Lay of the Land
“Hawaii is paradise. It sounds cheesy to say it, but there's music in the air there. ”~Bruno Mars
Honolulu, Hawaii’s only true metropolis, is the place visitors want to stay the longest or leave the soonest. It has the best attractions, the finest dining and the most action, as well as the congestion and crowds you’d find in any big city. But take a 15-minute drive to the southeast (or the island’s windward side) and you’ll come upon an entirely different world. Here are the emerald valleys, waterfalls and steep cliffs of Captain Cook’s Hawaii. Taro fields and fish ponds are in abundance; the pace is slower, and days are spent at the beach or on a boat; and there are no fancy hotels in sight, just bed and breakfasts and mom-and-pop restaurants. An hour’s drive north from Honolulu will bring you to the North Shore, home of small farms and huge surf. Haleiwa, the main town, remains locked in time, with sandwich shops and a strictly outdoor orientation. The western side of Oahu is the most quiet, with little to see or do. It should be saved for a day when you’ve explored the rest of the island.
Nearly all of Oahu’s hotels are located in Waikiki. Waikiki Beach underwent a more than $2 billion makeover, which resulted not only in clusters of hotel projects – including multiple properties from larger chains such as Starwood, Outrigger and Sheraton – but also a new Beach Walk entertainment district, with added beach patrols, restaurants and shopping centers, along with subtle touches like movies on the beach and concerts under the stars.
Indagare Tip: Business travelers who want to be near the convention center typically stay on the western side of Waikiki, closer to downtown Honolulu. Those looking for more of a hideaway would be better off at a hotel or a bed and breakfast east of Waikiki.
When to Go
The weather on Oahu is blissfully predictable: sunny and warm year-round. The Big Island, which lies south of Oahu, is hotter, Kauai wetter and Maui windier, but Oahu has perpetual late-spring weather, with daytime temperatures hovering between 70 and 85 degrees. November through March is the best time for whale watching, and November through February are when the big waves hit on the North Shore and professional surfers gather for the competitions.