Each year in Hawaii as the winter temperatures drop to a lovely 81 degrees, the groundswell charges the shores of Oahu with monstrous waves, sometimes reaching 60 feet tall. For many, the spectacle is overwhelming - the only chance most of us have to see the terrifying immensity of nature up close. For others, it brings the chance to enter into the annals of history by riding down the face of one of those monsters on a three inch thick piece of fiberglassed extruded polystyrene (for those of you who don’t surf, glassed EPS equals one intense wave-riding surfboard).
Some picture Oahu, and think only of Waikiki Beach and Waimea Bay. Some imagine the bustling metropolis of the Honolulu - all traffic and big business; island style, of course. A quick TripAdvisor search produces pages of information on museums, snorkeling excursions, beaches to stroll: helicopter and hot air balloon tours, aquariums, nightclubs and for the courageous, even a submarine adventure. Undeniably, any way you look at it, the waves and sunshine combine into one big beautiful postcard, airmailed straight from the tropics.
Diamond Head Luau - Hawaii’s only Farm to Table Luau
Why come all the way to Polynesia and then never truly experience it? Explore the rich heritage of the Pacific Islands and cultures (Samoa, Tonga, Aotearoa, Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii) as natives demonstrate their arts, music, history and games at Waikiki’s only oceanfront farm-to-table luau.
Crafting an authentic Hawaiian and Polynesian experience on the islands can be a tough mark to hit. At Diamond Head Luau however, the craft is interactive and engrained. Basing their teachings on the shared experiences of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, activities like hula, lei making, weaving and more combine into the ultimate evening. Top it all off with the only farm-to-table buffet dining experience in Hawaii, and the excitement leans over the tipping point. Diamond Head Luau believes in Malama ‘ka ‘Aina (caring for the land), and as such, only serves local ingredients: from the root to your plate. The appetizer station showcases lychee wood-smoked local marlin dip and kalo (taro) hummus served with freshly made uala chips (local sweet potato). There is literally something for every palette - from a variety of salads to poi shooter with Lomi Lomi salmon, fresh poke (my fave), kalbi short ribs, Huli Huli rotisserie chicken, vegetarian dishes, kalua pork and Hawaiian-inspired desserts. An exciting show with fire performances and traditional hula cap off the night, and round out even the finest Hawaiian vacation.
Atlantis Adventures Premium Submarine Tour
There is really little in the world more magical than the pristine, clear waters off the Hawaiian island chain. Full of attractions for the whole family, days spent swimming, snorkeling, and soaking up the sun await on every stretch of sand. But if you’re looking for something to up the ante, Atlantis Adventures has just the thing: a premium submarine tour. Dive below the surface for an hour and forty-five minutes of fascinating views, fantastic fish, and even a sunken ship or two. The 64-seat sub hosts its guests in an incredibly comfortable environment, with more viewing space per seat than any other tour through its large ports, and individual seats complete with seat backs to take the burden from your body and set you at ease in the sea. Now, when you book online, get a child’s ticket free with every adult purchase, and $10 off to boot. Not too shabby for an adventure 100 feet below the salty surface.
Atlantis Adventures Island Style Sunset Buffet Cruise
Food, fun, and the open water ahead of you. What more could you ask for on Atlantis Adventures’ newest cruise? With the addition of SEAKEEPER technology, the Majestic offers the latest in boat stability, making each sunset buffet cruise as sleek and seamless as it sounds. Round trip transportation from select Waikiki hotels will deposit you at the doorstep of luxury, and upon boarding you’ll be met with a complimentary welcome drink. As you set sail, large panoramic windows enable Oahu’s breathtaking coastal scenery to take center stage. Entree options include garlic shiitake teriyaki chicken, Pacific catch of the day and Hawaiian rock salt-crusted pork with gravy accompanied by garden vegetable medley, fresh fruit, white rice and Hawaiian sweet rolls.
Return under the cover of Hawaii’s gentle dusk after Atlantis’ Friday Night Fireworks Cruise, the lights still bright in your mind’s eye. Any way you look at it, the sunset cruise might just be the best two hours you’ve ever spent on the water.
Stairway to Heaven
If you’re looking for a memorable way to work in a bit of exercise on your trip, try hiking the Diamond Head Crater. I have to say, there’s something rather empowering about walking up the inside slop of an extinct volcano. More than 3,500 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit, Diamond Head is a lasting remnant of a volcanic explosion that occurred about a half a million years ago. Ancient Hawaiians called it Laeahi, which translates to “brow of the tuna.” The name “Diamond Head” has more recent roots in the 1800s, when British sailors mistakenly believed that the glistening calcite crystals embedded in the lava rock were diamonds lodged in the lodged in the crater’s soil.
It takes 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit, and half that time for the trip back down. The trail is a switchback with the mountain on one side and a railing on the other. After a lookout point that doubles as a rest stop, the trail takes a steep upward ascent through a series of stairs and tunnels carved into the mountain. The last set of stairs is a 99-step climb that my husband and kids clamored up with little effort while I took the slow and steady - and decidedly less “in shape” approach - that eventually ends at a World War II bunker. From there, you step out to one of the best panoramic views of the island. We lucked out with the weather during our four-day trip to the islands which meant that once we summited the crater, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Oahu’s entire leeward side (the side to which the wind is blowing). Entry into the state park is $5 per vehicle or $1 per pedestrian.