Your First Trip to Hawaii – What Do I Do on Oahu?

One of the most breathtaking places on earth, a first trip to Oahu can be a bit daunting and confusing. Let me take a few minutes of your time and point out some of my favorite things and some of the tricks I’ve learned so that you can hit the ground running–it’s expensive to come to Hawaii, expensive to stay here. In these tight economic times you may as well make the best of your vacation investment by being a bit prepared. Let me make some suggestions about visiting Oahu logically and efficiently, to maximize your fun.

There’s nothing to see most of the flight in…just a lot of water and they’ll have you pull the shades, anyway, to enhance the movie–so bring your laptops and DVDs–the movie is almost always, um, uninteresting to adults (except once when I flew home they showed Shrek) and what they load in the rental tablets isn’t much better. Ask for seats near the electrical outlets, and be sure you have a power adapter (Best Buy/Comp USA; about $30) that fits airline outlets. I’m serious–nobody’s laptop lasts 6 1/2 hours and that flight is REALLY dull–especially if the plane is carrying more than the 3 FAA-mandated screaming babies. The only views come about 20 minutes before you land, when you’ll start to get views of Koko Head, Makapu’u Head and the Ko’olau Mountains. Then you fly right over the top of the crater at Diamond Head, turn directly over Pearl Harbor (giving a nice view of the Wai’anae Mountains) and land. All this is best seen from the starboard (right) side of the plane. See if you can arrange this. Otherwise, on port, while landing, you get spectacular views of Moloka’i Island (and possibly Maui and Lana’i, depending on weather), then Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head and the Ko’olau Mountains just before touch down.

Most flights get into Honolulu about lunch time, but don’t be tempted to eat at the airport…wait for Downtown or Waikiki…if you need a snack, there are Starbucks at the airport. Nobody can prepare you for the planning tragedy that is Honolulu International Airport. You will be confused, just accept this, and follow the herds. Asking employees for directions can be daunting, too, because even though their family has been in the US for many generations, they still speak with a Chinese/Portuguese/Japanese/Filipino/Whatever’s accent, or even pidgin, and you might find it a bit impenetrable until you adjust to it. Chances are you’ll land a wee bit away from the baggage claim (BIG AIRPORT)…if Baggage Claim not on the floor right right below you, walk directly outside to the curb and wait for the Wiki Wiki shuttle (you cannot miss it, it’s the only passenger transport-type vehicle that will be on this road). « Wiki » in Hawai’ian means « fast » and this shuttle is government operated-just so you know ahead of time that it’s a lie. They say it twice to emphasize their deceitfulness. The Wiki Wiki will take you to the baggage area. Probably by Tuesday. The car rental area is just ’round the corner from baggage……but don’t go for the rental car yet. Go get your bags first; now, everybody go stand on the curb while someone gets the rental car…they will have to ride the shuttle to get the car, then navigate back to the curb for family-this bit will seem like other airports and is really quick, but it’s impossible to park and go inside and look for folks still waiting for bags. So…bags first, then car.

Assuming you’re headed to Honolulu or Waikiki from the airport, follow the Sunset cruise oahu signs to the H-1 Freeway (it’s the Interstate…I know, I know: Interstate highways in Hawaii?). NOTE: Do not be deceived by names like « Farrington Highway » or « Nimitz Highway »-these are not highways, they are regular surface streets, jammed with strip malls and stop lights every 3 feet. Although this is Hawai’i, so they are SCENIC strip malls…At the airport, you are west of Honolulu and Waikiki, so you head east on the H-1. If you are going to Waikiki, do not be deceived by mendacious City Planners who spent millions on signs telling you to take Exit 22 (Kinau to Waikiki) into Waikiki. Don’t do it. Wait for Exit 23 (Punahou to Waikiki). This is sooo important, I emblazon it in permanent ink, in large red letters on the cover of every copy of every Oahu map or guidebook I send to friends coming to visit! Oh, you will thank me for this tip.

Once in Waikiki, take a deep breath. This is Waikiki, man…lovely, eh? Find your hotel, park, check in, dump your luggage in your room (for about $20 tip you can get a bellhop to do all this for you) and walk across Kalakaua Avenue to the beach. Restaurants abound, snacks and bottled water are to be had at the ABC shops sprinkled liberally along the beach. No, really, there are at least 2 ABC stores in each block along the beach. Be sure to drink lots more water than you think you need-I’m serious about this-it’s hotter than you think and you are sweating more than you think. Hot? Drink water. Tired? Drink water. Euphoric? Drink water. Cranky? Drink water… Now…take OFF those shoes, dammit, and get your toes wet. If you didn’t apply sunscreen yet, it’s already too late; trust me, whatever tan you have isn’t enough. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Find the King David Kalakaua statue…this is where you leave your leis (for luck) when you leave.

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