Oahu, Hawaii

After realizing that we had a very large number of Hilton Hotel points, as well as a large number of United Mileage Plus miles, we decided that since our last trip to Hawaii had been nearly 14 years ago - that it was time to visit there again. So we sat down and mapped out an itinerary that included Oahu, Maui and the Big Island and included as many Hilton Hotels as we could find reservations at. Between the United Mileage Plus miles and the Hilton Hotel points, we were able to keep the overall costs down quite a bit.

A Few Interesting Facts about Oahu
  • The "Hang Loose" Symbol originated in Oahu - This hand symbol originated in the North Shore of Oahu at Laie. A man named Hamana Kalili was a fisherman and construction worker whose legacy included raising money for the building that would become the Polynesian Cultural Center and fathering two Olympians. Hamana Kalilii had lost three fingers from his right hand in an industrial accident. When he waved at somebody, it looked like the hang loose sign.
  • The Lowest Temperature Ever Recorded in Oahu - The lowest temperature recorded in Honolulu, Oahu occurred in 1969 at 52 degrees Fahrenheit!
  • Home of the World’s Largest Plant Maze - The pineapple maze at the Dole plantation is the largest maze made out of plants in the world. Visitors can utilize a free app on their phones to help the as they wander amongst the greenery.
  • Oahu contains the Only Official Royal Residence in the United States - Iolani Palace on Oahu was once the home of Hawaiian monarchs. Both King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani ruled from this historic location from 1882-1893.
  • Oahu is home to one of the world’s largest wind generators - The windmill is located in the Kawailoa Wind Farm on the North Shore of Oahu.
  • Honolulu is the second most expensive city in the United States - According to the Grass Roots Institute. There are many other factors that affect the cost of living in Hawaii. But high taxes, excessive land-use, zoning regulations and because everything must be shipped into Hawaii before it can be sold to the public.
  • Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth - It is 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan and 4,900 miles from China.
  • Oahu's Size - At 596.7 square miles, it is the third largest Hawaiian Island.
Trip Overview & Map

Ohau, nicknamed "The Gathering Place" is the third largest Hawaiian island comprising 597 square miles. Both Maui and the Island of Hawaii (Aka, The Big Island) are larger however Oahu is the most populous with over 1 million people which is approximately 70% of the population of the state of Hawaii. Oahu is home to Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and its north shore is famous for its surf and surf culture. Oahu is situated northwest of the Big Island and Maui.

Some people opt to skip Oahu when they visit Hawaii for the first time due to things they’ve heard or read about the traffic and crowds. In our opinion this would be a mistake. Oahu has a lot of things to see and do. Waikiki is known for its shopping, beautiful sandy beach with rolling waves perfect for beginner surfers, wonderful food and an unforgettable view of Diamond Head in the distance. You have to try a mai tai at Duke’s restaurant while watching the surf along Waikiki beach at least once in your lifetime! There is traffic in Waikiki but if you skip the car rental and walk and use the transportation system it’s easy to get around. You can always rent a car for a day when exploring other areas of the island. It’s also easy to get to other islands. So, spend a few days in Oahu checking things out and then hop over to another island or two if you have the time.

A One Week Oahu Itinerary

The following is a suggested itinerary based upon maximizing your time on Oahu and proximity to these individual destinations;

Day 1: Arrive at Waikiki Beach
  • Get unpacked and get into the Hawaii vibe & timezone. This of course depends on how long it took you to get to Waikiki.
Day 2:
  • Hang at the beach
  • Explore Waikiki beach - the boardwalk is nearly continuous from the Hilton Hawaiian Village south to the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue.
  • Explore Waikiki beach - It's a great walking area but if your feet get tired use the local bus system. The Pink Bus is $5 per day.
  • Hit Dukes for your first umbrella drink & try at least one Mai Tai. They don’t make them any better anywhere else!
Day 3:
  • Hike Diamond Head in the morning, you will need day/time reservations from Hawaii.GOV site
  • Go Surfing/Supping/Kayaking or other beach activity.
  • Visit the Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant - Legendary Dim Sum! Expect to wait.
Day 4: Pearl Harbor in the morning
There is a lot to see at Pearl Harbor. If you are interested in world war II history then you may want to see everything. Most people want to take the boat out to the Arizona Memorial but all of the sites are worth seeing if you are up for it. Take a look at our Pearl Harbor visit.
Day 5: A bit of driving
  • Take the Pali Highway (Hawaii Route 61) to the Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout and enjoy the amazing view of the valley below (you will be 2,000 feet above the valley).
  • Make advance reservations at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Hawaii route 83 near Laie. Learn more about Hawaii, eat at the Luau and then take in the show afterward. This is an excellent family outing and great if looking for something to do with a large group. You can obtain tickets here.
Day 6: Enjoy your last day on Oahu however you want
If you don't have plans consider taking a ride to the famous Oahu north shore. It’s not a “must do” on Oahu as it’s mostly just a laid back surfing area.
  • Stop for malasadas in the morning at Paalaa Kai Bakery near Wailua - they are excellent!
  • Visit Waialua Bay - in the summer it can be calm and in the winter sometimes there are large waves. It’s a nice beach to spend a few hours. To get info on where the surf is best, click here.
  • Eat lunch at a shrimp food truck
Day 7: Return Home

If you have some extra time, or you are looking to add some variety to your own itinerary, here are a few suggestions to consider;

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki  Map

This was our escape to a tropical hideaway, located on the widest stretch of beach, their 22-acre paradise features the best pools and waterslides in Waikiki, as well as the only saltwater lagoon.

Because this hotel is so centrally located, it was a nice stroll down Waikiki Beach to various eateries, shops, pubs, etc. Being close to Ala Moana Boulevard also made it easy for us to drive to anywhere north or south via the H-1. By the way, anything you've heard about Honolulu traffic is probably true.

To view all images from our Our Hilton Hawaiian Village Image Gallery, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Hilton Hawaiian Village, click here
Waikiki Beach Area

These images were taken on our way to Diamond Head State Park, and as you can see, Leonard's Bakery has a prominent place in this image set. This is because we feel that Leonard's Bakery offers some of the best Portuguese pastries we've had outside of Portugal. We have visited there every time we have been on Oahu, and will continue to do so in the future.

To view all images from our Our Waikiki Beach Area Image Gallery, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Waikiki Beach, click here
Diamond Head State Park  Map

Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone on Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. The Hawaiian name is most likely derived from lae (browridge, promontory) plus ʻahi (tuna) because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna's dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who named it for the calcite crystals on the adjacent beach.

Our goal for this visit to Diamond Head was to hike up the trail to the top, where the views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean are just stunning. The trail from the parking lot to the summit is only .8 mile, but at the top it is very steep and requires you to push hard.

Reservations are required and can be obtained online here. The fee is partially for entrance and partially to park inside the parking lot. Reservations are for a specific date & time, so that the park does not become over crowded.

To view all images from our Our Diamond Head Image Gallery, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Diamond Head, click here
Hanauma Bay  Map

We drove here after completing our Diamond Head hike because it is only 8.4 miles south. There is quite a bit of parking here, however you are required to pay a small fee to use the parking lot. The bay area itself requires reservations, click here to learn more. We did not walk down the hill to the shoreline as my legs were still screaming from the Diamond Head hike.

Hanauma Bay is only 2.3 miles north of Sandy Beach which generally has some interesting surf - but a word of caution as the shore break there can be rugged and has caused a lot of injuries. Enjoy the locals body boarding there but be careful if you go into the water. The Halona Blowhole Lookout is just .5 mile before you reach Sandy Beach, and it too is well worth a look.

 Background Info from Wikipedia 

Hanauma is both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District (the first of several established in the State of Hawaiʻi). Reflecting changes in attitude, its name has changed over time from Hanauma Bay Beach Park to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Visitors are required by law to refrain from mistreating marine animals or from touching, walking, or otherwise having contact with coral heads, which appear much like large rocks on the ocean floor (here, mostly seaward of the shallow fringing reef off the beach).

To view all images from our Our Hanauma Bay Image Gallery, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Hanauma Bay, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Hanauma Bay, click here
Pearl Harbor  Map

We visited the USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial and then took the bus over to visit the USS Missouri (BB-63). The Missouri is one of the four Iowa class battleships that were built late in WW2 (BB-63 entered service on 11 June 1944). The Navy had originally ordered six ships based upon the Iowa class design (Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and New Jersey), four were completed and two were cancelled (Illinois and Kentucky) in order to build more aircraft carriers. This is a beautiful ship design, and there will never be anything quite like them ever again.

NOTE: The USS Arizona Memorial requires advance purchase day/time tickets/reservations - which can be found here. The USS Missouri tour does not require advance reservations, but it is a per person fee to board the ship. Tickets can be purchased online here.

 Background Info from Wikipedia 

Pearl Harbor is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. It was often visited by the Naval fleet of the United States, before it was acquired from the Hawaiian Kingdom by the U.S. with the signing of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands are now a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet. The U.S. government first obtained exclusive use of the inlet and the right to maintain a repair and coaling station for ships here in 1887.

To view all images from our Our Pearl Harbor Image Gallery, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Pearl Harbor, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Pearl Harbor, click here
North Shore of Oahu

If you look at a map of Oahu, the "North Shore" is pretty much where you would expect, it is the entire north end of the island. We wanted to traverse Haleiwa, Waimea Bay and then continue on around the north end and then south to Kaneohe so we could come back to Honolulu via the Pali Pass.

Getting there from the Hilton was straight forward; North on the H-1 to the H-2 and then exit onto route 99 to Haleiwa. We hung out awhile at the beach there, and then drove further north on route 83 (Kamehameha Highway) to Waimea Bay. Route 83 begins to swing south at Kawela Bay and we continued south to Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts, where we stopped to purchase some nuts and enjoy their coffee. From there we continued south to route 61 that took us back to Honolulu via the Pali Pass.

To view all images from our Our North Shore Image Gallery, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Oahu North Shore, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Oahu North Shore, click here
Byodo-in Temple  Map

As we were driving to Kaneohe on route 83, we found this temple deep in a lush valley along the 2,000-foot Koʻolau Range. This is the resting place for many of Hawaiʻi’s departed, Valley of the Temples’ hilly landscape is scattered with hundreds of freshly placed tropical flowers, like torch ginger and bird of paradise, to remember loved ones.

The main attraction in the Valley of the Temples is a Japanese temple called Byodo-in, which translates to the “Temple of Equality.” A scale replica of a temple in Uji Japan and made entirely without nails, Byodo-in was dedicated in 1968 as a centennial commemoration of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaiʻi. Famed Kyoto Landscaper Kiichi Toemon Sano planned the Japanese garden complex that houses Byodo-in with extreme attention to detail, from the gravel’s ripple-like design to the small bridges over the fishpond.

The temple and its vicinity also served as a stand-in for South Korea in one episode of the ABC series "Lost" and as the Presidential Villa in an episode of "seaQuest DSV". The temple was also used in the 2001 movie "Pearl Harbor" as a replica of the Byodo-in Temple in Japan as well as several other movies. The first usage in a TV show was in 1969 in a season 2 episode of "Hawaii Five-O". And again in a 1981 episode of "Magnum P.I."

There is also a large Koi fish pond, which contains hundreds of various sized Koi. You can purchase fish food to feed them, and the Koi get very excited when visitors toss fish food into the pond!

To view all images from our Our Byodo-in Temple Image Gallery, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Oahu Byodo-in Temple, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Oahu Byodo-in Temple, click here
Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout  Map

Nuʻuanu Pali is a section of the windward cliff of the Koʻolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley on the island of Oʻahu. It has a panoramic view of the windward (northeast) coast of Oʻahu. The Pali Highway (Hawaii State Highway 61) connecting Kailua/Kāneʻohe with downtown Honolulu runs through the Nuʻuanu Pali Tunnels bored into the cliffside.

This is always a fun place to visit because of the views, but also because the winds are always strongly blowing! The trade winds blow through the valley between the high mountains on either side, forming a strong wind tunnel of sorts. Wind speeds of up to 74 mph have been recorded here, and it is nearly impossible to walk upright against winds like that! My wife was nearly blown down by the winds that day, after I went forward and we both groped our way to the lookout area - because together we could safely navigate the winds.

To view all images from our Our Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout Image Gallery, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Nuʻuanu Pali, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Nuʻuanu Pali, click here
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific  Map

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (informally known as Punchbowl Cemetery) is a national cemetery located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii. Since it is located in the same general direction of the Pali Lookout, we stopped here on the way up to Pali Pass. In addition, one of Celeste's uncles (James Serrenho) has his name inscribed on the memorial wall. Mr. Serrenho was aboard the USS Morrison (DD-560) during the invasion of Okinawa when the ship was sunk after repeated kamikaze attacks on May 4th 1945.

To view all images from our Our Punchbowl Cemetery Image Gallery, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Punchbowl Cemetery, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Punchbowl Cemetery, click here
Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant Honolulu  Map

We were searching for some Chinese food and Celeste found this restaurant, and since it is highly rated, we decided to give it a try for lunch. WOW - we sampled several dishes from their dim sum menu and everything we had was excellent! We had to wait a few minutes, as this is a very popular restaurant in Honolulu - have patience because you will enjoy the food here!

The food here is very good, or should I say we found it to be good. Apparently a lot of Honolulu residents like it too, because there was a line of people who were waiting to have a meal. Their menu is varied and extensive and can be found here.

To view all images from our Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant Image Gallery, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, click here
Bishop Science Museum  Map

Our goal in visiting the Bishop Museum was to be able to view their extensive Polynesian artifacts, which is the world's largest collection. Now you might be saying to yourself "hmm, we don't like museums" but this one is unique and it has a huge amount of Polynesian "way of life" exhibits and I promise you that you will find a visit here to be educational and entertaining.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the "Polynesian Mystery", there has been a mystery for some time now about how over ten million square miles of the Pacific Ocean were discovered by voyagers sailing in large double-hulled canoes. Part of the mystery is "how did they navigate" across those huge distances? For example, it is 2,628.72 miles from Tahiti to Hawaii and there is ample evidence that there were numerous voyages between the two islands. Christina Thompson's book "Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesian" is a very good description of the Polynesian people, who and where they came from, and how they navigated around the Pacific Ocean. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Polynesian history.

 Background Info from Wikipedia 

The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, designated the Hawaiʻi State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, is a museum of history and science in the historic Kalihi district of Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu. Founded in 1889, it is the largest museum in Hawaiʻi and has the world's largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. Besides the comprehensive exhibits of Hawaiian cultural material, the museum's total holding of natural history specimens exceeds 24 million, of which the entomological collection alone represents more than 13.5 million specimens (making it the third-largest insect collection in the United States).

To view all images from our Our Bishop Science Museum Image Gallery, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Bishop Science Museum Oahu, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Bishop Science Museum Oahu, click here
Polynesia Cultural Center  Map
Above image is the property of gh5046 via Wikimedia Commons using the Public Domain license
Above image is the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC
Above image is the property of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons using the CCSA 2.0 license
Above image is the property of JayH via Wikimedia Commons using the Public Domain license
Above image is the property of Daniel Ramirez via Wikimedia Commons using the CCSA 2.0 license

The Polynesian Cultural Center is Hawaii's #1 visitor attraction, has 6 island villages representing the unique island cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands and Tonga. Set on 42 acres along Oahu's North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center has a lagoon that hosts daily canoe tours.

 Background Info from Wikipedia 

The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is a family-centered cultural tourist attraction and living museum located in Laie, on the northern shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The PCC is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), was dedicated on October 12, 1963, and occupies 42 acres (17 hectares) of land belonging to nearby Brigham Young University–Hawaii (BYU-Hawaii).

To view all images from our Polynesian Cultural Center Image Gallery, click here
To view a Google Images Set for Polynesia Cultural Center, click here
To view the Wikipedia Article for the Polynesian Cultural Center, click here
Around Honolulu
 Iolani Palace

The ʻIolani Palace was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi beginning with Kamehameha III under the Kamehameha Dynasty (1845) and ending with Queen Liliʻuokalani (1893) under the Kalākaua Dynasty, founded by her brother, King David Kalākaua. It is now a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Image is the property of Bernard Spragg via Wikipedia Commons using the CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain license. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

 Ala Wai Canal

The Ala Wai Canal is an artificial waterway in Honolulu, Hawaii which serves as the northern boundary of the tourist district of Waikiki. It was created in 1928 to drain the rice paddies and swamps which would eventually become Waikiki. It also serves as a primary drainage corridor for the rivers and streams that run through central and east Honolulu.


Image is the property of Thurston via Wikipedia Commons using the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Duke's Waikiki Restaurant    Map
This image is the property of John C. via the Yelp Website.

An iconic establishment in Waikiki, Duke's Waikiki celebrates an atmosphere that encompasses surfing, the spirit of Hawaii, and live music on the beach. They make excellent mixed drinks, we had Mai-Tais and macadamia nut hummus and both were excellent. If you are interested, click here for their menus and drink list.

 Background Info from Wikipedia 

Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku was a Hawaiian competition swimmer who popularized the sport of surfing. A Native Hawaiian, he was born to a minor noble family less than three years before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. He lived to see the territory's admission as a state, and became a United States citizen. He was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, winning medals in 1912, 1920 and 1924.

To view the Wikipedia Article for the Duke's Restaurant, click here

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