Having visited Hawaii annually since 1960, John Pond is obviously a big fan. His most recent trip took in the charm of Waikiki, the one-time playground for Hawaiian royalty. Today, it is a vibrant hub of shopping, dining and entertainment and recognised for its picturesque beachfront and idyllic sunsets. John shares his holiday tips with The Retiree, enticing us all to pack our bags!
Although not exactly on our doorstep, Hawaii is just under 10 flying hours from Sydney. This tropical paradise has it all; superior five-star hotels with unforgettable views; restaurants offering world-class dining with service to match; and, don’t forget the shopping! What more could anyone want? Waikiki, the main tourist area on Oahu is the location most sought after by visitors, especially first timers.
WHERE TO STAY
Deciding on which hotel to choose can be difficult due to the huge choice of superior accommodation. Many of the best hotels are literally built right on the beach and charge more for the privilege. I believe it’s worth paying a little extra on hotel rates for those never-to-be-forgotten views or extra special facilities offered by hotels such as The Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider and Sheraton Waikiki as the extra cost for this experience will be quickly forgotten, while the memories last forever.
I have had the pleasure of staying at most of the top hotels in Hawaii and have often been asked the question, ‘how do they differ?’
With a few exceptions, most of the top hotels are situated on the beachfront area of Waikiki. I love this location as virtually everything is within walking distance. Restaurants, bars, shops and discos stay open until late. One of my great pleasures is to take a leisurely walk each evening along the main street that runs parallel to the beach, enjoy an ice cream and watch the people passing by.
THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN
On my regular visits it has become almost obligatory for me to spend a few nights at The Royal Hawaiian, known as the ‘Pink Palace’. The Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider sit side by side and are the grand dames of Waikiki hotels.
Checking into the Royal Hawaiian almost feels like coming home; guests are greeted with a welcoming drink of the hotel’s signature pink lemonade.
I choose to stay in the tower wing where all rooms have balconies overlooking Waikiki Beach. Many rooms in the historic original building do not have usable balconies or are very small. Bathrooms have large safety rails and the beloved Japanese Toto bidet toilet seat. Many of the rooms have adjoining doors, ideal for families. The hotel’s beachfront Mai Tai Bar is the ideal spot to watch the sunset while listening to Hawaiian music and is most popular around 5pm.
There are many comfortable relaxation areas around the hotel, with exotic tropical gardens at every turn. Visit the landmark boutique Newt set in the hotel’s gardens that specialises in panama hats and Hawaiian shirts. No trip to Honolulu would be complete without having Eggs Benedict for breakfast at the hotel’s beachfront restaurant, literally on the sand.
This hotel comes with a great deal of history and is a favorite of mine. There appear to be some rooms in the heritage section without balconies, so if a Diamond Head or beachfront view is a must, make sure you request same on booking.
My room was situated on a corner in the newer Tower Wing, with two balconies each with views of Diamond Head and the beach, and could not have been more perfect. The main balcony was very spacious with two comfortable chairs and a usable table.
The room was absolutely spotless and everything looked freshly painted with wonderful appointments, including all the usual amenities, toiletries, and a bar fridge that kept things really cold.
The historic banyan tree in the beachside courtyard garden off the hotel’s main foyer was a great place for a drink or lunch.
For those wishing to soak up the ambience of old Hawaii with all the comforts of a luxury hotel, the Moana Surfrider is certainly a number one choice.
It’s been several years since I have stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki. This 1000-room hotel dominates the Waikiki beach skyline. My room was on the hotel’s 29th floor situated in the wing overlooking Diamond Head, giving perhaps the finest views of this great landmark.
The large balcony was a most pleasant place to relax and take in the panorama. In the early evening, when the sun is setting, the live Polynesian music from the neighboring hotels wafted to the balcony, making for an unforgettable experience.
There were several pools, including one with a water slide for children plus a new infinity pool that was very popular with guests.
The hotel is well situated on the beach, literally in the heart of the Waikiki shopping precinct. For the young adults, one of the ground floor bars became a very loud disco in the evening, attracting a large following of locals as well as hotel guests. Fortunately, I could not hear the music in my room.
Again I must say, most rooms offer outstanding views of Waikiki Beach and the ocean, especially those rooms situated on the left side of the building, where the views of Diamond Head were absolutely spectacular.
As, seemingly in all Starwood properties, hand rails in bathrooms and shower areas, make it easy for less mobile and senior guests.
Many good hotel deals can be found on the Internet and prices vary throughout the year. Try to avoid American school summer holidays when prices peak.
Make your visit to Hawaii even better by adding a seven-day cruise visiting all the main Hawaiian islands on NCL’s Pride of America that sails every Saturday year round.
“I love this location as virtually everything is within walking distance.”
Getting to Hawaii
Flights go direct from Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne on Qantas, Jetstar and Hawaiian Airlines. Travel time from Sydney is approximately 10 hours.
Temperatures in Hawaii are very consistent throughout the year. The average daytime summer temperature is 29.4 C (May to October) and this is also the driest time of the year. In the cooler months (November to April) it’s 25.6 C.
The US dollar (US$) is official currency in Hawaii. Currency exchange offices can be found at the airport and most banks in the city and on Waikiki Beach. Credit cards are required for renting a car and booking hotel rooms. Traveller’s cheques should be in US dollars so you can cash them in stores, restaurants and hotels.
Things to Do
- Stroll the beach at sunset
- Visit the international marketplace selling everything from pearl pendants, Kona coffee, chocolate covered macadamia nuts and crazy Hawaiian shirts
- Take a cruise or hire a catamaran
- Visit the Duke Kahanamoku statue – the ‘father of modern surfing’
- Go to a Lu’au
- Hike up Diamond Head Crater