Oahu has it all – she’s the Grande Dame of Hawaii, capable of being sophisticated and lively, fun and laid-back, or a dare-devil adventurer. You can spend wildly on luxurious resorts, fine dining and designer shopping in Honolulu, hang out and surf with sharks/swim with wild dolphins on North Shore, or hike, snorkel, kayak, maybe, helicopter over Oahu at sunset – pretty much anything goes. The only limitation here is your imagination; the weather is great year-round, roads wide and safe, with everything within driving distance. It’s an easy place to see a lot in a day. See official Oahu tourist site: www.gohawaii.com/en/oahu/
One thing I love about Honolulu airport, apart from the open garden courtyard, is watching people, especially in winter – you can tell who’s arriving by the scowl, thick coat and obvious burden of daily struggles – and those who are leaving – all smiles, with flowers in their hair, a skip in their step, and a dream in their heart of returning some day soon!
My favorite images:
Once the Hawaiian spirit infects you, you’re forever tainted – you’ll always feel a yearning to connect with this tropical paradise of natural beauty and rich history, where mercurial weather – that mixture of clouds, rain and sun – gives rise to frequent rainbows and stunning sunsets. Each Hawaii island has its own charm; Oahu contains the spirit of island with the added big city vibe of Honolulu.
Many people choose to stay in Honolulu, where they can shop, dine, or lie about getting burnt on the beach, a few blocks from their hotel. I like to wander and people watch; Waikiki Beach is a must. Think of it as Venice in LA, or Vegas Strip, you have to see it – I enjoyed ice cream as I sat on the wall, but you can swim, rent surfboards, kayaks, or have a paddle in the freezing Pacific Ocean – no bath water here.
For dining, you’ve many choices from cheap to taking a second mortgage on your house, from corporate (I was amazed at the constant line outside the Cheesecake Factory) to family owned. Behind the main strand is the remainder of old Honolulu, where I found a stall serving delicious smoothies made to order; she hacked off bits of fruit, from their husks, with a huge blade. For a sit-down meal, I love Arancini di Mare – both locations – their wood-fired pizza is great for lunch, while their several course dinner with wine pairings makes for a special dinner. http://arancino.com/
At the legendary, and very pink, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, I sipped and savored a ginger Mai Tai at the outdoor/spitting distance from the beach bar as I watched the sun drop into the ocean. This is where the Mai Tai was invented. Not cheap and rather strong! I remember that evening with great fondness; there was a cast of Warner Bros. characters at the bar. You know who you are!
If you want more leg-work, do the Diamond Head Hike at sunrise – the path is narrow, there’s little shade and it’s steep, but the views from the top are remarkable. If you have leg/lung issues, don’t bother. For the ones who do, wear sturdy shoes, hat, sun block and bring a camera and water. Our guide says many people get air-lifted off the crater because they were not prepared/up-for-it! I’m happy to have done it but wouldn’t do it again; it was too hot, we had to move too fast, and there were too many annoying people, even that early. Warning: Don’t bring crying babies/small children. Don’t block the path taking selfies. Don’t trail run and almost knock people into a wall. Don’t wear flip-flops or high heeled sandals – not the place for it – unless you desire a twisted/broken ankle!
I was on Oahu in 2013 for the Honolulu marathon – glad to have done it, have no desire ever to do another! If interested see: http://yvonnemcleod.com/my-first-last-and-only-marathon-has-been-completed/
That time I stayed at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel – a safe 10-15 minute walk on the other side of Kapiolani Park from the main Waikiki main drag – I loved my room over-looking the bay – see reviews – http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60982-d86951-Reviews-The_New_Otani_Kaimana_Beach_Hotel-Honolulu_Oahu_Hawaii.html
I returned in June 2015, before my Pride of America cruise; this time I chose a more central location, about 10 walk away from the ocean – much windier/cooler by the canal. See tripadvisor reviews – but always check their official hotel websites to see who’s offering the best price – http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60982-d86966-Reviews-Coconut_Waikiki_Hotel_a_Joie_de_Vivre_Hotel-Honolulu_Oahu_Hawaii.htm
Both are reasonable for Honolulu, with great staff, comfy beds, central locations, and walkable to everywhere you’ll want to go. See photos from each hotel balcony:
I booked Robert’s Hawaii for shuttle service from airport/to port/back to airport and was impressed with their prices and professionalism – a nice touch was greeting me at the gate with a very fragrant lei – no extra cost unlike other companies. They also have tours of all islands, including ones that co-ordinate with your cruise ship. http://www.rhshorex.com/
For first-timers on Oahu, I would suggest doing the Circle Tour to get an overview of the island; I chose the eco-tour with http://www.discoverhawaiitours.com/ it appeared less touristy than all the others; I was right. We’d enough stops that made it feel you weren’t stuck on a bus all day, yet covered a wide swathe of Oahu. Other Circle Tours can include a stop-and-shop at Dole Plantation and Polynesian Culture Center. I visited PCC as part of mini-circle tour with Robert’s, on my way day trip from port to airport; I really enjoyed it. The staff are so friendly and helpful – think Disneyland Hawaii style but without the rides! The movie was so good that I watched it twice – all I’ll say is: sit as dead center as you can get!
On the eco-tour, we headed up to North Shore, where the Banzai Pipeline was kicking off, and I enjoyed coconut just plucked from a tree; we wandered along the beach, before hiking up to Waimea Falls, where some people had a swim. Lunch was on the Secret Island, a boat ride across the ancient Royal fishpond, on the Kualoa ranch where the original Jurassic Park, among others, was filmed. After lunch, we visited Valley of the Temples; I loved the Byodo-In Temple, and bought a dragon carved in mother-of-pearl necklace. It is so peaceful; I would have loved to have been able to linger, but on we went…seeing and learning so much, from the windy peak of Pali Point, where a great battle was fought to Halona Cove, where From Here To Eternity was filmed. A long day, but so worth the time…really felt I caught the essence of the island… Some images from the Circle Tour…
If you like photography, or want a more intimate tour to take you off the tourist trail on Oahu – book with Alex – I’ve taken the sunrise and sunset tour – both were fun and informative: http://www.oahuphotographytours.com/
For my subscribers, who’ve received this by email, I’m sorry but you’ll still have to click on the Blue header link in your email to see the images that go with the text!
To read about my adventures on Maui: http://yvonnemcleod.com/best-moments-on-maui-from-pride-of-america/
To read about my adventures on Hawaii: http://yvonnemcleod.com/hawaii-adventures-the-big-island-from-pride-of-america/
To read about Kauai: http://yvonnemcleod.com/kauai-adventures-from-pride-of-america/
Or for my general travel guide page: http://yvonnemcleod.com/travel-guide/
Thank you for your interest and take my leave with love – Aloha and Mahalo…
Stay tuned for my last piece on Pride of America – the cruise ship that carried me between all those great ports….Dream on, travel well, be safe and have fun….Yxxx