I’ve been to Hawaii on vacation before, but this was the first time I went as an adult which was a very different experience. I never realized how much of a vacation destination Waikiki and Oahu as a whole were until I saw it through the eyes of a grown up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly fun, but it’s also very much a vacation and while on vacation you want to do it right. Here’s my super bias advice, take it or leave it.
There are so many things in Hawaii that are catered to the tourism industry, which gives you as a tourist a LOT of choices. Almost too many choices. There’s surfing, swimming with dolphins, swimming with sharks, snorkeling, scuba diving, submarine dives, paddle boarding, cliff diving. Literally, name a water activity and there’s a minimum of 10 companies who want to take your money for the activity and then sell you a photo of you doing it. A lot of them are super fun and worth the money, but a lot of them are a little silly.
What you should do
If you don’t already live in a place where surfing is available to you, definitely take advantage of it here. The water is so warm and clear (at least in Waikiki) and the waves are so constant. They’re great for beginners and for experts. I’ve gone surfing in both the North Shore and in Waikiki and they both have their benefits. Waikiki is warm and clear, but it can get really crowded and depending on who you go to can be expensive. The North Shore is empty and through the Hawaiian Fire Surf School, you get a longer fuller lesson, but in colder water where you usually have to wear a rash guard. (Although researching for this post I realize they might have changed since I last surfed with them)
Hanauma Bay is a fantastic place to snorkel if you want to actually see a variety of fish and the best place to get hit with multiple selfie sticks. It’s a State Park so you’ll see a bunch of people treating it like shit which is frustrating. If you go, go as early as possible. Get there to see the fish before everyone scares them away with their shit snorkeling skills.
- Attend a luau
The hotel where we stay hosts their own luau a couple times a week. There are activities for the kids like lei making and activities for the adults like free Mai Tai’s (just kidding they’re not free, they’re part of your ticket). The Luau itself is just as wonderful and cheesy as I remember it being when I was 12. The food for whatever reason was spectacularly better than when I was a kid, which I guess is one benefit of vacationing as an adult with a mature apatite. If your hotel doesn’t host one, I know the Polynesian Cultural Center hosts one plus about a million other places throughout the island.
What you don’t really need to do
The Hilton has a submarine activity which is exactly what it sounds like. You take a boat pretty far out into the ocean and board a submarine then you go down below the water and come back up. I’m biased about this because I got immediately sea sick and spent the majority of the submarine ride trying not to throw up. No one warns you about motion sickness! I also don’t remember seeing anything particularly cool looking under water, but that might have been because I was distracted. Try it if you want, but at least you’ve been warned about potential seasickness.
This is seriously so much fun, but I also didn’t pay for it the first time I tried it. I considered doing it this trip, but then looked at the prices and realized I don’t have that kind of cash to blow. It’s a really rad experience if you’ve never done it before, but it’s not the most important thing to do.
What to eat
We had some pretty decent meals when we ate out, I’m sure there’s so much more to be explored in this realm. My favorite by far was the chicken and waffles meal from Pancakes and Waffles. I’ll write more about this later, but holy shit, this was the best chicken and waffles meal I’ve ever had in my life. (And I’ve eaten my fair share of Chicken & Waffles meals. Also: when I Instagrammed this photo and said that it was the best meal, they called me a Chicken & Waffles expert so clearly I know a thing or two) .They have a ton of other great sounding menu items, but I really only saw people ordering this option.
I think the most important thing you can do in Hawaii is see a god damn sunset. Or a sunrise. Honestly, do both if you can. I don’t know what it is but they’re fucking majestic. If you can watch it while you’re swimming in the ocean, maybe after drinking a Mai Tai, do that too. Because that’s what a grown up tropical island vacation is all about right?