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Trip Planning: Hawaii

I'll be in Honolulu for a conference in late June. Where should I stay and eat? What should I experience?

From Joshua Counsil
Posted May 26, 2011 at 7:07 PM
From Sunday, June 26th to Thursday, June 30th, I'll be at a conference in Honolulu. Afterwards, I plan to spend a few extra nights getting acquainted with America's newest state. I'm 23-years-old, single, and traveling alone.

The conference takes place at the Hawaii Convention Center in Waikiki, so I imagine I'll see quite a bit of the beach. After the conference, I'll switch hotels. I'm versatile and adventurous - I'll take any suggestions.

How long should I stay? Which islands are the most interesting? Is it easy to hop from island to island, or should I just choose one island to explore? What are the not-to-be-missed attractions? Which hotels do you recommend? Where should I eat?

I'm a student, so my budget isn't particularly large. However, my airfare is free, and my food and lodging are paid for during the conference; I hope to see Waikiki's best offerings during those four nights. I hope to leave the Honolulu region after the conference, maybe head to the northern half of Oahu or take off to a different island.

I'm grateful for any help.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Nick Markham
Posted May 26, 2011 at 8:18 PM
We stayed at the Hilton HAwaiian Village. This hotel is easily the most amazing in comparison to anything nearby. The towers are huge yet magnificently designed. There is an entire shopping center just for those staying at the hotel that includes a variety of shopping and eating options. There are about 5 pools, one of which that has three water slides. Every Friday night, they host a private firework show poolside just for the guests. And it is right Waiki Beachfront. It is truly one of the most amazing hotels I've been to.

As far as attractions, you've got to visit the Dole Plantations and Polynesian Cultural Center. Those two attractions are pretty neat.

Lastly, I don't suggest taking off to another island. It is not impossible, but it is extremely difficult and time-consuming. You would most likely have to take a flight to another island early in the morning (anywhere from 4am-7am) and then would need to take a return flight early evening (anywhere from 6pm-10pm) if you don't want to pay extra for a hotel on another island.

People have done it, don't get me wrong, but I would suggest you just experience all that Oahu has to offer.

Any other questions?

From Joshua Counsil
Posted May 27, 2011 at 12:28 AM
Thanks, Nick!

Yes, the Hilton sounds amazing. It's out of my price range for the leisure part of my trip, but I'm not paying for the business portion... Looks like a great option.

Did you manage to catch any of the main tourist attractions, e.g., Pearl Harbour, hiking, snorkelling?

From Russell Meyer
Posted May 27, 2011 at 6:51 AM
If you don't want to rent a car, you'll need to stay on Oahu and near Waikiki, because every bus line goes by just about every hotel in that area. Pearl Harbor is a MUST, but it will take up a pretty big chunk of the day. There are four different attractions there including: USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri Battleship and Museum, USS Bowfin and submarine museum, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. You can buy tickets for each of the attractions separately, or you can buy different variations of attractions. However, you ticket to the Arizona is timed, so if you don't get there first thing in the morning, you could end up waiting to visit the memorial, and there's not really anything else within walking distance of Pearl Harbor aside from Aloha Stadium. All of the Pearl Harbor attractions are accessible by bus directly from Waikiki.

For snorkeling, the best and easiest place to get to without a car is Hanauma Bay, which is on the southeast side of Oahu. There's also the Dole Plantation on the center of the island and all of the great surfing on the North Shore, which are accessible by bus, but expend to spend a lot of time riding.

If you're willing to Island Hop (expect to spend over $200 in RT airfare to do so), I can only offer advice on the Big Island. We flew into Hilo, and stayed in a bed and breakfasts (some of the best deals on the islands for lodging) on both sides of the island. While on the east side (Hilo), we spent a lot of time in Volcanoes National Park. As a geologist, I could have spent weeks there, but in my opinion you need at least 2 days to truly appreciate the park. We also spend time on the west side (Kona), and went to some amazing snorkeling locations on a guided tour, walked around a coffee plantation, and toured some of the local missions. We also went on a tour up to the summit of Mauna Kea (the largest mountain in the world), and watched the sunset. If you're going to hop islands, I cannot recommend Big Island enough.

From Russell Meyer
Posted May 27, 2011 at 7:09 AM
If you can't hop or rent a car, just stay in Waikiki, and take the bus. It's very efficient, but it can be a little time consuming, so don't try to pack too much into one day. I don't know if you're a "Lost" fan, but if you are, you have to visit Kualoa Ranch (lots of movies and TV shows have been filmed there), and get a book on where they filmed scenes for the show--It's very cool to see how much of the show (even parts that are set in different parts of the world) are set on Oahu.

From Nick Markham
Posted May 27, 2011 at 7:13 AM
I almost forgot about Pearl Harbor! That was actually probably my favorite attraction there. When I went with my mom and sister, they just wanted to see the USS Arizona and then leave to the Flea Market, but I decided to stay and se every attraction.

There is even one part where you can get on a bus and go to this aviation museum, and you pass right through the real area where military activity is going on (no pictures of video are aloud). You can go inside a submarine and I think walk on the USS Missouri by now (it was closed when I was there). Anyway, highly recommended.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted May 27, 2011 at 8:17 AM
Cool. I'll stay on Oahu. However, I might like to take a look at, say, Diamondhead. Are there buses that leave Waikiki?

From Nick Markham
Posted May 27, 2011 at 5:21 PM
Oh, for sure! I never visited Diamondhead, but I know there are many different buses that will take you anywhere you want on the island.

From Russell Meyer
Posted May 27, 2011 at 6:08 PM
Buses get you about halfway up Diamondhead, but it's pretty much exclusively a hiking/biking recreation area.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted May 28, 2011 at 3:26 AM
I want to hike up Diamondhead; I just want a ride there.

I'm only 23. I think you have to be 25 to rent a car in the States, correct? If that's the case, I'll be busing it everywhere.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted May 28, 2011 at 7:39 AM
How about Aulani.............

From Nick Markham
Posted May 28, 2011 at 8:23 AM
^I don't think it will be open when he goes, but if it is Joshua, go there! It would be great to get some sort of trip report (if possible with photos) from Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa!

From Joshua Counsil
Posted May 29, 2011 at 8:19 PM
It opens in August, but I'm strongly considering popping by to see how it's progressing.

Think Robert could hook me up with a tour or quick interview?

From Ray Schroeder
Posted May 31, 2011 at 11:20 AM
Diamondhead is a must. I was last there 25 yrs ago, damn I'm getting old, and you were allowed inside. It's actually a WWII bunker at the top.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted May 31, 2011 at 11:48 AM
Looks like Aulani could be a no-go. I talked to Robert - it seems these DVC pre-openings are very exclusive. If I'm in the area, I'll check it out.

Any other good hiking beyond Diamondhead?

From Russell Meyer
Posted June 1, 2011 at 6:18 PM
You can try Koko Head State Park, which is best described as a stairmaster on steroids.

From Robert Niles
Posted June 1, 2011 at 8:55 PM
Joshua,

I'm an idiot for not suggesting this before, but Aulani's a time share for crying out loud. (Disney cast members, please don't bother correcting me for using that forbidden term, okay?) Isn't there a sales office out there? Go in like you're interested in buying, then see what they show you.

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