First published on 10 Apr 2012. Updated on 17 Jul 2012.
See and do
The Australian dollar’s riding high above parity with the greenback and in Honolulu you’ll get serious bang for buck. Find some of America’s best shopping, visit sites that are steeped in history, or simply to relax and lie on the beach.
Pearl Harbor is the scene of the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941 that saw the sinking of United States ships including the USS Arizona. At the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center you can watch a film about the attack, before catching a boat to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, built over the sunken hull of the battleship. 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu (+1 808 422 3300).
Hawaii’s legendary North Shore is synonymous with big-wave surfing. At Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Haleiwa Beach and Ehukai Beach (home of the ‘banzai pipeline’), especially between November and February, you’ll find some of the world’s best surfers in action as they compete for the Triple Crown. Surfing aside, Waimea Bay is great for sunbaking and snorkelling, while nearby in the Waimea Valley you’ll find the stunning Waimea Falls. Kamehameha Hwy, Waimea Bay.
If you’ve never surfed, give it a go in Waikiki, the vibrant centre of Honolulu. It’s here that Hawaii’s godfather of surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, developed his skills at both wave riding and swimming (he went on to win five Olympic medals). Next to the statue of the great man, you’ll find Star Beachboys, a company that offers surfing lessons for $30 under the guidance of three former world longboard champions. If surfing isn’t your thing, they also sell outrigger canoe rides for $15. Waikiki Beach, Honolulu (+1 808 218 1828).
Away from the beach, Hawaii is a top spot for shopping. At the Ala Moana Center, you’ll find several floors of department stores, men’s and women’s fashion, music and games stores and accessories. 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu (+1 808 955 9517). Over at Waikele, a short drive from the USS Arizona Memorial, there are more than 50 discount outlets ranging from Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue to Adidas, Converse and Tumi. 94-790 Lumiaina St, Waipahu (+1 808 676 5656).
Eat and drink
Elvis Presley’s drink of choice in Blue Hawaii, the Mai Tai is the unofficial cocktail of the Hawaiian Islands. At Duke’s, on the sand at Waikiki Beach, you’ll find Tiki cocktails such as Mai Tais ($9), the Tropical Itch ($8) and Lava Flow ($8). 2335 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu (+1 808 922 2268). At Rum Fire, which overlooks the beach on the headland, you’ll find $6.50 Mai Tais during the daily happy hour (4-6pm) and nightcap time (9.30-11pm Sun-Thu). 2255 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu (+1 808 922 4422).
Serious foodies in Hawaii make a beeline for two restaurants. George Mavrothalassitis is considered to be a leader in Hawaiian regional cuisine and his Chef Mavro restaurant serves up three- ($75), four- ($85) or six-course ($128) degustation menus featuring food primarily sourced from across the Hawaiian Islands. Wine pairings are available. 1969 South King St, Honolulu (+1 808 944 4714). At ‘Iron Chef’ Masahuru Morimoto’s restaurant at the Modern, you’ll find everything from a Japanese-inspired breakfast ($30) to a 450g Australian Wagyu rib-eye steak ($88) for dinner. Morimoto Waikiki is, however, best known for its selection of maki (try the soft shell crab roll, $14), sushi and sashimi (go for the king crab, $9). 1775 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu (+1 808 943 5900).
The Modern Honolulu is led by its contemporary design, great pool-deck cocktails and cutting-edge fare at Morimoto. While you’re not on the beach, Waikiki is a few minutes walk away. 1775 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu (+1 808 943 5800). While Duke’s is the starring attraction down below, up above the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach’s well priced rooms offer space, comfort, convenience and in most cases, views over Waikiki Beach. 2335 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu. (+1 808 923 0711). The Hilton Hawaiian Village might be the largest resort on the Island of Oahu, but you can still have an intimate experience here. Bars and restaurants include Tropics Bar and Grill, which serves up island fare at reasonable prices (think buffalo wings for $14 or a ‘big kahuna’ burger for $16). 2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu (+1 808 949 4321).
Hawaiian Airlines flies daily from Melbourne to Honolulu (via Sydney with Virgin Australia). Hawaiian has just upgraded services to brand new Airbus A330s that feature entertainment on demand, spacious economy class seats and signature Polynesian fare.