With its warm tropical climate, late night shopping every night, a stunning beach (albeit crowded) with the most divine, clean water, great restaurants and $10 dollar Mai Tais – what’s not love?Also, ideal if you like huge servings of food while letting it all hang out in shorts and a tight t-shirts. Spider veins, cellulite, thunder-thighs, massive bellies; fear not, you can never look too horrific here in Honolulu – there will always be someone way more overweight wearing tighter, shorter shorts just around the corner. It’s safe to say I haven’t seen tourists dress this bad since…ever. I have also become rather barrel-like during my stay by replacing the 5:2 diet with my new 7:7 Hawaiian Holiday Diet. (7 days of eating burgers, fried food and desserts, washed down with cocktails and then doing exactly the same the next 7 days –works a treat), yet I have also been getting around in less clothes than normal. Go figure (pardon the pun). Fortunately, we have been a doing lot of exercise. (Read: shopped till we dropped). Here are the highlights:
Waikele Premium Outlets: I had heard mixed reports about this place, so I’m not going to over-sell it to you. Lets just say, hub and aI let loose in a fervor for 6 hours on the first visit (2.5 hours the next) and bagged ourselves a bounty of bargains. You can’t go wrong (your credit card may disagree) at Levi, Ralph Lauren, Coach, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s at New York and the many sunglass outlets. Yup, damage was done.
Getting there: Find a guy out on the street, who is carrying a sign saying “Outlets”. These guys arrange round trips via small, air-conditioned vans that leave throughout the day. It’s a bargain at $10 round trip and takes between 30- 45 minutes depending on traffic. Do make sure you have cash to tip your driver.
Ala Moana: Bloody huge shopping complex. Has everything. Great for cosmetics and the MAC store (fantastic with a MAC Make-up Artist discount card, but be warned – only $500 daily limit for card holders. Travesty!) Still, even without a card, you will find it a lot cheaper. However, we didn’t bag the same thrilling bargains as we did in Waikele. My tip: do Waikele first.
Sephora: The stuff make-up dreams are made of. Be warned: with the endless array of enticing make-up booty, amazing customer service – you will blow the budget in record speed. Tip: Spend some time there and separate the need from the want. You don’t want to go home with a bag of fun products that you have no idea how to use.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort Hotel (great, great staff) that is at a really busy end of the main drag, and we were surrounded by all the big names like Rolex, Lois Vuitton, a ridiculous multi storied DFS complex filled with all the designer gear and all open till 11pm – it was cray-cray. We bought some beautiful Hawaiian gear in 100% cotton, made in Hawaii, well cut, great prints, and here in the Hyatt complex at Two Palms.
Then there is the whole conundrum of where to eat. If you like Japanese there is plenty to chose from. Our favorite restaurant was Doraku in The Royal Hawaiian complex. It has a cool vibe, stunning food and really affordable. Think Toko in Sydney but half the price.
We also loved The Cheesecake Factory. The scale of this restaurant is really impressive. Be prepared for a wait time of at least 45 minutes -1.5 hours if you get there after 5pm (no bookings). But this gives you the perfect opportunity to perch yourself at the bar, and watch the bar staff work their magic by making the best cocktails and sampling a few on the way. Don’t go past the appetizer of Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls. So wrong yet so right. Warning: servings are HUGE; and we never made it to the famous Cheesecake part of the meal.
Dukes is good for lunch but can get a it rowdy of an evening. Do try their fish tacos with their fish of the day. Amazing!
Our most favourite place for a cocktail was The Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian. In fact, we fell hopelessly in love with this glamorous, pink hotel and we will be definitely staying there next visit. Not only is it in a perfect location, it also has a serenity that makes you feel quite far from the hubbub. A perfect place to watch the sun go down over the horizon. It also serves the most amazing Angus beef burger. I’m salivating thinking about it.
Seeing the famous beaches of the North Shore area is also really worthwhile. You can of course hire a car and make your own adventure, but we opted for a small tour group with The North Shore Surf Bus. This was the stress-free option and we got to learn much about the island of Oahu from our native tour guide (born and bred in Oahu). He did short stops at many of the places, and then 2 longer drop-offs where we saw Waimea Falls, swam in Waimea beach and paddle-boarded in Haleiwa. He took us to get pineapple ice-cream on the way home and to a secret beach where we met some beautiful turtles. I totally recommend this tour! Again, make sure you tip your guide at least 20 percent of the tour price. www.northshoresurfbus.com
Hawaii has so many attributes that make it an amazing holiday. But it’s the beautiful people of Hawaii, their pride in impeccable customer service that really made our time there memorable.
Aloha Hawaii – we will be back.