Oahu is not your far-flung deserted tropical island with a couple of hotels on an expanse of empty beach (if you are looking for this, try Lanai). Waikiki is an urban metropolis, a mass of 70’s high rises, shopping malls, restaurants and a hub of activity sat beside a stunning white sand beach and a warm inviting ocean.
Like most visitors, we arrived in Oahu on a Jumbo. On our first visit, we were quite surprised at the extent of the high rise. Waikiki has every amenity imaginable, thousands of shops, restaurants, and hotels, but everything is on top of each other makes Waikiki a little hard to bear if you are looking for a relaxing and sophisticated holiday. In fact, as most airlines also fly direct to Maui, if you are after a quieter holiday it would be worth considering avoiding Oahu altogether.
For Europeans, it’s nice to stock up on the cheap skate/surf gear, and to visit shops like Abercrombie, Guess, Bebe, etc which are usually cheaper outside of Europe, plus Waikiki offers a cost-effective way to get over jet lag as hotels tend to be cheaper here. Having said this, on our next trip we intend to fly in and out of Maui and hop over to the Four Seasons At Hualalai and the Fairmont Orchid, rather than stopping in Waikiki.
There are beautiful corners of Oahu but you will need to rent a car and drive up to the beautiful north coast to find the “real Hawaii”. In fact, the deserted island series “LOST” was filmed on Oahu, but you absolutely need a car to reach these magical corners.
You are spoilt for choice in Waikiki, although the quality is somewhat lacking. Your best bet is the Halekulani, a member of lhw.com, and easily the best in Waikiki. For a slightly cheaper but iconic experience a few doors down, the Royal Hawaiian “Pink Palace” and the first hotel built on Waikiki beach is worth a night. We stayed at the cheaper Sheraton Waikiki, also only a few doors down and a huge concrete monstrosity, but the views from the rooms out to Diamond head are stunning. Our latest insider information tells us that the Four Seasons is opening a hotel on the West Coast of Oahu which would make this Island much more appealing and opens up a potential twin-center trip on Oahu. For more information on this click here.
Every major chain imaginable has an outlet on Waikiki beach. For a good value feed with tasty fish and a fun Hawaiian atmosphere, Dukes Waikiki adorned with tiki torches is a good bet. For fine dining, my favorite is La Mer, located in the Halekulani hotel in the center of Waikiki, with excellent french cuisine, elegant open-air dining, and views across the bay. Michelin-award-winning chef Yves Garnier melds classical French influences with fresh island ingredients. It’s pricey but very good.
Alan Wong’s restaurant in Honolulu is shrine of Hawaii Regional Cuisine but there is no view so no romantic sunsets here. Chef Mavro Restaurant in Honolulu has excellent french cuisine but again no views.
Throw off your flip flops and as the sun sets and wander from one end of the beach to the other as the sunsets. The warm gentle breeze rustles the palms on one side, waves crash on the other, lights from the hotels reflecting on the water, and Elvis tunes float into the night sky from the seafront restaurants and poolside hula shows. It’s the perfect evening stroll.
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