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You're one step closer to paradise...
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
An aerial tour of the Islands opens up a world of perspective. Looking down from the sky at the outline of the USS Arizona where it lays in its final resting place below the waters of Pearl Harbor or getting a glimpse of how Mother Nature carved a vast expanse of volcanic crater are the kinds of views only seen by an "eye in the sky." If you go, don't forget your camera.
Island-style shave ice (never shaved ice—it's a pidgin thing) is said to have been born when neighborhood kids hung around the ice house, waiting to pounce on the shavings from large blocks of ice, carved with ultrasharp Japanese planes that created an exceptionally fine-textured granita.
Kailua is the beach you came to Hawaii for: wide and gently sloped, glowing golden in the sun, outfitted with a couple of well-placed islets to gaze at, and fronted by waters in ever-changing shades of turquoise. The waves are gentle enough for children. Kayakers are drawn to the Mokulua Islands offshore. Small convenience stores and restaurants are within walking distance. And there's just enough wind to keep you from baking. It's paradise, but civilized.
Waves: Boogie board or surf some of the best breaks on the planet.
This 25-acre family attraction has waterslides, water cannons, and waterfalls. www.wetnwildhawaii.com. COST: $42. OPEN: M, Th, F 10:30--3:30; weekend 10:30--4.
This modest little seaside town flanked by chiseled cliffs is worth a visit. Home to more local families than Kailua to the north or Hawaii Kai to the south, Waimanalo's biggest draws are its beautiful beaches, offering glorious views to the Windward side. Bellows Beach is great for swimming and bodysurfing, and Waimanalo Beach Park is also safe for swimming. Down the side roads, as you head mauka (toward the mountains), are little farms that grow a variety of fruits and flowers. Toward the back of the valley are small ranches with grazing horses. If you see any trucks selling corn and you're staying at a place where you can cook it, be sure to get some in Waimanalo. It may be the sweetest you'll ever eat, and the price is the lowest on Oahu.
This 1927 World War I monument, dedicated to the 102 Hawaiian servicemen who lost their lives in battle, stands proudly in Waikiki. The 100-meter saltwater swimming pool, the training spot for Olympians Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe and the U.S. Army during World War II, is closed as the pool needs repair. The city has commissioned a study of the natatorium's future while a nonprofit group fights to save the facility. The site is closed to visitors, but you can stop by and look at it from the outside. www.natatorium.org.
Launched one year to the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Bowfin claimed to have sunk 44 enemy ships during World War II and now serves as the centerpiece of a museum honoring all submariners. Although the Bowfin no less than the Arizona Memorial commemorates the lost, the mood here is lighter. Perhaps it's the childlike scale of the boat, a metal tube just 16 feet in diameter, packed with ladders, hatches, and other obstacles, like the naval version of a jungle gym. Perhaps it's the World War II-era music that plays in the covered patio. Or it might be the museum's touching displays—the penciled sailor's journal, the Vargas girlie posters. Aboard the boat nicknamed Pearl Harbor Avenger, compartments are fitted out as though "Sparky" was away from the radio room just for a moment, and "Cooky" might be right back to his pots and pans. The museum includes many artifacts to spark family conversations, among them a vintage dive suit that looks too big for Shaquille O'Neal. A guided audio tour is included with admission. The Bowfin could be hazardous for very young children; no one under four allowed. www.bowfin.org. COST: $10. OPEN: Daily 7--5; last entry to the submarine is at 4:30.
A few minutes and a world away from Waikiki and Honolulu, this scenic drive shaded by vine-draped trees has frequent pullouts with views of Diamond Head and the Ewa side of Honolulu. It's a nice change of pace from urban life below. At Puu Ualakaa Park, stop to see the sweeping view from Manoa Valley to Honolulu. To start the drive, go to Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery and follow Tantalus Drive as it climbs uphill.
Queen Emma, King Kamehameha IV's wife, used this stately white home, built in 1848, as a retreat from the rigors of court life in hot and dusty Honolulu during the mid-1800s. It has an eclectic mix of European, Victorian, and Hawaiian furnishings and has excellent examples of Hawaiian quilts and koa-wood furniture. www.queenemmasummerpalace.org. COST: $6. OPEN: Self-guided or guided tours daily 9--4.