Three free days in Honolulu, Oahu (April 1-3, 2023)

Free is a bit of a misnomer since we had all three days planned before we left home. We are not the kind to leave anything to chance. We went from the ship to the Hale Koa Hotel, a home away from home for US military members and their families. After checking in we took a nice walk, had lunch, and then got organized for our brief stay in the city.

Our attraction for the day: Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence in the United States. Chew on that for a moment. Meticulously restored to its former grandeur, the palace is a throwback to a time when their majesties, King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, walked the grand halls. Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, Iolani Palace was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs and also served as the residence of the kingdom’s political and social life until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. The palace, registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1962, was built a couple blocks from the water, but thanks to land reclamation the water is no longer within sight.

We had a crackerjack guide who did a great job of explaining what a prominent place the Kingdom of Hawaii played on the world stage. The first ruling monarch to attend a state dinner at the White House, hosted by President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant in December 1874, was King Kalakaua, After a face-to-face with Thomas Edison it was decided that the palace should be electrified and, as a matter of fact, was four years ahead of the White House in doing so. All bedrooms were built en suite and there was a telephone! King Kalakaua was the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe (1881).

If we had the time I’d love to go to the museum that has the queen’s cape made of feathers. We saw it in a picture which did not do it justice I’m sure. Our guide explained that two (only) feathers were taken from zillions of wild birds (who were released to live another day) and made into a piece of wearable art. We did see the gown designed with peacock feathers that Queen Kapi’olani commissioned for Queen Victoria’s Grand Jubilee in 1887. On Queen Kapi’olani’s trip home she popped in on President Cleveland. I clearly underestimated the global reach of these fashion forward leaders.

Sidebar: Dan and I got engaged 54 years ago today.


Before leavening home we arranged for a privately guided, full-day tour of Pearl Harbor, the number one visitor destination in Oahu. The sites around the harbor commemorate the events of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Against formidable odds, the Japanese Imperial Navy ordered an armada that included 414 planes aboard six aircraft carriers be set to sea with strict orders not to communicate with one another. The six carriers rendezvoused at a predetermined time in an area 230 miles north of Oahu. At 6:00 a.m. Sunday, the first wave of Japanese planes lifted off from the carriers, followed by a second wave an hour later. This surprise attack killed over 2,400 Americans, sank twelve U.S. ships, and instantly cemented the entry of the United States into World Wat II.

Our first stop was at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. There are two films that layout the details of December 7 and two small museums that augment the films. The centerpiece of the park is the USS Arizona. We had tickets for the 9:30 boat ride to the memorial which was built above a small section of the sunken battleship. The centerpiece of the memorial is the shrine room which amounts to a huge wall that lists all the men who died on board that fateful day. Listed separately are the names of survivors who later chose to have their remains brought to the site so that National Park Service divers could place their urns within the barrette that once held gun turret four. The memorial is treated as a burial ground, so guests are asked to silence phones and remain quiet and respectful at all times.

Adjacent to the National Memorial is the USS Bowfin, a fleet attack submarine that conducted nine war patrols in the Pacific between 1943 and 1945. Each patrol lasted about two months and required the Bowfin to patrol a designated region of ocean for Japanese ships or boats. We walked on top of the sub and then went down into its belly. Talk about Tight Quarters! Bunks were anywhere one could be squeezed in, including next to torpedoes. Everything was in miniature to include showers too small to turn around in. Water was in short supply, so the men did not shave making for some scruffy looking dudes at the end of two months. Before leaving the park we saw a submarine rescue chamber and a Japanese manned torpedo with room enough for one kamikaze.

Our last stop of the day was on Ford Island where we stopped briefly at the USS Utah and the USS Oklahoma Memorials. Both battleships were total looses. We spent much longer at the Battleship Missouri Memorial. This ship’s connection to WWII was totally different than the others referenced in the harbor since it was not even officially commissioned until June, 1944. She served honorably in the Pacific and was later designated the surrender ship. We saw where the ceremony took place on September 2, 1945 while it was anchored in Tokyo Bay. We explored the maze of rooms below deck, which were huge compared to those of the Bowfin and learned about the one kamikaze pilot that grazed the side of the ship. We saw the spot where the American sailors on board gave him an honorable burial at sea recognizing that he was bravely serving his country at the time of his death just like they were bravely serving theirs.

It was a long, full, brain-busting day that Dan and I decided to polish off with a stroll down to see the statue of Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, an old school (think late 1800s) waterman who became an Olympic swimmer known for popularizing the sport of surfing. I had watched Waterman before the trip, so seeing his statue on Waikiki Beach was of interest.

Sandy is not feeling so great, so she and Alan did not tag along.


Today was a long, fun day too. We went to the tour bus pick-up spot at 9:30 this morning and the bus dropped us back at the hotel 13 hours later. We were pooped but very satisfied with the day we spent at the Polynesian Culture Center (the PCC), a nonprofit Epcot Center-esque educational park. It’s no small undertaking to explore the rich heritage of six Polynesian Islands in a 42-acres park, plus attend a luau and a stage production, but we gave it our best shot.

The Center has six separate villages, each dedicated to an individual island: Fiji, Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Samoa with a shoutout to Easter Island. Each park has a show highlighting traditional music (nose flute anyone?) and dance plus games, crafts, and skills that we were welcome to participate in. We watched in awe as two guys scurried up and down coconut trees. The centerpiece of the luau was a large roasted pig, head and feet attached. The show that ended the day was a true spectacle with something like 100 people participating….all in native costumes. Add water falls, flaming-baton tossing hunks, a volcano, pretty women, live music, sword play, and beautiful vocals. Then wrap that around a circle of life storyline. It was the highlight of the day for me. That and the comedian/artist who MCd the show in the Samoa park.

… For Trivia Lovers …

More birds have become extinct in Hawaii than in any other part of the world.

The fish with the longest Hawaiian name is the lauwiliwilinukunukuʻoiʻoi.

Hawaii was made a United States territory in 1900 and the 50th state in 1959.
By a legislative act in the same year, Hawaii became officially known as the Aloha State.

Hawaii does not participate in daylight savings.

Hawaiians have the longest life expectancy in the U.S.

The first Polynesian to play in the NFL was Al Lolotai, a Samoan, who played for the Washington Redskins in 1945.
The PCC has a small Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.


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