It’s cold outside, it’s probably raining and you’ve most likely worn your insulated rain jacket every day this week. That’s winter for you on the BC coast. These inflexible realities are here to stay for the next few months. But are you?
It’s not a crime to concede you’ve had a few daydreams about escape. You’ve thought about packing a suitcase, driving out to YVR, telling the flight attendant to book you a ticket to someplace warm. Let’s live out this daydream. Call in sick. You’re going to Honolulu.
Honolulu. Even the name itself sounds inviting, like the name of some pink drink in a curvy glass with one of those tiny umbrellas.
Honolulu is on the island of Oahu, the third largest of all the Hawaiian Islands and the most populated. As the capital of the Hawaiian state, it has become one of the most attractive tourist destinations. With its luxurious beaches, vibrant nightlife, volcanic history and the presence of traditional culture, the city is a goldmine for any tourist looking for all the staples of a good vacation.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – before you can put on your shades and soak up those well-deserved rays you need to find a place to stay. This is, admittedly the most stressful part of any vacation, but it can also be the most exciting. There are hundreds of hotels and condos that want you as their customer in Honolulu.
The most central spot in Honolulu is Waikiki Beach. All the best restaurants, shopping and surfing are condensed into this 5-mile radius. If you want the true tourist experience, this is where you want to stay.
There is a hotel hierarchy on Waikiki Beach. It mainly has to do with proximity to the shoreline. As a general rule of thumb, the closer to the shore, the fancier the hotel will be, and the more expensive it is.
Typically these hotels are niche, sprung up with the intention of being a Hawaiian tourist attraction. These would be big names like the Moana Surfrider, The Royal Hawaiian and Halekulani Hotel. All of these hotels are right on the beach and equipped with pools and attentive staff. If you want a place to pull out all the stops, these would be your top three choices.
Then you have the more affordable chain hotels everyone is familiar with like the Sheraton, The Hilton, and Best Western. They are further off the shore, but still centrally located enough so that you don’t miss out on any of the action! These are the main offerings, but if you are willing to do a little more digging you can find some cute motels in the area behind all the big name hotels as well as comfy condos if you’re travelling in a big family. It’s all based on what you want your experience to be. Take your time to look around and choose a place that will be your home away from home.
Once you’ve gotten all settled, the first thing you will probably want to do is hit the beach. Assuming you chose a place to stay in Waikiki, you’ll want to take some time to acquaint yourself with the beach at hand! Waikiki Beach can get crowded with tourists but if you continue walking westward, the crowd tends to thin, the sand gets softer and you get a spectacular view of the Diamond Head on the east side of the beach.
Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone loca-ted on Waikiki beach created as a result of an eruption and the subsequent consolidating ash. Only 200,000 years old (young compared to other volcanic ranges), it has been dormant for 150,000 years. It’s become a sort of tourist attraction and if you are feeling particularly adventurous the hike up to the top is worth the stunning views of Waikiki Beach.
Next up, Ala Moana Center. Let’s be real, we all catch the shopping bug when we’re on vacation. No matter how much we claim shopping isn’t on the agenda, the reality is most of us come back home with a bunch of souvenirs. It’s better to just accept it and move on. Ala Moana is Hawaii’s premier shopping center and you can literally find anything there. Rainbow coloured hair ties? Got them. The watchstrap you’ve looked everywhere for? Got it. A hula-dancing squid that sings Christmas carols? Most definitely.
After you’ve gotten the materialism out of the way, you might feel like stepping into nature. Wahiawa Botanical Garden is just the place for that. Located near the infamous Chinaman’s Hat (a visually appealing pointy island just off the coast), the garden has free admission, guided and self-guided tours, and most importantly, an amazing vista of Hawaiian flora. The pinnacle of the garden is a refreshing waterfall sheltered in the valley and is definitely worth snapping a picture or two.
So you’ve gone to the beach, hiked up volcanic remains, went shopping, checked out an ethereal Hawaiian garden, but have you eaten yet? All of the restaurants along Waikiki Beach are fine choices but if you really want a local treat check out Giovanni’s Shrimp truck. This secret gem is well known among the locals. Located on the north side of the island, it is definitely worth the drive. Succulent shrimps drenched in savoury garlic sauce over a bed of rice are calling your name. Let your taste buds do the talking.
And so, as you finish off Giovanni’s fresh shrimps and wash it down with some refreshing hibiscus juice, your daydream concludes. The fantastical trip was nice while it lasted in your pleasant stream of consciousness. But does it really all have to be a daydream? That’s up to you. Get packing. Honolulu is calling your name.
Top 7 Honolulu Attractions You Can’t Miss :
1. Pearl Harbour/USS Arizona Memorial
Take a tour of the 84-foot-long memorial structure and appreciate the lives of the soldiers who fell in the 1941 battle. With informative tours and historical relevance to Hawaii, it is worth the visit.
2. Iolani Palace
Visit the residence of Hawaii’s last two rulers from 1882 to 1893. Spectacular both in architecture and historical consequence, it will spark your imagination to a time when King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani reigned.
3. Hanauma Bay
This is the most famous bay in Oahu and for good reason. Formed in a tuff ring as a result of volcanic activity, it is home to unique marine life and coral reefs. Be sure to bring your snorkeling gear!
4. Koko Crater
Hike up to the crater’s head and observe the botanical gardens within the crater and adjacent Portlock ocean shore. Make sure to bring lots of water, the steps to the top seem never ending!
5. Honolulu Zoo / Waikiki Aquarium
The Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium are on the east end of Waikiki beach and are great places to observe the natural flora and fauna up close and personal. You will be sure to befriend a giraffe or two and maybe even catch a glimpse of a phosphorescent jellyfish!
6. Manoa Falls
Manoa Falls is a gorgeous waterfall has a vertical drop of approximately 150 feet. The 2.5 km hike to reach it will take 2 hours to complete but will be totally worth it – especially since you get to observe the breathtaking beauty of one of Hawaii’s natural rainforests along the way.
7. Spitting Cave of Portlock
A beautiful spot to observe the ocean and get a little soaked! The Cave will spit out mist and water into the sea and shake the ground so that you can actually feel the reverberations. The massive waves and surf will have you reeling.