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Waikiki Trip Report (long)

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
333 posts
143 reviews
146 helpful votes
Waikiki Trip Report (long)

Day 1 – Arrival, Chinatown, downtown, International Marketplace, Waikiki shops.

We cruised from Sydney via Fiji and Tahiti (17 nights) on Royal Caribbean’s ‘Rhapsody of the Seas’ – what a great way to get to Hawaii. We docked at Aloha Tower at 1pm and were ashore by 3pm.

We spent the afternoon looking through Aloha Tower shops, Chinatown and even wandered into downtown Honolulu. Sounds like a bit of a stretch but with the aid of Frommers Chinatown walking guide and TA advice we knew where we wanted to go. We had some nice treats in Chinatown and purchased a fresh flower Lei from one of the florists to wear at the final Hawaiian theme dinner and Hula show on board the ship that night.

Our first night in Hawaii was aboard ship and we were checking into our hotel the next day but we also had a helicopter flight booked for 10am so needed to beat the disembarking crowds. We rang the Renew Hotel and asked them if they would mind stowing our luggage overnight. They were more than happy to accommodate us. So after the evening shipboard show we got a cab to Waikiki and dropped the bags off. We then spent the evening walking around the International Marketplace and the shops at Waikiki and were back on board by midnight.

Day 2 – Check-in, Blue Hawaii Helicopter, Atlantis Submarine, Spam Jam, Banyon Court, Dukes, Society of Seven Show.

Walked off the ship with a small backpack and caught TheBus to Renew Hotel. Checked in by 9:50am. The room was ready so we had a quick peek. Gorgeous! We loved this hotel and you can see our full review at


OK, that link was a pain. In future I will just note that I have done a separate review and you can see them at www.tripadvisor.com/members-reviews/OzBrian or by clicking on my name and following the links.

At 10am we were picked up by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and taken for an 11am, 50 min flight around the island (review available). This was one of the highlights of the trip. They dropped us back at the HHV for the Atlantis Submarine tour (review available with photo). The sub was OK but I really could not recommend it. After the Sub we went to the Spam Jam and had a hoot. We then got dressed for dinner. We started the night at the Banyan Court for cocktails at 5:30pm, then Dukes for Dinner at 6:30pm and then the Society of Seven Show at 8:30pm.

The Banyon Court was lovely and entertainment started at 6pm. The Beach Bar was already packed at 5:30 so we sat up on the veranda looking at the entertainers side-on. The Beach Bar crowd were not interested in the entertainment and drowned out a lot of the performance. Still, it was a lovely start to the night. I had rung and booked a table by the rail at Dukes six weeks previously and it was ready on time. Sunset was lovely but too far to the west to be spectacular. We started with some more cocktails (my favourite was the Lava Flow) and then a pupu and a main. The food was good but not great. The salad bar was pretty ordinary. We were too full for desert. With 2 cocktails and the meal the tab came to about $100. Overall I was a little disappointed with the quality of the food for the price but the location made up for it. After the meal we wandered over to the Society of Seven show. This was very entertaining and had us in stitches. I did a mini review in another post recently. After the show we wandered back up the strip to the hotel, stopping at shops along the way.

Days 3 Arizona Memorial and City Tour, Ala Moana Shopping and Germaines Luau.

We were picked up promptly at 7am and given tickets to the 9:30am movie and ferry BEFORE boarding the bus. This is contrary to info we received on TA. There was no queuing on the day as we received our tickets beforehand. The Arizona memorial was emotional but well worth doing (review available). I would recommend anyone wanting to do it, to do it as a tour. At $20 per person there is no lining up, no waiting for public transport, cheaper than a cab, plus you get the city tour and Cemetery. The bus driver dropped us at the Ala Moana shopping centre and we got some shopping in plus priced up some of the bigger ticket articles we were expecting to get at the outlets the next day. Ala Moana is a great shopping centre.

At 4:30pm we were picked up for Germaines Luau (review available with photo). This was a great night and excellent value for money.

Days 4 & 5. Shopping, Beach

We took the PG Plover $10 return shuttle to the outlets. There were some bargains to be had but we found Sears at Ala Moana cheaper for things like Jeans and some shoes. Example – Levi Jeans at the outlet were $45. At Sears they were $54 less 25%, then a further 15% off for multiple items. So the same style ended up at under $35. In Australia more like $80. Some jeans were as low as $19 but we were after specific styles. The outlets were great for the grandchildren’s clothes, etc. but if you were shopping for something specific sometimes the other shops were a better buy. Generally we found VAN and NIKE shoes were less than half the price we would pay at home.

As well as The Outlets and Ala Moana, we visited Don Quixote (thanks Amberloo) and Wall Mart. Don Quixote was our favourite shop. I bought some shoes for myself at Nordstrom – that is a lovely shop.

We picked up a KitchenAid’ mixmaster for $180 at Macy’s that is valued at about $700 in Australia. Once home I picked up a small $40 transformer for it – works perfectly.

When we could we snuck in a few hours for the beach. The renew hotel have free boogie boards, towels, mats, etc for guest use. The water was beautiful. One day we took an outrigger canoe ride where they take you out and you catch three waves for $15. That was great fun and I would highly recommend you do it. No bookings necessary.

The International Marketplace was worth visiting – despite what some people have written it was clean and we felt very safe, it had quite a good ‘feel’. Most shops sold the same stuff but we found some nice souvenirs. We had a seafood plate that cost $23 (we had them add extra prawns (shrimps) so we could share the plate. It was lovely and one of the best lunches we had.

Day 6 – North Shore in a Mustang Convertible. Dinner at Hau Tree

The Hotel organised the car and hotel pickup. The rental company used was Enterprise.

We had a Mustang convertible and had the roof down most of the way as it was a beautiful day. First stop was Hanauma Bay for a snorkel. The Bay is one of the prettiest we’ve seen but the snorkelling was quite poor (review available with photo’s). We stopped at the blowhole, Chinamans hat, various shops and beaches, including sunset and pipeline. We had a great late lunch at Giovani’s shrimp truck and stopped at the Dole Pineapple Plantation for a dole whip. Traffic back in Honolulu was terrible but we made it back before the rental company closed. They then drove us back to the hotel.

A quick shower and then we walked up to the Hau Tree Lanai restaurant (full review available). This was by far, the best meal we had on Oahu. We watched a brilliant sunset over Barbers point and then the lights of Honolulu come on. A perfect spot and a perfect meal. It was great to finish our trip on such a high.

The Flower Lei from Day 1 had been in its pack in the fridge and was still in excellent order, so my wife wore it to dinner. On the way home we placed it on the Surfer boy and Seal statue across the road from the Hotel.

Day 7 – Departure

After packing we were picked up by Mark from Hawaii23 transport.

Booking was quick and easy via his web site and we had excellent email feedback when we asked a few questions. Mark picked us up on time in a comfortable A/C’ed van and loaded our not insubstantial luggage (a week of shopping will do that) into the back and unloaded it for us at the airport where he gave us a tip which saved us waiting in queues for about 45minutes. Prompt, efficient, cheap and friendly service. Highly recommended.

The Honolulu airport shopping and food court are very basic so don’t expect to do much duty free shopping or eating here.

General observations

We did a LOT of walking around, two things that I remember were the number of homeless people and the fact that after rain, water doesn’t drain away very well and we were walking across roads in 6” deep water a couple of times.

Food. Dukes was ordinary as already stated, Cheesecake factory food was ordinary but huge servings. Seafood platter at the International Marketplace was great. Shrimp plate at Giovanni’s on the Nth Shore was great – especially the garlic one. Mexican in the Ala Moana food court was spicy & nice. Masaladas from Leonards were surprisingly good. I was expecting a simple donut without the hole. We ordered 2 and the girl gave us 3 and refused to take any money for the extra one. My wife and I were both eyeing off the third one. The pineapple whip at Dole plantation was lovely. Overall the restaurant food was dearer and not as nice as we were expecting. Hau Tree made up for it all on the last night.

All tours we did were great and so professional. Hawaii Discount is a must site to visit for pricing – we booked 3 or 4 things through them. All tour buses, trolleys for the entire week turned up within a minute of the scheduled time and the drivers were all great.

Shopping was our focus and we were not disappointed. If I were to go back for a day I would do Ala Moana over the outlets. If I was back for a week at self contained accommodation I would use Don Quixote as a one stop shop. Overall, prices in Honolulu were much cheaper than in Australia plus we were getting an exchange rate of $1.06. So having arrived in Hawaii with two check-in bags we left with four.

TheBus was quick and easy – forget catching cabs. Fare was $2.50pp to anywhere. You can ask for a transfer ticket that will allow you to continue your journey on another bus with a 2hr time limit. Buses were clean and all drivers very helpful.

We loved Hawaii and will be back.

Level Contributor
499 posts
4 reviews
2 helpful votes
31. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

I see your point Dusty, but in my eyes it was the other way around.. I couldn't afford to rent a car thus did a tour. A tour was way cheaper than renting a car for even a day, so it really has nothing to do with ppl who can afford more gets better treatment. In my mind those who can rent a car are the ones with more money. So from my perspective its those with less money get better line privileges.

I know I'd be really annoyed if I arrived (by tour or by car or by the bus) and had to join a massive long line. Don't mind getting a ticket and told you have to wait a couple hours til its your turn..that can be done looking at things, walking around, sitting down to have something to eat etc. Waiting in a line would drive me mental though! lol

I guess half the issue is the info hasn't been made so readily available to all that there are tour buses that do organise tickets so their customers don't have to line up... its all about letting people make their decisions on how they will do Pearl Harbour, with all the information available to them.

South Coast NSW
Level Contributor
3,111 posts
93 reviews
50 helpful votes
32. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

I think online ticketing would be an excellent - and more realistic - way to go at Pearl Harbor. I don't see any reason why everyone - tour groups, regular people, hotels concierge desks - every man and his dog - should not be able to book a time in advance to go.

Alternatively I think only a certain percentage of tickets per tour should be able to be reserved by tour groups so that everyone gets an equal chance of getting a ticket.

There has to be a better way of running things than having people show up and have to wait a couple of hours or more to get on a tour, especially in this day and age.

After all, people walked on the moon, y'all! ;) The US haz the technologies, why not make use of them?

Corona del Mar...
Level Contributor
62,566 posts
442 reviews
777 helpful votes
33. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

I am just happy to hear an Aussie not rave about how wonderful Cheesecake Factory is. And Duke's too for that matter. I've always said that Duke's best meal is lunch or Happy Hour. There are better options out there at the same price points.

Saint Cloud...
Destination Expert
for Oahu
Level Contributor
30,393 posts
34. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

The system worked for years.

Now anyone arriving by bus or by car has to wait much longer at the expense of those paying for tours.

Totally unfair that anyone should have to wait longer in line because of commercial tours.

Level Contributor
137 posts
18 reviews
3 helpful votes
35. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

Thanks for such a thorough report! It is helpful to me because I leave for Waikiki in 2 days and will use some of your report when choosing restaurants and shopping locations. Thanks!

Level Contributor
499 posts
4 reviews
2 helpful votes
36. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

lol @scottca075... but we LIKE the Cheesecake Factory! hehehe.

I can understand if its something available to you all the time, but for me at least, the price/food options/quantity of food is NOT something I see regularly..

Understand what you say that for same price there are better eating options, but my experience was that there isn't as an extensive menu. So when you're travelling with two people, and one is a fussy eater, and one has allergies, the Cheesecake Factory is more likely to have options to please everyone. Lets not even think about the trip I took with two fussy eaters on silly diets- at least the Cheesecake Factory gave all three of us options at the meal table!

Thats why I like it. Its not the best food ever ever, but compared to what i am used to it is pretttttty good! So I do look forward to my one, maybe two meals on my holiday there!

I've said it before though, if there was a Cheescake Factory here in Sydney, I prob wouldn't go to it in Hawaii. And would prob rarely go in Sydney. Its just a Hawaii thing! hehe

Hmmmm..... now you've got me hanging out for lunch at teh Cheesecake Factory in a couple weeks! :)

South Coast NSW
Level Contributor
3,111 posts
93 reviews
50 helpful votes
37. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

Dusty said "Totally unfair that anyone should have to wait longer in line because of commercial tours."

Totally unfair that anyone should have to wait in line *at all* when they could easily have some kind of online/phone booking system where they can be given a time and date to see the movie and then go out to the Arizona memorial.

Wouldn't it be better - not just for the people wanting to go there but for the facility itself - to have the ability to know in advance how many people they are expecting on any given day?

For catering and gift shop and security and parking purposes as well as for the people who would normally have to wait in a queue?

For people who might have limited time on Oahu and want to make certain they can get on a boat out to Arizona before making the effort of going out there - and if they know in advance that there are no tours available, they can make other plans?

The technology exists and is used all over the world for all kinds of different facilities to create bookings in advance. Just because it worked for so long the same way does not mean that there isn't a better way of doing things.

If people are having to wait long times in line or are being turned away from being able to pay their respects when things could be arranged so that does not happen, wouldn't that be a good thing? :)

I'm just saying,, the technology exists, and in my opinion it should be used if possible to make things better for everyone.

Charlotte, North...
Level Contributor
626 posts
55 reviews
92 helpful votes
38. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

Thank you Oz for posting about the $20 Az Memorial tour. Thats the cheapest Ive found. We have a car but are going with this for convenience and guaranteed ticket. I suppose we'll see more doing this, too, as I wasn't planning to go by Ioloni and Punch Bowl. Hope it's not too much for my 5 year old.

Sunshine Coast...
Level Contributor
26 posts
2 reviews
39. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)

Great report and very helpfull.. weve been researching for months and have never heard of The society of Seven or the spam jam! First thing ill do is go look it up

We only have 4 days but plan on cramming in as much as possible! My friend and I are on a whirlwind round the world tour thanks to a competition win :) 4 days in 4 countrys.. Hawaii, Cancun Mexico, Mykonos Greece and Koh Samui thailand :) They have provided spending money but we will have to be pretty carefull on how we spend it to not meet with a budget crisis :) To say were excited is an understatement and looking forward to finding the best cocktails in the world!!

Saint Cloud...
Destination Expert
for Oahu
Level Contributor
30,393 posts
40. Re: Waikiki Trip Report (long)


Should anyone have to wait in line longer because others had more $$ to go on a tour?

Should anyone have to be forced to get an expensive tour to lessen the time in line?

The system worked for years.

Every visitor to Oahu has plans to do something after Pearl Harbor museums.

Why on earth should anyone have to spend many extra hours at Pearl Harbor at the expense of those who cannot afford tours?

Edited: 3:34 am, July 22, 2011