Honolulu, what a brilliant city! Prior to my visit there, I always thought there wouldn’t be much to do in Honolulu and that laying at the beach would be one of the primary activities. I was wrong. So very wrong. We stayed in Waikiki for a total 6 days, and after the 4th day, we start to feel how tight we were for time and how much there was still left to see. The heat doesn’t help either as it just makes you cranky and forces you to come back to the hotel for some R & R and then head back out once it has cooled down a bit. In saying that, this was the case for us on two days, the other days there was a cool breeze, which made the heat bearable. In my opinion, I would suggest at least 7-8 days. The reason I say that is because, it’s good to have one full day of rest straight after you’ve arrived so you can get rid of the jet lag and the general tiredness that comes from travelling on a long haul flight. In addition, when in Hawaii, you have to be up really early in the morning to go to some (or most) of the attractions, to beat the heat. Once it hits 11am or noon, the sun is scorching hot and being outside is unbearable unless you’re in the water. Hence, the reason for the 8th day is to have an ‘extra day’ in case you missed out anything due to the hot weather.
As mentioned, there are a LOT of things to do in Honolulu. To give you an idea, the activities and attractions include Hiking Diamond Head, (walking along) Waikiki Beach, Polynesian Cultural Centre, Pearl Harbor, Bishop Museum, Helicopter Flight, Nu’aPali lookout, Koko Head, Japanese Temple and much more! If you plan on hiking Diamond Head, your day will begin rather early in the morning. This is an activity that you’d want to do around 6am. Honolulu is very hot as of 10am. Therefore ideally this is an activity you want to finish by 10am. Even locals who like to do this hike have recommended so. Unfortunately due to time restrictions, I missed out on doing this. But in saying that I got a ‘top’ view of Diamond Head from the helicopter tour. Diamond Head is a dormant volcano. Watch the video below to get an aerial view of the island of O’ahu and get a glimpse of Diamond Head.
Pearl Harbor, what an amazing experience! I will do another blog talking specifically about the Pearl Harbor experience because there’s a lot to share. I won’t say too much in this blog as I don’t want to digress. One tip will be that try to get there as early as possible. We missed out on seeing/visiting the USS Arizona as the last ticket sold out just minutes before we got there and we got there by 8.30am. The USS Arizona has certain entry times for groups and each group is limited to a certain number of people, hence the shortage of tickets. All I’m going to say here is that this is something you do not want to miss. Whether you’re a history buff or not, this is surely going to tug a string in your heart. I’ll leave the playlist of the Pearl Harbor videos, watch it and you’ll get an understanding of what a sailor’s life was like. I don’t think I could ever do justice via a video, but I urge you to watch the three videos in the playlist. For me personally, I think walking through the USS Bowfin was the most emotional and eye-opening experience.
Another fun attraction is the Polynesian Culture Center. If you’re not from New Zealand, or any of the islands, to give you an idea of what this is about, it is a ‘park type’ attraction and it has the various islands i.e. Fiji, Aotearoa, Tonga, Samoa etc. as the different island spots within the park. Think of Disneyland and think of how it’s set up i.e. Main Street, Snow White’s Castle and so on. There is an activity unique to each island going on throughout and each island has their own cultural show that they perform for the audience. The center opens at 12noon and is an ‘entire’ day’s outing as you only leave after the big show performed after dinner. Your ticket doesn’t include dinner unless you purchase a ticket with dinner, which most of the people choose to do any way. This particular attraction isn’t too expensive even after selecting the dinner option ticket. The dinner is an ‘island’ style buffet and it caters to everyone’s tastes. You’re sure to find something that you will enjoy.
As the Polynesian Culture Center doesn’t open till noon, you may choose to do another activity during the day so as to not waste the morning. However keep in mind that if you’re driving to the center, it is a bit of a drive and Hawaii traffic can be quite heavy. In our case we went to the Nu’uanu Pali lookout prior to heading to the center. Be prepared when you go to this particular lookout as it is at an elevation and it is quite windy even on a hot summer day. You might like to keep something warm handy although I do not recommend it. The views from here are amazing, very picturesque, so make sure you have your cameras ready. The only thing is that, because the winds are so strong taking a picture is quite difficult! Trust me, I tried taking a LOT of panoramic photos but failed miserably.
The final activity that we did was exploring the Bishop Museum. In my opinion, this can be a ‘last resort’ activity. If you’ve decided to have a sleep in on a day or are running late and want to change your plans and keep your original plans for another day, you may choose to do this. I personally didn’t enjoy my time here too much and only really explored two (possibly three) of the sections. Please note, this is just personal preference and this statement wasn’t influenced by the staff or the attraction. It is a rather large museum and we only looked at a small part of it. The entry cost us ~$95 (4 adults), so if this is an expense you’re willing to make by all means go explore.
Last but not the least, shopping! Hawaii is a great place to shop. Whether you want to go to your higher brand stores or the reasonably priced ones, there’s something for everyone. However I feel a lot of us have this misconception that Hawaii is a cheap place to shop. After this trip, I wouldn’t necessarily say so. I found Honolulu to be reasonably expensive. Let me compare my Macy’s shopping experience from three years ago in Chicago and this time in Honolulu. In Chicago, I bought roughly 5 items of clothing for $300 where as in Honolulu I bought roughly 3 items for the same amount of money. Both same brands from Macy’s (International Concept INC) but as you can see I was able to get more in Chicago than Honolulu. Maybe this was just my experience but it’s now out there. For those interested I did a Facebook live stream of my shopping haul. I’ll link you to it down below and you can see what I bought.
Honolulu is a place, I’m definitely going to return to. It was such an amazing experience just being there and also there are a few attractions that I missed out on, on this trip so a return is a must to do it all. If you’ve been to Honolulu or other islands in Hawaii, what do you recommend doing or not doing? What were your experiences like? Before I go I’ll leave you with some tips on travelling to Honolulu.
Until next time,