Day in Waikiki
June 2, 2004 1:17 PM   Subscribe

travelfilter: I'm going to a conference in Hawaii, in Honolulu, and I'll be staying in a hotel around Waikiki. I've been looking for cool things to do on my free day, but I keep coming across some really frightening touristy stuff, like short cruises that include Ukulele lessons and Lei (sp?) construction.

Everyone recommends the Polynesian Cultural Studies Center, and a visit to Pearl Harbor, but what else is there to do that is somewhat off the beaten path, fun and not too expensive? Any good bands out there?

additional variables: I can't really swim that well. I'm a doughy white guy approaching his 40s. I'd like to avoid activities that would piss off my wife, and I don't drink. Yes, Hawaii is wasted on me.
posted by mecran01 to Travel & Transportation around Honolulu, HI (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
the current issue of Budget Travel has a big Hawaii story--may be something there for you. (I didn't see it on the MSNBC site, but it could be online in there somewhere)
posted by amberglow at 1:34 PM on June 2, 2004

well, there's always pearl harbor.
posted by Hackworth at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2004

Manoa Falls Trail: Short hike (2 miles or so) very close to Waikiki, bring bug repellant. Despite what the page says, you are not allowed to go into the pool due to rockfall danger. Very easy hike.

Hanauma Bay: Even if you can't swim well you should have no problem snorkeling there, although you should stay inside the reef. Snorkel rentals are on site. Gets busy and they close the parking lot, so either arrive early or take cab / bus there. The bus trip is actually pretty easy from waikiki, check with your concierge.

North Shore Drive: Good to get away from the city. The total drive time is about 2.5 hours, but take plenty of stops. Grab a burger in Haleiwa (Kua Aina!) and a shave ice from Matsumotos.

Pali Lookout: Great view of the windward side, historically important. Easy drive from honolulu. You can probably combine this with a trip to the north shore.

Hike up Makapuu: Great view! There are whales to see during whale season. Slightly strenuous hike, will take about 2 hours.

Hike Diamond head: Fantastic view of waikiki. Slightly strenuous hike, will take about 2 hours.
posted by phatboy at 2:02 PM on June 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

Take a hike to Diamond Head, there is a creator inside. From your hotel, iirc round trip 8-10 miles. Have a picnic while you are up there.

Go to Samsimi (think I spelt it right) beach which is below Diamond Head. It is more quiet than Waikiki beach. It's small and located on the left hand side of the Olympic Pool on the beach which every local should know about. There is a little snack shop in the hotel near by it too.

Rent a car for the day and drive around the whole island. I did this the day I went to Pearl Harbor. Spend the morning there which is easier & quickly viewed then because it is first come first serve seeing the battle ships which are free visiting, they due take donations. The lines grow longer towards noon and after. Then from there head towards the North Shore. There are a lot of neat little arts craft shops in the town past it, think Haleiwa; suggest having lunch there. Notice all the religious camps on your trek back from the North Shore towards Diamond Head. Stop and take a stroll on the various beaches you see. Then back to your hotel in Waikiki. Unfortunately when I was there the water falls on the back side of Oahu were closed due to hikers being killed by falling rocks in 00-01, not sure if they are or will be re-open again.

If my memory was better I'd give the exact names of the locations I'd suggested and directions to Jim Neighbor's home. Sure the locals can help as the Oahu is not really that large of a place, mostly land. Oh, visit the Dole's pineapple farm which has a maze. My Uncle lives at the base of Diamond will love the views, he moved there when he was a teen and would never consider a home else where in the USA.

Spot the Island's Rainbows...Hawaii's mascot, Aloha! \iii/
posted by thomcatspike at 2:07 PM on June 2, 2004

In addition the Luau at the Royal Hawaiian (in waikiki) is actually pretty good, although the all you can drink goodness is wasted on you.

There are also a ton of activities in waikiki, ranging from free movies to cultural festivals. There will be a hula show pretty much every night. If you tell me your travel dates I can suggest activities.

Note also: Traffic in Honolulu can be INSANE. Getting in and out of Waikiki during rush hour can be a real problem. Time your driving to avoid traffic, especially if you are heading towards downtown "Ewa side".

On preview:
The hike that thomcatspike is referring to is the Sacred Falls hike, which is still closed. It is the reason that you aren't allowed to swim in the Manoa falls pool. The Manoa Falls trail is safe, with well posted (like 8 foot tall signs) telling you where not to go.
posted by phatboy at 2:15 PM on June 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

I second the Dole plantation.

We liked Germaine's luau.
posted by vignettist at 2:22 PM on June 2, 2004

The suggested beach, I highly recommend it for you since there are no waves, it is more of a lagoon. It's about a mile &1/2 walk from Waikiki and has a park separating it from the water and road. You can swim and snorkel with ease there. The break water is 100 yards out for surfing. The locals snow birds staying in the condo's near it use it, but it is a public beach. Don't feed the birds on the beach, the locals will frown on you: dirty birds. For directions just ask, how to get to the Olympic Pool built on the beach.

Visit Duke's too in Waikiki, that's one of the night light spots besides the gay district. Also the hotel buffets are great for a large dinner. Enjoy nature's fun for you.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:39 PM on June 2, 2004

The Bishop Museum is great. Considering your limited time, I'd avoid the non-Hawaiian exhibits and spend your time looking over the polynesiana (made-up word?). There's a wealth of artifacts from the time of Hawaii's isolation to the various cultures that have passed through. It's neat if you're into that sort of thing. There's also a giant cutaway whale hanging from the ceiling. One of the buildings (it's been a while and my memory of the layout is sketchy) is an old boarding school built with a ridiculous amount of those tropical hardwoods that you simply can't get anymore.

I wouldn't dismiss the ukuleles entirely, there's a huge local music scene in Hawaii. It's based on the slack-key or Kihoalu style of guitar playing that originated from the cross-polination of Portuguese and Local musical traditions. I don't have a specific recommendation of where to go for music, but I'd call Harry's music in the Kaimuki district of Honolulu and see what they have to say.

And if you're up to it, I'd rent a mini-scooter to get around. When I lived in Honolulu, I went through Waikiki to get across town because it was faster to ride between the lanes of stalled traffic than to travel legitimately on less congested roads.
posted by stet at 2:45 PM on June 2, 2004

Yes, Hawaii is wasted on me.
Wear sun block, my relatives whom are Samoan wore block 50, I wore 8. I did not drink there and think I had a better time because of it. Seriously notice the bartenders and patrons getting drunk, it's a waste. Oh and gas prices may be about the same there as here.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:51 PM on June 2, 2004

Secret Treasure: Doris Duke's Honolulu home, Shangri La! Reservations are required well in advance for small tours, but worth the effort as I understand it.

Be aware that the Polynesian Cultural Center is not inexpensive, and on the opposite side of Oahu from Waikiki. it is also, interestingly (I think), owned by the Mormon church and staffed by BYU Hawaii students, who, rather than being paid, are credited with tuition expenses.
posted by obloquy at 4:56 PM on June 2, 2004

The Dole plantation is definitely worth a visit, and their pineapple frozen yogurt simply cannot be missed. I have been to Hawaii twice and I visited this gem each time, and will definitely go again one day. But, I'm a pineapple fiend, so YMMV. :)
posted by gatorae at 5:47 PM on June 2, 2004

Many people do not realize that Hawaii is home to a great observatory.
posted by TedW at 9:10 PM on June 2, 2004

Don't spurn the ukulele.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:55 PM on June 2, 2004

A few years ago when a friend and I were vacationing in Waikiki, we took a bus up to the north shore of the island and spent two days bumming around up there. It's much more mellow and rural up there, which is a nice change from the frenetic pace of Waikiki Beach. We stayed at a cheap, rustic hostel, I think it was called "Backpackers".

One other tip: We arranged through our hotel concierge to buy two cases of pineapples (I think they were $25 each), which we then picked up at the airport on our way home. We gave pineapples to all of our friends and ate them ourselves until our mouths bled. They were fresh and perfect and amazing.
posted by bonheur at 11:30 PM on June 2, 2004

Response by poster: These are wonderful suggestions, and I thank you. I don't spurn the ukulele, just the touristy "taking lessons" aspect, and will probably buy one if I can find a starter worth playing for $50 or so. Got interested via Mark Fraeunfelder's Ukelelia blog. Thanks for the great beaching, hiking, and music suggestions. Every one of these posts is gold.

I lived in Micronesia for two years, on a small atoll, but I've never seen much of the Polynesian side of pacific, so I'm jazzed about the museum referrals and the observatory as well as everything else that has been brought up.

I'll be there June 10th-13th (traveling on the 9th and 14th), for the "computers and writing" conference (cyborg english teachers) who will really dig this thread.

Again, thanks! I'm actually excited about going now!
posted by mecran01 at 6:46 AM on June 3, 2004

The Bishop Museum is great. The Polynesian Cultural Center is *highly* overrated, IMHO. Really expensive, and while it's fun to look at, I did not feel that it was worth the money or worth spending all day there as they suggest you do. (Also, you can't buy caffeinated drinks while there.) ;)
posted by litlnemo at 7:40 PM on June 4, 2004

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