Only one of the two elevators at our 15-story hotel worked, so I felt like I was riding in a Japanese-tourist clown car on my way to get coffee. The elevator was packed full when we stopped on the 5th floor and were presented with a family pushing a stroller. And they managed to fit in. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t been there, gasping for oxygen.
At Starbucks, an old southern lady behind me asked me for coffee advice. She said, “The drinks here are all so different than they are in the states!” I thought, It’s Starbucks! Bastion of homogeneity! I recommended she get a latte. Skim, for her health.
This was our day to explore Oahu, since now we had a car and weren’t trapped in Waikiki. Or so we thought. It’s nearly impossible to find your way onto the H1 heading west from that area; east appeared to be completely kapu. We ended up taking local streets until we got very near the south shore.
It was fairly overcast that day, for the first time since we’d been there. We saw Sandy Beach, the most dangerous windsurfing beach in Hawaii. We stopped to see the Halona Blowhole, which spawned infinite amusement. I’m not sure why I was surprised to find that the windward coast was just as rainforest-y as on Maui, but it was. The mountains dropped off very sharply about 2 or 3 miles inland, so there was a larger plain between the cliffs and the ocean.
We got irritatingly lost in Kailua, and I’m not sure if it was the travel guide or the street-sign thing or the fact that there are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, so most of the words sound exactly the same, and some of them actually are the same. Kailua? Wasn’t that where we stayed on the Big Island? Didn’t we just come from Kahului? It was confusing.
valley of the temples
very hungry koi
North of Kailua, we found our way to the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe, hidden at the back of a gigantic cemetery on a hill. It’s an exact replica of the Byodo-in Temple of Equality near Kyoto, and it was beautiful.
We rang the three-ton gong, walked all around the grounds, lit incense in the temple, smashed pennies at the gift shop, and bought bags of food for the hundred billion koi that lived there. We also fed the swans, a few varieties of ducks, and woodpeckers.
inside the shrine
I don’t know why I love temples and Chinese and Japanese gardens so much. There’s something about the sense of calm and serenity there that’s absolutely unique.
chinaman’s hat (hey, i didn’t name it)
We continued on our drive around the island, heading north. We had tried to get reservations for ATV rides into the valley where they filmed Jurassic Park, but they were booked, and it was kind of rainy anyway. We stopped and walked around Kualoa Beach, from which Coconut Island is visible, i.e. Gilligan’s Island. Ha.
more stone stacks!
There was a long series of little beach towns after that, each with about 10 vowels in their names. I yelled when we drove through one with hundreds of stacked stones all piled along the edge of the beach. I have no idea what that was all about, but I loved it.
this happens a LOT in hawaii.
We rounded the northeast corner of the island and found ourself in true surfer country. Also, shrimp farms, which were kind of bizarre. Outside Haleiwa, we turned off the “highway” and headed up the bluff to Puu o Mahuka Heiau (yeah, you go ahead and try to pronounce that), a sacrificial site overlooking the ocean. The road in was a half mile of single-lane dirt path with very tight curves, so anytime we encountered a vehicle, we’d both go inching off the sides of the road into the grass. It was kind of ominous.
puu o mahuka heiau
The little sign there warns that it is kapu to move the stones.
The sacrificial site itself is about two football fields long. It consists of a rectangle of lava rock, sloping downhill. At the top, there’s a wooden altar covered in fruit, flowers, and leis. I expected it would have a similar feel to the place of refuge at Honaunau, but it was fairly vacant. It was creepier knowing it was out in the middle of nowhere, and obviously we were easy prey for sacrificial-site serial killers.
there’s a car in there. scary.
Haleiwa is the ultimate surfer town, even though the waves aren’t very high during the summer. I was excited by the shops, of course.
We had lunch at an awesome Mexican place with Dia de los Muertos stuff covering the walls. I had a spinach quesadilla and considered taking a long nap. I realized that I was starting to tire out. We shopped for a while, then headed back to Honolulu.
surf shop in haleiwa
It was later in the afternoon, so we thought we could probably fit in Pearl Harbor, but then discovered it closed at five. We decided to do the hike up Diamond Head instead, so we drove all the way through Waikiki (it sounds a lot easier than it is), to discover that closed at six. On the way through Waikiki, we saw several rainbows, including my favorite, the lazy rainbow, which appeared to just be laying across the road. I could relate.
We headed over to Ala Moana Center, because, like Hilo Hattie, I had seen about 500 ads for it. Also, it has a Japanese department store, but I had completely forgotten that by the time we got there. We parked and took some time figuring out how to actually get into the mall (this is a strange trend I’ve discovered in California and Las Vegas as well… malls have very few, very hidden entrances, apart from the anchor stores). She was excited by Sephora; I nearly peed my pants with delight to find they had a Shanghai Tang. We explored the whole mall, and I found Shirokiya last of all.
I crept around the store, wide-eyed and gawking. It was better than Japantown in San Francisco, even. It was the store of my dreams.
Honestly, I can’t even remember what we did that night. I’m sure it involved dinner and then sleeping. I was fairly exhausted by then.