Luxury Travel Blog + Waikiki

Aloha, Oahu! A Beginner's Guide to Paradise

When asked for my opinion on Hawaii as the perfect year-round destination, I swiftly jumped at the opportunity to write about the U.S.'s 50th state. Hawaii has six major islands: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Big Island (listed from the northwest to the southeast, and from the oldest to youngest, geologically). But it's Oahu, where the capital city of Honolulu is located, that makes a good introduction to all that Hawaii offers.

Most tourists join packaged vacations to Oahu, but you need not follow the pack. The availability of cheap flights to the main airport in Honolulu means that you can custom your own hotel stay and entertainment itinerary without compromising. Yes, Hawaii, in general, can get expensive, but I promise that there is something for everyone. Whether you are a backpacking beachcomber or a globetrotting gourmand, there are plenty of things to keep you busy.

If this is your first visit, the island of Oahu is an ideal starting point. Blessed with 597 square miles of undulating mountain ranges, verdant valleys and golden shores, the landscape here is as varied as the people who inhabit the place. A true melting pot, you will find that along with native Polynesians, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Portuguese cultures are integrated in all aspects of island life, especially in food.

Waikiki -once the favourite stomping ground of local monarchs- is perhaps the most vibrant tourist area in the whole of Oahu. Kalakaua Avenue downtown sees the most concentration of hotels, restaurants, and shops, with the crystalline beach being steps away from all the action. Although Waikiki is entirely walkable, you may want to rent a car/moped/ATV if you wish to see more of the emerald island. With gorgeous views of the jagged cliffs of Diamond Head crater, which consequently is only half an hour's drive away, Waikiki is the perfect base to explore areas beyond the downtown core. Honolulu, Chinatown, and Kapahulu districts are easily accessible, while Pearl Harbor, Nuuanu Pali Lookout, and Hanauma Bay are within half an hour's drive. The popular surfing district of North Shore, home to Haleiwa and Waimea Bay, is a mere 1 hour drive away. Of course, if you don't feel like driving, there are many companies around that offer escorted tours either via land, sea, or air. Horseback riding, scuba diving, snorkelling, and helicopter tours are some of the most booked activities, however, swimming (at the beach or your hotel pool) is always free!

If you just want to relax and live like a local, visit one of one Oahu's many open-air farmers' markets, where the best local artisans and farmers peddle their stuff. There is a Saturday Farmers' Market at Kapiolani Community College on parking lot C (off Diamond Head Road), every Saturday from 7:30am-11:00am. Up at North Shore, Haleiwa Farmers' Market on Kamehameha Highway at the Bypass Road (Waimea side) sets up shop every Sunday from 9:00am-1:00pm.

When food is in your mind, a stop at International Market Place on Kalakaua Avenue in downtown Waikiki, albeit touristy, offers a wide range of ethnic products and cuisines such as Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Indonesian, and Hawaiian. But to really get into the belly of the island, Epitourean provides a list of cooking classes and epicurean tours in Oahu.

Where to Stay: From riveting resorts to happy hostels
† The Waikiki Edition
1775 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: 808-943-5800 Fax: 808-943-5820

† Outrigger Reef on the Beach
2169 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815-1989
Phone: 808-923-3111 Fax: 808-924-4957

† Waikiki Beachside Hostel
2556 Lemon Road, Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: (808) 923-9566 / Toll free: (866) 478-3888
Fax: (808) 923-9599

Where to Eat: Fit for foodies of all types
† Alan Wong's
1857 S. King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826
Phone: 808.949.2526

† Morimoto Waikiki
1775 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: (808) 943-5900

† Roy's Waikiki
226 Lewers Street, Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: (808) 923-7697

† Duke's Restaurant and Canoe Club
2335 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone: (808) 922-2268

† Olive Tree CafĂ© (Greek)
4614 Kilauea Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816
Phone: (808) 737-0303

† Ono Hawaiian Food
726 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816
Phone: (808) 737-2275

What's holding you back? With temperate weather all year through, Hawaii's Oahu island is sending you the spirit of Aloha and waiting for your arrival!

The view from Diamond Head. Aloha!

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Aloha, Oahu! A Beginner's Guide to Paradise + Waikiki