Oahu, Hawaii: polynesian feeling, combined with US comfort and mentality. Skyscrapers at the beach and jungle known from Jurassic Park and LOST just around the corner.
|Oahu, Hawaii, USA
|How and when I got there
|United Airlines, flight LAX – Honolulu – Chicago – Newark, New York
Rental car, 4 wheel drive category, pick-up at Honolulu airport; August 2012
|Where I stayed
|Hotel Aston Waikiki Circle (https://www.aquaaston.com/hotels/aston-waikiki-circle-hotel )
Backpackers Hawaii, Apartment for 4 persons (we cannot recommend this accomodation)
Waimanalo Beach Cottages (http://www.waimanalobeachcottages.rentals/ )if available: AAA rate (membership in the ADAC entitles for AAA rate in the US)
|Waikiki: “House without a Key” at the Halekulani Hotel (https://www.halekulani.com/dining/house-without-a-key ) – one of our all-time favorites!
Maunalua Bay: “The Original Roy’s in Hawaii Kai” (http://www.royshawaii.com/ )
|Things to do
|Our favorites: swimming at Waimea Bay, hanging around Waimanalo Beach, walking up to Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse, hiking one of the numerous hiking trails
|Recommendations in a nutshell
|North Shore in winter – watch the waves and surfers
|Hawaiian Lau Lau Pork
This is the fifth part of our US round trip: the first part is about New York City, the second part about some of the famous National Parks in the West, from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and from Las Vegas to San Francisco, and the fourth part about the West Coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This part is about Oahu, Hawaii, which means: polynesian feeling, Skyscrapers at the beach and Jurassic Park jungle just around the corner.
Waikiki Beach – High risers on the beach
When I first suggested going to Hawaii, the rest of the family was enthusiastic about it. But upon proposing a stay at Waikiki, the responses were quite different – from “great!” to “Skyscrapers at the beach – who needs that!” Indeed, there are lots of buildings at Waikiki Beach, which doesn’t really elicit the “tropical beach feeling” that Central Europeans usually associate with the word “Hawaii”.Nevertheless, the majority of my family voted for giving Waikiki a try, and so – after a dreadful day at the Los Angeles Airport (see the previous post) we arrived at Honolulu Airport in the middle of the night (well, almost):
and – after having picked up our rental car- ended up at Waikiki Beach. Due to the huge delay of our flight we arrived around 11 p.m. at our hotel, the “Aston Circle”, a small hotel compared to the neighbors in the area. We were hungry and this turned out to be a problem right away – dining in Waikiki starts and ends early. Most places were already closed, when we looked for a dinner at 11.30 p.m. Finally we decided to skip dinner and just go for a walk – and take pictures in front of the “Duke”. And enjoy the sheer atmosphere of Waikiki, which is really special, with all the torch lightings on the street instead of profane street lamps.
There’s a huge variety of hotels in Waikiki, and I did a thorough search before booking. The Aston Circle turned out to be a very good choice – despite being a “dwarf among giants”…
It’s the small round Tower in front of the others – and convinced us with a great location directly at Waikiki Beach and walking distance to the city center. And moderate prices compared to the “Moana Surfrider” or “Hyatt Regency” close by. We opted for the most expensive room category (highly recommended! Our balcony was the second one from the top) and were rewarded with absolutely spectacular views over Waikiki Beach. When waking up, I could watch the surfers from my bed:
The hotel did not offer breakfast, which is ok, because at the ground floor of the hotel there’s Waikiki’s best breakfast place: “Eggs ‘n Things Waikiki Beach”. So, every morning, one of us went down to place our orders, wait until ready, and then we had breakfast on our balcony with a perfect view and with the most delicious things: Waffles, Pancakes and any egg variety you can imagine. Just great!
As mentioned, Waikiki is a crowded place, full of high-rise buildings and lots of people (my guess: 95% of them Asian couples on their honeymoon). This reflects in opulent prices everywhere; people coming to Waikiki are in the mood of spending a lot of money. So, for us – being a bit more “budget-aware” than all these honeymooners – it was not too easy to find nice yet acceptably priced dinner places. But we found one, and this is still, even after many years:
One of my favorite places in the world: the “House without a Key”
at the Halekulani Hotel (https://www.halekulani.com/dining/house-without-a-key ). Very good food, excellent cocktails and Hawaiian live music every evening.
Yes, Hawaiian music can sound a bit “kitschy”, but listening to it when sitting under an old Kiawe tree next to the ocean, looking over the illuminated beach comes close to “absolutely perfect”. So, we liked it very much. Of course and as can be expected for such an extraordinary place, you should reserve a table in advance. What also needs a reservation (despite being a huge place with hundreds of tables) is “Wolfgang’s Steakhouse”, located in the “Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center” in Waikiki. This is a pretty upscale place, part of a chain, huge (as mentioned), at the upper end of the pricing, and – despite all of these features – completely booked every day. We ended up not getting a table when just showing up.
Oahu – the famous North Shore, without any waves
Our son being a huge surf fan, we definitely had to visit the famous North Shore, even knowing that there wouldn’t be any waves in summer. I googled several very nice looking beach houses on vrbo, but – even a year ahead – they were completely booked. So, finally the only available accommodation right on the beach was the “beach house” of the “Backpackers Hawaii”
(https://backpackershawaii.com/accommodations/beach-house/ ). Not really cheap for 145 $ per night – and nothing we can recommend. The location directly on the beautiful Pupukea beach and close to the Pupukea Beach Marine Sanctuary was ok, in fact our sea view was great:
And yes, the North Shore Beaches are VERY beautiful! Like this one, the small “Three Tables Beach”.
But the apartment itself was…well, I did not dare to take a shower for 2 days, being afraid of what might come out of the sink when put under water. On the first morning I had the stupid idea of moving the toaster on the kitchen bench – forcing the huge family of cockroaches to leave their home under the toaster and flee in every direction. I wouldn’t want to know how many of these “nice co-inhabitants” were running around during the night. Definitely a huge thumbs down!
Otherwise the North Shore – of course – is well worth a visit. We went to the wonderful Waimea Valley Garden, which ends in a nice waterfall and pool – though you will probably not have it on your own:
In addition to being a beautiful garden, Waimea Valley is historically and culturally an important place in Hawaiian Religion and includes several historical structures of the Hawaiian monarchy times.
We also visited the Waimea Bay – famous for its big waves in winter. And that’s how it looks like in summer:
And we watched the sunset at the North Shore, near the Three Table beach…absolutely fantastic!
For our final week, we decided to stay at one place (instead of travelling around) and just relax. The place we chose was famous:
– famous because of the TV series “Magnum”. The house called “Robin’s Nest” (belonging to Magnums Boss Robin Masters) is right on this beach. And still looks like the movie setting. When I was a child, I loved the series. Having the chance to stay there, we couldn’t resist. And in fact, Waimanalo Beach really is one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu. Just see the pictures:
The only disturbing thing was the sign at the beach warning of the “Portuguese man o’ war”, a tiny, but dangerous jellyfish. Our hosts told us to be cautious, but not overly afraid. So I scanned the water and approx. 500 m up and down the beach every morning,
and usually I came up with 2-3 examples, either alive in the water or dead on the beach.
My family considered this quantity acceptable and went swimming all day. At least, we had the entire beach for ourselves! I was a bit more afraid, but I was actually the only one coming in contact with a small piece when walking on the beach. I realized it only when I felt a sharp sting in my foot. Checking the sand, found a lilac-colored piece of thumbnail size – and was really lucky having caught only a tiny piece…
We had booked the apartment no. 11 at “Waimanalo Beach cottages” (http://www.waimanalobeachcottages.rentals/) and were very happy with that (maybe also because our North Shore apartment was so lousy…). Very nice people (thanks @ Andrea!), very spacious and clean rooms, great location with just a few steps to the gorgeous beach and this view from the terrace – who needs more?
From Waimanalo it’s only a stone’s throw to the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse – the trail and the viewpoint are absolutely worth the climb!
Lyon Arboretum and Manoa Falls: the perfect tropical Settings
With a rental car at hand, you can explore many other nice places on the Island – Oahu is not that big. You can basically reach most places during a day trip. We went to see another trail, the Manoa Falls Trail, which starts near the “Lyon Arboretum” – also worth a visit, if you like flowers and trees:
… and a fantastic view of the mountains:
The Manoa Falls trail is an easy hike, but heavily populated. Probably because it is well-known for being a movie scene location from Jurassic Park and LOST.
Nevertheless, it is a very nice, lush tropical rainforest.
The trail can be a bit muddy after rainfall – we ended up getting mud up to our knees. However, at the end you are awarded with a very nice pool (though it might not be allowed to swim there, which does not hinder People to doing it anyway…).
Sandy Bay and Hanauma Bay: thumbs up and thumbs down
Close to Waimanalo, there’s Sandy Beach with waves throughout the year and lots of surfers to watch. Though swimming might be a bit difficult.
A bit further there’s the Halona Blowhole (close to the road) and the Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve. Being enthusiastic snorkelers, we were very excited to see Hanauma Bay, the “top snorkeling experience” on Oahu according to the advertisement. And we were deeply disappointed.
Hanauma Bay – as you see it on the picture above – is a comparably small bay with some coral reefs,. Which you can’t even see before paying a significant entrance fee, followed by a 20 minute movie about how the marine life looks like. At least on our day there, it did not look at all like the movie. There were thousands of visitors, leaving barely any space on the beach. The under-water visibility was less than 2 meters, there were no fish and nothing else except gray corals and rocks. So, overall nothing compared to coral reefs like in the Maldives. Even on Hawaii, we saw turtles only on Waimanalo Beach, not at Hanauma Beach. Overall, we could not really understand why more than a million visitors per year come to Hanauma Bay. Decide yourself if you need to be one of them or not. We will not come back to Hanauma Bay – thumbs down!
Honolulu: a very relaxing city
We dedicated one day to Honolulu, which is also worth seeing. Though we didn’t like the “Aloha Tower Market Place” too much, we enjoyed the city center, the Foster Botanical Garden, a walk through China town, Iolani Place, the Hawaii State Capitol…any many more. Just some architectural impressions, among them a building which simulates the police headquarter in the TV series Hawaii five o, but in fact is the historical building called Iolani Palace:
Iolani Palace was the royal residence of the Kamehameha Dynasty, the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Another prominent spot is the Aliiolani Hale, with the famous statue of King Kamehameha the Great in front of the building:
Architecturally also quite interesting is the The Hawaii State Capitol, which is the official statehouse or capitol building of the US state of Hawaii. From the outside, it seems to be a square building, but getting close two cones can be seen under the Roof, which house the two Hawaiian legislative Chambers.
The building is surrounded by a reflecting pool, including a large fish population, and is supposed to symbolize the ocean surrounding the islands:
Foster Botanical Garden
Again, a nice spot for botanists is the “Foster Botanical Garden” – here are some impressions:
Now, this is just a small collection of places to see on Oahu. There are many more, like the Diamond Head State Park close to Waikiki. We enjoyed Oahu very much, but will definitely come back to see the other Islands as well.
And here’s a typical recipe: Hawaiian Lau Lau Pork (/Chicken)
Lau translates to Leaf, and taro leaves are very central to the Hawaiian culture. The lau lau cooking method requires a fatty meat like pork belly, a salty ingredient (originally a piece of salted cod, which can be substituted by salty soy Sauce for People like me who don’t eat fish) and sweet potato wrapped in taro (lau) leaves. The leaf packages are steamed in an underground oven called imu. But a regular oven works just as well.
1 kg pork belly, boneless, cut into cubes
or 500 g pork belly and 500 g Chicken breast, boneless, cut into cubes
400 g sweet potatoes
450 g fresh taro (luau) leaves (stems and fibrous veins removed) or equal amount of large spinach leaves
Greetings from Hawaii
|New York City
|USA, Western National Parks, Part 1
|USA, Western National Parks, Part 2
|USA, West Coast
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