There is so much to say about this city and I have some regrets I waited so long to visit. Let’s not dwell on the the negatives and just focus on the fact that I got to visit Hawaii - Island of Oahu and I had the most incredible time - I cannot wait to return to the state and explore other Islands - I am looking forward to exploring Maui ; Lanai and Kauai. I visited the Island of Oahu and Honolulu is the largest settlement in Oahu. I spent five days on the Island including one day of lounging on the beach (all day) - It was excellent.
GETTING THERE. There are direct flights from most major US cities - from NYC - it is eleven hours to Honolulu ; from Dallas/Houston - eight to nine hours ; from Los Angeles you have a six hour flight time. If you are planning a trip from London or Europe - you will have a challenge finding direct flights so I recommend flying to the West Coast or Dallas or Houston and then connecting from there for a direct flight to Honolulu. if not, you should plan for eighteen to twenty-fours hours travel time.
GETTING AROUND. I recommend renting a car ; it will make life easier for you if you plan to explore the Island. If you intend to spend all your time on Waikiki, you may be able to get away without a car; but I think it is a huge miss to go to Oahu and only explore Waikiki. At the time of my visit, ride shares were not very popular and difficult to get during certain times of day. If you choose to rent a car - make sure you plan parking fees in your travel budget.
WHERE TO STAY. I recommend staying near Waikiki Beach. I don’t recommend staying on the strip unless you have a large budget. Staying on the main strip of Waikiki can be a huge expense. I stayed at a hotel that was less than 10 mins walk to Waikiki ; from my balcony I could see the beach and I paid almost forty percent less than staying on the strip. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach and other than the morning when the elevator access was cut off - it was an excellent stay and the hotel made up for the inconvenience so no complaints from me. The Laylow hotel is also an incredible option - while I did not stay here, I visited enough time during my time in Honolulu to know it is a great option.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED. I was in Hawaii for eight days - I had work commitment from Tuesday to Friday and stayed on my own account until Wednesday night so I had five full days to explore the Island and one of those days was spent lounging on the beach and another beach hopping in North shore.
WHERE TO EAT. The food in Honolulu is amazing and I probably say that about every city I visit because besides doing my research on the city; I spend a lot of time researching the best places to eat; I talk to locals about their favorite spots to eats and make my dining decisions from that list. Don’t leave Honolulu without trying local Hawaiian delicacy - Ono’s Hawaiian food and Helena’s Hawaiian food. Ono’s is now permanently closed and I still feel incredibly lucky to have dined there just before they closed their doors after fifty years. Helena’s is equally delicious. Shaved ice is big in Oahu and I tried a lot of shaved iced - two spots I recommend are Matsumoto Shave Ice and Island Vintage coffee. Loco Moco is a local delicacy of rice ; hamburger meat and egg - sounds simple but so so good. I had an incredible brunch and Loco Moco at Koko head cafe. Other Brunch spots I recommend are LuLu’s and Heavenly Island lifestyle restaurant. Ramen at Marukame Udon was excellent. Malasada from Leonard’s was so good I ordered a dozen to take back home with me to the mainland; Shrimp Tacos at North Shore Taco (or Shrimp Tacos anywhere in North Shore); I stumbled on a Dim Sum spot in China Town called Mei Sum - it was delicious. For your coffee fix - I recommend Hideout Coffee at the Laylow hotel; Holoholo Café and Market for the best Iced coconut latter and Kona Coffee. Finally, don’t leave the island without trying Haupia Pie - a traditional coconut puddings. Many locals recommended Ted Bakery in North Shore and I was not disappointed.
WHERE TO EXPLORE. Honolulu has got a lot to offer and if you are traveling with a group with varying interests - it is the best destination because there will be something for everyone. If you want to lounge on the beach - I recommend Waikiki Beach - if you can go early to rent a lounge chair and umbrella - for $40 you can rent one for the day and it is worth every penny. On one of my days in the city , I did just that and laid out in the sun all day - napping; reading and eating. It was the best part of the trip. I also did the sunset cruise on Waikiki which I absolutely loved (once I got over my bout of sea sickness). If you are up for it , take a stroll on the beach - it is a lengthy stroll but it is very worth it - I did the trek at sunrise starting at the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue - it was incredibly beautiful - I got to watch surfers ride the first waves and see a sunrise wedding on the beach. My heart was full.
For a beach less crowded - visit Lanakai beach - it is stunning. Hanauma Bay is an incredible reserve with a beautiful beach that is great for snorkeling. It is not free so plan accordingly if you add this to your itinerary. Sunset beach in North Shore - it is known for big waves in winter and it a lot less crowded than Waikiki.
For jaw dropping views (and a workout ), there were three spots I thoroughly enjoyed hiking. Manoa falls is a great hike to see waterfalls - make sure you have proper foot wear. Diamond head hike rewards you with a stunning view of Waikiki - I saved it one for the last morning in Oahu . Makapu’u Point is very popular for tourists and locals alike and offers great views of Makapuʻu and Waimanalo Bay on one side and the Ka ʻIwi Channel on the other side. Nuʻuanu Pali is a cliff of the Koʻolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley has a beautiful panoramic view of the windward coast of Oʻahu.
There are a few things that are uniquely Hawaiian (Honolulu) and highly recommended for your Itinerary. Do not miss the Halona Blowhole - this spot requires some patience but very worth it. Essentially as waves crash into the cliffs under the rocks the water surges out of a blowhole (Holona) shooting into the air. I waited almost half hour to see this; but I thought it was worth it. The Hanauma bay is an excellent spot to snooker or just lay out on the beach. Before making your way down to the beach - make sure to take in the spectacular view of the bay. The queue to get down to the bay does get lengthy - especially on the weekend; so keep that in mind. I mainly went for the view and I was very happy with it. Be aware, parking cost $1 even if you are just going to get a glimpse of the view. Dole Plantation is a uniquely Hawaiian experience - learn about the different species of pineapple; take a tour of the plantation and try pineapple soft serve ice cream - it is not like any other ice cream you have tried. Byodo-In temple is a Buddhist temples in the mountains of Temples Memorial Park - it is so perfect and beautiful here - it also feels like you are in Japan. ‘Lolani Palace was a great experience for me and perfect to learn about the history of Hawaii. It use to be the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom. Hānaiakamalama aka Queen Emma’s Summer home is another stop I recommend if you want to learn about the history of the Hawaii.
inally, there is Pearl Harbor - if you wanted to, you could probably spend a half a day here. If you have Pearl Harbor on your itinerary, book your tickets early. Some of the monuments/memorials are free and others are paid. Either way, I highly recommend booking tickets online to explore USS Arizona memorial ; USS Bowfin and Ford Island for Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.