Waikiki is one version of paradise, if you like shopping and thousands of shuffling tourists everywhere, but the naturally gentle feeling of the air and water make it feel a lot like perfection no matter how many people you see. Waikiki and most of the leeward side of Oahu including the southern, southwestern and western areas from Hawaii Kai up to and past Hickam Air Force Base are thick with people and cars. That includes greater Honolulu and neighboring communities, definitely Waikiki.
But, complain as you might about traffic density and human impact on the island, step into soft morning air and then into gently surging waves of ocean water that's about 77 degrees and your fussing stops. It's so easy to fall in love with it.
Today, we walked from our hotel to the Moana Surfrider two or three blocks away, admired their lovely open lobby and veranda where you can have tea in the afternoon under the shade of a giant banyan tree, and then walked over to our favorite, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Nicknamed The Pink Lady for the bubblegum pink color of the Spanish Colonial style of the original buildings, the hotel is surrounded by high rise modern structures where once she stood alone with tropical gardens all around her. The nearest hotel was the Moana Hotel, both of which still appear far more stylish and beautiful than anything that has been built since.
We splurged on a delicious breakfast on the open veranda under the shade of pink umbrellas. Gracious and excellent service marks the restaurant as well as the entire hotel as proud grande dame from a bygone era. There is a hat shop on the property that sells fine handmade Panama hats. I tried on my dream hat - a beautiful ladies summer piece that felt like a feather on my head and fit perfectly. It's a hat that needs a hat box, a pretty dress, good jewelry and an estate to live on. $200 is too rich for me.
After a quick walk back to the hotel, we hit the road north and then east to Kaneohe by way of Interstate Highway 3 (H-3). Yes, there are interstates in Hawaii, but it's due to a technicality, I've heard, allowed because the highways connect federal lands together (military bases). Yeah, I know. H-3 is a spectacular 10 mile highway that goes from the leeward side of the island, through the high jagged peaks by tunnel, and then suddenly out the other side where you skirt the mountain side and see the eastern, windward coastline, far below. We drove that way just to get the view, which is stunning. Then, winding north along the coast road with the top down on our convertible, we drove through small communities of a more rural quality and past roadside huts selling souvenirs and pineapples.
We continued all the way to the north shore where Sunset Beach, one of the main surfing areas in the entire world, is currently hosting the Triple Crown of Surfing for the next week. I'd have loved to have sat and watched the waves and surfers out in the far break for hours, but we had to get going after a short while. The best waves we saw were about head high there, breaking about a half mile out at most. I've never been lucky enough to see giant waves on the north shore, but when a big swell is on its way, the crush of surfers who head for the area is epic. Parking becomes a horrible mess and spectators line the beaches high out of harm's way for miles. I'd go anyway, just like all of them, to see the spectacle of such power and beauty. Nearly everything about North Shore is surfing, made even more fabulous by the rugged open land and agricultural region of the whole north end of the island. Distant high mountains and big cumulus clouds piling up in the west create quite a backdrop for the long tawny beaches and aqua-blue sea.
We stopped for a late lunch in historical Haleiwa and then drove home again, getting caught in rush hour traffic in the last few miles. There seems to be no really good time to get to the north shore except very early in the morning. Beaches have free access, some offer showers to rinse off sand when you're done and lifeguard towers. I've been to the north shore a handful of times and I've never gone away unhappy. There's always something beautiful you can never get enough of, and you always want to go back. Always.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way