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A resident's guide to a week on Oahu
This week on Oahu is great for the person who's never visited the islands before. You'll take circle trip around Oahu and later fly around the islands. You'll get a variety of beach, jungle, foods, Pacific "villages", swimming and snorkeling and surfing, handicrafts, history, and views. If you don't have to spend days one and seven on the plane, spread out the activities.
DAY ONE: During your flight, practice your Hawaiian: aLOha means love, A-loha means hello, and aloHA means goodbye. Visitors have added another: alooooooha, which apparently means "I'm a tourist" or "I can hold my breath longer than you can." Upon arrival in Honolulu, pick up a free tourist booklets such as "This Week Oahu". To get your bearings, reserve an around-the island bus trip for the next day; for the day after, reserve an around-all-the-islands flight; for the day after that, reserve a Polynesian Cultural Center bus tour (or rent a car for the week if you have good parking), and reserve anything else that takes your fancy. (Even better, reserve all these things before you leave. My favorite guidebooks are "The Hawai'i Handbook", the latest Fodor's on Oahu or Hawai'i, and "Hidden Hawai'i.) Then relax from your flight by taking a dip in the ocean at Waikiki. Get the sand between your toes so you'll know this is real. (Never swim when it is dark or the waters are murky, and always check any warning signs on the beach. And also always watch out for the coral, for its sake and for yours.) Now that you have an appetite, stuff your face under the grass roof at Perry Boy's large outdoor buffet. (Whenever Friday comes, pick up the Honolulu Advertiser and look for the entertainment section, for a week's worth of activities and shows, many of them free.)
DAY TWO: take that Oahu bus trip and your camera. Find out all the spots the locals know about. Take notes, and ask the bus driver to recommend his favorite Hawaiian restaurant. Learn this word, because you may be asked: humuhumunukunukuapua'a (the state fish). Bring questions, such as: where is "Lost" filmed, where's the big house in "Magnum, P.I.", what's the best place to watch the surfers, where is the best hiking trail, and so forth. Try to stump the driver with questions like: "How many varieties of palm trees are on Oahu?" or "How do you make poi?" At the end of the long day, go to the restaurant the driver recommended or grab some food at ABC Stores and picnic on the beach. Or if you're feeling flush and want to dress up, dine at Michelle's (reservations required) where a couple ofepisodes of "Lost" have been filmed. If you want to know more about the filming, ask if Ed is working there that day and has time to chat.
DAY THREE: grab your camera and binoculars and take that flight around the islands; Pay attention and compare, so you'll know where you want to go on your next Hawai'ian trip. Count the waterfalls. Later stroll along Waikiki beach and pick an outdoor restaurant.
DAY FOUR: Take your choice: Devote the morning to the Ocean (protect from those uv rays) or to Chinatown, or tour the jungle in the city at Foster Botannical
Gardens, or see the fantastic view from the Pali Lookout. Try surf lessons from the beach boys sitting near the Duke Kahanamoku statue on Waikiki, or swim at Waikiki Beach. If you don't feel like taking on the ocean, watch the early morning shoppers in Chinatown and pick up a few souveniers. Try some mochi (bet you never had rice like that before.) Leave enough time to catch that tour for the Polynesian Cultural Center, where you'll spend the afternoon touring "villages" of the South Pacific, eating at a luau buffet (trying the poi no matter what you've heard, you owe it to your friends back home), and then watching the great show filled with dances from the South Pacific. Buy a tape of the show if you want closeups. Want some Pacific keepsakes? Check the shops nearest the show's auditorium. When shopping anywhere, keep in mind that many seashells were harvested live. Buy something un-touristy, such as a handsome wooden mortar and pestle used in the old days to grind kukui nut kernels to use for lamp oil.
DAY FIVE: time for some history at one or more places. Visit the Bishop Museum (you might want to visit their new volcano building as well), the Mission Houses Museum, the Hawaii Plantation Village, and the old hippie/surfer town of Haleiwa. Get some shave ice no matter if you are hungry or not. Take a picture of your loved one as he bites in to it. Drive back down the Southeast coast. Keep an eye out for the surfers, especially at Sunset Beach. Eat like a Moroccan at Casablanca in Kailua. If you still have energy and sunlight, go for a dip at Kailua Beach Park.
DAY SIX: a choice, but go early. Take the earliest tour of the Pearl Harbor Memorial, or the earliest snorkeling tour of Hanauma Bay (you'll thank me later when you see the crowds). Or if you must sleep in late, you have two choices: swimming with the dolphins at Sea Life Park (you'll never forget it), or take the tour of Doris Duke's Shangri La (which you booked days previously). You'll swear you're in the Middle East, except it's nice and quiet. When the shuttle takes you back to the Academy of Art, spend a good amount of time seeing artifacts of the Pacific Rim. At the restaurant, order take-out - it's ono (delicious), and you eat it in one of the courtyards (we prefer the Chinese). Later, you might want to take a swim in the man-made lagoons in the Ko Olina area, or spend the afternoon buying things for the folks back home. The ABC stores are always a good standby, and shopping under the banyan tree at International Marketplace is a treat. Watch the lei-maker at work, take a picture of her, and buy the one she made in your photo. Eat at their food court for dinner, and watch the entertainment for free. Buy an album by bruddah Iz - be sure it has the "Over the Rainbow" medley on it. If you still have energy, dance the night away upstairs. Show off those new swing steps. Then throw everything in your suitcases and catch a few zzzzs.
DAY SEVEN: time to leave Oahu. On your flight back, start planning your next trip. I recommend the road to Hana on Maui, as well as the Needle area. Kaua'i is nice for the romantics who want to hear the Hawaiian Wedding Song at the Fern Grotto, or the adventurers who want to helicopter around Waimea Canyon on a sunny day. (You already saw the Na Pali cliffs on your all-island plane tour.) Keep in mind that it's the rainiest island. But my favorite island is the Big Island (Hawai'i) - while it doesn't have scenery that is as spectacular, it has the most variety. From (often) snow-covered volcanoes to live lava. From Hilo, a historic old town, to the largest-in-the-world ranch (Parker). From artist's villages to ruins of an old Hawaiian town. From sea cave tours to mule wagon tours to zip lines to tubing in an old irrigation ditch, the Big Island is da kine variety. And don't forget the most important thing of all - many malihinis have come to visit, returned to their homes to sell everything, and a couple of weeks later are back to stay, becoming a kama'aina like me. Aloha, and mahalo for visiting the Islands of Aloha.