Oahu is not the biggest, but the most densly inhabited island. It is the seat of the state government and the US-Marine as well as the Airforce have large bases here. In the Honolulu metropolitan area live almost a million people.
Waikiki Beach, skyscrapers on one of the worlds best known beaches
Waikiki Beach is the touristic center. When I first came here I thought that the lively center around Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues is just another city on the ocean, but didn’t have it’s own flair. When I came back a couple of years later I realized that the city is working hard on creating it’s very own atmosphere and therefore made it something real special. It was much cleaner and everywhere renovations went on. Thus they cleaned the areas that were not that nice. With the Beachwalk they had even built a new road with shops and restaurants that is a great place for a stroll. Nowadays this cleaning up is a bit overdone for my taste and the city is trying to create an oasis of luxury. The International Market Place, a market with booths selling souvenirs had to go to and make space for a new luxury mall. The final outcome will be that tourists with a regular budget won’t be able to afford to stay in Waikiki anymore. The speculators have taken over.
Downtown Honolulu, a bit away from the masses
But at the moment there are still a few affordable hotels to get acclimatized for a couple of days. The locals have now rediscovered the center of Honolulu which is located a bit more inland and you will find a lot of clubs and restaurants. During the day there is also quite a lot to do in downtown. For one thing you can go and visit Chinatown, but there is also a lot of Hawaiian history to be discovered. Honolulu has the only royal palace in the United States and the Bernice P. Bishop Museum displays the worlds largest collection of Polynesian art. Those who prefer to be on the beach could opt for Waikiki Beach. Here you can learn to surf, paddle in an Outrigger canoe and get acquainted with Stand up paddling. I personally think that there are too many people on this tiny stretch of beach. But the closer you get to Diamond Head the wider and calmer the beach. Therefore I would recommend to take a bus or a stroll before you place you blanket on the beach.
Waikiki, a shoppers paradise
If you want to go shopping, you should definitively go to Kalakaua Avenue. Here you will find a wide variety from expensive designer stores to the omnipresent ABC-Stores. They are a mixture between supermarket/deli and souvenirshop. So if you are in need of a snack or new sunscreen this is the place to go. If you want to spend more than just a few days on Oahu, I would recommend to book an appartment. This way you can prepare your own breakfast and dinner easily. On my first visit I just did that and had a tuna steak and salad every night. Delicious!
Just a few minutes drive from Waikiki towards the airport is the Ala Moana Mall. A large shopping center with over 190 shops and restaurants. Here you will find a variety of expensive designer stores, but also the most common American labels for casual wear. It’s worth to spend an afternoon there and to look for a sale. It is not really bargain hunting, but not really overprized either. My favorite shop is Hilo Hatties . A souvenir shop that offers better quality than the ABC-stores. This is where I bought my Alohashirts. A little note concerning souvenirs. In almost all stores they offer seeds and seedlings of typical Hawaiian plants. I think that’s a cool idea. Who wouldn’t love to have a hibiscus or plumeria in his own living room. But you will have to hide them well in your luggage, cause it’s not allowed to take them outside the US. The official reason for it is that the officials want to prevent the islands from plant illnesses to be imported. But shouldn’t they than rather check your bags when you are coming to the islands and not when you’re leaving?
Aloha Tower Market Place
A bit further down the road direction airport is the Aloha Tower Marketplace. Here you will find a few more shops, but what makes this area special is the fact that it is very popular among the locals with a variety of movie theaters, bars and restaurants. This is also the terminal for cruise ships and boat trips. I once was on one of those daily boat tours and when we finally reached the open sea, we were accompanied by a rather large school of dolphins.
You will come across those funny guys pretty often without having to visit an aquarium or zoo. I could watch them for hours when they are swimming next to a boat and entertain the people with their jumps. For me this is one of the moments when the world seems to be good a place. The best chances to see dolphins is to go out in the early morning.
Do you want to read more about Hawaii? Then you’ll just have to follow this blog and wait what I still have in store for you.
A big Mahalo for your attention. Comments are welcome.