I just came back from an amazing Honolulu trip! I was there for seven full days. I planned it six weeks before my departure date which left me with a few expensive options but overall it was worth it. Besides, any travel I make in January will always be worth the damage to the pocket. For this one I even left on the afternoon of my birthday and arrived in Honolulu mid-morning, still on my birthday!
For this post I want to share my travel tips and activities should you wish to visit Honolulu (which you definitely must, it’s so amazing!)
Getting there: Going to Hawaii, sigh, isn’t cheap. If you are for comfort and duration, Philippine Airlines offers the shortest flight to Honolulu and back. It takes less than 10 hours going there and less than 11 hours going back, and more importantly, it’s a straight flight. I left in January which is still the tailend of the peak season so the lowest I got it for was still around $1,200, travel tax included. Ang mahal nya, actually, pero well, birthday trip!
From the airport to your hotel/hostel/Airbnb: Shuttle services, if you do not have a host or you did not avail your hotel’s pickup option, are very much available as soon as you step out of the airport. So far, I noticed there’s SpeediShuttle and Roberts Hawaii Express Shuttle. I took Roberts Hawaii Express Shuttle going to my rented condo unit. These shuttle services accept card payments only so make sure you have your debit or credit cards handy. I paid $16 for the 30-minute trip. I learned from the shuttle driver (a beautiful half-Filipina, half-Hawaiian named Danielle!) that Roberts Hawaii also owns the building I stayed at, so it’s a convenient dropoff.
Going to the airport for my departure, I availed SpeediShuttle’s service. I booked a reservation the night before I left. It costs $15.48 which is also charged to your card. When you choose a pickup time, consider the time of your flight and expect that there will be other pickups other than you which could extend your travel time to the airport. For this trip though, the driver took the backroads and in 20 minutes, I was dropped off at the PAL checkin gate. So kanya-kanyang diskarte din ang mga drivers but it’s always safe to allow more time.
Of course if you are with a group and you can comfortably fit inside a car, you can take a taxi or an Uber. They also have Lyft, too. The bus is also an option.
Accommodations: I booked a lovely studio apartment through Airbnb. It won’t be visible in the listing but you will discover that many of the Waikiki units, whether studio apartments, rooms, or couches, are within the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel. It’s a property that was converted into half-condo units, half-hotel and many condo owners rented theirs out. My host lives in the same unit — we share one main door, and there are two keycard-activated doors after; one is her residence and one is the studio space she rents out.
Look at this cute and cozy place! The wooden design and fixtures provided a unique and homey touch. It has no kitchen but there’s a microwave, a mini-ref, and lots of dining utensils. The bathroom is also very clean and has clean towels and bathroom products for you to use. The host also has beach bags and beach towels in the closet. Super homey! And don’t get me started on the view. That right there by the window is not a painting!
My favorite part of this unit is the view. I can never get enough of it. It is directly facing Ala Wai Canal and being on the 35th floor, it gets an amazing view of Manoa. I was also treated to plenty of rainbow sightings (which I was told are quite often in the island) because of its location.
View from the room at daytime. I don’t get scared of heights but this one made me a bit woozy.
View at nighttime. Very therapeutic.
The first morning I woke up early enough. That’s not a canvas, that’s a real view!
The building was at the corner of Niu and Ala Wai so when you go down the street, this is easily what you can snap. Ah, the memories of it just by typing this.
One more rainbow view after it rained. Love.
Let me know if you want to get this same accommodation and I’ll point you to this listing. 🙂 The host is very easy to talk to and very accommodating.
I walked around a lot while there and checked the location of the hotels and apartments and their distance from the beach. While I really liked Hawaiian Monarch’s location (from there you can walk to the convention center, Ross (ahem), Target (ahem ulit), a bit far but still doable – Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx (yaaay) and the huge Ala Moana Center!), it is at the far end of the beach kung walking ang pag-uusapan. I spent 15-20 minutes walking just to go back. I could have taken the bus, sure, but overall, malayo siya if you speak of the beach. I enjoyed walking a lot though.
If your priority is to be near the beach front, consider the ones along the shore — from the Kahanamoku beachfront of Hilton Hawaiian Village to the end of the Waikiki Wall (a long beachfront stretch which would take you 30 minutes by foot; I tried it!). The parallel streets adjacent to Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues are great locations and perhaps a bit less expensive than the 5-star ones. What’s better is it’s also near the main strip where they have all the shops and food places.
Going around: TheBus! It is their main commuter transport service which is efficient, if I may say. You can buy passes for unlimited rides for different durations or just pay $2.75 per way — the bus does not give change so always bring an exact amount. This is where I disposed of all my coins!
Before you start your day, think of your activities and check if they will require bus rides. If you need more than 2 bus rides, whether short or long ones, consider buying a day pass para sulit, kesa $2.75 ng $2.75. I did that when I when I went to Diamond Head and to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center; both entailed two rather long round trips and still left me with a pass to ride a bus to and from my errands for the day.
There also bikes for rent but I didn’t bother checking it out. They are operated by Biki so if you are into biking, you can check out their rates, locations, and covered routes.
I also took an Uber twice and it’s efficient. Mahal lang rate nila, or maybe because I’m thinking in Philippine pesos; my ride ranged from $7 to $9 for two very short distances. But then again, birthday trip!
I spent majority of my time walking. Google Maps proved to be a very helpful friend. I downloaded an offline map of Honolulu so it was easier for me to navigate. Even with the bus routes, it’s very informative; of course if you access its offline version it will not give you the real-time schedule of the buses arriving, but you’ll still be fine.
Other notes: I did not stay long enough but the place was pretty safe for me. The sidewalks are wide and pedestrian-friendly. Their pedestrian crossings are plenty and accessible. Depending on the time of the year, it can get chilly at night so if you are sensitive to the breeze (aka lamigin like me), better to bring anything to cover you up when you walk. I brought tank tops and sleeveless sundresses which were suitable during the day but when nighttime came, I felt chilly. It probably contributed to my feeling ill on my 3rd day of vacation.
Hawaii is 18 hours behind the Philippines. Expect your body clock to act up after a few days, unless you’re the kind who adjust easily (lucky you!).
Unless you have mapped food places to get your meals from, it helps to go to Target or Food Pantry to buy groceries to save. Stock up and just refill your water, buy fruits, bread and spreads, juices, and other daily nourishment essentials.
I stayed mostly in Waikiki so people from different countries and persuasions abound. It’s very exciting to see. Connect and talk to them when you can! The residents there are very friendly, too. At least the ones I encountered; I was lucky there’s no untoward incident at all. And hey, it’s Hawaii, so expect a lot of Pinoys!
I’ll be sharing my experiences about the spots I went to in the next posts. For now in case it’s not getting across as I intended, I fell in love with Hawaii! I am definitely going back. You should, too. I promise, it’s worth it.