Hawaii is a chain of islands with the main ones being Oahu, Big Island, Maui and Kauai.
We’ve started our journey on Oahu. Honolulu – the capital of Hawaii state – is the main international gateway to the islands. Its main attractions are the famous 2 miles long Waikiki beach and the Pearl Harbor – site of the infamous WW2 attack. At the end of the Waikiki Beach there is an old volcano crater called Diamond Head. It used to be a military base but now is accessible and it’s worth visiting, especially for the view of Waikiki.
Landing in Honolulu
Waikiki beach is divided into smaller sections – Kapiʻolani Park, Fort DeRussy, Kahanamoku Lagoon, Kūhiō Beach Park, and Ala Wai Harbor.
The beach is lined with skyscraper hotels and condominiums. It’s full of life and pleasant to simply stroll around up and down. Along its length are several well sheltered swimming spots but also places with waves good for recreational surfers. Even though we were there during the main summer season, to our surprise it wasn’t too crowded.
Of course, it has those stereotypical views and spots :)
Hawaii is a favorite holiday destination for Americans and Waikiki was a really hot spot in 70s-80s. Most of hotels, condominiums, large resorts and holiday villages are from that era. The big hotels are still popular, but you can tell that many of them are not being overtly modernized and start to feel worn out and dated. At least that’s our experience from staying in 2 different hotels on Waikiki.
The downtown Honolulu serves as the business center of the islands. Unfortunately, we went to see it on Sunday, and so it was very quiet and deserted. The historical mall around the Aloha Tower, where the first wave of tourist arrived by boat in 30s was under reconstruction, but at least we had the look-out level of the tower just for ourselves. We also went to the China Town and had for lunch a presumably the best pho on the island. However, both were rather average.
A typical Honolulu street view
We’ve spent a hot afternoon in the shades of the Honolulu botanical garden. While being relatively modest, it provides a calm and relaxing atmosphere contrasting with the hustle and bustle of Waikiki.
still green arabica coffee – buddha’s hand (citrus) – tiny (S) in front of a giant tree – black pepper (still green :) )
Based on a recommendation we visited a small Japanese udon bistro – Marukame udon. Soon we’ve discovered that it’s not only delicious, but also very affordable and it quickly became a convenient place for lunch or dinner. No wonder than that we went there 5 times!
The Honolulu, and in general Hawaiian, restaurants provide a typical selection of American and international cuisine at prices which can be expected at a busy touristic place. However, we were surprised by the offer of food and basic ingredients in supermarkets. And I mean not pleasantly surprised.
Majority of the food is imported from mainland and therefore quite expensive. Sandwich bread costs in a supermarket easily more than 7 USD, a single egg 1 USD, gallon of milk 10 USD. Moreover, availability (or affordability) of healthier or fancier food is even worse. Therefore, it was nearly not worth to cook or prepare our own snacks and sandwiches. But, we quickly got fed up with the burgers and local fast food and resorted to cooking anyway. Of course, only at times when we could not find any Japanese bistro or bento boxes ready to take away.