Our second port of call was the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, where we pulled into the capital Honolulu as the sun was rising. It was a peaceful, serene scene as we glided in past the already berthed Ovation of the Seas, as the high rises of downtown Honolulu watched on.
The disembarkation onto the coach was quick and efficient. We had initially planned to just take a taxi to Waikiki but decided after the cruise began, while attending a lecture on shore excursions, to see a little more of the island. So we booked a morning scenic drive incorporating some of the coastline and inland viewpoints.
We soon left the financial sector behind and reached Waikiki and its famous beach. We didn’t make a stop as apparently regulations about groups remain strict even at this stage in the pandemic; indeed, much of the sightseeing today was done from the bus. This was softened by the presence of a most informative and amusing guide who, as was the case yesterday, doubled as driver. This approach differs from all my previous cruise excursions and I wonder if it’s a legacy of the immense contraction the sector saw during lockdown and the cessation of mass global travel. I reflect today on how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy this degree of freedom to travel once again – the minor inconveniences of mask wearing etc. are a small price to pay.
There didn’t seem to be much evidence of social distancing at Waikiki, either on the golden sand or in the waves, where throngs of surfers rode the waves, even at 9 am on a Sunday. The beach is of course world famous and a magnet for surfers. The waves certainly seemed to be well served by a series of ‘cool dudes’ suitably tanned and kitted out. The shops around were high end; this is clearly a place designed for financial high-rollers. In other words, I was definitely in my correct place (on the bus).
We continued through more well-heeled areas in Kahala and past the Waialae Golf and Country Club, from where I enjoy the coverage of the Sony Open every January, when the depth of our Scottish winter seems at its nadir. We were pulling out of Honolulu now, towards Maunalua bay, Hawaii Kai and Koko crater. We skirted the smaller Hanauma bay.
Our first stop was at the Halona blowhole, a lava tube through which the incoming tide is forced to produce a waterspout. From here there’s a nice view of the logically, if unimaginatively, named Sandy Beach park.
We now turned north east around Makapu’u Head to the beach of the same name. From here, two islands are visible offshore.
From here begins the longest stretch of beach on the island, with Kaiona and Waimanalo beaches. These were much quieter and peaceful. Some of the other Hawaiian islands are visible in the distance.
We now began the climb to the Nu’uanu Pali lookout, from where we would be rewarded with astonishing vistas over the expanse of the island and ocean beyond. A truly stunning location.
This was the scheduled end of our tour but our guide offered to take us to the Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific, where military personnel are honoured. This is a beautiful place where granite stone markers replace the previous white wooden crosses. Among those pointed out was that of Ellison Onizuka, a USAF test pilot who became the first Asian American and first person of Japanese origin in space, before tragically losing his life in the Challenger disaster of 1986. On the island which saw Pearl Harbour, a poignant moment to end a memorable day.