I know what you are thinking, Waikiki is too touristy. You may be right, but we ended up having an awesome time here! I too was skeptical at first, but my mind was soon changed.
There is a funny story here. So my aunt and uncle are bird experts that travel the globe looking for rare and exotic birds, and currently they were on the search for the Manu-o-Ku or the white tern. This bird was almost completely white and it is unusual in that it doesn’t make a nest. It just simply lays its eggs directly on the tree like in the elbow of a branch so it doesn’t roll off. Could you imagine this type of stress? I get uncomfortable when my tea mug is too close to the edge of a table!
Anyways, they had been searching different parts of the island for a few days with no sighting of the white tern and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot of Waikiki, we saw two of them. Not only did we have zero birding experience, but we were also in one of the most touristy parts of Hawaii. And we weren’t even looking for them! They were happy that we saw them though and they ended up going the very next day to see them.
After a casual bird sighting under our belt, we ventured off towards the beach. On the way over, we saw a massive banyan tree so big you could walk inside of it. I am easily impressed by stuff like this, so I was having a blast hanging out in here. Inside the tree, it was surprisingly roomy. I think a few separate people could play hide-and-seek here and no one would see each other.
I love these banyan trees! They are fun to look at, fun to walk around in and they are one of the best trees for climbing! The roots hang down until they hit the ground and then they grow into the ground to get enough water. They basically grow in reverse, from top down. Some of the hanging roots are just like the ropes you used to climb in gym class. They are strong and flexible so you can climb up them or swing from them! I could spend the whole day just playing in these trees!
But we had surfing to do. We had decided we would walk up and down the beach a little bit just to get a feel for it before we committed to a surfboard rental place. First, we walked up one of the board walks. Here we saw so many amazing tropical fish. The Reef Trigger Fish (the state fish of Hawaii know for its ridiculously long name Humuhumunukunukuapua’a) were usually really hard to during snorkeling, but here we could see 6 or 7 right in front of us. These fish are used to getting fed by people, so they go where they see shadows rather than most fish who would avoid them. It was great to see all the fish that we had seen during snorkeling all in one place. A couple of new fish were visible as well, and I was mentally checking off the species I had encountered here.
Seeing such biodiversity here was such a surprise to me. Already we had seen a white tern and many different colorful fish. But that was just the beginning. Out by the breakwater, we noticed a huge dark silhouette in the water. It swam into the harbor and was getting closer and closer to us. All of a sudden, he popped his head out and we could see that it was a massive Hawaiian monk seal. These animals are quite rare, with only about 1,000 living in all of Hawaii, but luckily for us it was the 3rd or 4th one we had seen this trip. He seemed extra friendly, even with huge mobs of tourists circling around the boardwalk to get a picture of him, he still kept his head up, as if he was posing. After a few minutes of that, he started to venture closer to shore. In Hawaii, it is not incredibly uncommon to see a sea lion when you are surfing or swimming, so most of the locals knew what to do. There was one tourist on a boogie board that had no idea what was going on.
He was completely oblivious to the 500-pound seal behind him. Once he looked over and saw a huge crowd of people watching and taking pictures, he turned around and freaked out! He began swimming as fast as he could out of the way and just made it out in time.
The seal came barreling up the beach and we ran to get the lifeguard before anyone could get to close. By the time the lifeguard came back, sure enough someone was already like 5 feet away trying to take a picture. The lifeguard told that guy to leave and roped off an area for the seal. Usually when a seal settles down like this, it is semi-permanent and he would likely be there for much of the day. This was so awesome that so many people would get to share this awesome opportunity to see a rare and majestic animal like this up close!
After watching him for a little while, it was clear he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Time for some surfing! We rented two boards on the beach for the three of us to share. This was nice because I got to go out and surf with my cousin and my brother. We even caught one of the same waves! The surfing here was a little bit more dangerous. With so many coral reefs, you had to really choose where you land. When you are a beginner, you don’t always have much of a choice however.
This was a sink-or-swim moment, where I had to learn vital skills like turning and landing otherwise I could get seriously injured. Necessity is of course, the best teacher. Soon I was weaving in between coral heads like a pro. It was so much fun to be in control at such a fast speed. I’m sure I wasn’t really going all that fast but it sure felt like it!
After a successful 2 hours of surfing, I decided to call it a day. It was definitely one of those days where you count your blessings. We got to see a rare bird species, a ton of cool fish, a Hawaiian monk seal and we got an amazing day of surfing in. Waikiki is such an incredible place and it really deserves all the credit it gets. Thank you everyone for reading. I’ll see you next time!