Monday, July 27, 2015

Oahu, Hawaii Beyond Aulani

So, one of your dreams is to visit Hawaii.  It's a beautiful destination but it's so far away.  From the East Coast it is about a 10 1/2 hour non-stop flight and even longer if you have a connection.  So, when you finally go, you want to be able to spend some time there.  Here are some suggestions to make the most of your visit to the gorgeous island of Oahu.

Surfing statue on Waikiki Beach
Start your vacation with at least 2-3 days in Waikiki.  You can stay at one of the breathtaking beach front hotels and enjoy beautiful Waikiki Beach!  Waikiki offers tons of recreation, sightseeing and dining options.  For the more adventurous travelers, there are surf board rentals all along the beach.  After you're done riding the waves, take your photo next to the statue of Duke Kahanamoko, the father of modern surfing.  You can find shaved ice for sale in several locations, with flavors you won't find at home.  Near the end of Waikiki beach, but well before Diamond Head, you will find the Honolulu Zoo and the Aquarium.
  You might even see a filming of Hawaii Five-0!  There are weekly Friday night fireworks on the beach near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort at the end of Waikiki Beach.  You don't need to stay at the resort to watch the fireworks from the beach.

View from Diamond Head State Park
While you are here, plan to spend part of a morning at Diamond Head State Park.  You can walk to the park, take a public bus, or drive but be aware that parking is limited.  The hike to the top of Diamond Head is well worth the long climb!  Make sure to take water  and your camera with you.  The walk starts on a partially blacktopped path, but soon turns to gravel, rocks and steep winding hills.  There are places to step off the trail to rest and several benches along the way.  Once you reach the top, you will need to climb several steps to the turret.  Once outside the view is fantastic!  You can see all the way up Waikiki Beach, and also the South Shore to the east.  The walk down the volcano crater is quick and easy.  Once you are done, stop at the food truck for a shaved ice or smoothie.

Near Waimanalo Beach
After your visit to Diamond Head, take your rental car and drive along the South Shore.  In late winter/early spring,  Humpback Whales migrate and swim in this area.  After you stop to view the whales, continue your drive up the East Shore.  There are many road pull-offs with great views!  If you continue driving, you will find Waimanalo Bay.  This beautiful beach was rated #1 by USA Today, as the best beach in the United States!

You may need a full day to visit Pearl Harbor.  Tickets are free but limited and reservations are needed.  Many people choose to visit using a tour.
  Go learn some of Hawaii's rich history at the Iolani Palace, and see the statue of King Kamehameha, the leader who united the Hawaiian Islands.

Another afternoon or day excursion is the Dole Pineapple Plantation and the North Shore.  Yes, the Dole Plantation is touristy, but it's fun!  On the tour you learn that pineapples grow low to the ground on bushes.  There is a train ride and you can enjoy a Dole Whip which is absolutely delicious!.  
If you are making this into a day trip, continue driving north to the North Shore.  This is where you will see some of the most famous surfing beaches.  You may also see Green sea turtles.

If you are ready for a day of culture and history, visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.  You could spend a short time here, or a full day and evening with a dinner show.  Allow a full day if you are driving.

Transportation around the island... The bus service on the island is very good and reliable.  I suggest using the app, DaBus.  If you prefer to go exploring at your own pace, a rental car is the best option.
  Rental cars need to be reserved in advance as they do sell out.

Other day trips that can be added, regardless of where you stay include:
  • Catamaran & Snorkeling - You will likely see and swim near green sea turtles (but don't touch them, it's illegal to touch the turtles!)

  • Golfing -  There are many wonderful golf courses to choose from in Oahu.
  • Day Trips to Hawaii's Other Islands - Visit Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, or Hawaii, also known as the Big Island.  Check out some of the volcanoes and take a flight over them for a once in a lifetime experience!
If you didn't book any excursions before leaving home, most hotels have an Excursion Desk, to help with tour bookings or day trips once you arrive.  Tours have select hotels for pickup & drop off for these excursions, so it is very convenient.

Kuhio Beach Hula Show, Waikiki Beach
If you forgot something, stop by any ABC store and you will find everything from sunscreen to souvenirs to prepared food to go.  If you shop here frequently, save your receipts and ask for a punch card.  They offer a small gift for certain levels/amounts of purchases.

Shopping... You can find wonderful places to shop just about everywhere on the island!  From Don Quixote and the Ross Store to Luxury Row and the Ala Moana Shopping Mall.  There's a ton of shopping opportunities for every shopaholic.  If you are looking for locally made products, make sure to visit the Stadium.  Every Saturday, there is a flea market where you'll find a huge variety of locally made products and foods.  This would be a great place to get some souvenirs to take home!

Dining and restaurants... You will find a great selection of wonderful restaurants and beachfront dining.  There are many restaurants to enjoy,  as well as Luau Dinners on select nights.

Waikiki Beach Sunset
With so many spectacular sites, one of a kind recreational activities, and phenomenal accommodations, it's no surprise that Hawaii is a favorite vacation destination!  Are you ready to start planning your dream vacation to Hawaii?!

Betsy

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