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Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

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41 posts
39 reviews
34 helpful votes
Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

This is our first trip and we don't want to miss a thing.....what are the highlights, must sees, must dos, must eats, must shops.

Would appreciate any advice. We are vegetarian and are going to be in Waikiki.

Los Angeles
Level Contributor
103 posts
1. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

How old are those traveling?? That kinda gives us an idea of what you might want to do. I myself just returned and my girlfriend and I boogie boarded all week. It was by far our favorite thing to do. Go snorkeling, that's fun too. One piece of advice, don't jam a lot of stuff into your trip. How many day's are you there? We had the best time just hanging around the ocean and pool with a nice cocktail

Steve. Also when are you going?

Level Contributor
260 posts
2. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

Look in some of the previous posts

for the Dusty list. Dusty has

everything listed and all you have

to do is print it out. Also, check

out the Oahu Revealed Book.

You can get it and Barnes and


Level Contributor
41 posts
39 reviews
34 helpful votes
3. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

we are a young couple on our first trip to Hawaii - both in our early 30s.

Peoria, Arizona
Level Contributor
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30 reviews
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4. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

We did like Steve says made a list of what we thought we wanted to see and do than numbered them. Three trips later there are still things from the list to be done, darn guess we have to go back again. The most important thing is to enjoy whatever you choose to do and take you time doing it.

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711 posts
3 reviews
11 helpful votes
5. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

If Waikiki is the "trip of a lifetime," then you might experience braincell overload from a trip to the Big Island because it is just AWESOME!

...but, if you are limited to Oahu (and should find yourself in Kailua) then try visiting "Down to Earth" on Hamakua Dr.

They've got GREAT tasting veggie food and a berry smoothy with enough antioxidant to make you void every toxin that you've encountered since kindergarten.

...and it's tasty, too!

Saint Cloud...
Destination Expert
for Oahu
Level Contributor
30,272 posts
6. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

List of things to do on Oahu

These are some hints/suggestions for things to do and see on Oahu. Many of the websites listed are good for all islands.

Arizona Memorial: (free) get there early, preferably by 8am. Opens at 7:30am. If you get there after 10am the lines can get long and you may spend 1-2 hours in line. Battleship USS Missouri and Submarine USS Bowfin are in the same area. These are about $15 each so you can go or skip them. Look for coupons in brochures for two for one. You can take pictures of them from Arizona Visitors Center and the Arizona tour ferry. Go on the lawn behind the Visitor's Center (Circle of Remembrance) for great pictures. You can also walk around the Bowfin Memorial area for free without taking the tour. Its worth the time. The Swap Meet is only a couple blocks from here at Aloha Stadium.

Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC): www.polynesia.com General Admission about $50 or the luau buffet package ($80). They also have an optional buffet (no entertainment) for $15. The evening 'Horizons' show is the best Polynesian show in all of Hawaii. It comes with all ticket price options. The higher priced ticket packages get the better seating for 'Horizons'. Also the earlier you get there, the better the seating is for 'Horizons'. The Ali'i Luau Show that is part of the luau package is also a good Polynesian show. IMAX, Canoe Pageant, Samoa and Tonga villages and Canoe ride are the best other attractions (these are included with any type ticket). Plan on this as an all day event. Get there by 1pm (earlier if possible), leave around 9:30pm. When I take visitors, I try to keep on this schedule: IMAX 1:30, Canoe Pageant 2:30, Samoa 3:00, Tonga 4:00, Canoe Ride around 4:30, regular buffet or Ali'i luau buffet 5pm and 'Horizons' at 7:30. The other villages are nice also, but there is not enough time for all of them. You will have time to do some shopping or looking around between the buffet or luau and 'Horizons'. Closed on Sundays. You can go back for free for two days. Check with PCC employees for instructions before leaving the Center if you want the extra days.

Coupon in Entertainment Book to save $36.

Diamond Head Summit: Drive right into the crater and hike to the top. ($5 per carload or $1 each if you walk into the crater). I prefer to drive in. Awesome 360 degree view from the summit. Best time is around 8am or around 4pm. In between it can get hot walking to the top. Takes about 1 - 1 1/2 hours roundtrip.

Punchbowl (National Cemetery of the Pacific): (free) While you are there, drive to the overlook area. Short walk to the summit that overlooks the entire city. If you have time, take the Mt. Tantalus/Round Top drive through a rain forest. Stop at the Puu Ualakaa State Wayside about 2/3 of the way to the top of the mountain. It has an awesome view of the city from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor. Punchbowl is near the bottom of Mt. Tantalus.

Hanauma Bay: Snorkel. Its for any age. You can rent snorkeling equipment there or some places in Waikiki or bring your own. Closed on Tuesdays. Try to get there as early as possible. If you drive, the parking lot gets filled up by 9:00 or 10:00. ($1 for parking, $5 for each person). You can reserve snorkel tours with several companies. They provide equipment, transportation, etc. They seem to have better equipment than the park does. You can also take the city bus. But the first city bus doesn't leave Waikiki until 8:30 am. Website:


Byodo-In-Temple (Valley of the Temples): $2 each. Just past Kaneohe. Haiku Gardens in Kaneohe is close by.

Chinaman's Hat: (free) Kualoa Regional Park is just past Byodo-In-Temple. Nice for pictures, picnic, swimming. Also nearby is Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet just before Kualoa Regional Park. Kualoa Ranch is across the street.

Swap Meet: You can buy almost any souvenirs here much cheaper than anywhere else. All items are new. Vendors wrap around the stadium twice. Located at Aloha Stadium near Arizona Memorial. Open Wed, Sat, Sun.

Hilo Hattie's: Nice place to shop. Higher prices than swap meet, but not too much more on many items. Has good selection of clothing, candies and souvenirs. Check brochures for coupons. Can take free Hilo Hattie's shuttle from Waikiki.

Ala Moana Beach Park: (free) Nice beach. Great sunset location in the winter. Walk all the way out to the end of Magic Island. Great view of Waikiki, Diamond Head, Ala Wai Boat Harbor (shown in opening scene of Gilligan's Island).

Hike to Manoa Falls: $5 for parking at Treetops. One mile one way. Short hike through a rain forest. Also small bamboo forest there. Treetops restaurant there (at the previous Paradise Park site) has a good Chinese buffet. Lyon Arboretum is nearby. It is a nice botanical garden. You can park there and walk a short distance to Manoa Falls trail.

Hike to Makapuu Point Lighthouse: (free) Great view from here. Easy one mile hike. In winter months (mid-November to mid-April) it's great for whale watching.

Other Hiking on Oahu:

http://www.hawaiitrails.org/ (good for all islands)




North Shore Beaches: Haleiwa, Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach), Waimea Beach, Sunset Beach, Shark's Cove (Pupukea) and Laniakea Beach. Laniakea Beach has sea turtles. Other nice stops for pictures in the area. Can be huge waves in winter. Good snorkeling at Shark's Cove in the summer. Laniakea Beach is located about 1/2 way between Waimea Bay and Haleiwa.

Other beaches: There are close to 100 beaches on Oahu. Besides North Shore and Waikiki beaches these are some of the better ones: Makaha Beach (west shore), Waimanalo Beach, Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area, Lanikai Beach, Sandy Beach, Hanauma Bay and Kailua Beach (east/Windward side), Ala Moana Beach Park (south shore). All public beaches are free except Haunama Bay.

Dole Pineapple Plantation: On H-2 just past Wahiawa. Can visit on the way to or back from the North Shore. Nice gift shop to browse, but expensive. Go behind the center for pineapple exhibits, gardens and carp feeding pond.

Kualoa Ranch: Several movies have been set here: (Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young and others), ATV rides, horseback riding, tours. Located across from Kualoa Regional Park. Several tours available.

Waikiki: Beaches, shopping, dining, nightclubs, shows, some museums. Wide range in dining prices. $3-4 breakfasts, $6-10 lunch buffets, $20-$25 fine dining and anywhere in between. Best Waikiki shows: Creation: A Polynesian Journey, John Hirokawa's Magic of Polynesia, Society of Seven, Blue Hawaii (Elvis impersonator), many more to chose from. Many Waikiki shows offer cocktail show along with the dinner show. They seat you after everyone else has eaten. Regular price of shows around $40-$60. Cocktail show about $25-$35. There are several other short free hula shows and other demonstrations in Waikiki daily. Check the brochures for location, days and times. Check brochures and Entertainment Book for coupons for shows/dining/shopping, etc.

Downtown Area: Aloha Tower (take elevator to the top, nice view), Chinatown, Hawaii Maritime Center, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, other museums.

Botanical Gardens: Oahu has many botanical gardens. Most are free, the others charge a few bucks. Haiku Garden in Kaneohe is nice and is a nice stop if you are taking an island driving tour. Located near Byodo-In-Temple (Valley of the Temples).

Here is a nice site for gardens in the state:

http://www.hawaii.edu/sciref/botgarden.html (all islands)

Check brochures or get info on-line for others. Search: oahu botanical gardens

Other: Sea Life Park, Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Children's Discovery Center, dinner cruises, whale watching cruise, submarine tours, parasailing, helicopter tours, horseback riding, Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, scuba, surfing lessons, other luau shows (Germaine's, Paradise Cove, Royal Hawaiian). Many other attractions, things to do. Check the brochures.

Brochures: (free) Can be found in the airport baggage claim area or at hundreds of news stands throughout Waikiki, in hotels, in stores, and at some attractions. These are excellent "things to do and see" guide books (maps, attractions, beaches, dining, night clubs, etc.). There are a lot of coupons in these for dining, shopping, etc. The best brochures are: 'This Week on Oahu', 'Oahu Gold', '101 Things Oahu', 'The BEST of Oahu'. Some of these brochures can also be found for other islands (Maui, Kauai, Big Island) unique to that island. Most of these brochures also have on-line versions.


www.thisweek.com 'This Week On Oahu' They will send up-to-date brochures for a few bucks. Also This Week Maui, Kauai, Big Island.

www.spotlighthawaii.com 'Oahu Gold' They will send up-to-date brochures for a few bucks. Also Maui Gold, Big Island Gold, Kauai Gold.

www.gohawaii.com This is the official site for Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. They will send a free brochure.

www.101thingstodo.com '101 Things to do on Oahu'. Also Maui, Big Island, Kauai.

www.visit-oahu.com Oahu Visitors Bureau, for free brochure 1-877-525-6248 (toll free)

www.hawaii.com Good site for comparing hotel locations, prices, etc.

www.hawaiiweb.com (all islands)

www.alternative-hawaii.com (all islands) Good narrative drive guide w/photos




www.honolulu.hawaii.edu/tours (driving and walking tours)

www.driveguidemagazines.com Good island maps including many detailed maps. Also good restaurant guide. Good for all islands

www.discoveringhawaii.com Free (pdf) circle island tour map. Also free (pdf) download Oahu movie location map.

www.bookit.com Compare hotels



www.honoluluadvertiser.com one of two main Honolulu newspapers, has dining and entertainment guides, TGIF calendar

www.starbulletin.com one of two main Honolulu newspapers, also has dining and entertainment guides

Automobiles: Oahu is the only island that you can get around by bus. Oahu has a good bus system, but a rental vehicle gets around a lot better. Parking in Waikiki can be a problem at times. If you plan on renting a car, make sure your hotel allows parking at the hotel or in a nearby lot or garage. Get the parking pass at the hotel registration area. Probably $10-$15/day to park at the hotel. You can get city bus passes at any ABC store in Waikiki for $20 for 4 days ($40/month). Or you can pay $2.00 per trip. There are also many shuttles, tour buses and vans and trolleys that go to many places (some are free). Also 1 or 4 day Waikiki Trolley passes available.



Internet Search Engines: Use Yahoo, Google, Dogpile or any other search engine to find information on any thing else on Oahu (or other island) that may interest you. Type in: hiking hawaii, hiking oahu, bed and breakfast oahu, condominiums oahu, botanical gardens oahu, oahu hotels or any other terms that will get you information.

Hotels: Most hotels (or hotel chains) have their own 800 numbers and/or websites:




, etc. Or you can use a search engine to find the website or use the search engine's yellow pages for the phone number.

For more lodging options: www.vrbo.com

Entertainment Book

Entertainment books for Hawaii and many other locations can be purchased online at:


They cost around $35-$40 plus shipping or if you wait until mid-March, the price is reduced to about $25 (or less) with free shipping, $15 after mid-May. Expires November 1.

Coupons include half price tickets for John Hirokawa's Magic Show. Hundreds of other coupons for reduce price luaus, shopping, dining, movies, attractions, etc. The Hawaii book also has many mainland coupons for hotels, car rentals, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.

Saint Cloud...
Destination Expert
for Oahu
Level Contributor
30,272 posts
7. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

Here are two driving tours on Oahu.

You can combine the two if you want, but it is better to split them especially if you make frequent stops and want some beach/dining/shopping time.

1. Mini-circle island tour.

Start in Waikiki:

Diamond Head Lookout and Lighthouse on Diamond Head Road.

Continue on Diamond Head Road. When Diamond Head Road turns to go around Diamond Head, go straight on Kahala Ave. This will go through a residential area with nice houses. (Note): You can also take Diamond Head around to the entrance to Diamond Head. Even if you cannot do the hike, you can go through the tunnel into the crater to see what it looks like. Turn around just before the pay booth. Also Kapiolani Community College (KCC) has a nice cactus display. KCC is almost straight across from the entrance to Diamond Head.

After about 2 miles on Kahala Ave, turn left onto Keala'olu Ave (just before Kahala Hotel and Resort, formerly Kahala Mandarin Hotel).

Take Keala'olu Ave to Kalaniana'ole Hwy (72).

Continue around island to Hanauma Bay (don't need to go to the visitors center). You can get some excellent views and pictures from the steps and lookouts that go up and to the left of the visitors center. $1 for parking.

Continue to Halona Blowhole and Halona Cove (From Here to Eternity Beach) next to it. Halona Blowhole lookout also overlooks Sandy Beach.

Sandy Beach - Nice beach.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail - Just past Sandy Beach and just after the road turns inland, look for a gate and a paved trail on the right. Trail is about 1 mile one way. You can often see whales from near the lighthouse.

Continue to Makapuu Pt. Lookout. Overlooks Manana (Rabbit) Island and Makapuu Beach and Sea Life Park.

Continue to Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area (just past Waimanalo Beach). Scenic isolated beach (just before Bellows AFB). Bellows Beach is also nice. Open to the public on weekends.

Continue to Highway 61 (Pali Highway). Make a left onto Pali Highway. Take it back to Honolulu, stopping at Pali Lookout.

Note: If you were to make a right onto Pali Hwy (63), you could go to Kailua and Lanikai Beaches. You can stop there with either tour.

2. Circle island tour.

Start in Waikiki:

Take McCully or Kapahulu to H-1 West

Take Pali Highway (61) across to Kaneohe. Stop at Pali Lookout.

Continue to Kaneohe. Make a left onto Highway (83) to Kaneohe (or go straight if you want to go to Kailua and Lanikai Beaches).

At the far side of Windward Mall in Kaneohe, make a left onto Haiku Road. Take Haiku Rd. across Kahekili Highway to Haiku Gardens. The botanical garden is just below Haleiwa Joe's Restaurant. Nice small Botanical garden with a Koi pond. It's free.

Go back to Kahekili Hwy. Turn left. Go about two miles. Turn left into Valley of the Temples (Byodo-In Temple). Very Scenic.

Back to Kahekili Hwy. Continue around the island. In a mile or so Kahekili Hwy will end and intersect with Kamehameha Hwy (83). Continue around the island to Haleiwa.

Stops on Kamehameha Hwy:

Kualoa Regional Park/Chinaman's Hat (nice for pictures). There is a Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet on the right just before Kualoa Park. Nice stop for free samples, coffee trees, macadamia trees. They have an inexpensive tour if you want. Kualoa Ranch is across from Kualoa Park.

In Laie, make a right at the stoplight. Go to Laie Pt. Scenic, good for pictures. Polynesian Cultural Center is in Laie. Also Mormon Temple is in Laie.

Just past Laie, is Makaekahana State Recreation Area. Scenic with an isolated beach and several islands.

Kahuku - Several shrimp trucks including Giovanni's. Romy's is just on the other side of Kahuku. Those are the two most popular shrimp trucks.

North Shore Beaches:

Sunset Beach Park

Ehukai Beach Park (Banzai Pipeline)

Pupukea Beach Park (Shark's Cove) Scenic with lots of small lava islands. Nice for snorkeling in the summer. If you make a left on Pupukea Road (at the stoplight), go up the hill and park off to the side where the road to the Heiau starts. Walk back on Pupukea Road about 1/2 block for great view of some of the beaches. Then drive to the end of the road to the Heiau about 1 mile) and park in the Heiau parking area. Take the short (about 1 block) red dirt trail straight ahead for a nice view of Waimea Bay.

Waimea Bay Beach Park - Best scenic beach on the north shore.

Laniakea Beach - About 1/2 way between Waimea Bay and Haleiwa. Look for parking on the opposite side of the road. Several sea turtles are here. This is also called Lani's Beach or Turtle Beach.

Just before Haleiwa, make a left onto the bypass to Honolulu. (Go through Haleiwa if you have more time). Take Highway 99 to Honolulu. Follow signs to Honolulu. You will pass Dole Pineapple Center. Stop there if you have time.

Continue to Honolulu.

Here are three sites/links with driving tour info:

www.discoveringhawaii.com Free (pdf) download Circle Island Driving tour map. Also free (pdf) download Oahu movie location map.

http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/tours/ Good driving and walking tours.

www.alternative-hawaii.com Good narrative drive guide w/photos.

www.driveguidemagazines.com Good maps including some detailed maps.

Cincinnati, Ohio
Level Contributor
823 posts
212 reviews
166 helpful votes
8. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

Will you be able to get out of Waikiki? I only ask because Waikiki is similar to Miami or any other tropical major city.... not the "Hawaii" I pictured in my dreams. Try to move around a little bit, maybe head over to Maui...

Level Contributor
41 posts
39 reviews
34 helpful votes
9. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

We will be spending only 3 days in Waikiki/Oahu, otherwise we will be in Maui for 4 days and Kona for 2 days.

Maitland, Florida
Level Contributor
3 posts
49 reviews
13 helpful votes
10. Re: Things not to miss for a trip of a lifetime

On Maui, THE must do is ride a bike down Haleakala. There are many bike companies to choose from -- Google to compare. You start by getting picked up at an insane hour at your hotel -- 2:30am or so, go to the bike place where you get outfitted, then begin the drive up the mountain. You reach the summit pre-dawn and watch the sun rise above the couds. It is very cold and windy, but a spectacular sight. The first groups to reach the summit are the first to begin riding -- which is why you start out so early.

The ride is not strenuous -- mostly you ride the hand brake. You pause for breakfast half way down. The terrain levels out somewhat after that and your smell pineapples and lavender as you continue the ride down to sea level.

One of the most fun things I've EVER done.