Waikiki and Beyond
A couple from Rumney, N.H., is planning a celebratory trip to Oahu and wants our help.
Interested in getting coached? E-mail your trip details--the more the better--to Letters@BudgetTravel.com.
Want advice? Log on for our weekly Online Trip Coach chats, Tuesdays at noon (ET), and let our experts answer your questions. Click here to submit questions and browse our archived chat transcripts.
Dear Trip Coach...
I retired about two years ago, and my partner, Ann, just earned an advanced postgraduate degree. We're celebrating our milestones with a trip to Oahu. We only have five days, so we need to maximize our time, but we also want to build in a little downtime to relax and reflect. Betsy Cheney, Rumney, N.H.
"We're staying in Waikiki for the first three days. Should we spend the last two on another island?" Switching islands would be ambitious for a five-day trip. Plus, visiting Oahu and seeing only Waikiki is sort of like visiting the U.S. and seeing only New York City. Instead, spend your last two days on Oahu's North Shore.
"Do we need to rent a car?" Not in Waikiki: Driving is hectic, parking is expensive, and you can walk everywhere. Taxis are plentiful if you want to leave the neighborhood. At the airport, grab the Roberts Hawaii shuttle (866/898-2519, robertshawaii.com, $9, every 20 minutes). When you're ready to go to the North Shore, rent a car in Waikiki.
"We have friends who got engaged on Diamond Head--we'd love to see it." Diamond Head looks like an easy walk from Waikiki, but the trail entrance is farther than it seems, so hop in a taxi. The 0.8-mile trek up the crater involves climbing 279 steps; bring water and pace yourself. From the top, you can see Oahu's south shore and, on a clear day, the island of Molokai. Start early! By 10 a.m., tour buses roll in and the sun heats up (6 a.m. to 6 p.m., $1 to walk in, $5 per car).
"Scenic, swimmable beaches are a passion of mine." When most people think of Waikiki, they think of Kuhio Beach: It has surfboard-rental stands, outrigger-canoe tours, and a big statue of surfer Duke Kahanamoku. Don't let the crowds deter you--people-watching is part of the fun. A half-mile east is Kaimana Beach, which attracts more locals--kayakers, triathletes in training, and families playing in the shore break.
"Where can we buy gifts made by local craftspeople?" Take a taxi to Native Books/Na Mea Hawai'i (1050 Ala Moana Blvd., 800/887-7751, nativebookshawaii.com). The shop carries books about Hawaiian culture, and jewelry, crafts, and spa products. It also brings in craftspeople and kupuna (elders) to give demos of Hawaiian practices like hula dancing. Native Books is a partner in Mana Hawai'i, a store in the new Waikiki Beach Walk complex. Stop in for gifts, ukulele lessons, or a Hawaiian-language class (808/923-2220, 226 Lewers St., activities are free).
"Both of our fathers were Navy men, so we want to visit Pearl Harbor." If you have time to see only one part of Pearl Harbor, make it the USS Arizona. The memorial sits over the eerily visible remains of the battleship, which sank when it was bombed in 1941 (808/422-2771, nps.gov/usar, free). The tour of the Battleship Missouri Memorial, where the Japanese officially surrendered, is also memorable (877/644-4896, ussmissouri.org, $16). Military buffs particularly enjoy the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park (808/423-1341, bowfin.org, $10) and the Pacific Aviation Museum (808/441-1000, pacificaviationmuseum.org, $14). Pearl Harbor is 10 miles from Waikiki. V.I.P. Trans runs shuttles every 45 minutes (viptrans.com, round trip $9).
"Is there anything else we should do while we're in Waikiki?" For an unforgettable evening, sit under the big kiawe tree on the terrace at House Without a Key, the casual restaurant at the luxurious Halekulani hotel. Order a Halekulani Sunset cocktail and listen to musicians play Hawaiian tunes as the sun sets (2199 Kalia Rd., 800/367-2343, halekulani.com, performances from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.).