By Alex Fernandez-Rubio, Military Spouse
There is NOTHING quite like being stationed in Hawaii. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that many military families can only dream about! While many save for years to afford a week long vacation to the islands, you get to spend three (give or take) years in paradise! And get paid for it!
Here is PCSgrades’ Hawaii Bucket List of “once in a lifetime” things to do and places to see. Share this list and please add to it in the comments below.
Shark Cage Dive on the North Shore
You’ll get up close and personal with tons of sharks, from the comfort of a cage. There are a few different companies that you can book a trip with to go out diving with sharks. Check your base ticket office to make sure you get the best price. Don’t forget to bring a waterproof camera for those close up shots!
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, free diving is also an option!
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Betcha didn’t know that pineapples grow one at a time from a small plant above the ground?! At The Dole Pineapple Plantation, you can catch a glimpse of pineapples growing, plus find your way through the world’s largest hedge maze or hop on a 20-minute train ride to explore the history of the pineapple in Hawaii. While you’re there, make sure to get a bowl of the famous Dole Pineapple Whip.
Where do people from Hawaii go on vacation? Actually, it’s Las Vegas. But for military stationed in Hawaii, island hopping is the perfect way to vacation while not spending a fortune.
Each island has it’s own unique beauty and activities. My suggestions for some of the major islands:
- Big Island – You HAVE to check out the volcano! There are even military cabins in the area available for rent. If your budget allows, opt for a helicopter tour over the volcano or a boat trip to where the lava flows into the ocean.
- Maui – Watch the sun rise or set from above the clouds at Hale’akala. If you’re going for sunrise, be sure to get an early start, as parking is limited.
- Kauai – Waimea Canyon State Park also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, boasts spectacular views.
Attend the Memorial Lantern Floating
Every memorial day weekend, crowds of people come together at Ala Moana Beach Park to launch lanterns in memory of loved ones they have lost. Lanterns are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis in the morning, then family members and loved ones are given the opportunity to write their message on the lantern. Following the dedication ceremony in the evening, lanterns are sent floating on the ocean.
Watch the Quicksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational
If you have the opportunity to catch this surf competition, DON’T miss out! This event can only take place between December and February and only when the waves reach 30 feet high in the bay. Because of the extreme requirements, the competition, which brings surfing elites together, is not guaranteed to happen every year.
Explore the History
Hawaii has a history that most on the mainland are completely unaware of! Before becoming the 50th state, the Kingdom of Hawaii was a monarchy. Many points of interest can be found around the island, including the Iolani Palace -the only royal palace in the United States.
Sure, you can sky dive just about anywhere, but nowhere else has the views that Hawaii has to offer. If you love gazing at the ocean from the top of your favorite hike, imagine those views from 12,000+ feet up! Skydive Hawaii can even get you up to 20,000 feet for a HALO (high altitude low open) jump, the highest tandem jump in Hawaii.
Spend a Day in Haleiwa
This adorable little beach town has plenty to offer for a day full of fun! Start the day off with breakfast at Kono’s, known for their delicious breakfast burritos. Tour the town in search of souvenirs at one of the many shops. Or head to Haleiwa Beach Park, where you’re sure to spot a turtle or two to swim with! Matsumoto’s boast world-famous shave ice, which I love to order with a snow cap and mochi balls. Food is plentiful with many shrimp trucks and top-rated restaurants to choose from. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a photo in front of the Instagram-famous angel wings. End your night with drinks and karaoke at Breakers.
Beach at Cockroach Cove
Although the name is far from appealing, this beautiful cove, next to the Halona Blowhole, is a great spot to spend an afternoon. Located on the picturesque windward side of the island, you can often find turtles swimming around in the waters. There’s a little bit of a climb down, but this also means that the beach is sure to be less crowded.
It doesn’t even matter where you hike. Usually, you’re guaranteed phenomenal views. That’s part of the beauty of an island that is only 30 miles wide. Some of the more popular hikes include Koko Head, Diamond Head, Lanikai Pillboxes, and the Stairway to Heaven. For something a on the easier side, check out Makapu’u or Waimea Valley (which offers a military discount).
Alex Fernandez-Rubio is a military wife and work at home mom of three little girls and a 75-pound lap dog. After meeting her husband in college, they’ve been traveling the world, courtesy of the US Army! Alex blogs at Munchkins and the Military, where she shares simple recipes, DIYs, crafts, and tidbits from her personal life!