By Jen Lewallen
From the moment you step out of the airport, it’s very clear how Oahu earned the nickname “The Gathering Place.” This island is the perfect mix of tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches, diverse cultures, and a dash of city-life, making this a must stop on anyone’s Hawaiian adventure, and we have your insider’s guide to make you feel like a kama’aina (local).
O.K., so this one is no secret. In fact Waikiki is one of the most famous beaches in the world, but that’s why it’s a must stop for visitors. It’s conveniently located right in Honolulu and within walking distance from most hotels, some of which are right on the beach itself. Soft white sand, warm blue water, and the profile of Diamond Head volcano are enough to make you forget about the bustling city behind you. Be sure to rent a surf board and hit the waves for a day (lessons are available too), and have the bragging rights to say you surfed in Hawaii!
Looking to escape the city and search for that true Hawaiian feel, escape to the North Shore. Depending on the time of year, this beach is an oasis for relaxation lovers or a mecca for thrill seekers. Visit in the summer months to enjoy gentle waters, and jump from the large rock formations in the cove. However, during the winter months, this peaceful inlet turns into an extreme surfer’s paradise. Waimea Bay is known as the birthplace of big wave surfing, with swells that can reach over 20-feet high.
Located on the Windward side of the island, this beach has a natural barrier thanks to a reef right offshore, making the waters calm and perfect for swimming and snorkeling year round. The surrounding town of Kailua gives it a sleepy beach town feel, where you can hang with locals and really get a taste of authentic island life. Other watersports are also popular here, such as windsurfing or kayaking to the two small islands a half-mile offshore for some bird watching.
What You Need to See
History lovers should definitely take a tour of Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence in the United States. Walk the same halls as Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch to live in the palace, and see the tiny upstairs bedroom that held her prisoner for five years.
Pearl Harbor is without a doubt a must-see whether you’re a history buff or not. Pay homage to those who defended our country on that iconic day.
For a breathtaking experience, hike to the top of Diamond Head in time to see the sunrise. It’s a fairly easy climb, even for someone who doesn’t hike up mountains very often. It takes about 40 minutes nonstop but give yourself plenty of time for picture perfect moments along the trail.
What You Need to Eat
This Hawaiian take on a Chinese classic can be found all over the island; from street vendors to cafes to 7/11, these handheld soft, steam buns are traditionally stuffed with pork but can also be found filled with chicken, curry, or purple sweet potato.
This chilly treat has found its way to the mainland, but there is nothing like grabbing an authentic shave ice on a hot Hawaiian day. Ground into snow-like consistency and scooped into a ball, this delight comes with a variety of syrup toppings from cherry to pineapple or be bold with flavors such as lychee or guava. Matsumoto’s on the North Shore is a well-known favorite of celebrities, tourists, and locals. Here, you can have your shave ice with vanilla ice cream or azuki beans, Japanese red beans cooked in sugar and water.
Fresh seafood is a must-try when you come to Hawaii, and poke is as fresh as you can get. Raw fish is diced and mixed with a variety of ingredients, such as soy sauce, green onions, and sesame oil, to create a delectable appetizer that will leave you wanting more.
Related: Hawaii’s Melting Pot of Flavors
Where to Stay
Located on the charismatic North Shore and whose waters are a refugee for sea turtles, this resort has endless activities for the entire family with luxury accommodations and amenities. All rooms and suites feature large furnished balconies, chic island décor, a mini fridge and Keurig coffee maker. Stay in a Beachside Cottage for a truly serene escape, or turn your trip into a family reunion where all can stay in the spacious Ocean Villa. Fine dining is found right on property, and hit a few rounds on two championship golf courses at the resort. By booking with your local travel agent, your stay is enhanced with special privileges such as discounted golf rates and activities, a welcome gift from the resort, and room upgrades based on availability.
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
This Honolulu haven embodies the spirit of “aloha” with an attentive staff dedicated to making you feel like family. This resort is just steps from the famous Waikiki Beach and the sizzling energy of downtown shopping, restaurants, and activities. Relax with a massage at the award-wining Na Ho’ola Spa or learn about local life and traditions with one of the cultural activities. Rest your head in the largest guestrooms in Waikiki, and each includes iPod docking stations, complimentary Wi-Fi, and separate work areas.
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort
Situated on the south-eastern end of Waikiki Beach, this resort is located next to the iconic Diamond Head crater, creating spectacular views and experiences like no other hotel in Honolulu. Sip on a traditional Mai Tai (one drink a day is complimentary with every stay) from the balcony of your newly refurbished room with modern island décor. Talk to your travel agent about the exciting My Time inclusions at this hotel such as a bottle of sparkling wine in the room and early check-in/late check-out.
Start planning your Oahu getaway by visiting your local travel agent to take advantage of these great offers!