Impromtu (ahh) Hawaii Honeymoon
August 26, 2016 7:06 AM   Subscribe

We found cheap tickets to Honolulu right after our wedding! But we have a month to plan it on top of our wedding. Please suggest hotels (with availability still, ahh), hikes, foods, and fun!

I've done a search and noted a bunch of recommendations (some are out of date now), but I'm basically drowning in planning the wedding right now.

* Leaving from the US east coast with a 12 hour flight, landing in early Sunday afternoon in Honolulu
* Flying home Wednesday afternoon from Honolulu
* We really need a good recommendation for a place to stay
* We're ok renting a car if needed
* Budget is moderate 'cause we planned a longer honeymoon in NZ

We're thinking:
* Sunday: relaxing with a view and good food
* Monday: an awesome hike and good food and cocktails
* Tuesday: more exploration, maybe farmer markets, people-watching, and desserts
* Wednesday: a morning walk, kick ass breakfast and lunch take-out to the airport

Any specific recommendations would be so so so appreciated.
posted by inevitability to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If this is your first Hawaii visit and you only have a couple of days I'd suggest just staying at a hotel in Waikiki for convenience sake. There are more interesting parts of Oahu, but since you'll only be there for a few days I'd prioritize ease of access. The standard "everyone does it" hike your first time in Hawaii is the climb up Diamond Head for a view overlooking the town. It'll be crowded, but it's still one of those things that's nice to check off as having done it. If you like snorkeling at all I'd highly recommend Hanauma Bay. If you're thinking of renting a car you might also enjoy taking a drive around the island to the North Shore. Stop on the way for some shrimp from a roadside stand and then get shave ice.
posted by MsMolly at 7:27 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll concur with MsMolly. As for exploration, breakfast and cocktails I'll point you to what I've written on this in the past. In particular the cocktail scene and breakfast buffet at the Halekulani was over the top in terms of an indulgence. The views of the ocean were amazing as well. You also can't beat going into downtown and touring the Royal Palace. There is a lot of interesting history there.
posted by mmascolino at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2016

Cheap tickets to Honolulu from the East Coast?? NICE! That sounds like it's going to be an awesome trip! I grew up on Oahu, so that's about where all of my advice is going to be centered.

Where to stay: The Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu has penguins in their common area. PENGUINS.

Also, I've never been, but I've always wanted to stay at the Royal Hawaiian because it's bright pink and that tickles me.

If you want something a little more quiet than Waikiki, Turtle Bay on the North Shore is a pretty nice resort, and there's lots to do in the Haleiwa area.

Hiking: Diamond Head aka Leahi is iconic for a reason (SO PRETTY), but you'll definitely have company. If you decide to go on this hike, wear closed toe shoes (it's not a hard hike, but it's dusty and can get steep/slippery). When I was a kid, they always told us to bring a flashlight along because of the dark parts, but now cell phones exist, so you shouldn't have to worry about that. :)

The Hawaii Nature Center would be a cool place to check out as well. It's close to Honolulu, they have a nice little informative museum station, and there's a ton of cool hiking trails that all lead out and around from there.

Food: Oh man, where to begin. I'm just going to leave a link to the Tasty Island blog here, because that'll give you a lot of current restaurant reviews and options to pick from.

Generally, try to get a plate lunch at some point if you can (L&L Drive Inn and Zippy's are both local chains that specialize in plate lunches and other tasty things--Zippy's is best known for chili!), McDonald's makes a surprisingly decent saimin, and the 7-11 has manapuas and spam musubi, and those are all nice on-the-go foods. Definitely try some of the local fruit! It is so good!

One of the best pizzas I've ever had is at Big Kahuna's Pizza, which is very close to the airport. Sometimes the wait is long, but those personal pan pizzas are WORTH IT.

For dessert, my favorite local treats are malasadas from Leonard's or coco puffs from Liliha Bakery. Shave ice with the fixins is also an awesome choice!

For kick ass breakfast, I LOVE Koa Pancake House. Those pancakes are so good, but they're GIANT.

Sightseeing: I'd recommend the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet for people watching/picking up some souvenirs, but it'd only be open Sunday and Wednesday when you're there.

Rather than Waikiki Beach, checking out Ala Moana Beach Park instead is a good way to get that iconic Diamond Head view but there tends to be a better mix of tourists and locals and it's a good place for people watching.

Have fun!
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:10 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

After visiting Oahu last Turkey Day, here's what I'd do if I returned. We stayed at a vrbo on the North Shore in Pupukea and then the Marriott Ko Olina.

Hands down I loved loved loved being on the north shore. But not just anywhere- definitely farther east past Waimea Bay. It sounds like your wedding is soonish and so there's a chance the big swells will make north shore snorkeling impossible, but there is a small highly protected section of sharks cove (called the keiki pool to the locals :) ) where you can still have a great time for an hour or so. The north shore at Pupukea has a great little collection of funky food trucks. The hike up the Waimea Valley botanic gardens is cool, but go as soon as it opens to miss the tourist bus hordes. I loved driving all the way around to Laie and digging the crazy Mormon temple there. Just before Laie is the Malaekahana State Rec Area that is really gorgeous (I wouldn't leave anything in my car here - seems to be the only camping for miles and can attract, um, unique characters). If swells do arrive it's highly entertaining to hang out at Sunset and Banzai and just watch the surfers. There are a zillion breaks and so you can easily not be at the exact world famous break and still watch great surfers and have lots of beach to yourself, and even play in the wash. The reefs are really not far out at all so the viewing is perfect. In Pupukea there's a Foodland grocery store which will have everything you need. Nothing better than picking up $5 piece of marlin, garlic, butter, and fruit and *boom* gourmet meal in minutes.

Near the airport is a zany little tiki restaurant - La Mariana Sailing Club . It's a great place to know about if your flights intersect with the terrible terrible rush hours. Traffic *can* really stink- just learn to travel outside of rush hours, which start surprisingly early especially near downtown.

We visited Shangri La and thought it was wonderful. If art and architecture tours interest you this is well worth it. You start at the Honolulu art museum and then they shuttle you to the estate. I highly recommend this.

Frankly I really disliked the Diamond Head hike - waaaaaaaayyyyy to many people. I haven't gone to the Koko Crater Botanical garden but I'd replace Diamond head with that and then the Makapu'u Point lighthouse trail. Just to the northwest of the Sea Life Park, I think your first right to a small park adjacent to some apartments is a good snorkeling spot, especially for turtles. That then gets you to Beale AFB which has some really nice beach and snorkeling. You can rent kayaks and go out to Moku Nui or Moku Iki but we didn't do that- looks spectacular though.

Ko Olina was just a massive expensive resort - very nice and easy but more made for families.

Ask away.
posted by mrzz at 9:02 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I stayed in the tower at the Royal Hawaiian in March, and I loved it. A good friend with excellent taste is jokey mad at me that I didn't take his advice to stay at the Halekulani, which he LOVES and has stayed at a number of times.

People talk disdainfully about Waikiki, but I thought it was great this last time. The water is so perfect and aquamarine, everything is right there. Easy and relaxing.
posted by purpleclover at 9:07 AM on August 26, 2016

Response by poster: Ahh, I am so excited for all the food and sights! Thanks all for the recs! I'm a bit concerned on the lodging front. We're more B&B/VRBO kind of people, but it seems like the larger resorts is the way to go? They seem so pricey and crowded! (But kind of charming, re: the pink Royal Hawaiian :)
posted by inevitability at 11:22 AM on August 26, 2016

If you were going for longer I'd absolutely recommend an Airbnb or similar, but for as little time as you have a hotel will let you maximize relaxation time.
posted by MsMolly at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2016

I agree with MsMolly. Picking an Air B&B/VRBO in Hawaii (and I have often stayed in rental houses myself) is not ideal for quick (and/or) first trips.

FWIW, the Waikiki hotels vary greatly in terms of crowds. The Sheraton was FULL of kids and busy (we have a kid, so we went to the pool there; the Royal Hawaiian is a sister hotel). The Royal Hawaiian and Halekulani seemed much calmer. I mean, with a big hotel, there's just stuff you have to accept: Your mai-tai costs $16. Room service is expensive. It's way easier to stroll to a restaurant where you're gonna spend $120 on dinner than $40. But once you've adjusted your expectations enough to appreciate the convenience of it, it can be delightful.

(That said, a few years ago we had great dim sum in Honolulu Chinatown that was practically free by Bay Area standards. We walked from Waikiki. I unfortunately cannot remember even a single additional detail about it, though.)

This year, we also stayed at Turtle Bay, and while I liked some things about it, I don't know that I'd recommend it over staying at Waikiki. Lots of the inconvenience of a big resort, but in a location I thought was far from everything.

This is a little grim, but I do recommend going to Pearl Harbor if you're American. Turns out, I didn't really understand what had happened at Pearl Harbor, which is weird because it's so famous. Being there was both moving and interesting.
posted by purpleclover at 1:08 PM on August 26, 2016

The Pearl Harbor interpretative displays, movie and the memorial itself was unexpectedly powerful. I'd wholeheartedly recommend it.
posted by mmascolino at 1:26 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's a long haul from Honolulu, but the old jeep road out to Ka'ena Point is an absolutely beautiful hike. The point itself (the westernmost point on O'ahu) is fenced off, with airlock-style access gates, to keep predators away from the seabirds that nest there, including Laysan albatrosses. There's a colony of monk seals at the point, too, and you can see whales off the coast. It's about 5.5 miles out and back from the parking lot (on the south side, via Wai'anae, though I think it's about the same distance from the parking lot on the north side).

If you're at all interested in the history and cultures of Polynesia, I'd recommend a visit to the Bishop Museum. The Tantalus Lookout offers a panoramic view of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor. If you make it to the east shore, the Buddhist temple in the Valley of the Temples cemetery is worth a visit.

My wife, her parents, and I had an amazing dinner at Tsukuneya, a Japanese restaurant on University Ave. near the Manoa campus, and a very good dinner at the 12th Ave. Grill in Kaimuki. We stayed at the Manoa Valley B&B, which was quiet and has a lovely garden and terrace, as well as guest parking. If I wanted to splurge, though, I'd stay in the Moana, the first hotel in Waikiki, which is a historic landmark (now part of the Westin chain).

Congratulations on your impending marriage, and enjoy the trip!
posted by brianogilvie at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2016

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