Hawaii was somewhere I always wanted to go and back in 2016 I was able to tick it off my bucket list…well two islands. I still have plenty more to see so will certainly be making a trip or several back!
How many nights: 6
How we got there: Delta flight from LAX (Los Angeles Airport) to Honolulu International Airport
Where we stayed: Aqua Hotels & Resorts – I booked this trip via a package deal (flight and hotel). As I was in Los Angeles I was able to use an American package holiday company and it worked out cheaper.
Car Hire: We didn’t hire a car in Waikiki as you don’t need one, it’s easy to get around via public transport and walking. Also having a car there isn’t that great when it comes to parking especially if like us you stay in Honolulu. If you are staying in the outskirt areas of Oahu then yes, handy to have a car – there is also the option to hire a car for a day and travel around the island.
When we island-hopped to Kaui we did hire a car as you do need one on that island.
Weather: We went in December and the weather was so nice and warm, far warmer than Los Angeles. At night time it stayed warm too.
Choosing an Island to visit: With eight islands making up the island-state – six are open to visitors; they include Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii (often referred to as the Big Island) – it can take some time to figure which island to visit. It took me a fair share of time researching islands mostly via Google and recommendations from people I know who have visited most of the islands. In the end, though it really does depend on what you want to do on your visit. I decided on Oahu as there are so many more flights going to Honolulu from LAX, public transport is so good and for the first trip to Hawaii, it has all the major attractions.
Staying in Waikiki had its plus points and negatives. It’s the main hub so everything is within walking distance – restaurants, shops (which are all open until 11pm) and the famous Waikiki surfer’s beach. There are also plenty of buses going around Oahu so it’s super easy and cost effective to get around, although it can take a while. The only downside is Waikiki is busy as all the tourists go there and it can be quite pricey. If you are after a completely quiet holiday then I wouldn’t recommend this part of the Island.
Things to do
Iolani Palace is the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs and a short distance from Waikiki it makes for a nice walking visit. Whilst in the area there are plenty of things to see such as King Kamehameha Statue – sculpted by Thomas Gould in Florence the 18-foot bronze statue is one of Oahu’s most photographed landmarks and worth a visit, especially if you watched Hawaii Five-0! You can also walk over to Kawaiahao Church or explore the downtown area, which is all super close to the Palace.
Can’t go to Hawaii without checking out all the beaches – Waikiki beach was walking distance from our hotel but as expected it is one of the more commercialised beaches on the island. I recommend going at sunset as the views are brilliant and it’s not as busy. You can also then catch the Kūhiō Beach Hula Show, which is close by and worth a watch.
Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach in Oahu are beaches you HAVE to visit, especially if you prefer a more secluded beach. Hidden away on the north side of Oahu (approx. a 1-hour bus ride from Waikiki) the beautiful turquoise sea is great to take a dip in and the white sand is lovely to relax and read a book on. The views are heavenly and exactly what you would imagine beaches in Hawaii to be like. If you don’t fancy sitting on the beach you can also go for a walk around the area. I would actually recommend staying in this area of Oahu, in an Airbnb, especially if you are after a more relaxing vacation.
As you walk around Honolulu you will notice shops everywhere, whilst you do go to Hawaii for beaches and heavenly scenery it actually is really good for shopping. I didn’t do a lot as I was there for the views but I did check out the Kahala Mall Farmers market, because the fresh fruit is amazing. It’s not around everyday so make sure you check before walking over. In the evening we did walk around Honolulu and there’s plenty of great markets, off the mall where you can find loads of cute items.
As you walk around Waikiki you will come across plenty of tour companies and as always you need to be careful to ensure they are a legit company. Many companies pop up, take your money, and don’t deliver. Tours are a good way to get a quick overview of the whole of Oahu as they take you everywhere in one day. You can then see which spot you like and always go back there.
We used Aloha Hawaii Tours and they picked us outside our hotel in the morning and took us around the whole island. It was great as we saw everything from Secret Beach, Mokoli’I (Chinaman’s hat), Kane’ohe Bay (where Jurassic Park was filmed), Dole Plantation (the pineapple ice cream is delicious), the Macadamia nut farm (again, tasty), Manana Island, everything else in between, and we even went snorkeling – all included in the day tour! Although you could just hire a car for a day and drive around these places the good thing about a tour is you get to learn about the island and hear about things you wouldn’t otherwise know.
On our last day in Hawaii, we decided to fly to Kaui island for the day. I booked the flights via Island Air and it took 40 minutes to get to Kaui from Honolulu airport. Once we arrived at the very island-like airport we hired a car and drove around the east side of the island. Unfortunately when we arrived there was bad rain so a lot of the island was closed but it was still cool to see!
Kaui is exactly what you expect Hawaii to be like. It wasn’t commercialised and was super scenic – tropical style. We even managed to get fresh coconut from a local who was selling it from his truck and cut it there and then for us! Priceless moments.
Whilst there we did the Fern Grotto and Wailua River tour as you get to see a Hawaiian ‘jungle’, all whilst riding up the Wailua river in a boat – magical! The added bonus of doing this tour is while you are traveling across the Wailua river you are entertained with traditional Hawaiian dancing! It’s so much fun.
So that’s just a few highlights from my short trip to Hawaii, next time I would spend more time there – with a longer trip to Kaui – would stay in an airbnb in the more quieter areas of the island, if I was to go to Oahu.