“Bless everyone and everything that represents what you want!” – taken from ‘The Spirit of Aloha’
I can see why Hawaii is called the ‘Place of the Gods’. You feel as if you’ve arrived in heavenly paradise when you step on to it’s pure white sand beaches and see sea turtles swimming in crystal clear waters. Yes this is what it’s actually like! And being ‘a place of the gods’, you can expect to find the counter-balance of peace and serenity with fiery hot lava flowing from active volcanoes found on neighbouring islands.
Hawaii lives up to all those beautiful surreal photos you’ve seen on holiday websites and instagram. It truly is breath-taking and has so much to offer. When planning this holiday I looked up what to see and do so I’m going to condense what we saw and experienced so you have a quick and helpful guide to help you make the best out of what Hawaii has to offer. So sit back and ride the waves of Hawaii with me in true Aloha spirit…
We were flying in to Honolulu so I knew we would spend time in the famous Waikiki area with the option of visiting Hilo – Big Island to see the Kilauea an active volcano or Maui for the National Park and famous Nakalele Blowhole (see the end of the post for details about these). However when looking at the costs of flights to Big Island or Maui – I realised how expensive it was going to be as the only way to get to these Islands was by air and it wasn’t turning out to be as pocket friendly as we would’ve liked (it would’ve doubled the cost of our holiday). Plus my main reason for visiting Big Island was to see an active volcano but with only a slim chance of getting to see some actual lava action, we made the executive decision to stay in Honolulu for the duration of the trip and I’m happy to say the island kept us entertained and entranced throughout.
United Airlines from London Heathrow to San Francisco – Duration (10 hours)
United Airlines from San Francisco to Honolulu Oahu – Duration (4 1/2 hours)
Taxi from Honolulu Airport to Waikiki Area: Around $37
Where we stayed: Embassy Suites by Hilton
Hotel: Embassy Suites by Hilton
Area: Waikiki – Waikiki is a beachfront neighborhood of Honolulu and home to the famous Waikiki Beach. It is the perfect base to visit the main attractions of Honolulu (listed below)
Room Type: The Hula Tower – Ocean-view with Breakfast Included and no resort fees and free Wi-Fi
Duration: 7 Nights
Review – I would highly recommend staying at this beautiful 5 star hotel right in the middle of Waikiki with only a 5min walk to the Waikiki Beach, main shops and restaurants. The rooms were all suites which consisted of a large bedroom which had an en-suite with a bathtub shower and a large living area complete with microwave and tea/coffee making facilities.
The decor was modern and tasteful and the rooms were lovely and clean. We stayed in the Hula Tower which had an ocean-view and a balcony. Just to note – the ocean view isn’t on the beach-front as the hotel isn’t on the beach but you can still see the beautiful ocean when you get up every morning.
This is one of the few hotels that offer free breakfast with your stay and I was glad we had this included in our package. Waking up to a buffet breakfast every morning is the perfect way to start the day. The choice of menu wasn’t as extensive as some of the other hotels we’ve stayed at but they had cereals, live egg station, pancakes, fruits, juices, teas and coffee as well as Miso Soup and vegetables.
One downside was that room service wasn’t 24 hours and closed at 11pm so if you’re hungry you had to go outside the hotel for food – which wasn’t too bad as there are restaurants within walking distance which are open until 1am as well as a 7 Eleven within two minutes walk from the hotel.
For fitness freaks this hotel had a small gym downstairs which had weights and running/tread machines which was open 24 hours. Or what I recommend is making full use of the weather and location and go to the beach for an early morning run or do some yoga to the sounds of the waves – which I highly recommend. It’s worth making the most of exercising outside in the fresh air with an amazing view when you can – it’s good for the mind, body and soul!
Lastly this hotel didn’t charge extra for resort fees – which some of the other hotels were charging as much as $26 – 34 per day.
All important Wi-Fi was also free and had good reception.
Honolulu’s Main Attractions and What to See and Do:
Rent A Car – I can’t stress how much you can see and do if you rent a car to see the Island.It will save you time, money and ensure you get to see as much as you can. You can rent a car for $90 per day – we rented a car from Budget Rental located in the Hyatt Regency Hotel as we found out in order to see other areas or beaches we would have to take multiple buses to reach our destination or pay a lot more for taxi’s – going to and fro. We also wouldn’t have got to see as many places as we did, renting a car meant we saw the East, South and Northern areas of the Island.
You only need your Drivers License and your passport to rent a car with the option of including insurance if you wish for an extra $20 but check your own travel insurance to see if it covers you already.
And don’t worry about driving in Hawaii – the speed limit are mostly 25mph and 35mph so you get to drive slowly which means you get to enjoy the beautiful scenic routes and spot the places where you might want to stop and explore.
And explore we did! We followed the same route that tour groups go on called ‘The Oahu circle Island Tour’ heading for Kailua Beach – but doing it ourselves meant we did it cheaper and got a chance to go on our own mini-adventures where we stopped and saw the beautiful and scenic Halona Beach Cove where there’s a blowhole and was the location for the famous love scene between Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in the award winning From Here to Eternity (1953)
We stopped a few times along the way just to explore and take photos, or stopped to eat at places that were recommended by from locals – like Buzz’s Restaurant (see below for more details).
We also came across Sherwood Beach in which we only only saw 4 people during our stay on the beach which seemed so surprising as it was absolutely stunning. It wasn’t mentioned on the websites I had read so I was so happy that we found our own private beach to indulge in.
We also visited the Kailua Beach was was voted the ‘best beach in the world’ and was recommended by many websites. This beach as you can see was beautiful but was busier than Sherwood Beach so if I were to pick one, then Sherwood gets my vote for being more exclusive and secluded.
The natural tour route flows back to Waikiki so we took the opportunity to visitNuuanu Pali Lookout (see below for details) where we experienced such weird weather – seeing as the weather was hot and sunny one minute , and when you drive up to the lookout it was windy and blustery. We then drove along the highway back to Waikiki where the weather returned to normal.
It took us around 5-6 hours seeing all the above.
On the second day we drove to the North Shore which takes around 55 minutes to drive to where we visited the picture perfect Sunset Beach (see below for details)where we spent most of the day as we couldn’t bear to leave!
Pearl Harbor, Oahu
I would recommend taking a shuttle bus which is a service offered by some hotels which costs around $20 per person return. The bus will pick you up from your hotel and drop you off again. Taxi’s will cost you $50 from Waikiki one way so make a saving here and go on the shuttle bus – it takes slightly longer as it picks other people up from their hotels etc but it’s not a long wait. The buses only carry around 12 people.
Entrance to Pearl Harbour area was free but the tours to see the Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri had a charge. We opted to see the area for free which included visiting the museum, seeing a short theatre movie which was worth watching as it really helps you to understand what happened at Pearl Harbour and helps you picture the scene. Ironically Pearl Harbour the movie was on the night before at the hotel, something tells me it might be shown a lot here in Hawaii 🙂 so I was able to regale some of the story to my husband while we visited (he had fallen asleep while the movie was playing after moaning about Ben Affleck) – so all in all it was a fun experience and worth the visit to see a historical place infamous for the Japanese attack on the US which bought America into World War 2 and you know the rest of the story….
Nuuanu Pali Lookout
Address: Pali Highway between Honolulu and Kailua
No entry fee – $3 for cars
Historical landmark and scenic spot with panoramic views. Just a 5-mile drive northeast of Downtown Honolulu, the Nuuanu Pali Lookout offers panoramic views of the sheer Koolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast. Driving up the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests to get to the lookout, you’ll see the city disappear and the tranquil beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape emerge.
Address: 364 S King St – Honolulu
Open: Tuesdays through to Sunday
Aliiolani Hale and the King Kamehameha I statue, Kawaiahao Church, Hawaii State Art Museum. If you’re facing the Palace, the ticket office is to the left on the State Capitol side of the building. The gardens are free to walk around. A national historic landmark and the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs from 1882 to 1893: King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani.
Ala Moana Centre
Address: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Honolulu, HI 96814
Open: Monday through Saturday 9:30am to 9:00pm and Sunday 10:00am to 7:00pm
For shopaholics the Ala Moana Center, Hawaii’s largest shopping center located in Honolulu just minutes from Waikiki, is an open-air shopping oasis. Local shops as well as mall shops.
Kapahulu Avenue, Oahu – Unique shops that sell everything from vintage aloha shirts to ocean sports rentals. Bailey’s Antiques & Aloha Shirts boasts thousands of vintage aloha shirts, some worth thousands of dollars.
Best Beaches to Visit:
Waikiki Beach – the infamous beach known for surfing. The water is beautiful and perfect for surfers but there are also areas where you can swim in, although not as quiet or tranquil as some of the other beaches on Honolulu. The beach is soft yellow sand and clean but be warned it can become too crowded to relax in. You can rent a sun lounger with an umbrella for $20 which is quite expensive but a necessity as the weather is hot and the sun tends to beat down without any cloud cover here in the south. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, hotels around should you wish to take a break from the beach.
Sherwood Beach – is a 3 mile pristine stretch of soft white sand and turquoise waters. It is beautiful and private as it’s rarely visited by tourists so it’s perfect for feeling like your lost in your own undiscovered world. I preferred this and Sunset Beach to the more renowned beaches for the peacefulness, privacy and calm warm water – so be sure to check these out and don’t be afraid to visit other beaches in the area that aren’t on tourist websites to find your own versions of paradise.
Kailua Beach Park – Beautiful white sand beaches with clear water, perfect for learning how to surf with a more laid back environment compared to Waikiki. Kailua Beach is longer than it’s sister beach Lanikai. It’s worth stopping in the lovely Kailua town that you will have to pass through to get to the beaches. The town of Kailua has some great places and grocery stores to pick up some food, ice, and drinks ready for the beach. While this beach is noted on most tourist sites it wasn’t as secluded as the ones less mentioned like Sunset Beach or Sherwood Beach.
If you’re visiting Kailua Beach Park or Lanikai then its worth visiting Buzz’s Restaurant which is in the same area. This restaurant was recommended by the lovely lady at Budget Car Rental. It’s a place full of Hawaiian charm. There wasn’t an array of choices on the menu but the food was great and so were the cocktails. It’s conveniently located opposite Kailua Beach. It was busy when we visited, which proves how popular it is so I can imagine waiting times if you go in peak season.
Sunset Beach– We found this beach by accident as it wasn’t listed on the tourist sites but it ended up being our favourite beach in Hawaii. It was a long expanse of beautiful clean unspoiled sand with clear blue water which was calm enough to walk and swim in (my ideal type of water) The water was lovely and warm but still cooling. There were very few people on the beach so it felt like we had it to ourselves which I’ve never experienced before. Really felt like paradise. There were actually some beachfront houses set off from the beach which were beautiful and I couldn’t help but think how lucky are they to be living on the doorstep of this type paradise – I would love it!
There aren’t restaurants around but there are toilets and outside shower facilities as well as a man selling fresh coconuts. But if you have a car, then you can leave when you need to and come back when you want to. There is also parking alongside the beach on the main road which was free.
Dukes Restaurant and Bar – on the beach front and worth a visit for its Hawaiian decor, ocean views and friendly charm.
Furusato Sushi Restaurant – Great sushi place and be sure to check out the Citron flavoured Sake!
Cheesecake Factory – If you’ve ever been to the US or watch US TV programmes you would’ve heard of this famous chain of restaurants. It was my first visit and I loved it – just be warned the choice on the menu is so vast and tasty, you won’t know what to choose and you might go back…ahem 2 or even 3 times during your stay 🙂
Recommended Bars and Clubs
Address: 500 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96813
Music: Rnb and Hip Hop
Dress: Upscale and Hip
Inside: White, neons, has VIP bottle service with waitress service with white leather booths – loved the Mickey Mouse Gangster statue!
Clientele – trendy locals and some tourists
Addiction – (Inside the Modern Hotel Honolulu)
Address: 1775 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96815
Music: Rnb and Hip Hop
Dress: You can dress it up or dress it down
Inside: Small club so was quite packed. Dark lighting with a beautiful ceiling made of glass bulbs
Clientele – Mostly tourists.
However for those wishing to see Big Island and seeing as I did the research, here are the main attractions to see on Big Island and Maui should you wish to travel there:
Hilo – Big Island
Hilo is a town on Big Island. It’s known for Wailuku River State Park, featuring Waianuenue, or Rainbow Falls known for its colorful mist effects. The bubbling basalt-lava rock pools known as the Boiling Pots are also nearby. North of Hilo is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a nature preserve with trails taking in a palm jungle, waterfalls and exotic plants. To the south is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to rainforests and the active Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.
Flights are quite expensive – around £150/$207 per person roundtrip, if staying overnight than include hotel, food and entrance to Volcano National Park costs on top.
It’s worth staying overnight in Hilo if you are visiting Kilauea in Hilo Volcano National Park as there are excursions to see lava flowing at night so my recommendation would be to go in the day and stay for sunset/after dark to hopefully see some active lava!
Ka’anapali Beach which is famous for the daily cliff diving ceremony off of the beach’s northernmost cliffs known as Black Rock. Held every evening at sunset, a cliff diver lights the torches along the cliff, diving off of Black Rock in a reenactment of a feat by Maui’s revered King Kahekili.
Haleakala National Park – Go on the Pipiwai Trail which is a hike though a beautiful bamboo forest to a waterfall which takes around 2 hours roundtrip.
Nakalele Blowhole – Nakalele Point is famous for a blowhole which produces powerful geyser-like water spouts with the waves and tides. Water spewed from the blowhole can rise as high as 100 feet in the air which sounds very cool to see!
After thought before you go….
I read this about the Spirit of Hawaii which I loved…
The Aloha Spirit is a well known reference to the attitude of friendly acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are so famous. However, it also refers to a powerful way to resolve any problem, accomplish any goal, and to achieve any state of mind or body that you desire.
In the Hawaiian language, aloha stands for much more than just “hello” or “goodbye” or “love.” Its deeper meaning is “the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo).”
As you share this energy you become attuned to the Universal Power that the Hawaiians call mana. And the loving use of this incredible Power is the secret for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity and success.
The way to tune into this Power and have it work for you is so simple that you might be tempted to pass it off as being too easy to be true. Please don’t let yourself be fooled by appearances. Take the time to try it out.
This is the most powerful technique in the world, and although it is extremely simple it may not prove easy, because you must remember to do it and you have to do it a lot. It is a secret which has been given to humanity over and over again, and here it is once more in another form. The secret is this: “Bless everyone and everything that represents what you want!”