Oahu

My German boy and I went to Oahu a while ago. I worked like crazy for 5-6 weeks on a project at work and when that was done, I took a week off and flew to Hawaii. I’d been there once before but so many years ago that I didn’t remember much about it except that I’d gotten to see my first Chinese New Year celebration there (it was February). And it was winter there the first time I went so there was rain, but I remembered it being warm and not unpleasant.

I didn’t have expectations for my second trip to Oahu. I just wanted some beach time to relax after that launch and to travel with German boy since we hadn’t gone anywhere together yet for more than a weekend. I didn’t want to do a bunch of sightseeing or hiking like I would normally do on a trip. I didn’t think of this trip as “travel”, I thought of it as “vacation” and vacation is was. We got a little sun, I had the most enjoyable time snorkeling I’d ever had before. The weather was hot and perfect beach weather. In fact, it was really too hot to do much more than lie on the beach. It’s about the start of their rainy season, but it didn’t do more than drizzle a couple of times while we were out there. And it wasn’t overly crowded either.

Ed made us an awesome Google map showing us his recommended spots to visit so I made one showing the sites we actually made it to. Oahu photos on flickr.


View Larger Map

Hotel

We stayed at the Park Shore in Waikiki. It’s near the end of the strip so not as hectic at night, but just a block or two away from the main, congested part of it.

Food

I never did get to have a spam masubi. It either wasn’t available when I was looking for it, or I found it just after eating something else.

On the strip in Waikiki:

  • Duke’s (at the Outrigger Hotel) sucks. Don’t go there. Not even for a cocktail. However, they do have a nice spot right on the beach to sit (if you can find an available space).
  • Yoshitune is located in the Park Shore Hotel and is excellent. I highly recomend it. I had a traditional Japanese breakfast of rice porridge, broiled salmon, plus the assortment of side dishes and it was so good. They also had the most amazing chirashi bowl I’ve had since my favorite little Japanese place in San Francisco closed down. Go. Eat there.
  • Arancino Di Mare (the one on Kalakua Ave, in the Marriot Resort). They have an amazing breakfast buffet and the service is very good. It’s $15/person (at Duke’s it’s $14.95/person and it’s practically inedible compared to Arancino’s)
  • Top of Waikiki: great cocktails and food. We sat at the bar one night (nice bartenders, too) and had drinks and appetizers, and had dinner a separate night. Good food, but pricey. They have a Happy Hour between 5-7 on some weeknights (most except Friday I think) and you can have half off Grey Goose or Tanqueray martinis and reduced priced appetizers.
  • Atlantis Seafood: don’t go. Wait staff is really nice, but the food is mediocre and overpriced.
  • Doraku Sushi in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center: trendy sushi place. Good food, good drinks, decent service. But doesn’t compare to Yoshitune.
  • Zippy’s: Easy fast food. There’s one about a half mile from Hanamua Bay (East of Hanamua Bay) in the Koko Marina Shopping Center where we stopped before going snorkeling. The mini zip pak ($5.65) is a good lunch for one person (comes with rice, beef, and fried chicken). The regular zip pak ($7.85) comes with rice, bbq beef, spam, a piece of friend chicken and a piece of fried fish. It’s yummy. And cheap.
  • Wolfgang Pucks Express: they have great little breakfast sandwiches there. We got an egg, bacon, cheese on foccacia for $5.95.

Beaches

  • Waikiki beach sucks. There are rocks in the ocean and that makes it difficult to swim without scratching yourself all over them or walk without stubbing your toes. There are sections of the beach that are walled off and cleared of rocks, but it sort of feels like you’re in a giant kiddy pool.
  • Hanauma Bay has pretty calm water (since it’s a bay and all) and the snorkeling is nice (see below)
  • We tried to go to Sandy Beach, but the current was pretty strong — we didn’t end up staying and headed back to safe and warm Hanauma Bay that day.
  • Waimea Beach — pretty little beach and the current (at least the few times we saw it) wasn’t bad. Plus there are rocks you can jump off!
  • And there are sections of beach all along the coast you can stop off at. Some of them have names and some of them don’t.

Sight seeing

  • The Waikiki Aquarium is small, but a fun, quick visit.
  • Polynesia Cultural Center: fun, but I’m not sure it was worth the money we spent on it. We got the whole package deal, but if I were to go again, I’d probably go without the tour guide (I had no idea we’d have to spend the entire day with the tour guide) and wander around on your own. Check the schedule so you can see which shows you want to go to before heading off. They have villages from many of the South Pacific nations and the have shows performing in each village.

    Everyone there is really friendly, and they call you cousin and embrace you as part of their family. The shows are good — the fire making one I saw in Samoa was comedic — the guy was a great actor. They do thank the good Brigham Young University an awful lot. And while I was there I had this slight feeling of exploitation — I think they said 70% of the employees come from the university and if you work 19 hrs/wk, 40 in the summer, they pretty much pay for your tuition and room and board — so a free education to “share” your culture with all the tourists. It’s definitely more entertainment than educational though, but it’s pretty good entertainment.

    The luau was good. Get in line early if you want to sit right in front of the stage and watch the dinner entertainment. Then there’s the Horizons night show (about an hour of traditional dance performances). It was good, but I think by then we were tired of being there and didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have.

  • Chinatown in downtown Waikiki was interesting and we walked around there for a while.
  • So is Iolani Palace — I learned a bit about Hawaiian history (I knew nothing about it before). It just takes about an hour to go through and listen to the audio tour — you almost have to get the audio tour because there aren’t really any signs explaining anything to you. The palace itself is somewhat bare and spacious, then downstairs is a museum of items of Hawaiian royalty and you can choose to do that separately if you want.

    If you walk up South King street towards Waikiki from the Palace, you pass the Mission House Museum. We didn’t go in because it was closed when we walked by. And if you want to keep walking towards the strip, there’s an old cemetary with headstones going back to the 1800’s, including a mausoleum near the entrance gate. Then you can catch the bus on South King St. back to the strip.

  • Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau: preserved temple (though honestly, it doesn’t look like much but a bunch of stones). While there isn’t much to look at, the Hawaiians hold the place sacred. It’s nice because there are few (if any) people visiting, and the place is quiet. You’re not to touch the stones or go over the walls because they’re all sacred. We respected that and just walked around. It’s just above Waiemea Beach Park, and if you follow the trail all the way down, you’ll hit the beach.
  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden: we only had a few minutes there, but it was beautiful. We both wished we had another day in Oahu to come back to it.

Renting a Car and Driving

Someone suggested we rent a car a day at a time to save on parking. We did that the first day and realized what a pain in the ass it was. Our hotel charged us $20/night for valet and it wasn’t worth waiting for the shuttle to Avis and then waiting in line to rent a car to save $20 a day. The rental car people send out free shuttles to hotels. If you’re more than 29 min past your drop off time, they charge a late fee. If you return it too soon, they charge an early fee. The quote the guy was trying to give me on Monday wasn’t the same quote I’d gotten from a girl on Sunday, but he honored the rate that got quoted on Sunday for me (though he obviously begrudged it). I also got a nail in my tire my first day with the car, and they switched it out for me without causing any fuss at all.

Someone else suggested we drive counter clockwise around the island so you can pull off to the beach anytime you want. This was definitely the way to go. Plus it’s better sight seeing on that side. I wish we’d taken Ed’s advice and stayed in a hotel on the North Shore at least one day — it would’ve saved us a few hours of driving and it would’ve been nice to spend a little more time on that side of the island instead of coming home to Waikiki every night. Don’t forget to enjoy the fruit stands and the ice cold coconuts!

Radio stations

I think we heard the same songs playing every single day. We couldn’t find any really good stations and driving around the island you’d lose one for a while then pick it back up.

  • 104.3: hip hop / r&b
  • 102.7: same as above
  • 96.3: plays 80s, 90s, and new stuff, but sucks, but one out of every 5 songs was ok
  • 92.5: we found this on our last day with the car. If you’re driving counter clockwise it comes in just after Hanamua Bay. It’s “alternative” music, not unlike Los Angele’s KROQ, or San Francisco’s LIVE105.

Leave a Reply