Everyday of the year where the water is 76, day and night, and the waves roll high, I take my sled, without runners, and coast down the face of the big waves that roll in at Waikiki
– Duke Kahanamoku –
A few friends talked me into staying a few nights in downtown Honolulu for the last leg of my Hawaiian holiday. I have to admit, I regretted leaving Kauai.
I booked incredibly last minute meaning that all my beachfront resort options were out, so I settled on the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, merely one block back from the iconic Waikiki beachfront. It was a short and easy cab ride from Honolulu International. As I arrived a number of hours before the usual check-in time, the hotel “upsold” me to a more superior room, that ‘happened to be ready to check-in right away’. I think that was my first mistake as I am not convinced about what I paid the extra money for. The room was clean and modern, but as far as I could tell it was still a standard double. The balcony overlooked an enormous construction site, with no real view even though I was 20 or so stories high. The bathroom also looked in dire need of some renovation or repairs. A little disappointing if I’m honest.
Heading out to explore the area, it became very apparent very quickly that my friends had recommended Waikiki to me for one reason and one reason only: the shopping. There was an impressive array of big brand shopping options encircling the walk-able distance around the hotel. For Australians, the prices were also good, so if shopping is an important part of your holiday experience then Honolulu is definitely where it’s at.
I went looking for the beach to check out the famous Waikiki waves that have been ridden by every famous surfer, like, ever. As so many of the big resorts are beachfront, I had to find a narrow alleyway between two resorts in order to get down to the beach. The lane-ways were adorned with racks upon racks of surfboards, ready and waiting for their owners to collect each day en route to the water. Each of the beachfront hotels spilled onto the beach with their own enclosed portion of the sand. There was no promenade, so I wondered down to the waters edge and followed the wet sand along the coastline. It was a pretty beach, and I could see why it was popular with the surfers…
The following morning, I headed down to Duke’s for the breakfast buffet as I’d had such a great experience of the chain on Kauai Island and I’d heard the beachfront view for breakfast was delightful. I had to wait approximately 30 minutes for a table which, considering how crazily busy Waikiki was in general, seemed about right.
I spent most of the rest of the day poolside at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. The pool was small and pretty basic, but there was a modern and stylish lobby, lounge and cafe surrounding it on two sides and it wasn’t too busy (unlike the streets beyond the gates!). I had planned to go swimming with dolphins at a nearby tourist attraction, but the sheer masses of the crowds inexplicably put me off the idea on this occasion.
In the afternoon I wandered through a little shopping village across the road from the hotel to buy a few souvenirs and check out the mini food stalls. I ended up dining there at a fun retro diner called the Rock Island Cafe. The menu was a delectable array of over-sized, over-fried Americana food so I feasted on a cheese burger and onion rings, washed down with a soda fountain. The decor is tourist-worthy in itself, and the restaurant shop sells a vast array of memorabilia akin to an American pawn shop.
By now, the weather had taken an unfortunate turn for the worse. A tropical cyclone had reached the shores of Hawaii and with it came a crazy amount of wind and rain. Luckily, I only had to dash across the road back to the hotel, however the lobby had already become semi-flooded. Heading back up to my high-rise room, I kept firmly away from my windy balcony and chose an early night in front of the tv to wait out the storm.
The following morning, I had a hearty breakfast at the hotel restaurant before checking out and heading back to Honolulu International, bound for Sydney.
Whilst the unfortunate weather couldn’t be helped, I still came away from Waikiki with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I can definitely see the appeal for shoppers and surfers, and I think if I had stayed in one of the beachfront mega resorts I would definitely have been a lot happier too. That said, I think after sampling the stunning and relaxing vibes on Kauai Island, the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu was probably never going to appeal to me.
I think Waikiki might be like Marmite… “you either love it or you hate it”. What do you think of it? Please let me know in the comments.