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Exploring Honolulu: so much more than Waikiki

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Exploring Honolulu

When you are exploring Honolulu, O’ahu there is never a dull moment, unless you want there to be. Throngs of people move up and down the main strip at most hours of the day, either heading towards wDiamond Head (East) or Ewa (West).  These are the directions you will get if you ask a local which way to go.  If you ask for a direction south or north, you will get ‘mauka’ (toward the mountain) or ‘makai’ (toward the ocean).

It’s the weekend here now which brings out more than the usual crowds, taking full opportunity of the gorgeous weather and their natural offerings of beaches and parks to have family picnics and get-togethers.  Every park that I saw today was full of large groups of people eating, playing soccer  or volleyball and generally enjoying the sunshine in the outdoors.

The liquid sunshine that was promised today did not really eventuate, save for the occasional drops of rain throughout the day.  One of the weather attributes I love the most here is the wonderful onshore breezes that blow day and night.  There’s a sense of warmth about them, but at the same time tremendously cooling after spending all day in the sun.

Melting pot

Oahu is a melting pot of ethnicity with a number of different cultures living side by side.  Today was the day to celebrate all things Filipino, with the 23rd Annual Filipino Fiesta being held in the park near the Honolulu Zoo.  Hundreds of Hawaiian Filipinos gathered together in the park to eat their local cuisine and celebrate their culture the best way they know how, through song and music.

The ocean never fails in it’s ability to draw people of all ages into it and I loved seeing an older man today, who quite literally could have been 90, dressed head to toe in a wetsuit, with his boogie board under his arm, heading out towards the beach for what is possibly his daily routine.

We earmarked the place today where we are going to try our hand at surfing.  But that’s for another day as I need to work up the courage first.  I’ve got no issue with the water (well apart from the big sharks !) but I think it could be a somewhat comical adventure and I’m certain I’ll come back missing a contact lens or two.  But at the same time, I’m dying to go all ‘Point Break’ and tell someone to “stay off my wave man !”

It also hasn’t taken that long to find an American who can’t understand a word I say.  Not their fault, I can’t understand some of the Americans either.  It continues to fascinate me that two english speaking countries can still have communication issues due to an accent.

Local Farmers’ Markets

It also didn’t take us long to find a farmers market, and being Saturday, there were a few around, as the locals buy up their fresh produce for the coming week.  There was nothing fancy about these markets, just local farmers offering up their beautiful home grown produce for a very reasonable price.

Go Downtown

Downtown Honolulu was calling so we caught the #2 bus all the way downtown from the top of Kuhio Ave and right into the heart of a traditional Chinatown. The whole trip took about half an hour for the princely sum of $US2.50.

What I love the most about these areas is that you could almost be in any Chinatown in the world, as from the moment you take that first step past the barbequed pork, and crispy crack of the pork as the chinese man hits the crackling with his machete-like knife, you are transported into the inner sanctum of chinese life.

Fresh fish abound in live tanks and the crabs squirm and wriggle as they sit on top of each other, hopefully thinking to themselves that if they sit on the bottom they are safe at least for another day.

My stomach turned when I saw the live bullfrogs tank, but thankfully today, it was empty.  I know this is part of their culture, but it’s one of those parts I’d rather not see.  Same for the chickens heads, as I think about our own fluffy hens back home, laying their free range eggs for us.

Travelling is all about learning and developing a greater appreciation for things you may not have seen or tried, but I still have to draw the line at some things.

So much history and beauty in Downtown Honolulu

Whilst Waikiki is all about the sun, sand and surf, Downtown Honolulu is all about the architecture with a variety of amazing building spanning a number of decades, which is evident in their design.  The old mixes, not always easily with the new, and like any city where the new starts to take over, there are mixed reactions to it all.  Sadly, there is also a growing number of homeless who have made the streets of Downtown and Chinatown in particular their home.

An example of more modern architecture – the Hawai’i State Capitol Building.  Built in 1968. This one stands out amongst the older buildings in the area.

The Honolulu Hale built in 1928.

Currently the Hawai’i State Supreme Court.  It was formerly the place where the Government of the Hawai’i Kingdom operated from.

The fabulous Iolani Palace, once home to the only royalty in the USA.

McCorriston Building.  Built in 1914, it showcased a different style of building.  It is situated in a street that was a key part of Downtown, prior to the construction of the massive and very modern Ala Moana Shopping Mall.

The stunning Hawai’i Theatre.  The facade is in impeccable condition.  Opened in 1922, it has now been placed on a special historic buildings register.

The Lai Fong building, built in 1887, was formerly know as the Paiko Building, but the name changed in 1971 when it was bought by Lai Fong.  Lai Fong, a Cantonese immigrant to Hawai’i was a dress designer and sold fabric from this location.

Exercising and sightseeing

We’ve walked about 10km so far.  It’s very easy here to walk, and where better to be able to do it than along the ocean shores.  Most of the hotels built on the foreshore have promenades running in front of them.  Only occasionally do they disappear and leave you to walk on the sand, filling your shoes full of the white sandy stuff along the way.  It’s a good place to be able to check out likely contenders for evening drinks and dinner too.

Beach drinks

And of course, a day of walking generates a serious thirst, so where better to pull up stumps for a drink than the picturesque Beach Bar under the Banyan Tree at the Moana Surfrider.  Right on the ocean once more, but the most amazing banyan tree sitting overhead.  I think it’s the biggest tree I’ve ever seen.  Certainly in a bar at any rate!

Catch the sunset at the Mai Tai Bar

We caught the evening sunset tonight at the Mai Tai bar.  Many bars along the strip lay claim to having the best Mai Tai in Oahu, but it’s hard to knock back a bar that is named after the famous cocktail, that just so happens to have seating right on the beach, where you can literally drink and have your toes in the sand.  It’s a glorious place for the last drinks of the day, as the sun lowers around the point and turns another wonderful O’ahu day into a balmy night.

There’s so much to do in exploring Honolulu.  A fantastic beach, a great range of dining options, bars, shopping, hiking and of course spectacular views.  Whatever you do, whichever way you choose to do it, you won’t leave here disappointed.

Need a bit more information to add to my tips?  This resource, just for O’ahu would be super helpful.

exploring honolulu
exploring honolulu

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