Sure the sun-lashed islands of Hawaii can be horrendously expensive but it is possible to visit this exotic chain – which this year is marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor – and have fun on a budget. Here’s how…
Think outside the (beach) box. Hawaii is arguably best known for its beautiful beaches. Hanauma Bay (www.hanaumabaystatepark.com) – a protected marine life park – is currently hogging the headlines having been named America’s best beach on an annual top 10 list compiled by coastal science professor Stephen Leather-man, also known as Dr. Beach.
And rightly so: this beloved bowl shaped bay is the place to get up close and personal with Hawaii’s colourful state fish – the Humuhu-munukunukuapua’a (humuhumu for short) – but it will cost you. (Entry is US$7.50 with snorkelling set hire, priced at an additional US$20.
Of course you could wander to Waikiki but Hawaii’s most famous beach is set against a back drop of irresistible bars and boutiques – hardly ideal if your budget is more push bike than Porsche…
Our advice? Forget Waikiki and make for Oahu’s Windward coast where you’ll find Kailua with its white sand, azure waters and wave conditions for just about every water sport imaginable and Lanikai – consistently crowned one of the world’s most spectacular beaches by travel magazines. Then there’s North Shore – a surfing mecca that draws pros from around the world owing to its waves, which are as high as houses.
Take a hike
Hawaii isn’t all about beaches… Hikers will be in seventh heaven as there are numerous trails, all of which are free to access, and serve up the kind of heart stopping vistas you’ll be dreaming about for months afterwards. Don’t miss Diamond Head Park – Oahu’s best known landmark.The trail to the summit of this 475-acre crater was built in 1908 as part of the US Army Coastal Artillery Defense System. Allow around an hour to hike to the top of the crater rim and back and don’t forget your camera: the views of the Waianae Range (to the west) and Koko Head (to the east) are spectacular.
Alternatively lace up your hiking boots and make for Manoa Falls – a favourite of US president Barack Obama (who spent part of his childhood in Hawaii) – where you can stride out through rocky stream-beds, bamboo forests and banyan trees, before reaching the 150-foot tall waterfall. Don’t be tempted to leap in though: leptospirosis (a bacterial infection caused by exposure to water) and falling rocks makes swimming inadvisable.
Culture on the cheap
Tourists books and travel guides will advise you to experience an authentic luau (a traditional Hawaiian party or feast). Typically the sounding of a conch shell signals the beginning of the evening’s festivities: expect an entertaining evening of Hawaiian culinary delights (chow down on kalua pua’a aka roasted pig, poke – raw fish marinated in soy sauce – and haupia – coconut custard), culture, history and Polynesian dancing…. for around £60.
However if your purse strings are suffering, panic not: simply head for Kūhiō Beach Hula mound on Kalākaua Ave (opposite the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī) where every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evening from 6-7pm (Nov-Jan), you can catch a complimentary Hawai‘ian music and hula show by some of Hawaii’s’ finest hālau hula (dance troupes) and performers, underneath a magnificent banyan tree.
Make no mistake: locals are keen to make sure that their cultural traditions aren’t forgotten and, subsequently, sites such as the the Royal Hawaiian Centre (www.royalhawaiiancenter.com/events) host free arts and craft, hu-la, ukulele and lomi lomi (indigenous Hawaiian healing massage) classes in addition to staging performances by Hawaiian storytellers and musicians who are keen to share with malihini (visitors), the history and heritage of their homeland.
On Friday nights, don’t miss Hilton Hawaiian Village’s (www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com/resort-experiences/entertainment-and-events) fabulous (free) firework display on Waikiki Beach, that’s proved popular with visitors and Oahu local alike since it was first introduced in the eighties.
Plan a visit to Pearl Harbor
Rising at a ridiculously early hour to head out to Pearl Harbor (www.pearlharboroahu.com) and pay your respects to those who lost their life in the Japanese attack on 8 December 1941 that pushed America into WW11, is a rite of a passage. Particularly this year – what with it being the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor (which resulted in five battleships being sunk and 2,500 American lives lost) and all..
While Pearl Habor sites such as the Battleship Missouri Memorial (www.ussmissouri.com) and Pacific Aviation Museum (www.pacificaviationmusuem.com) and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park charge a small admission fee, the USS Arizona Memorial – aka the most significant WW11 site – is absolutely free. Run by the National Park Service (NPS), the memorial consists of an excellent visitor centre and museum packed full of rare WW11 memorabilia and historical photos, plus an offshore shrine. Boat trips to the shrine – which was built over the midsection of the sunken USS Arizona – depart from the visitor centre every 15 minutes from 8am-3pm, but it’s best to arrive early as the day’s allotment of tickets is often gone by 12 midday.
Hawaii isn’t a cheap dining destination – prices, particularly in Waikiki, tend to be as high as the Shard. That being said, there’s no need to go hungry in Hawaii if your wallet isn’t rammed with dollars. Seek out a Farmers Markets – the Saturday Farmers Market at KCC (www.hfbf.org) gets our vote – where you can get stuck into a range of Hawaiian foods (think poi, loco moco, masaladas and more) that represent this exotic chain of islands’ multi-cultural make-up, for peanut prices while also getting to hang out with Hawaii locals who love to eat.
Or rock up at Rainbow Drive-In (www.rainbowdrivein.com) – a colourful Kanaina Avenue diner that was a favourite hang-out of the teenage Obama. Fast forward to today and the US President still pops into Rainbow Drive-In for a plate lunch. Consisting of macaroni salad served with two scoops of rice and everything from Korean barbecue to chicken katsu, the plate lunch is a popular – and crucially affordable – Hawaiian ono grind (good eat).
Last but by no means least, Look to Zippy’s (www.zippys.com) – a Hawaii institution beloved by 24k Magic singer, Bruno Mars, that’s gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary on 17 October – for fast food, Hawaiian style.
Make the most of Happy Hour
No visit to Hawaii is complete without tasting a tropical tiki cocktail (or two), for the islands are as synonymous with the Mai Tai and Blue Hawaii – as they are with pineapples, surfing, volcanoes and aloha.
One negative? The Mai Tai, which fuses two rums, fresh lime juice, orange Curacai, rock candy syrup and almond syrup), and Blue Hawaii ( a colour-ful fruit flavoured cocktail ) weigh in around the US$15 mark. Ouch… All of which is why it pays to take advantage of happy hour (often called ‘alo-ha hour’) – a great way to taste the tropics at destinations like Dukes (www.dukeswaikiki.com/), a surf themed party bar named after legendary Hawaiian waterman, Duke Kahanamoku who broke world swimming records before appearing in more than 15 Hollywood films, without breaking the bank.
Local newspapers like Honolulu Star Advertiser (www.staradvertiser), Honolulu Weekly (www.honoluluweekly.com) and Honolulu Magazine (www.honolulumagazine.com) detail the drink deals to kick-start your Hawaiian holiday.
words by Kaye Holland