Other Hawaii posts: Kauai, Kauai Quilting, Kauai Food, Kauai Sightseeing, Oahu Fireworks, Oahu Food, Pearl Harbor, Oahu Quilting.

We ran around a lot during our week in Oahu. I’ve already posted about Pearl Harbor and some of the places we ate, but we just had so much fun driving all over the coast, among other things.

We walked all over Chinatown in Honolulu, which is a small neighborhood that used to be a red-light district after WWII. Now it’s tons of noodle shops and markets.

We spent a day driving around the Windward coast of Oahu (that’s the east coast, for some reason this map is flipped upside down). It is some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever, ever seen. We even saw some kids cliff diving and climbing near the Halona Blowhole.

Further up the Windward coast we stopped at Sandy Beach Park to watch surfers and swimmers. They have excellent signs there, and lots of local kids sitting on the backs of their cars critqueing the surfers and body boarders.

We spent an afternoon at the Waikiki Aquarium, which is a nice way to get out of the heat for a while.

We also spent a day driving up to the North Shore and stopping along the way to take it in. It wasn’t much of a surf day, so we hiked through Waimea Valley. That peahen and her little ones like to hang out at the snack bar.

We ended our North Shore day with a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. That is quite an unusual place. We figured out after we arrived that the facility is owned by the Mormon church and nearby BYU-Hawaii. Something like 80% of the staff at the center are students there, and they work at the center to graduate debt-free. Many of them go home to their native islands with their new education. I remember from my time in college dating a Mormon that a lot of missionaries are stationed in Polynesia, so I guess it makes sense.

The place is huge, with special “villages” for each of the main Polynesian islands (Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti). The staff put on special demonstrations in each village, like warrior dancing and spear throwing, that are part of their native cultures. It’s like Epcot for Polynesia, and I found it ever so slightly uncomfortable. But the luau was pretty fun, with the usual buffet and entertainment. After dinner there’s a full-on show (with stadium seating) with effects and animated sequences and an original score. It’s called Ha: Breath of Life, and it’s like a mashup of Cirque du Soleil and The Lion King Musical. They don’t allow photos for the show, and there were heads in the way for most of the other things we did there. But I did snap a couple of pictures. I thought the Fijiian girl dancing with the fan was gorgeous.