Sun, surf, and sand what else should paradise have?
No matter how you spend your time in Honolulu, you will fall in love with this city and Hawaii itself. It is little wonder that so many people want to make this place their holiday destination.
Life here is at a slow pace, allowing you to simply relax. Be forewarned that this place can have an unsettling affect upon you, as you may relax and enjoy yourself so much that you forget about everyone and everything back home! Take advantage of every minute that you are in Hawaii, and be thankful.
You may be truly surprised how many people you will meet that came to Hawaii for a vacation, and have never left!
These are my favorite beaches for Swimming, Snorkeling, and Surfing
Waikiki Beach (in Honolulu)
Without a doubt this is the world’s most famous and glamorous beach, and when you visit Waikiki you will understand why. For the longest time it was a “playground” strictly for the wealthy and for famous movie stars. Walk along it and all you will see for miles is a beautiful arch-shaped sandy beach bordering the warm turquoise-colored water of the Pacific Ocean. Along this palm-lined beach are some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, and in the distance the massive Diamond Head Crater stands, dwarfing all of the buildings. You can swim, snorkel, and surf or just lay in the sun enjoying the incredible beauty of the landscape around you and appreciating your incredible good fortune to be in such a place!
Hanauma Bay Beach (outside Honolulu)
This world-famous beach is situated along Oahu’s spectacular southeast volcanic coastline, outside of Honolulu. Actually this site is an underwater park, famous for its snorkeling. It is a huge bay with plenty of exotic colorful fish, green sea turtles, and beautiful sandy beaches. This palm-shaded beach can be reached easily by private car or by the local bus. There is plenty of parking available. The beach is open daily, except for Tuesdays.
Halona Cove (outside Honolulu)
This small picturesque beach is east of Hanauma Bay, and is often referred to as the “From Here to Eternity Beach”, as scenes from the famous movie “From Here to Eternity” were actually filmed on location at this site. The movie has an all-star cast led by Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, and its setting is Honolulu in 1941 just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a famous night scene in the movie where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr are romantically entwined in each other’s arms on the beach while the waves crash onto them—it’s an incredibly romantic scene that caused quite a stir when the movie was released back in 1953. This secluded site is incredibly beautiful with its white sandy beach surrounded by black volcanic rock. Nearby is a natural-formed blowhole in the rock that shoots a column of saltwater high into the air at regular intervals, testimony to the island’s volcanic past.
Waimanalo Bay (outside Honolulu)
If you continue north for quite a distance past Halona Cove you will come across this exceptional beach, famous for being Oahu’s longest sandy beach. This beach, however, can be quite difficult to find so make sure beforehand that you know where to turn off the main highway. It is not well known by most tourists and many of the locals are undoubtedly happy about that for this beach is stunning. You won’t be disappointed by its miles and miles of soft white sandy beaches and aquamarine water. There are no hordes of tourists here, which gives the place a sense of serenity and calmness—traits not usually found in the more popular beach sites. This beach is lined with a backdrop of ironwood trees and is so beautiful that it is without a doubt what everyone dreams of when thinking of a tropical paradise
Even though Hawaii has a tropical climate, its temperature and humidity is not as extreme as many other tropical destinations. This phenomenon is due to the trade winds that continually blow across this area from the east.
Honolulu’s temperatures are fairly representative of Hawaii: in January, the average daytime (high) temperature is 80º F (26.7º C) and the nighttime (low) temperature is 66º F (18.9º C). In August, the average daytime (high) temperature is 89º F (31.7º C) and the nighttime (low) temperature is 75º F (23.9º C). As you can see, the temperature stays almost constant all-year round, which makes this city unique and very pleasant to live in.
Unlike most places, Hawaii has only 2 seasons: the dry season from May to October and the wet season from October to April. Thankfully when it rains in Hawaii, it usually rains in the evening, leaving the days warm and sunny.
The topography (landscape) of Hawaii is volcanic in origin and extremely varied, comprising high rugged mountain ranges, low flat plains, lush rainforests covered in mist, areas so arid they almost resemble a desert, high cliffs that suddenly drop off into the Pacific Ocean, and beaches covered with miles and miles of white sand. Few places on the planet offer such an incredible variety of landscapes.
What about some great adventures?
Exploring the Reefs by Submarine
Contact the company, Atlantis Submarines Oahu, or ask your hotel tour booth staff if you are interested in exploring the coastal waters surrounding Waikiki and Honolulu. Two submarines are available. One of these is the Atlantis XIV, which holds 64 passengers—it’s the world’s largest passenger submarine. Check in at the Hilton Pier located in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Ali’i Tower Hotel located right on Waikiki Beach. Diving off Waikiki, you will descend to 100 feet, observing a wide variety of turtles, coral, and tropical fish. You will then explore the coral reefs and get to observe interesting sites such as sunken shipwrecks and airplanes. This underwater adventure is one you will never forget!
Horseback Riding on the Beach
Gallop on horseback along the beach at the 880-acre Turtle Bay Resort, located in the northern part of the island, near the North Shore on Kamehameha Hwy. Experience first-hand the spectacular white sandy beaches bordered by lush green tropical forests. It will be next to impossible to ever find another site like this to ride horseback! The setting is so surreal that you will think you are on a movie set! Contact Turtle Bay Resort for horseback riding information and costs.
Exploring Oahu by Plane
Take an exciting tour over Honolulu and the entire island by seaplane. Get an aerial view of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Crater, Hanauma Bay, the lopsided conical island referred to as Chinaman’s Hat (made famous in Elvis Presley’s movie “Blue Hawaii”), the North Shore (famous for surfing), and Oahu’s famous historic wartime sites. Check with your hotel’s tour booth for aircraft charter companies that offer this service. One company that has offered this service for many years is Island Seaplane Service.
Taking Day Trips to Other Islands (Island Hopping)
If you have the time and resources, consider taking a one-day trip to some of Hawaii’s other islands such as Maui or the Big Island of Hawaii. Daily flights are available to other islands. Consult with your hotel’s tour booth staff to find out what is available.
Food, Food and Food ahh Did I mention Food?
Honolulu, especially Waikiki, has an abundance of restaurants, offering an amazing variety of food such as American, Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Greek, and Thai. Everything that is available on the American mainland is also available here. Unfortunately, most restaurants are expensive. If you want to save money and try numerous exotic dishes, then go to the Food Court located at the back of the International Market Place, situated right in the heart of Waikiki. Some of the interesting food dishes are: Pad Thai (stir-fried rice noodles with vegetables), green papaya salad with shrimp, stir-fried broccoli with beef and onions, chicken souvlaki, grilled mahi-mahi fish, cajun-style ahi tuna with coconut rice, etc. The list is endless! The food is tasty, well prepared, and far less expensive than other places.
Hawaii is famous for its tropical fruits. Make sure to try the fresh mango, pineapple, and papaya—it’s great for breakfast. For snacks, try the apple bananas, a unique Hawaiian fruit, much smaller than a regular banana but denser and more nutritious.
At one time the Hawaii people had one of the best diets in the world: plenty of fruit, vegetables, and fish. Thankfully that is still available for you to enjoy even if most Hawaiians have opted for the fast food diet of the mainlanders such as mayonnaise-laden macaroni salad and believe it or not, spam (cheap, high calorie ground pork), also referred to as “Hawaiian steak”. In some cases Hawaiians have even created their own recipes. Be careful if you order the “loco moco”, usually eaten for breakfast. It consists of a plate of white rice, a hamburger patty with a fried egg on top, and then everything is smothered in gravy. The amount of calories is huge! If you are adventurous, you can try two staples of the traditional Hawaiian diet: Kalua pig (roasted in the ground with hot stones) and poi (a gooey, purplish paste made from cooked taro roots). Such foods will always be served at a luah (a traditional Hawaiian feast). As bizarre as it sounds, the only time you will get the chance to even taste traditional Hawaiian food is when you attend a touristy luau, and it will be expensive.
Many coffee lovers adore Hawaii, as Kona coffee is grown here, which is one of the best gourmet coffees in the world. If you don’t drink coffee, then try the various tropical fruit juices such as passion fruit, orange, guava, and of course pineapple juice. Local alcohol-based drinks include beer (ales and lagers) from the Kona Brewing Company and the famous “mai tai” made from rum and orange curacao with a mixture of orange, lemon, lime, and pineapple juice.
Interesting Spots to Explore…
(1) Waikiki Aquarium
This small aquarium is located on Waikiki Beach, near the Honolulu Zoo. It is built on a live coral reef right on the Pacific Ocean. The exhibits are full of many species of exotic, colorful fish, including sharks, eels, monk seals, and green sea turtles. Many of the fishes on exhibit are native to Hawaiian waters. Make sure that you view its most unique exhibit: its giant live 100-pound clams. They are huge! It is open daily, usually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(2) Honolulu Zoo
This municipal zoo is a mixture of tropical forest and savannah. It is about 43 acres in size located in Waikiki, near the Waikiki Aquarium. With over 300 species of animals, it has a large collection of birds and reptiles from many of the islands of the Pacific. Animals include elephants, lions, and zebras, many of which are found in the African Savannah, a 10-acre exhibit. Make sure to check out the Komodo dragon, a lizard-like reptile that is so huge it can kill a human! The zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
(3) Dole Pineapple Plantation
This large pineapple plantation is extremely popular. It is located outside of Honolulu, in the center of the island, about a 30-minute drive from Honolulu. Make sure to try the pineapple ice cream—it’s delicious! Attractions include the Pineapple Express, a small train that takes you on a tour of the plantation. Kids will love wandering through the Pineapple Garden Maze, the world’s largest maze, according to the Guiness Book of Records. The Plantation Garden Tour is interesting for its many exotic plants and flowers. You may even get to see baby pineapples growing in their natural habitat. Coffee and other tropical fruit are also grown here. The plantation is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(4) Polynesian Cultural Center
This 42-acre site is 35 miles outside of Waikiki. It is a major tourist attraction founded in 1963 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. the Morman Church). Made up of several re-created individual villages, this center is meant to show visitors what the traditions and lifestyles of various Polynesian peoples once were: for example, the people from Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, and Tahiti. It is well known for hosting luaus (the traditional Hawaiian feast) where you can witness fire dancing, and other traditional ceremonies (e.g. hula dancing). Many tour companies have package deals available—use them rather than driving there yourself or having to make all of your own arrangements (it’s too much hassle).
(5) Iolani Palace (Hawaii’s Royal Residence)
This building is the only state residence of royalty in the U.S.A. It was the residence of Queen Lili’uokalani until her reign ended in 1893 when she was overthrown by U.S. military force. Sanford Dole himself stood on the steps of her palace and announced that Hawaii was now a republic and he was its president.
Located in downtown Honolulu at the intersection of King and Richards Streets, this palace is open for tours to the general public. Of particular interest are the Central Hall with its impressive hardwood staircase, the Blue Room where the king used to meet guests on an informal basis, the Throne Room where the king and queen received visitors, the Dining Room, and the Palace Galleries which displays the royal treasures, including the royal jewels.
The queen herself was put on trial right here in her own palace in the Throne Room. She was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 5 years of hard labor, later reduced to house arrest. She was pardoned in 1896. After that she spent the rest of her life in Washington Place, a block away. When she died in 1917, nearly everyone in Honolulu attended the funeral procession. Hawaiians still thought of her as their queen, even if the American-installed government did everything possible to remove her from public life.
This site is quite popular, so make sure that you make a reservation preferably a few days in advance.
Visiting Tropical Botanical Gardens
(1) Foster Botanical Garden
This impressive 14-acre garden is located in downtown Honolulu, beside Chinatown. Tropical plants have been collected for this garden from all over the world dating back to 1850. It is a living museum containing many species of rare and endangered tropical plants, some of which are massive in size. The Cannonball Tree, for example, is an exceptionally tall palm-like tree that produces a huge number of nuts the size of cannon balls. Whatever you do, don’t walk under this tree in case one of the nuts falls to the ground—it could be dangerous in case it lands on your head! Make sure to visit the Herb Garden, the Butterfly Garden, and the Conservatory with its incredible collection of beautiful and colorful orchids. This garden contains a huge variety of interesting species such as pomelo, bamboo, vanilla, fig, mango, eucalyptus, coconut, palm, breadfruit, avocado, and cinnamon trees. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with on-site parking available, and guided tours are available. This garden is beside the canal and next to the beautiful Kuan Yin Temple.
(2) Lyon Arboretum & Manoa Falls
This amazing botanical garden dates back to 1918 and is massive in size with over 194 acres. It is owned and operated by the University of Hawaii, and is renowned for its extensive collection of tropical plants. A large part of this garden is actually part of the rainforest located at the head of Manoa Valley—an amazingly beautiful place to visit. If you ever win the lottery, consider living in this area, as its natural beauty is indeed breathtaking! The tropical plants grow to such incredible sizes in this protected area that you will feel like you are in a scene from the movie “Jurassic Park.” The range of colors of many of its flowers is impressive, everything from whites and yellows to purples and reds. At the entrance to Lyon Arboretum, for example, you will be intoxicated by the smell of the beautiful colorful plumeria flowers, used for making leis (the famous fragrant flower necklaces used to greet visitors to Hawaii). Make sure to visit the Hawaiian Ethnobotanical Garden where you will see breadfruit trees, sugarcane plants, taro plants (which are like yams), and the kukui nut whose oil was used as lantern oil (to light homes and businesses). Plan to spend several hours here, as Manoa Falls, a 150-foot high waterfall at the end of a mile-long hike, is right beside the Lyon Arboretum. It is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and can be reached by the local bus.