Tag Archives: travel tips

Hawaii Travel Tips

Tomorrow I leave the Islands after a 3 week stay.   I am ever amazed by the number of people that visit Honolulu and never leave Waikiki.   Hawaii is so much more.  Rent a car or book a tour.  Take a city bus.  But go.

And there are so many great places to visit.

The Tripadvisor Oahu top ten is a good place to start.  10 popular destinations.   I’ve been to all of them at one time or another in my years spent in Hawaii.   Each is a good place to visit.  I haven’t been to most of them in years and years.  It’s not what I do when I go to Oahu.   I sight-see, eat in my favorite restaurants, and walk at my favorite places.

  • I like the trail inside Diamond Head.  Lots of cool stuff including old WWII bunkers.  It can  be crowded and hot, so go early in the day.
  • A walk around Ala Moana Park including Magic Island (not really an island) is a short walk from Waikiki and a great place to walk in the evening.  And the Friday night fireworks look good from there.
  • I love walking on Kailua Beach.  My favorite beach in Hawaii.   A trip to the Island that does not include a walk on Kailua Beach is a bit of a disappointment.   Go at low tide for the best walking.
  • The Malaekalana Recreation Area is a wonderful undiscovered Oahu gem.   A beautiful stretch of beach that is never crowded.
  • I try not to miss the short hike up to Makapuu Point Lighthouse.

The scenery is spectacular.

And I go mostly on weekdays.   Oahu literally means The Gathering Place in Hawaiian.  80% of Hawaii’s million plus population live on Oahu. Places that are relatively quiet on weekdays are crowded with locals on weekends.  Popular beaches (like Hanauma Bay) are crowded every day, but just a few miles up the road is Bellows, a beautiful beach that is nearly empty on weekdays.

Hawaii is an Island, and the perimeter roads are circular.   The result, nobody seems to know which way is North.  North moves around.  The mountains (Mauka in Hawaiian) are to the North in Honolulu, but to the South in Kaneohe.

And the city fathers were, shall we say, creative in their use of directional labels on streets.   North King Street is West of downtown is South King Street is East of downtown.  East Manoa Road is East of Manoa Road, but both Manoa and East Manoa run in a northerly direction.

Local directions are given using reference points.  Head Mauka or Makai (towards the ocean) or perhaps toward Diamond Head or perhaps Pearl Harbor.  As one moves around the Island, the references change.   Once you know where the local landmarks are, it’s easy.

Two mountain ranges run diagonally from Southeast to Northwest and there is a large central plain in between.  The Koolau Mountains separate Honolulu from Kailua and the windward side.   The Waianae Mountains run all along the western coast.  Northeasterly trade winds dominate normal weather.   The windward shore including most of of the Koolau Mountains are wet, the West shore is hot and much drier.

The map that follows has one important flaw.  THERE IS NO ROAD around Kaena Point (the western most point on the island).   The road has been impassable since the late 1960’s.  I have no idea why it is shown as  a road.

And the road across the Waianae Mountains (route 780) traverses military lands and is only open one day a year.


If you rent a car and want to view the dramatic scenery there are 3 basic choices.

  1. Tour the East end of the Island
  2. Visit the West shore
  3. Tour the stuff in the middle.

My favorite relatively short one day trip covers the East end of the island.   Take Kalakaua Ave. toward Diamond Head until the road ends, then follow Diamond Head Road into Kahala.  Work your way up to H1 East.  When the freeway ends you will be on the Kalanianiole Highway, the main road around the East end of the Island.

Possible stops include Hanauma Bay, the Blow Hole, Sandy Beach, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse, Makapuu Beach, Sea Life Park, Waimanalo Beach, Bellows Beach and Kailua town.  The stretch of road from Hanauma Bay to Waimanalo is spectacularly beautiful.   Pull off the road a few times and take in the view.   On a clear day you can see Molokai in the distance, and if the humidity is low you can see Maui too.

I like to stop at Hanauma Bay,

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park, Honolulu, HI

just to look at the spectacular view, then stop again at some point along  the road before Sandy Beach.  If the surf is high, the Blow Hole is a fun choice.

Next is the Makapuu Lighthouse parking lot.  The walk to the lighthouse and back takes about an hour.  After a lunch in Kailua town,

I’m ready for Kailua Beach before heading back to town.

European Travel — Some random thoughts and helpful hints

Christmas — the perfect time to change things up a bit and talk about my favorite pastime, travel.

My wife and I frequently travel in November, anxious to shorten the long Alaska winter.  This fall we returned to Europe, exploring new places and revisiting old favorites, mostly in Austria, Italy and Spain. Some random thoughts and observations.

I love to travel by train in Europe.   It is usually convenient, sometimes fast, and can be inexpensive. German trains tend to be relatively expensive while trains in Italy are among the cheapest I’ve encountered.   Fast trains don’t always go where you want to go which means it can sometimes be faster and cheaper to fly. Try getting from Rome to Barcelona on a train.

On this past trip we scheduled a train from Innsbruck to Verona around a scheduled Italian rail strike.  We knew when the one day strike would end, and purchased our tickets accordingly.  Sure enough the train showed up.  We had a great trip through the Alps by train.

Avoid what Italians call American coffee, stick with espresso or cappuccino.  I don’t know what happens at the border.  Coffee in Austria is OK, cross into Italy and it ….well….just stick to cappuccino.

If you want to experience slow service in Italy…..pay for a meal with a credit card.   I once waited 20 minutes for my server to take my VISA card.  I finally gave up and put down a few euros….swoosh …it was gone in an instant, and my change arrived a minute or two later.

Sausages in Austria taste nothing like the American version of Vienna Sausages.

I’m a big fan of the breakfasts served in most hotels in Continental Europe;  wonderful breads, espresso drinks, yummy cheeses and cold cuts, maybe some eggs and/or bacon,  juices,  and fruits including some I’ve never seen before.

Question 1:  Why are egg yokes a darker color in Europe?

Question 2:  Does anybody grow seedless table grapes in Europe?

Question 3:  Who uses money changers? The kiosks are everywhere in Europe and the rates are awful.   Want to really get ripped off, cash a travelers check in a foreign currency. You get a lousy exchange rate, and get charged an additional fee because it’s a check.    Last year I read a guide book actually recommending them….how 1970’s.

ATM’s are everywhere and free.  And the exchange rate is better at an ATM too.  I’ve taken to charging stuff only when necessary.  Cash is king and you avoid the foreign currency fees on your credit card when you use ATM’s.

Question 4:  I wonder how much soda is taxed?  I was in a convenience story in Italy.  Wine started at 2 euro for a 750 ml bottle, a giant bottle of beer was 2.8 euro and a coke was 3 euro  for a small can.  My solution to this dilemma….drink wine.

Happy traveling