I actually was not very excited about going to Hawaii, I usually like less developed places and so I had strong reservations about going (so why did I go? I love holidays and my husband was keen). The verdict – I loved it! On the way home we were talking about the highlights and it included nearly everything, it was so hard to pick as we loved so many things.
Below are some of the things we did on Oahu and places we ate etc. I got a lot of information from the forum before our departure so thought I would provide something back. A bit of background – 1st trip to any USA state for me and 1st trip to Hawaii for hubby. We are a childfree couple in our late 30’s/early 40’s.
Flight – we flew Jetstar from Sydney to Honolulu, on time and even though I don’t like overnight flights it was great to arrive early morning and be able to do some things on that day. Our 1st shock on arrival was the friendly lady at immigration; I’ve travelled quite extensively and never got as much as a smile.
Hire car – we rented our car from the airport outlet of Dollar but booked through Traveljigsaw to make sure we had the right insurance coverage for an Australian. The cost was $292 for the 7 days which included the GPS (to save our marriage and we both agreed that it was money well spent).
The drive from the airport to the condo, I don’t think I breathed, driving on the opposite side was a new experience for my hubby and I kept feeling like he was too far to the right (which is fine at home but not when I’m next to the kerb). We only ended going on the wrong side twice and there were no cars around so all ok.
We were really glad we hired the car for many reasons but being able to go where we wanted when we wanted was great, especially to Ala Moana and the Premium Outlets and then just shove all the shopping in the boot.
Condo – we stayed in a studio apartment in the Pacific Monarch building and were so happy with our choice. It saved us about $150 a night over staying in a hotel on the beach but we were only 100 metres walk away and we still had an amazing beach view. Also the Condo came stocked with everything we could need (beach chairs, towels, umbrella etc. etc.). I was worried about having to tidy up as I don’t do housework on holidays but really it was 2 minutes to make the bed and wash up our tea/coffee mugs, so no big deal and gave us more money for cocktails. I’m definitely converted to condos and would stay in one again.
Things we did
Bishop Museum – a long bus ride (we should have driven but I wasn’t sure are parking) but a great museum and gives a good overview of Hawaiian history and culture.
Pearl Harbour – we purchased the 1 day passport about 3 months before leaving and so got the time slot we wanted (10am). We got to the Visitor Centre about 8.40am and so had plenty of time to pick up our tickets and see the submarine and attached museum. We both really enjoyed the sub (I felt very brave being claustrophobic) and it made me really think about everything service men and women do for us – it’s not just about being willing to die for your country but also the life you have to live every day and things you give up. Definitely could not live in a submarine but a really thank you to those that do.
The memorial was of course very moving and definitely a must see.
I was blown away by the MS Missouri, I have never been on a big naval ship before and so found that fascinating.
We also went to the Pacific Aviation Museum and liked poking about in the old planes. We had lunch at the café there and it was a convenient and most decent spot.
Hawaii Food tours – we did both the ‘Hole in the Wall’ and the ‘North Shore’ food tours and loved them both. Not only was it amazing to try so many different foods, we got to learn a lot about the culture from our guides, who is both cases, were fantastic. I will post a separate review on Tripadvisor but just to say these days were a highlight. Some DEs bag doing a tour but as someone from overseas I felt I learnt a lot and it will allow me to dive in head first into the food scene next time.
Gypsy App – we used the app for our beaches/volcano tour which we changed slightly as we were doing Diamond Head Crater on a later date. I really wished that we had time to do the full island tour if the beaches tour was anything to go by. It was like having a local friend in the back seat pointing out the interesting spots. Money well spent and I would definitely use the app for other islands in Hawaii.
Diamond Head Crater – I am scared of heights (the kind where I sort of want to jump) and claustrophobic, so I was pleased with myself for getting up to the top and back. I do feel a bit sorry for anyone in my path as I was not stopping for anything, especially in the tunnel, but yes the views were amazing and very worth it. We started out at about 6.30am, I realise it would be hotter later but based on the tour groups I think I would go later next time.
Waikiki Rigger Sunset Sail – fantastic 1.5 hour sail with the most amazing sunset. The supplied cocktails were good and strong (I may have over indulged a little/lot). We met a lovely couple from Pennsylvania who were getting married the next day, so that made the trip a lot more special too. The lights looking back over Waikiki were so beautiful, a really wonderful experience (cost was $42 each – we didn’t bother trying to ease a voucher or anything as I wanted to book online and save the hassle).
Shopping – I don’t like shopping in Australia, nothing seems to fit and it’s usually a bit depressing, so I avoid it unless desperate. I actually enjoyed my shopping trips in Oahu but then I still have a limit of about 4 hours and then I want to do something else. I had a lot of success at Ala Moana with the most horrible shopping purchase of all – jeans – I got two pairs so was super happy (don’t even need to take them up which is a bonus). We went wild at the GAP outlet at the Premium Outlets and also at the Nine West, Sketches and Calvin Klein shops. We used the voucher book which saved us a bit and also an online GAP voucher for an extra 10% off ($70 off – lots of cocktails for me!). We drove to both shopping centres and I was really glad, don’t think I could be bothered with a shuttle/transfer, also it meant we took our beach stuff with us and then didn’t have to go back to Waikiki, we just headed off to the Windward side (I loved Lanikai beach and the town of Kailua).
Eating – I was really worried about the food and coming back 2 sizes larger (I have no off switch, so if the plate is huge I’m eating the lot) but I didn’t need to worry. We generally had breakfast in the condo (we did eat out twice as we wanted to try an American and a Local breakfast), a light lunch out and then sunset cocktails before moving on for dinner (usually pupus to share instead of getting an entrée).
La Mariana Sailing Club – authentic, a bit dusty, good drinks and nibbles – definitely a sight to see before it disappears
Cheesecake Factory – better than expected, very nice food, had to try the cheesecake (Key Lime as that something I’ve never had), wouldn’t have it again as very rich but enjoyed the experience. I did prefer the places along the beach though as the breeze was so nice. It was a bit stuffy in here which meant I didn’t feel inclined to hang around.
P.F. Changs – enjoyed our food and cocktails and had a good atmosphere.
Lulu’s – loved the more laid back vibe here and the live music; looking out to the beach was pretty fab too. We both thought the food, service and cocktails were very good
Tiki’s – my favourite, again I just really liked the vibe, I totally felt like I was in paradise. Live music, ocean breeze, good food, great service – ticked every box for me.
Alan Wong’s – really happy we got to go here as I wanted to try some local fusion type food and we weren’t disappointed. For me the only downside was the only bad service we had – it wasn’t totally bad but just very odd. I think the server (let’s call him V) thought he was better than us – not sure why as he does not know either of us. He made me feel very uncomfortable when I ordered a glass of sparkling wine – and no I wasn’t drunk, it was my 1st drink of the day; he sort of gave us the 3rd degree, I did ask him if there was a problem but he just sort of smirked. So would I go back, no but I would like to try the Pineapple Room and I am sure if the server was nicer it would be a much better experience.
Helena’s – a great experience, we loved Kailua Pig and trying Lomi Salmon and the beef brisket. We caught the bus and it took forever (and there was parking available); I would go back but drive. They obviously get a lot of tourists so made us feel very comfortable with trying new foods.
Rainbow Drive-in – for Loco Moco for breakfast, yum, odd but delicious and cheap too, definitely kept us going for a while. Hubby was a bit dubious but afterwards agreed it was something we had to do. Now back home I think he wants to make it here.
Moke’s Bread and Breakfast – my 1st Reubin sandwich and I’m converted, or maybe just to their’s. A very cute little place.
Big City Diner – Hubby needed to have an American hamburger, the burger was good didn’t think the surrounds were too exciting, probably better for families. Ticked off the list but would go to Real at the Ward Centre next time instead – food looked so good there.
Wailana Coffee House – Hubby other wish was for some American style pancakes for breakfast, I wish I had taken a photo of the look on his face when they arrived with the egg on top. Do American’s put the sweet syrup on top of the egg?? He pushed the egg to the side and ate that separately. I had a Hawaiian breakfast with beef hash as I didn’t know what that was. All the food was good, tasty and reasonably priced, service was a bit off but fine really. Good fun to be in a sort of diner like we see on TV.
Had drinks at Shorebird (also ate there but I was so drunk I don’t remember much – I think the salad may have been really tasty), Dukes and HWAK. Lots of other places I wanted to try and we just didn’t have time.
Tipping – we just tipped 20%, it was easier to work out and everyone was right, it’s much cheaper than OZ to eat out so we didn’t really notice the extra amount. We tipped by using our credit card and adding to the bill. We hardly ever used cash as we weren’t in a hotel and only caught the bus once, so we paid for most things on card.