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OAHU, Waikiki

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Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Waikiki Beach

Waikiki is synonymous with Hawaii, but it's located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and not the island of Hawaii.  The area used to be a favorite vacation spot for Hawaiian royalty.  Today it's a favorite tourist vacation spot.  The island of Oahu has been greatly influenced by World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.  Resentment toward the Japanese still persists, but it is fading into the past.  In fact, we consistently find the people of Oahu to be the friendliest and most optimistic in the world.

Weather:

Visitors will find that the climate in Maui is fairly consistent on a year round basis, but permanent residents will think winter is significantly cooler.  In the summer months from June - October expect average highs are 88 F (31 C) and average lows are about 75 F (24 C).  In January and February, average highs are about 81 F (27 C) and lows are roughly 66 F (19 C).  The summer months are dry.  From October - March about 2 inches (60 mm) of rain falls each month.  Summer is a popular vacation time for Hawaiians on the islands, but most visitors choose winter and spring break for their visits.

   

Transportation:

A rental car obtained from the Honolulu International Airport is the best transporation option for Oahu.  Without a rental car, an aiport transfer is great way to save on transportation from the airport to the hotels in Waikiki or to arrange a lei greeting:

  • Cab fare in 2015 to Waikiki without tip was about $45, which makes cab a reasonable choice for 2 or 3 passengers.

  • Speedi Shuttle - At Take That Vacation, we can't say enough good things about Speedi Shuttle customer service.  Even though we weren't booked with them, they used their cell phone to call our shuttle service, waited with us until our ride arrived, carried our luggage and refused a tip.  That's worth our number one recommendation for Honolulu airport transfers.  Prices in 2015 without tip were $15.50 per person.  

  • Take the #19 or #20 Honolulu City Bus between the airport and Waikiki.  The price of $2.50 per person can't be beat, but this transit system is typical American with no provision to store luggage comfortably on the bus.  Luggage must fit on your lap or under the seat.  Expect to spend about an hour on the bus.

  • Honolulu Airport Shuttle

  • Robert Hawaii Express Shuttle

Makapuu Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Makapu'u Beach

For visitor transportation around the Waikiki area, the Waikiki Trolley operates several routes.  The Honolulu City Bus is a great method to get to Diamond Head State Monument, Hanauma Bay or Sea Life Park.  Bus fares in 2015 were $2.50 one way and exact change is required.  The Honolulu bus system annouces the attractions at each stop, so it's easy to find your way around.

Things to see and do in Waikiki / Honolulu:

  • Waikiki Beach - Waikiki forms the eastern edge of Honolulu, but commonly referred to as if it's a separate city.  The beach is a popular spot for novice surfers, with a light easy roll that's perfect for beginners.  Stroll the waterfront into Kapiolani Park and walk out on the cement piers.  Locals feed bread to the tropical fish.  See reef triggers, angelfish and stick fish up close.

  • International Market Place - Waikiki.  This was a magical spot with the large banyan tree spread out over shops and restaurants.  It remains to be seen what the modern version will be like when it repoens in the spring of 2016.

  • ABC Stores -  a symbol of Hawaii, there's almost and ABC Store on every street corner.  Buy chocolate macadamias, snacks and knick-knacks.

Waikiki Aquarium, Oahu, Hawaii

Waikiki Aquarium

  • Kapiolani Park, including the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki AquariumKapiolani Park is very large with lots of open space and great waterfront access.  It starts right at the east end of the waterfront string of hotels in Waikiki, which means the Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium are in easy walking distance from many hotels.  Hawaiians love to set up large family picnics in the parks on weekends.

  • Diamond Head - it marks the end of Kapiolani Park and the end of Waikiki.  Drive through a tunnel into the center of this extinct volcano in Diamond Head State Monument and then climb to the top to the World War II bunker.  It's a tradition to reach the summit at sunrise.  Hike up through the switch backs, stone steps, tunnels, spiral metal stair cases and a bunker to reach the top.  It was always just on the edge of my limits for claustrophobia and fear of heights.  Well worth the effort.

Kapiolani Park & Waikiki from Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

Kapiolani Park & Waikiki from Diamond Head

  • Pearl Harbour - This is the number one attraction on Oahu.  Pearl Harbor would be about a $30 cab ride from Waikiki.  It's the World War II memorial to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The highlight is a walk out on to the surface of the sunken USS Arizona, which can be a sobering moment.

  • Iolani Palace and Capitol Building in Honolulu.  Take the #2 or #13 from Waikiki there and back.  The #2 runs about every 10 minutes.

Kapiolani Park & Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

Kapiolani Park & Diamond Head

Savor the Tastes of Oahu:

  • Spam - introduced by the American Army during World War II and still popular today in Hawaii.  It's on the menu at McDonald's.  Try spam musubi - grilled spam on rice.

  • Shave ice - a Hawaiian variation on the snow cone.  The slivers of ice hold more flavor.  Try some sweet and sour on top.

  • The famous Luau with pork, sweet potato and taro slow cooked in an earth oven.

  • Huli Huli Chicken - huli means "turn" and refers to the repeated turning of chicken on a barbecue.

  • DoleWhip - the popular pineapple ice cream served at the Dole Plantation.

  • Ahi - yellow fin tuna.

  • Poke - cubed raw fish preserved in salt.  The term is now applied to any cubed meat.

  • Pupu - appetizers or just a very funny word.

  • Marlin, swordfish, groupers, snappers, mahi-mahi (dolphinfish)

  • Dinner overlooking the Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head at the Shore Bird Restaurant & Beach Bar in the Outrigger Reef on the Beach.

  • Dinner with a 360 degree view from the three tier roof top revolving restaurant at the Top of Waikiki.


View Oahu map

Things to see and do on Oahu:

A rental car is an easy way to take a day trip around the island of Oahu.  The southeast corner of Oahu is one of my favorite areas in the Hawaiian Islands.  The beaches are so distinctive here: Hanauma Bay for snorkelers, Sandy Beach for surf and sun, Makapu'u for body surfing, Waimanalo Beach for walking against the backdrop of mountains so close you wonder how the beach fits in.  Diamond Head is a great hike with fabulous views.  The drive around the island had some lovely spots, including Lanikai Beach, Turtle Bay and Sunset Beach.  Other stops include the Polynesian Culture Center and the Dole Pineapple plantation.

Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii

Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Hanauma Bay
It's easy to reach Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, which is about 10 miles from Waikiki.  The least expensive way to Hanauma Bay is by city bus, but it takes more than an hour to get there.  Take the #22 city bus, but it only runs every hour in the morning and every half hour in the afternoon.   Make sure you pick the right day - they are always closed on Tuesdays.  A shuttle service can be arranged from any Waikiki hotel.  Try Hanauma Bay Tours, Hanauma Bay Snorkel Adventures, Tommy Tours or Viator, for reasonable return transportation including snorkel equipment.  Using a rental car can be problematic, since the parking lot is small and they stop admitting visitors when the lot is full.  There's an entrance fee and a requirement to watch a video about protecting the reserve.  The hill down to the beach is very steep and it costs extra to catch the tiny shuttle.  The walk down isn't tough, but at the end of the day, when you have no energy left, you will likely be grateful to fork out the fare for a ride up.   They rent snorkel gear at the beach.  It's a very safe location.  The wind usually drives on shore and the reef creates a protected area for swimmers and snorkelers.

Koko Crater - hike Koko Head which has a World War II railway tie staircase of over 1,000 steps that goes straight up the face of the crater.  This crater is just east of Hanauma Bay and easily accessible from Waikiki.

Sandy Beach - for the surfing, a few minutes from Hanauma Bay.  It's on the #22 bus route.

Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail - great views at this point near Sandy Beach, where the road turns north and the east side of the island begins.

Honolulu Festival, Oahu, Hawaii

Honolulu Festival, Waikiki

Sea Life Park - access by city bus or a tour from most hotels.  The #22 or #23 city bus will get you to Sea Life Park, but it's a slow trip by bus and with the $2.50 fare it's a crowded bus ride at times.  See dolphins, sharks, sea lion and penguins.  Pay extra to swim with the dolphins, but for those with children the interactive dolphin encounters are expensive, because a paying adult must be present in the water too.

Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden - 400 acres with themed vegetation sections from many areas of the world.  This is a state park with no admission fee.

Byodo-In Temple - located in the cemetery at Valley of the Temples Memorial Park.

Polynesian Cultural Center - Tahiti, Oahu, Hawaii

Polynesian Cultural Center - Tahiti

Polynesian Cultural Center - on the east coast before you reach the North Shore.  Tours with transportation can be arranged at any hotel in Waikiki.  The center promotes the cultures of Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji and Tahiti.  See presentations by each of these cultures, a canoe pagent, a luau and an evening show.  The center was created by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon).  The Mormon temple is adjacent to the center as is Brigham Young University of Hawaii.  Some of the proceeds from the center fund student education at the university and a significant number of students are employed by the cultural center.  This is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Oahu.

Dole Pineapple Plantation - Enjoy pineapple ice cream, a Pineapple Maze, a Plantation Garden Tour and a Pineapple Express train ride.  Prices for each venue are very reasonable.  The site can be overrun with tourists treating themselves to pineapple ice cream, but children and ice cream lovers will enjoy this attraction.  Take a city bus from Waikiki to Ala Moana Shopping Center and then ride the #52 all the way to the plantation.  It only costs a few dollars, but takes nearly 2 hours one way.  A taxi will take about 40 minutes and cost close to $100 for the 26 mile trip.

Turtle Bay Resort

Turtle Bay Resort - the most extravagant and expensive part of our trip to the Hawaiian islands, but well worth it.  The hotel is built on the oceanfront between two bays at the eastern edge of the North Shore. It has 3 wings and because of the design, all three wings have ocean views regardless of which side of the wing your room is on.  Our room was on the 3rd floor facing west over the pool toward the sunset. The room was spacious with a large lanai (covered deck) and a large bathroom with two rooms and double sinks.  It was very difficult to leave at the end of our visit.

Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii

Turtle Bay Resort

One of the nice features of the Hotel is the sheltered bay called Kuilima Cove, adjacent to the east side of the hotel.  It provides a nice sandy beach for guests and the cove is a great spot to snorkel and see a variety of tropical fish including reef triggers (Huma huma nuku nuku apua’a), velvet tangs and saddle wrasses.  The water isn't as clear as some other sites because of all the nearby wind and wave action, but this location is a very safe one for the beginning snorkeler and it's only a few feet from the hotel.  If you don't have a mask and snorkel, rent one from the hotel.  Then come back in the evening and try dining in the open air at Ola's on the beach in this cove.

Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii

Turtle Bay Resort

In the main hotel, we enjoyed eating at the Palm Terrace, which has views out over the pool and the ocean.  There's a buffet every night, but the first night, I had the Filet Mignon and Jumbo Prawns.  For the starch I didn't go with the waiter's recommended Okinawan Sweet Potato Puree and I regretted it, but my wife bailed me out with some delicious samples of hers.  She also enjoyed the Asian slaw.  For dessert, I let the waiter pick, because I obviously should have listened on the starch recommendation.  He recommended the Banana Cheese Cake Carmel Xango and, even though I'm not a banana fan, this was exquisite.  The Hawaiian music from a live band rounded out a fabulous dinner experience.

Sunset Beach, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Sunset Beach, North Shore

North Shore - Banzai Pipeline Surfing
This is where the real surfers come to compete in the big waves of Hawaii.  We had the opportunity to visit the Banzai Pipeline twice during our stay at Turtle Bay.  On the first day, it was windy.  The red flags were staked out on the beach warning of unsafe conditions, but the ocean was full of surfers.  There weren't many spectators, but there were lots of high powered cameras taking photos.  The second day was a marked contrast.  The 18 foot waves were sufficient to start the HIC Pipeline Pro trials.  Although the conditions were more dangerous, the red flags came down and most of the surfers were sidelined at the beach waiting for their turn to compete.  The spectators, surfers, photographers and TV reporters filled the beach.  It was great fun to watch.

Bonzai Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii

Banzai Pipeline

Oahu Tours:

Hotels in Hawaii:

Take That Vacation Recommendations for Waikiki:

  • Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel - the Select Oceanview units have nice views down the Waikiki Beach from this waterfront hotel.  Tiki's restaurant on the 3rd floor is a great spot to watch the sun go down and listen to local contemporary Hawaiian live music.

  • Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort - on the waterfront at the west end of Waikiki.

  • Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort

  • Sheraton Princess Kaiulani - At the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, you arrive at the front desk and you are still outside – the front desk faces the outdoor swimming pool and has no walls or doors.  It’s a wonderful effect. The Princess Kaiulani was not exceptional accommodation, but being right on the main waterfront street of Waikiki meant that it was only a short 5 minute walk to the beach.  Have a meal by the pool, including evening Hawaiian entertainment, even if you are not a guest.

  • Hilton Hawaiian Village - The Hilton Hawaiian Village is located right on the waterfront at Waikiki and it also has its own man-made Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon which makes for safe, child-friendly swimming too.  There are multiple towers and grounds that turn the Hawaiian Village into a distinct tropical community.   Each morning children have an opportunity to pet an African penguin and watch them being fed.  There are also macaws, turtles and African cichlids to see.  Take a trolley or city bus to Kapiolani Park, the International Market, the Waikiki Aquarium and the Zoo. A great choice for a family vacation.

  • The Royal Hawaiian - real Hawaiian atmosphere.

  • Sheraton Waikiki Hotel - directly beside the Royal Hawaiian, with units aligned perfectly to view the beach and Diamond Head.

  • Park Shore Waikiki is right on Kalakaua Ave at the corner of Kapahulu, which is directly across from the zoo and Kapiolani Park.  It has reasonably priced rooms at the back.  You can't beat this location.

  • Ohana Waikiki West - WestJet #1 seller, 80% of the rooms have kitchens.  This hotel is popular with families and with groups tours, especially school groups.  The units are reasonable, but the showers are small and there are no tubs.  It's a short walk through the International Market to Kalakaua Street and the beach at Waikiki.  The Ohana Waikiki West is part of the Outrigger chain.  Outrigger hotels include the Ohana Waikiki East across the street, while the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach and the Outrigger Reef on the Beach are, as their names imply, located on the Waikiki waterfront. 

  • Waikiki Banyan Vacation Rentals, which has kitchenettes.

  • Luana Waikiki - back from the waterfront.  Some units have kitchenettes.

  • Turtle Bay Resort - on the North Shore, reviewed above.

Long Term Accommodation in Waikiki

by Bill MacArthur - We've visited Waikiki six times now and have stayed anywhere for one week to six weeks per visit.  We love it and can't wait to go back again next December.

During our one week stay, we booked the Outrigger and flight combo through Expedia and got a good deal.  Longer stays certainly work out to a more reasonable per night cost (we've never paid more than $100 per night for a one bedroom place), and we have found them on VRBO.com.  Last year, we rented a two bedroom place and the price worked out about the same per person when we broke it down, but we dealt with a real estate/rental company and were very impressed (Ohana Beach Rental - obrhi.com).  We like dealing with them as they are a local real estate/management company managing over 85 properties.  We had some minor issues with the condo last December (sink disposal not working) and they had staff on site within one day to fix it.

Depending on the time of year and the location, several condo's have a minimum 30 day rental, however, we've noticed that others will rent for two weeks etc.  We've stayed at the following:

  • Waikiki Shores - Beautiful, right on the beach by Fort Derussey Park - pricey though.

  • Waikiki Park Heights - Older building (like most in Waikiki), some condo's dated, but great location (a block from the beach, near the centre part of Waikiki) outdoor pool, not heated.

  • Royal Kuhio - As with Waikiki Park Heights, some condo's are dated, others are renovated.  GREAT pool and deck area.  Close to the beach, but on a noisy part of Kuhio Avenue (one block back from the main drag) in the entertainment section of Waikiki.

  • Foster Tower - On the main drag, across the street from the beach.  Amazing location, great pool.  Closer to Diamond Head and Queen Kapiolani Park.  Updated condo's but few have Lanai's, however big windows open.

  • Outrigger Luana - Hotel/Condo complex.  Small convenience kitchen.  Great location (close to Ala Moana Shopping Centre and parks)

  • Waikiki Landmark - Stunning condo, fantastic building, we stayed in a two bedroom.  Three pools, huge pool deck and bbq area, nice lanai's, close to Ala Moana Shopping Centre and on the Ala Wai Canal side.  Traffic can be a bit noisy as the building is where three main traffic arteries intersect.

Next December, we're staying at the Aston Waikiki Sunset (booked through Ohana Beach Rental).  The building is older, but it's well maintained.

We've noticed that most condo's advertised as one bedrooms in fact don't have separate bedrooms (more like a studio apartment), but if you don't mind that, they're certainly quicker to maintain, and we're never in the condo much anyway.  So, lots of great choices in Waikiki. 


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