I was in Hawaii for less than 48 hours on my stopover break between New Zealand and London but I managed to pack in a lot of interesting sights, and even a little bit of relaxation. O’ahu has a useful bus service that took me everywhere I wanted cheaply. Here are my top things to do in Honolulu, which being me predominantly involve getting out of the city!
Hike Diamond Head
The 350-acre Diamond Head crater is a standout feature of O’ahu and the view from the top offers incredible panoramas of Honolulu. The volcanic tuff cone is known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi, probably because the ridgeline is shaped a little like the dorsal fin of a tuna (ahi). British sailors in the 19th century gave it the English name because they thought calcite crystals in the rock might have been diamonds. It is an easy hike to the summit as long as you don’t mind a few steps and a tunnel. Try to do this early in the day before it gets too hot.
Visit the Pearl Harbour Memorial
I knew the general history of the attack by the Japanese airforce on the US naval base at Pearl Harbour and not being American I was surprised to find this memorial so impressive and moving. It covers the sunken battleship USS Arizona, as well as most of the 1,177 sailors who went down with her in the attack. There is a Pearl Harbour Visitor Centre, a memorial shrine, a film introduction and a boat ride to the Arizona memorial. Entrance is free but you have to get a timed entrance ticket.
Take the North Coast road
I took a bus trip around the island of Oahu, eager to get away from Honolulu and see a bit of ‘real’ Hawaiian scenery. The lush vegetation of the Kauloo mountain range runs along the north coast of the island, making a gorgeous backdrop for the beaches. Of course this seven-mile stretch of beaches is known as the world’s premier surf mecca, regularly hosting top surfing competitions. The waves are apparently huge in winter but quite reasonable when I visited in April and kite surfing was the order of the day. I stopped at both Waimea Bay and Ehukai Beach for a stroll.
Relax on Waikiki Beach
Perhaps the most famous beach in the world? I’m not much of a beach person and especially not beaches with a skyline of high-rise apartments and hotels. However, I found the scene here colourful and attractive, especially in the early evening when the heat becomes more gentle and the sky turns lovely colours. It is amazing to be so close to the city yet sitting on this lovely stretch of sand staring at the sparkling water.
A little shopping in Honolulu
I did take the chance to buy some souvenir gifts and summer clothes at the Ala Moana shopping centre – the largest in Hawaii – west of Waikiki. I liked the open-air design and the tropical gardens.
Things to do next time
It’s always good to have reasons to return to a place and given my experience was brief but satisfying it definitely left me wanting to return to Hawaii! One thing I would have liked to have done in particular is the Koko Crater hike, on the east side of Oahu in the Hawaii Kai neighbourhood. The hike goes from the Koko Head District Park at the bottom of Koko Crater to the summit and looks stunning.
By Natasha von Geldern
For more awesome tips on things to do on Oahu read this Ultimate Guide to Hawaii post.