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Photos from Makani Catamaran in Oahu

Diamond Head Crater

The Makani Catamaran was part of our Go Oahu Card deal. We did see turtles and several types of fish; I just didn’t get them on digital. Read more about our tour and see other links at our Oahu page. Find out if the Go Oahu Card is worth it.

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Is the 3-Day Go Oahu Card Worth It?

Polynesian Cultural Center Luau

Yes, and it depends. As with any discount card, you have to take into account what type of vacation you want to have and how much time you have. If you choose to just sit at the beach and relax in the sun. Don’t get the Go Oahu Card. It’s not for that type of vacation. Relaxing in the sun on the beach is free, still. That’s about the best discount you can get.

However, if you know that you want to experience some of the culture of Hawaii, a Go Oahu Card can help you do that. For example, we knew that we wanted to do a luau. They run north of $100 per person, and the best-rated Luau is at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is about $120. We also knew that we wanted to visit Pearl Harbor. Its place in history makes it an important spot to visit for anyone who wants to think about warfare and understand human nature better. The activities there run about $40, but the Arizona Memorial and its related movie is free. The two combined activities add up to $160, which meant we would need to find an activity or two that would add up to about $40.

Not knowing that Pearl Harbor was a full day tour, I was still concerned that we wouldn’t be able to do enough activities to make the Go Oahu Card worthwhile. A lot of the activities take place in the morning because it gets too hot in the afternoon to do anything. We decided to do the 8 am Diamond Head Hike ($18) and the afternoon tour with Makani Catamaran (about $100). We didn’t have a car, so I wasn’t sure that we could make the catamaran, but we signed up for it anyway. There was plenty of time, so we got our money’s worth.

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Go Oahu Card: Pearl Harbor

Arizona Memorial and the Mighty Missouri at Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is an all-day tour. The greatest tragedy in American naval history, Pearl Harbor exhibits commemorate the soldiers that fell during the Japanese sneak attack on docked battleships. Starting with the Arizona Memorial, the film before you go out on the boat shows what led to the Japanese attack and why it was so successful. The Arizona Memorial dock is currently under repair, so visitors get a tour by the memorial with a guide who explains the story and answers questions. Get your tickets online, or you may not be able to go aboard the boat for this FREE tour.

The Bowfin Submarine and its museum are included on the Go Oahu Card as are the below mentioned attractions. The audio guide explains the life of a submariner. I listened to the family version of the guide and found it much more entertaining than the adult version, but you can choose just by punching in the right number.

The Bowfin Submarine
The Bowfin Submarine

A shuttle takes guests from the arrival center over a bridge to Ford Island. There, you’ll get to stand on the decks of the Missouri that stands watch over the Arizona. The Mighty Mo was where the Japanese formally surrendered to the Allied Forces. It also saw service during the Korean War and Desert Storm.

Under the guns of the Mighty Mo
Under the guns of the Mighty Mo

If you love planes, the Pacific Aviation Museum is for you! A lot of restored aircraft occupy the two hangars. For me, the most interesting was a B-17 Bomber found in the swamps of New Guinea. Dubbed the “Swamp Ghost,” its insignia was drawn by Disney artists and features Donald Duck in the role of the Swamp Ghost.

The Swamp Ghost
The Swamp Ghost

If you get hungry while at Pearl Harbor, your best choices for food are at Ford Island. In the shadow of the Mighty Mo is a food truck,and the Pacific Aviation Museum features a counter service restaurant. Both offer better food to eat than the $7 hot dog and the snack shop at the visitors’center.

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Go Oahu Card: Family at the Polynesian Cultural Center

My wife and I with Maui at the PCC

The theme of the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is family and the ties that bind. Every fan of “Lilo and Stitch” can tell you that “ohana” means “family.” Those who aren’t fans of the Disney film will still know “ohana” means “family” by the end of the day.

If you take a bus chartered through the PCC, your adoption into the family will start with your bus guide the moment you leave Waikiki.The BYU-Hawaii student, who is paying his or her tuition in part by working at the PCC, will introduce you to the concept of “cousin,” which means anyone of Polynesian descent, and for the length of the stay at PCC, anyone who is visiting the center. Our guide was funny with his dry sense of humor, and he related interesting facts about Polynesian cultures and the PCC before we arrived. He also took our food orders for Pounders and made sure we got our tickets into the PCC.

At the Huki Canoe Show, we were again reminded of the meaning of “ohana.” In the Polynesian cultures, “the waters do not divide us;they unite us.” Marriage between different seafaring cultures keeps the gene pool fresh. While the Polynesians of long ago may not have known the science,they did realize that people marrying between different islands helped to prevent war.

The Hawaiian Journey film reinforced the concept of family. The story that frames the beauty of the island is told from the perspective a Hawaiian boy who learns about who he is from his grandma. As the film ends, his granddaughter will learn about her heritage from him.

Ha: The Breath of Life” follows the same structure with a father and mother giving birth to a boy and ending with the son and his wife having a daughter. The family is at the center of the story line. We live for our families. We fight for our families, and we die for our families because of love. If you didn’t believe the family was important before your day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, you should have no doubt about its centrality to life after your visit.

For more on the Polynesian Cultural Center, check out my review.

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Go Oahu Card: Makani Tours Afternoon Sail

Makani Catamaran

Going into the Pacific with Makani Tours is a pleasurable,relaxing experience. The catamaran is bigger than it looks from the dock, and many of the smaller tourists (children) will take a seat on the netting at the front of the boat. Smart adults who don’t experience motion sickness will also sit on the netting, but use the bean bags as back rests. (Those who experience motion sickness may want to head toward the back of the boat where the least amount of motion is, or look at a fixed point just above the horizon in an attempt to trick the brain into believing that you aren’t moving.)

Don’t worry about the number of people on the dock; your boat will fit them all and still give you enough room to move around comfortably. You’ll be able to go from the front to the back and from side to side with little problem – unless wildlife is spotted. When everyone moves to the right side to see the whales, the shorter guests may have a hard time seeing them if they aren’t at the rail (guests or whales). Sea turtles are easier to see because they don’t move as quickly as whales. Trigger fish and tangs will be enticed to surface with an offering from the first mate. Sitting at the front of the boat will give you the best opportunity to see flying fish,too.

The cruise took us out past Diamond Head, which we hiked in the morning. It was cool to see the other side of it and look at the size of it from a vantage where it actually looked like a crater. The trip comes with a free drink, and the first mate talks about and points out the wildlife and will happily take your picture.

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Go Oahu Card: Diamond Head Hike with Kaimana Tours

The most hiked trail in Honolulu -- Diamond Head State Park

Kaimana Tours provides transportation from your hotel to the Diamond Head trail head. As part of the deal, you get a bottle of water and a printed guide for the trail. On the way to the crater floor, the driver will tell you interesting facts about the area, including the way it got its name. (Explorers mistook calcite for diamonds.)

The hike itself is relatively easy. At .8 miles up, it’s not as daunting or difficult as the hike to the sixth floor in my condo complex. Or at least, it didn’t seem as difficult – maybe because I wasn’t carrying grocery bags, maybe it’s because the scenery is amazing. Bring sunscreen and take your time, the two hours allotted by Kaimana is enough to get up, take photos all along the way, get down and still buy souvenirs while waiting for the bus. Some older people found the hike more difficult, but some toddlers were happy on the way down.

At one point in the hike, you can choose the easy way to the left or the hard way, a bunch of stairs, to the right. Someone might think of that as a church metaphor with the difficulty of choosing the right to head towards heaven, but in this case, both choices lead to the same destination, which others might also see as an afterlife metaphor. If you’re literally minded, you don’t have to think of it either way. We went left and didn’t regret a thing. I see enough stairs at home.