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A Guide to: Waikiki, Honolulu & Oahu

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Guide to: Waikiki, Honolulu & Oahu

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December 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Destination, Hawaii, Restaurants, Reviews, USA

SunsetThere’s something about Hawaii that I just can’t explain. My parents and grandparents lived there for many years and I still have close relatives in Oahu, and every time I mention that to someone, they go “Wow, Hawaii! That’s paradise, what are you doing here?!”. Yes, Hawaii is indeed an amazingly beautiful place, but as I was used to all the gorgeous beaches in Brazil, I was never too interested in visiting the islands for any other reason other than getting to know more of my family’s history.

Well, this was until by first trip to Hawaii in 2006. I spent over a month in Oahu, and also visited Maui. And the minute you step in Honolulu’s airport, you can already feel it, it’s a whole different world. You see flowers everywhere, people relaxed and smiling and greeting you even if you’ve never met, and the air is just different. I think when I was there I could finally understand what people meant when they talked about the spirit of Aloha. This is why when I left I was sure that it would not be my last visit, rather than the first of many trips to that wonderful state.

The best way to explore the island(s) is doing things slowly and enjoying every moment of the day. I’m the type of traveler that tries to do as much as is possible in a single day, but in Hawaii you just can’t rush to do things, otherwise you’re missing the best part of that experience – noticing the culture, the music, the scents of the flowers, the nature, and how everything is close to what we’d call perfect.

Some of my favorite outdoor activities in Oahu are:

  • snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
  • walking around and Hiking the Diamond Head (beautiful view of Waikiki)
  • going to the PGA tour Sony Ericsson tournament at the Waialae Golf Club
  • playing tennis & jogging aroudn the Kapi’olani park
  • walking around Kalakaua Ave, while window shopping and people watching
  • watching the amazingly skilled body surfers at Sandy beach, and surfers on the North Shore, at Waimea, Pipeline or Sunset beaches
  • watching one of the Hula shows or other concerts at the Waikiki Shell at the Kapi’olani park
  • buying some lavender soap or fresh goods at the Diamond Head Farmers Market

Touristic/historic sites you can’t miss:

  • Pearl Harbor & the USS Arizona Memorial – top destination in Hawaii. Long lines, but definitely worth visiting if you’re visiting Oahu for more than 4 days.
  • The Bishop Museum – you can learn a lot about Hawaii’s history just by visiting this museum. If I had to choose just one museum to visit, this would be the one. Don’t miss the planetarium show!
  • Chinatown – lots of great markets and stands to buy exquisite food ingredients as well as fresh leis. You may also want to try some authentic asian food – I had one of the best Vietnamese meals I’ve tried there. Check out the galleries, especially if you’re there on the first Friday of the month: The local galleries open from 5 to 9pm and often organize exhibit opening receptions, demonstrations and special sales events during the Downtown Gallery Walk.
  • Other good places to visit: Honolulu Academy of Arts, Iolani Palace

Other fun activities:

– Go to a Hula Show and/or a Luau:

  • There’s a Hula Show & Torch Lighting in Waikiki around Sunset two to seven times a week near the Duke Kanahamoku Statue. Performances are subject to weather and other factors, so check online (Mayor’s Office of Culture & Arts Calendar) or call ahead to confirm the schedule: (808) 832-8002. This may be a fun event if you’re in the area and won’t have much time to do any other hula show/luau, as it’s free and easily accessible.
  • The Polynesian Cultural Center is a bit farther, and certainly a place you could stay for hours, as it is practically an amusement park. The park is divided into villages, representing eight island cultures from the South Pacific (including Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti and Samoa among others). Great place to take the whole family with options to eat, shop and even do some hands-on activities. The evening show and the luaus are very nice.Polynesian Cultural Center
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Luau – live music, and plenty of dance, food and activities. Fireworks show on Fridays, call ahead to confirm.
  • Some famous luaus I haven’t been to but will try to check them in my next visit: Germaine’s Luau and Paradise Cove (www.paradisecove.com)

– Go on a Catamaran Cruise

  • Great way to see the island from a distance while enjoying a drink and seeing the green flash at sunset. Boats leave from Waikiki, and are relatively inexpensive comparing to other cities in the mainland – around $25-30 for a 90 minute cruise. Companies that offer the cruise: Maita’i Catamaran (www.leahi.com) and Na Hoku II (www.nahokuii.com)

Shopping:

Very touristic, but fun place to check out while you’re in Waikiki, is the International Marketplace – an open market with several stands and stores, focused on goods for tourists. If you have more time to do some shopping, go directly to  Hilo Hattie – specialized in Hawaiian goods. You will find gifts to take home for the whole family and friends, and will sure find something to remind you of this trip. There is a shuttle that takes you to their factory store from several locations in Waikiki (view schedule) Hilo Hattie has a branch at the Ala Moana shopping Center, which is also another good place for shopping.

Eating & Drinking – My favorites:

Word to the wise:

– Car break-ins in Oahu are very common, especially close to hiking trails and beaches with less people around – they can happen in a matter of minutes, whether you have a local or rented car, so always remember to take all your valuables with you!

– If you’re staying only around Honolulu and Waikiki, taxis and TheBus are very accessible and an easy way to get around.

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If this post has made you dream about Hawaii and now you want to know even more, here are two sites I love and would really recommend a visit:

Go Visit Hawaii – Sheila Beal is a real expert on the islands. Subscribe to the website’s RSS to get updates, including what to do over the holidays, events in each island, among many other tips.

Hawaii for Visitors – This website has a wealth of information on Hawaii – the layout is a little confusing, but don’t give up; try using the search feature if you’re looking for anything specific and you’ll find some very good posts.

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What about you – have you been to Oahu? Please share your favorites as well!


Comments

3 Responses to “A Guide to: Waikiki, Honolulu & Oahu”
  1. Sheila says:

    Kris – what an excellent capture of Oahu in a nutshell!! We should meet up in Waikiki sometime because many of your favorites are mine, too. :-)

    Many thanks for the kind mention!

  2. Angela says:

    You’ve pretty much covered it all !
    Now I want to go back home and visit again too ! Great job !;)

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