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First Impressions of Hawaii (Oahu)

1. I’m not going to lie. I think if I had visited the Hawaiian island of Oahu first, I’m not so sure I would have rushed back to visit another island two years later. Oahu has numerous gorgeous spots; however, it’s also home to the largest of the Hawaiian islands’ population, almost a million people. When you consider that the total population of Maui is 144,444 according to the World Population Review, it’s mind bogging to think how that many people live on Oahu (for reference, the total population of all the Hawaiian islands is 1,408,600). Traffic was abysmal, especially around the capital city of Honolulu. On our way to the airport for our return trip home, we literally were stopped dead in traffic on the H-1 freeway for long stretches. There are just that many people in what truly is too small a space. We definitely ran into other congested areas (on Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore and Highway 72 by Hanauma Bay, but this was due more to the fact of one lane roads in either direction paired with traffic lights).

2. This is one of my favorite quotes from the 2011 movie The Descendants: My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation. We’re all just out here sipping Mai Tais, shaking our hips, and catching waves. Are they insane? Sure, I saw the paradise that is incredible coastline, drank a Mai Tai myself, and relaxed at a posh resort but I also saw things that no matter where you travel in the world, you can’t escape-Waikiki Beach had scores of homeless individuals either passed out on Kalakua Avenue (the drag that the beach is on) or begging for money. I never felt leery and yet that side of Hawaii is one the guidebooks leave for the “back pages” it seems. And a tour guide aptly summed up that it’s not all paradise when he informed us that many prisoners are sent to the mainland for incarceration as there’s no room in Hawaiian prisons due to overcrowding. Paradise is not always what it seems.

The majority of people who live on Hawaii do not live in luxurious accommodations 
like the ones offered at the Royal Hawaiian hotel

3. Unlike on Maui where our hotel fronted a beach that came with enormous waves and coral, our first hotel on Oahu was bordered by a man made lagoon (the famous Ko Olina lagoons), so we were able to swim in the ocean every day. It was on this trip to Oahu that I more fully understood how paramount the ocean culture is in Hawaii. Beaches in Hawaii are public, so along with the hordes of tourists, there were always the hordes of locals, the latter comprising big families who would bring their chairs and other provisions for a day at the beach. When we moved to Waikiki Beach, it was all about the surfing culture. One early morning, we even heard surfers doing their “chant” as they went out to the water waiting for a “bodacious” wave.

4. It always feels eerie when visiting a historical attraction but when I toured the area of Pearl Harbor it felt even more so knowing the events of December 7, 1941 had taken place less than a century before. Looking out onto Battleship Row and trying to imagine the destruction on that fateful morning was the equivalent of standing on the Antietam Battlefield in Maryland and trying to imagine the carnage at Burnside Bridge; today, both areas are eerily quiet but then they were nightmares that had come alive. It made me think of the Greatest Generation and how fewer and fewer of them are alive today.

5. I’m sure I’ll feel this way every time I visit Hawaii but coming from the northern East Coast, the spectacular vistas and flora of the Hawaiian islands never fails to mesmerize me. Whether it’s the beautiful state flower, the hibiscus, or looking out onto a beach so stunning it almost looks photo shopped, that feeling will never get old.

More in this series!

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