Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 7 nt Carnival Splendor Mexican Riviera "sisters" Cruise: Cabo; Mazatlan; Puerto Vallarta

Dec. 6-13, 2009 became our first 3 "sisters" vacation. It was the first time Carolyn and I got Jane (our sister-in-law) to come along with us. I'm very glad she was able to make it. Carolyn and I had done this same itinerary last year on Holland America so we knew a bit of what to expect---at least from the itinerary. At first I was a little disappointed to be doing the same itinerary, but it turned out to be alright. We were able to do some different things and since I was more familiar with the area, I didn't mind not doing organized tours.

Pre-cruise I met up with Jane at LAX and spent the night in a LaQuinta Suites Inn for $60 for the night. My flight from STL ended up being a little more exciting as Texas was hit by a 6 inch snow storm the night before. Some day I'll learn not to schedule myself through Texas in the winter (was stuck there during a couple ice storms in the past, as well as a couple snow storms)! But I ended up being able to catch a flight to Denver (where they're equiped for winter weather) and then on to LAX, getting there only about 40 minutes late.

Sunday morning we met up with Carolyn at the embarkation station. We were there early, so were able to register quickly and sit around outside for a couple hours visiting before boarding the ship. Jane and I did walk over to the Queen Mary (now a hotel there) and enjoyed wandering around in it. They were having a buffet breakfast there and there were lots of x-mas decorations, even carollers. Looked like it would be a neat place to spend the night. I found out after we got back that the firm Angie works for is doing some renovating to it.

Embarkation went quickly and easily. Fortunately we didn't go on the cruise the 2 weeks before this one or the one after it as there were problems. 2 weeks before, the ship had run into another ship in Puerto Vallarta, then later in the week the captain had a heart attack and they had to turn around and head back to Cabo making them several hours late getting back into Long Beach. The cruise after ours ended up staying over night in Puerto Vallarta after the ship ran into a dock and had to have repairs done before it could leave. Fortunately nothing unusual happened during our cruise.

Here we posed for our first of many pictures. It was a bit chilly that day---probably about 60 degrees---not what I expected for Long Beach. Soon we were on the ship and heading to the Lido buffet for lunch.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

2003 Yellowstone--- a Geological Wonder

My 2003 Yellowstone National Park Vacation:

If you would like to take a vacation to a foreign planet, Yellowstone might be a good alternative! The geological attractions here do seem quite alien! Seeing such a wonderland of geysers, hot springs, bubbling and oozing mud pots, brightly colored bacteria mats, colorful rock formations, canyons, rivers, waterfalls, not to mention all the wildlife---bears, buffalos, elk, deer, and fish ---made for a very interesting and wonderful vacation!

My pricing is from 2003, so expect there to be some increases now.

General info on Yellowstone:

Yellowstone National Park is America's first National Park. It was established in 1872 and draws over three million visitors yearly. It has five entrances and about 370 miles of paved roadway in it's 2.2 million acres of wilderness. It has about 10,000 thermal features, including about 250 active geysers.



What to do in Yellowstone:

There was an entrance fee of $20 per car (good for 7 days). I think it’s $25 now in 2009, but it's well worth it. We only had 3 days there, so didn't get to do much but hike some of the trails and take lots of pictures. Would have been nice to rent a boat from the marina at Yellowstone Lake, or do some fine dining in the Yellowstone Lake Hotel diner, or fish in the beautiful rivers, or take more hikes, but 3 days just isn't very long in a park like Yellowstone!




Restaurant: Old Faithful Inn Restuarant

Depending on what time of the day you go will decide whether or not you need reservations. Breakfast is first come, first serve--without much of a wait. Lunch is also first come, first serve. You will most likely need a reservation for dinner. We made ours the night we got there for the next night. Dinner reservations are handled through the reservations office at 307.344.7311 up until April 30, 2002. After April 30, reservations can only be made directly with the Dining Room once they have opened for the season. To contact the Dining Room directly call 307.545.4999.

Not only was the dinner excellent (steak for me, pork loin roast for my Dad, and trout for my husband), but the servers were very friendly and helpful. It was interesting to hear about where these young folks' home towns are and how they're working there for the summer and what life is like for them living there in the park.

In addition to a breakfast menu, they also have a really nice reasonably priced breakfast buffet everyday. We had no problem getting in for breakfast right away. The buffet was about $7.50 including the drink. The buffet included oatmeal, cold cereal, cream of wheat, fresh fruit, bacon, ham, buffet type scrambled eggs (not really sure what they're made of, but you know the type), fried potatoes, waffles, lots of fancy delicious pastries, and probably some things I'm forgetting now. We liked it so much, we got it both mornings we were there.

Lunch offers a selection of fresh salads, sandwiches, house specialties and a western buffet. Dinner includes favorites like--- meatloaf, beef tenderloin and parmesan chicken, and much more. Don't forget the desserts! We had their specialty-- a huckleberry icecream and pie which was delicious.

The dining centerpiece of the historic Inn is a large stone fireplace with a painting of the geyser basin on it. Behind this fireplace, is a newer section to the dining room. Old Faithful Inn dining room is open May 10 - October 13, for 2002.Favorite Dish: The buffet breakfast was very good---great variety. The steak dinner was great, too. And their specialty--the Huckleberry icecream and pie was fabulous!
Specialty: American
Comparison: about averagePrices: US$11-20
Phone: 307.344.7311
Address: In Old Faithful Inn



Old Faithful Inn


Construction of the Old Faithful Inn began in late summer 1903 and was completed by opening of the tourist season in June 1904, requiring most work to be done during Yellowstone's severe winter. Architect Robert Reamer supervised nearly everything done and designed nearly everything used. In the end, construction costs have been estimated at between $120,000 and $200,000. You can't miss the 500 ton chimney/fireplace in the center of the lobby. It is actually a central support for the rest of the lobby. It, and the Inn's foundation, was built from rhyolite quarried about five miles from the building site--- on the road to Thumb Geyser Basin. The lobby rises to a height of nearly 80 feet, mostly constructed of lodgepole pine from the area. On one side of the fireplace, Reamer designed a large clock and had it built on site by a blacksmith. There were origanally 140 guest rooms. In 1913 a 100 room east wing (left side as you look at the Inn from the front) was added. In 1922 a back diningroom was added. In 1927-1928, a 150-room west wing was also added by Reamer and the lobby was pushed out 30 feet. Also at that time, a half-moon-shaped room to the side of the old dining room was added. That room is now the Bear Pit Lounge. There have been other changes to the Old Faithful Inn , too, but the overall appearance of the old section of the Old Faithful Inn hasn't changed much.
Phone: 307.344.7311
Directions: In the Upper Geyser Basin of the Park


Mammoth Hot Springs


The formations at Mammoth Hot Springs are formed differently than the formations in the geyser basins. In this area, the dominant rock is limestone. This area is north of the huge caldera in Yellowstone, but fault zones run to this area and create a network of fractures and fissures where the hot water in this area comes from. The hot water underground mixes with carbon dioxide to make carbonic acid. As this solution comes to the top of the limestone, it dissolves the primary mineral in limestone and deposits it at the surface. These deposits are called travertine and are what makes up the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. The best activity at Mammoth is at Minerva Terrace and at Canary Spring. Both of these must-see attractions are located on the Main Terrace. There are few places where geologic changes occur so quickly since water flows at Mammoth are constantly being redirected.Coming into the park from the north entrance, this will be the first geological place of interest you'll come to. There is even a museum here in an old fort. Plus there are hotel, cabin, and camping accommodations here as well as the gift shops, restuarants, etc. like in most of the other main tourist areas.The trails here are quite extensive. You can park below and walk up and around one way, then drive up above and walk around some of the trails up there if you don't have a lot of time. But do spend some time here! The terraces here are not like anything else in the park! Look closely at them as you walk by, many of them have a stream of water running over them constantly---which is how the terraces are created. The areas that are gray, are where the ground is now dry from the water being redirected.
Directions: northern part of the park


Upper Geyser Basin



The Upper Geyser Basin is approximately two square miles in area. It contains the largest concentration and nearly one-quarter of all of the geysers in the world. A variety of thermal features exist here: spouting geysers, colorful hot springs, and steaming fumaroles. Only 3 other places in the world have large thermal features such as these (Iceland, New Zealand, and Siberia). Geyser Hill is in the upper geyser basin and just north of Old Faithful. This is a very easy walk from Old Faithful Inn. There are over 40 geysers on geyser hill. Two of these, Giantess and Beehive are among the largest in the world. Geysers are caused when the water is constricted from moving freely underground. The pressure increases until small bubbles of steam actually push heated water out in a forceful manner.
Directions: by Old Faithful Inn


Old Faithful Geyser


Old Faithful is in the Upper basin. It is one of 5 predictable geysers. It is a cone-type geyser and erupts every 35 to 120 minutes. Its eruptions last from 1 1/2 to 5 minutes and reach a height of 90 to 184 feet.
Directions: by Old Faithful Inn


Black Sand Basin

This is a short drive from Old Faithful Inn (or you can walk to it from geyser hill). We thought this basin had some of the prettiest hot springs in Yellowstone! Black Sand Basin is actually part of the Upper Geyser Basin, but is somewhat isolated from the rest of the basin. It was originally named the Emerald Group by A.C. Peale in 1878. But turn of the century tourists began calling it Black Sand Basin because of the small fragments of black obsidian sand which cover portions of the basin. We actually spent several minutes trying to find this black sand before we noticed the little bit of it by the parking lot! Black Sand Basin contains a small collection of geysers, and colorful hot springs. Emerald Pool is the most colorful and famous of these springs. It is a deep emerald green fringed by an outer ring of yellow and orange. My favorite pools were the rather large Caribbean blue Sunset Lake and Rainbow Pool. The walkway between them takes you right up into the steaming mist.

Sunset Lake and Rainbow Pool

Another colorful pool by the entrance is Opalescent Pool. This recently formed pool flooded a stand of lodgepole pine, creating a stand of white skeletons amidst another beautifully multi-
colored pool.

Opalescent Pool

Near the parking lot, an unusual geyser formed on the bank of Iron Creek. It is Cliff Geyser and it erupts 30 to 40 feet high--several times a day and for quite a while each time. This basin is easily accessible and there's a lot to see in such a small area. Don't miss it!
Directions: across the main road from Old Faithful inn


West Thumb Geyser Basin


· ephedra spring, perforated pool

Driving south from Old Faithful Inn, you'll come to the West Thumb Geyser Basin in about 15 miles. The walkways here are only about 1/2 mile long and on an easy grade. The views all along the pathway here are spectacular---geysers, pools, Yellowstone lake, flora!West Thumb Geyser Basin consists of a narrow strip of geysers, hot springs and a few mud pots and is located on the west shore of the "West Thumb" portion of Yellowstone Lake. The lake views add to this very beautiful area. West Thumb is actually a caldera within a larger caldera. If you look closely, you'll even be able to see evidence of hot springs coming up along the lakes edge here. One geyser near the edge use to even be used by fisherman to cook their catch right on the line. The impressive colors of the pools in Yellowstone are dependant on what grows in them. Thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms) have different colors and grow in different temperatures. Usually, green and brown organisms grow in cooler water; orange and yellow ones live in hotter water. Not many live in near boiling temperatures, so these springs look clear blue. We didn't see any geysers erupting in this area, but the colors in the pools were beautiful. This is also one of the few areas that we saw a lot of flowers. There was a carpet of little yellow flowers surrounding many of the pools while we were there in July. Another do not miss area!
Directions: south of Old Faithful Inn


Mud Volcano Area


· dragon spring

The sounds and smells are what are so interesting in this area! You'll immediately notice a strong rotten egg like smell as soon as you get out of the car! Further along the trail, you'll be treated to interesting sounds from the belching and fizzling springs and geysers. This is one of the most acidic areas in the park. This makes it different from hot springs and geysers. The hydrogen sulfide gas deep in the earth at Mud Volcano is used by microorganisms and the resulting sulfuric acid then breaks down rock into wet clay mud. The steam and gases cause the volcanic action of the mud here. It was a lot more active in the days of the 1871 Hayden Expedition.There is a very large bacteria matt by the parking lot. Hydrogen sulfide produces the rotten egg like smell which is quite strong here. There were a couple little noisy geysers going off while we were there---only shot up about a foot, but crackled and fizzled like a sparkler. Dragon's mouth spring was an interesting noise maker, too. It is a hot spring that shoots sideways out of a cave opening. Hot water rising to the surface, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and water vapor gases expanding create a pressure explosion in the cavern. The result is sloshing, belching, and steaming.The walkway around this area is another short easy walk. Along with your sense of sight, this is a great place for your senses of smelling and hearing, too! Directions: between Yellowstone lake and the canyon area


Canyon Area


· artist point towards lower falls

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the primary geologic feature in the Canyon District. It is roughly 20 miles long, measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area. It's depth is 800 to 1,200 ft.and is 1,500 to 4,000 ft wide. The colorful walls of the canyon are made by the hydrothermal activity on them. It is believed that many years ago, a rhyolite lava flow covered the present canyon area. Under this flow was a thermal area. Steam and gases weakened the rhyolite. Other lava flows blocked rivers until they overflowed and cut through the rhyolite. Then glaciers came and melted, deepening the canyon. The falls were caused by lava flow areas that didn't erode. The Upper Falls is 109 ft. high. It can be seen from the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail and from Uncle Tom's Trail. The Lower Falls is 308 ft. high and can be seen from Lookout Point, Red Rock Point, Artist Point, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, and from various points on the South Rim Trail. Drive both the north and south rims for great views! If you're feeling like taking a tough hike, the trail to the brink of the lower falls is challenging. We didn't do the Uncle Tom's Trail, but got a good view of it from the brink of the upper falls. It consisted of stair going about half way into the canyon. If you have time for a really long hike, there are even trails running along the rims of the canyons on both sides. Many of the lookouts are right along the road, but if you're afraid of heights, you may not want to walk to the railing. The view from Artist Point was my favorite.
Directions: eastern part of the park


Fountain Paint Pot


· paint pot

This is near Firehole Drive and between the upper and lower basins. Along this short walk you will see very good examples of most types of thermal features found in Yellowstone---such as some very pretty hot pools, steaming fumaroles, erupting geysers and probably the best and largest easily accessed mud pots in the park. The amount of acidity in the ground controls how thick a mud pot will be. The more acidic mud dissolves the ground into wet clay mud. Precipitation and groundwater levels cause the mud pots to vary from time to time. Chemicals in the mud give it different colors, too. The area is highly active and at least one geyser is usually erupting here at all times. The pathways here are not tough. You'll be able to walk to and around the huge paintpot---it had gray and pink mud in it while we were there. You'll also come to a couple really pretty deep blue hot pools and a bunch of smaller geysers behind the hill that the huge paint pot is on. Along the path to and from the parking lot is another large bacteria mat.
Directions: in the lower geyser basin on the west side of the park


Yellowstone Lake


· lake view from West Thumb Geyser Basin

Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake at high elevation (i.e., more than 7,000 ft.) in North America with a surface area of 136 square miles. It is a natural lake, situated at 7,733 ft. above sea level. It is roughly 20 miles long and 14 miles wide with 110 miles of shoreline and is frozen nearly half the year. It freezes in late December or early January and thaws in late May or early June. Hot springs and thermal vents do enter the lake bottom, but the average summer temperature of the lake is still 45 degrees. Outboards and rowboats may be rented (first come, first served) from AmFac Parks & Resorts at Bridge Bay Marina on Yellowstone Lake (a short drive from the West Thumb Basin area). AmFac also provides guided fishing boats which may be reserved in advance by calling (307) 344-7311. Private boats may be launched from the marina, too.Fishing is allowed. The native fish are on a catch and release basis only. Lake trout are to be killed if caught. Anglers 16 years of age and older are required to purchase either a $10 ten-day or $20 season permit. Anglers 12 to 15 years of age are required to obtain a non-fee permit. Children 11 years of age or younger may fish without a permit when supervised by an adult. Fishing permits are available at all ranger stations, visitor centers, and Hamilton General Stores. Yellowstone National Park has implemented a non-toxic fishing program. Tackle such as leaded split shot sinkers, weighted jigs, and soft weighted ribbon for fly fishing are prohibited. Since we only had 3 days in the park, we didn't spend much time by the lake. But we were able to enjoy a lot of beautiful views of it's northern shore while driving from the West Thumb Basin on to the Canyon area.
Directions: By West Thumb in the southern part of the park



Old Faithful Inn: Yellowstones most famous Inn



· Our double bedded room

We rented a premium room. It was rather simple, but nice. It had 2 queen beds, a small table and 2 chairs and a bathroom. No tv, and to try and make a long distance e-mail with our laptop cost $8 for the one try (and it didn't go through). The lobby is huge with 2 balconies around it. On the 2nd level, there's access to a porch for overlooking the upper basin geysers, including Old Faithful. On the porch are many benches, tables, and chairs. There are also several writing desks and lounging chairs along the walls of the balconies. There's even a catwalk on the top of the lodge, but earthquakes have made that unsafe for visitors to assend to now. There are several levels of accommodations in the lodge. There are 6 suites available for about $330/night and some semi suite for about $250. The rooms without bathrooms were $69, and there were 1 bed rooms with bathrooms (like we stayed in) for $92 or $123. Plan on reserving any of these accommodations months in advance through the booking company for the whole park---Xanterra Parks & Resorts at 307.344.7311. I reserve our room for the end of June in March. At that time, only 2 other rooms were showing availability.
InnComparison: about averagePrices: US$80-120
Phone: 307.344.7311



Wildlife: The wildlife can be dangerous



· brown bear

The wildlife is amazing. There are herds of buffalo, elk, deer, ... . But the animal that really seems to get everyone's attention is the bear. Cars stop where ever they are -- in the middle of the road and people get out to gaze at the bear. It's amazing how quickly a park ranger appears to get people back in their cars and on their way again

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

oahu,Hawaii --- a compilation of my 4 trips there

My first trip to Hawaii was to Oahu in 1999. I happened upon a TWA Getaway vacations package for something like $699@ for a week in the Maile Sky Court including airfare from St. Louis (the good 'ole days when St. Louis was a hub for a major airlines!). I mentioned it to Ken and, to my surprise, he said ok. So I booked it before he could change his mind. I had visions of an island paradise with blue water, lots of palm trees and beautiful weather and I wasn't disappointed! It was Nov., so we did have off and on rain, but also lots of rainbows and sunshine, too. My sister and her husband even joined us for 5 nights. We all fell in love with Hawaii then and knew we would be back!

Any trip to Oahu has got to include a trip to Waikiki. Originally Waikiki was a vacation place for Hawaiian royalty. Waikiki only covers about 1.5 sq. miles, but it is packed with hotels, restaurants, shops and even a few parks. But the main attraction to me is Waikiki beach. It has had problems with erosion which even led to importing sand from California back in the 1920's and 30's. Now they don't import sand anymore, but they work at sustaining the existing sand. Waikiki Beach sits at the base of Diamond Head and is on the south (drier) side of the island.

All the times we were there the surf was pretty calm. About half of the beach has a long rolling surf great for surfing. Although I haven't tried surfing, it's fun to watch. I have tried snorkeling at Waikiki beach and although I have found pockets of juvenile fish along some of the rocky areas, I wouldn't consider the snorkeling very good here. It is great for catching the sunset, though.

On the west end of Waikiki Beach is Fort Derussy Park. It was built in 1904 and was known as the Kalia Military Reservation. Later it was renamed Fort DeRussy and several batteries were built on the grounds of Fort DeRussy. In 1949, the fort was closed, and the property became the Fort DeRussy Armed Forces Recreation Center. Within the park there is a large grassy park with picnic tables and barbeques, the U.S. military's Hale Koa Hotel, and the United States Army Museum of Hawaii.
Anyone can enjoy the grassy grounds or the museum, but you must be active or retired military (or with one) to get into the Hale Koa hotel grounds.  Here is their impressive lobby.
In 2003, I spent a week on Oahu with my Dad.  We wandered around the Hale Koa and had a couple great dinners there thanks to his 21 years of service in the Air Force.  Loved that the restaurant was covered but open to the outdoors.

I always love walking around this beautiful grassy park---not too many grassy areas in Waikiki. The tall hotel past the far end of the park is the Maile Sky Court where Ken and I stayed the first trip.

On one of our trips around the island, we stopped at the Byodo-In Temple. It is a non-denominational Buddhist temple replica of a 900-year-old Buddhist place of worship at Uji in Kyoto prefecture of Japan. Inside the Temple is a nine-foot gold and lacquer covered Lotus Buddha, the largest wooden Buddha carved in over 900 years. Outside is a three-ton, brass peace bell. Surrounding the temple are large koi ponds that cover two acres. It is a fascinating place to wander around.

Another place not to be missed in the winter is the North Shore. This area is known for its massive waves and surfers from all around the globe. Although we were here at a time of 6'-10' waves, I was a bit disappointed in how small they looked.

Located along the southeast coast of Oahu is Hanauma Bay. It is a huge bay within a volcanic cone. Hanauma is both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District (the first of several established in the State of Hawaiʻi). It is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Oahu and has unfortunately suffered from overuse. The first time we went there we were able to walk right down to the beach and jump in the water. The snorkeling there was phenomenal! But with the millions of visitors a year, a lot of the reef has gotten trampled and killed. They now limit the number of people allowed in at a time and even require everyone to see a video on preserving the reef. I think we paid $3 to get into the park in 1999, in 2003 it had gone up to $5. Still a bargain in my opinion.


Be prepared for a pretty steep walk down to the beach from the parking lot, though.  Or you may be able to pay and ride down on one of their carts.


The USS Arizona Memorial, located at Pearl Harbor in the City and County of Honolulu, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the USS Arizona during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by Japanese imperial forces and commemorates the events of that day. The memorial was dedicated in 1962 and is visited by more than one million people annually. It spans the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it. In 1980, the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center associated with the memorial was opened. Historical information about the attack, boat access to the memorial, and general visitor services are available at the center. The sunken remains of the battleship were declared a National Historic Landmark on 5 May 1989. Although I wasn't really looking forward to going here initially, I was really glad I went. There's a solumness about the area. I've been back there 3 times now and get that same feeling every time.

This is my Dad and nephew, Sean, inside the monument. My Dad and I took the trip in 2003 so that he could do the swearing in of my nephew as he reinlisted in the Navy. Another career military man in the family.

In 2003 we also took the hike up Diamond Head. The views from the top were amazing!
Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years. The crater is 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit. One of the major defense forts, Fort Ruger, occupied the Diamond Head Crater. An observation deck was constructed at the summit in 1910 to provide target sighting and a four level underground complex was built within the walls of the crater as a command post. A 580-foot tunnel was dug through the crater wall to provide easier access to the Fort. The observation deck and underground complex is now abandoned by the military.
The 1.75 miles hike to the deck is classified as easy to moderate and has two sets of stairs, one with 99 steps and the other, 76 steps. There is also a 225-foot unlit tunnel. It was a fun hike, but did get pretty warm by the time we were done. Good thing we brought water with us.

After a day of hiking, a meal here at Dixie Kitchens in Honolulu was in order.

We also rode around in the elite housing area of Oahu, Kohala Estates. Many celebrity houses were pointed out on our 1999 Grand Island bus tour. This was just one of the many beautiful homes there.

Dad and I took a limo tour in 2003. One of the interesting places it took us to was Kualoa Ranch on the west side of the island. Kualoa Ranch is open for tourist activities such as horseback riding and hiking, but is best known as a film location for productions such as Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young, Pearl Harbor, Windtalkers, Godzilla, and Lost. We were treated to a tour around the ranch, a Hawaiian fire dancer show, a short boat ride, and tastes of some of the produce grown there.

Back at Fort Derussy Park, we toured the U.S. Army Museum. The biggest artifact is the building itself. The museum is housed in Battery Randolph a massive reinforced concrete implacement with roofs as much as 12 feet thick. The battery was built around 1911 for two 14 inch guns that could fire projectiles as far as 14 miles. It was part of a coastal defense system that was to protect Honolulu Harbor from invasion. The museum's collection contains some WW II armor pieces, an AH-1 Cobra helicopter, and small arms and admission is free.

Another interesting activity to try in Oahu is a submarine ride. Even the shuttle out to the sub is really scenic. I was surprised at how light it was 100 feet underwater where we rode around some sunken shipwrecks, airplane and other artificial reefs.

I actually did this tour twice---once in 1999 with Ken, another time in 2003 with Dad.
Inside the subs there was plenty of room and everyone had their own porthole.

Back on the north side of the island is the 1,800 acre historical nature park, Waimea Falls Park.
Ancient Hawaiian lifestye with cliff diving, hula performances, music demonstrations and archeological sites are some of the atractions here. We missed the performances, but did do the self-guided walking tours through the tropical botanical gardens, recreated ancient Hawaiian living sites and exotic flower collections.

Not sure if this is a regular thing or not, but we happened upon a mass at Ft. Derussy Park in Waikiki one night. What a great place for mass!

On my 4th trip to Oahu, I went and toured the Waikiki Aquarium. It was opened in 1904 and is the 3rd oldest aquarium in the USA. The Aquarium opened with 35 tanks and 400 marine organisms. Now there are over 3,000 marine animals and many sections to the aquarium. I happened to be there when it was time to feed the Monk seals. They did an interesting talk about them during their feeding session. I've seen many monk seals around Kauai, but it was neat seeing them close up and not just sleeping.



















Another place I went to on my 4th trip (Feb. 2009) was Foster Gardens. Upon Mrs. Foster's death in 1930, the 5.5 acre site was bequeathed to the City and County of Honolulu as a public garden and opened to the public in 1931. From 1957-89, Foster Garden expanded to over 13.5 acres. In addition to being a pleasant place to walk around in, Foster Botanical Garden is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered, which have been collected from throughout the world's tropics over a period of 150 years. Admission was only $5 and transportation by The Bus was only $2.25.





















A free event played out nightly are the incredible sunsets off Waikiki Beach.
















For something a little different, I walked to the marina by the Hilton side of Waikiki Beach for some incredible reflection pictures one night.




Of course you can't go to Hawaii without going to a luau.  So on our first trip there, we went to Germaine's Luau.  It was advertised as being on the beach, so I thought that meant we would be able to sit on the beach.  But the beach was actually roped off.  We still enjoyed the entertainment and food.
A trip to the middle of the island to the Dole Pineapple plantation should be on the agenda, too.  Originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s "Pineapple Experience" in 1989.  Here you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about pineapples and even become one!
Back in WAikiki, a stroll around the lobby and gardens of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is like taking a walk back in time.  It is one of the first hotels established in Waikiki.  It is considered one of the flagship hotels in Hawaii tourism. It opened its doors to guests on 1 February 1927 with a black tie gala attended by over 1,200 guests. The hotel quickly became an icon of Hawaii's glory days.  During World War II, the Royal was closed to tourists and instead served as a place of rest and relaxation for U.S. submariners.  During the 1960s, the Pink Palace was home to "Concert by the Sea" which broadcast daily through Armed Forces Radio Network.  The Royal Hawaiian closed on 1 June 2008 for a complete renovation. The property reopened on 20 January 2009 as a member of The Luxury Collection Resort division of Starwood Hotels and is still going very strong.

















While walking around Waikiki, a stroll through the International Marketplace is fun.  The Dagger Bar and Bazaar Buildings within the Marketplace opened in 1956. During the 1960's, other establishments began to open.  Latest word is that it's owner, Queen Emma Land Co., signed an agreement with Taubman Centers.  Taubman is a company that develops, owns and operates high-end malls across the country.   Looks like an icon of Waikiki may have it's days numbered!
                         













 Another interesting view of WAikiki is from the ocean.  Many companies offer sunset sails.  They can be booked through concierges or by just sitting on the beach and having one of their crew members come up to you drumming up business.  That's how I ended up on one in 2009 for $20.  Loved the views!  
                           













Sunset wasn't bad, either!
For the athletic water lover---WAikiki is a great place to learn to surf.  The gentle waves are ideal for beginners and advanced surfers.  If I were a couple decades younger, I think I would have really enjoyed surfing.  Waikiki was the playground of famous surfer and swimmer "Duke" Kahanamoku.


There are many places along WAikiki beach where one can get lessons on surfing.

Public transportation on Oahu is cheap and easy, too.  Although we have rented a car for a day or 2 for touring away from Waikiki and Honolulu, we usually get a pass and hop on and off The Bus.  They even cater to visitors by offering visitor passes and directions to all the major sites.  We've used it to go to the Arizona Memorial, the North Shore, Hanauma Bay, the Aquarium, and many more places.  They even offer a free transfer within 3 hours so it's possible to tour one thing and still get somewhere else on one fare.  They will warn you to have a hand on your belongings, but you should all the time.  The only problem with using The Bus to ride to the North Shore and beyond is there aren't as many busses out that way.  So if it's full, you have to wait an hour or  more for the next bus.  Locals as well as visitors use The Bus alot. 
At the other end of Waikiki from Honolulu is another big park---Kapiolani Park.  It was created by King Kalakaua in the 1870's. This beautiful 500-acre park is listed on the State's Historic Register as many of its exceptional trees date back over 100 years.  It is the site of historic Diamond Head, the famous Kodak Hula Show, the world renown 42-acre Honolulu Zoo, the Aquarium, Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, the Waikiki Shell,  and lots of sport fields and concerts.  Unfortunately I've not spent much time here---yet. 

If you want a place that's always bustling with activity and beauty, Oahu is the place to be.  It's not the laid back peaceful Hawaii most people think of when they've never been to Hawaii.  We don't often come to Oahu anymore since my husband usually wants to go to just one island and he prefers peace and quiet, so we usually go to Kauai.  But I'm definately not opposed to visiting Oahu again!