Oahu is one of the most built up and developed Hawaiian Islands. With so much to do and see, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to even start! As such, I’m hoping that by the end of this post, you’ll have a better idea of all the different kinds of activities to choose from on the island!
(Pictured: Hanauma Bay).
Before we get started, the most important thing I’d recommend to you is to just RENT a car. Although there is a pretty good bus system, it’s VERY spotty on the north shore and elsewhere on the island. You’re better off just getting a temporary vehicle from Enterprise or something and travel at your own pace! (If you have more than 4 people, for the love of loco moco, DON’T rent a Volkswagen Beetle….it’s WAY too tight of a fit). If you plan on getting something without a roof, don’t forget to wear a TON of sunscreen as you can burn really quickly without protection there.
There are a TON of places to unleash your inner shopaholic at on Oahu (more specifically Honolulu). Below are just a FEW of the ones I’ve visited (there are tons of other gems I’ve probably missed, so don’t be afraid to do some exploring yourself when you get there :) )
So there are many of these kinds of “galleria’s”/malls around.From what I saw, they mainly contained a lot of higher end more expensive brands and fashions. Though, it was nice to bask in the cold embrace of their powerful air conditioner, haha.
On the other hand, you’ve your lower end open-air shopping marketplaces. For example, this one had a Barnes & Noble, which was a nice change from places that stocked endless supplies of pieces of clothing that I dared not ask the prices of.
My favourite place to shop in Honolulu would probably have to have been Ala Moana. It’s a relatively large shopping mall with many of the typical brands you’d see here and MORE.
It’s got a GIANT food court filled with a good variety of cuisines (I’d say it rivals the Metrotown food court in size, might be even a tad bit larger).
Seriously it’s even got a Hello Kitty store.
It’s a very interesting concept as it’s almost entirely open-air! You’ll forget you were even in a shopping mall at all.
As well, almost all the water features actually have LIVE Koi in them!
The next place to hit up, if you’re more on a budget, is to head to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet.
If you’ve been to the Richmond Night Market, it’s kind of like that.
Last off, if there’s one store you HAVE to hit up, it’s gotta be Crazy Shirts! They’ve got like a ton of different t-shirt styles and other assorted clothing dyed in various materials from volcanic ash, hemp, etc. Personally, I love the ones with Kliban’s cat on them!
Sights and Activities
After all’s said and done, why not check out some of the unique places and buildings that make this place awesome!
You’ve gotta check out the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It’s BRIGHT pink and has an early turn of the 20th century feel to it. It’s very cool inside as the breeze blows through it, and it connects right to the beach!
Pretty ain’t it?
You don’t need to travel far to see some interesting sights though. Even the trash cans are the site of an interesting occurrence!
If you’re more of an indoors person though, not to worry! There’s always tons of live performances going on, even at as late as 10 PM (22:00).
If you’re more into the historical side of things, but don’t want to wait FOREVER to see the remains of the sunken ship, you can also check out one of the docked ones at Pearl Harbour! The peace treaty was signed on this particular one, kind of neato eh?
They give you an inside tour of the ship too, which is pretty cool. You get to see where the crew used to dine and live while on board.
If you’ve been watching Hawaii Five-O, you’ll recognize this building! Located further downtown, if not for anything else, Iolani Palace definitely merits a photo!
King Kamehameha Statue. Yes, that’s what the Dragon Ball Z move is named after.
If you like the more natural side of things though, check out the Waikiki Aquarium! It’s got a wide assortment of tropical fish you might not normally see back home.
Look I found Nemo!!! Though he looks mighty pissed off…..
Although you might not realize it, the Aloha Tower is a natural sight in itself. Although the mall is open air like Ala Moana and is pretty, there isn’t much shopping to do here, though that’s not really the main attraction.
You can ride the elevators to the top of the tower!
In the habour next to the tower, you can see live coral with TONS of fish and urchins all about. It’s amazing how much life there is in the water right next to an oil spewing boat.
You can feed some local birds too if you’d like, they come RIGHT up to your hands.
It’s kind of neat to see the Chinatown there as well! Just imagine Parker Place, but EVERYWHERE in the form of an open market and food court in one structure.
If those aren’t your thing, then you have your outdoor grocery stores too. I’ll touch more on the food stuff in the next section.
A visit to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without a tour and train ride to the Dole plantation! Again, i’ll cover more on the food in the next section.
Apparently, very few of the pineapples grown here are consumed on the island if at all. They end up having to be imported from Southeast Asia.
Again, if you like a side of history with a vacation, check out the Bishop Museum! It’s got some taxidermy (stuffed animals), portraits and history of the family and of Hawaii, and an adjacent science centre!
All your spam are belong to us! (Gundam reference)
Looks very real.
As shown at the beginning, this is Hanauma Bay. It’s accessible by car, and is known for scuba activities around its reefs.
Although many of the original local fish species have been killed off by sunscreen contamination in the water, you might luck out and have a fishy swim by your feet!
A must-see when visiting Honolulu is Pali lookout. Located high above in the mountains, not only does it present an amazing view, it’s also INCREDIBLY windy up there. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to “whip your hair”, this is the place for you.
It’s challenging to even walk around
Also nestled high in the mountains is a Buddhist shrine (Byodo-in Temple). With its immense amount of greenery and Koi ponds, I guarantee it will give you a sense of serenity and peace, if only for a short time. Watch out for mosquitoes though…they’re really nasty out here.
So many fish.
At the polar opposite end of the spectrum, we’ve Diamondhead. It’s a steep climb through a desert path, up a flight of stairs, to the observation tower at the top. If you do persevere and make it, not only will you be granted with an AMAZING view of the surrounding island, but you’ll get a certificate that says you’ve done it too!
Feel the burn!
Definitely worth the tiresome trek though
Last, but not least, we’ve Waikiki Beach. It’s got a LONG stretch of sand where you can either bask in and relax on, or perhaps you’d be more interested in taking a dip! In the case of these brave souls though, they were competing in a swimming race farther away from shore.
Totally jacked up water ride.
A definite MUST when visiting Honolulu is to eat at Shore Bird. You can order sandwiches and burgers, but they’re known for offering you a raw steak, which you can season and cook at the provided grill stations (they often come with unlimited salad bar). It’s more of a visit to say you’ve visited kind of place as it’s REALLY expensive ($20-30 range for a steak meal) and quality is just average.
Salad bar ain’t half bad. Chili’s probably the best though
Fire it up!
Next off, gotta try the local McDonald’s! They’ve some CRAZY cheap and unique offerings you won’t find elsewhere nor back home!
Always wanted to try Saimin (apparently some sort of noodle soup) though I’ve heard it’s NASTY
Chicken Nuggets are a commodity on the island. In the core, it’s like 6 for $5, but the more rural areas charge $5 for 20 pieces. Maybe it has to do with the roaming packs of wild chickens…
The taro pie is just okay. If you’re wondering, it does NOT taste like taro bubble tea/boba at all. It’s just like raw taro but sweetened with sugar.
Speaking of junk food, the soda offerings are kind of different their too! American A&W broke off from the Canadian one decades ago, so their flavours and general taste are quite different!
The Dole plantation has a cafeteria there where people apparently have raved about their pulled pork pineapple sandwich. I actually found it quite gross as it was REALLY overly sweet and everything was super soggy. If you like sweet messes, then this is definitely your sandwich I guess :P
They also specialize in pineapple soft serve ice cream (called Dole Whip). I want to let you know RIGHT NOW, that do not feel pressured to get this here LOL. You can honestly get it in the Lower Mainland as well. One place I’ve seen have it is the soft serve ice cream place in the Granville Island Public Market. It’s just ordinary soft serve with a mild pineapple flavour.
Seriously, step aside Parker Place and Yaohan, the places in these sketchy little Chinese markets, in Chinatown, take the cake…for cheapness at least. Many of the dishes hovered around the $2-$3 range (for noodles) and even the most expensive things weren’t more than $8
Yummy, won-ton done old fashioned style!
Such yummy! (and cheap)
Bowl of congee sets you back around 75c to $1.
I don’t know if you’re into abalone, I personally hate it, but if you’re up for cooking, they go for around $5 each here.
Dim sum places abound, all look kinda sketchy though
There are numerous bakeries in Chinatown with unique goods
In Conclusion, Honolulu, and Oahu, have a lot to offer in terms of food, shopping, and sights to see! This list is just a tiny sliver of all there is to see and do there, so I’m hoping that although this might be your initial guide, you’ll have plenty more discoveries and adventures when you journey there, yourself! Happy travels now, be safe!
-As of July 2014, the International Marketplace has been closed down and will be reconstructed as an indoor plaza in the future
-Perry’s Smorgy (80’s buffet joint) has now been replaced by another restaurant
-Buskers tend to roam around the beach at night, so keep a lookout
-Might want to keep away from those guys that are slapping business cards together…(they employ certain “services” if you catch my drift)
-Although I didn’t have time to visit, I hear there is a GREAT zoo in the area