Grand Circle Island Tour – My Hawaiian Diary (Part Four)   Leave a comment

Hanauma Bay

Our 7am breakfast buffet includes beans. Baked beans to be exact, the Heinz kind that I grew up with in England which means I absolutely have to indulge. Sausage, eggs and beans…mmmm, and all without a second thought for the tourists who will be on the coach with me today.

GRAND CIRCLE ISLAND TOUR – Roberts Hawaii is our chauffeur for the 120-mile trip that circles Oahu. There isn’t a single cloud in the perfect blue sky and all is right with the world.

Towards the back of Waikiki, Ala Wai Blvd runs parallel to the Ala Wai Canal (Freshwater Way) on which we see two women rowers effortlessly cut a smooth swathe through the placid waterway.

Diamond Head – known as Laeahi by the ancient Hawaiians but renamed Diamond Head by British sailors in the 1800’s. Poor souls must have been devastated when they realized that what they thought were glittering diamonds in the lava rock were actually just calcite crystals. Unfortunately, this landmark is not a stop on this tour, but we have a good view of it from the beach near our hotel. We continue along the Kalanianaole Highway to the prettiest stop on the island.

Hanauma Bay (curved bay) – an absolutely breathtaking place…the kind of image your mind conjures up at the mere mention of the word Hawaii. Also the site of the luau scene in Elvis’s movie “Blue Hawaii”.

Rooster with Nine Lives

The bay is filled with millions of marine fish and is excellent for snorkelling. Walking along the wall is an impressive ‘Rooster with Nine Lives’ who very proudly struts his stuff while posing for photos. Something scurries over the rocks and disappears and our driver tells me it was a mongoose. No pictures though because, man, those things move fast!

Halona Beach Cove

Halona Beach Cove – a sheltered, secluded spot with an apt nickname, ‘The Peering Place’ so we all peer over the wall to see where the beach scene in From Here to Eternity was filmed.

Halona Blow Hole – located just to the left of the cove and known locally as “Old Faithful”. A lava tube under the water allows us to see ocean-side water play at full-force as the tide pushes the waves up and under, forcing the water through like a wildly uncontrolled geyser.

Manana (Rabbit) Island – does the name come from the shape of the island or the fact that rabbits were released onto it by a rancher? Nobody seems to know for sure but it’s now a seabird sanctuary.

Rabbit Island

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout (Cool Height Cliff) – you need eyes in the back of your head to view the best scenery here because it’s behind us. Sure, the 1,000′ drop leading to the East Oahu towns and shores in front of us is brilliant but the lush, green mountains at our back are simply breath taking, as you can see from the photo. A multitude of greens clash with shadows that skim across the face of the cliff. With strong winds whipping my hair into a frenzied mess, it brings to mind a story that our driver recounted to us, something that happened on her husband’s tour:

A very spry, 93 year old lady, having no family, was relishing every minute of her trip. At this very location the driver warned the tourists of the strong winds and advised them to hang on to their hats, etc. Apparently, two ladies went running back to the bus and asked the driver if he would go and help the old lady who was standing near the wall in the windiest spot. They had tried coaxing her back but she was enjoying the view so much, she wouldn’t budge. As the driver went up to her, all he could see was two hands holding onto a hat and a long flared skirt whipping up around her ears. This is how the conversation went:

Driver: “Madam, I know I said to hang on to your hat, but you may wish to hang on to your skirt as well.”
Old Lady: “Listen here, Sonny! I just bought this hat yesterday. What you see down there is 93 years old!”

I thought this was hilarious and, picturing the scene in my head, was eternally grateful that I chose to wear capris!

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

Helemano Plantation – with pineapple fields either side of us, we approach the famous Dole Plantation. Helemano is literally right next door and is our stop for an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch and a walk around the grounds. Seriously, who wouldn’t eat pineapple every day if they lived here?

Waimea Beach – with waves of 35-50’ it's the perfect place for surfers to ride waves that curl completely over their heads enveloping them inside a water tube. It is also the scene of many competitions and, in years past, a large tsunami.

`Ehukai Beach – where the famous Banzai Pipeline was so named when a surf cinematographer shouted out “Banzai” while watching a surfer drop-in on a vicious wave.

With so many wonderful distractions, it’s easy to forget about the real world until something brings us crashing back to reality. Approaching Sunset Beach on the North Shore our hearts sink as we see huge flames escaping from a house window. The homes have low roofs and are very close together and one man was desperately trying to stop it from spreading with a simple garden hose. I wish we could stop to help but as we continue on down the road, 3 fire trucks are only 5 seconds away.

Sunset Beach – incredibly soft sand but way too hot to walk on barefoot. We spend our time enjoying the stunning view and collecting seashells.

Sunset Beach

Kualoha Ranch, Ka’a’awa Valley – an intensely green and lush valley where Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor and 50 First Dates were filmed, among others.

Chinaman’s Hat

Chinamans Hat – it’s easy to see why they call it this. There are numerous locations on Oahu from which you can view this cone of lava poking out of the sea and you can even walk to it during low tide. Shay snapped this photo from the inside of our coach as we zoomed by. Pretty cool, eh?

Byodo-In Temple – as we turn into the Valley of the Temples, the winding road leads us to a replica of a 900 year old Japanese temple. The red pagoda set against the backdrop of the tall trees and green Koolau mountains along with the clouds that hover just at the peak make for a striking snapshot. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was in Japan. As we pass the cemetery each burial plot is laden with flowers, food and toys. It’s traditional to surround the site with items enjoyed by the person during their lifetime….which explains why we see opened beer cans, birthday cakes and toys. A couple of girls are having a picnic around one plot, probably reminiscing about times past with their loved one. It’s beautiful and sad all at once.

Byodo-In Temple

Before entering the temple, we grasp the shu-moku (wooden log) and strike the Bon-sho (Sacred Bell). It emits a deep tone which sounds more like a ‘bong’ than a ‘ding’ and can be heard for miles. Ring the bell and your mind will be rid of impurities and you may even live a long life (so check back with me in about 60 years and I’ll let you know if it worked!). We remove our shoes to enter the temple and are greeted by a 9′ gold-leaf Amida Buddha perched on a lotus flower. Raised off the ground he seems much larger and is surrounded by 52 smaller sculptures. We exit into a traditional Japanese garden which includes the mandatory Koi pond with black swans, ducks and even a turtle. Lavender wafts through the air, the sound of gently trickling water is carried on a breeze and the peacocks walk the grounds with pride. I’d love to stay longer, to sit, relax and meditate, to find that inner sanctum, that place of refuge that takes us away from the stress of the world…but the bus is leaving so gotta go!

Next stop…Maui

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Posted July 29, 2012 by Jaclyn in Holidays, Memories, Parks, Travel

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