by Stephanie Barnard July 6th, 2015
You work long hours.
You stress about your finances, your love life, family, and your future. You are addicted to your phone, and overwhelmed by social media.
What you need is a break.
Yeah, it’s expensive.
Yeah, it’s far away.
It is paradise!
It’s a different world. It’s exactly what you need. Take a few of your girlfriends, too!
Oahu is the most populated, and tourist visited island in the Hawaiian chain. If you are looking for remoteness, this is not the place for you. It’s crowded, and alive. It's as if you are stepping into a different time... a different country. It’s overwhelming, and breathtaking.
It's exactly what you need to really get away.
Throw a bathing suit, sundress, and sandals into your carry-on.
Even if there is an issue with late arriving baggage, you are ready to go.
Let the airline sort it out, while you enjoy the beach.
Things you should know before booking your trip.
Hotels are very expensive. Renting a condo may be the way to go. Air conditioning is a luxury in most businesses. It’s hot, and humid everywhere, except the mountains. Pack plenty of light, and airy clothing.
The flights to Hawaii can be long depending on your starting point, and connections. Some flights leaving the east coast are over twelve hours. This is where you, and your girls, will want to splurge. Dare I say, First Class? How about Premium Economy? You'll want to feel refreshed, and ready to go when you land. If a splurge isn't in the numbers - I highly recommend a neck pillow, and headphones.
Once you touch down, you'll have three options to get about the island: bus, taxi, or rental car. I recommend the rental car . Taxis are extremely expensive, and the bus won't give you access to more remote destinations.
Three things you should know about driving in Oahu:
- Parking is expensive everywhere. Plan on $20-30 a night, even at your hotel.
- Parking decks are terrifyingly tiny. I mean it. Terrifying! Rent the smallest car you can fit into.
- You'll be bumper to bumper on highways, but... you won't hear a single horn.
It’s island time. Relax! Walk when you can. Take the Bus to the beaches. Drive the coast and the mountains. If there’s a viewing area where you can pull over, do it! The views are like nothing you've ever seen!
Where to Visit
To hang out, Waikiki is a personal favorite, but for shopping, and nightlife - I'm all about Kalakaua Avenue. There you'll find everything from Fendi, to Gucci, and a two-story Forever 21. It’s a shop-a-holic's dream come true. If you need a break from shopping, pop into the Moana, or Royal Hawaiian hotel bars located on the beach. Sip some cocktails and watch the sunset. Once the sun goes down on Kalakaua Avenue, the restaurants open their windows, and there are fireworks. The avenue is crowded, hot, and lively.
For your inner foodie, check out the local fare.
Japanese restaurants are abundant, but pay attention before you order - most only take cash.
Don't get overwhelmed with the lack of English on the menus. The proprietors are very kind, and accommodating.
Personally, I am obsessed with a little shop on Kalakaua Avenue called Ramen Nakamura. If you've never had authentic ramen then you have to try it. It’s especially tasty after a day of sightseeing, or a night of drinking. They don't serve alcohol, but you can BYOB, from the little store across the road. Try it! You can thank me later. For you sushi lovers, you really can't go wrong anywhere.
First thing in the morning , I always take a trip over to Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu Avenue. They make Portuguese donuts called malasadas. They are simply amazing ! Buy a dozen in every flavor, with every filling to share with your girls.
After you've gotten your sugar rush, take an awesome day trek .
For the zen-seeker, take a scenic drive to Byodo-In Temple, a nonnative Buddhist monastery off Kahekili Highway. Drive through mountain ranges to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, which houses both a Christian and a Shinto cemetery. Don’t forget to leave a cash donation, which helps to keep it open to the public.
If you've still got a ton of energy from your malasada breakfast, drive south along Highway 72 to Waimanalo Bay State Recreation Area and Beach. It’s more secluded, and less touristy than Waikiki Beach. You may see a wedding, or two right on the ocean. Continue driving south along the east coast to Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve. Snorkeling in the reef is amazing at the Reserve. Get there early as the parking lot fills up fast. Driving back to Waikiki on Highway 72, there are more stunning views, including Diamond Head Crater. It’s great for hiking.
Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve - Left. Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head - Right. Images provided by Stephanie Barnard.
Before you leave Oahu, get a taste of history. Visit the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and the USS Arizona Memorial. Bring tissues, because you will have the chance to hear the stories of survivors. It’s one of those things you have to do. You won't ever forget.
I leave you with these words: don't limit yourself, try everything, see everything, stay for at least a week, get up early, stay up late, sleep when you get home, don't just visit…experience Oahu!