Lugging our ten tons of luggage behind us, we finally made it to our first stop, Waikiki Beach, at 11 pm Tuesday night after an excruciating 2 hour shuttle bus ride from the airport in which our hotel – the Waikiki Circle – was, of course, the last stop on the list. Taking the shuttle bus was a major error in judgment! Note to self – spend the extra $5 on a taxi next time.
The Waikiki Circle, a 60s vintage beachfront hotel, is the cheapest on the strip by a significant amount, hence our patronage. One of the first ways one knows this is a down-market operation is that, unlike that other palatial properties along the avenue, this place has no lobby, just a desk – but, hey, it works for us.
Since we were jetlagged, of course we woke up at 5:55 am and had to find some java; the nearby Kona Coffee answered the call and we spent some minutes sitting beachfront in one of the several beachside structures that become shelters for the homeless after hours; these folks are uncermoniously rousted from their slumber every day at 6 am by the local constabulary.
For the last two days it’s been “Surf’s Up” at the South Shore; uncharacteristic 10 to 15 foot waves have been breaking along Waikiki Beach, drawing hundreds of surfers and boogie boarders, some less experienced than others. Apparently the lifeguards, using jet skies, rescued 150 people in trouble on Tuesday and 143 on Wednesday; two tourists have been lost to the waves in the last two days. Strong rip currents exist in the waters off the beach here; since I was last here (in 1980) a breakwater rock wall has been built at our end of the beach to create a safer environment for swimming.
After a couple of cups of coffee, we headed out down the beach walk in search of breakfast; somehow we made our way through the vast maze of beachfront hotel lobbies and shopping malls, through a garden with an enormous banyan tree, to the beachside restaurant of the Royal Hawaian, a huge pink palace of what looks to be 20s vintage, where we were served by a host of unhappy looking wait staff and consumed a very pricey breakfast ($45 for 2), including what had to be the worst cup of coffee ever, made with heavily clorinated water.
Beating a hasty retreat from the Royal Hawaian, we made our way along the beach and across a retaining wall to the Sheraton Waikiki, another gigantic seaside property. This small area had a few lounger and umbrella sets for rent for a ridiculous $45 a day (we passed on that opportunity and opted instead to stake out a patch of sand under the macadamia nut trees).
From the depths of the dark past, I retrieved a memory of Waikiki Beach in 1980 as a vast swath of sand much like White Rock, BC. Has it ever changed since then; what used to be a wide curve of sand is now a thin strip at low tide and nonexistent at high. Beach erosion and the higher waters caused by global climate change have altered the topography of the beach enormously, a problem that is worrying the local officials, since the impact on tourism if the beach disappears will be huge.
Ty and I are sun-creatures; we love the beach. But one can only spend so much time sun-worshipping; for us, there’s got to be something more to recommend a place than a great beach. And for me, Waikiki doesn’t have it. There’s very little local culture left to speak of; all the hotels and shops along the avenue are global luxury and midmarket chains, none of which we are inclined to patronise.
After an afternoon nap, we headed out to catch the night-time action on the strip and found a few enterprising street vendors trying to beguile people in purchasing their wares, with very few takers. Ty bought a hand-made macrame anklet from a guy who said that the season was dead.
Drawn like large moths to a flame by its tiki torches and red paper lanterns, we hit the Tiki Bar at the Aston Beach Hotel for open mic night and listened to the vestiges of local culture in the songs and ukelele strummings of the lineup of musicians who followed one another onto its tiny stage. One larger young guy was terrific, with a very powerful voice and presence.
We’ve got one more day here and will spend it boogie boarding and lying on flotation devices. Tomorrow morning will see us up at 4:30 am for our flight to Apia, Samoa, the second stop on our ten month South Sea Beachcombers Tour – bula!
Read about the erosion of Waikiki Beach here.
See more pictures here.