There are an awful lot of sweet spots on all of the Islands of Hawaii but we are mainly going to talk about the island of Oahu where I was blessed to live for over a year. I would strongly recommend staying at any of the wonderful hotels along Waikiki beach such as, the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s the perfect location.
You are going to spend the bulk of your time right on this world famous beach. You won’t need a vehicle until you have your day trips because everything is within walking distance such as high end fashion shopping downtown, restaurants to please every palette, and ABC convenient stores and a little grocery market like the Food Pantry on Hobron, or Foodland Farms in the Ala Moana Mall.
But I would opt to rent a vehicle if you are venturesome at heart instead of booking the bus tours on your exploring days unless you think you will be too tired to drive back safely after a long day of sunshine, water and exercise. I definitely recommend eating at the Chart House maybe your first night there to settle. The view is spectacular overlooking the harbor, also, after 9 pm, they have a happy hour menu to die for!!!!! BUT you must ask for the waitress Deedee and say hello to the owner, Joey and his charming wife, Yana. You just go out onto the beach (if staying in one of the hotels on Waikiki Beach), turn right. Pass the lagoon, and the Chart House is right across from the Coconut Hotel which used to be the Modern Hotel.
You might want to grab some snorkeling gear at Walmart or similar, early on in your trip and just hang out at the beach to get used to the time change and adjust to the jet lag. It’s so beautiful you will want to soak up all you can while you can. With average temperatures running around the 80’s, there really isn’t a “bad” time to go to Hawaii. They do have hurricane season which is in the fall and typically have the most rainfall in November. You might want to have dinner your second night at Duke’s.
The Duke is a famous Hawaiian who helped make surfing popular. He was a five time Olympic medalist in swimming. The restaurant is quite popular and you will need to make reservations. You can walk there from your hotel. Go to the beach and turn left. It’s a bit of a walk but well worth it. Make sure you bring flip flops (sandals, slippers) very easy to take off and put on as you do that quite a bit in Hawaii. Make sure you are at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, by the lagoon on a Friday night because they have fireworks from 7:45 to 8pm if it’s not raining or too windy.
A fun, easy thing to do before starting your day trips is hike the top of Diamond Head, it’s close to downtown and easy to grab an Uber to get there and back. On the way down from hike, drop off at da Cove Health Bar and Café for one of the best acai bowls ever in the little town of Diamond Head. Diamond Head is an inactive volcano and a pretty easy hike. My parents are in their 70’s and they were able to do the hike with little rests along the way.
Here’s my recommendation for one of your day adventures. Rent a vehicle and go to Hanauma Bay. Go early in the morning because this is a popular site and they only allow so many people in at a time. Bring your snorkeling gear that you purchased in town. You will have to watch a short film on the safety of the sea life at the Bay and then you will totally enjoy your underworld experience. I would strongly suggest checking the current that day and DO NOT go if current is strong. One of the times I went, I kept getting thrown into the coral during a very strong current, and that really hurts. You aren’t going to Hawaii to get hurt, so respect nature and be aware of weather conditions. While buying snorkeling gear, it would be a good idea to buy marine gloves as well, so you don’t damage the coral and if you need to push off of it or anything, you won’t cut your hands.
Once you have snorkeled for a while and if you are still thirsty for some excitement, continue east on HWY 72 which is a beautiful drive and you will get to Lanakai Beach. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. If you are staying awhile, you might want to turn this into a two day adventure. Otherwise Lanakai in the afternoon is perfect and then have dinner at Buzz’s Steak House which is almost directly across from the beach. Buzz’s require a shirt for the gentlemen and a cover up for the ladies. A lot of places accept bikini’s and trunks, so just letting you know ahead of time that you should prepare to bring a little extra clothing after your long beach day. Buzz’s would be the perfect end of the day, and you can hop on the 61 to get back to hotel afterwards.
While in Honolulu and if you want a snorkel, dive and or fishing excursion, Captain Cause Ruckus is your guy. Make sure you tell him that Kelly Vohnn sent you. In my humble opinion, he’s the best and will definitely show you a good time. You can also charter with him to visit other islands if you so choose. But exploring Oahu will keep you plenty busy. Cause will do a Barbecue on deck for you if you have a day trip planned. What better way to celebrate your catch of the day than to eat it right there and then? The company is called Ruckus Sportfishing and Diving and you can visit for more information at www.ruckusfishinganddiving.com.
Pearl Harbor is a must see and probably perfect for your next day’s outing. You can reserve tickets online at www.visitpearlharbor.org. The Arizona is a definite visit and it is a very emotional experience no matter what country you are from. I would do this early in the morning so that afterwards you can hop on the H2 towards North Shore. On the way to North Shore, you will run into the Dole Pineapple Plantation and everyone will love it there. Don’t forget to ride on the train! Continue onto North Shore. Make sure you stop off at Haleiwa and get some shrimp and snow from the famous food trucks. Continue onto Sunset Beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset. You might want to spend the night here at Turtle Bay Resort because while you are on the North Shore, you should visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. I would recommend doing the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center because there is plenty to do at the center and you will learn so much about the beautiful history and culture of the islands. If you are on Oahu during the winter season, you can usually catch some kind of surfing competition because the waves on North Shore can soar to 40 ft high.
I’m quite the hiker and I think I have done almost every hike on Oahu. I mentioned Diamond Head earlier which is a very moderate hike and I will rate my hikes from a 1 through 5. 1 being easy and 5 being difficult. I would rate Diamond Head as a 2 and it is the most popular hike on Oahu with spectacular views of Waikiki at the top. A very easy and beautiful hike is the Waimea Botanical Gardens. It has a beautiful waterfall at the end of the hike and along the way you will see stunning tropical plants and flowers. It is located by Waimea Bay so after your hike you can reward yourself with a nice swim and relax on the beach. I would rate this hike a 1. In good weather, the Manoa Falls trail is fairly easy as well. The 150 ft waterfall is breathtaking but swimming in the pool below is discouraged due to catching a flu like virus called Leptospirosis.
Be aware and mindful of signs warning of this virus, signs are there to protect you. It’s located in Honolulu and I rate this hike a 1 as well. A cool, more challenging hike is the Kanealole Trail (Ka né al ole). It is a 1.5 mile hike that will elevate to 600 feet and can lead into different trails such as the Makiki Valley Loop Trail and the Nahuina Trail and Maunalaha Trail which could make the hike considerably longer. They rate this hike as easy, but I would rate this scenic adventure at a 3 with the elevation challenges. If you are very fit and looking for more of a conquering goal, then Koko Crater Trail, also known as Koko Head is the hike for you. This is a very steep climb with 1,048 railroad ties used as steps. The old military used to transport supplies to the top. Once you do get to the top you will have amazing panoramic views of the east Honolulu shoreline. I rate this hike a 5 along with the infamous Stairway to Heaven Trail which has been officially closed for years and can set you back a hefty $1,000.00 fine if caught on the 3,922 steps vertical climb of over 2,000 ft above sea level. So, as you can see, I’m not recommending that particular hike.
On Big Island, I would suggest flying into Kona, it’s a quaint, little town. You can snorkel/dive with the Manta Rays at night and it is an amazing experience. During the day, you can drive to the live volcano, it’s still very active, and you can check out Punaluu Black Sand Beach…. All are very cool experiences.
I spent one day on Maui. You have to experience the drive through the Road to Hana. An absolutely, beautiful paradise and a must see. Be careful on this road. It’s very windy and goes to one lane in some spots, so you have to be courteous or the locals will hate you. I would go to Maui to just relax and take in the beauty of the island.
I have yet to experience Kauai which apparently has the most incredible hiking. I will write a new article once I get there. But for now, I hope this gives you a bit of a guide when traveling to the islands. Each island has breathtaking sunrises and sunsets as well as their own unique vibe. I used to find plastic bags and trash along the beach quite often. You will kill the sea life by doing this, please be respectful. I wish everyone could experience the lifestyle there at least once in their lifetime.
By Kelly Vohnn