Why spend Christmas in Hawaii? Short answer – it’s 82 degrees every day! No snowstorms, and no hat, gloves, or puffy coat required. But does it feel like Christmas? Not exactly, but we encountered plenty of Hawaii-style holiday sights and sounds.
Best of all, we were joined by Andrew and Gail (son and daughter-in-law) and friends Steve and Marlene. This blog post is about how we spent our time together, and I appropriated a few of Andrew and Gail’s fine photos to incorporate into the story – identified by “AND” in the caption.
Hiking at Diamond Head
Our first outing was a group hike to the summit of Diamond Head, also known by its Hawaiian name of Lē‘ahi. The short and steep trail was built in 1908 as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system. It features numerous switchbacks, plus about 175 stairs and a 225-foot tunnel on the way to the top, where the views are stunning.
We enjoyed the trek and rewarded ourselves afterwards with cold beverages at a nearby mai tai bar.
When you go, be aware that parking is in short supply and likely to be an issue on busy days. We waited about 15 minutes for a space.
Sampling Rum at the Kō Hana Distillery
Unless you know it’s there, you’re not likely to stumble across this little gem tucked away on a back road in central Oahu. However, the rum aficionados in our little group had done the research ahead of time, so we just plugged the address into Google, and away we went.
We learned about heirloom sugar cane varieties and the rum-making process during our short tour of the facility prior to the tasting itself.
We purchased several bottles of the tasty stuff. What a fun way to spend a couple of hours away from the beach crowds!
Dodging Crowds at the Dole Pineapple Plantation
Next up was a visit to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, advertised as “Hawaii’s Complete Pineapple Experience.” This roadside stop was crawling with visitors and cheap souvenirs. Fun for a quick walk-through, but we declined to purchase tickets for the featured attractions, including the Pineapple Express Train Tour and the Pineapple Garden Maze.
Worth a quick stop if you’re in the area. Head straight for the outdoor exhibit tucked away in a corner of the property that tells the story of the pineapple industry on Oahu – it’s the best part, and it’s free.
Enjoying Christmas Day
Imagine spending Christmas day on a Hawaiian beach, relaxing with the sounds of the surf, the warmth of the sun, and a refreshing ocean breeze. Well, it didn’t happen. The weather was windy and unsettled, with flooding downpours that kept us indoors looking for alternative ways to entertain ourselves.
First there was the gift exchange.
Following the gift exchange, we played games. Beer pong was first – an activity most of us hadn’t engaged in since college. Happy to report that our taste in adult beverages has evolved since then, so our “penalty” consisted of sipping a fine wine or rum.
Sparkle Kitty was after beer pong. A group favorite, this card game will travel with us on future trips. Fun for the whole family!
We had reservations for Christmas dinner 18 miles up the road in Kailua, at GOEN Dining + Bar, a Roy Yamaguchi eating establishment. But then came a text message that the restaurant was experiencing a power outage and had been unable to open for lunch. Dinner was uncertain. We made backup plans (ham sandwiches at the condo) but at the last minute learned that the power was back on, and so was our dinner reservation.
The next obstacle was an alert from Google maps that the main road through the hills from Honolulu to Kailua was closed, but we were able to take an alternate route and arrived (almost) on time.
Dinner was wonderful and worth the effort.
Seeing the Sights at Pearl Harbor
The day after Christmas was Pearl Harbor day for us . . . as well as for thousands of other visitors to the island.
The cornerstone attraction is the USS Arizona Memorial, constructed over the remains of the sunken battleship where 1,177 crew members died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 that propelled the U.S. into World War II.
We learned the hard way that a visit to the Memorial during the latter half of December requires tickets to be reserved well in advance. Bill and I had done the tour before, but others in our group had not, so they were disappointed.
Fortunately, there are other attractions at Pearl Harbor that tell the sobering story of the initial attack and subsequent events of WWII – detailed exhibits at the visitor center, plus the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the Bowfin Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. It was a full day, and we’re glad we went.
More photos from the Aviation Museum . . .
Relaxing at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay, one of Oahu’s most popular visitor attractions, is a pristine marine ecosystem offering outstanding snorkeling opportunities and all around great views. We had to dodge a few raindrops, but it was a delightful afternoon!
Experiencing the Polynesian Cultural Center
Located on the northeast side of Oahu, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a “must do” at least once. Again we underestimated how quickly tickets for the premier activities – the evening luau and night show – would disappear. Christmas week was sold out!
In the fine print on the website, however, there was mention of calling the office just in case a few tickets were available. So we did and snagged four tickets for general admission plus the luau and show.
The mission of the Polynesian Cultural Center is to “. . . preserve and portray the cultures, arts and crafts of Polynesia.” And they do it well – preserving authenticity while also keeping the audience engaged and entertained.
The evening luau featured a feast of traditional Hawaiian foods and entertainment.
Visit https://www.polynesia.com/ for more information, and also be aware that you need multiple days to fully experience everything that the Polynesian Cultural Center has to offer. We only had a single day, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
After nine days on Oahu, Andrew and Gail headed back to Seattle, while the other four of us looked forward to another two weeks on the island. Stay tuned!