I recently spent 8 days in Honolulu with my husband, Norm. We are a couple "of a certain age", retired and love to get away to warm weather. We have been to Honolulu several times before and always have a great time. This time we stayed at the Aqua Bamboo, a few blocks from the beach. It is well run, clean, centrally located and was a good value when we were shopping on Cyber Monday in November of 2012.
Tips - Use "The Bus", check out their website. You can plan out any trip from beginning to end. The buses are on time and the drivers are helpful and if you are 65 or older any ride is only $1.00. There is so much to see in the Waikiki area, from Kapiolani Park to Ala Moana Park and Ala Moana Mall but it involves a lot of walking to do it all. Take the bus one way and then amble back toward your hotel.
Don't get sunburned. We got a little too much sun the first day, even though we know better. Use sunscreen everywhere on your body if you are at the beach, even if you are in the shade or if it's cloudy. It doesn't do any good to have sunscreen if you leave it in your beach bag.
Things to do - We rented a car for 3 days. Day 1, drove to the North Shore by way of Hawaii Kai, checking out beach parks along the way. There is a fruit stand between Turtle Bay Resort and Sunset Beach where you can buy some fresh fruit for lunch, also there are the popular shrimp trucks. Stop at Dole Plantation on the way back on highway 99 for a Dole Whip and clean restrooms.
Day 2, We bought a take out lunch at Char Hung Sut (see below) and drove over the Pali Highway to Kailua. Heading east you will pass Queen Emma's Palace. Shortly afterward you will see a sign to Nu'uanu Drive. This is about a 2 mile side road that goes through a rain forest and then joins the main road, very pretty. Further on is the Pali Lookout. You do have to pay to park there to look at the view. Kailua Beach Park is a nice place to spend some time; rent a kayak, swim or just sit and enjoy. Nearby is Lanikai Beach which is where President Obama and his family spend their vacation. You need to park alongside the road and walk a short beach access trail to the beach. It is a beautiful beach but has no facilities. Look on the internet for directions.
Day 3, We drove to Lyon Arboretum, only about 6 miles from Waikiki. It is a beautiful park with lots of trails. Walk up to Inspiration Point, you will not regret it. The only problem is that it is in an area prone to rain. Last year we were rained out. After the park we decided to check out Chinatown. Not a must-do but we found a great frappe shop (Summer Frappe, see below). Another beautiful car trip that we have done in the past is the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden.
Be sure you get a map from the car agency where you rent a car. It is not great but it does cover the Island of Oahu.
Quilting Class - If you enjoy sewing at all, take in a quilting class. I really like the classes given by Poakalani on Saturday mornings at the Iolani Palace. They are just the nicest people with Aloha spirit wanting to share their art of Hawaiian Quilting. See their website, www.poakalani.net.
Read the forum and search the internet, you will find many more good ideas for things to do on Oahu.
Eating and Drinking - Our favorites this year.
Jinroku - We love Jinroku, sit at the bar and watch the guys cook. They are skilled and friendly and will answer your questions. Prices are moderate for some things but you can splurge if you want.
Marukame Udon - A great place. You will stand in line, tell them what kind of udon you want, get your udon, choose some tempura to go along with it, pay your money and look for a table. It was a little intimidating the first time we went but it is so good and reasonably priced.
Duke's Canoe Club - If you want a good table, reserve from home several weeks before you arrive. Norm had great prime rib, my fish was cooked with lots of butter but tasty.
Bistro A Un - Kind of different, all the dishes are a la carte and we had some trouble deciding what to order but we ended up with a nice meal.
Shorebird Beach Broiler - We went here our first night after Happy Hour. The Sunset Special 8oz steak and salad bar was good for $15.00 each. You have to cook your own steak and it is pretty smoky around the grill.
California Pizza - It is what it is, right on Kalakaua, decent pizza. Saved the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Ah Lang, aka Angry Korean Lady - Great Korean food. A one woman restaurant where there are RULES! We have been there twice. Last year she had had a stressful day. It is hard to describe what it was like, but I can say there was lots of salty language going on, along with the good food. She ended up getting up on a chair and singing. It was an experience we will not forget. This year she was more subdued (Norm was disappointed) but we enjoyed our dinners very much. Read Yelp so you know what you are getting into.
Cheeseburger in Paradise - Great location, good Happy Hour, edible food. We scored a table by the window so were able to watch the sunset.
Leonard's Bakery - must do for malasadas. Expect to stand in line again.
Char Hang Sut - takeout dim sum, excellent
Summer Frappe - two doors down from Char Hang Sut, frappes are half the price of Waikiki. Pineapple tapioca and fresh cut up pineapple, are also way cheaper than at ABC or Food Pantry.
Breakfast - We never did go out for breakfast. To us, it is time-consuming and expensive. I like to get up early so after getting ready for the day, I would go for a walk and then to Starbucks or St. Germaine Bakery for muffins, bagels or sweet rolls, ABC or Food Pantry for some fruit and we would eat on our balcony. We had a fridge so we had juice and milk. I also tried Iyasume Musubi a couple of days for takeout musubi. For less than $3.00 you get a musubi made of rice and spam with several different options.
Happy Hours - Shorebird, McGillicuddy's, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Tiki's, Yardhouse, many more. Do some research on the internet. No sense in paying full price if you don't have to.
All in all, we love Waikiki. It is easy to get away from the crowds and there is so much to do and see. Walk to any kind of restaurant. In the morning it is peaceful and quiet. Kapiolani Park and the beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village are spacious and beautiful.