Disclaimer: Just like New York, I've been to Honolulu/Waikiki/Oahu 3 times now and have also seen & done everything that there is to see. Again, this post won't be for you if you've never been there & want to know everything; but if you want some tips about shopping, what to do & other random tidbits, then continue reading. As with my New York post, I'll provide some extra tips from previous visits here as well.
- My Dad describes downtown Waikiki as being like "the Gold Coast on steroids" & to be fair, the man has a point. It is very busy, incredibly touristy & parts of Kalakaua Ave (aka the main drag of Waikiki) resemble a high end mall, what with Fendi & Salvatore Ferragamo having flagship stores there, as well as the recently re-opened International Marketplace being full of higher end shops. If you can't afford your luxury brands, then fear not as this shopping strip has something for everyone, from all your surf stores to Victoria's Secret to Sephora to H&M.
- Speaking of shopping, I can't talk about it unless I mention the behemoth that is Ala Moana Plaza, the largest open air mall in the world & a place that was all-too-convenient for me this time around as I was staying approximately 10 minutes away by foot. It's also the local transit hub for The Bus (aka Honolulu's bus system) & pretty much all the buses (whether they be local or tourist-based) stop there. Ala Moana contains 4 of America's best known department stores (Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Macy's & Nordstrom), as well as your known designer & high street stores. Be warned: it will take at least 2 visits to conquer the place!
|Sunset from my hotel|
- Both this trip & my last trip to Hawaii involved a visit to Aloha Stadium to check out the open-air swap meet of a weekend (it also runs on Wednesdays too, from memory). It's almost like Paddy's Markets, but in an outdoor setting & with a bit less cheap & nasty shit on offer. My Dad in particular found the markets handy both times as he was able to find shorts & singlets that fit him (he's big in both height & girth).
- I'd read that both Kailua & Kahala Mall were both good for shopping, but having been to both places now, I can say in all honesty that I found both places to be a bit of a wasteland. Granted, there were some nice boutiques up at Kailua (SoHa Living is a dead-set dupe for a store in Sydney called Seaweed & Sand); but if you wanted your shopping with a side of beach-time, then you're better off hiring a car & driving up as getting to the beach via bus is a little hard & the buses themselves are infrequent. I wanted to go to the beach up there, but couldn't figure out which side of the road I needed to stand on for the bus!
What To Do
- Want to get out of Waikiki for the day & go snorkelling? Head up to Hanauma Bay, get your snorkel & fins on & get out there in the water. Not a snorkelling fan? Just go for a swim....or admire the view (I posted a photo of it here)...it is gorgeous. You can get up there via bus, a pre-booked shuttle or by car. (Note: You will have to pay $7.50US to get into the Bay - kids 12 & under are free - & it is closed every Tuesday, so time your trip accordingly.)
- You don't have to do a luau. I did it the first time I went to Hawaii & whilst the views were great at Paradise Cove, the food was horrible. Pretty sure it didn't agree with me either.
- On my final day in Honolulu, I finally got to do something that I really wanted to do the last time I was there....walk/hike the Diamond Head Crater Trail. Not gonna lie, it was tough & the terrain even tougher (it's quite uneven & rocky for the most part, not to mention steep + there's a tunnel or 2 to go through as well); but the views from the top are spectacular & will make you forget about all the effort you put in!
If you're looking to do the trek yourself, here's some tips:
- Do it early in the morning (like I did) or later in the afternoon. Like I said, the trail is tough (even for someone of relative fitness like me) & Honolulu can be humid & warm in summer/early autumn, so there's potential for disaster if you do it in the searing heat of midday. The park itself is open from 6am-6pm, although they don't allow anyone into the park after 4:30pm as the trail takes 60-90 minutes round trip to complete.
- Wear appropriate attire & footwear. Bust out the activewear & get your hiking boots or a good pair of trainers on, because the trek isn''t something you do in casual clothing....or thongs/flip flops/jandals. I saw people doing both of those things & I was all *smh* at them.
- If you have hiking sticks (or whatever they're called), then bring them along with you because they'll help you on the steeper parts of the trail.
- Fuel up first. I walked on an empty stomach with only water to keep me hydrated & had a moment where I lost my balance & fell backwards. Luckily I didn't injure myself.
- Forgot to exchange some coin before you left, or you've been travelling like me & have other currencies to exchange? The currency exchange inside the T Galleria is the place to go. I went there to exchange some leftover Euros into US dollars & got what I thought was a pretty good rate. They're also quite efficient too.
- If you're eschewing the car & looking to get around on public transport (aka The Bus system), then it's well worth buying a 4-day bus passport from a local ABC store. You'll find heaps of them around Waikiki, so don't fret, although I'm not sure if all ABC stores sell them. Check first.
- Be warned: If you decide to get waxed or threaded whilst in Honolulu, be prepared to pay a very pretty penny. Threading generally costs about $35US & a certain type of waxing (which I shall not name) can cost anywhere north of $65US up to $85-90US....the pain is both physical & financial! Why am I mentioning this? Because I found myself in this very situation. Luckily for me, Mahina at The Waxing Co. down on Kapiolani Blvd knows how to hook a girl up. I had the best waxing & threading experience ever thanks to her & her meticulous ways - it was worth every cent!
- On our last night in Honolulu, my folks (who I'd met up with by this time) & I went to Duke's at the soon-to-be-demolished Outrigger Hotel for dinner & all 3 of us enjoyed our meals. We'd been to their sister restaurant Hula Grill the last time we were in Honolulu, but the menu this time around was a turn-off. Although I'm not vegetarian, I 💙 my salad & veggies & had missed them terribly whilst away, so the $4US addition of the all-you-can-eat salad bar was well worth it for both my Mum & I.
|My Mum's lobster tail dish @ Dukes|
|My Japanese style kebabs @ Dukes|
My folks & I decided this time we'd stay somewhere different & that "somewhere different" was The Modern Honolulu. Whilst it's a nice hotel with a hefty price tag to match, the bedding & pillows were highly uncomfortable & rather un-supportive. I woke up every morning with a sore neck & back, which wasn't nice. If more effort was put into that side of things & less into stuff like the spa (aka Lather Spa, which I didn't bother trying as the 20% discount voucher I was given when I checked in would've been eaten by gratuities anyway), then mine and my parents' stay there would've been more enjoyable. That said, we ate dinner by the pool on level 1 twice & the steak soft tacos I had both times were tasty, plus the pool did look lovely at night.
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Have you been to Honolulu before, or Hawaii in general? If you have, then what did you think of it?