Choosing where to stay in Oahu
Honolulu & Waikiki Beach
The sprawling city of Honolulu has everything. The historic places such as Kawaiahao Church and Iolani Palace must be visited and in the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum local artefacts can be seen that tell the story of Honolulu and Hawaii. In Honolulu’s Chinatown there is a hodgepodge of lei makers, antique and art dealers, temples and herbalists. Some of the hottest places to eat and drink such as underground bars, clubs and restaurants can be found in urban Chinatown. In the day time explore the sights and sounds of the bustling Maunakea Marketplace and the Oahu Market.
Neighbouring Pearl Harbor is a fascinating place to visit for anyone that wants to learn more about the events that happened here during WWII. For the ultimate beach holiday, just south of Honolulu is Waikiki Beach. The three places are all closely linked together and there is plenty to see and do for everyone.
The former playground of Hawaiian royalty Waikiki Beach is now one of the best known beaches in the world, albeit backed by high rise hotels. It is the nucleus of the tourist industry in Hawaii and this 2.4 kilometre stretch of sand will give you a holiday in style, although you might need a king’s ransom to pay for it! Despite the concrete jungle appearance this is the place to stay in Oahu and just about everything is in walking distance. If not, use the Waikiki Trolley system; shopping and dining Pink trolleys will take you to the Ala Moana Mall and the Green trolleys run to Diamond Head and Kahala Mall. Bicycle and moped hire is quite common although it can be dangerous!!
The main shopping mall is the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Centre with over 100 shops and restaurants and the DFS Galleria. The zoo and the aquarium are close by as well as the Kapiolani Park where the green grass meets the ocean and there is more than enough room for everyone to enjoy the fresh air.
The choice of places to stay in Honolulu, Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach range from executive hotels to cheap rooms in local houses. You can stay in all-suite hotels overlooking the wonderful Waikiki Beach and Pacific Ocean or choose a tiny family run hostel in the downtown centre of Honolulu. Many of the big brand chains have hotels close to Honolulu International Airport and around Honolulu Harbour. There is an aparthotel on the shores of Pearl Harbor as well as a family run guest house.
Three miles of pristine sand, a turquoise sea that stretches forever and hundreds of waving ironwood trees makes this a magical place for a holiday. For locals this is their everyday beach but for visitors this is paradise. Less than an hour’s drive from Waikiki Beach makes a world of difference to how much solitude you get.
Close by are Sea Life Park Hawaii and the super rock pools and sands of Makapu’u Tidepools which will keep children amused if they ever get fed up paddling in the shallow waters.
Waimanalo Beach Park has all the facilities you need for a super day at the beach including showers, toilets, a lifeguard and picnic tables. For accommodation there is a well-equipped camp-site or you can opt for one of the beautiful beachfront bungalows. These self-catering units are fully-furnished and can sleep up to six people.
The winter months are when the North Shore becomes a magnet for professional surfers and water sports fans. The swells on the famous surf spots of Sunset Beach, Pipeline and Waimean Bay can reach around ten metres or more and they attract crowds of brightly clad and tanned bodies. The rest of the year the crystal clear water, white sand and romantic sunsets attract visitors who want to enjoy conditions that are perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving.
For anyone that wants a day off from the beach Pu'u O Mahuka Heiau is Oahu’s largest and oldest religious site and can be found a short distance away from North Shore. There is also the Turtle Bay Championship Golf Course and at Dillingham Airfield intrepid visitors can swap the sea for the sky and take part in thrilling glider rides and skydiving.
Opportunities for dining experiences abound along the North Shore with locally caught North Shore shrimp, a simple Hawaiian plate lunch or a snack from a lunch wagon or a sandwich. Coffee shops, ice-cream shops and bars are plentiful and offer a variety of local and international cuisine. The shopping is great here with shops located in plantation style buildings that offer not just souvenirs and everyday items but unique clothing, much of it surf related, beautifully made pearl jewellery, surfboards and many one-off treasures.
Accommodation in and around Haleiwai, North Shore Oahu can range from ocean front villas, beach cottages and suites to simple bungalows, backpacker hostels and shared rooms or a room in a local family house.
On the south shore of the island Kapolei is a very upscale resort with superb lagoons which have sheltered areas for swimming and beautiful beach coves. Eating and drinking opportunities are everywhere from sandwich and coffee shops to noodle bars where nearly everything is served with a coconut flavour!
For families this is a great location as Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii is located here with 25 acres of watery fun. Kahe Point Beach Park has great snorkelling and you can share the water with turtles and tons of brightly coloured fish swimming around the reefs. For golfers the Kapolei Golf Club sprawls across 190 acres of a former sugar cane plantation.
Close to the ocean much of the accommodation is around the Ko Olina lagoon in luxury hotels with superb facilities for all the family. Away from the beach and lagoons there are a number of townhouses, villas and B&B’s.
On the Windward Coast the stunning beaches and turquoise seas of Kailua Beach draw locals and visitors alike to this buzzing community. If relaxing on the miles of pristine white sand isn’t enough you can rent kayaks and paddle out into the crystal clear ocean or kite surfing and kite flying are popular sports helped by the warm trade winds.
The Thursday evening farmer’s market is a popular hangout and the sunny lifestyle and artistic talents of Hawaii’s residents are captured in various boutiques and galleries. Kailua has just enough trendy bars, excellent restaurants and enough places to hang out to make this a very special destination. The atmosphere is very chilled and if you want to wander hand-in-hand along the sand this is definitely the place to do so.
Accommodation is mainly in cosy beachside B&B’s and small hotels although self-catering house rentals are another popular choice.