OAHU: Town and Country
When most people think of visiting Hawaii, they think of stopping over in Honolulu for a few days, and then flying on to the next island for the remainder of their dream Hawaiian vacation. But did you know, that the island of Oahu, can be a vacation all by itself? In fact, it’s recommended that you visit the island beyond just Honolulu and its famed Waikiki Beach – there’s SO much more to see and do! Recently, I visited Oahu on a Familiarization Trip, hosted by the Oahu Tourist Board and Delta Vacations. They want people to know there is so much more to the island than just a stopover. This island is a destination of its own. Not only does Oahu have 125 miles of swimmable beaches, – more than any other Hawaiian island, – but it also has everything else you would want. From the city with its wonderful food, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife, to the countryside with its waterfalls, mountains, and nature… Oahu offers both “Town AND Country” in a vacation destination.
For my first few days on Oahu, we experienced the “town” part of the island – Honolulu. Who doesn’t love a city with a great beach – especially Waikiki Beach. I love that you can shop, eat, and have surf and sand all in the same place. It was fun watching people carry their surfboards down the city sidewalks to the beach. I couldn’t believe the amazing food that I experienced in the different restaurants too! Amazing! I particularly loved the Herringbone Restaurant, located in the International Marketplace. Not only was the food spectacular, but so was the atmosphere! Oh, and the shopping! I loved the shops along the Waikiki Beach strip, but also loved the newly renovated International Marketplace shopping, and restaurant area. At night, we enjoyed the music and food of the Blue Note Hawaii Club, located inside the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach! If you have extra time, then downtown Honolulu can be interesting with its Cultural Walking Tour. Be sure to stop at Leonard’s Bakery on your way for their delicious Portuguese pastry called a Malasada.
As for accommodations in Honolulu, we stayed at the newly renovated Alohilani Resort. If you like modern/contemporary, then this is a good choice, and it’s located just across the street from Waikiki Beach. It has great views of the ocean and Diamond Head, with two towers called the Seascape Tower and Beach Side Tower. I recommend the Beach Side Tower as it has the better ocean-views and has ocean-front rooms as well (still across the street from beach). It’s also within walking distance to the shopping and restaurants of Honolulu. Some other hotel choices that I personally liked, were the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel, the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, and The Royal Hawaiian. These were centrally located and directly on Waikiki Beach. I liked the Moana Surfrider for it’s “old luxury” and it’s pool/restaurant area on the beach, the Outrigger Waikiki for its Polynesian décor and action, and the Royal Hawaiian (the Pink Palace) for it’s old Hawaiian flare. The locations of these hotels were ideal! If you’re looking for a less expensive option in Honolulu, then I recommend staying a few blocks off the beach. The Hilton Garden Inn is a really good choice and is only about two blocks from the beach. It’s completely renovated, from the ground up, with beautiful modern rooms and in a great location behind the International Marketplace!
Beyond the city and beach of Honolulu, there is so much more! We took a tour of the Iolani Palace where Hawaii’s monarchs once lived. We learned about their history, and saw their throne, and the queen’s beautiful dress collection. We also stopped at “Salt,” a small, hip, restaurant and shopping area outside of Honolulu. One afternoon, we did a snorkeling adventure with WildSide Specialty Tours. We snorkeled with wild dolphins and sea turtles in the ocean, and enjoyed a small lunch onboard. Another day, we drove to the North Shore, known for its giant waves and surfing competitions. On our way up to the North Shore, we stopped to tour the Kualoa Ranch Nature Preserve. We took the “movie tour” of the ranch where movies like Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, and the latest Jumanji movie were filmed. You can choose to do ATV, zipline, and horseback riding tours there as well. We also stopped at Waimea Valley on our way to the North Shore, and took a tour of their botanical gardens, and visited the Waimea waterfall, where you can swim in its lagoon.
As for accommodations on the island outside of Honolulu, I highly recommend the Disney Aulani Resort. It has the Polynesian décor that gives you that Hawaiian feel with its tiki dark woods and lush gardens. It’s gorgeous! Not just for families —30% of guests don’t even bring their kids. And there’s no resort fee here! The Aulani offers its own luau too. I loved staying here – this was very Hawaiian to me! Another resort we stayed at was the Kahala Resort, located in the “Beverly Hills” area of Oahu, on the other side of Diamond Head. I loved this resort too! It was so beautiful, and is well-known to the rich-and-famous. Almost every president of the USA has stayed here. Be sure to walk down their “hall of fame” to see pictures of all the famous people that have stayed there before. In addition, they have dolphins right on property, shuttles to Honolulu, a wonderful restaurant, and a beautiful serene beach. The rooms were also amazing, with luxury amenities, bath robes, a welcome fruit tray, and even a heated toilet seat, — I didn’t want to leave this luxurious resort.
As you can see, Oahu is more than a stopover – it’s a destination by itself. That’s the great thing about vacationing to Hawaii, every island is its own destination, with different experiences. It gives you a reason to keep going back.