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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North: A Swing Down Memory Lane. I have several other pieces, including fiction, in the works.

Walking Waikiki’s Main Drag

The sand squished between my toes as I walked out on Waikiki Beach. It was late in the morning on another beautifully sunny Honolulu day and I was intent on enjoying it by playing in the ocean. I have seen the Pacific Ocean a number of times, but never have I actually jumped out into the water or let the waves sweep me off my feet. But, as fun as frolicking in the ocean was, it wasn’t an experience I could long endure.

 
Even though it was still morning, the sun was hot and I’m prone to sunburn. So, after a dip lasting about fifteen minutes, and a flip on either side for about two minutes on my beach blanket, I called an end to my time on the beach and headed back to my hotel room to get cleaned up before walking along Waikiki’s main drag – Kalakaua Avenue.

 
My first stop was the International Market Place, located right outside from my hotel. I had once before wandered its winding brick pathways filled with kitschy Aloha shirts, colorful lei, hand-carved tiki idols, and a great many other souvenirs. But, since I love such nicknacks, it was impossible for me to resist a return visit.

 
The market place was just as full of electricity as it was on my previous visit. It filled me with with a sense of contentment as I strolled through the shops with a grin on my face, admiring all of the interesting souvenirs – magnets, candles, and jewelry. But then I rounded a corner and found something I had never seen before. I walked by it, only seeing it briefly, and then stopped dead in my tracks to verify my observation. Yes, there on the metal rack, were several pairs of coconut bikini tops.
I picked up a bag, held it up to my chest, and realized it wasn’t my size. They were definitely made for someone with a much more slender frame. An elderly woman standing next to me was looking at them, too, but didn’t seem appreciative of my encouragement for her to buy some. I simply wrote that off as a miscommunication between generations and went on my way with a chuckle.

 
The previous day I had spent time on the far end of Kalakaua Avenue around the Hilton Village, admiring the various animals on display at the hotel and the shops surrounding it. I had time to kill while I waited for my submarine tour and figured it’d be an excellent opportunity to explore a little of the strip that I had not seen on my previous visit to Hawaii.

 
The same colorful fish that swam in the small pools at the International Market Place were also at the Hilton. But, what the Hilton had that I had not previously seen on my excursions around Oahu was a small aquarium filled with turtles and African Black-Footed Penguins. I initially loved the idea of seeing penguins in Hawaii – such a stark contrast from my days spent on the Ice at Antarctica – but quickly began to feel sorry for the little critters as I realized how hot it was outside; they were trying to seek shade to stay cool, but there was not nearly enough around to accommodate any one penguin.
The Waikiki Aquarium, which I visited in the afternoon on the next day after spending some time shopping along Kalakaua Avenue, was much better suited to handle the animals. I spent several hours in the aquarium, walking through twice to better appreciate everything it had to offer. And while it is not very large, it had quite an impressive display of species.
I loved watching the various jellyfish bob around their tank, the colorful fish swimming back and forth in theirs, and seeing the trainer work with the monk seal; she was not only feeding him, but also giving him a brief medical examination to make sure he was healthy. It was all a lot of fun and truly brought out the kid in me. But, what put a smile on my face for the rest of the day was watching the small octopus in its tank with a rubber ducky.
The sign next to the octopus’ tank says: The ocotpus is an intelligent animal that responds to environmental stimulation. The Waikiki Aquarium provides enrichment by presenting objects for the octopus to explore. We also feed shrimp in a plastic container with a removable lid; the octopus must manipulate the container to remove its food.

 
The purpose of the rubber ducky for all life has now been discovered – octopus mental stimulation.
I left the Waikiki Aqarium, pleased with my visit. The beautiful day was persisting, much to my appreciation, making for a perfect opportunity to explore the many beach-front shops, all selling the same nicknacks and kitsch as I found in the International Market Place. I popped in and out of the various stores, loving all of the trinkets, but content to continue back to the hotel; I knew there’d be more than a few souvenir-buying opportunities on my sponsored trip by the Hawaii Vistiors and Convention Bureau, and was content to wait another day, having already purchased a great many things in the area on my previous visit.
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