After spending a week in Hawaii, our taste for the local dishes was saturated. On our last day, which happened to be August 14, we sought out an American restaurant. A mother and daughter were seated on the adjacent table, talking in a foreign language.
I asked, “How do you like Hawaii?” The mother said they loved it. This was their second visit. They were from Montreal and provided us with some tips on what to see in Montreal and Quebec City.
On the previous day, swarms of international visitors were feasting on street food on the main thoroughfare. It was the annual Waikiki festival. That’s one of the many charms of visiting Hawaii. You run into people from around the globe.
This was probably our 20th visit to Hawaii in as many years. Our first visit, in April 1992, began in Kauai, the Garden Isle, and was followed by a visit to Oahu, the Gathering Place.
In Kauai, we sailed on a Zodiac boat toward the waterfalls. Years later, we came back and saw those same falls from a helicopter. The impact was even more awesome. Many movies have been filmed there, including Jurassic Park. Among the attractions is a beautiful canyon with a distinctive reddish soil.
Kauai is also the location of the Allerton Gardens. On our last visit, we stayed on the southern side and were rewarded with some truly gorgeous views of the sunrise.
Hawaii, the 50th state to join the US, is an archipelago that sits in the northern Pacific Ocean. It has four major islands and two minor islands.
The largest island is Oahu and its largest city, Honolulu, is the state capital. It’s home to the world-famous Waikiki Beach. That’s where we were recently. This time we decided to just hang out at the beach, walk on the sands, watch the blue waters of the ocean strike the beach, hear the roar of the waves, and feel the ocean breeze.
We stayed at the Moana Surfrider hotel, the oldest in Honolulu. Its featured attraction is a giant Banyan tree which was imported from India. Myna birds roost on trees. In the evenings, we were serenaded by a pianist.
Hawaii is ethnically diverse. More than once we have been confused for being native Hawaiians. Alas, the magic disappears when we speak.
Early one morning, I stood on the 15th floor, and looked out at the beach. Even at that early hour, people were swimming, snorkeling or surfing on the waters of the Blue Pacific. Even though surfing is common on Waikiki, the professional swimmers seek out the north shore of the island, where the surf is stronger. Surfing championships are held there.
On prior visits, we have driven to the North Shore. You pass Hanauma Bay which is a spectacular spot for snorkeling. If you don’t swim or snorkel, which we don’t, you can still see plenty of fish and turtles in the crystal-clear waters.
Nearby, unknown to many since its location is not advertised, is the beach where the classic movie, “From Here to Eternity,” was filmed. Many other films have been shot on Hawaii, including Blue Pacific starring Elvis Presly and Diamond Head, starring Charleston Heston.
Diamond Head is the name of an extinct volcano which is very visible from Waikiki Beach. We have climbed it a couple of times and enjoyed both the hike and the views from the top. Another time we flew past it in a helicopter. That ride also gave us a view of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, which was featured in the film, “Tora, Tora, Tora.” It describes how the Japanese pulled off a surprise attack on December 7, 1941. The attack is immortalized in the book, “At Dawn We Slept.”
We have also toured the site of the attack, watched a documentary with many Japanese visitors in the audience, and seen the sunken USS Arizona from a boat. The USS Missouri, where the Japanese signed the instruments of surrender on September 2, 1945, is docked not that far away.
Another attraction is the Polynesian Center where you savor the eponymous cuisine and watch the celebrated fire dance. There’s even a Disney attraction but having seen the ones in Los Angeles and Orlando more times than we care to remember, we have never visited it.
The flag of Hawaii features the Union Jack, the only US state flag to do so. On our 1992 visit, we took a boat ride and noticed that the captain was flying what we took to be the Australian flag. I am glad we did not ask him why because later in the day, when we visited the State Capitol, we noticed the same flag was flying there. Hawaii was called the Sandwich Isles by the English explorer, Captain Cook, who later got into an unfortunate scuffle with the natives on Kauai and was killed.
The Iolani Palace in Honolulu is a reminder that royalty once governed Hawaii. The main thoroughfare alongside Waikiki Beach is called Kalakaua, which was King David’s family name. His stature adorns the center of the avenue. The University of Hawaii attracts students from around the globe including those from Pakistan. Honolulu has several botanical gardens, a zoo, and several museums including, surprisingly, an Islamic Museum.
Maui offers just about everything the heart desires. We have driven around the island and seen it from a helicopter. It features the dormant Haleakala volcano. The view from the top at sunrise is without parallel.
The Big Island is famous for its active volcanoes. In June 2021, we checked out the volcanoes and watched some unforgettable sunsets from a boat.
Lanai is one of the smaller islands. It’s the only place where we have visited a shooting range and tried our hand at shooting clay pigeons with a shotgun. My wife, who had never fired a gun before, emerged as the best shot among the four of us.
The other smaller island is Molokai. It is the least developed of the islands. The residents value their physical and cultural independence. We picked up strong anti-windmill sentiment during our visit and discovered it had less to do with the technology than with the ownership of the windmills. They were being installed by a subsidiary of the large electric utility which was located on Oahu.
Hawaii is, indeed, a slice of heaven. We never get tired of visiting it.
Dr. Faruqui has traveled on all 6 continents to some three dozen countries, 45 US states and six Canadian provinces. He tweets @Ahmadfaruqui.