Oahu - The Gathering Place

This journal explores some of the sites of Hawaii's most populous island as well as a great budget hotel in the midst of it all.

Oahu - The Gathering Place

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by RoBoNC on October 22, 2007

Oahu is the third largest island and the most populous of the other islands in the chain. Most people arriving to Hawaii will enter through the island of Oahu where Honolulu International Airport is located. The island is easily identifiable from the air with the hundreds of skyscraper hotels of Waikiki hugging the coastline. Flying into Honolulu International Airport is a unique experience because the main runway is located in the ocean and you have to taxi onto the mainland. If the plane does not stop, it is going right into the ocean.

Most of the hotels on the island are situated in the Waikiki district of Honolulu. Waikiki is the tourist center of Hawaii accommodating millions of visitors a year to its many shopping areas and wonderful beaches. For shopaholics, the Ala Moana Center is the largest open air shopping center in the world. There are over 260 different shops and restaurants with Macys, Neiman Marcus, Sears, and Nordstrom as its anchor stores. Honolulu is also the site of Hawaii’s state government and situated in the middle of it all is the State Capitol. While designed differently from the traditional dome building, it has an open roof to all of the natural elements, sun, rain, and wind inside.

Located minutes from Honolulu is Pearl Harbor which attracts just as many visitors as Waikiki. Pearl Harbor is the site of the surprise Japanese attack in World War II. Located in the harbor is the USS Arizona which was sunk during the attack and has been made into a memorial run by the National Park Service. Across from Pearl Harbor is Aloha Stadium, home to the University of Hawaii Warriors and the NFL Pro Bowl. When no games are being played, the stadium parking lot is used as a flea market.

The northern part of the island can be found some of the best surfing anywhere among the islands. The Banzai Pipeline, located on North Shore, hosts several world surfing championships every year. On the other side of the island is Hanauma Bay for those who do not like to surf. Hanauma Bay attracts millions of visitors annually because of the great snorkeling and marine life present in the bay. Down the road, Diamond Head rears its face on the southeastern part of the island. A hike to the top offers some of the best views of Oahu.
${QuickSuggestions} If you plan to island hop from Oahu, it is best to price around the different airlines in Hawaii. You can find fares as low as $29 one way to the different islands. Hawaiian Airlines, Aloha Airlines, go!, Island Air, and Pacific Wings offer commuter service to the other islands.

Aloha Stadium operates a flea market on Wednesdays, Saturday, and Sunday from 6am to 3pm. Beware most of the items here are junk and they will try to tell you that these are Hawaiian made items when it reality they are made in China or Taiwan.

Gas on all the islands is expensive, but Oahu is cheaper than the rest. When looking for cheap gas, being a member of Costco or Sam’s Club will save you a little bit of money. Also gas stations near military installations are also cheaper. Avoid filling up near the airport or Waikiki.

Make sure you follow all rules regarding transporting food and plants back to the mainland. All passengers flying back to the mainland must have all bags checked by the Department of Agriculture. The USDA uses beagles to sniff for any items that are prohibited from leaving Hawaii. A friend of mine had one of the beagles alert to his carry-on bag while in the airport. Everything had to be taken out of his bag only to find out that a piece of a banana chip was at the bottom which the dog alerted to as being one of the items prohibited.
${BestWay} All visitors arriving by air to Oahu will enter through Honolulu International Airport. The best way to get around the island is by a rental car. In Waikiki, the best way to get around is on foot or by public transportation. The buses in Hawaii are called “TheBus” and the cabs are called “TheCab”. They kept it simple and did not put any creativity into the name. While public transportation and foot will do you well in the congested areas of Honolulu, a vehicle is needed to explore the rest of the island.

Driving in Oahu is a unique experience if it is your first time. Since you are driving on an island, the roads are not on a typical grid design. I found out that you should avoid rush hour traffic in Honolulu at all costs. To ease congestion in the morning and afternoon, they use suicide lanes, which are lanes that can be used for either direction. However, the only markings for their suicide lanes are small traffic cones. If someone is not paying attention and crosses over into the lane, head-on collisions result. There are also a lot of one-way streets in downtown Honolulu. To make a left hand turn turned out to a lot harder than I thought. The first intersection did not permit left hand turns between 4pm and 7pm. The next intersection only buses could make left hand turns and the next intersection after that was one way going right. I had to go four blocks before I could go left. Imagine the frustration.

However, Oahu is unique in that they have an interstate system. There are four interstates or better yet intrastate roads in Hawaii labeled the H1, H2, H3, and H-201. The H1 is the most heavily used road of the four. The four interstates link up to most of the state routes in Hawaii. A good road map is a necessity.

A ferry service was started in August of 2007 but was halted in October because of environmental concerns. Plans are in the works to get the ferry system back up and running.

Coconut Plaza Hotel

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by RoBoNC on October 22, 2007

While most of the island of Oahu is beautiful countryside surrounded by pristine beaches, there is that one section that makes you wonder if you are in Hawaii or New York City. Waikiki, clearly identifiable from the air as you approach the island, is filled with huge skyscraper hotels and most of the shopping complexes on the island. While Waikiki is the main tourist destination on the island, many people will find that staying in this area can be very costly. The average hotel stay is between $150-$200 a night and that is just for a city view. I was on a mission to find a cheap hotel in the center of all the action. I was beginning to get discouraged until I found the Aqua Coconut Plaza Hotel.

The hotel is located about four blocks from downtown Waikiki with an average room rate of $80 a night. Although the pictures of the hotel looked pleasant enough, I still had no idea what to expect until I arrived. I pulled up to the front entrance which has a horseshoe driveway where valet attendants were waiting since there are no self-parking areas. The valet charge is $18 a day which is average and in some cases far cheaper than the name brand hotels in the area. (Marriott charges $25 a day.)

The hotel staff was very friendly and the lobby was clean with that Hawaiian tropical feel. While the experience so far has been satisfactory, I still had not seen the condition of the room. As we entered our room on the sixth floor and expecting to find the Motel 6, I was pleasantly surprised to find the room neat and clean. The room had a king bed with a stove, small refrigerator, and microwave. There was also an in-room safe that is free of charge as well as Cable TV. We walked outside on the balcony and although we did not have an ocean view, we did have a beautiful view of the Ala Wai Canal.

There is an outdoor pool on site, but with the beaches of Waikiki only four blocks away, I did not even bother to test it out. You can have a great continental breakfast every morning in the lobby while enjoying your complimentary newspaper. For those who decide to bring their laptops with them, there is free Wi-Fi or you can pay a nominal fee and use their internet in the lobby.

The greatest aspect about this hotel is definitely the location. The beaches are located four blocks away with many different restaurants in the area. There are also a number of different shopping districts where locals sell unique Hawaiian items such as hand-carved Tiki statues and Ukuleles. There is also a golf course located across the canal for those who love to hit the white ball.

For $80 a night, this was a fabulous hotel for a budget price located in the heart of Waikiki. Discounts are also available for military and AAA members.

Best Western Coconut Waikiki Hotel
450 Lewers Street
Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815
(808) 923-8828

Dole Plantation

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by RoBoNC on October 22, 2007

If you want to taste some of the best pineapple in the world, then look no further than the 50th state of Hawaii. Pineapple can be found served at every meal from pineapple wedges at breakfast to Hawaiian Pizza loaded with ham and pineapple, and wash it all down with none other than cold refreshing pineapple juice. Pineapple has been a fixture in Hawaii ever since James Dole, known as the "Pineapple King," bought 60 acres of land in 1901 and created what came to be known as the Dole Food Company.

The Dole Plantation, located in Wahiawa, on the island of Oahu, continues to grow and supply pineapples to over 90 countries around the world. The Dole Plantation is about a forty-minute drive from Waikiki, taking you past Schofield Barracks and exposing you to some of the best Hawaiian countryside.

There are many different activities to experience at the Dole Plantation, the highlight of which is the Pineapple Express. It is a train ride experience for adults and children that expose you to the production of pineapple while being narrated by the conductor. The train ride last about twenty minutes circling two miles around the plantation. Tickets cost $7.75 for adults and $5.75 for children. If you visit www.pineappleexpress.com, you can find coupons for reduced admission and other package deals.

Another attraction at the Dole Plantation is the garden which is self-guided tour of the different crops that are grown on the island of Oahu. The beautiful combinations of colored flowers scattered among the ponds covered with water lily’s truly makes you feel that you are in paradise. The different flowers and trees are labeled throughout the gardens to help you identify where they are all from. There is also the pineapple field where different styles of pineapples from around the world are on display.

If you get bored with looking at flowers and plants, have some fun at the Pineapple Maze. This maze covers three acres and is 3.11 miles in length with over 11,400 Hawaiian plants and flowers covering the maze. It has been recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest constructed maze.

One of my most memorable experiences here is feeding the Koi. Located near the gardens is a huge Koi fish pond with fish food for purchase. I went to throw some food into the pond not expecting to see what I saw. The fish went from being calm to acting like piranhas jumping on top of each fighting for the little bit of food. It was one of the craziest things I saw in Hawaii.

Before leaving the plantation, spend some money in the gift shop where you can have fresh Hawaiian Pineapples shipped back home. In the café, pineapple creations are endless. You can choose from homemade pineapple ice cream, pineapple slushes, dried pineapple, and my favorite, chocolate dipped pineapple wedges. Make sure you come with an appetite.
Dole Pineapple Plantation
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy.
Wahiawa, Hawaii, 96786
(808) 621-8408

Hanauma Bay

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by RoBoNC on October 22, 2007

Oahu is home to some of the top surfing competitions on the Banzai Pipeline located in North Shore. While many people prefer to be on top of the water riding the waves, there are others who wish to be under it and Oahu has many great places to go scuba diving. However, I am neither scuba certified nor have I ever been able to master the surf board, so what else is there to do except for swimming. I found out there is plenty to do and all you need are a mask, snorkel, and water fins. Snorkeling is a great way to enjoy the water and catching a great view of all the marine life that calls the waters of Hawaii home.

While you can snorkel anywhere there is water, the marine life that you may be able to see differs greatly from area to area. In Oahu, the best snorkeling spot is Hanauma Bay located on the southeastern side of the island. Hanauma Bay is a marine preserve situated in a volcanic crater which leads to its name. "Hanauma" means "curved bay."

Hanauma Bay is located ten miles east of Waikiki off Route 72. The bay is open from 6am to 6pm seven days a week except for Tuesday when it is closed all day. Hanauma Bay attracts millions of visitors every year and the parking lots cannot accommodate all of the vehicles. The best time to go is very early in the morning to make sure that you can get a spot to park or you can take the #22 bus that has a stop right in front of the entrance to the bay. Parking costs $1 per vehicle and $5 a person to enter the Bay.

All snorkel equipment can be rented at the bay; however, most hotels have snorkel equipment for rent for its guests which may be cheaper than renting at Hanauma Bay. There is a brief introduction by the staff at the welcome center to explain the rules of Hanauma Bay such as not harming the marine life and damaging the coral. After the introduction, you walk down a steep hill to the rental center where you acquire your snorkel gear.

The bay is covered with coral and be very careful while snorkeling. When I left Hanauma Bay, I had numerous cuts and bruises from the rough coral, but the experience was well worth it. The place attracts more visitors than anywhere else because of the abundance and variety of marine life. I saw the yellow trumpetfish with its long slender body, the teardrop butterflyfish, and a yellowfin surgeonfish, just to name a few. Hanauma Bay also has an abundance of green sea turtles and parrotfish. The many different types of marine life in the bay are endless.

When it is time to leave the bay, you can either walk back up the steep hill or for a nominal fee you can take the tram back up to the top.
Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

Oahu, Hawaii

Diamond Head State Monument

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by RoBoNC on October 22, 2007

If you want to get a great view of the island of Oahu and the pristine blue waters surrounding it, try hiking to the top of Diamond Head State Monument. The monument is the most recognized landmark in Hawaii and has been designated a National Natural Landmark. Diamond Head was formed from a single eruption creating a saucer shaped crater that covers 350 acres. The width of the crater is greater than the height of the mountain. To this day, it is an excellent example of a tuff cone.

Because of the panoramic view of the island, the federal government purchased it and designated it for military use. The military began to build tunnels and gun emplacements at the top of the crater to protect the island. When the military left the crater, it was converted to a state monument for the public to experience the natural wonder and absorb the beautiful views of Waikiki and the surrounding areas.

Diamond Head is about a fifteen minute drive from Waikiki and Diamond Head Road leads you through the Kahala Tunnel to the parking area where your visit will begin. Before you start on the hike to the top of the summit, bring water, a flashlight for the unlit tunnels, and most importantly, comfortable shoes. My first visit to the top of Diamond Head was done in sandals which I learned very quickly never to do again. The information center is located at the start of the trail where bathrooms and drink machines are located for your convenience. The first part of the trail is on a concrete surface which was installed to reduce erosion and leads to the dirt portion of the trail. The dirt trail maintains the same alignment as in 1908 when the military formed the trail leading to the top of the summit. There are numerous switchbacks on the trail and do not attempt to take shortcuts or climb the side of the mountain as falling rocks are common.

From the first lookout, you approach the first stairway which contains 74 steps that leads to the first tunnel. The tunnel is 225 feet long and unlit. At the end of the tunnel begins the second stairway consisting of 99 steps, which I nicknamed "Stairway to Heaven." After climbing the 99 steps, you enter the Fire Control Station which once housed the observation equipment for Fort DeRussy. There is a spiral staircase which leads to the exterior of the crater. There are 54 more steps which lead to the summit of the crater. From the summit of the crater, you can see all of Waikiki and Honolulu.

The hike is 1.6 miles roundtrip and 560 feet in elevation from the parking lot to the summit. The weather here is always hot and humid so dress appropriately. The hike takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours. The gates open at 6am and close at 6pm. Make sure that you do not get locked in as you may be camping out.
Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head Road And 18th Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii, 96816


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