I'm not good in the heat, I like to do things, I left the beach culture behind in my teens, so Hawaii was never on my long list of places to visit.
Christmas 2016, my sister and brother-in-law announced they were going to be in the US next year for a White Christmas, and possibly in Hawaii for New Years Eve. My other sister and I were like, we could meet you for NYE.
It was a nice thought and words put out there.
Come mid 2016, my sister had decided to join the rest on their adventures in the US and now Canada for Christmas, and I decided I would meet them in Hawaii.
I did no research, I had no idea what I would do, I was tired, so much going on in my life. All I knew that I would read, drink cocktails and be poolside. That seemed enough, which is not how I usually approach travel.
The family would only be in Hawaii, a few days, I wanted 10 days, and so if I left on Boxing Day (which is usually very challenging as it is my birthday), I would get two bites at my birthday and have a few days to myself before the family arrived.
I soon realised travelling anywhere at Christmas is very expensive, but with the help of a great travel agent/friend I found the perfect place, that whilst expensive, wasn't as bad as it could be.
And soon, it was paid for and I just had to wait.
I did a little research, mostly through friends that had been there, and I soon found out how popular it was as a holiday destination. Everyone, seemingly, had been there. I had a small to do list, but really just wanted to chill and be still.
The beauty of Hawaii, is a fairly short plane trip (9.5 hours from Australia), a US state, English is spoken, with some Hawaiian words easy to include. And yet, it was a cultural experience, with the Hawaiians being the most lovely and friendly and easygoing people I have encountered. Up there with Africans, ok, Africans are probably a little slower than Hawaiians, lol!
Hawaii is plain beautiful, not just the beaches, which are second to none. But mountainous backgrounds everywhere. To sit on a beach and to look at beautiful mountains in one direction, and stunning aqua beaches in the other direction is something that photos cannot contain, you really have to be there.
My arrival was completely surreal, firstly I was seated next to a family on a plane with 2 small children, who cried/screamed the entire trip! Oh vey! Hawaii airport is huge and the plane landed on one side and we had to make our way to the other side, no air con, and a little muggy. I was hot and bothered and sweaty. Because of that the special check in machines wouldn't read my fingerprints, and I had to go through the manual way and was asked if I had committed a crime previously in the States! Very stressful and I began to worry I would be sent back home on the next plane.
Finally I got through, and was greeted by lovely Hawaiians with a shell lei and placed on a small mini van. It was there I realised my second cousin was sitting opposite me. I knew she was on my flight but had not seen her in many years, we had a funny catch up. It was raining quite heavily and we were assured this was abnormal.
So I arrived at my hotel feeling rather odd but happy. I immediately felt comfortable and was thrilled with my room, and its stunning views. I headed out for a late lunch and explore despite the rain. However, the rain had upped to a mini tropical storm and without knowing where to head and wind that rendered an umbrella useless, I had to retreat and have lunch at the tiki bar in the hotel.
And so my birthday lunch was a Hawaiian burger and a cocktail, while watching the rain drop on the hotel pool. And it was divine.
That night I went to a Luau, still raining but not so bad, I wandered out onto the streets of Waikiki and fell in love, even in the drizzly rain the place looked magical, even more so. I crossed the street to the Royal Hawaiian Centre, a large multiple story shopping centre of sorts that goes for three blocks and I could walk under cover and look at shops as I made my way to the end where my destination was.
The Luau had to be inside due to the weather, but that didn't stop the fun. Great food and entertainment, lovely people and a perfect way to spend my birthday. As I wandered home I realised all the shops were still open and always were till late every night. I am not a shopper, but that meant lots of people were about and it felt perfectly safe to be out by myself that time of night.
The next few days consisted of sleep in, get up and potter and leave when I felt like it. Walked the streets for hours, taking in the sunshine, beaches, and general surrounds. Find somewhere for a late lunch and watch the world go by, then back to my hotel for a swim, read and cocktail, followed by a nap before heading out for dinner and a late evening walk.
I never felt so relaxed in my life!
One morning I caught the bus into downtown Honolulu. First stop was the Museum of Art, an amazing piece of architecture with outdoor areas, and stunnings collections of art, that included Picassos and Monets and so forth. I spent the morning there in awe. Galleries and Museums are my favourite places to explore on holidays and I rate this one up there with ones I have visited in New York and Europe.
After the gallery I went further in to the town and wandered around this middle section of deco buildings and important buildings. It was muggy after a drizzly morning, and I spent time inside the State Library before heading back to Waikiki for a late lunch.
Once the family arrived, things stepped up a bit and we did the touristy things.
We did the Pearl Harbour thing, which I was so so about. We had to be up early to arrive and despite having pre-ordered tickets, still had to line up to get in. I had no real idea what to expect but I was really taken aback... in the right possible way. We had about an hour to kill before our tour started. That gave us time to wander the museum there. Fascinating and freaky all at once. I was super impressed by the maturity and interest shown by my niece and nephew. We had lots of interesting discussions based on things we saw there.
Our tour included a short film about the day of the attack, with actual footage. Sobering stuff. We then were transported by ferry across to the actual monument for the sunken Arizona. It is a small building on the water across the actual ship. Being a graveyard for numerous souls, it was a sombre experience. There was still oil escaping from the ship, and seeing parts of the ship was eerie. I could go on about twats spending time primping for their selfie, but what is the point! We paid our respects, and then were ferried back to the base.
We were collected by our amazing tour guide, full of information and history, not only about Pearl Harbour, but Hawaii itself. Next stop was to go aboard the USS Missouri, a rebuilt version of the original ship. Remarkable and bloody huge, the kids loved it, I wasn't keen to go underneath and explore, so I just pottered on the main section. After this we toured round Honolulu and the hills where the burial grounds are situated. Amazing views.
We did some shopping, checked out the Honolulu zoo, and also hired a car and drove around the island, seeing amazing beaches, mountains, little hut communities, tourist traps and the like. The last evening we took a night cruise around the beach/harbour of Waikiki, it was lovely.
I cannot talk up Hawaii enough. The food was amazing, the cocktails even moreso, the sights stunning, the beaches just perfect, sunsets unlike any I have ever seen, the people even more perfect. I felt at home there, I will go back. I came home feeling more relaxed than I ever had been.
And I commenced the year in style, with family on Waikiki Beach, watching fireworks, drinking champagne, and feeling free.
Oh to be back there now...