in Honolulu is the most famous stretch of beach on
— The beach is free. The silky aqua water costs nothing.
And the sunshine doesn’t cost a dime.
you can afford Hawaii, or dare to dream.
airfares from the mainland to the Aloha State running near
historical lows, Hawaii suddenly is a real possibility for
fact, at this very moment, I am sitting in Waikiki with a
mimosa in my hands at a tiny outdoor hotel bar, looking
out at swaying palm trees, the ocean waves, the stress of
the long flight behind me, feeling drowsy, and ...
sorry. Where was I? Hawaii is so distracting.
I was about to say is that your "someday" dream
trip should definitely become a concrete plan, ASAP. And I
would start with Oahu.
is the "beginnner’s" Hawaii. It’s the
classic Hawaii you’ve seen on all the hula-swaying
postcards. Its beaches are only 20 minutes from the
Waikiki shoreline contains Duke Kahanamoku Beach, which
was named the best beach in the U.S. last year. That is
nice. That is fine. The beaches in Hawaii are all nice and
first-timers are cheating themselves if the beach is all
this culturally rich state, I am begging you to also
experience things that you can’t find back home in
Florida or Michigan or Rhode Island. Things such as Iolani
Palace ($14.75 admission), where the only royal family in
what’s now the U.S. once lived. Or the view from a hike
on Diamond Head (free). See the USS Arizona memorial at
Pearl Harbor (free). Or just drive around downtown or the
neighborhoods and see how regular folks in Hawaii live.
go exploring beyond Honolulu on a stunning coastal drive.
You really can’t get lost. Or go wrong.
based myself in Honolulu, renting a studio apartment
through AirBnB for $120 a night. My rental didn’t have
much of a view, but it had a fully stocked kitchen and was
directly next to the trendy Modern Honolulu hotel ($279)
and Hilton Hawaiian Village ($200). Best of all, it was
two minutes from the beach.
you stay in Honolulu, however, you soon will hear locals
talking about big city problems such as homelessness,
traffic jams and a half-finished transit system mired in
red ink. That is all true. And yes, the median house in
Oahu costs nearly $700,000. Yes, a half-gallon of milk
really does cost $6.99.
actually, it is amazing how much pure beauty and how many
attractions are open to tourists cheap or free. Beyond the
leis and luaus, there’s a depth to this land.
It costs only $1 to park at Hanauma Bay (if you can find a
parking spot), and an additional $7.50 if you want to go
down to the horseshoe-shaped perfect beach, where
snorkelers are rewarded by sights such as flame angelfish
and yellow tangs.
You can walk the sugar sand public beach in sedate Kailua,
the place President Barack Obama vacations (free).
Stop at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout on the Pali Highway to see
the sweeping view of windward Oahu and the Koolau Range
(free). Also notable: The intriguing warning sign:
"Beware of bees during high wind." Yikes.
Walk through Byodo-In Temple ($3), a serene ode to the
Byodoin temple in Japan. I was there in the rain.
Take pictures in lush Kualoa, scene of so many films and
TV shows, such as "Jurassic Park," "The
Hunger Games" and "Lost." (Free to stop at
the state park; tours at Kualoa Ranch have fees).
See what’s new at the Polynesian Cultural Center ($74.95
including demonstrations, exhibits and alcohol-free luau).
Its new Hukilau Marketplace shopping area is free to
Watch the surfers on the incredible giant waves of the
North Shore (free).
about eating and shopping? Oahu has, like the rest of the
country, been swept away by the "grow local, shop
local" food movements.
is a good thing when you are 2,500 miles from anywhere.
here are a mix of trendy Hawaiian-Asian fusion (such as
Chai’s Waikiki Cafe & Market), old standbys such as
Red Lobster, and food trucks serving garlic shrimp. In
Hawaii, you can eat sushi you pick off a conveyor belt.
You can have a plate of "country tots" — tater
tots with onions and cheese. Yes, Hawaii still has Spam.
And plate luncheons with enough carbs to kill a horse. So
if your lodging has a kitchen, eat breakfast and lunch in
the room to save money, then splurge on dinner.
The stores in the tourist areas of Waikiki make me
irritated. In the last 10 years, luxury chain stores have
taken over. The scale is too large. Their focus is wealthy
international tourists. To find souvenirs made in Hawaii,
you’ll have to elbow aside jostling crowds at Salvatore
Ferragamo, Tiffany and Hermes.
you will find quilts and quilted products made in Hawaii,
Hawaiian coffee, Macadamia nuts and Hawaiian shirts
actually made on the islands. My big find was Olomana
Orchids, a huge orchid nursery in Kaneohe that ships all
over the U.S.
your eating. Do your shopping. Do your sightseeing. Relax
on the beach.
there is no need to overexert yourself. Or spend a
fortune. Because I have a feeling you’ll be coming back
to Hawaii again.
there: Some airlines are competing heavily on the Hawaii
route, pushing down fares by about half and adding
flights. Nobody knows how long these fares will last, so
around: If you want to see things, rent a car. If you’re
just hanging around Waikiki, rely on shuttles or taxis.
Check with your travel agent for their best package deals,
or book the trip yourself directly through a resort or
online vacation rental site.
Bad traffic. Who would have thought? Honolulu has rush
No headlights at night. Dangerous local custom.
Li-Hing Bang smoothie featuring li-hing mui (dried plum)
powder. It’s foamy and fruity.
The tiniest parking spots. Anything wider than a Smart Car
is a tough fit.
Great radio station with local DJs and Hawaiian music is
Conveyor belt sushi (it goes around and around and you
pluck your plate off the moving belt)
Odd signs: "Beware of bees in high winds" at a
park. Also saw a road sign warning that road construction
would begin in May 2009.
Official form that flight attendants give passengers on
Honolulu-arriving flights. It looks mandatory, but only
the agricultural questions require a response. The rest is
a tourism survey.
Purple taro rolls.
had a record 8.3 million visitors last year. Most came
from the U.S. West, then U.S. East, then Japan. Oahu is
Island: 1.4 million
Air capacity rose 3.4 percent to a record 11 million seats
last year, mostly to Honolulu and Maui.
Average length of stay for visitors from the mainland:
Hawaii Tourism Bureau 2014)