"THE REAL HAWAII IS HONOLULU" Top 5 Page for this destination Honolulu by thinking

Honolulu Travel Guide: 2,017 reviews and 4,836 photos


Hawaii is a wonderful, beautiful place to be, and Honolulu is where 3/4's of Hawaiians
lead their glorious day to glorious day lives.

Many travelers who rhapsodize about Hawaii feel scorn for Oahu. "It's not Hawaii," they say. "It's just a stopover." When I heard this recently -- the words came from someone who had been living on Maui and Kauai for a few years -- I could only respond, "How much of Oahu have you actually seen?" Not much beyond the airport.

Unfortunately, this is often Oahu's fate. Hawaii has been romanticized for so long that virtually no one visits it without serious preconceived notions. But Oahu still delivers! It has sunny skies, crystal blue water, white-sand beaches, slack key guitars at sunset, and lots of hula dancing.

The problem is what visitors don't expect -- the urban sprawl of Honolulu. It's the 11th-largest municipality in the U.S.; almost 400,000 people live in the metropolitan area.

Visitors judge Oahu the instant they glimpse the high-rises of Waikiki, and, without a doubt, Waikiki is a different, highly developed kind of paradise (make that ParadiseTM).

Oahu is crowded, and Honolulu is a busy city -- now get over it. Don't just get over it, get into it. The island is home to three-quarters of Hawaiians, people who represent more than 25 ethnic groups and make the state one of the most diverse in the country. Oahu may not satisfy clichéd notions of an untouched Eden, but it is, undeniably, where Hawaiians live, eat, drink, and do things. If that doesn't make it the real Hawaii, what does?

A New Generation Finds Paradise in Honolulu

Joining Honolulu's base of Japanese tour groups and American mainlanders in matching flowered shirts is a new group of fun-seekers.

Vacationers in their 20's and 30's dance in clubs like the new Zen-themed, silk-pillowed O Lounge, in a converted Chinese restaurant just outside Waikiki, or at thirtyninehotel downtown, where laid-back artsy types lounge on a U-shaped sectional as a disco ball spins. They join the locals in a cleaned-up downtown for gallery evenings, happy hour and ethnic dining.

In a survey by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell for its 2004 National Leisure Travel Monitor, 26- to 40-year-olds put Honolulu among the top five destinations they would like to visit in the next two years. The youngest adult travelers, 25 and under, ranked its desirability alongside that of New York, Miami and the Florida Keys.

These travelers are finding a transformed Waikiki, well into the process of morphing from a tacky resort of aging hotels and Elvis impersonators into what is beginning to pass for urban chic.

After half a billion dollars in public and private investment, the main seaside boulevard, Kalakaua Avenue, has wide waterfall-flanked sidewalks and shady knolls, and about a dozen hotels have completed major renovations. One, the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, now updated in bright yellows and reds and bamboo curtains depicting vintage hula girls, promoted its new look with the slogan "Aloha With an Attitude." Luxury retailers like Yves Saint Laurent and Tiffany have opened stores.

As the city's pulse quickens, more change is on the way. The Waikiki Parc Hotel, the sister hotel to the Halekunlani, plans to renovate its guest rooms and replace a cafe that serves an all-you-can-eat buffet with a trendy bar.

The Halekulani is taking reservations for its Vera Wang Suite, opening this month. The 2,185-square-foot ocean-view suite was decorated by the designer best known for stylish wedding gowns. The hotel also plans a $400,000 revamping of its cocktail lounge, Lewers Lounge, with chain draperies and dramatic lighting, the perfect forum for the caipirinhas and flaming drinks that are being created for it by Dale DeGroff, a longtime Rainbow Room bartender turned cocktail consultant.

The next big change in Waikiki will be a $350 million project by Outrigger Enterprises, which has 15 hotels there, to replace the fast-food restaurants and low-budget hotels of Lewers Street with a suite hotel, a resort condominium, a time-share development and a retail and entertainment center.

Beyond Waikiki, reinvestment in the downtown has put a new $11 million face on the 1922 Hawaii Theater and studded a gritty landscape with restored early-20th-century facades, drawing residents and visitors to places they didn't dare venture before.


What first brought me to Hawaii? I came to Hawaii when I stopped practicing law in Texas in May, 1981. I studied for the Hawaiian Bar Exam on the beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, then took the Bar exam in July & passed it, and was admitted in October 1981.

Honolulu is one of my favorite places in the world. I have wonderful friends here and many wonderful memories over the last 20 years.

Hawaii is the only state in the USA that I like to visit during the winter or spring when it is cold, rainy and stormy everywhere else.

Honolulu has an Asian dominance, and it is an exotic mix of the South Pacific islanders, Philipinos, and Europeans. The people here are really gorgeous and very friendly.

It is easy to get around here on the bus if you choose to be on Oahu, and easy to do anything you want as this island makes 25%of its income through tourism and using their famous "aloha spirit". Most everyone is helpful because of that, and it is a pleasure to experience great customer service, fantastic Asian food for value prices, and wonderfully beautiful days and nights.

The only problem with the islands today are the problems I have seen worldwide. They are housing prices out of the reach of most families, people here having to work 2-3 jobs as well as their children, and lots of stress for those who are in this situation. Everyone here wants to sell you something, so be aware of that if you are coming from outside the USA's economic model.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lovely island culture, exotic Asian feel & values & foods, beautiful, sweet and FUN!
  • Cons:Less Expensive now, long flight, traffic, invaded by US financial crisis
  • In a nutshell:You will feel welcomed here. It is a wonderful place crisis or not. Go & enjoy it!
  • Last visit to Honolulu: Oct 2010
  • Intro Updated Oct 14, 2010
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Reviews (136)

Comments (49)

  • Daja123's Profile Photo
    Feb 12, 2014 at 1:18 AM

    What a lovely Honolulu page. Best regards from Slovenia! Darja

  • junecorlett's Profile Photo
    May 28, 2009 at 7:16 AM

    Lovely Honolulu page.

  • Jul 17, 2007 at 4:06 PM

    Your tips are very helpful and appreciated, especially to us since this will be our first trip to Oahu. You may want to correct the web site address...www.anytimegrind.com-- no "s" after "grind"

  • April1985's Profile Photo
    Aug 15, 2006 at 10:32 AM

    You have such a great page. I will be visiting family in Oahu in December, and I wanted to find out a little information about it, and man, you page tells all! Amazing. Im adding you as a friend, because I will not remember it all!

  • ForestqueenNYC's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2006 at 8:36 AM

    Thanks for the tip on the hidden hotel fees. What a shock when you get your bill.

  • JudyinPA's Profile Photo
    Jun 1, 2006 at 12:31 PM

    I keep looking at these pages for the valuable info. I won't remember all this until next October so will add you to my friends list so I can look back just before we leave.

  • icunme's Profile Photo
    May 16, 2006 at 1:17 PM

    Great memories of the Windward Side (kailua). Keep checking Local customs for "beat up howlie day" - maybe its a thing of the past?? Ciao, Carol

  • robertgaz's Profile Photo
    Mar 6, 2006 at 8:56 PM

    Gotta love those sunsets :~)

  • Martman's Profile Photo
    Feb 26, 2006 at 8:47 AM

    You are one knowledgeable young lady

  • Confucius's Profile Photo
    Feb 19, 2006 at 12:00 AM

    Aloha from another great thinker! I once worked as an interpreter on the Navatek 1 when it was part of the Royal Hawaiian Cruises fleet. I believe the ship came from Australia. Ono restaurant tips!

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