When planning a trip to Hawaii I jumped the gun on cheap flights before doing my research properly. Having booked flights in and out of Honolulu (on Oahu), we decided that we would stop for three days at the end of our trip and experience Waikiki Beach. It turns out you can fly from SFO or Oakland to all of the main islands, so we needn’t have visited busy Oahu at all!
That said, Waikiki did turn out to be a fun experience, though not very relaxing. It’s just so busy. There are countless shops, from Forever 21 to high-end designer boutiques. The hotels are gigantic. Honestly, the Sheraton complex felt more like the spaceship from Wall-e than a hotel, thankfully we weren’t staying there.
It’s hard to distinguish where Waikiki ends and Honolulu starts, but I found if you are surrounded by hotels, restaurants and tourist shops; it’s Waikiki. If you feel more like you’re in a normal town or city; you’re in Honolulu. Geographically they are pretty much one and the same.
We stayed at The Modern, which is a little slice of calm in this busy town and we were grateful for the relaxed atmosphere around the two beautiful pools at the hotel. The service and food were great too.
Speaking of food, the Hole in the Wall food tour was excellent and definitely a highlight! We spent a morning hopping around Chinatown trying fusion delicacies that ranged from donuts to SPAM sushi. Hawaiian food is such a mishmash of different cuisines and is certainly never boring.
This brings me to the another highlight of Waikiki – world-class restaurants and bars. Sky Bar was stunning and no more expensive than those without a view. BLT Market, the casual dining restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton was surprisingly affordable and lovely. It also gave us a sneak peek into how the super-rich holiday; the pool is lined with suites that feature a daybed, flat screen TV and a safe (presumably to store your Rolex in while taking a dip in the infinity pool).
Of course, the famous beach is everything you expect. Beautiful and safe for kids to paddle in, but crowded and loud too, which I found off-putting. A sunset cruise was an incredible way to end our trip to Waikiki, it’s a fairly good deal as you get unlimited drinks and the boat isn’t overcrowded. My husband even saw a whale but I was too busy taking in the sunset.
Overall, I’m glad we visited Waikiki and we did enjoy it. I would have been so disappointed to only visit Oahu though. Kauai was an absolute dream and one of the most stunning and relaxing places I’ve ever been, so Waikiki was a little bit disappointing in comparison.
Waikiki is still laid back and unmistakably Hawaiian, it just operates at a faster pace than Kauai. Perhaps visiting Waikiki was a good way to ease ourselves back into city life before we returned home to San Francisco.