O'ahu and Maui

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Hawaii Five-O, the newest state in the US, the most southerly but not the smallest or the least populated. Nearly one million people live on the island of O'ahu itself, more than the whole state of Alaska in a space smaller than Spain's Tenerife or Scotland's Isle of Skye. Hawaii is the crossroads of the Pacific and has acted as a stepping stone for centuries. The state has diverse geography and ethnography, with significant Japanese and Polynesian populations, and climate zones ranging from arid to alpine to jungle.

Hawaii is easily accessible from Alaska with regular direct flights, and as a resident of the 49th state it behooved me to go with the flow and go. My first trip in late 2014 was to O'ahu, staying for a week in Honolulu and on the north shore of the island. On the second trip we went to Maui and spent a week based in Ka'anapali, from which we explored the whole island.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel

The Royal Hawaiian was my hotel of choice in Honolulu. Right in the centre of the action of Waikiki, it is a calm haven of tranquility and colonial splendour, known as "The Pink Palace of the Pacific". It opened in 1927 and has been consistently one of the best and most famous hotels in the state. I only stayed here for my last two nights, and I wish I'd stayed for longer.

Waikiki Beach fronts the tourist area of Honolulu, as seen here from the pool of the Sheraton Hotel. In the distance is Diamond Head, an extinct volcanic crater which has an interesting fortress built into the highest point of the rock. Waikiki itself is heavily developed and very high density.

Waikiki Beach

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is another volcanic cone, partially inundated by the waters of the Pacific. It offers excellent snorkelling, so I gleefully splashed off into the azure warm waters for a morning inspecting fish and crustaceans.

Kailua Beach on the north shore, one of O'ahu's many public beaches that fringe the island. The spine of mountains in the distance divides the island and was a formidable barrier until roads were cut and blasted through in the 20th century.

Kailua Beach

Kahalu'u view

The view from my hotel in Kahalu'u, as I had breakfast before heading out for a day of exploring. The mountains catch moisture and have a significant effect on the windward and leeward climates of the island. I stayed at Paradise Bay Resort for three nights.

Lanikai Beach is a more secluded area (for O'ahu) and has a great little hike up the Pillbox Trail over the ridge from which I took this photo. I could see people kayaking and paddle-boarding out to the islands in the distance.

Lanikai Beach

USS Arizona

Hawaii is a strategic location for control of the Pacific, hence colonisation and eventual statehood by the US. Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese in 1941 to thwart US intervention with their naval plans, drawing America into the war. This is the memorial to the USS Arizona which has lain beneath the water since that day.

Another veteran of Pearl Harbor is the USS Missouri, still afloat and now operating as a museum ship. It was on this vessel that the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed in Tokyo Bay in 1945, but perhaps more importantly where Cher sang "Turn Back Time" in 1989, and Steven Seagal was "Under Siege" in 1992. An illustrious career indeed!

USS Missouri

Maui hotel garden

The island of Maui is significantly younger than O'ahu, and consequently is more arable with less dense rainforest. That said, gardens such as these in our hotel in Ka'anapali are beautifully laid out.

Polynesian masks for sale in the hotel grounds. The indigenous Hawaiians were independent from the west until the arrival of Whitby's own Captain Cook in 1778. The Kingdom of Hawaii persisted until being overthrown by European and American residents in the late 19th century. It wasn't until nearly one hundred years later that the US acknowledged that the annexation of Hawaii had been unlawful.

Polynesian masks

Lahaina marina

Lahaina was the nearest town down the coast from our hotel, and we spent a pleasant afternoon wandering amongst the shops and by the marina. Dinner at a seafood restaurant overhanging the water was superb.

Scuba diving in the ocean right off the beach at our hotel. For years I had wanted to try scuba diving, and finally the opportunity came up for a starter course. I was surprised at how quickly we were let loose in the Pacific. This turtle wasn't surprised to see me.

Sea turtle in Hawaii


Heading over to the east of Maui we found ourselves in the pretty town of Paia a few times. Full of cute little shops and cafes, we also had an evening at perhaps the best restaurant on the island, Mama's Fish House.

Holy Rosary Church on the outskirts of Paia, we stopped for a little look around.

Church in Maui

Hana Highway

One of Maui's top attractions is the scenic drive along the road to Hana, the Hana Highway. It snakes around the north shore of the island, often cut into the cliffside as in this shot where it's barely discernable. The road has been much improved in recent years and is no problem full circle in a rental car.

Along the Hana Highway we stopped on the site of one of Maui's recent lava flows, forbidding jagged spires being pumelled by the Pacific.

Lava rocks

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2015