As I stepped off the plane, I could barely contain my excitement. I was in Hawaii! Where the rich and famous vacation, marry and even film movies! I’ve wanted to go to Hawaii for as long as I could remember, hearing about the famous celebrities associated with these majestic islands. And now I was here! With its magnificent, secluded beaches and constant activity, Waikiki, Oahu – a 10-hour flight from Sydney - is the perfect holiday destination for families.
We arrived at the Hilton Hawaiian Village to be greeted and presented with beautiful fragrant leis and freshly squeezed tropical non-alcoholic fruit cocktails. After checking in we embarked on a tour of the grandiose hotel, boasting two full-sized swimming pools, a spa, sauna and gymnasium, as well as hosting two licensed surf schools on the hotel’s own personal beach. Walking to our room in the Ali’i Tower, we passed an open pond, home to giant tropical fish and elegant flamingos. An enclosure of adorable fairy penguins right outside our building also added to the fantasy-like theme of the village.
The doorman opened the door to the gracious foyer with a front desk just for the Ali’i Tower with 24-hour assistance. Upstairs, our room boasted panoramic views of the sprawling beach and lush fauna. If we didn’t already feel spoilt enough, we immediately received a phone call informing us our rental car had arrived and was waiting for us. “What sort of car did we get?” I asked Mum. She just smiled and said wait and see. Walking through the lobby to the valet car park, I spotted a silver Chrysler Sebring convertible. “No way!” Lisa and I screamed!
We decided to take a trip around the island, which we were told would take less than a day. We had a rocky start, getting lost a few times, but friendly locals set us on our way, saying people would know we were tourists and be lenient to our constant lane changing and general unfamiliarity with the roads. We were curious to know how they’d know we were tourists but after about an hour’s driving, we realised anyone driving a convertible was a fellow tourist!
We started along the east coast of the island, where we found a beautiful secluded beach with crystal clear water and immaculate white sand. We met local native Hawaiians who were friendly and welcoming. They filled us in on other amazing places to visit that many travellers miss out on, as they tend to stay within the commercial areas of Waikiki.
The sun was starting to set and we’d barely made it to the North Coast with all our stops along the way including a whale sighting which we witnessed when we’d pulled over to the side of the road, to see what all the fuss and cluster of cars was about.
Venturing home, we decided to have dinner at the highly recommended restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory. Because we’d neglected to make a booking, there was an hour and half waiting time. We were given a pager which would inform us when our table was ready, enabling us to stroll through downtown Waikiki and discover more of Oahu’s treasures. These included a walk-through aquarium and the International Market Place selling items ranging from the stereotypical Hawaiian shirts to crafts and fashion such as sunglasses, shoes and swimwear.
Returning to the restaurant, dinner was very welcome. Each of us ordered a main meal, although with the size of each, we would have been able to share one between the three of us and still have hesitations about dessert!
At the Hilton there are two surf schools on the beach, one run by Waikiki long board legend Clyde Aikau, the other by champion surfer Errol Kane. After an onshore practice, we paddled out to a protected area where the waves weren’t too big to knock first-timers off, but still big enough to give you the thrill of finally managing to stand for the duration of a wave. Our instructors were loads of fun and made our experience even more enjoyable.
We spent the afternoon lazing around the beach, which is right practically on your doorstep. Beachside vendors rent out a range of equipment including lounge chairs, large water tubes, water bikes and delicious and refreshing snow cones. Rental purchases are conveniently delivered anywhere on the beach, eliminating the stress and frustration of trying to navigate yourselves, beach bags and furniture through the sea of beach-goers.
The shopping in Oahu proved to be one of the highlights of our trip. We visited the Waikele Outlet Centre about a half hour drive from Waikiki where we found amazing bargains such as half-priced designer brands and super cheap Levi’s as well as hugely discounted perfume brands. A variety of other shopping centres on the island such as Ala Moana Centre and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Centre provided cheap quality makeup, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags and even souvenirs.
The flea markets held at the Aloha stadium also had great buys including fakes such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Yves St Laurent.
Other places to be sure to visit are the marine park sanctuary at Hanauma Bay, a virtual Disneyland for snorkelling; The Polynesian Cultural Centre; Pearl Harbour, a moving and educational experience and Lanikai Beach where you can hire a kayak and paddle to the nearby Mokulua Islands.
We also stayed a couple of days at the Embassy Suites, where we had a two bedroom suite with a kitchenette and lounge area with three flatscreen TVs! This friendly hotel was great value, with a complimentary breakfast, a nightly Manager’s Reception, 24-hour fitness centre and even free internet in the rooms. It’s also a great location, right in the centre of town just across from the beach – something for everyone!
To end our luxurious holiday, it only seemed right to hire a limousine to take us to the airport. With prices starting at AUD$60, how could you resist when taxi transfers almost cost the same!
Boarding our flight back to Sydney brought sadness, though the memories and experiences Hawaii had given me brightened my demeanour as I knew I’d just had one of the most relaxing, enchanting trips imaginable.
- To save paying $50 hire per day for two beach chairs and an umbrella head to K-mart, Sears or an ABC Store and buy them. You can sell them again on the beach before you leave.
- Travel to anywhere or right around the island on The Bus for US$2. Or purchase a 4-Day Pass for US$20. The 4-day pass is valid for four consecutive days of unlimited bus rides. You can use it on all regular and commuter express services. The pass is available at all ABC Stores in Waikiki and the Ala Moana Center Store.
Hawaiian Airlines flies to Honolulu three times a week from Sydney.