Many flights from the mainland route into, or through, the busy capital city of Honolulu. We considered skipping Oahu, in favor of spending more time on the other Hawaiian Islands, except that our experiences at the Normandy beaches in France compelled us to want to explore Pearl Harbor.

We rented an efficiency apartment in downtown Honolulu as a less expensive alternative to try and defray costs. After being on the road for six months, with our time spent mostly in national parks, the big city assaulted us with its high-rise buildings, traffic congestion, crowds, and land blanketed with concrete and asphalt. Ultimately we did enjoy being able to walk to local restaurants. Though, heads up, there is a significant homeless population in Honolulu and Waikiki.

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stating the obvious

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The Hawaii State Capitol building, with its unique open-air rotunda is located in downtown Honolulu. How could we stay in the capital city and not check out the Capitol?!

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After the expanse of The Big Island we found it easy to drive the much smaller island of Oahu, but do recommend a GPS if you are trying to navigate in and around Honolulu. We found the most scenic drives along the road to Diamond Head, Koko Head, then up the west and northern coasts.

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We were even lucky enough to take in a surfing completion on the North Shore. The waves were gnarly!

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We got a good workout by hiking Diamond Head, a relatively easy hike with a moderate climb to the top, where we were rewarded with 360-degree views. You might even see a rainbow! Parking is limited so get there early.

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The Koko Crater Railway Trail is deceivingly difficult.

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What looks to be an easy expanse of railway ties turned out to be absolutely brutal due to its 1,000+ steps to the top, but again revealed breathtaking views. As soon as we could catch our breath, that is. It’s the ultimate stairmaster!

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We made it to the top!

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and back down!

We hiked the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail twice for the ease of the trail and to appreciate some of the most picturesque scenery on Oahu.

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We spent down time on the beautiful beaches and even enjoyed some time on the absolutely crowded beaches of Waikiki.

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Loving the beach and getting full on Hawaiified!

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The Byodo-In Temple (a smaller scale replica of the over 950-year old Byodo-In Temple in Japan) was established on June 7, 1960 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. It’s worth a visit if there are no tour buses on site.

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According to the National Park Service website: The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument preserves and interprets the stories of the Pacific War, including the events at Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese Americans, the battles in the Aleutians, and the occupation of Japan. The exhibit galleries are top notch and we spent a few hours exploring more about World War II and the effects that it had on the population.

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The visitor center has an average of 2,000 first come/first serve tickets available each day for the USS Arizona Memorial and we arrived early so as not to be disappointed. The tour begins with a 23-minute documentary film that details the attack on December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy.

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Before we boarded the boat, we were reminded that the USS Arizona is the final resting place for many of the ship’s 1,177 crewman who lost their lives on December 7, 1941.

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Our time spent upon the memorial touched our hearts for the men who lost their lives and added much to our respect for the soldiers who serve. It’s a sobering experience filled with mixed emotions and the hope for a better future.

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Up Next: Dry Tortugas National Park

Visited January 2015