March 7th, 2022
Today was going to be a really big day. We had purchased the Go City Oahu Pass and were going to make our first use of it today. However, on top of this, we had a Helicopter flight booked which had been rearranged due to operational issues and this meant we were going to be pretty stretched. But it will show how it’s still really easy to get some great use out of the Go Oahu pass even when you are fitting it around other attractions.
Stand Up Paddleboard Rental – $66
The Stand Up Paddleboard Rental option on the Go pass was located right in Haleiwa so we really didn’t have far to go. The location of the shop allows access to the Haleiwa River and due to the large and unpredictable winter swells, we figured it was best to avoid the open ocean.
The Sheltered waters of the River are perfect for getting used to the board as we are not frequent SUP users and after my performance, yesterday on a surfboard things were not looking promising. However, the large stable SUPs are far easier to ride than a Surfboard and we were both quite able to amble up and down the river with ease.
The Rental provides 3 hours of paddleboard time, but due to our schedule, we just took a leisurely cruise up and down the river and were back in a little over an hour.
During the Summer it would be amazing to take the boards right out of the river and explore the ocean but with the surf the way it was today and our inexperienced level that would have been madness.
Back on the road and we headed for the world-famous Turtle Bay. We stopped on the way at the not-quite-so-famous Teds Bakery A really popular spot just off Sunset Beach. Unfortunately, we had just missed breakfast so had to make do with the lunch menu which was not really what we wanted, but a Mahi-Mahi Sandwich and a BBQ Chicken Sandwich really filled a hole and were utterly delicious. We shared a slice of Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie for dessert and it was truly mindblowing.
Paradise Helicopter Tour
We arrived at Turtle Bay and headed to the Paradise Helicopter Tour office to check in for our flight. We had booked a Doors-Off Valleys & Waterfall Explorer Flight with a Hilltop Landing. Well actually this wasn’t what we booked but the flight we had booked was not available as they had not sold enough seats, We had booked the MAgnum Experience which was the whole Island tour, so the Valleys & Waterfall Explorer flight was a downgrade, but with the Hilltop Landing, it was an upgrade so we were fairly happy although we really wanted to fly along the Waikiki shoreline and this was not on this itinerary. But due to lower visitor numbers, this was our only option.
The Flight was in a Huges MD-500 and pretty old aircraft but one that has been tried and tested for decades. This was the Aircraft used in Magnum P.I. well not the actual helicopter but a faithful replica. Unfortunately, we were not in the Magnum Hughes but a more subtly painted version but hey you can’t see the livery when you are inside.
These are small aircraft and have only 5 seats so for once every seat is a good one. We has another couple flying with us meaning there were just the 4 of us and a Pilot. After a quick briefing, it was off to the Chopper which was parked just outside.
It was now getting really hot and despite the last few days of stunning blue skies the Humidity was definitely ratcheting up and there were some pretty fierce clouds forming over the hilltops.
The first part of the flight took us down the East coast over Laie and the FShrimp farms of the north shore and then up into the mountains. It had been pretty dry over the last few weeks so most of the falls were dry and the views were not as special as they could have been. There was also a thick cloud layer sitting right on the ridgel line but it was just above the tops so visibility was perfect, but we were pretty close to the cloud layer at times.
As we flew over the mountain tops and above the wilderness that is the Koʻolau Mountain Range. The next landmark was the simply staggering Kualoau Ranch. This was the location for our Mountain top Scenic Landing. flying in low over the jungle has a real military feel and was some pretty epic piloting.
I feel a bit bad even mentioning this as really it should make no difference at all but this was the first time we had ever had a Female Pilot on one of our chopper tours. These sort of jobs are pretty cushy and you have to be top of your game to snag one so we knew she would be every bit as capable, but it was out of the ordinary and worth noting for interest’s sake only.
She actually turn out to be a really excellent Pilot and our ride was pretty wild with some steep banks and high octane flying (all intentional), this was more to do with the nature of the chopper, being a more sporty model than most tourist aircraft but it was a lot of fun with the doors off and your toes peeking out over the treetops.
At the stop, we had 15-20 mins to explore the remote and inaccessible lading site. There was basically nothing up there but the position commanded incredible views over the Valley below and we had ample time to get some shots and the customary Helicopyer poses.
Back on board and our Pilot fired up the Chopper and nosed over the edge as we used a bit of gravity to get up to speed which was awesome. The FLight then continued down the coast towards Kaneohe. Here we took a brief circle to take in the H3 highway that winds up into the mountains, quite literally, and the “forbidden” Stairway to Heaven that has illegal hikers on it as we passed by. We then followed the route of the H3 and over onto the other side of the Koʻolau Mountains.
Here we had nice views out over Honolulu, Waikiki, and Diamond head but they were all quite distant, instead, our route took us over towards Pearl Harbor where we got some incredible views of the site including a rare top-down view of the USS Arizona!
We then followed the H2 through the central valley where the weather really turned and there was a really severe cloud burst then required circumnavigating to avoid some pretty treacherous flight conditions, especially with no door on! We headed over the flats and the Dole Plantation before arriving at the North Shore.
The final part of the flight runs right up the North shore over Haleawe, Wamaei, and Sunset beach showing off the reefs that kick up the Giant Banzai Pipeline Breaks. Finally, we arrived back at the Turtle Bay Resort for the landing.
It had been an epic fight and the Scenic landing was really worth it, probably the highlight of the trip and something we really won’t forget. The flight over Pearl was amazing and even though we had missed the Waikiki shoreline we still had a fantastic time.
Turtle Bay Resort
As we were there we thought we would take a look at the Newly Renovated Turtle Bay Resort. The resort has been used in several Hollywood films and we couldn’t resist taking a look around. This was the location for the Rom-Com Forgetting Sarah Marshal and it was great seeing the “lobby” and other locations where the hotel shots were filmed. The Lobby is actually a coffee shop as the resort was still open when they filmed.
There was not too much to see so we just had a quick look around before heading off towards Laie for our next attraction.
Polynesian Cultural Center – $76
The Polynesian Cultural Center is one of Oahu’s top attractions and it’s pretty easy to see why. The Center houses several Island Villages from various Polynesian Cultures from across the Pacific.
- Aotearoa (New Zealand)
- Easter Island
Each Island is landscaped and built in the style of a traditional Island Village. The inhabitants of each welcome you into view and partake in various customs, traditions, games, activities, and even foods.
It’s a really incredible and informative attraction and we always have a wonderful time there. Due to our busy day, we arrived pretty late but still had plenty of time to visit most islands and see several cultural presentations including the Haka, Fire Knife Dancing, A Tahitian Wedding, Coconut Tree Climbing, and a wonderful Canoe ride through the Villages.
The grounds are so beautiful and are planted with deep lush jungle foliage it’s just a wonderful place to be and filled with fun and informative presentations. We found out that just days after our visit the Rock Dwayne Johnson, Chrissey Tiegen and John Legend also Visited the Center.
The Center is included on the Pass, but what isn’t included is the Luau Feast and Breath Of Life Show. We were here partially to review the Luau as part of our return to Hawaii research so we paid to upgrade to the Luau and Show.
The Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center is so far above the competition it quite amazing. From the setting, the feast, and the simply breathtaking show, it’s all several levels above what you find elsewhere it’s quite hard to come to terms with. In fact, there is only ONE thing that stops it from being the ONLY Luau you should even consider.
Let’s start off at the feast. There are several options for the feast, and you can read about those here. We went for the full Alii Luau despite really being tempted by the Gateway Buffet Menu! We arrived just in time for the Imu Pig Ceremony as the pig was unearthed and taken away for service.
Seated at our table we were presented with a stunning and really, really, tasty Virgin Pinacolada served in a hollow Pineapple, that came with endless refills. While we would have loved a little rum in there, it was still nearly as good as any alcoholic Pina Coladas we have had. It really did make us double-take as to whether we need booze in a drink to make it tasty. It really was that good!
This does lead us to the one thing that we don’t like about the PCC Luau and it is the fact it’s dry. We do like a drink and the fact it’s just not an option here is a put-off. But in all honesty, we didn’t miss it that much, and when you way it up against what you DO get, it’s hard to care that much, the rest of the offering is so brilliant.
There are 3 main serving stations, a large buffet area with many varied options, and then there are the two carving stations, one steamed Local Kanpachi (Amberjack) and the other the freshly Carved Imu Pork. We started off with a starter plate of various wonderful Luau Foods such as Huli Huli Chicken, Fried Fish, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Ahi Poke, Teriyaki Brisket, and various Salad options.
We then moved on to the Imu Pork which was utterly delicious. We have had Imu/Kalua Pork so many times but this was probably the best pork we have ever eaten. Incredibly moist and tender, but still has some structure, unlike most Imu Pork which is more like Pulled pork and falling apart and often dry, this still formed large chunks and had a mouth feel more like Fillet Steak. It really was outstanding.
the Kanpachi (Amberjack) was also pretty special, steamed in Banana leaves and served in large chunks with a seriously amazing Chilli/Pineapple Sauce. Dessert was a little underwhelming as the various little cookies and cakes were pretty dry and tasteless, but then the Ice-Cream station was really tasty and the Pina-Colada was pretty much a dessert anyway.
Overall the Feast is one of the best meals we have had in Hawai and really did stand head and shoulders over the usual mass-produced Luau Fare served up at most locations. Even the table setting with large high-end Silver Cutlery and thick cotton napkins was a large cut above the competition and then there is the wonderful setting. Sure it’s not oceanside, but it’s still really tropical and a stunning building.
HA: Breath Of Life
After dinner, it was on to the Show. Again the quality of the show is several levels up from the usual offering. This is not to diminish the really nice shows most Luau’s put on, we really enjoy the quaint traditional feel of these and the wonderful talent and exuberance of the performers who clearly enjoy their work. But the Breath of Life Show is just something else.
This is better compared to a Cirque Du Soliel or Broadway production, it really is on that level, with scores of performers in perfect harmony and the huge and intricately designed stage, with amazing fire, water, and lighting effects!
For whatever reason, the Polynesian Cultural Center requested that there is no Filming or Photography during the show, something we consider a mistake, after all the army of youtube and Instagram marketers out there would do their marketing for them if they allowed this. But this is their request and we felt obliged to respect this. We grabbed a few before and after shots, but instead just sat back and took the show in!
If we had a criticism, the story is a little weak! The execution is stunning and the telling of the tale absolutely mind-blowing, but it really is just a tale of a boy growing into a man, we expected a little more conflict, turmoil, and redemption. We only make this criticism as it’s just the only fault we could come up with, everything else about the show is first-rate and just blows the competition out of the water.
Following the show, we headed back to the plantation and were greeted by a rather loud and unruly Karaoke Party. We had had a long day and this was the last thing we needed. The walls of the bungalow are very thin and there are not even windows to close, and the Party was right next door in the communal area. We anticipated this going long into the night. Still, it was only 9 pm so we broke out the liquor and sat on the lanai muttering to ourselves about the rowdiness.
Honestly, we don’t like to kill peoples fun, but the Plantation has a strict 10 pm Quiet time rule. We understand people want to let loose and have fun, but there are places for this and we felt the rules of the plantation meant we would not have had to deal with this. Worst of all, the talent of the performers was seriously questionable!
In all fairness, 9:55 rolled around and the whole gang seemed to come together to perform the loudest, most toneless edition of Ed Sheran we had ever heard, but this marked the Finale, and before the 10 pm cut-off the music stopped and the people dispersed. So much respect to them for obeying the rules and respecting everyone. We really thought this would run on into the early hours but we were presently surprised.
Naturally, we headed for bed soon after and were of course woken only a few hours later by the “god-damn” Cockerel!
Go Oahu Pass – Day 1 – $199
This was the first day of using the Pass. One of the great things about the pass is the days are Non-Consecutive, so just because we used the pass today, does not mean we need to use it tomorrow! This was good as we were relocating tomorrow and would have no time to use the pass. But not scanning it at any attractions the pass would simply skip tomorrow and leave us two full days of pass use left.
We only used two attractions today, and yet still we are put to 75% of the Pass value. We still have the high-value Premium attractions and loads of cool stuff still to do so the pass is easily going to work out as great value.
- Stand-Up Paddleboard Rentals – $66
- Polynesian Cultural Center – $76
Go Oahu Running Total – $142