We’ve just returned from our fifth consecutive Christmas holiday in Hawaii and a number of people have asked me to share some of my top Hawaii tips so here they are!
Each year we stay at the beautiful Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which has occupied prime position on Waikiki beach since 1927. The Hawaiian word for family is ohana, and we are truly made to feel like part of the Royal Hawaiian ohana each time we visit. The team there are absolutely wonderful and play a huge role in our total love for the destination.
Normally when we travel I tend to run on a ‘places to go, things to see, you can sleep when you’re dead’ modus operandi which tends to end up with Stuart and the kids begging for a pyjama day, while I head out for further explorations. Hawaii brings out a completely different traveller in me, where I will quite happily base at the hotel, moving between the cabana and the ocean whenever my paddleboard calls with the odd venture out the front door to head to the shops or the wide variety of great restaurants within easy walking distance.
It was a little embarrassing to have to confess that in 5 years I had never actually left the Waikiki precinct while on Oahu, but on doing so for the first time on a trip out with Oahu Photography Tours (who I would highly recommend, it was a fantastic day with a very knowledgeable guide who was just as happy to give us iPhone snaps advice as he was to help Belinda out with more serious photography advice, plus he did a great job of masking his horror about my lack of previous exploration) I can happily say there is plenty to see on the rest of the island, and I will definitely be venturing a bit further afield next year.
So how do I occupy myself in the Waikiki precinct without feeling the need to leave even once in 3 weeks? Lots and lots of time on my paddleboard, both roaming around solo with just the sea turtles for company, or paddling out to where the kids are having surf lessons with the awesome Waikiki Beach Services team. Whether you’re staying at the Royal Hawaiian or not, these guys are definitely the ones you want to be part of your Waikiki beach experience. In addition to surf lessons and equipment hire, you can also do outrigger canoe rides which are so much fun and they’re just a great group of people who are a lot of fun to hang out with. You can even have your surfing experience captured by one of their surf photographers, and this year Josh delivered one of the best photos ever, capturing a turtle popping its head out of the water just in front of Sam’s board.
When we’ve gone out to Maui a snorkelling trip out on the Alii Nui has always been a must do, and this year I was super excited to discover that one of the boats that moored out the front of the hotel had started morning snorkel trips to Turtle Canyon that played nicely into my green sea turtle obsession, so we found ourselves out on the Manu Kai on a number of mornings.
After a busy day in the water, everyone’s worked up an appetite and there are no shortage of great restaurants to choose from. Favourites that appear on our must-do’s each year are Nobu and Morimoto for great Japanese food, Orchids and House without a Key at Halekulani Hotel for beautiful oceanfront dining, Tanaka of Tokyo for an interactive tepanyaki experience, and Vintage Cave for the in ultimate fine dining in the most extraordinary location. Sam and Stuart are also pretty partial to combining a bit of sports watching with a burger, and Giovanni Pastrami fits the bill perfectly, while Heavenly Island Lifestyle , a new organic cafe which had opened since our last visit was probably more to Sascha and my taste.
There’s also no shortage of shopping options, both directly outside the hotel or a short 10 minute taxi ride away at Ala Moana, the largest shopping centre in the islands. Sascha and I found our way there several times, and enjoyed this years addition of Bloomingdales to long time faves Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.
The furthest afield I had ventured in previous years was to Diamond Head, where you definitely won’t find yourself the only people doing the morning sunrise hike but the views are spectacular, and there is plenty of room for everyone to take them in.
While I might not be big on leaving the Waikiki precinct, we have ventured off the island of Oahu plenty of times. In addition to the previously mentioned snorkelling trips on Maui, a morning drive to Haleakala is always worthwhile, and during the whale migration that coincides with our January visits there are no shortage of options to head out to sea and get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. You don’t necessarily need to leave the beach through, with a sunset cocktail on this trip accompanied by a spectacular display of whale activity by a pod just offshore.
In previous years we’ve also headed out to the Big Island, once to go on a driving tour and once to take a helicopter flight over Kilauea, the live volcano there. Both of these were great days, and an absolute must if you’ve got any budding volcanologists in your touring party.
So there you have it, by no means a comprehensive guide to all that Hawaii has to offer, but a few of the things that keep us going back year after year. You might choose to do some or none of these yourself but I’m super confident that you will find your own experiences to love in this beautiful place, and if it’s your first visit just know it’s highly unlikely to be your last.
*as with all of my posts none of this is sponsored content, these are all my own thoughts and suggestions about places and products that we have personally enjoyed, experienced and paid for