chinatown dim sum honolulu

Tips to Visit Pearl Harbor and Michel’s at the Colony Surf

visit Pearl Harbor

Adam and Elizabeth Weintraub at World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

The driving force behind our 48 hours in Honolulu adventure was to visit Pearl Harbor. Followed, of course, by a quiet dinner at Michel’s at Colony Surf. That was our last half of the 48 hours in Honolulu trip. The first 24 hours was a trip to the Bishop Museum to see royal artifacts and learn more about the overthrow of the Monarchy. Coupled with dinner at Le Mer. But this second half was our real reason for visiting Oahu from Big Island.

I had already booked the tour when my husband produced my senior lifetime national park pass. You probably can’t get those anymore. Not that we could have used it anyway. Because the park at Pearl Harbor gives away a limited number of free tickets in the morning, but you have to be there at oh-dark-thirty to stand in line. With a private tour, you can go at a more decent time of day, say 10 AM. And the private tour company picks you up at your hotel and drives you around sight-seeing spots, too. So you don’t have to drive to Pearl Harbor or take a cab. It’s just much easier for $45 a person.

As I dressed to leave our hotel, I had one hand on the door knob of our room when I looked down at my t-shirt. Uh, oh. Second thoughts about my attire. “Do you think this is insensitive?” I asked my husband, pointing to what I had called a pineapple with a purse on top in the store while he more accurately assessed the image as a hand grenade. Which made me want the t-shirt even more. Nope, probably NOT the thing to wear to visit Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, my husband had brought an extra t-shirt I could wear. Well, Day of the Dead beats hand grenade.

visit Pearl Harbor

Touring the USS Arizona Memorial is the main reason people visit Pearl Harbor.

The tour starts with free time in the park to walk around exhibits and read the ages and names on plaques of civilians and military who died. You can see the USS Arizona memorial out in the water, constructed over the sunken ship. I had toured this memorial in 2014 by myself prior to my Vanuatu trip, but I really wanted my husband to experience what happens standing in front of those engraved names of men and women who died in the bombing by Japan.

After we watched a 20-minute movie, that always makes you cry, we were told to get on the ferry. Nobody told us we were not able to land at the USS Arizona Memorial. Nobody told us when to take photos. Nobody told us anything. The communication was terrible. We got as close to the memorial as you can see in the photo above when the ferry abruptly turned around and headed back to dock. It was too windy, officials later said when we were on dry land.

visit Pearl Harbor

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl.

Part of our visit to Pearl Harbor included a trip to the Punchbowl Crater where the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located. Some of the soldiers who died at Pearl Harbor are buried here. Others still remain underwater in the sunken ships. We pulled up next to the grave of Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer winning journalist from the Washington Daily News. Pyle wrote famous pieces from a first-person point of view about the gritty casualties of World War II.

Visit Pearl Harbor

Iolani Palace in Honolulu is the only royal residence in the United States.

The tour guide, Pualani, let us off the bus in front of the Iolani Palace. This is where the royal family resided in Honolulu. Beginning with King Kamehameha III and ending with Queen Liliuokalani as the last reigning royalty. When the overthrow happened in 1893, Queen Liliuokalani simply stepped down from the throne rather than see her people harmed. The United States did not have the legal nor moral right to seize the kingdom but that’s never stopped our country before.

Visit Pearl Harbor

Elizabeth Weintraub at Michel’s at the Colony Surf, with downtown Honolulu over her shoulder.

Ah, yes, the icing on the cake, to help us get over the fact we didn’t get to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, is a nice dinner. You can see the good mood present on my face as I smiled at my husband. We had just stepped out of an Uber and into Michel’s at the Colony Surf to find a Manhattan with my name on it. This is where I had dinner with Hella Rothwell the day after our wild New Year’s Eve in Honolulu. I was so impressed with this French restaurant that I brought my husband.

The service seemed a bit slow, but that was the only drawback. Location can’t be beat. Ambiance a big plus. Slack Hawaiian guitarist serenades diners. All I could muster for dinner was a warm seafood salad. Had to save my energy for the next morning.

Visit Pearl Harbor

Sesame balls the size of baseballs in Chinatown, Honolulu

Of course, we had to see Chinatown. Every great city in America has a Chinatown with fabulous food. Although, I’m seeing a trend in San Francisco where the dim sum restaurants are moving away from cart service. Which is really a drag. Huge bummer. But not in Honolulu. We found some hole-in-the-wall dim sum place where the locals go, the best kind, usually. Although the Shrimp Chow Fun was double wrapped, a bit doughy, and the shrimp too small.

Our Uber driver told us all about his experience surviving the Hawaii Ballistic Missile Threat. He basically reacted like a moron. Complained that at age 50 his money ran out and he had to find a job. His wife home schools their kids. He wanted to beat up the first cop who might stop him for speeding, whatever, which shows you his irrational thought process. He was a nice guy, despite being so clueless. I think I harbored more favorable thoughts about him than my husband did.

I guess I believe in giving people a break. They’re just doing the best they can.

Elizabeth Weintraub is a top producer at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento. Call her at 916.233.6759.

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