Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cruising to Hawaii and the Island of Oahu

Many cruises to Hawaii start or end on Oahu, the third largest and most densely populated Hawaiian Island. The state capital of Honolulu is home to a diverse population, a fusion of east and west cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this underlying disparity between the ancient and the contemporary that makes exploring Oahu so enjoyable. Here is my list of recommendations for you to consider while in port.

Within the grounds of Pearl Harbor and the fairly new Visitor’s Center there are a number of exhibits, displays, memorials, and museums honoring not only the victims of the attacks at that site, but all of those who bravely served in World War II. Interpretive programs, including a 23-minute documentary film about the attack, and the boat trip to the USS Arizona Memorial, are a solemn and sobering experience. You are literally standing over a grave site where 1177 men lost their lives. Purchase tickets in advance, as the site sells out quickly every morning.

If you make it to the top of Diamond Head crater you will be well rewarded by the absolute best panoramas of Honolulu! The trail up isn’t bad at all, not what I would call a strenuous hike. There are handrails along the entire 1.4-mile round-trip journey and benches along the way. You start your ascent from the bottom of this 761-foot crater and the path is a bit steep better suited for shoes with a bit of traction as opposed to flip flops. After a considerable hike you will pass through a dark tunnel (flashlights are a good idea) then exactly 99 stairs. The stairs are real stairs as opposed to dirt or lava. You will then pass through a second tunnel. After a few more steps, you are at the lower level of the top of Diamond Head. There are no rest rooms or Visitor’s Center at the top.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve offers visitors the opportunity to experience live coral, many types of brilliant tropical fish and sea turtles up close and personal.  The bay itself is actually the floor of a volcanic crater that opened up to the ocean when its exterior wall collapsed. Declared a marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967, it is sheltered from strong currents and waves, making it an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. A large sandy beach is flanked by several hiking trails that lead to breathtaking lookouts. The entrance to the bay is down a steep paved hill which is easily walkable, but there is a golf-cart type shuttle both ways that would prefer a ride. There is a snack bar on the premises.

In 1883 the Hawaiian government appropriated funds to build a modern palace for it’s monarchy in order to enhance the prestige of Hawaii overseas, and to mark her status as a modern nation. After its completion Iolani Palace became the official residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, the last king and queen to rule Hawaii before the monarchy was abolished. It is quite beautiful both inside and out. The best way to see the main rooms and upper floor of the Palace is to go on a docent guided tour (which costs about $20 for adults).  It is a good idea to make reservations ahead of time because the tours get booked quickly.

Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and is excellent for tanning, swimming, and boogie boarding. There is no better place to rent a board and take a few surfing lessons. The waves are normally gentle rollers offering beginners a smooth, long ride, and before you know it, you’ll be hangin’ 10 with the best of them! Or for an authentic Hawaiian experience hop into an outrigger canoe, a type of boat that was used by ancient Hawaiians for fishing and traveling between the islands. Waikiki Beach is one of the only places in the world where you can actually race down a wave on an outrigger canoe! Of course for those looking for less excitement, Waikiki Beach is also perfect for an afternoon of mai tais and tanning.

A cruise to Hawaii is a vacation filled with extraordinary natural beauty, and exciting adventure.  With so many choices on Oahu your visit to the island can be as busy or as relaxing as you would like it to be. For more information on Hawaii cruises visit HawaiiCruises.travel or call a cruise consultant at Direct Line Cruises, 1 800-352-8088."

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