With two tickets to paradise, my son and I took a whirlwind visit to Oahu and discovered that we love surfing like abalone and don’t really need to repeat brunch.
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument & Battleship Tours
War is fought by real people, which is a very hard concept to convey to kids who watch glorified Hollywood battles on the big screen. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument tells the story of the people who either fought in or lived through the war. The exhibits are accompanied by oral histories told by surviving soldiers and civilians. A documentary superbly narrated by Stockard Channing prepares you for the quiet moment ahead at the oceanic tomb. My 12 year old was quiet and thoughtful and curious.
Battleship Missouri Memorial
Seeing the Missouri after visiting the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument provides perspective for how this battleship was used in WWII and the not-so-long-ago Gulf War. There are still napkins in the holders in the mess halls and scratchy Navy blankets on the bunks.
North Shore is very different from the city of Honolulu. There is more countryside, fewer buildings and lots of shrimp trucks and fruit stands. We stopped at a roadside fruit stand and ate bananas wrapped in egg roll wrappers and fried, fresh fruit and coconut water but missed out on the shrimp trucks that everyone raved about.
We did make it to the infamous Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore and waited in the long (but fast) line for a guava and pineapple version with ice cream. It was delicious but locals told us the nearby shave ice shops are just as good. Shave ice is literally ice that is finely shaved into a snow cone and doused with the flavor or your choice. You can also get it stuffed with ice cream.
Hā! The Breath of Life is a gorgeous story that takes you on a journey through Polynesia. It is an absolute MUST SEE. It’s entertaining, educational and vibrant. Put it this way: there is love, dancers, singers, lots of fire – men who sit on fire, juggle fire and throw fire, and the hula dancing is outstanding. You won’t forget it. Ever. And if that is not enough, much of the cast stays after the show to take pictures with their fans in the audience.
The rest of the cultural center is a tourist attraction with a lū‘au that you would expect to find in Hawai‘i. The buffet is mediocre but still worth a visit.
Go for the storytelling. It’s a gorgeous place packed with Polynesian culture, shows and artifacts. Learn how the ancient explorers used the stars to navigate their journeys. Explore how rocks melt into lava and listen to enthralling stories that have been passed down through the ages. Moses, who I thought was going to lead us in a boot camp (he is very fit), lead us in a story that took us back in time to when we were kids. He was accompanied by Lokomaika‘i who sang a traditional Hawaiian chant and danced the story as well. It is captivating.
Barbara Eden (of I Dream of Jeannie fame) was there enjoying a Dole whip (dairy pineapple whip) so it must be good. The train tour was not that thrilling – as my daughter put it, she toured dirt. However, the story of the Dole Plantation is worth hearing and the store is an attraction in and of itself. They offer the largest selection of Sanuk shoes I have ever seen. They sell pearls and other jewelry, food, whip and tickets for a train ride.