Planning a Trip to O’ahu

Some of you may roll your eyes at this because I know it sounds ridiculous but, after being in Singapore for six months, it was a small culture shock coming back to the U.S. (albeit, Hawaii). First of all, I’ve only, personally driven in Singapore maybe three times but more than once I was briefly concerned that Marcus was driving on the wrong side of the road. It also really didn’t help that there is a road in Waikiki that looks like they expanded by adding a lane to the other side of a median so the lanes go from two to three with a treed median between them…does that make sense? I mean, my description. Does my description make sense? In a way, their work-around makes sense because it saved trees and all they had to do was paint some new lines directing traffic so, really, I applaud the ingenuity but it is a bit startling at first when your entire life a median is now, no longer a median.

The second slight culture shock was just how loud it was. I didn’t realize how used to the quiet of Singapore I had become. There is an absolute difference even at the airport. I first noticed it at the airport in Fiji as many of the people who were in the waiting area were American. It was so loud compared to the peace of the waiting area in Singapore. But that wasn’t the only time I distinctly noticed the difference. Everywhere in Hawaii was loud. The people on the streets, the restaurants, the constant sirens (I have a hunch that the Waikiki first responders have to be some of the busiest in the United States).

This isn’t to say that Singapore is always quiet but for the most part, it is. The bus is quiet. The train is quiet. The malls are quiet. The streets are quiet with the exception of the occasional angry honk from a driver. I mean, I even rarely hear sirens. Truly, the loudest thing in Singapore are my children screaming at each other.

Despite these few differences it was nice to be back in the states and I made it my personal mission to find the best tacos in town because I have been missing a good taco. After nearly two weeks of searching I learned that some people have no business claiming they sell tacos. I’m not here to point fingers but please don’t slap two pieces of deep-fried fish in a tortilla with some salad greens and call it a taco (*hint* it’s a blue food truck on Kuhio Avenue). Anyway, I did eventually find my favorite tacos at Duke’s Waikiki and now I need to try and replicate them at home.

Speaking of food, one similarity Hawaii shares with Singapore is that the food is expensive. At least in Singapore you can eat fairly cheaply at a hawker centre. But in Hawaii, even the food trucks are expensive. You can correct me if I’m wrong and maybe we just didn’t look hard enough but we were easily spending almost $200 every day on food for four people. Food costs can certainly be cut by staying somewhere with a kitchen or kitchenette.

Equally expensive are the excursions and fun things to do. I knew I wanted to take the girls to Pearl Harbor and Iolani Palace. I thought it would be a good juxtaposition, showing the girls how the United States was the victim in one case but the aggressor in another. As it turns out, Pearl Harbor’s biggest attraction, the U.S.S Arizona Memorial has strict crowd limitations so, what could have been free cost us over $100 for a bus tour which was almost (though not 100%) a guaranteed way to get on the memorial. Tickets go on sale through the National Park Service the day before but they are typically scooped up before you can even get onto the site. You can go and wait as stand-by for tickets but I heard the wait could be up to three hours so definitely, definitely visit the Pearl Harbor website to better understand the current situation.

Iolani Palace, on the other hand, was a breeze though I did buy tickets in advance. With the way COVID changed things it is good to keep in mind that many places require advance bookings and no longer sell tickets “at the door.” In my opinion, Iolani Palace is a “must-do” for any new visitor to Hawaii. You learn about the culture of the native Hawaiians and their previous monarchy. It’s not a very happy story, in the end, but the palace is beautiful and currently they have on display recreations of some of the last queen’s ball gowns which are just gorgeous and which I would wear any day of the week.

Diamond Head is another must-do for anyone with the ability to climb the 560 feet to the top. Diamond Head also requires advance bookings from tourists in order to climb it. Be prepared for it to be hot and bring a lot of water, especially if you choose an 11:00 AM slot like I did. Also, be prepared for a lot of “it builds character” moments with the children. We didn’t actually make it to the very top as both of the girls took one look at the last set of stairs and immediately walked the other way. They liked the bunker just shy of the very top and explored that for a bit before we started our descent. Despite the occasional “I want to turn around” moments the girls did a great job on the trail and were rewarded with their new favorite drink, Jarritos, at lunch.

Another place we visited was Kualoa Ranch which is famous for it’s breathtaking scenery and many movies and TV shows that have been filmed there including Jurassic Park. As a family, we had just finished the entire Jurassic series so I decided to take the girls on a tour of the movies of Kualoa Ranch. Honestly, this one I could have done without but the girls found it to be mildly entertaining. Really, they were most interested in the horseback riding tours that were offered but neither of the girls were old enough. Also, the price to ride horses was astronomically higher than the bus tour.

I did eventually find a ranch that offered horseback riding at a slightly more reasonable price, Gunstock Ranch, so I made a reservation for the girls and I to do that on one of our last days in Hawaii. That was a fun experience as all three of us are horse lovers and to be able to ride a horse is always such a treat. Plus, they had a small petting zoo with a baby cow and some rather rude goats and the girls got their 4-H on by loving on all of the animals.

So, those were the big things we did. We also had some fantastic cousin time with Marcus’s cousin who lives in Hawaii and a cousin who was visiting with her family from Minnesota. It gave the girls a chance to bond with cousins they hardly get to see (Marcus too, for that matter). Other adventures we had were surf lessons for the girls, tons of beach time, and also stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling which gave us the chance to see sea turtles and amazing fish in their natural habitat. I did a little shopping and consuming of adult drinks and driving around in a Jeep (not at the same time as the adult drinks) and, like I said, eating a ton of tacos. It was really a fantastic vacation marred only by the realization that we had a long journey home. Oh! One last thing. In case you were wondering where Marcus was during all of this, he was working for the Navy Reserves. He joined us when he could but for the most part it was just the girls and I.

Published by Lauren Tepaske

I am a full-time mom and wife with a penchant for writing a humorous point-of-view of daily life.

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