Just got back from my first visit to Oahu...8 days. I definitely relied on TripAdvisor and all of you prior to my trip, so hopefully I can be of help to someone else who is going.
We went on Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays, and stayed at the Beachcomber mid-Waikiki. Waikiki is VERY crowded and full of energy, but awesome just the same. I definitely will stay at the Beachcomber again. It's very simple and not fancy, but the location just can't be beat! We got a great price through PHH.
Day 1/Tues-PHH orientation breakfast. Fine for a free breakfast. Didn't buy any of the packages except for the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Went to Hilo Hattie and the Maui Divers Jewelry factory on the PHH tour (the sales people there are relentless---RESIST! Don't let them talk you into the "pearl in the oyster" thing--it will set you back $12.95 before you know it! Drove up the Tantalus (awesome views) and walked around Waikiki to get oriented. Went to WalMart to buy breakfast/sandwich stuff, water, and sodas (our room had a frig). The Honolulu WalMart is incredible--full of Hawaii souvenirs at good prices. Ate in the food court at the International Marketplace and walked around.
Day 2/Wed-Left early in the morning (WalMart breakfast stuff) and drove to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. We left early and stopped to take lots of beach pictures along the way (Punalu'u is incredible). We visited the Valley of the Temples and the Byodo-In shrine. It was absolutely beautiful. Drove as far as Kahuku point (past the PCC about 10 minutes) and stopped at Romy's Kahuku Shrimp truck for lunch. It was not crowded and we only waited for about 1/2 hour to get our lunch made. Fabulous! We had the garlic/butter shrimp for $11 (plenty of food), and we had our own sodas with us. Turned around and got to the PCC at about 12:30. We did not want the guided tour/ambassador package, which they try to sell you over and over again. The PCC was hot, so we popped into the IMAX to cool off. The canoe pageant was OK. The Samoa demonstration is the best one. The PCC is very sanitized and sterile (owned by the Mormon church), and it was touristy but not overly crowded. The Luau was wonderful--no alcohol, but good chance to sample Luau food (Poi=YUCK!) with some entertainment at dinner. But the BEST was the Horizons show! Do not miss this! Drove back to the hotel afterward--the road is dark and windy, but I followed a tour bus and found it easier to take the Pali Hwy (Rte. 61) back to Waikiki.
Day 3/Thurs-We had tickets for the 8:30 am tour of Doris Duke's Shangri-La. It was wonderful, and well worth it if you are interested in architecture/art. We were finished by 10:30 or so, so we drove around the island, up through the middle of the island, past the Dole plantation to the North Shore. We took sandwiches with us in the car, and we stopped at several beaches, the best one being Turtle Beach, where the sea turtles come right up to you. We drove back down past the previous day's beaches and turned off at Kailua Beach Park, where we spent 3 hours just playing in the waves and lying in the sand. It was too windy to kayak, but we still had a lot of fun. This was probably my favorite beach of all! We ate dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise in Waikiki.
Day 4/Fri-We went to the Punchbowl cemetery and Costco for lunch ($1.50 for hot dog and a soda--can't beat that!) to get Macadamia nuts, and Chinatown. Visited a Safeway store--prices are about $1 higher for everything compared to the mainland. Went to Waikiki beach in the PM. Got cheap floaties at the ABC store and sat in the water! Climbed on the rocks on the breakwater at Kuhio beach. Watched the surfing lessons, and just chilled out in the water.
Ate at Round Table Pizza for dinner.
Day 5/Sat-Got up early and went to Leonard's on Kapahulu for malasadas and on to Diamond Head. The hike is strenuous--don't let anyone tell you it is not! The stairs are KILLERS! But if you go slowly and stop when you need to, you will be OK. I am mid-forties and in mediocre physical condition and I made it by stopping frequently. TAKE A WATER BOTTLE! The view was worth it. Came back down and had a shave ice at the truck at the bottom. Went back to hotel to change, put money in a waterproof wallet---this is important, more later---and drove to Kahala to the Wai'alae Beach Park. There were 3-4 weddings going on, so the park was crowded but the beach itself was not. Had to park on Kahala Ave. We waded down to the beach in front of the Kahala Mandarin and used it (bathtub calm for the most part, and beautiful). We floated for most of the afternoon. When I returned to the car, I discovered that I had left the door open and my purse had been stolen from the trunk of the car.
IMPORTANT: The book "Oahu Revealed" says to leave the car unlocked at the beach with the windows rolled up, and to take all your valuables. They are absolutely right! There were spots all over the ground where you could see that windows had been shattered. WELL, remember I said that I had a waterproof wallet? Inside were my drivers license, all my credit cards, ATM card, money, etc!!!! So all the thieves who stole my purse got were a few nickels and dimes that had fallen out, a few pens and pencils, my lipstick, a basically empty wallet, and my cell phone (which I promptly canceled)!
Went to Cheesecake Factory for dinner back in Waikiki, all along counting my blessings and being grateful that the thieves had not taken anything really important!
Day 6/Sun-Got up at 5:30 and drove to the USS Arizona Memorial. Waited about 45 minutes and got on the 9:15 tour. It was very moving and well worth the time. Went over to the Aloha Stadium to the swap meet---BUY EVERYTHING HERE! Tear out the little coupons for free entry--it's only 50 cents anyway. Spent the afternoon shopping at Ala Moana Center and Ward Warehouse. Ate dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the Ward Warehouse. Came back to the hotel to do laundry and pack.
Day 7/Mon-Walked around in Waikiki to take pictures and last minute shop. Checked out at 12:00 from the hotel. Drove to the Halona Blowhole and then back to the Pali Lookout for some more pictures. Ate lunch at Costco in Hawaii Kai--$1.50 again! Stopped at Ala Moana to pick up a last minute gift at Hilo Hattie. We made sure someone stayed with the car at all times--I guess trunk theft from rental cars is a serious problem all over the island. Drove up to Wai'anae on the Leeward side, but the traffic was horrendous, and the beaches just are not that pretty. Went to the airport and came home!
The only thing we had planned to do that we did not was Hanauma Bay. It just did not fit into the schedule for us. Oh, well. NEXT TIME!