Adrienne and I visited Honolulu last week for a few days. We’d visited Maui a few years ago and wanted to give Oahu a try. Great move on our part. I have found that no matter how much you research a destination; it takes putting feet on the ground to breathe it in and truly experience it.
The weather was beautiful when we arrived. We flew nonstop on a Delta 777 from San Francisco, which is a very comfortable airplane. Our flight was slightly less than 5 hours. Since we had rented a car, we took a shuttle from the airport to the rental car lot; it only took 10 minutes. Since we had a reservation the pickup process was quick and easy. Before long we were in our midsize car heading down H1 en route to Waikiki. The first thing that we noticed was the traffic. Honolulu is a busy city and we were in rush hour traffic.
Our resort was the Hilton Waikiki Beach and as we road along Kuhio Avenue we noticed the vibrant energy of the area. It was buzzing with activity and people – designer shops, restaurants, souvenir shops and of course throngs of tourists. After about an hour we finally arrived at our hotel. We were welcomed warmly by the hotel staff, and checked into our room. Once we deposited our luggage, we were off to explore this new destination.
Here are some of the things that we discovered about it:
GETTING AROUND – We rented a car so that we could see as much of the island as possible. That had its pluses and minuses. The first minus was the traffic. Honolulu is congested so there are lots of drivers – many of them tourists who are not familiar with the area. The second is that parking is in short supply and very expensive. Even our hotel charged a $35/night parking fee. It’s actually very easy to get around the city on public transportation and it is highly recommended. The Waikiki Trolley runs frequently, covers much of the city and there are six different lines to choose from. Taxis, Uber and Lyft are also available.
SHOPPING – The shopping was as good as any that we’ve seen during our world travels. One shopping center that we really enjoyed was the International Marketplace that features more than 100 retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Burberry, Swarovski, and Balenciaga. The Grand Lanai offers outdoor seating at seven signature restaurants. The history and culture of Waikiki are woven throughout with flowing water features, lush landscaping and a banyan tree that is 160 years old.
For affordable shopping, ABC Stores are everywhere, almost one per block. They are more than just convenience stores – think 7 Eleven on steroids. You can purchase daily essentials, beach items, groceries and even fine wines and spirits.
DINING – Eating in Waikiki is expensive, it’s not a place to eat on the cheap. However, there are some typical fast food spots and familiar places like Cheesecake Factory and Hard Rock Café. Dining choices are too numerous to list, but include restaurants like Eggs’n Things, Noi Thai Cuisine, Goma Tei Ramen and Tanaka of Tokyo. All of the hotels and resorts have a plethora of dining choices and all of the malls have great food courts.
While exploring other parts of the island like North Shore we discovered several food truck areas. Shrimp trucks are especially popular. We even saw several roadside vendors who sold pickled mangos. We plan to try them on our next visit.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS – Honolulu has many festivals, parades and celebrations throughout the year. We had the chance to experience the Pan Pacific Festival. It’s an annual three-day cultural celebration that features an eclectic assortment of cultural arts, crafts, food and stage performances in a variety of settings in and around Waikiki throughout the weekend.
Having a car was a plus since it allowed us to get out of the city and see much of the island – but we only scratched the surface. Some of the sites that we recommend are Diamond Head Crater, Halona Cove, Hanauma Bay Lookout, the Honolulu Museum of Art, Pearl Harbor, Foster Botanical Garden, Lolani Palace, the Polynesian Cultural Center, North Shore and the Dole Pineapple Plantation.
Oahu offers an amazing travel experience. It is rare to find a destination that offers beautiful weather, pristine beaches, jaw-dropping sunsets, designer shopping and gourmet dining. It is also very family-friendly. We plan to visit regularly to take in more of this island paradise.