Every year millions of visitors from Japan, mainland USA and beyond land at
Honolulu International Airport ready to begin their vacation in paradise. Soon after
landing, most visitors hop in a cab or bus sent from the hotel and begin the journey
past downtown Honolulu and on to their reservation at a Waikiki hotel.
The allure of Waikiki is immediate. The packed streets, sounds of the beach, and
exotic histories call to the traveler who soon hits the streets. Venturing out in
Waikiki can be quite exciting. The streets are filled with foreign languages, throngs
of tourists are dressed in their beach best, and the beginning of surf history can be
seen at the end of the street. Waikiki can be so exciting that many visitors never
escape its imaginary borders. Approximately 6 million of these visitors miss the very
sites that locals find so endearing, remaining within the two square miles of Waikiki.
For those travelers interested in seeing Oahu through its residents’ eyes, please
Magic Island Beach Park – This popular park is located just west of
Waikiki, across the street from the Ala Moana Shopping Center. The park includes
two beaches, a three mile jogging path, tennis courts, and more. A walk around the
park will expose the center of Hawaiian culture – the family. Large extended families
gather around hibachis, spending the day together with a good food and plenty of
sun. The beaches are significantly less crowded, so for a great day, grab a barbecue
and head down to the beach at Magic Island!
The Contemporary Museum Honolulu – This small museum is located
high on a ridge at Makiki Heights Drive. The drive up the ridge offers amazing vistas
that would otherwise be missed by most Oahu visitors. The relatively small museum
offers changing exhibits in its five galleries. After traversing the galleries, visitors
can wander out onto the sculpture gardens. This is where the true glory of the
museum is revealed. The 3.5 acres of sculpture and meditative gardens are open to
the public and offer some of the most amazing views of Honolulu.
Leong’s Cafe – Many visitors look to a lu’au for more than entertainment;
they are after some great Hawaiian food. However, if you’re interested in real local
style Hawaiian food, you can’t beat Leong’s Cafe located at 2343 North King Street.
As a favorite for plate lunches, kalua pig, lu’au stew, lomi lomi, and more, locals
have been visiting this cafe for over 50 years!
Champion Malasadas – The local treat called Malasadas are so popular
that Fat Tuesday has been re-christened Malasada Day throughout the Hawaiian
Islands. One of the best and most famous bakeries is Champion Malasadas located
at 1926 South Beretania Street. These light portuguese hole-less donuts come with
and without filling and are absolutely worth the effort in getting them!
Honolulu Chinatown – A walk through the streets of Chinatown in like a
walk into another time and place. Whether you are looking for dim sum, fresh
produce, handmade leis, or the new hip lounge, you are sure to find it in Chinatown.
The streets and shops are exotic, offering items not found in a typical american
grocery. Guided walking tours are available for this historic district, but often the
best way is to simply meander through the streets, stopping whenever your interest
has been piqued.
If you are interested in seeing Oahu through a local’s eyes, be sure to spend some
time outside of Waikiki. Stop by some or all of the spots listed above and see some
of what truly makes Hawaii special.