Is spending time in Hawaii’s capital city a complete vacation on its own? Today we discuss the best things to do when visiting Honolulu.
Be sure to check out Episode 31: Best Things to Do in O‘ahu!
- Getting to Oahu
- Do you need a rental car?
- Honolulu Area/Waiki (positives and negatives)
Positives of Visiting Honolulu
- a lot to do
- tons of shopping and dining
- a great jumping-off point to Oahu or other islands
- wonderful beach access
Negatives of Visiting Honolulu
- You are in a city, so there is less of a “Hawaiian feel.”
- Hilton Hawaiian Village is a large resort, so there is lots of hustle and bustle
Other Things to Do in Honolulu
- Ala Moana Shopping Center
- Iolani Palace
Things I Didn’t Do But Would be Good in Honolulu
- Bishop Museum
- Several Military sites
- Pearl Harbor
Be Sure to Check Out All of Our Hawaii Episodes
- Episode 3: Disney’s Aulani Resort
- Episode 31: Best Things to Do in O‘ahu
- Episode 75: Best Things to Do in Maui
- Episode 72: Visiting the Big Island of Hawaii (With Tom Srsich)
- Episode 73: Growing Up in Hawaii (I Wish!) [Travel Stories]
- Episode 91: Visiting Disney’s Aulani Resort
- Episode 120: A Fantastic Way to See Volcanoes National Park
- Episode 139: Visiting Honolulu
- Episode 141: Visiting the Island of Kauai
- Episode 151: Hawaii vs. Tahiti: Which is the Best Tropical Paradise?
Question: Does Honolulu sound like a good vacation on its own?
Please let us know in the All Things Travel Podcast Facebook group!
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Episode 139 Transcripts
Episodes are transcribed with artificial intelligence, so there are likely some highly amusing translations!
Shayne: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to All Things Travel. Ryan and his wife Elizabeth, just returned from a few days in Honolulu. We’ve heard about Ryan’s adventures in Oahu before, but today he discusses spending time specifically in Hawaii’s capital city
Ryan: Well Shayne it is getting much colder in Indiana. and it’s getting grayer and it’s not yet snow season, so it’s kind of gross out. And a few weeks ago I was in Hawaii and I want to go back.
Shayne: So a little bit of a contrast between those few days and your current situation. Yeah, I could, I could see that.
Ryan: So before the week before Thanksgiving my wife and I were in Honolulu. She actually had a meeting at the convention center there in Honolulu. So I had to go with her. It was a, you know, I had to carry the [00:01:00] bags,
Shayne: I’m so
Ryan: I, I had to go. And so we just got back. And I want to talk about a few of the things, cuz I’ve been to Oahu several times, but we’ve never stayed specifically in Honolulu, so I wanna spend some time talking about what that experience was like.
Shayne: Most of your Hawaii trips have been to Aulani
Ryan: Yeah. Which is on the other side of Oahu. Absolutely.
Shayne: so it’s about time you spent some time outside of Aulani
Ryan: yeah, absolutely. So, hey, one of our most downloaded, most popular shows actually came out in January of 2021, Shayne and that is episode 31, and that is all about what?
Shayne: The best things to do in Oahu.
Ryan: that’s true. So, hey, if you, if you have not listened to that show or you don’t have a lot of experience with the Island of Oahu, I might suggest listening to that show either before or after this show, because I do talk about kind of traveling all throughout the island, and I will talk specifically about some [00:02:00] things in Honolulu that we didn’t do this time that you’ll want to hear about there.
So go back and check that episode.
Shayne: And I’ll put a link in the show notes to that episode to make it easy for you to click it and find it.
Ryan: Most families are confused and overwhelmed when planning a vacation. We work with you to plan a trip perfect for your interests, saving you time, money, and stress.
Shayne: We would love to help you plan your next amazing vacation.
Ryan: You can reach out to me atRyan@creatingmagicvacations.com. That’s R Y A n, at creating magic vacations.com.
Shayne: All right, Ryan. Well, tell us a little bit about getting to Oahu.
Ryan: Yeah. So we did we did Southwest, as you know, my, my family’s a Southwest Airlines family, and so we did uh, midway. Through Phoenix and to Honolulu. So it was a very early morning in Chicago but got us there probably mid-afternoon in Hawaii. We chose not to get a [00:03:00] rental car for this trip because we knew with Elizabeth’s meeting we were pretty much gonna be staying right there in Honolulu, either at the hotel or at the convention center or within areas.
So, you know, people will ask with, with a trip like this, you know, do you need a rental car? And I would say it, you know, if you’re just staying in Honolulu, you really don’t. One, the parking is expensive and two, Uber is everywhere just like it is on the mainland. Now, do I expect most people are gonna go to Hawaii and go to Honolulu and just stay there?
Probably not. But if you are, I, I don’t think you need a rental car.
Shayne: That’s definitely traveling deep in one location. If you’re gonna go to HO Hawaii and only Stan Honolulu,
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. I flew to Honolulu. I stayed in the airport hotel for two nights. I turned around and I flew back home,
Shayne: You’ve been to Hawaii.
Ryan: So we were staying in the downtown Honolulu area, the Waikiki area. And I, I [00:04:00] kind of had a love hate with, with this vacation, this part of our vacation. The positives of staying in downtown Honolulu is there is a ton to do. I mean, there is tons of shopping. There’s tons of dining. It’s a great jumping off point for anywhere you want to go on a wahoo.
You know, you can do a, a nice little half day trip all around the island to to see things throughout your stay there, so it’s a really good location with lots of options. That being said, Shayne, what do you think I might not like about staying in downtown Honolulu?
Shayne: It’s what I would wanna know. , you’re, you’re staying downtown in this city. How Hawaiian is that?
Ryan: not much. Other than seeing the Green Mountains in the background, I could be in pretty much any California town.
Ryan: as far as the weather goes, you know, which is not a bad place to be, but I’m saying, you know, it just doesn’t feel very Hawaiian. And it [00:05:00] certainly does not have that Hawaiian aloha vibe for me.
So I would say keep that in mind. You know, if, if you’re, if when you’re thinking about going to Hawaii, if you want to stay on Waikiki Beach, you, you’re giving up a lot of that laid back feeling to, to have.
Shayne: So just even in general that doesn’t have that laid back Hawaii feel.
Ryan: for me, because I’ve seen other parts of the islands, I, I just, I didn’t get that. But again, we knew that going into this, that that was gonna be the sacrifice when we stayed in in Honolulu.
Shayne: what is the air like there versus other big cities? One example is Denver and when you’re out in the mountains driving into Denver, you can kind of see this hazy dome around it. And, and when you’re there, you’re kind, you can feel like, it feels like you’re in a city versus, it’s been a while.
But when I was in Seattle, I guess because of the jet stream that comes through Seattle the air f elt cleaner than any other [00:06:00] city I’ve been in.
Ryan: Yeah, I, I don’t know. I, I didn’t notice a problem with the air. I mean, definitely as you got a few blocks off the beach, you know, and got into more of the city type. I mean, it, it just, it, it, you, you just felt that city noise. City environment kind of thing.
Ryan: Now that being said, you know, the Waikiki Honolulu area, you know, you’re talking about world-class beaches too.
So, you know, you’re, even if you’re staying downtown, you’re just a few blocks or could be just a few blocks from world-class beaches.
Shayne: And how far were you from the beach?
Ryan: we were on the beach, so let me talk a little bit about our hotel. The hotel we were staying at was arranged by the conference and it was a few blocks away from the convention center.
We were actually at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which is a very famous Honolulu Hotel, and you’ve seen it in movies, you’ve seen it in Hawaii 5-0.. I mean, they use it a lot for, for kind of [00:07:00] background, Honolulu area. It is a huge resort. Lots of hustle and bustle, lots of people. Tons of shopping and dining.
In fact, they have the they, they have a market that is actually an outside market that’s part of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. That is just really cool. Lots of fun. But you know, what you sacrifice with the large resort is there’s people everywhere, all the.
Shayne: definitely more hustley. Busty,
Ryan: Ly Bustly, but again, you’ve got a beautiful beach there. You’re steps away from Waikiki. You’re right on the Marin marina area. So it’s, it’s a great hotel. If you’re looking for, we’re spending a few days in Honolulu. We want jumping off point for our drips around Oahu. I would highly recommend the Hilton Hawaiin village.
I want to talk about a few of the things that I did while I was there, Shayne. But first, as always, I wanna know where in the world does All Things [00:08:00] Travel.
Shayne: Taipei City, Taiwan.
Ryan: Well, welcome Taiwan. We are glad you’re here.
Shayne: Yeah. Our second visit, so to speak to Taiwan, and I would love to have my first literal visit to Taiwan.
Ryan: Absolutely. That would be a really, really cool place to meet. One of our listen.
Shayne: And looking through things to do. I’m sticking with the same thing as our last visit to Taiwan, the temples. I just want to go wander through the temples.
Ryan: Well, hey, welcome Taipei City. We are glad you are listening to All Things Travel. It means a lot to Shayne and I. Do us a favor, reach out to me via email or on the Facebook group cuz I have a little thank you gift that I wanna send. All the way to Taiwan for you being featured on today’s show?
Shayne: We won’t mind putting those extra stamps on that envelope to send it all the way to
Ryan: Not at all.
Shayne: and to make sure you hear where in the world as All Things Travel next week, be sure to subscribe to the show so that you never miss any of our travel [00:09:00] tips, travel ideas, or travel stories.
Ryan: So if you go back to episode 31 where I talk about best things to do in Oahu we talk in that episode a lot, Shayne, about some of the highlights in Honolulu. So what I’m gonna talk about today is I didn’t have a lot of time to do a lot of things, but I did a couple things and I’m really glad that I did.
And then I’m gonna talk about a few things that if you’re going to Honolulu and you hadn’t done these before? I would add them on to a trip to Honolulu.
So, believe it or not, one of my wife’s and I favorite places to go on Honolulu is a place called the Al Moana Shopping Center, and this is the largest outdoor shopping center in the world. And it was a couple blocks from the convention center, so that first full day, she had meetings in the morning.
So I went over and met her, and then we walked over to the Al Moana shopping center. And to be honest, we usually use this as a place to stop on our [00:10:00] last day in Hawaii because we will check out of our hotel, drive to Honolulu, spend a couple hours there, and then go to the airport and leave later in the day.
And so, We spend some time at Al Moana. It’s a gorgeous shopping center. They have anything from Hawaiian souvenirs to high-end fashion, jewelry, watches, that kind of stuff. They have a fantastic food court. , oddly enough, why, why go to a mall for food court? . What I love about it though, and one of the reasons that I love Hawaii in general, is it’s a melting pot of different cultures.
And so in the same food court, you can get Korean barbecue, you can get bot me sandwiches, you can get sushi, you can get bento boxes, you can get all sorts of stuff. All right there at Al Moana.
Shayne: And so I guess this isn’t named after Disney’s
Ryan: It. Not that I believe. No, no, no, I’m sure, I’m sure it was around before that.
Shayne: I think it’s named after the figure that the [00:11:00] Disney character was named after. Probably
Ryan: Probably the other way around. Yep, you’re right, you’re right. So another, another new experience for me is one of the mornings, actually our last morning there when my wife was at meetings, I went to the Iani Palace and this was really cool because there, there’s several places in Honolulu where you can really learn about.
The Hawaiian government the Hawaiian kingdom, the royalty. And so the palace is one of those places. And so I learned all about the 17th and 18th century Hawaiian Kingdom royalty and their. Interaction with the world kind of on the world stage, their interaction with the United States kind of the conflict that was occurring within and around Hawaii, that that led to the ending of the Kingdom and, and the joining of the United States.
It was really very [00:12:00] interesting.
Shayne: That does look interesting.
Ryan: I was surprised how cosmopolitan. Hawaii as a kingdom was at that time. You know, you, you, you, you know, ver very wrongly, you know, you, you assume that, that Hawaii went from, you know, the Hawaiian culture that you think of in hula dancing or, or stage shows or things like that to being part of the United States.
And that obviously was not true. And, you know, and I’m glad that I learned about that transition and I learned about that time in the culture. . It was really neat to see.
Shayne: Yeah. That’s fascinating. That is not a part of Hawaii’s history that I was familiar with.
Ryan: Yeah. It, it was really neat. You know, the, the, the palace was I think it was if I’m remembering correctly, it had indoor lighting years before the White House did. Because the king at the time was all about innovation and [00:13:00] technology, and so anything that was new, anything that was kind of cutting edge, he was all about.
And so when he was actually in the United States touring around, he sat down. With Thomas Edison and he sat down with Alexander Graham Bell and he said, okay, how do I get electricity to Hawaii? How do I get telephones to Hawaii? And so like they had all this stuff going on that the rest of the United States mainland was actually catching up with them.
Shayne: Man, talk about your technological early adopter.
Ryan: Yeah, it was really cool. It, it was really cool. And it was, and, and, and you know, like I said, you also learned about conflict. You learned about family dynamics, you learned about, you know, kind of the intrigue of royalty, if, if you will. And, and it, it was really neat because, I, I’ve, I’ve learned some about Hawaiian culture, obviously on my trips to Hawaii, but never anything like that.
And you know, I think that’s one of those things that, especially if you have history buffs or if you have kids who are [00:14:00] interested in history you know, that is definitely worth a half day’s visit to, to go check it out.
Shayne: Yeah, Deb sounds like it. How, how is there no movie about
Ryan: Yeah. Seriously. Absolutely. And, and you know what, maybe there is, and maybe I need to investigate.
Shayne: hopefully a listener will correct us if
Ryan: I I hope so. I, I, I hope so.
Shayne: what we need to watch.
Ryan: And so, obviously the other thing that I did while I was there, Shayne, was I spent a lot of time in the, in the proper Waikiki area of Honolulu. So both going and, and shopping and having brunch and, you know, kind of doing the streets of, of Waikiki, which again, there’s, very high end shopping.
There’s really good restaurants, but we also spend some time on the beach. And Waikiki Beach, in and of itself is a really beautiful beach. It’s really interesting. It’s, it’s huge. I mean, there’s, one of the things that’s really cool is there’s a little alley that you can walk down onto Waikiki Beach and there’s stands for surfboards.
Where people actually rent spaces, kind of like
[00:15:00] parking spaces for their surfboards. And so they’ve got little frames there and they’ve got ’em locked up with like bike locks and, chains and different things. And then so you go and you get your surfboard. You go surfing and then you either cover it or not and have your, your place there.
It, you know, it, it’s obviously a big surfing culture. You know, there’s catamarans there, there’s lots of people. You’ve got diamond head off to the side. It’s just a gorgeous beach.
Shayne: That is inter, that is not where I thought you were going with that. I thought there was going to be places where you could rent surfboards if you wanted to try out surfing.
Ryan: Oh, and you can a, you, you can absolutely do that. And, and Waikiki, to be honest, is actually a good place to do some surfing, learning how to surf because compared to the rest of the parts of the islands at Oahu especially this time of year, you know, later fall, winter. Is not the time that the novices want to be surfing.
Especially if you go up to the North shore that we’ve talked [00:16:00] about before, it can be downright dangerous. And so, waikiki’s actually a good place to learn your chops, if you will when it comes to surfing.
Shayne: Good to know.
Ryan: So there’s a couple things that are famous in Honolulu that I did not do on this trip, but again, I knew this was gonna be a little different. My wife was at meetings, I was working part of the time, I was doing other stuff. You know, we didn’t have a lot of time there in Honolulu. A couple things that I would do is there, I if, if you have not been Hana Lulu in the past and, and you’re interested.
There are certainly several military sites the Punchbowl Cemetery and obviously Pearl Harbor being the big one. You know, if you have not seen those sites, if you have an interest in military history, I would recommend, you know, looking at that, doing a day tour that includes Pearl Harbor, includes some of those areas around Honolulu.
Obviously hiking up to Diamond Head. I would recommend getting there very early in the morning because it gets busy and it gets hot, and it’s not the [00:17:00] easiest hike regardless of what the the, the guide books say. But it’s worth it. I’ve done it, I’ve done it once, and, and I’m glad that I did it. I don’t know if I need to do it again till my kids pastor me to do it. but, but it’s certainly there right outside of Honolulu. And then lastly, you know, if, if something like the, the Iani Palace sounds good. There’s also the Bishop Museum, which I want to check out next time I’m in Honolulu. And that is all about Hawaiian. It’s kind of the, the, the State Museum of Hawaii. It’s got everything having to do with Hawaiian culture and, and things like,
Shayne: And that’s kind of the way that’s kind of our travel style is we enjoy spending some time relaxing and soaking in a place versus trying to hit a lot of places, whether or not we’ve visited them before.
Ryan: And don’t get me wrong, I mean, if you stay at a place like Hilton Wine Village and you want to spend time by the pool, you wanna spend time on the beach, you can absolutely do that. I [00:18:00] mean, you can certainly, I mean, I, I spent time at the pool. I love it. Has a very nice pool there. You know, you can certainly do that while you’re there.
It is just kind of, once you’re outside of that bubble, if you will. , it feels very more hustle bustle than the rest of Hawaii does.
So as we kind of wrap up here, Shayne, you know, thinking about this, does Honolulu sound like a vacation on its own? I realize we’ve talked about the rest of Oahu in the past, and you know, what else is out there for day trips or whatnot. But does Honolulu itself sound like a vacation to you?
Shayne: I think if you’re a history buff and you want to check out the Iolani Palace and Pearl Harbor, things like that I can see a, lot of Americans who would want to make sure that they get to see Pearl Harbor and you don’t have a lot of time to spend then. Yeah, I know for me, if I want to go to Hawaii, I wanna see the North Shore, and I wanna see all of the other more natural [00:19:00] places versus spending the entire time in a city.
Ryan: I, I agree. You know, I’m glad that I had more focused time in Honolulu because I think it made me one appreciate Honolulu more. But it also helped me appreciate the rest of the Hawaiian islands that I’ve been to. You know, we’ll, we’ll talk in a couple episodes about, you know, going to my third Hawaiian island, and it really helped me appreciate that, and it really helped me appreciate the rest of wa.
Shayne: but I mean, if, if that’s how you get to see Pearl Harbor, then, then that’s what you have to do. But try to get some extra time to spend some more time around the rest of the island.