In February 2013 I took my Mom to Hawai`i for 10 days. We were going to go around the island of Oahu and take a side trip over to the Big Island of Hawai`i specifically to see Volcanoes National Park. She had always wanted to go, but never did. We took a small wheel chair to make it easier (and quicker) to get around. Good thing, Hawai`i is easily accessible everywhere by wheel chair and we probably saw a lot more that way. It also came in handy at the hotel. I had booked a room near Waikiki for a good price, after all in Hawai`i you're not in the room a lot anyway. But, it had a tub and no shower. It also over looked the top of a parking garage and no ocean view (I got what I paid for). The next morning, we went down to the front desk (my Mom in the wheel chair) and asked if they had a room with a shower. Long story short, they bumped us. Big time! Not only in room status but also in height and view. We ended up getting a larger room, on the 32nd floor (of 36), balcony, and an ocean view of Waikiki. Free of charge! Very nice.

We started out in Honolulu, where we arrived late in the afternoon. Near the hotel was Ala Moana Beach Park where we started enjoying the sun and warm weather after leaving Chicago's frigid temperatures. Part of the park is called Magic Island and juts out into the ocean, from here you have great views of the shoreline, and Waikiki. We walked a bit around Waikiki area and stumbled upon the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and ended up going to the Rockin' Hawaiian Rainbow Revue show that evening. They had music, hula dancers, fire twirlers (I guess that's what they put on their resume), and finally fireworks. It was a great setting and a wonderful way to end the first night.

The next several days, we did some driving around the Honolulu area. We went to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and Puowaina (Punchbowl) Crater. The memorial honors over 28,000 U.S. armed forces members. We drove into the hills surrounding Honolulu to Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park, which provided spectacular views over the city. We also drove along the coast, stopping at several beaches and enjoying some beach front views.

We then took a short flight, island hopping to the town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Despite Hawai`i being composed of volcanoes, Oahu has no active volcanoes. I wanted to show my Mom some active volcanoes, and no better place than Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. The flight was under an hour (216 miles/374 kilometres) and we were there. We picked up a rental car and spent the day in the park, enjoying the sites they had to offer. You start at the Kīlauea Visitor Center, and get all the information you need to know of what all the stops are along the way. Of course, as you drive the Chain of Craters Road you eventually have to turn around when the volcanic lava blocks your path. You know then you had finally reached the end of the road. End of the road, but not the end of our travels. It was a full day on The Big Island, and we had an uneventful flight (hop) back to Honolulu.

The next day we went to Pearl Harbor. There is the U.S.S. Missouri battleship, the U.S.S. Bowfin submarine, Pacific Aviation museum, and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. You can't help but see these sites that had such an impact on the world. Make sure you book your tickets early in the day, or preferably the day before (or sooner online) so you don't have to spend a lot of time waiting. We had our tickets, so we were also able to spend part of the day driving a little North to the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa. The Dole Plantation has a train tour that goes into the fields and informs you of some pineapple history (no quiz), there is also a garden tour, but best of all is the Dole Whip. Yummy! If you don't know what it is, you are missing out on one of the great treats of the world.

Despite looking at it the last several days from our hotel room, we finally officially made it to Diamond Head. It is a large volcanic cone right off Waikiki Beach area, you can't miss it. The inside of the crater is a lovely park like setting. Since we were on a roll of 'things we have seen but not done', we finally also went onto Waikiki Beach. We started right at the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, and made it into the water. They have a webcam there, so we made some calls back home to family so they could watch us on the webcam. Always fun!

Speaking of fun! We spent the next morning driving to Laie on the North Shore and the Polynesian Cultural Center. It works out nice, you can take your time spending the morning driving and stopping along the coast since the Center doesn't open until Noon. We bought a VIP Ambassador Package to get the most of the day and to get to see everything up close. I have said before from my last visit here, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a Disneyesque like park with various Pacific cultures (Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, etc.) represented in villages set-up all around in a park like atmosphere. OK, maybe I didn't say it exactly like that, but it really is a must see, must do item when you are there. For the various shows and performances, our VIP guide made sure we got there on time and provided first class seating for the events. At the end of the day was a huge luau, followed by a wonderfully planned stage performance of each of the cultures represented. Really quite a sight to behold.

Our North Shore adventure continued around the island. The North Shore waves are generally more suited for surfing than swimming, the answer to your question is 'no'. A highlight on the North Shore is Waimea Valley, which is a tropical lush area with gardens, waterfalls, and beaches. Not much further away is Haleʻiwa Beach Park, a great place to watch the waves.

Back in Honolulu, we were able to see some of the sites there before we returned home. We went to the Honolulu Tower Marketplace, another famous Honolulu landmark probably only second to Diamond Head. We went to the top for some nice photos of downtown Honolulu. Also downtown was the Capital Building and ʻIolani Palace. Lastly Aliʻiōlani Hale, the famous 5-0 building that's really the Hawai`i State Supreme Court. There are quite a few historic buildings all within easy walking distance of this same area in downtown Honolulu.

Normally when you leave somewhere, you give details like time, flight, airline. With Hawai`i you only give the important info. Let me just say, we left Honolulu at 83°F (28°C). The temperature in Chicago on arrival was 25°F (-4°C). Did I mention the 2+ feet (.6 meters) of snow?

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Honolulu on O`ahu - Spectacular view from the hotel balcony.


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Honolulu on O`ahu - Diamond Head from Ala Moana Beach Park.


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Honolulu on O`ahu - The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, located in Punchbowl Crater.


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Volcanoes National Park on Hawai`i - A short hop to The Big Island of Hawai`i, and you can see Volcanoes (well, that's what the sign says).


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Volcanoes National Park on Hawai`i - The Kilauea Caldera (or crater) is the most active volcanoe on the Big Island.


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Volcanoes National Park on Hawai`i - Volcanoe cliffs provide for a dramatic viewpoint.


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Volcanoes National Park on Hawai`i - Us at the end of the Chain of Craters Road. Now where did I park the car?


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Pearl Harbor on O`ahu - The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Just one of the many historic sites here.


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Wahiawa on O`ahu - Ummmm. Me in a giant Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation. Am I dreaming?


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Honolulu on O`ahu - Diamond Head, or Le'ahi, is not quite as dramatic from the inside.


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Honolulu on O`ahu - One hotel room I didn't mind coming back to. Did I mention the view?


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Honolulu on O`ahu - OK. Well, you could walk on the treadmill and stare at a wall.


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Waikiki on O`ahu - Or, you could walk outside and enjoy the scenery.


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Waikiki on O`ahu - Sometimes the food is not as important as the view.


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Honolulu on O`ahu - Kualoa Regional Park is at the edge of Kane'ohe Bay on the Windward side of the island.


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Laie on O`ahu - The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is on the northern end of the island and a must see attraction.


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Laie on O`ahu - Talk about a colorful group of people.


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Laie on O`ahu - The pig for our luau. No shoes, no shirt, no problem Cuz.


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Hale'iwa O`ahu - Located on the North Shore, you can't help but want to become a surfer with waves like this.


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Hale'iwa, O`ahu - My case in point... Hang loose Makuahine...


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Hale'iwa, O`ahu - Me at the waterfall in Waimea Valley.


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Honolulu on O`ahu - Us at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. They have an elevator to the top for great city views.


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Honolulu on O`ahu - The statue of King Kamehameha in front of the famous Ali'iolani Hale, which houses the Supreme Court and maybe other government agencies (real and fictitious).


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Honolulu on O`ahu - From this...


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