Wake up, go to university, study, stress, study a little more, sleep. Repeat. Wake up, go to work, pick the kids up, take them to tutoring AND soccer training, make dinner, do the washing, clean up, hang the clothes, throw the dirty clothes into the wash basket after their demise due to said dinner, fold the clothes, sleep. Repeat.
That was painful to read, let alone live through. I’m sure many of you understand all too well what I’m talking about. Whether it’s work or study, our ‘normal’ day to day routines get tedious. When a glass (or four) of wine with dinner, or living vicariously through your TV screen via Getaway isn’t cutting it anymore, you know it’s time for a holiday.
I was lucky enough to spend one week in beautiful Waikiki, Hawaii in February 2015. I had just finished my second year of university, and over a usual lunch with my best friend, it was decided that we were going to Hawaii!
Great Honolulu looks pretty much like any other major city. A mixture of highways, houses and general city hustle and bustle. Waikiki on the other hand, is a different story. The first thing I noticed was how clean and neat it was. Waikiki looks and feels like an oversized resort suburb. The second thing I noticed was how friendly the people were. If two things are true about Hawaii it’s this: the people (and service) are lovely, and it’s definitely beautiful.
Almost everything in Waikiki is within walking distance, so it isn’t really necessary to use public transport or take a cab unless you’re making a day trip to other islands or shopping centres. My friends and I felt at ease, and safe. It’s the kind of place where you feel comfortable to ask a local for directions or recommendations for lunch. We also experienced great weather. Hawaii is warm all year round, and we had 25-30 degree (Celsius) days for the entire week!
There are so many oceanfront hotels to choose from. We stayed at Waikiki Shore on Kalia Road, which was, funnily enough, located on the Waikiki shore, and is the closest you can possibly stay to Waikiki Beach. You step off of the concrete of the apartment complex and onto the Hawaiian sand of Waikiki Beach. It was very reasonably priced (although we did go in the off-season) and I believe it was a mid-range accommodation. Our room was spotlessly clean, with all of the basic amenities. If we ever needed extra towels or toiletries (we did. A group of five girls and one bathroom, c’mon) the room attendants delivered quick and friendly service.
All of the hotels and resorts in Waikiki are stunning. Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort is just next door, the Sheraton Waikiki, The Hilton Hotel, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, The Halekulani Hotel and the famous pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel to name a few are all within walking distance from the beach and main streets. There’s also lots of more affordable hotels. Accommodation in Hawaii is central to shopping, restaurants and the trusty ABC stores (we made several visits a day). However, if you really want to spoil yourself, the Moana Surfrider is, in my opinion, the epitome of modern-historic luxury. Google it, and be sad because $$$.
All of our meals were very well priced. Expect to pay about the same as you would for a meal in Sydney, but double the portion sizes. And, the stereotype is true – American-style coffee is just… bad.
Almost every morning, we had breakfast at Island Vintage Coffee, located upstairs in the Royal Hawaiian Center. They serve healthy breakfast meals and we all tried the delicious acai bowls, bagels with several topping options, their coffee was actually decent, and they had a range of teas and iced drinks to choose from.
Duke’s is a massive beachside restaurant, named after legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, with an extensive menu of different cuisines. If you get there early enough for lunch or dinner service you can enjoy your meal pretty much on the beach. Duke’s has a fun and busy atmosphere with an island bar and a mixed crowd of young and old while still being family-friendly. There’s also live music, and the band happily performed a rendition of a Jack Johnson song when I requested it.
It goes without saying that when you visit the States, you gotta go to The Cheesecake Factory. Expect to wait for up to an hour. In saying that, we were given a restaurant pager and went across the road to Jimmy Buffet’s and had a couple of cocktails in the mean time. Anything you order at TCF is going to be good. I’m not much of a cheesecake person, but this place was an exception. We ordered our individual mains, and then chose a couple of different slices of cheesecake to share (there are SO many flavours). I recommend doing this because their servings are HUGE. Or, you could even just go for dessert. Either way, their cheesecake = happiness.
One of my favourite places was Yard House. We did have to wait for about 30 minutes to be seated, but the over 21s were able to order some cocktails at the bar, and it was worth the wait. YH is known for its impressive selection of beer, and it has a young crowd and pumping music. It actually took us a while to decide on our dinner because the menu was just that big and everything looked so good. We ended up going to Yard House twice in one week.
My favourite restaurant by far was Buho, a Mexican inspired rooftop restaurant and bar. We had been at the beach all day and someone recommended this place. We were slightly underdressed, but hey, who cares! Amazing cocktails, amazing food and amazing views. I recommend this place to everyone!
SEE AND DO
Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world, and for good reason. The water is clear and calm. Grab a beach towel and a book and you’re guaranteed to have an amazing day at the beach. There are also several spots along the beach where you can hire paddle boards for approx. USD $25 and proceed to laugh at each other falling off your boards for an hour! A word of advice; consider investing in a pair of aqua shoes. They might not look cute, but you (and your feet) will thank me. The ocean floor is a little difficult to navigate with a combination of spiky coral and rocks.
We were also told that at night the beach is often occupied by homeless and heavy drug users, so we wore thongs (flip flops) just as a precaution whenever we weren’t on the sand. Apparently theft is very common on the beach, luckily we didn’t have any issues, but its something to keep in mind.
If you’re looking to book a sunset sail, booze cruise or Hawaiian luau, definitely shop around. There are loads of stalls and brochures offering different packages. Two of us were not yet of legal drinking age so it wasn’t really possible for us to experience a booze cruise. There are a handful of different luaus available, and they can charge you anywhere between (approximately) USD $60-$100. Of course, this depends on what’s included in the package.
We chose Diamond Head Luau. We walked through the Waikiki Aquarium (great if you’ve got kids) and down to the beach on the foothills of Diamond Head. Over the course of about two or three relaxing hours, we had a traditional Hawaiian dinner, tried kava, sipped on pina coladas and daiquiris, watched traditional Polynesian and Hawaiian dancing and fire dancing, made lei’s and did some basket weaving and ended the evening watching the beautiful sunset.
Diamond Head Crater is a volcanic crater and a major tourist attraction. It can be seen from the beach and is a popular hiking trail. Consider your level of fitness before doing this activity though!
- Ala Moana Center: this shopping centre has hundreds of major retails stores of all price ranges including department stores like Neiman Marcus. We walked to Ala Moana but I recommend taking the bus, as we arrived hot and sweaty (which you don’t want right before trying clothes on). There are several bus services that take you directly to the shopping centre. From memory, the bus service is quite frequent and runs every day. It’s definitely worth a visit.
- Waikele outlet: Mixed feelings – the information centre gives you discount vouchers offering an extra 10-20% off already discounted prices. So you can definitely grab a bargain, but it depends on what you like shopping for. I found the stores to be a little under-whelming. I only ended up buying a couple of perfumes (admittedly, they ended up being ridiculously cheaper than Australian prices) and a pair of Vans sneakers. Most people tend to love Waikele though.
- DFS Galleria: (duty free) a high end shopping galleria. I remember seeing discount signs on a couple of stores such as Bally and Coach. Great if you’re looking to buy luxury items.
- Royal Hawaiian Center, Kalakaua Ave: luxury brands and boutiques such as Cartier, Hermes, Jimmy Choo and a couple of souvenir stores and cafes.
- Waikiki Beach Walk & Kalakaua Ave: Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, Forever 21 and Macy’s, which always has sales! You’ll find yourself roaming into plenty of retail stores, as they’re dotted all throughout the streets of Waikiki.
- ABC stores: convenience stores on steroids. I couldn’t even keep count of how many ABC stores we came across. They sell a bit of everything – from souvenirs, toiletries, alcohol, beach towels, sushi and salads to tobacco, American lollies, phone chargers, drinks and sunscreen. I guarantee you’ll be at an ABC store everyday.
Waikiki is a beautiful part of Hawaii. There’s so much to see and do, and we could’ve easily stayed another week. Waikiki is great for a girls trip away, a trip with the family, and definitely for your honeymoon. Waikiki, Hawaii is postcard perfect.