After immersing into Hawaiian culture, history and geology, it was time to start chilling in the most populous and touristy island, Oahu. We could see the difference from Maui and Big Island right from the moment we landed in Honolulu. A land of cranes according to some, with the skyscrapers everywhere you look, and the feel of a modern metro city we began the last leg of our journey through the urban jungle.
The Sheraton Waikiki extended a warm welcome among the hustling crowd and the feel of
a busy resort started engulfing our souls. We were immensely pleased with the experience in and around the hotel. Check our review of the property here.
The history and ethnicity of Oahu being dominated by Japanese culture, there are a plethora of authentic Japanese cuisine options in town. From Tokyo street food to Katsu to Ramens, Waikiki hosts a number of restaurants ranging from cheap-eats to classy. Being in a leisurely pace after Maui and Big Island, we took long evening strolls along the shopping districts nearby, and picking up bits and pieces of local vibe.
Our gastronomic adventures included an authentic Katsu restaurant (Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin | Review in Yelp) where we needed serious help in deciphering the menu, traditional ramens (Marukame Udon | Review in Yelp), local island brewhouse, and an upscale end of trip dinner (Azure @Royal Hawaiian | Review in Yelp).
Between the strolls, food, poolside rejuvenation, we managed a few side trips dipping in history and local attractions –
While in Honolulu, you should not miss an opportunity to dive deep into history, and be moved by the solemn narratives. Parking is free, and most of the memorial is free.
We were greeted by a guard and he explained the way the memorial works. Here is a brief narration – the USS Arizona memorial is free, first there is a movie and then a boat ride that takes you to USS Arizona memorial site (that can get cancelled if there is heavy wind or thunderstorms), then you can walk around the park. The battleship Missouri and the Submarine are paid attractions (~$12.50).
We also got the audio tour for $7.50 per person. The movie itself is really moving with the narrative of the proceedings before the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. If you are a history buff, then most of the information provided will be redundant to you. If you don’t know about Pearl Harbor and the devastation caused by the Kamikaze attacks, you should definitely pay a visit.
There are sunken ships all around the battleship array, and the USS Arizona memorial is built on the sunken ship Arizona. Looking down at the sunken ship is extremely poignant and will surely be a emotional experience. One will feel proud for the navy crew for the fallen ships.
The submarine (USS Bowfin) is also a great attraction while you are in the park. We took time to go through the stops inside the submarine. If you have not been inside a battle ready submarine, do not miss this opportunity.
Tip – Carry some dry food or go between meals as there aren’t much to eat inside the park. It is also difficult to find in your GPS. Address is 1 Arizona memorial place honolulu hi 96818, and look for “Pearl Harbor Historic Sites” in the road signs.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
We went to the lighthouse trail for some photos during the dramatic sunrise. We reached the parking lot about 45 minutes before sunrise, and started the hike with all our photo gear. The hike was easy on a paved path steeply going up. It took us (moderately fit) about
20-25 minutes to get to the top. There are spots on the way to stop and catch the sunrise if you could not make it to the top. But obviously, the higher you go, you’d get better views with clouds and the dramatic ocean views.
The top is windy and unless you are lucky, the sunrise could be cloud covered. But it is guaranteed to be one of your favorite sunrises if the weather is clear.
Photography tip – If you are trying to shoot sunrise photos, you’d rather have some landscape in the foreground. Which you wont get from here, for obvious reasons. You can still capture the dramatic clouds, about 10-15 minutes before the sunrise. But I’d rather hike down from the parking lot and find a place by the water where there is a little rocky ground to pose as your foreground. You’d definitely need a flashlight as this road is not paved.
Have fun hiking though. It is really windy – so can be chilly. Carry a light wind-buster jacket. Must visit on your trip to Oahu. But if you have other places to go for sunrise (especially for photography), you can skip this one.
Parking is easy, but the lot fills up quickly. So make sure to reach at least 30 minutes before sunrise.
We went to the Hanauma bay on a weekend morning. We got in by 7am. Below are the steps to get in –
- You pay a parking fee $1
- You buy tickets to go in the park – $7.50 per person.
- They will take you through a 10 minute presentation on beach safety, snorkeling, wildlife, etc. – pretty boring for regular beach goers and snorkelers
- Through a steep downhill path, you can go to the beach. There are trolleys available for $1.25 one way. Elderly or persons with disabilities can easily hop on to these trolleys and provides easy access to the beach.
On your way down, you can get glimpses of the bay and the lava rock formations in the
background. We stopped often on our way down and up, to take in the beauty and obviously take a lot of photos.
The beach is nice and the water calm near the beach. So gives the swimmers and snorkelers a nice area to work with. While the beach is great for hanging out, the snorkeling here is overrated. If you get in the water early, you may be able to see some fish, but later on in the day, with so many people here, you’d mostly see fins of other people snorkeling. 😉
- Get here really early. We got in at 7-15, and there was just one person in front of me for the tickets. We returned to the parking lot around 9am, and there was a 30 minute+ wait. And the beach became jam packed.
- Bring your own snorkel gear. They have rental equipment which will cost you $20-$25 per person.
- They have lockers for a minimal fee, but the beach looked safe and clean.