Oahu - Hawaii's Gathering Place

We own a timeshare on Waikiki, so we get to vacation here often. Each time we come to Oahu, we see and do something new.

Oahu - Hawaii's Gathering Place

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MilwVon on December 27, 2006

We have owned our timeshare in Waikiki since 2002 and have been there twice. We love Oahu and all it has to offer. Whether you are looking for the big city environs offered by the culturally diverse city of Honolulu or the quiet relaxing time on a deserted beach somewhere, it can all be found and experienced on Oahu!

We have always enjoyed sightseeing by car and here on Oahu, there is a lot to see and because the island is relatively small, it is easy to get around seeing everything during a week’s vacation. Be careful in and around Honolulu, however, as there are lots of people living and working in and around this city. Traffic is often bumper to bumper regardless of the time of day so plan accordingly. They also speed, so be careful and attentive to those around you.

Hawaiian culture and history is very interesting. We thoroughly enjoyed our day trip to Hawaii’s Plantation Village located in Waipahu. The guided tour is informative and interesting. There is also a lot of history told through the Hawaiian State Park system. Here on Oahu we would encourage visitors to go to Nu’uanu Pali State Park & Wayside, which is about 15 minutes from downtown Honolulu, as well as the Pu’u Ualaka’a State Wayside Park which is high above Honolulu, on the Tantalus/Round Top Circle Road.

Of course, a trip to Oahu isn’t complete without experiencing the Day of Infamy and Pearl Harbor at the USS Arizona National Memorial. Plan on this being a full day, especially if you are visiting during the height of tourist season.

If you enjoy water activities, there are plenty of opportunities for surfing, snorkeling and swimming at the public beaches around the island. Our favorite was the lagoons at the Marriott Ko’Olina Resort, about 30 or 45 minutes from Honolulu. While this is a resort location, the pubic has limited access via a parking pass system. Arrive early to be assured of receiving a parking pass to gain admission.${QuickSuggestions} We have grown to love the “revealed” books written for each of the Hawaiian Islands. “Oahu Revealed” by Doughty & Friedman is a must have in order to make the most out of your Oahu vacation. Inside information and tips are provided to tell the “secrets” that only locals know. The best beaches, best restaurants, everything that you will want to know is told in this one resource! Who would have known that you could go to a resort like the Marriott Ko’Olina and have access to the beauty of their carefully designed beachfront? Only through “Revealed” would we have known!

If you are planning to dine out, you will want to have a game plan for most evenings to include reservations, especially at the more popular places around Honolulu and Waikiki. We were unable to get into Don Ho’s thinking it would not be too busy on a Tuesday night. Faced with a two hour wait, we opted for the TGIF’s closer to our timeshare resort.

Keep in mind that while you are in Hawaii, there are times when you will want a light jacket or sweater. The nights can be chilly and if you venture up to Pali Lookout, you will definitely feel the chill in the winds blustering through the high pass there.

If you are planning to do any snorkeling and do not own your own gear, you can rent at Snorkel Bobs. One of the nice things about this chain of shops is that you can rent on one island and take your gear to another and drop it off there. This makes renting by the week (or more) an especially good deal. For what you will pay at some of the tourist locations (like Hunauma Bay), you could rent for almost a week from Snorkel Bobs. If you really enjoy snorkeling a lot, you may want to invest in your own gear.

Our last suggestion or tip would be to invest in the Entertainment Book. It is full of great deals on dining and activities, especially on Oahu! We always get our money’s worth out of this $35 investment and highly recommend it for anyone planning more than a couple of days on Oahu. Several of the activities and restaurants that we enjoyed and that are featured in this journal participate in the 2007 Entertainment Book. ${BestWay} I would not consider a Hawaiian vacation on ANY island without a car. We love to go out exploring on our own too much to be tied to one location or public transportation. For many, however, a car is not necessary especially given how compact and easy the island is to get around. Don’t get me wrong, it is a bit of a haul up to the north shore of Oahu, but the public bus system does go there. Be mindful; however, many of the Oahu resorts do charge a daily parking fee. We’re lucky in that our timeshare allows one car free for the duration of your stay.

There is also a trolley that operates in Waikiki that makes getting around that area very easy. Also, if you want to go to Hilo Hatties, they offer a free trolley over to their store on the Nimitz Highway as well as to the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

If you are staying in Waikiki and don’t have any plans or desires to venture out beyond that area, you can easily forego the car. There are dozens of restaurants, shops and of course the beach all within a few blocks of all of the hotels and resorts. I would guess that the entire area of Waikiki is probably 20 blocks by five and is very walkable for most people. Many of the Oahu attractions like the Polynesian Cultural Center and Germaine’s Luau offer transportation from the Waikiki area when you purchase your tickets. If you are doing Germaine’s, that is the ONLY way to luau responsibly if you plan on enjoying the mai tai’s. Leave the driving to their safe (and sober!) drivers.

Lifetime in Hawaii

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on December 28, 2006

Lifetime in Hawaii (LIH) is a timeshare owners association with approximately 40 units in the Royal Kuhio building. Most are studios, but there are a limited number of “corner units” that have a private bedroom. All sleep four, two in the king sized bed, the other two on a queen sized sleeper sofa. There is a small dinette table with four chairs in the living area and a nice full-sized kitchen in all units. Everything is spacious and comfortable for cooking and dining in if that is your choice.

All units have a balcony that also has a small table with two chairs. No unit has a full view of the ocean, only partial views of the ocean between buildings. We love Waikiki because of its location and all that there is to do in the area. It is a 24 hour city, with street traffic and people out and about all night long. Within a five or six block radius you will find loads of shopping and dining opportunities. If you never want to leave the area, you won’t need a car. If you do have a car, all LIH units have one assigned parking space that is complimentary. This is really quite a big deal as some resorts in and around Waikiki charge upwards of $15-$20 per night for parking.

If you are considering a timeshare “exchange” into Lifetime in Hawaii, I personally do not think you can do wrong. The accommodations are very comfortable, larger than a hotel (even the studios) and you will have a primo location for your Oahu vacation. If however, being “on the beach” or very close to the beach is important to you, this may not be the place for you.

Also, you should know that this resort because of its city location, does not feel like many resorts. It is located in a downtown high-rise apartment building. LIH is one of several timeshare ownership groups in the building. Additionally, there are several individual owners who live in the apartments year round. There is a security man in the lobby and access into the building itself is restricted via a key system.

On the seventh floor is their activities area. There is an outdoor pool that has sunshine for approximately 2/3’s of the day. Chaise lounge chairs are plentiful, so this makes for a nice way to lay out if you don’t feel like schlepping four blocks to the beach. Also on the sun deck is a shuffleboard layout, although in two stays, I’ve never seen anyone play. There is also a fitness/workout room on the seventh floor, as well as laundry facilities. Be prepared! Doing laundry here is rather expensive.

One dining suggestion while staying at Lifetime in Hawaii... If you enjoy a great Italian meal served in a very nice “fine dining” atmosphere, Matteo’s is for you! Located directly across the street from the Royal Kuhio building, you will not be disappointed.
Lifetime in Hawaii
2240 Kuhio Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815
(808) 923-5309

Hawaii's Plantation Village

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on December 27, 2006

A wonderful cultural and historical experience. This plantation village includes actual buildings from the original plantation as well as some precise and exact replicas. This tourist location is a nonprofit venture, with the express purpose of preserving their culture and educating the general public of an era gone by. Each building has a story, especially those that were home to the many ethnic groups who were brought to Hawaii as contract labor to work the sugar plantation. Camp life for these immigrants, especially in the early days, had to be very rough.

As we started the guided walking tour, I was first struck by how many lived together in such tight quarters. Those who came to work at the Oahu Sugar Company (est. 1897) in the early 1900s were hard working men, coming to find a life that they would not have possible in their homelands of Japan, Taiwan, China, Puerto Rico, Portugal, and Korea. Each ethnic group had their own house that was largely replicated on what their culture and lives were like back home.

As you make your way through the plantation history, the evolution of church and family are depicted. The influence of God and the belief in religion was a prominent theme through all cultures. One of the prettiest buildings on exhibit is the 1914 Japanese Inari Shrine. This particular building was actually built in Honolulu for the working class there but under the threat of demolition it was moved to this location in 1979. While the outside of the building is very pretty, it is the inside that is truly remarkable! It is ornate and colorful, with original religious artifacts.

The houses built for family living have all been restored with many original pieces. Furniture, closing and other household items furnish each of the buildings. You can really imagine living in these small houses as you continue on with the guided tour. For us the story was even more compelling and real because our guide “Bob” was a descendant from this very farm. His grandfather had come over from Japan, met a Hawaiian woman and started his family in this very area while working for the Oahu Sugar Company.

There is a replica of a 1900s general store complete with the types of items found at the turn of the century. Everything a worker would want or need including food, clothing and hardware, was available at this store.

Inside the main building, where you buy your admission tickets, there is a nice museum that features some original antique artifacts including clothing, employer records including workers’ contracts, tools, and machinery.

NOTE: There is a buy-one, get-one-free coupon in the Entertainment Book for admission. If you make the trip in the morning, there is a nice local cafe called Rocky's we'd recommend for breakfast, with authentic Hawaiian breakfast choices at very good prices. It is located on the main road in from the downtown area of Waipahu.
Hawaii's Plantation Village
94-695 Waipahu St
Waipahu, Hawaii, 96797
(808) 677 0110

Hunauma Bay Nature Preserve

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MilwVon on December 27, 2006

This is a huge tourist attraction for visitors to Honolulu and throughout Oahu, with many tour operators offering snorkel trips to this highly regarding state park. The park is well maintained and offers visitors a pleasant experience. There is a steep downhill hike to the beach, about 5-8 minutes at a leisurely pace. At the end of your day in the park, you can hike back uphill... or take the tram for a buck or two.

We arrived rather late in the afternoon (around 2pm) which was our mistake. We enjoyed the sun until it slipped below the edge of the cliffs high above the bay. By 4pm it was all shaded and rather cool. We really needed to be there in the morning when the sun was shining brightly into this protective bay cove. Before you are allowed down to the shoreline to snorkel, you will be required to view a short video presentation on the preservation of the natural resources in the ocean, particularly the reef below.

The snorkeling was descent but not the best we've seen in Hawaii (nothing like Maui, for sure). The nice sandy beach made getting into the water to snorkel very easy. We saw a nice assortment of fish but not much else. We were told that you had to swim out rather far out into the bay to see nice coral reefs. Unfortunately, all that was close in, was rather damaged and in some spots a bit shallow for larger adults. If you do swim or snorkel out to the opening, be careful as there is a rather strong undertow that has been known to flush swimmers out into the ocean.

If we were to do it again, we would arrive earlier and we would also pack a picnic lunch. The location and surrounding beauty is really wonderful. I can only imagine how crowded it may get, however, when the tour bus operators arrive filled with tourists.
Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve
7455 Kalanianaole Highway
Honolulu, Hawaii, 96825
(808) 396-4229

Dole Plantation

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MilwVon on December 27, 2006

As you are touring the island of Oahu on the north side of the island, you will no doubt see the acres and acres of pineapple farms. Here, Dole pretty much owns all you will see for what will seem like miles and miles. All of the pineapple grown on Oahu is used only in Hawaii. With the high cost to export and the low cost of pineapples out of Central and South America, the pineapple crops in Hawaii have become suppressed at market.

Dole Plantation is a tourist "stop" that many of the tour bus companies include on their Circle Island Tours. It also makes for a good diversion and break in what may be a long day behind the wheel. We have stopped here for both reasons... and for the delicious pineapple twist cone. A refreshing concoction that is like sherbet but not exactly. I don’t think it is "dairy" but I’ve never asked. I just know it tastes good and is very good to quench a thirst after a couple of hours at the beach or in the car.

At Dole Plantation there is a lot to do and see, and plenty to entertain the keiki’s. If you are interested in learning more about pineapple farming, the guided tour train through the fields is an ideal way to learn as you take the relaxing 20-30 minute ride. During the trip you will see pineapple growing it a variety of stages of their life, making it very interesting to see how they develop.

I probably enjoyed the gardens the most. A walking area of native flowers and plants, the time spent here was mostly taking photos of things we just don’t see back on the mainland. The colors of the hibiscus are especially striking and vivid. There is also a pretty water area, which on this day had some ducks swimming about.

There is also "The World’s Largest Maze" here at Dole Plantation. The Pineapple Garden Maze is the one attraction or thing to do, that we have never been quite interested enough to do, to pay the admission fee for. It is made up of a number of plants native to Hawaii and is said to be an educational treat in and of itself. Kids really enjoy their time running through the maze, most likely looking for a place to ditch their parents!

There is a rather expansive gift shop here. They sell everything you would hope to find that is Hawaiian including coffee, jellies, candies, jewelry, clothing and your typical knick-knack type gifts like refrigerator magnets and key chains. I found that their prices were rather high and the selection and quality not much better than what you might find at your local ABC Store or even K-Mart in their Hawaiian gifts section. If however, you just have to have a tee-shirt or something else that says "DOLE PLANTATION" then this is your shopping opportunity.

More information may be found at their website at: www.doleplantation.com.

Germaine's Luau - Honolulu

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MilwVon on December 27, 2006

If you have read any of my other Hawaii journals, you know how much I enjoy the luau! They are simply a wonderful way to enjoy a meal while being entertained. I have to admit, Germaine’s knows how to do it and do it well! It was probably one of my top luau experiences, ever.

This was a fun night out for the four of us... me, my husband, his mom and sister. It was fun to have them with us as they had never experienced a luau before and didn’t really know what to expect. I think they especially enjoyed learning how the kalua pig is prepared in the ground in the imu. “Who’d have thunk it” his sister said, as they brought dinner up out of the leaves and rocks.

The presentation of the Hawaiian luau was very good at Germaine’s. We didn't feel like we were herded in and out like at some luaus. The dinner buffet featured all of the traditional food items that you would find at a luau. In addition to the pork, other main courses included fish, chicken, and beef. There were lots of salad options as well as vegetables and starch items (potatoes, rice, and of course poi). The pineapple cake was delicious as was the coconut gelatin delight that you can typically only find at a luau.

With each paid admission, you receive two complimentary drink coupons. After that, you’re on your own at about $5 per drink. They also have unlimited soft drinks for those who are driving or not interested in alcohol.

The story telling, singing and dancing were all very good. It is always interesting to see the variations of island song and dance from the South Pacific. I think I like the Tahitian the best! With it being the holidays, we were treated to an extra-special Christmas performance (approximately 15 minutes) on top of their normal show.

The price of your admission includes a comfortable tour bus pick-up and travel from Waikiki. With the 1-hour drive to the luau location, we strongly encourage you to avoid the temptation to drive. Besides, after a couple of the complimentary mai tai's, do you really think you should be driving? (By the way, the Polynesian Cultural Center's luau is alcohol-free!) NOTE: There is a 25%-off coupon in the 2007 Entertainment Book, which is good for up to four admissions. Reservations by phone are required, (808) 949-6626.

Day Trips From Honolulu & Waikiki

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MilwVon on December 27, 2006

There are several wonderful day trips that you can take around the island of Oahu. We enjoyed taking several throughout our week, some for the full day... others just for a couple of hours some morning or afternoon. Regardless of how much time you may have, there is time enough to get out and see a bit more of Oahu that you may otherwise have thought. Here are just three suggestions based on what we have enjoyed while on Oahu.

Pali Highway (Route 61) - Nu'uanu Pali State Park/Wayside:

This is also known as the Pali Lookout and is where King Kamehameha fought his last battle to unify the Hawaiian Islands. Overlooking the Nu'uanu Valley, you will have a wonderful view of the northern part of the island. The cliffs are sharp and remarkable here. Be sure to take a sweater or light weight jacket, as there will most certainly be cooler temperatures coupled with high winds. Through this area at 1,200 feet, the trade winds funnel through the gap in the mountain, creating rather significant wind chills for Hawaii. On the day we were up there, two men lost their baseball caps over the edge to high winds.

This is about a two hour round trip from Waikiki.

Tantalus & Round Top Circle Road Drive:

From the "Oahu Revealed" book we learned of this 10-mile road trip up in the high hills above Honolulu. Curving around at an altitude of 1,600 feet, you will see citywide views of Waikiki that are breathtaking. From edge to edge you will have a view of over 25 miles across Oahu! The drive itself will be through areas that are dark and dense with vegetation. You will truly feel like you are in the jungle as you wind around on single-lane hairpin curves. There is also a small state park near the top called Pu'u Ualaka'a State Wayside Park. The view of Pearl Harbor in the distance is pretty cool, too.

We thoroughly enjoyed this hour long trip but beware! This is a bit of a “lovers’ lane” as we saw several cars pulled off with men receiving “service” from women in the front seat. We later heard that prostitution was known to exist up in the area and that there had been a police sting only weeks before. Obviously nobody was worried about being caught, as we witnessed at least three couples “in the act” as we drove by.

”The North Shore” - Surf's Up!

The North Shore of Oahu is known for its winter surf conditions. It is in December each year that the big surfing competitions are held. We were at Sunset Beach the week that competition was taking place. The surf was especially high at Waimea. There is a nice park there, too, so you can stop, enjoy the beach, and watch the surfers. They encourage novices and tourists to really stay out of the water in this area during the winter. Waves were between 10 and 20 feet during our time out on the beach! In and around Haleiwi (known as SURF CITY USA), there are several nice beach parks where you can enjoy the sun and water. Kaiaka State Park is probably your best bet for a relaxing day at the beach.

Plan for a full day for this trip, especially if you plan on getting out to enjoy the beaches (which we highly recommend!). There are also very nice restaurants for lunch or dinner. We really enjoyed our day on the north shore.

Ko Olina Lagoons – Marriott Resort

Head west on H1, just past the end of the highway. This is a great find, thanks to the tour guidebook "Oahu Revealed" by Doughty and Friedman (page133). We loved lagoon #2 so much that we returned 2 days later and gave lagoon #3 a whirl. There are four man-made lagoons in this newly developed resort community. It is gated and secure, but if you tell the person on duty that you're coming to use the lagoons, they will provide you with a visitor's day pass.

The first day in lagoon #2 the snorkeling was very good, and I even swam with a turtle!! The second time, however, was disappointing, as the water was cloudy and not good for snorkeling. Lagoon #2 had nice beach umbrellas free for use by visitors, providing great shade if that is something you are interested in. Lagoon #3 had no shade opportunities but did have very nice chaise lounge chairs that were available to visitors. We felt that was a nice trade-off. They also have small cabana chaises for rent, as well as canoes and large rafts.

There are Showers and flushing toilets at all lagoons. Lagoon #3 also has resort food/beverage services available to visitors.


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