ADD TO LISTO'ahu isn't a particularly popular destination within the United States, but it does receive a few travelers, most of whom make a brief stop to see the Hanama Bay. Generally, travelers visiting the area stick to the more well-known places such as Honolulu and Hale'iwa. Have you been to O'ahu? Help us improve this O'ahu travel guide by adding your favorite spots!
Last edited May 1, 10 10:15 PM. Contributors: Jill B.
Travel Tips from people who've been to O'ahu
One of the most romantic places in the world I think! The Internation Marketplace on the strip is a must-see while on O'ahu.
Today I had booked a tour to take me across the island to the Polynesian Cultural Centre, not wanting to spend my entire stay here browsing shops and lying on the beach. Back in the sixties, the island of Oahu was hit by a huge unemployment problem and thousands of bright young students were coming out of the Hawaiian campus of BYU (Brigham Young University) with no jobs to go into. To help solve this problem, the island spent a fortune - financed mainly by the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, or The Mormons to you and me - on building the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie on the north side of Oahu. The idea was that it would create thousands of on-going jobs for the students and Graduates. Naturally, being sceptical by nature, the press said that it would never work and universally condemned the plan as hare-brained. Now, twenty-five years on, the Polynesian Cultural Centre is the single biggest tourist attraction on the island - big surprise there, then. This is how the official guide describes the Centre with typical American flair: Adventurous Polynesians, braving the winds and seas in search of faraway islands, arrived in Hawaii more than a thousand years ago. Today, millions journey to Hawaii to experience the adventure and beauty that is Polynesia. From the slopes of Haleakala and the fiery inferno of Kilauea to the majestic Na Pali coast, the charm of our island is unsurpassed. Join us on Oahu where the world gathers to enjoy Waikiki, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbour and North Shore Surfing. In the midst of this modern tourist Mecca, on Oahu's quiet North shore, is Hawaii's most popular visitor attraction, The Polynesian Cultural Center. Relive your one-of-a-kind experience with the cultures of Samoa, Tonga, Maori New Zealand, Marquesas, Tahiti, Fiji and Hawaii, including: Exciting Tahitian Dancers, Hawaiian games and Hula, Coconut Tree climbing, Maori Stick game and Poi Balls, Samoan coconut cracking, Making Tapa cloth, Lovely waterfalls and gardens, Canoe rides. I can honestly say that the PCC is the best presented and most educational theme park I've ever visited. This is no Disneyland, and anyone coming here expecting to spend the day whizzing around on rollercoasters or talking to some guy called "Polynesian Pete" in a big floppy rubber suit with a huge smile painted on is going to be disappointed. Those of a nervous disposition are more likely to go away shaking and scarred for life by the memory of half naked Polynesian warriors striding about everywhere with spears and knives. Within the complex, complete villages have been built to represent the people of Polynesia. Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, Hawaii and Marquesas are all represented, although nobody seems to be able to tell me quite where Marquesas is and I can't find it on any map - but I'm sure it's around somewhere. The concept behind the park is not unlike Folk Villages back in China, except of course on a much larger scale as you would expect from the United States. Here, you can actually walk around the villages and feel as though you're on the island being represented, most of them being entirely populated by evil looking warrior sorts wearing loin cloths and covered in Tattoos, carrying vicious looking spears and performing scary Maori style dances involving lots of screaming and tongue poking. And that's just the women. The residents of the villages are all native to the islands, usually students at Brigham Young studying at the University of Hawaii. They put on shows throughout the day to illustrate their lifestyle and culture. The Samoan show in particular, featuring Chief Sielu Avea, brings the crowds back again and again as the chief is a comedian of the highest order and seems to be able to climb coconut trees in about a second - not a bad trick if you can do it. He even sells a videocassette for those who can't bear to be without his particular brand of wit after they've returned home. It takes an entire day to visit all the villages and see all the shows, and there are also canoe trips along the river between the islands for those who really don't want to walk - I would say that the canoe trips are a romantic way of getting between the islands, but since the boatman is covered in tattoos and may be screaming most of the way this isn't necessarily correct! At 2.00pm, the canoes are commandeered by the Centre and everyone crowds along the river to watch a Polynesian canoeing display at which each island displays its boating skills - but this clashes with the IMAX film about the culture of Polynesia which I had really wanted to see. This is my only complaint, if you can call it that - there really is far too much to do in one day, especially if you get hung up on any of the village shows and want to watch it twice as I did. Upon entry to the Centre, each tour group is met by a native of one of the islands who hands out schedules and acts as a guide throughout the day to ensure you take in as much as possible - but you still won't see it all. My day started at seven this morning and I didn't get back to the hotel until after midnight - and I still didn't see everything I wanted. In the early evening, we were invited to take part in a traditional Hawaiian Luau - a Hawaiian outdoor feast. Rows of seats and tables had been laid out under a circus tent, although those of us who didn't think this particularly authentic decided instead to sit around on the grass - this was to be a Luau in the correct sense of the word - these days, it has become quite common for Hawaiians to refer to any sort of party or event as a Luau which has led to confusion among tourists. Heavily tattooed tribesmen from various islands hauled a whole pig onto the grass and laid it into a pit which was then covered over with leaves and dirt - somehow, they then managed to light this pit oven and we waited forever for the pig to cook in the traditional way before we were finally invited to tuck in. I got the impression that those of us closest to the oven who had watched the food being prepared were slightly less keen to partake as those sitting at the tables who happily shovelled down whatever they were offered. Personally, I can't even get my oven at home to cook anything all the way through however much I follow the instructions - so I was most impressed that these guys were able to shove a pig in the ground, cover it with earth and make it come out like a Sunday roast! At 7.30, we all crowded into the showroom to round the evening off with a "Polynesian Spectacular". Horizons is an 80 minute stage show featuring dancing and entertainment from each of the Polynesian Islands in turn. The whole thing is then rounded off with a display of fire-walking and fire-Juggling by none other than our old comedian friend Chief Sielu Avea from the Samoan village. The show is billed as the world's largest Polynesian review, and with over 150 people taking part this is quite believable. It's typically huge and over the top, set against an amazing backdrop of erupting volcanoes and fields of lava threatening to engulf the stage- and naturally there's a full length videocassette of the show to take home for good measure.You can read my complete travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
David Copperfield's understudy has been performing his own brand of Illusion for some time in Waikiki, in a big budget spectacular called The Magic of Polynesia. I've always been a fan of magic since I was a small boy, and there was just no way I could possibly stay away from a show by a magician good enough to understudy such a well known illusionist, especially as I was lucky enough to have seen David Copperfield live in London on a previous occasion - so I booked the late night show and went along to see if it was everything it was cracked up to be. The Magic of Polynesia is performed by award winning magician John Hirokawa every night at the Waikiki Beachcomber hotel, in its multi-million dollar showroom. As I queued up with hundreds of others outside, the man himself came out to delight the crowd with tricks and to have his photograph taken with fans, which I thought was a genuinely nice touch. Of course as soon as all the scantily clad showgirls appeared behind him he suddenly found himself no longer the first choice for photographs, at least amongst the men - but I don't suppose he really expected anything else. The guy behind me in the crowd was the spitting image of Santa Claus, complete with full white knee length beard. He was obviously aware of this fact and spent much of his time in the queue producing business cards with SANTA CLAUS written on them for startled small children who looked delighted and ran around telling everybody they'd met Santa on his day off. The Americans really don't do things by halves. John Hirokawa's show is a non stop showcase of lasers, pyrotechnics and electronic wizardry which holds the audience spellbound for two hours. It would be far more accurate to describe the show as The Illusions of Polynesia because the word magic still sums up memories of relatives performing bad card tricks over dinner when I was seven, and these huge stage productions are a whole world away from that. From the very first moments of the show when John Hirokawa bursts out of a helicopter apparently flown onto the stage, to the moment the curtain falls, the audience is gasping with disbelief throughout. I was sitting at a table with a small group from Vancouver and a woman with her grand-daughter, and the young girl spent the entire performance holding onto her grand-mother and burying her head in her bosom as explosions erupted overhead. At one point, John Hirokawa built a huge monster on stage from an eighteen foot pile of fruit and it magically became animated and charged around the auditorium belching fire and roaring, at which the poor girl was just reduced to tears. The illusions came fluidly with no breaks in between to set up the next, and I found it incredible that Hirokawa had any time to think about what he was going to do next - and yet I never saw any slip ups and haven't got the faintest idea how any of it was done. The backdrop for the stage was a realistic landscape of erupting volcanoes, waterfalls and lava flows, all apparently real and totally believable. To say that this was a world away from the show I went to see back in Fiji would be an understatement of the highest order. I actually came out of the theatre with my mind totally blown, and can honestly say that I found the show even better than anything I'd previously seen from David Copperfield. In a couple of weeks time, I have every intention of watching the world famous Siegfried and Roy spectacular in Las Vegas - and lets face it, that's probably going to be even better than this was. I really can't wait. Waikiki comes alive at night. I walked back from the show along streets lined with street artists and vendors, jugglers and men on stilts, Hollywood style prostitutes on every corner bringing down the area but looking glamorous nonetheless. I wandered through the International Market which was so massive and reminiscent of the markets in Fiji and Thailand that I was able to immerse myself in the colours and smells and forget for a moment that I was in the United States of America. I wandered briefly into the nightclub next door to my hotel and found that as soon as I ordered a drink I was surrounded by girls wanting to know where I came from in Australia. By the time I got back to the hotel and made my way up to the top floor, I was absolutely exhausted and couldn't wait to sink into a deep sleep. I like what I've seen of Hawaii very much. It really is a pity that I don't have the time or budget to visit some of the other Hawaiian islands - the entire chain is made up of Oahu (where I am now), Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Kauai, Nihau, Lanai and Kahoolawe. It's possible to take helicopter trips out to some of the mostly deserted islands, or a coach and boat tour of Maui or Hawaii (The Big Island) - but these run into hundreds of dollars and I just don't have that sort of cash free with much of my journey still in front of me. I would like to return at a later date and do some real exploring, especially as some of the outer islands are supposed to be covered in rainforests and volcanoes as far as the eye can see. In fact, I've been told by locals that some of them are quite remarkably like the island depicted in Fantasy Island - and if that's not a reason to come back, I don't know what is. Oh and for the record, when American girls get excited about my accent and ask me what part of Australia I come from, I usually tell them Brisbane. Well, I wouldn't want to blow a sure thing, would I?
You can read my complete travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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