My last trip to Hawai‘i was nearly two decades ago and a very poignant one. Fresh off the plane I remember sitting in my Waikiki hotel room watching the heartwrenching funeral of the world’s beloved Lady Di. Thankfully there was nothing as dramatic to mark the start of this holiday.
A lot has changed over the years in Waikiki, which is looking smart. The main street of Kalakaua Avenue is well groomed and brimming with shopping and dining choices while retaining its relaxed charm. The stylish shopping strip is host to all of the top labels and of course dotted with the ever-handy ABC convenience stores about every 50 metres! These treasure troves are a holiday staple, stocking literally everything under the sun from souvenirs to aloha shirts, fresh fruit and salads, sushi, wine and beer.
The white sands of Waikiki beach hold centre stage as always, fringed with iconic hotels such as the Moana Surfrider, The Royal Hawaiian (or the Pink Palace of the Pacific as it’s fondly known), the Halekulani and the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort.
My favourite is the Moana Surfrider, which first introduced the world to Hawaiian hospitality in 1901 and holds pride of place at the Diamond Head end of the beach
Waikiki Beach is the hub of daily life with surfers, swimmers and outrigger canoes cruising the waves and beachgoers bobbing around on inflatable rings and lilos and basking in the sun. One day during my stay the filming of the Hawaii Five-0 TV show stole the limelight – a quintessential Hawai‘i moment.
The many attractions of Waikiki aside, hiring a car is a great way to explore the island and its beaches, roadside eating stalls, turtles and seaside mansions, Don’t forget to call in at the colourful shrimp shacks along the way. Douse the local seafood in garlic and butter, suck, peel, dip and eat in true local style. If shrimps aren’t your thing there’s always crab, calamari or mussels. Wash it all down with a Kona Iceberg: hot Kona coffee poured over vanilla ice cream.
Keep on touring to the Windward Side of Oahu and get the sand between your toes at Kailua, named one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and see turtles basking in the sun and rolling in the surf at Laniakea Beach on the North Shore. The Pineapple Whip ice cream at the famous Dole pineapple plantation on the road back to Waikiki is worth every lick. Keep on cruising past historic Pearl Harbour to complete the loop and call in at the Waikele Premium Outlets stores in Waipahu for some great designer brand bargains at the more than 50 name-brand stores. Kate Spade New York, Guess, Tommy Bahama, Calvin Klein, Coach and Nike are amongst the many choices.
Back on the deck of my room at the Moana Surfrider overlooking Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, it’s time to relax with a drink and plan the evening’s dining, all of course just walking distance away.
Beach life in Waikiki continues into the early evening; the sunset cruises head out on the calm water and the bars along the beach come alive with music and laughter
Start the evening with happy hour sunset cocktails and canapés at Sarento’s atop the Ilikai Hotel – famous from the opening shots of the original Hawaii Five-0 TV show, or sip on a drink with the sand between your toes at Tommy Bahama’s rooftop bar. For dinner, try Duke’s at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort (make sure you book as it’s a popular spot) or P.F. Chang’s at the Royal Hawaiian Center for local Asian fusion flavours. Top off the night with the spectacular weekly Friday beachfront fireworks display at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
After seven nights of relaxation and with a gentle Hawaiian tan, I reluctantly check out of the Moana Surfrider and jet home with fantastic memories and luggage crammed to bursting with shopping. I’ll definitely be back for more.
Have you ever been to Hawai'i? Let us know what your highlights were in the comments below.