Travelling can be pretty tiring as well. There is always something to arrange or take care of in the evenings, trying to make it on time to your transportation is stressful, and don’t even get me started on how it feels like seeing your funds diminish from your account.
So the plan was to take a break from all that and just relax.
Probably comes as no surprise that the first half of our trip was running around like headless chickens and walking our feet sore in the humid over +30 degrees weather.
On one really rainy but hot day, we took on the task to visit Valley of the Temples, a 1.5 hour bus drive away. The main target was a Japanese Buddhist Byodi-In temple, which is located in a valley and mids of green mountains. We got soaked twice when the sky was pouring on us, but dried up fast as well since when the sun came out, it was burning hot.
We first had a look at a family service building by George Pete Wimberly located on the cemetery, that represents typical Hawaiian modernism by its architectural style.
The temple was beautiful and peaceful – at least for the first hour. We arrived when the temple opened at 9 am and all the tour buses arrived closer to 10 am. The temple was as beautiful up close as it was from a distance, especially when the clouds would come and go and cover parts of the mountain tops. To me the most impressive part was to see the temple on the horizon, quite a sight within the valley.
There were other plans for day trips as well. We really wanted to visit North Shore, that holds one of the biggest surfing competition every winter. During summer the beaches are great for snorkeling, jumping off cliffs into the ocean, and watching sea turtles.
We really wanted to climb a hill to one of the several lookouts to be amazed by the beauty of Hawaiian nature.
We also really wanted to visit Hanauma Bay, which has been said to be the best snorkeling beach in O’ahu.
But a trip to northern beaches would have been 2,5 hours on a bus – one way. The distance between the locations we wanted to visit were 45-90 minutes walk apart each time. Of course you would also want to spend time in each location, so without a car we were in trouble. The other destinations were a longer bus trip away too, and frankly, we just had had it.
The truth is there is only so much you can do. We had another intense period coming up when travelling the West Coast of the USA, so we finally admitted that sometimes it is okay to just lay on the beach. So we did.
Waikiki is the area to go, if you enjoy spending your time with other tourists. It is also the home for Waikiki Beach, the best known beach of all Hawaiian islands. No other area is in as good condition (infrastructure, cleanliness, etc.) as the Waikiki area or has as many other high end retails stores or hotels so close to each other.
A unique touch is hundreds of fires burning by the roads in the evenings, which did create a fitting-for-Hawaii atmosphere. Matte felt sorry for the poor soul who needs to lit every single fire post by hand.
On our first night walking along the Waikiki Beach we had a quick chat with an older group from Texas. They had been in Hawaii for one day. “We’ve seen it all”, they told us. They had not gone out of Waikiki, but just seen the beach and the shopping streets. No wonder they would feel they had seen it all, since you can find a place like that so easily in quite a few other places in the world.
A walkable distance from Waikiki is the worlds largest open air mall, where we ran into a Polynesian dance ritual show. It was quite impressive, I must admit.
You can’t mention the Hawaiian beaches without mentioning surfing. Hawaii is, after all, the country where the sport originated from. We even saw wooden surfboards from 19th Century in the Bishop Museum. The king of surf was Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimmer, who’s statues could be seen also along Waikiki Beach. He has been credited for popularizing surfing around the world.
Aussies might have the surfing in their bones, but Hawaiians embody surfing.
We thought about participating on a class too, but ended up only renting body boards. The beaches were so rocky, that we got enough cuts on our feet by only swimming and body boarding. We had still fun though and I was stoked to have a sea turtle swimming nearby me for quite a while.
It was one of my favourite Hawaiian moments. The baby blue sea, palm trees by the shore, the Diamond Head extinct volcano in the distance, a sea turtle saying hi every now and then. That moment was all I needed to feel relaxed again.
Mahalo means thank you or gratitude. We heard it maybe even more frequently than ‘aloha’. It was a polite way to end any conversation and say goodbye, or express gratitude. So mahalo Hawaii! I hope to return one day to explore the other islands in the mids of the Pacific Ocean.