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Waikiki Vacation Questions

My girlfriend and I are have booked a hotel in Waikiki beach for a week in November. We are from Seattle and have a few questions. We want to relax, enjoy the Hawaiian culture, and check out some cool places you don't find in Seattle. We are both in our early 30s.

Are there any must-eat dishes or must-try restaurants? We are looking to try Poke, Shaved Ice, Loco Moco, and to go to a Luau. We are excited to dine at The Pig and The Lady. Any suggestion for an affordable Luau to try?

We plan to rent a car for several days to explore the island. Overnight parking at our resort (near Queen Kapiolani Beach) is about $45 a night which is too pricey for us. Any suggestions as what to do? I was thinking of trying to rent the car just during the day instead of overnight. Another idea my girlfriend had was to park the car further out and Uber to the car.

Other then renting a car how should we be getting around the island? Is Uber, taxi, and public transit a viable option?

Our current plan is to spend most of the time in Waikiki, spend a day in downtown, an afternoon at the Dale Plantation, and an afternoon at Diamond Head. Any other suggestions in things to check out?

Are there any tourist or local coupon books that we can take advantage of? If so, where can we find these coupon books?

Posted by
363 posts

You should definitely go to Hunauma Bay. It is a beautiful nature preserve that is great for snorkeling (especially if you are a novice). It is closed on Tuesdays. I've used Oahu's public busses, which are tourist-friendly and called "The Bus", to go from Waikiki to Hunauma Bay and back as well as a taxi.

There are a couple of places where you can rent a car in Waikiki for the day, to avoid the parking fees. I have rented a car for the day to go to Dole Plantation and also to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Since you have a week, you should also try to go to Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial has been closed for several months but according to their website, it looks like it should open in early October. I would not try to take public transportation but rather rent a car or take a taxi (I don't use Uber, but that might be a good option as well).

I second the recommendation to buy the Oahu edition of the "Hawaii Revealed" series as well.

Posted by
1204 posts

Don’t rent a car for the entire week. Just rent it for the day or two you’ll be heading out of Honolulu. Almost everywhere you want to go can be reached on foot or by public bus.
I assume you’re staying near Kapiolani Park. If so, you are at the foot of Diamond Head and can walk to the crater but start early, it will be hot. If you are there on a Saturday, go to the Kapiolani Community College farmers market. Pig and Lady have a booth there. And the fruit, flowers and food will amaze you. If you like udon go to Marukame on Kuhio Street. Go to Leonard’s for malasadas. The best poke is at Safeway and the best musabi is at 7-11. Neither are particularly scenic but take it to the beach and voila, scenic. To get to and from the airport book ahead with Charley’s Taxis.

Posted by
10506 posts

Are there any tourist or local coupon books that we can take advantage of? If so, where can we find these coupon books?

There are so many racks of coupon books EVERYWHERE, you would have to walk around with your eyes closed to not find them

Our 1st trip there we took THE BUS ( city transit) to the Pearl Harbor memorial site. Check out where the BUS goes. We had a rental car for just 3 of our 8 days there.

You will find lots of choices for a Luau. How you define "affordable" will determine if you choose to do one.

Posted by
1023 posts

Suggest that you reserve car using Discount Hawaii Car Rental. Free cancellation at any time. Prices are always fluctuating. Every time price drops, just make a new reservation and cancel the old one. You may find renting for the week almost the same as renting 3 separate days. Sorry can't help you with parking. I always try and find a condo with included or cheap parking.

The Polynesian Culture Center (and luau dinner and show) is a popular touristy thing to do.

Also recommend that you go to the tripadvisor Oahu forum for more advice.

Posted by
2224 posts

We used buses when we were there. O.k. for short trips, but for going to Pearl Harbor - verrry long.

We went to the Chiefs Luau and had a great time. We had a coupon from one of the magazines. Just do the basic package - upgrades are not worth it.

Posted by
5828 posts

Poke: Nico's Pier 38, 1129 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, . Lunch menu has a poke salad but you can also do a take out (picnic) from Nico's "fish market".

Nico’s Fish Market is our retail store. We proudly feature local fish
straight from this morning’s auction block, not gassed or chemically
treated fish. Our fillets, pokes, sashimi platters and house-smoked
fish are from the finest fish and ingredients available.

Traditional Hawaiian: Highway Inn Kaka'ako, 680 Ala Moana Blvd #105 Honolulu
Lau Lau Combo plate is like gong to a luau:

Combo plates served with poi or rice, steamed 'uala (sweet potato),
and haupia with a choice of lomi salmon, potato-mac salad, or local
greens with liliko'i dressing. Make It a Super Combo: Add kālua pig,
chicken long rice, pipikaula, smoked meat or squid lū'au. $3.95 each.
Substitute poi or rice with fried rice for $1.95. Substitute haupia
for a house-baked dessert for $3.95

As suggested, malasadas (Portuguese fried dough balls), Leonard's Bakery, 33 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu (close to Waikiki, but a long walk - 1+ miles from beach).

I should add that modern Hawaii cuisine is multi-ethnic cosmopolitan. Comfort foods include
Korean BBQ (kai bi ribs are my favorite)
Japanese Deli (as in delicatessan) take out picnic lunches (pick out a bento box lunch)
Chinese (lunch buffets are a bargain)
Beach lunch wagon Hawaiian plate lunches - combination of steamed rice, creamy macaroni salad and a choice of meat, simple but ono.

Posted by
850 posts

Don't pack too much. Hit the flea market at the stadium for trinkets and shirts. And a boogie board if you want one. The Hilton Hawaiian Village on the north end of Waikiki Beach has free fireworks at night. The Waimea Valley is a really nice place to visit. I like the beaches between Makaha and Waianae but they can be local. I think the Dole Plantation is a miss. The Arizona was closed earlier this year; not sure it's open yet. Kailua is a good beach.

If you're military there's a lot you can do normal tourists can't, let me know and I'll fill you in.

Posted by
5828 posts

RE: Skip the poi.

Yes, skip the poi. A lot of luau served poi was going to waste. Someone told me tha luaus serve poi on request because of the amount of wasted poi. But if you are interested in a cutural experience:

Poi—a sticky, sour, purple-gray paste made from taro—has been a
pivotal dish in Hawaiian cuisine for centuries. But it's definitely an
acquired taste.

And a cutural food pairing would be poi with your ophi. Ophi is another aquired taste and not to be wasted.

Opihi is a luxury delicacy throughout the Pacific Rim, especially in
the Hawaiian Islands and Japan where Opihi garners an extremely high
price. It is extremely tough to find fresh Oiphi in Hawaii, let alone
afford to buy it. Because it is in such high demand and fetches such a
high price (up to $200 a pound) there are those that continue to risk
their lives in pursuit of Opihi.

Posted by
571 posts

Aloha! I hate to rain on your parade but you are not going to see too much of Hawaiian culture in Waikiki. It’s big, modern and expensive. However you can find pockets of the old Waikiki as you walk around town. Jerome’s luau is generally considered the best value for money; its out of the city so you need to drive there or take one of the excursions. Roberts do tours from Waikiki to all the main sites; good value and one of the many coupon books will give you discounts. There are free hula shows at the Royal Hawaiian Centre (major shopping mall with a nice entertainment area) during the day. Also other Hawaiian themed events. Your hotel will have details. Visit the Waikiki aquarium which is near where you are staying. Poke is available at The Food Pantry, a grocery store on Kuhio. They also do Plate specials probably including loco moko - not my thing! Two years ago the friend I stay with booked us on a food tour; visited a community farm/museum to see taro being grown, a macadamia farm, flying visit to Dole Plantation (all that was needed) and a stop at a wonderful local eatery way out of the main part of Honolulu where we had fresh poke, lomi lomi and other goodies. Can’t remember the name but don’t think there are many people doing food tours in Honolulu so you could probably find it by Google. On another visit went to Polynesian Cultural Center....a theme park of different Polynesian cultures......attached to a branch of Brigham Young Univ. Went to the luau. Show was quite good but food was terrible. Better to go to the shrimp trucks along the East and North shores.

Walk through the fancy hotels and enjoy a drink on the terraces of the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana Surfrider. I think Nico’s has rather become a victim of its own success but the fish is fresh and it’s interesting overlooking the port area. It’s way on the other side of Honolulu from where you are staying, about half an hour to an hour to drive, lots of parking as it's on the docks.

I did take a catamaran trip from the beach by the Outrigger Hotel. Went out and snorkeled with Turtles, and then sailed to Diamond Head and back, wonderful trip and best value in Hawaii!

Posted by
32104 posts

I'd also suggest looking at Robert's Hawaii as they have different bus tours out of Waikiki, including one that does a loop up to the north end and stops at the Valley of the Temples.

I wouldn't recommend renting a car. I saw some of the worst traffic jams I've ever seen in Honolulu, and there's no way I'd want to drive there. Gas is currently at about $3.29 a gallon, if that's a concern.

One other thing to mention - be sure to budget for the resort fees charged by your hotel. They're usually not charged as part of the room, and will have to be paid separately. These average about $40 / day.

Posted by
11294 posts

For my visit in 2011 (attached to a conference), I did not have a car. It's true that it takes much longer to get places using The Bus than it does by car, so you may want one for trips outside of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu.

Here is a direct link to a PDF on The Bus website, with directions on using them to get to attractions from Waikiki:

I took the big bus loop abound Oahu (at the time it was buses 52 and 55; not sure now). It takes several hours (I hadn't planned for the lack of a bathroom break), but is fascinating. You really see the variety of the island, with suburbs that look like New Jersey (complete with strip malls), small towns, military bases, and rural areas. When I saw "Ching's General Store," I knew I wasn't in Honolulu any more!

Continued in next post, as I couldn't fit it all in one.

Posted by
11294 posts

Some places I saw and enjoyed on Oahu, in addition to Pearl Harbor already mentioned:

Doris Duke's Shangri-La: this is her former home, now seen by small group tours (only a few per day). Unfortunately, I see from their website that it is closed for much of November (reopens November 23). If it's open for your dates, book now to ensure a spot. She had both unlimited money and great taste, and seeing this was a real highlight for me. It also includes admission to the Honolulu Museum of Art, which was good (probably not worth a special trip on its own, but nice nonetheless).

A few blocks from the Honolulu Museum of Art was a Goodwill. If you want to buy Hawaiian shirts or polo shirts, this place has a larger selection than any regular store, and they're cheap. The address is 1075 S Beretania St. I only went in because I had some time to kill before my Shangri La tour, but I was dazzled by the shirts - racks and racks of them! Of course, there are lots of places to buy new Hawaiian shirts, at higher prices.

The Iolani Palace is the only royal palace on US soil. And cater-corner from it is the Hawaii State Art Museum. I only want to the museum because it was close by the Palace and free, but I LOVED it, and would definitely go again even if it weren't free!

The Bishop Museum had some interesting exhibits on Hawaiian culture.

There are several botanic gardens; I went to the Foster Botanic Garden and enjoyed it very much.

Inside the Moana Surfrider (the oldest hotel in Waikiki) on the second floor is a free exhibit with some artifacts about early Waikiki tourism. In addition, you can go out on the second floor balcony for free and sit overlooking the "main drag." I also just liked soaking up the atmosphere at the Surfrider; it has much more of this than the more famous "pink palace" (the Royal Hawaiian).

My most memorable meal was at the Okonomiyaki Chibo. Okonomiyaki is a "Japanese pancake" (it's actually quite different from a US pancake), and is hard to obtain outside of Japan. I was actually the only non-Japanese customer (the staff is bilingual), so it was a real cross-cultural experience. Note that their prices are MUCH lower for lunch than for dinner - for the same food. When I was there they were in the Royal Hawaiian Center, but I see from their website that they've moved (still in Waikiki):

I didn't get to do this, but a friend highly recommends the docent led tour of Hawaii's Plantation Village. Unlike the Dole Plantation (which looks like a theme park), at this one you hear from an actual former plantation worker about life on the pineapple plantation, which was operating until the early 70's. Note the limited times for tours, and also note that it's close to Pearl Harbor but far from Waikiki, so you may want to plan carefully if you're taking The Bus instead of driving.

One issue I found was limited hours for these attractions. Many are only running from about 10 to about 4, and including commuting times from Waikiki, it's hard to see multiple ones in one day if you don't have a car. However, it's definitely worth seeing at least a few of these, as they get you outside of the Waikiki bubble (or as I call it, "Times Square with a beach").

Posted by
6451 posts

Skip the car; just rent for a day to tour the other sides of the island.

We enjoyed taking a bike tour - I think it was 3 or 4 hours. We learned about the history of places in Waikiki and generally had a good time seeing sites and stopping for a beverage. We’ve taken bike tours in European cities, and always enjoy it.

We took a tour of the Arizona with a tour bus company that picked us up at the Hilton. Definitely worth seeing it.

Posted by
101 posts

Ditto on Hanauma Bay. I go every time I'm on Oahu. Take the bus. Rent gear right in the beach. They will secure your wallet/phone etc for a fee too. Do not miss it!!!!

Enjoy walking around in the evening. Everyone including kids are out late.

Posted by
327 posts

Re a previous poster's comments ...

I hate to rain on your parade but you are not going to see too much of Hawaiian culture in Waikiki. It’s big, modern and expensive. However you can find pockets of the old Waikiki as you walk around town. Jerome’s luau is generally considered the best value for money; its out of the city so you need to drive there or take one of the excursions.

Contrary to the above, you WILL be able to enjoy plenty of Hawaiian culture in Waikiki! Every week, there is an extensive listing of all Hawaiian farmer's markets and entertainment in the Star-Advertiser newspaper, plus dozens of coupon books at street stands include this information for the month.

I think the above poster may have been referring to "Germaine's Luau" which has been entertaining visitors for more than 40 years. I would take one of their shuttle buses (you could look at a package deal) rather than renting a car to go there (Germaine's is located in Kapolei which is west Oahu - past the airport in the opposite direction from Waikiki).

Check out several weekly farmer's markets in Waikiki for hot foods, malasadas, baked goods, macadamia nuts, macadamia nut butter, fresh papaya, cut pineapple, etc. Hiking Diamond Head is exciting - suggest to go early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. Another idea might be a nature tour and hike to Manoa Waterfall in Honolulu.

Although it is at the opposite end of Waikiki from your hotel (20 minutes walk), the Hilton Hawaiian Village has several bars and restaurants with great live Hawaiian entertainment every night (plus the free Friday night fireworks mentioned previously). In the evening, if you walk along the beach from the HHV towards Diamond Head, you will see and hear lots of entertainment at many of the hotels along the way.

We usually stay 3-4 weeks in Waikiki (near Fort DeRussy Beach Park) and rent a car for one day several times during our stay (North Shore beaches, Turtle Bay, Kailua/Windward side, Haliewa) - otherwise we walk most everywhere and occasionally take The Bus if we are going further than 30-45 minutes walk. A round-the-island bus trip is 4 hours (painfully slow, but scenic), however, if you're on a budget and want to ride with the locals, it can be somewhat entertaining. I love a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center vs. the Dole Plantation.

Renting a car for one day early on a Saturday or Sunday morning and returning the car for 6 pm that same day works well to avoid weekday workers traffic congestion and o/n parking charges at the hotel. (At our preferred condo, the resort fee is $10.00 per night and the 24 hours parking is $20-$30 valet. Public parking at Fort DeRussy is $36 for 24 hours - but that would be a bit of a hike to/from your hotel near Kapiolani Park.)

Enjoy your week in this beautiful Hawaiian paradise!