Honolulu, out in the middle of the Pacific is ideally placed to be part of a multi-destination holiday and not just on the other Hawaiian islands, it can be a convenient stepping stone to Australia. En-route, you can even stop off to enjoy the American West. Flights go through Los Angeles or San Francisco and a side trip to Seattle can be practical.
The image of swaying palm trees and the equally mesmerising grass skirts were much in mind when we touched down at Honolulu International Airport. The sweet scented garlands of flowers, that were placed about our necks when we arrived, heightened our expectations but what we found when we headed into Honolulu was a bustling busy holiday city. It was full of high rise hotels and motor-ways, but we were fortunate enough to be booked into a hotel that looked directly on to the famous Waikiki Beach. It was only 3 miles east of the city centre.
Our hotel on Waikiki Beach had exotic birds in the grounds and we relaxed amid Flamingos and Tropical Penguins from South Africa.
Happily we had arrived on a Friday, which tends to be a rather special night when people gather to watch a fire and hula dancing show.
The chanting gets to you as you enjoy a wonderful program. It's named the King's Jubilee after King David Kamehameha who was known as the 'merry monarch.' He promoted Hawaii to other countries, started tourism and in wooing both America and Britain some how left his country with a flag that is a mixture of the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.
Rounding off the evening there was a fireworks show and when the sparkle of last of the rocket faded into the sky we became aware of the blackness of the night and just how bright the tropical stars could be.
With the balmy evenings, the sea breaking gently on the beach and brilliant orange sunsets, it can be almost magical.
The next day we headed north and followed a stream of cars carrying surfboards. Tuning into the local radio we listened to advice on which beaches were due to get the best waves. The mountains were covered in thick vegetation and I thought immediately of Jurassic Park which was filmed on the neighbouring island of Kauai. The fantastic hills were clouded in steam and not much imagination was needed to conjure up dragons. It certainly it seemed an apt location for the prehistoric monsters. We passed little cedar tiled houses with mail boxes at the road side and stopped at a petrol station with a corrugated iron roof and a sign offering, sarongs at bargain prices.
While we filled up with gas, the girls dived into the shop to emerge later clad in bright wrap-a-rounds and hulla-ed their way back to the car. They were good, but couldn't quite get their motors going like the Hawaiians the night before. The further north we went the stronger became the waves that crashed in on the sandy beaches. There were picnic tables by the public beaches and long surfboards and boogie-boards available for hire. I soon heard about the types of waves, names like 'Himalayas and Avalanche' didn't exactly fill me with confidence. After a few fun filled attempts close to shore, we watched the youngsters, who, with hair bleached blonde by the sun, rode the surf with great skill. If you want to see really impressive surfing the greatest activity is in November when three world-class surf competitions take place.
These are known as the Triple Crown. The rest of the afternoon enjoyed beach combing and the feel of warm sand slipping through my toes.
Honolulu was of course brought to the world's attention by Pearl Harbour. In December 1941, more than 350 Japanese planes attacked and destroyed key ships of US. Pacific Fleet. The memorial draws a great number of visitors and in summer it is best to arrive early. It can quite a moving experience, you take a boat ride out to where the battleship USS Arizona rests in some 40 foot of water.
Most of our fellow tourists were Japanese so it felt rather strange, particularly during the part of the commentary about the surprise attack on the American ships. A couple of Japanese teenage girls in the group greeted this with the kind enthusiasm normally reserved for an "away goal." It seemed a little lacking in taste.
If you want to end your stay in Honolulu with a touch of class, then toast the sunset at Diamond Head. Just hail one of the milk white stretched Lincoln limousines that cruise around. Inside you will find an ice bucket for your champagne.
They have dark tinted glass, so no one can look in to your plush little world as you sip your drink and fiddle with the lights that pulse to the music from the multi disc CD.Make sure you fix a price before you go. Japanese have been known to pay $200 an hour but we found that the average rate was $75 an hour(£50) . The same trip to Diamond Head on the bright motor trolley that runs from downtown costs around £1.
Honolulu, with the balmy evenings, the sea breaking gently on the beach and brilliant orange sunsets, was almost magical