I don't think I really believed we were going to Hawaii until the wheels touched down on the palm tree lined runway. And even then, it didn't quite feel like our vacation had started because when you come out of the airport you're reminded that Honolulu is actually quite a busy city, not just a vacation spot, with tall buildings, and a lot of traffic, that just so happens to be lined with miles of sandy beaches. We grabbed a cab and hurried on to our hotel, hoping to get checked in and get our toes in the sand before the sun set. Along the way we noted Tripler Army Medical Center set up a bit higher above the city. It's pink and has a great view of the ocean and happens to be where my mom was born which I think is just the greatest coincidence.
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa was a good spot for our quick stopover. We didn't rent a car here but we were close enough to walk to a lot of restaurants and it's set right across from Waikiki Beach of course. We got checked in and immediately threw on bathing suits and practically ran to the beach to catch the sun as it sank into the ocean. Our first of many beautiful sunsets in Hawaii checked off we headed back to the hotel and jumped into the pool before grabbing dinner at the hotel's poolside bar. We headed to bed, completely exhausted from our day of traveling and looking forward for our first full day in Hawaii!
(The anchor recovered from the USS Arizona- just to give you an ideal of the scale of that ship.)
(The beautiful harbor, with active Navy ships and the USS Arizona memorial in the distance.)
Before you board the boat that takes you out to the USS Arizona, you gather in a theater to watch a short documentary about the events leading up to that day and the actual attack. They remind you that the USS Arizona is the final resting place of the crewman who sank with the ship, and that we are to step onto the memorial in solemn silence and respect.
The memorial hovers over the remains of the ship, now resting peacefully in the shallow water. Fish swim through the ruins and you can see oil still slowly leaking into the harbor as you look down into the remains of the Arizona.
A placard reads: "This memorial honors the fallen crew of the USS Arizona and all those who died in the attack on December 7, 1941. The remains of over 900 Arizona crewmen rest beneath you within the sunken battleship... The Shrine room beyond displays the names of the 1,177 Arizona crewmen lost in the attack. Another list honors Arizona survivors who have rejoined their shipmates in the waters below."
It gutted me to read all those names, and to see the front two shorter pillars listing the men who survived that day but died either later in the war, or even many years after it ended, and then decided to have their ashes returned to Pearl Harbor to join their brothers in the Arizona.
Though visiting a national cemetery is not exactly what you think of when you picture a romantic vacation, it was important to us to go and be reminded of the cost of freedom, the price paid at this place at that time in our history. It's a place you disembark from with a heavier heart and a deeper understanding of the honor and sacrifice of the men who served. It also made me look at the servicemen and women I know now, all one hundred percent volunteer, my husband included, with a deeper sense of appreciation and respect of what they may be called to do. Though it was strange to see people posing for a selfie in front of torpedos, or face-timing their family from the shoreline (is it just me who thinks that's odd and more than a little disrespectful???) we thought the trip to Pearl Harbor and the time spent at such a beautiful memorial was well worth the layover.
We took an uber back to our homebase, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sun shining generously down on the shores. We were only on Oahu for less than 48 hours as the next day we headed on to Maui, and both agreed that's when the real vacation started!