Hotels in Oahu
May 17, 2012 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Going to Oahu in June. Looking for any updated/current info anyone can provide regarding 1. a good/great hotel for three nights at a good/great value and 2. any off-the-beaten path recreational activities/site seeing/leisurely must-dos! Can you help?

Going for 8 days, the first 5 days will be covered by work (staying in Waikiki), but the SO and I will have three days to see the sites and do whatever.

I've looked at a couple of websites, but figured I'd see if anyone has had any recent great experiences with hotel stays in Oahu.

--We will have a rental car for those days
--Looking for a maximum price of $130
--Would love it if it was an "out of the way" kind of place
--Also, any awesome experiences you just want to throw my way (nighttime snorkeling, for example??). I've heard hiking Diamond Head is pretty nice.

Any suggestions or tips in general regarding Honolulu/North Shore/Oahu or wherever would definitely be greatly appreciated!

Thank you very much!
posted by foxhat10 to Travel & Transportation around Honolulu, HI (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Diamond Head - get there early. It's a really easy hike and gets populated by the tourists by mid-morning (and the parking lot fills up).
posted by k5.user at 10:40 AM on May 17, 2012

Response by poster: Also, has anyone ever actually picked one of those "Mystery Hotel" options that websites show?
posted by foxhat10 at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2012

We stayed at the Aqua Aloha Surf and it was cute, clean, inexpensive and lovely for us. It was soooo close to the beach and beachfront hotels/bars and pretty shopping areas. I think we booked through Kayak. The staff was super nice.
posted by discopolo at 10:56 AM on May 17, 2012

I loved snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. There were a lot of people there but it wasn't a problem for us.

I'd just drive the periphery of the island, stop at pretty places, etc. The sights just knocked me out. I'm dying to return.
posted by discopolo at 11:00 AM on May 17, 2012

Oh, definitely see the North Shore. I missed out and regret it!
posted by discopolo at 11:01 AM on May 17, 2012

I was in Oahu in February, and Diamond Head was my favorite thing I did there.

I also enjoyed the Dole Plantation (and am still sad we didn't get to do the World's Largest Maze, as it was flooded out from heavy rain the night before.) Make sure you get the Dole Whip (pineapple-flavored icecream) - it's fantastic.

Hit up Leonard's Bakery for some hot, fresh malasadas (cheap and awesome.)

Oh, and make sure you find and eat an Apple Banana while you're there! They're smaller and sweeter than a "normal" banana, and are awesome awesome awesome. (They're not hard to find - the Wal-Mart in Oahu had them, for instance, as did every farmer's market I looked at in vain trying to find a breadfruit.)

The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet was interesting, and a good place to get all your kitschy souvenir needs on the cheap.
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:20 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Summer on the North Shore is great for snorkeling - the reefs that make for giant winter waves are more exposed and utterly beautiful (check out Shark's Cove, especially). There are plenty of VRBO & AirBnB condos and cottages up near Haleiwa, and it's much more low-key and laid back than anything you'll find closer to Honolulu.
posted by judith at 11:37 AM on May 17, 2012

Seconding Hanauma Bay - see if you'll be there for night snorkeling!

I went to the Foster Botanical Garden, and they were gorgeous and not overly crowded. I took The Bus to get there, since I wasn't old enough to rent a car at the time. It was a great deal - $2.50 for one-way and one transfer, and it was kind of a fun way to get a view of a good chunk of the city while I was there. I also took it to Pearl Harbor, which I totally recommend.
posted by honeybee413 at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2012

We've been lucky enough to go to Oahu twice in the past two years, and stayed at Aqua Bamboo both times. The first time we had a suite and it was well worth it, the second we were in a regular room and it was kind of cramped. The pool area is AMAZING and it's close to a lot of fun things on Waikiki.

Diamond Head is one of those things that you'll do once and remember forever. It's a fun hike and has an incomparable view at the end, but if you're claustrophobic you'll have problems negotiating the WWII bunkers that were designed for 1/100th the traffic.

There are a ton of "offbeat" places on Oahu, if your definition includes the 1950's version of Hawaii you should go to La Mariana Sailing Club. It's difficult to find, but the authentic tiki decor and ahi poke areworth it. Germain's Luau is similar, it's a must-see if you like a little Vegas in your Hawaii.

If you're at all interested in the history or culture of Hawaii, you should go to the Bishop Museum. Their collection covers the entire history, prehistory, and biology of the islands.

Finally, if you want to escape from it all, drive to Byodo-In Temple. It's worth a visit no matter what. Conveniently located near the Bishop Museum or on the way to the North Shore.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:04 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The drive up Mount Tantalus is an adventure. Lovely rainforest, eye-popping views of the city. If you don't mind getting muddy and swatting insects, there are pretty hikes to be had up there. It will be considerably cooler than in Town. Read up on it on Yelp for tips.

Friday night fireworks in Waikiki. Pack a cooler, go local style and hang out in Ala Moana Park to catch the show.

If you find yourself out Kaimuki way, the somewhat confusingly-named Movie Museum might tickle your fancy. Five bucks buys you admission to a quirky screening room equipped with fully-reclining Barca loungers. Bring food and drink.

I'm less a fan of Haunama than others here, simply because I've been spoiled by other snorking areas in the islands, but if you do go, try to go dead early in the morning on a weekday. More fishies, fewer human feet kicking you in da face. A snorkling-centric alternative that might be really neat would be to do a catamaran-turtle-snorkel trip. Seeing the island from a distance on the ocean is really lovely, and Hawaii's turtles are beautiful and amusing to behold. I have no direct experience with this outfit, but they are very well reviewed on Yelp.
posted by quivering_fantods at 12:37 PM on May 17, 2012

I usually do a circle Island tour for visiting friends and relatives itinerary varies depending on fitness levels and guests tastes,but may include.

Hanauma bay
Sandy beach
Makapu lighthouse
Makapu beach
Waimanalo beach/Bellows beach
Byo-do in temple
If have access to a boat the Kaneohe Sandbar
Chinamans's hat/Kualoa ranch
Turtle bay
Shrimp truck in kahuku (A must)
Sunset beach/Pipeline/haleiwa/Sharks cove
Shave ice at Matsumoto's
Jack ass Ginger waterfall (if still daylight)
Tantalus for Sunset

Hanauma bay is good but Sharks cove on the North shore is a better, but slightly more dangerous for snorkeling.

For Hikes see here oahu hiking photoblog

The tantalus drive is good, best at sunset Link

You must go to Pearl Harbor if just to say "yes" when everyone else asks you "Did you go to Pearl Harbor?"
posted by kanemano at 1:05 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aloha General Store has the best shave ice.
I have been making a study of it this week.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2012

Oh, I forgot, Polo at Dillingham ranch on the north shore on Sunday during the Summer, Surfer culture meets the Upper crust, it's a lot of fun.
posted by kanemano at 1:12 PM on May 17, 2012

Response by poster: And from general consensus, it appears that anything we do, we need to just get there EARLY!
posted by foxhat10 at 1:21 PM on May 17, 2012

Ohhhh yes. You must go to the La Mariana Sailing Club. My husband and I went last time we were there. Listen. What this really is is a nice tiki bar. When we went, an older man was manning a keyboard for some serious karaoke starring regular customers of all ages (who clearly knew each other). Older ladies sang 40s standards. A young man with a fauxhawk celebrating his 21st birthday sang "The Rainbow Connection". In both cases, everybody sang along.

Everyone there was just great. The place has a wonderful old-time, legitimate tiki vibe. The drinks are delicious and also strong. We found the La Mariana by accident, but will definitely be returning on subsequent Oahu visits. We are literalt still talking about it almost two years later. If you're like us and like offbeat hole-in-the-wall places, check it out--and go on karaoke night.

Word to the wise: Although it's a private club, you can sign up for a "social membership" for the evening.
posted by anonnymoose at 1:46 PM on May 17, 2012

Adding: La Mariana is also a restaurant. The food is okay. The drinks are better.
posted by anonnymoose at 1:47 PM on May 17, 2012

Diamond Head is a nice, simple, short, hike, but it's super crowded. I mean really. If you're in reasonably good shape, and are willing to spend a few hours on it, I suggest one of the ridge hikes. Hawaii Loa ridge is probably the best. Google "hawaii loa ridge hike" for directions.

Also, the Bishop Museum suggestion is a good one. The recently renovated Hawaii Hall is spectacular.

I seriously doubt you're going to find any hotel, even in Waikiki, for less than $130/night.
posted by lex mercatoria at 5:33 PM on May 17, 2012

Ugh, I forgot that you may not be able to do Hawaii Loa ridge unless you've got a Hawaii ID. If that's the case, you might continue driving east out to Mariners' Ridge.
posted by lex mercatoria at 5:37 PM on May 17, 2012

If you're in the Diamond Head area on a Saturday morning, stop by the Saturday Farmer's Market at the community college across the street. It was a serendipitous find and one of the highlights of our trip. I also second Foster Botanical Garden and using The Bus to get around.
posted by bluesapphires at 6:04 PM on May 17, 2012

Also, the Bishop Museum suggestion is a good one. The recently renovated Hawaii Hall is spectacular.

I seriously doubt you're going to find any hotel, even in Waikiki, for less than $130/night.
posted by lex mercatoria at 5:33 PM on May 17 [+] [!]

Actually, just off the top of my head the Waikiki Gateway and Ambassador hotels are both under $130 a night, and Aqua, Aston and Outrigger all have multiple rooms under $130.

glancing at Kayak says
posted by kanemano at 6:09 PM on May 17, 2012

Mrs. Ghidorah and I have stayed at the Parc Waikiki hotel, which is just behind one of the big name hotels on the beach. You walk across the street, down a sidewalk, and you're on the beach. It's right behind the Royal Hawaiian Center, so it's pretty much smack in the middle. Surprisingly cheap for it's location, but very nice, with incredible staff.

For good food, seriously, try the oxtail soup. We went to the Asahi Grill after seeing it on a Japanese food program. It's just near the Ward Center, by the Ross Dress for Less. It's like a little family diner, and the soup is great, as is their fried rice. If you can, also try out the farmer's market in the community college near Diamond Head that bluesapphires mentioned. You need to get there early, as it fills up with tourists pretty fast, but there's some great food there.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:42 PM on May 17, 2012

Seconding Matsumoto's, hard. It absolutely, positively lives up to the hype. Get it with the full monty: ice cream and azuki beans at the bottom.
posted by jquinby at 5:17 AM on May 18, 2012

Response by poster: As a followup, here is a copy/paste from info I offered up in someone else's AskMe about Oahu in quotes below.

As for the hotel, for the work portion, we were at Hyatt-Place Waikiki Beach, which was a pretty decent stay. We had a corner room on the 9th floor. Bed was comfy and they had free breakfast in the morning. Wi-fi, but it was a bit slow. For our vacation time, we ended up moving over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We really wanted to find a quiet awesome place on the North Shore, but we couldn't find anything that we wanted to take a chance on money-wise (some mixed reviews at expensive places...), but we would have laid money out to stay at Santa's by the Sea (North Shore), but they were booked completely. They book quickly, so if you have time, definitely check out that place. The Hilton was nice, of course, but no amenities (no free wi-fi, no free breakfast), but the view from 12th floor Rainbow tower ocean front was incredible! Make sure you get details on exactly what they mean by ocean front, ask for that versus ocean "view".

As for things-to-do (my answer from another AskMe):

"I was there this past summer and I'd say most definitely just take a drive up along the eastern coast highway to the North Shore and defnitely make a stop at Pali Overlook (as suggested by Jaelma24).

For food, we loved the Mexican/Caribbean - so good and cheap - at Cha Cha Cha's.
And Nico's at Pier 38 was the only place where we went back a second time. (The fish and chips, I ordered both times). Thing about Nico's is that their lunch menu is a bit cheaper but you get about the same amount of food, from what I could tell. They just don't do it up for lunch (you order at the counter vs. evening they have waitstaff).

Hiking Diamond Head is nice and is a really stunning view. It can be a little bit of a trek, but get there early, pace yourself and take a bottle of water and a hat for sun protection! There are some spots where the sun really beats down.

I personally would NOT recommend the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is for kids and families and we left after 45 minutes. But I know of a lot of people who have enjoyed it, it just wasn't for us (and we didn't stay for the luau, which is kind of pricey - can't remember how much). Anyway, memail if you would like further details and recommendations."

Hope this helps if you are heading to Oahu!
posted by foxhat10 at 6:57 AM on December 31, 2012

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