HONOLULU —Aloha means welcome in Hawaiian, and that is exactly how you feel when you arrive on the shores of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, the third largest island in this isolated Pacific archipelago.
There is plenty to see and do in this bustling city, home to over one million people.
Investing in a Go Oahu Card might be your best bet. The card includes attractions, tours, shopping discounts and rentals of kayaks, beach chairs, umbrellas, surfboards, bicycles, and mopeds for those brave enough to ride the congested streets.
Car rentals are popular especially for those wanting to discover more of what Oahu has to offer. Up at the North Shore you will find the 42-acre Polynesian Cultural Center where you can walk through eight island villages and top the night off with a traditional Hawaiian luau, a visit to the Dole Plantation, or the Kualoa Ranch with its Movie Sites & Ranch Tour, the Secret Island Tour, or the Ocean Voyaging Tour, to name a few.
Back in Honolulu, a wonderful way of getting around is the Waikiki Trolley. This tour is available on its own, or as part of the Go Oahu Card. The hop-on hop-off trolley has three lines. The Pink Line will take you shopping to places like the Ala Moana Centre, Hawaii’s biggest mall. The Red Line takes you on a historical ride with stops at King Kamehameha’s Statue and Iolani Palace, America’s only royal residence built in 1882 by King Kalakaua. The Green Line will take you to scenic Diamond Head, the Waikiki Aquarium and the Honolulu Zoo.
Waikiki is reminiscent of New York’s 5th Avenue or Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive filled for the most part with high-end boutiques. But unlike these other cities, if you look across the street you’ll find lush botanicals, a beautiful sandy beach and crystal blue waters chockfull of swimmers, surfers and sunbathers.
For those looking for more affordable souvenirs to take home, look out for the free shuttles to Hilo Hattie’s, a favourite retail chain boasting must-haves like the tropical Hawaiian shirts or muumuus that you know you’ll never wear once you get home. Or opt for Hawaiian items like Kona coffee, macadamia nuts and Maui Diver Jewelry.
Nightlife in Waikiki is one big party where the beach never sleeps. Live entertainment including shows with a Polynesian twist dot the area.
In the heart of Waikiki is Creation, A Polynesian Journey at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel, best described as a spellbinding song, dance and dinner show that takes the audience through the culture and traditions of this exotic island. The talented cast had the honour of performing for President Obama at the White House.
Another entertaining dinner theatre event is Legends In Concert Waikiki, whose show Rock-A-Hula is at the newly renovated multi-million dollar 750-seat, Royal Hawaiian Theatre. Here impersonators tackle favourite musical legends such as Elvis, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga and Elton John alongside singers, dancers and an onstage band performing elaborate Hawaiian themed production numbers.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbour by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941 is memorialized by a monument and by the USS Arizona Memorial, which marks the resting place of more than 1,000 sailors that died that day.
Honolulu is a popular destination with cruise companies such as Holland America Line. It is a great way to get a taste of Hawaii, while others fly in and can stay at a plethora of hotels and condos available.
For more information online: www.SmartDestinations.com/oahu; www.LegendsWaikiki.com; www.creationshow.com.