Honolulu without a car
June 24, 2022 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I was fortunate to be sent to Honolulu for a work conference. My wife and I have a few days before the conference starts. However, Waikiki Beach and the area around our hotel is too 'big city' for our tastes. We'd like to find some beaches and other areas that are more peaceful. The problem is that we don't have access to a car, nor do we wish to rent one.

Can you please help us find some out-of-the-way spots where we may snorkel, hang out and watch the waves, or just generally escape the bustle of our current location? Best if we can walk, but we are certainly willing to take short bus rides, too. Any suggestion for cool things are welcome!

While you are at it, please suggest restaurants near our location (at Waikiki Beach) that are good, but not fancy. Best if they reflect local tastes and culture.

Thanks for helping us enjoy our holiday!
posted by Don_K to Travel & Transportation around Honolulu, HI (6 answers total)
When I did this, I took the bus from downtown Honolulu, Waikiki area, to Hanauma Bay which was just terrific. They've been limiting access to it (sensible) so you'd have to plan it out. I went snorkeling there, great spot for it. It was a long time ago that I did this, so check what it's like nowadays but it was an easy, if long, bus ride.
posted by jessamyn at 10:56 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]

Well...you're not going to get very out-of-the-way on foot, since Waikiki is surrounded by the city. However, you can walk Ewa (West) to Ala Moana Beach Park, which is much less crowded and is a nice calm place to swim (and you can watch the surfers out beyond the reef). Going to the other end of Waikiki, San Souci is less built up than the main drag. While I do see people snorkeling at Ala Moana, I'm not sure how much there is to see. For good snorkeling you really want the North Shore this time of year, but that is definitely not a short bus ride.

Hanauma, unfortunately, is currently hard to access by bus (besides being difficult to get reservations) - they discontinued the route that went down into the bay, so you have to walk a ways along a busy road.

One place I've found to generally be a bit of an unexpected oasis in town is Foster Botanical Garden. It's a pleasant uncrowded (in my experience) stroll among tropical trees and plants, and you can bring a lunch.

For restaurant recommendations, you could try the Visiting Hawaii subreddit - recent visitors probably have better recs for the Waikiki area.
posted by LadyOscar at 11:17 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]

you could take a bus over to Kailua from Waikiki, but anywhere that is really out of the way is going to be hard to get to on public transit. The North Shore is too far, it would take you hours to get there on the bus.

You could also rent a bike, the first few months I lived in Oahu I didn't own a car and depended on a bike and public transit. Uber is also an option.

As for recommendations: Side Street Inn has 2 locations and not too far from Waikiki with food with local flair.
posted by foxonisland at 11:40 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you can’t really take a super short bus ride and get away from crowds in Waikiki. It’s busy and crowded. Plan for a day trip by bus to the north shore or eastern side of the island perhaps. Still lots of folks but not quite as busy.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:30 PM on June 24

Joy Cup Noodles Main is walkable from (some parts of) Waikiki and is fantastic. There's also a Don Quijote nearby which is a fun experience and they have some great sushi and poke and every Japanese snack you can imagine. Of course you also have to get one hundred spam musubi at the ABC stores.

Both ends of Waikiki (Ala Moana park and Kaimana Beach) are quieter, more local, actually pretty nice places to people watch and watch the waves. Ala Moana has some great food trucks too, though I don't have specific suggestions.

Waikiki is strange but I recommend leaning into it, I actually really love walking all the way up and down the beach there, checking out all the different beaches and hotels.
posted by EmilyFlew at 1:08 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]

The bus system on Oahu is good. I recommend Kailua and Kailua Beach Park.
posted by SageTrail at 8:35 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]

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