My Terrible 24 Hour Trip to Honolulu

Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
The palm trees next to the USS Arizona Memorial, since I didn’t manage to see Pearl Harbor

In three weeks of solo travelling, my trip to Honolulu yielded my only true misadventure. I was in Hobart on the 8th, Melbourne on the 9th and Honolulu on the 9th because I crossed back over the dateline. I was a mess by the time I arrived in Honolulu at six in the morning. I was so provoked by the ten hour flight, I would have strangled someone if I wasn’t so dehydrated – water was an in flight extra. I left the airport with no knowledge of Honolulu, no sense of direction and no American money.

In spite of all that, everything was fine when I arrived at my hostel. I ate a lovely, inexpensive breakfast next to rain-washed Waikiki Beach. I had all the makings of a good day until I went to every coffee shop in the area and couldn’t find one that would accept my Canadian debit card. I despaired until two people from my room offered me a lift to Safeway. I don’t often get in cars with strangers but they told me Safeway offered cash back so I peeled my sorry ass off my bunk bed and prepared to meet my money.

Forty minutes later, I sat in the parking lot washing down macadamia nuts with half a litre of cold brew while I formulated a plan. I was determined to make it to Pearl Harbor – the only attraction I knew on Oahu – for the lowest possible cost. Instead of arranging for a tour bus, I opted to take an hour and a half’s trip on the city bus.

The bus did not take the scenic route. It travelled through the worst parts of Oahu and picked up passengers that looked tougher and meaner the further we travelled. Twenty minutes into the trip, I knew my bladder wouldn’t hold until Pearl Harbor. After a half hour of looking out the window for a stopping point that didn’t look dodgy, I jumped off and headed to an innocuous looking Burger King. Burger King denied me the washroom so I ran across to a battered strip mall. I ended up inside Chinatown Market Place, which looked as battered as the building exterior. As I sat charging my phone next to a butcher’s stall, and I got a bubble tea from an astounded young man who couldn’t comprehend how a Canadian had ended up in a strip mall in Kalihi-Palama.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Waikiki Beach

Back on the bus with my bubble tea stowed in my bag, the area I passed through looked increasingly grim. I asked myself, Are we driving by a prison or a building that just looks like a prison? What I saw was the airport’s infrastructure; the prison was two minutes up the road.

I was about ready to wet myself by the time I reached Pearl Harbor. (Bubble tea does not an effective transit snack make.) I arrived just in time from the closure of everything at the USS Arizona Memorial, included the much-needed washrooms. The trip had taken me two and a half hours and culminated with a view of a barricade and a sign marked ‘Closed.’

I went to the nearest pub for a washroom and phone charge. I drank a beer on the balcony overlooking ’Aiea Bay and told myself about twelve times that this was nice and I wasn’t lost at all. I caught an Uber from the middle of the darkened parking lot where my Pearl Harbor journey had begun. The Uber back to my hostel cost as much as a Pearl Harbor tour bus would have.

I flew out of Honolulu at six the next morning. I returned to Honolulu exactly two months after on a layover from midnight until my flight’s nine o’clock take off. All I saw on that trip was the Don Quijote 24 hour store and the inside of the airport. Maybe next time I’m in Honolulu I’ll see something other than a grocery store.

Song of the Day: Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales by Car Seat Headrest