06 November 2016 – written by Lisa Glassey
Hawaii is a fantastic holiday destination for New Zealanders wanting to get far enough away, but not spend over 10 plus hours squished in an economy class seat with hundreds of other avid people with the same thing in mind, space, relaxation, sunshine, beach and the need to get off the aircraft first.
Air New Zealand are now operating their Dreamliner between Auckland and Honolulu three times a week which does provide some comfort for us mere mortals in the basic economy class seat. When travelling with children the new state of art Skycouch is the perfect option for the little ones to get a good night’s sleep so you are ready to hit the beaches as soon as you arrive. Even better if you have the funds we highly recommend looking at upgrading to either the Premium Economy seating for extra comfort and if you can afford it, the business class seats with lie flat beds are certainly worth the extra investment.
One thing that struck me when we arrived in Honolulu was the arrivals area. We always see these beautiful images of beaches, sunshine, convertibles but I always wondered why I hadn’t seen any photos of the airport! As much as I loved it’s ‘uniqueness’ the only way I can describe the airport is a mid-century architectural masterpiece which is in great need of a revamp.
Once we were through customs and on our way into Waikiki I immediately fell in love with this place. It really is just like the photos we see daily of paradise with a few extra homeless people on the side! Yes, there is a homelessness problem in Hawaii, however having said that we found them all to still be polite, kept to themselves and really do not pose any problems for the average tourist – I am sure the locals may have quite different views.
Where to stay in Waikiki?
If you’re looking for the cheapest option close enough to the beach Outrigger have two, 3 star hotels – Ohana East and Ohana Malia. Neither have good pool facilities so if you are dreaming of relaxing by the pool then these hotels are not for you. The rooms were spacious and of acceptable décor and the location of both is great – the Ohana East is closer to the beach but the Ohana Malia slightly (only slightly) a better location for shopping and transport.
If you are wanting the ‘hotel on the beach’ experience, consider the Sheraton Waikiki or the Moana Surfrider Westin. Both these hotels have incredible communal areas, beach access, restaurants, cafes and large beautifully appointed rooms. They are both quite large with 700+rooms but it didn’t feel overcrowded or busy. Even though both a great for families, the Sheraton is more suited to larger groups.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village is another hotel we recommend which is further away from the main Waikiki Beach however it has its own beach access for guests and is part of a fabulous self-catered village full of restaurants, shops, cafes, ice-cream parlours – you name it, it’s probably there. The Hilton Hawaiian Village is a fantastic option if you are going to purely relax as there really is no reason to leave.
Guests of the major hotels have complimentary access to the local bus (pink line) which you can use to easily get around Waikiki. The bus runs approx. every 15mintues and the hotels will provide you with a map.
If you’re feeling confident we recommend hiring a car, even for a day to you can truly explore the island and it’s Northern Beaches, especially if you are into surfing!
I may have succumb to the bargains readily available in the US … we just don’t seem to have sales like the Americans do! The good thing is Air NZ allows economy class passengers two bags each between NZ and Honolulu so no excuse not to shop up large!
Kalakaua Avenue is the main road in Waikiki and the place to shop for high end brands. Apple, Gucci, Coach, Victoria Secrets, Tiffany’s … the list could go on
Ala Moana Shopping Centre is huge and partially outdoors so best to go in the mornings before it gets too hot. The free Pink Line Bus stops here so you could easily spend the day wondering looking for good bargains. Every high street store you can think is at Ala Moana.
Waikele Premium Outlet Mall is worth a look if you time. You need to book a shuttle and try to go early morning as there is not much in the way of food or drink once there so best to get the shopping done and lunch on the way back. All the main brands are there like Levi’s, Sketchers, Adidas, Converse, Fifth Avenue etc.
Ross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx – these are little gem stores but you need to be prepared to take time and rumble through racks and racks of clothing. Both stores sell high end brands for k-mart prices – it’s pretty amazing. My favourite at both these stores were the homeware sections – beautiful items which we just don’t seem to get here in NZ. A new all-time favourite!
Being a usually relatively healthy eater here at home I sometimes do struggle with the American Diet but we did find some beauties!
Chucks – This restaurant is well known in Waikiki as the best Steakhouse around and we were not disappointed. Underground, next door to the Ohana East Hotel, you enter into this dark cabaret style room with red velvet booths and live music – this place has true atmosphere and charisma and one to definitely put on the list.
Tony Roma’s – Good Family restaurant for traditional American Ribs. There are so many types of ribs to choose from any rib lover would be in their element. Make sure you book though as the lines can be long.
PF Chang’s – Fantastic Asian cuisine, some of the best I’ve had my whole life! The thing about this place which I loved and yet is so simple is the option of brown or white rice!
Giovanni’s Pastrami Deli – My absolute favourite meal in Waikiki. This is a strange one though, as the first part of the restaurant is a deli style, clean, open, fresh … then you walk up a few steps and you’re in the local Sports Pub watching the latest football game. I’m not ‘sports bar’ girl but the food was amazing and highly recommend Giovanni’s pizza – something about this place that has you going back for more!!
Dukes – located right on the beach part of the Outrigger hotel, this place is one of the best locations on the beach whether you are there for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Early evenings they have live music while you watch the sun go down – magical!
Hanauma Bay is the best area for snorkelling. It’s approx. 45 minute out of Waikiki and was definitely one of the best snorkelling areas I have ever encountered. The State Park is open daily except for Tuesdays, try to go during the week to avoid the large crowds.
Dole Plantation is a wonderful place for families, the gardens are beautiful, there’s a train ride for the kids and it also has the world’s largest maze made from some of Hawaii’s most colourful plants! Inside you can buy anything pineapple flavoured, highly recommend the gluten free, dairy free, everything free pineapple ice-cream! Only slightly delicious and refreshing on a hot day!
Pearl Harbour is a must while in Hawaii but make sure you go in the morning. The best part is the memorial which you can only get to by boat, however as soon as any wind picks up the boat is cancelled.
Starlight Luau – if you want to learn more about the Hawaiian culture then make sure you get yourself to one of the many Luau’s. We highly recommend the Starlight Luau put on by the Hilton Hawaiian Village it’s actually on top of their carpark but you would never know once there. The food and show were both brilliant and well worth the money.
The best for last ………
The Big Island Volcano – This was the true highlight on our trip. We took a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Hilo on the Big Island purely to spend a few days at the National Park and we were not disappointed.
We stayed at the AMAZING Volcano House and this is one place that I will continue to recommend over and over again – one of my favourite places on the planet.
From the comfort of your room (providing you upgrade to a volcano view), the restaurant, bar, guest lounge or the outdoor viewing area, you get the most incredible views of the crater. On a clear night you simply sit back with a glass of wine (or whatever your preference) and watch the lava activity – this is one very unique place in Hawaii that I just want to rave on about – I simply loved it. To get a slightly closer look just up the road at the Jagger Museum you can simply watch for hours – this view never seemed to get tiresome!
If you just cant get enough then take a hour flight with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters for a magnificent ariel view over the islands taking in the lava flows of recent times to the current flow into the ocean – this is truly one way to the island in style!
If you are wanting to holiday in Hawaii, give us a call and we can talk you through ideas and options. Both Air NZ and Hawaii Airlines offer direct flights between Auckland and Honolulu.