Visiting Hawai’i has been on my bucket list ever since I learned the islands existed. The beauty, the history and the people seemed like something that needed to be seen, experienced and met. We had the fortunate chance to visit the archipelago last month for Honolulu Pride.
HOW TO GET THERE –
When you’re going to Hawai’i for the very first time, what better airline to take than Hawaiian Airlines. First, I had to get from the South East to an airport that was serviced by Hawaiian Airlines. Flying out on Friday, our best option was Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL). The Los Angeles to Honolulu route seemed to be optimal as the LAX to HNL flight happens three times every day (non-stop of course), giving travelers multiple options to fit their individual schedule. Once you book one of those three, make sure to get that window seat for as you approach Honolulu, you’ll see many of the other islands as you approach your destination. These views are breathtaking and they’re just the start of the geographic eye candy that is Hawai’i.
But hey, that’s a long trip! That’s six hours of flying, a quarter of your day with fellow travelers before you get to see those views. Knowing this, I selected a window/exit seat in Extra Comfort, which happened to be across from the jump seat and then the passenger beside me qualified for an upgrade so she left and I had all that space to myself. All the seats looked comfortable no matter where they were on the plane. For my munchies, I did order a snack box from the Pau Hana Cart when it came around. I ate that in addition to what was given all passengers, some yummy Maui Onion potato chips and a garlic pesto and diced tomato bagel roll that induced a verbal “oh my”.
Besides eating and movies, I thoroughly enjoyed the in-flight magazine Hanu Ho! There were a couple of articles I did not finish so I took it with me, which says a great deal about their magazine as I am not one that likes to read outside of work. It did provide some historical accounts of the island, suggestions for sights, and more. Hawaiian Airlines has definitely earned my future bookings.
WHERE TO STAY –
We picked up our Avis rental car at the airport and took the short ride to the Prince Waikiki Honolulu, our beautiful home in the sky with an amazing view for the next three nights. Besides a great room, we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the property’s restaurant, 100 Sails Restaurant and Bar, there was the late light dining there, too. We also enjoyed the hospitality at the Hinana Bar poolside and the live music they provided. The hotel was a great retreat from walking, shopping, and traveling, and yes, I miss that view, those sunsets, the relaxation and service.
HONOLULU PRIDE –
But we were there for PRIDE, yes, all caps as this was the first pride in years!
This is the first in-person Pride celebrations since 2019, and the theme this year is “Rooted in Pride” – an expression of Hawaii’s culture of diversity and inclusion. The focus will be on the history of LGBTQ culture in Hawaii through the years.
*The parade will start at Magic Island and follow its traditional route through Waikīkī along Ala Moana Boulevard and Kalākaua Avenue, ending at the Waikīkī Shell.
The pride parade was scheduled to last from 10 AM to 11:30 AM, but was a little bit longer than that, but was really still the perfect amount of parade. The energy, the variety of participants, the amount of people that were excited to be in as well as watch were great. I met many people along my walk to watch the parade and when saying hello, the conversation went right to pride. “Are you going? We’ll see you there!” And these were all hetero couples and hetero couples with their families. Everyone was exited to have PRIDE back. And I was excited to see all the beautiful happy people. Here’s an Instagram post I did to my personal account of the shots I took during the parade.
WALK HONOLULU & WAIKIKI –
I did go down to the festival, listened to some great music, dancing, and then meandered back to the hotel, while shopping and site seeing and of course people watching. With a 4% sales tax, much lower than most states, Hawai’i is a great place to shop.
EXPLORE MORE –
We had some extra time and with the Avis rental car at our disposal, we checked out a variety of things on the island. One thing I desired to do was just to drive and look at the beauty of the island. If you could pull off the tar of the road, you could just stop and go to a beach. There were beaches everywhere and many were just unoccupied. I mean, yes, it is an island and you expect there to be beaches, but they were just everywhere, and were beautiful, accessible, and you just did not want to leave them. The beauty of the island was truly seen on this little ride around Oahu. Waikiki Beach is one to be seen, but it is rather busy and right in town. So if you don’t have a car, yes, go there, but go explore if you can. I think it took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to drive to the northern part of the island along the windward side (eastern shore) and then about the same to drive down the middle of the island. I did not go down the leeward side (western shore) as many said it was not as heavily visited by tourists, not a great deal to see, and well, the inhabitants were not really marketing to have that island to be as well touristy or a draw to outsiders. I was fine with what I saw. One issue is that if there is an accident or a delay on the road, you may be stuck for a bit as I was, but it cleared up faster than the GPS was warning.
HOLLYWOOD IN HAWAI’I –
I also made a reservation to go to Kualoa Ranch. I’m a movie geek, a Jurassic Park / World movie lover, and I knew I wanted to check this out. Just a very short ride from Honolulu (like 20 or 30 minutes but I kept stopping to take pictures), this was a highlight of the trip. We saw where so many movies and television shows were shot. I did the 90 minute Jungle Jeep Expedition tour. I would like to go back and do the 2.5 hour tour or the UTV Raptor tour, but I would need a total of 4 people to do that one, per registration rules. Who wants to go?!?
When I do go back, I will take note of the recommendations of Mark Kanemura. He was Hawaiian Airlines’ guest of honor on the Hawaiian’s Rainbow Runway float at the Honolulu Pride Parade and Festival. We actually had a chance to talk to Mark about Hawai’i and will mention that in a future post. Meanwhile, you can see and follow him on Instagram @mkik808 as his content is very entertaining.
This year, Hawaiian Airlines tapped Hawaiʻi-born dance celebrity Mark Kanemura to kick off its #RainbowRunwayChallenge for National Pride Month in June in a vibrant celebration of inclusivity and aloha. Most notable for spending several years as a dancer on Lady Gaga’s “Monster Ball World Tour” and “Born This Way Ball World Tour,” Kanemura encouraged followers to create their own #RainbowRunwayChallenge dance or walk inspired by his video.
In Mark’s guide to Oahu, he recommends his choices of best beaches, activities, designers, artists, restaurants, karaoke spot, gay bar and more.
THE HIGHLIGHT , PURE HISTORY –
Meeting Mark was a highlight and he is proud of his heritage, but I would say THE highlight of the trip for me, a former social sciences teacher and sociology professor, was my visit to the Bishop Museum. I was fortunate enough to make it on the last days of the Bishop Museum’s exhibit of “The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu.” The exhibit explored the māhū culture, legendary individuals of dual spirits, who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawai’i.
Simply put, the Bishop Museum dedicated an entire building to this exhibit. It brought to light the history of the two spirited individuals throughout Hawaiian history. It also brought visitors up to a more modern day history, telling of the ordeals of the LGBTQ community in the ’60s and ’70s and up to present day. It was a pleasure to spend hours at the Bishop Museum, especially in this exhibit. It was inspiring and sad as you were able to learn about the history, but then you realized there is nothing like this on the mainland with the Native Americans / Indigenous peoples. We all know they had similar two spirited individuals, but it has been washed away and not really talked about anymore. It was so refreshing and moving to see a state really have no issue about broadcasting such a history for all to see and embrace that history as well as pointing out the wrong-doings of the state, the government, the culture. Here is a link to a longer PBS coverage (56 minutes) of the “The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu”. That PBS video also covers many of the parts of the exhibit, like one where drag performers or men in drag could be arrested for being in women’s clothing because they were deceiving others (Intent to Deceive Law), unless they wore a pin that said “I Am A Boy”. I’m inserting the shorter (9 minute) video that was played in the museum exhibit for all to see, a shorter and easier to consume version. It’s so well done and truly educational and moving.
Once again, this exhibit is no longer present at the Bishop Museum, but I seriously think it would be a great exhibit to do a national tour, maybe even doing a different major US city each year for Pride. Fortunately we do have the longer PBS coverage.
Would I go back? In a heart beat. Next time I do, I will plan more adventures that are specific to Hawai’i, more outdoor activities, and maybe even do more than one island.
I’ll leave you with some more pictures from the Bishop Museum.