What to see in Honolulu and Oahu
When we decided to travel across the Pacific ocean from the United States to Australia, I wanted to take the opportunity to see more of Hawaii. It’s so far from anywhere so you really need to plan to fit it into your itinerary. Of course, you can’t see it all in a week. So we planned to see three of the islands, Maui, Big Island of Hawaii, and finally, Oahu.
We arrived on the island of Oahu in Hawaii in the early morning on a Hawaiian Airlines flight. Despite it only being a 50-minute flight the process of getting to the airport, going through -security, dropping off, and picking up hire cards seemed to take all morning. This is why I prefer to travel without flying. But needs must. Hawaiian’s policy of charging for checked baggage means that everyone, us included, of course, is trying to sneak on bigger and bigger hand luggage. We got in the queue for boarding early to make sure we got space in the overhead bins for ours and managed, for the third time, to get away with our wheeled cases plus a backpack each as hand luggage. The flight was full but they did somehow manage to cram everyone’s bags in as well as the passengers.
Arriving in Honolulu, the main city on Oahu, it is immediately clear that this is a very different Hawaii from the other places we have stayed in. Honolulu is a big airport which means plenty of opportunities to get lost looking for our rental car pick up. By wandering aimlessly for a while we found some arrows pointing to ‘rental cars’ and finally a sign telling us to wait there for a shuttle to the Dollar Car garage. We didn’t have long to wait until a bus came along and once again, Dollar upgraded our car so we had a Chevrolet this time.
Traffic coming out of the airport towards Waikiki beach was very heavy and we crawled along slowly although always moving. We found the hotel quite easily though. We only had to go round the block once.
We stayed at the Royal Garden at Waikiki which is a Wyndham Time Share hotel. It was a very nice property and our room was huge with a small kitchen area and balcony overlooking the river. Perfect if you want good self-catering facilities but still want to be in a central location.
Once we had unpacked our stuff we went out for a walk to find somewhere for lunch. We chose the first decent place we came across as we were both starving. So we ate in the Hard Rock Cafe. Not really a local restaurant but it was very nice and the service was good. As we left it started pouring with rain so we headed back for a look around the hotel and then went for a drive up the coast.
Road trip around Oahu Hawaii
East of Waikiki beach there are a number of surfing beaches and plenty of rocky cliffs. The sea is quite wild here and there are lots of warnings about staying well back from the cliffs.
North Coast of Oahu Hawaii
We pulled over to a lookout while driving through the mountains back to Honolulu and it was so windy we could barely stand up. The views were worth it though. We even made it back to the hotel although my map flew away when I opened the car door. We had to drive along a little road with really tall trees and they were blowing so hard they were bending over – quite scary.
Honolulu is much more built-up than the other islands. Particularly, there are lots of skyscrapers and of course, lots of traffic. I saw an advert for ‘shark cage snorkelling’ nearby which sounds amazing but it’s not for me.
For our first full day on Oahu Hawaii, we headed to the USS Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbour. The USS Arizona memorial is part of the larger ‘Valor in the Pacific National Monument’ which commemorates those who lost their lives when the Japanese attacked in 1941. Entry to the visitor centre is free and we applied for free tickets for the tour across to the Arizona memorial online before we went. If you want to visit then you should certainly book ahead.
We left the hotel early as the traffic in Honolulu can be quite horrendous and we had to pick up our tickets by 10 am for our 11 am tour. Although we went wrong a couple of times we managed to keep heading west and somehow managed to get there with time to spare.
Once you arrive in the park there is plenty to see and do while you wait for your tour time. Within the park you can wander around and look at some missiles and an airplane:
You can also view the Bowfin Submarine – it is possible to go onboard but you have to pay for this and so we stuck to the free stuff.
There is also a memorial trail with various plaques and memorials to the many ships that were damaged or destroyed and their crews. One of the anchors of USS Arizona was recovered intact and is now on display.
USS Arizona Memorial
The highlight of the visit is a trip by boat over to the Arizona Memorial. The white structure you can see floats above the sunken wreckage of the ship and can only be reached by boat. We were very lucky as we were the last boat across. Afterward, they cancelled all the rest due to high winds.
Once on the floating platform, you can see some of the wreckage which is above the waterline.
Some of the submerged parts can be seen over the sides and through a viewing panel in the floor.
Inside the white structure, there is a memorial wall that lists the names and ranks of all those lost.
Once you have spent time exploring the memorial you then return to the main park by boat. It’s quite an emotional experience but a must-do if you’re interested in history. Allow at least half a day to fully explore the park as well as the boat trip to the memorial.
We left the memorial park in the early afternoon. Then we headed over to the North Shore to see some of the famous surfing waves. They were building a new elevated highway in this part of Honolulu and the traffic and diversions were chaos but we made it eventually. This part of the coast is very rocky and the waves can get very big apparently. Although I’m not brave enough to swim in them, they didn’t look that high when we visited.
Driving back through Honolulu to our hotel, we made a detour via the statue of King Kamehameha. Watchers of Hawaii 5-O will recognize it as it is frequently seen outside their police headquarters. It’s really difficult to stop and get a photo of as there is no parking nearby. I’d have liked to explore this area of the city a bit more on foot but it proved impossible.
Waikiki Beach by Night
This evening we took a walk along Waikiki beach. It’s a really nice place to spend time. Especially because you can wander around on foot quite easily and it all feels very safe. There are lots of restaurants and hotels all along the beach area and beyond. So plenty of choices. I think we packed a lot in today. All in all, a busy day.
We decided to spend our last day in Hawaii at the pool and beach. We spent the morning walking along Waikiki beach. It really is such a lovely area. I even went for a swim in one of the sheltered areas. It is very busy in this area with lots of activities on the beach. The waves weren’t too high today although we did see a few people trying to surf.
These are a few photos we took during our walk this morning. Firstly, the park as we walked from the hotel down to the beach.
We spotted some tanks outside the Army museum. It looked interesting but we didn’t go in. The multi-coloured one is Japanese.
Exploring Waikiki Beach
We had to check out of the hotel by 10 am in the morning but they very kindly gave us day keys so although we didn’t have a room we can use the tv lounge, pool, etc. This is very useful for us as we can relax, do some laundry, and print boarding passes but it means there is not much to report.
As you can see, parts of the beach are very busy. However, just keep walking as there are lots of quiet areas too. There are also some pretty amazing views.
Our flight to Sydney via Fiji was scheduled to leave at 1.15 am so we did not need to be at the airport until around 10 pm. That gave us plenty of time to wander around Honolulu looking at the shops and enjoying the atmosphere.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel to relax by the pool. It was a long day and the flight time wasn’t ideal for me as I was very tired by the time we arrived at the airport. However, it was all worth it to see some of the Hawaiian Islands. Oahu Hawaii was a fabulous experience. I hope to return someday.