To be completely honest, I was not looking forward to my trip to Hawaii.   I’m sure you must think I’m crazy, but I’m not a fan of the heat, tropical humidity does me in, and sitting on a beach or pool for hours just isn’t my style.    My family, on the other hand, thought Hawaii would make for a great get-away.

As we have vacationed in Maui twice, we decided to spend time on another island.     After some thought, we decided to spend our time on Oahu for two primary reasons.  Jeff has always wanted to see the big waves on the North Shore; and we both considered Pearl Harbor a must see historical memorial.

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We began our trip on the North Shore with a two-night stay at Turtle Bay Resort.   The afternoon we arrived, we checked into the hotel then took a drive to view the Pipeline and Waimea Bay.   While the waves weren’t as big as we had hoped, they surely didn’t disappoint.   The sights and sounds along the shore along with the constant tumbling of the pure blue ocean were mesmerizing.    If it weren’t for the setting of the sun, we definitely would have spent more time.

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Turtle Bay has two golf courses on property, the Fazio course and the Palmer course.   Since the Fazio is known to be less of a challenge, that’s the course I played with Jeff on Christmas morning.   The course was in great shape and we had a great time, but I was hoping for more tees along the coast.   That said, there was one hole that was beautifully placed along the water, which made it all worthwhile.

Christmas afternoon was spent at the beach, so my family could surf.   It had been about 25 years since Jeff had surfed, so he joined our boys in a surf lesson.   I had arranged the lesson though the on-property surf school and have to say the instructors were terrific.   All, including me who took at least 400 photos trying to capture that perfect shot, had a good time.

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There are many activities available at Turtle Bay Resort, but with only a two-night stay, our time and opportunity was limited.    Having time for just one more activity, we decided to take a trail ride.   As it turned out, the trail path meandered right along the shoreline and the view was incredible.   What a great way to end our stay!

On the way to Honolulu, where our second hotel was located, we drove along the Kamehameha Highway to the Polynesian Cultural Center.   I was glad I stopped to see what it was like, but it didn’t hold our interest to stay longer than 90 minutes.    Maybe if it was our first visit to Hawaii, or if we had never attended a luau, or if we had never been to Disneyland (remember the Tahitian Terrace?), we would have felt differently.

Our next three nights were spent at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.   While this wasn’t my first choice property, we decided that the pools, slides and beach would provide a lot of action and fun.    Well, our next two days were busy, busy, busy. 

Our first morning in Waikiki, we took a tour of Pearl Harbor.    Most tours begin at 5:45 a.m. and last a full day.   Since our time was limited, we selected a short tour that began at 8:30.    This allowed us time to see the two galleries that are part of the Visitor Center Complex…“The Road to War” and “Attack”, before viewing a documentary film depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor.    The information was fascinating and a part of history that should never be forgotten.     After watching the film, visitors exit to board a short boat ride over to the Arizona Memorial.    The memorial itself is very solemn, as it is built directly over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona and is the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941.

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There was so much more to see, but our tour time didn’t allow for the full experience.    Though our time was short, it was perfectly fit to our short time in Honolulu.    We’ll return some day to experience the grounds and exhibits fully, including the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Following our visit to Pearl Harbor, we took full advantage of an afternoon to relax.     It’s amazing how completely a beautiful ocean view can take your mind from your everyday thoughts and concerns.   It was time to recharge and that’s exactly what we did!

We got a very early start to our last full day on Oahu.   At 5:30 a.m. we left our hotel and drove to Diamond Head crater, which is now a National Park.     It was still dark as we began our hike, which is a series of switchbacks, uneven trail, and steep stairs.   Just before reaching the summit, the dawn broke and we arrived to what seemed like a sea of others who beat us to the top.   We couldn’t believe that so many people were already there to witness the rising of the sun!   That said, we were able to squeeze into great viewing spots and the vistas and sunrise did not disappoint!  It was quite an experience and one I recommend highly!

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Funny, although the hike back down the crater was a lot easier, it seemed longer in the daylight then going up had seemed in the dark.

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We had one last afternoon to spend at the hotel.   Not one for just relaxing on the beach, I decided to try paddle boarding.   The Hilton had a lagoon on property, which was used for all their “toy” rentals… paddleboards, kayaks and water bikes.   It was a great place to try it for the first time, but with no challenge, it soon became dull.   Next time, I think we’ll paddle board in the ocean.

As it turned out, winter is the perfect time for me to visit Hawaii!   The weather was in the high 70s/low 80s with mild humidity, and there was so much to do beyond lying in the sun.   Plans for next time… kayaking, riding an outrigger, more hiking and a stay on the Big Island!

Below are what I consider the pros and cons of each hotel:

Turtle Bay Resort: 

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Pros:  Location (wow!); Beach Cottage was spacious and had a great Ocean Front view; our second room was in the main building and also had an incredible view; property and activities are well spread out, so it doesn’t feel crowded; surf school instructors were personable, patient and alert.

Cons:  There was a level of incompetence among the staff – room requests were not taken care of, trail ride was incorrectly scheduled and didn’t match our written confirmation (although they did make the necessary adjustment after our third attempt to have it corrected).


Hilton Hawaiian Village: 

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Pros:  Staff were accommodating and service oriented; nice breakfast buffet; lots of activities available; great lagoon for small children and water toys; lots to do in the Honolulu/Waikiki area

Cons:  Rooms were bland and needed updating, need to take waiting time into consideration for dining, restaurant reservations necessary to avoid long waits

Pro or Con, depending on your perspective:  wide open beach with very tame surf; very busy property, city atmosphere, area not as lush as the North Shore; city of Honolulu feels like a time-warp back to the 60s/70s