What I learned from one week in Waikiki
I used to hate Waikiki and when I traveled to Hawaii at times during the last 10 years I would just avoid it. I'd rather go hiking, hit the Andaz or anything else... But this time I spent 8 days in Waikiki; here's what I learned.
1. The area is in the midst of a tourism and construction boom. Wherever you look, buildings are being demolished, remodeled, constructed - there will be a lot of new hotel room inventory soon. That's a good thing since many Waikiki properties are woefully old.
2. Tourist arrivals from Japan are up - way up. That's especially surprising with the strength of the dollar. The same is true for Australia - at times it seemed everyone around us was Australian. The cheap Jetstar flights must have made an impact but it's still a surprise given how strong the US dollar is now against the Australian dollar.
3. Room rates are now matching Manhattan or San Francisco - two of the most expensive US hotel markets. Waikiki has limited space only and most tourists choose to go here (for good and bad reasons).
4. There is a lot of incredibly cheap and delicious food in Honolulu, and even in Waikiki. You will need to step a bit out of your comfort zone but don't get sucked into the chains and touristy places - they are a rip off.
5. Even with the onslaught of high rises right behind it, the crowds at Waikiki Beach are manageable (more so than at the shopping malls!) It's still one of nature's most beautiful creations and it's even even better if you have something that floats (e.g. a surfboard) so you can just go out there and enjoy the (small) waves. Dandling in the light surf looking at the (still surprisingly clear) water does not get much better.
6. Uber is now in Honolulu and you can get an UberX everywhere (except for the airport terminals - you need to walk 5 minutes outside to hail one). This makes transport much easier and you can avoid the crowded buses. To get further, rent a car - there's no shortage of rental agencies, but just keep in mind that parking is expensive in Waikiki.
7. Most of the 'tourist attractions' on Oahu are not worth it IMHO. Going up to the North Shore on a high surf day is a great way to pass a rainy day, though (and each coast has different surf!)
While one week is more than enough to visit expensive Waikiki, once you are dialed in to the Hawaiian lifestyle (which is a bit of a challenge in this crowded neighborhood) you will see time run slower and days pass by more quickly. Spending days on or around the water of Waikiki is addictive.
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