Hawaii in a day
March 29, 2013 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to Hawaii for much of next week. This would be awesome except that I will probably be spending most of my time at a conference. I'm hoping that I can get at least one day for exploring and enjoying myself. What is the one specific things I should definitely try do while I'm there?

I'm staying in Waikiki, which I know is a very touristy area and I don't think it will be too hard to fit in enough beach time around presentations and stuff. I'm looking for more active stuff that it would be easy and relatively cheap to do in one day for three or four people that won't have a car. Active, outside stuff would be great: hiking, water activities, exploring parts of the city? I've been snorkeling before in the Caribbean and loved it, but I'd rather do something new.

Basically, if you had to pick, what's the one thing you'd do in Hawaii?
posted by raeka to Travel & Transportation around Island of Hawai‘i, HI (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a site that connects you to tours, etc.

You can rent a car for a day, there are guys all over the place that offer that service. Walk up to a guy on the street and he'll offer to rent you a jeep or something. (Little tiki-stands with guys in Hawaiian shirts.) Our goal was to find Jack Lord's house. (which we did)

The issue with Waikiki is that it's just nothing but touristy crap.

We took a snorkle trip to Hunama Bay for a day. I had a 2nd degree sunburn so I spent the day in the shade, in a muu-muu trying not to puke.

We rented a car for a day and drove around the island, checking things out, and seeing what Hawaii looked like. That was pretty fun.

You'll have opportunities for booze cruises/dinner cruises. We did one of those. Meh.

Basically, Waikiki is either a place for people to live, or a touristy nightmare with overpriced everything.

If I had all the money in the world, I'd do the volcano tour.

But the rest of it? Save your money. Relax with a few cocktails.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:10 PM on March 29, 2013

I'd second renting a car. Depending on how ambitious you are you'll be able to see so much of the island.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:16 PM on March 29, 2013

Best answer: I think climbing Diamond Head might interest you. Obviously, surfing is an option if that interests you. Rent boards right there on the beach. You might also find some inspiration in this hiking/photography blog - http://www.unrealhawaii.com
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:16 PM on March 29, 2013

Also, if you are looking for a really nice, totally uncrowded beach only a short distance from Waikiki, then check out Waialae Beach Park.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:18 PM on March 29, 2013

If you have a chance to drive out to Hanauma Bay I definitely recommend it - it's still clear as a bell in my memory even after 16 years (wooowww I feel old)
posted by brilliantine at 1:26 PM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ahi poke!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:34 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am going to gently advise against Hanauma Bay, since you mention you're not really looking for snorkeling this trip, and moreso, because Hanauma has sadly become a bit of a flustercluck tourist trap .

You could get a car and head to the Makapu'u Lighthouse trail. Great vistas. Humpbacks might be on view.
posted by nacho fries at 1:39 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Honolulu Farmer's Market is pretty neat, and they have good shave ice (lemongrass ginger, for instance). And if you find the booth that sells liliko'i butter, OMG buy some!

Personally, I love shopping at Ross Dress for Less in Hawaii- OODLES of Aloha wear! I stock up on swim suits while I'm there, usually.

Take a surfing lesson on Waikiki beach. I have never been on anything like it. The boards are about 15 feet long, and you catch a wave and hop off when you're bored of it. It's like catching a bus (as opposed to here in NorCal where I'm lucky to get a 10 second ride.) and the teachers are used to clueless, out of shape people, so they're very patient.

I ate at Roy's, and enjoyed it very much, though I was at the Hawaii Kai one, which is sort of a suburb of Honolulu. Roy's had awesome, not cheap, cocktails and an excellent Hawaiian slack key guitar player.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:52 PM on March 29, 2013

Oh yeah, if it's whale season (though I think that's usually in the wintertime) they're RIGHT THERE! where nacho fries is talking about.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:55 PM on March 29, 2013

I found visiting Pearl Harbor to be very powerful and moving. Some of the old architecture and modern architecture of the Waikiki area hotels was kind of neat. If you don't have much time, you could do a lot worse than sitting by the ocean at The House without a Key and having a drink.
posted by mmascolino at 2:00 PM on March 29, 2013

Best answer: I wrote this recently for a visitor from another field office that was coming to Hawaii for vacation, your tastes may differ

Diamond head – Really easy and close to Waikiki, go on a Saturday morning and you can hit up the farmers market at Kapiolani Community College

Koko Head – more of a workout than a straight out hike climb over a thousand stairs up the side of a dormant volcano. (Bus accessible)

Maunawili – hike to a couple of waterfalls can dive into a pool (need car)

Manoa Falls – Easy hike through the rain forest to an 80 foot waterfall.
Culture (Bus accessible)

Pearl harbor- because

Shangra-la – the Doris Duke estate made into a museum for Islamic art off the beaten path but worth it

There is a hula mound in Waikiki just past the Duke Statue (no worries you will know what it is when you get here) they give a little demonstration on Sundays I believe
At the Hilton Hawaiian Village - they have a Free Hula show and fireworks at Sunset on Fridays they also have penguins

Honolulu Academy of Arts – is the contemporary Museum in town – If you are still here they also have a party in there on the last Friday of every month, and an art/block party on the first Friday of every month in Chinatown.


Hanauma Bay, snorkeling in a bay of a collapsed volcanic crater.

Sandy Beach – powerful waves break right on the sand – very dangerous if the waves are big

North Shore – Pipeline, Waimea, Sunset beach - it’s big waves season if you are lucky you will see a couple of 20 footers

Kaimana Beach at the end of Waikiki where the locals go, either there of Ala Moana on the other end.

Sunset at Tantalus – drive to a lookout over Honolulu


There are a couple of supermarkets in Waikiki so it depends on which hotel you are staying in there should be one close by.

Giovanni pastrami – upscale Pizza/Sports restaurant

Dukes – Hula grill - Chucks steak house – on top of each other - mid priced

Sansei’s – Sushi – ½ Priced for happy hour after 10PM on Friday and Saturdays

Shore Bird – mid priced

Roy’s – very good food - semi pricy

Nobu’s - Morimoto’s – Bring someone else’s credit card.

Must eats


Malasadas from Leonard’s

Shave Ice from Masumoto’s in Haleiwa

Spam Musubi from 7-11 (no really)

Cool bars

Yard House – huge beer selection and surprisingly good food

Rumfire – on the beach, nice food, kind of pricy, service is not the best but the place and the view looks good.

Dukes – on the beach better service, good buffet (best for brunch) is best on Sunday between 4PM and sunset. (kind of a worth it)

The Modern – nice place but best to bring someone else’s credit cards

Dive bars

Arnolds – by the post office, small sometimes crowded always cheap and friendly

The Hideaway – If Charles Bukowski lived in Waikiki this is where he would drink, loud bark, not really much of a bite, but this is a dive bar in name and spirit.

Kelly O’Neils – Irish bar open till 4AM so everyone ends up here anyway. Live music, mix of tourist locals and military.

The Irish Rose – Live Music

Nashville Waikiki - If country is your thing.
posted by kanemano at 2:02 PM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you can get a car, drive east from Waikiki (past Hanauma Bay, stopping at Makapuu as it's the tail end of humpback season) and go up to Kailua Beach. Local residents are irked by the sheer number of commercial operators that operate out of the beach, but Kailua really does have a good range of water activities - my friend has windsurfed and I've kayaked.

If you want to skip the car rental, maybe stand-up paddling will be a mellow but different water activity. If you take lessons at Ala Moana Beach, you'll have escaped the tourist vortex of Waikiki, but just be a 10 minute bus ride away. One of our favorite things to do with visiting friends is to have a bbq picnic at Ala Moana (on the grassy side). Don't want to mess with a grill? You can stick with ahi poke (treehorn+bunny's rec, and a totally acceptable version of poke is available from the local grocery chain Foodland, located in the Ala Moana shopping center) and fruit (Greg Nog's rec) and spam musubi (kanemano's rec).

Lastly, here are some recommended hikes.

Are you here for the archaeology conference? Will people be interested in more nerdy pursuits as well?
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:35 PM on March 29, 2013

Though please don't buy the spam musubi at Foodland. It is not delicious. And this comes from someone with spam in her user name. 7-11's is way better. You can pick up some Ono Pops at Foodland, though, for some tropical fruit deliciousness.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2013

I discovered Loco Moco on one of my shoots in Hawaii years ago... I could easily survive on that alone.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:21 PM on March 29, 2013

If you are in the mood for something historical and bittersweet, I highly recommend a visit to 'Iolani Palace. It's lovely and sad. Queen Lili'uokalani's story is so moving; it will get under your skin. Do a little reading up on her life, listen to some of the gorgeous music she composed, and get a sense of Old Hawaii.
posted by nacho fries at 6:19 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Outrigger and catamaran trips that set forth from Waikiki are fun.

Waimanolo Beach is another wonderful beach up the windward side, not too far from Waikiki. I like to stop at Safeway for ahi poke and have a picnic on the beach.

Roy's really is nice in Hawaii. There's also Alan Wong's. The Pineapple Room is the more casual offshoot; I love it.

Go to the ABC Store and buy ABC T-shirts and Hawaiian gift wrap and stationery.
posted by BibiRose at 7:20 PM on March 29, 2013

I had 24 hours in Hawaii recently, and I remember the shave ice and the spam musubi. I'm also a bit of a public transport nut so was happy tooling around on the busses.

The busses are OK, but you obviously have more freedom with a car.
posted by titanium_geek at 9:13 PM on March 29, 2013

Hawaii has a tourist economy. You can probably get a tour to someplace; if there isn't one available, the hotel can get one together for 4 people. Also, the island of Oahu is well served by bus. I loved snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. Go to the North Shore, enjoy the beach, and stay for the sunset, then have dinner at Haleiwa Joe's. Waikiki is totally touristy for a reason, the beach is gorgeous, you can walk to a less crowded area if necessary, there's not too much wind, and the water is warm. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is the grande dame of Waikiki hotels; call ahead and reserve a beachside table for cocktails and enjoy the view. Walk around the hotel a little, if you like old wealth. There is great shave ice, but there is no bad shave ice. Check the free guidebooks to find some hula demonstrations. Go to a luau at Germaine's, Hale Koa, Paradise Cove or any one of the others. It's hokey, but fun, and the dancing and local traditions are authentic. If you aren't driving, a luau is a good place drinking venue. Some of my best times in Hawai'i have been talking to Hawaiians with native roots and learning about their culture. I quite enjoyed the Iolani Palace. You can guy beautiful flower lei, which I recommend. It may seem touristy, but it's a lovely tradition.
posted by theora55 at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2013

How about an awesome water park?
posted by Dansaman at 1:28 AM on March 31, 2013

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