for another assault on the summit. I don’t know how many people do both in a day, but it wasn’t a problem for us. We raced up the steps. I did 11:15 to the top of the steps and 12:00 to the true summit. Debbie was only 90 seconds behind me.

The real feat was her descent, which only took 6:18, blazing fast. I was more than two minutes behind, so if it was an up/down race, I she had me. It was scary. I can’t see how she did it so fast. One missed step or catch of the toe and you are a goner. No fear.

The descent of Koko Head Crater Trail was a fitting end to an amazing trip. The Big Island was awesome and there is so much more to see there. Ironman Hawaii was one of my best race experiences in a 20+ year athletic career. It was truly amazing. Oahu was just packed with fun things to do and see, despite all of the traffic and people congestion. Hawaii is an amazing place, especially for sports and outdoor lovers. We will return. Heck, I said I would learn to surf and we ran out of time…

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