This was our first trip to Hawaii (couple in our early 30s from Sydney). We have been to mainland US a few times before. This was a last minute trip so didn’t have an itinerary or anything planned. I loved Waikiki beach, the palm trees, colour of the water and sand – just like in the pictures. Waikiki itself reminded us of a combination of the Gold Coast (Australia) and Miami (Florida), with a twist of Vegas at night (it may of just been that we were there at a busy time). We particularly liked how laid back it was, board shorts and tank tops woo hoo!
I knew it was going to be busy but we probably wouldn’t go back at this exact time again for that reason.
Most surprising thing – our estimation that only about 5-10% of people wear helmets when riding bicycles or motorcycles! (This is unheard of in Australia!). We were most amused that every other shop was an ABC store (slight exaggeration!).
Definitely recommend renting a car, much more convenient, can do what you want, when you want (save the cost of boring tours, stuck with annoying people!). Australians and others that drive on the opposite side of the road – it really isn’t that big of a deal!!! Oahu is tiny and is easy to get around compared to the distances we’re used to!
24th December – Arrived at 6am, picked up our jeep from Alamo at the airport and checked in at the double tree by Alana Waikiki (our home for 8 days). We had a nice room on the top floor; hotel is nice overall, used the fitness centre and pool a couple of times. Hotel is in a convenient location for walking into Waikiki beach area, up to the Ala Moana mall and through the Hilton village to access that end of the beach. Only negative, parking is expensive at $30 a night and with valet only option tipping adds on more.
We had a quick nap and shower before heading to the Wailana coffee house for breakfast/lunch. Love the diner aspect (reminds me of the diners we see in movies), and food is consistent and cheap. Grabbed a coffee at kimo bean (thanks to recommendations on here, great coffee – latte is like a flat white in Sydney!). We then drove to Aloha stadium and spent the afternoon at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (College Football game). This was a great start to our holiday including the half time Hawaiian entertainment – I loved the kids doing the hula dancing, and fire throwing. Returned to the hotel and walked up Kalakaua Ave. We had no luck getting into places to eat (without a long wait!), so had to settle for extremely mediocre Thai at Keo’s Thai (do not recommend).
25th December – Christmas day, we slept in late – it was kind of strange not having the family thing to do, so kind of felt like any other day (which was not a bad thing!). Spent most of the day checking out Waikiki, wandering around the different shopping areas, buying ourselves Christmas gifts (hehe). We managed to get a table at a packed Dukes, had a few drinks and shared sashimi and enchiladas. I now see what everyone was raving above when referring to Dukes, great place on the beach and good live music (particularly liked it when they did a Hawaiian rendition of Land Down Under). We swam outside dukes till sunset; the water was beautiful! We had dinner at Cheeseburger Waikiki, conveniently next to our hotel with good burgers, and good service.
26th December – Drove to Waikele outlet mall for shopping. We were most interested in Calvin Klein and gym gear. We then continued up to the North Shore, firstly having a delicious shimp truck meal. We checked out Hale’iwa town and then by sheer luck managed to get a park at each of the beaches - Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beaches (it was for the most part bumper to bumper traffic). I got to see the shore break, which was most impressive – and one of the main goals of coming to Hawaii at this time! We returned via Hale’iwa town, stopping for a nice dinner and sunset at Jameson’ by the Sea.
27th December – This was a last minute trip, so USS Arizona online bookings were booked out. We arrived at Pearl Harbour early, just after 7. Luckily I heeded the advice on this forum, as the line was already quite long. The line moved quite quickly, but the earliest time available was 1.45. We were concerned about losing our park if we left so we also did the USS Missouri and USS Bowfin tours. We had a fair amount of waiting around time, so made for an extremely long day but was definitely worth it. All was good and worthwhile; we both particularly like the submarine. We returned to Waikiki via a tour of the BJ Penn UFC gym (my partner is very much into UFC, he does jiu jitsu and we both do Muay Thai at home). We both enjoyed our dinners, and the atmosphere at the Hard Rock Café (I don’t usually like the food, and find them a little too cheesy but this one was quite good).
28th December – In the morning we went to Kahala beach, which was really nice, not many people and appeared as mostly locals. Returned to Waikiki for a delicious Acai bowl at Island Vintage Coffee (I love these, I feel like one now!). We then spent the rest of the afternoon watching the UFC at the round table pizza, which turned out to be quite fun as we were chatting with a table of Americans we shared the table with. Unfortunately we ended the night with a disappointing meal at Tony Roma’s ribs. Ribs and baked potato was dry, and there was also an over powering cleaning smell in the restaurant.
29th December – My partner went to a jiu jitsu class at the UFC gym, which he enjoyed and got to chat with some more locals. I used the hotel gym and pool. We then walked back up to Waikiki, grabbing a coffee at Gorilla in the Café (also has good coffee – when their machine was working!). We finally got to eat at Cheesecake Factory for lunch (waits had been for over an hour). Food was delicious and large servings (a little too large!). Watched the rest of the Chargers game (making the playoffs – we are chargers fans, after going to a game in San Diego). We then spent the rest of the day on the beach walking the length of the beach back to the Hilton Village. Finally we caught on and made a dinner reservation at Benihana of Tokyo. We had a great night, chef was entertaining and the food was good!
30th December – Today we decided to go on another drive to some different beaches. Hanauma Bay was already full in the morning so we continued to Kailua and Lanikai beaches. Kailua was nice, and Lanikai was OK. I was just surprised because my guidebook says this beach gets voted as one of the best beaches in the world. It may have been that it was overcast and a bit of a cooler day. We ate lunch at Buzz’s Original Steak House, sitting at the bar was fun and my fish taco was delicious. We easily got into Hanauma Bay for an afternoon of snorkelling – now this was a really nice bay and the skies had cleared! At night we went and checked out the Sports Authority in Honolulu, and then had a really delicious meal at Little Village Noodle House at China Town.
31st December – Sadly our last day, so we got up early and walked up Diamond Head. Was a really nice walk with great views, and interesting history. We had breakfast at Wailana Coffee house (again), and walked up to Ala Moana mall via Kimobean coffee for a little bit more shopping. In the afternoon we did stand up paddle board and then again early dinner at Cheeseburger Waikiki. We finished our trip sitting on the beach for the fireworks at Waikiki.
1st December – very early departure to return our rental and fly out at 8.15am.
Sorry, this was longer than intended. Attempted to give a brief overview of doable things in 8 days!