Waikiki and Honolulu, Hawaii Trip Report

In July 2019 my husband and I took a week long trip to Hawaii. We visited the islands of Kauai and Oahu. Part of our stay on Oahu was at Disney’s Aulani Resort. Welcome to my blog series that will cover our entire trip. My goal is to help you get an idea about what visiting Hawaii is like, offer some activity options, and to review our accommodations, dining and other experiences. See the links below to read about other portions of this vacation. 


Disney Aulani https://4ears4eyesforthemagic.travel.blog/2020/05/13/aulani-disney-in-hawaii/

Dole Plantationhttps://4ears4eyesforthemagic.travel.blog/2020/11/05/oahu-hawaii-visiting-the-dole-plantation/

Pearl Harbor https://4ears4eyesforthemagic.travel.blog/2020/11/10/visiting-pearl-harbor-oahu-hawaii/

I am a travel agent and I would love to help you plan your trip to Hawaii or anywhere else! 

All of my travel services are complimentary. 

If you would like to discuss your next adventure contact me at: katiev@themagicsyours.com 

Why Hawaii?

Really why not Hawaii? It is absolutely beautiful, has tons to do, offers something for every aged or type of traveler. Plus if you are coming from the mainland US you won’t have to worry about passports or changing money or any of the hassles of international travel. But you will feel like you are somewhere very different from home. 

We choose Hawaii as part of our journey to visit all 50 states as a couple, this was state 47. This was my second visit to Hawaii and my husbands first. On my first visit I was only on Oahu. 

Why Oahu?

Oahu is the most visited island in Hawaii, and home to Honolulu and Waikiki. It is where you will find a lot of the tourist attractions you may be most familiar with such as Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, and the Dole Plantation. Oahu is also the most populated and busiest island. If you are looking to find that busy tourist atmosphere, but also have some options to visit some more relaxing locations around the Island such as the North Shore or resorts outside of Honolulu. Oahu is a good choice for you. 

I chose to visit Oahu on this trip for a few reasons. Firstly I had been there before as a teenager and I had enjoyed it. I wanted to share what I had seen there with my husband. My husband wanted to visit Pearl Harbor. Oahu is also where Disney’s Aulani Resort is located and that was a must do for this trip. So we were easily sold on Oahu. 

Deciding where you are going to stay in Oahu will greatly effect the vacation atmosphere you will be enjoying. If you want to stay in the heart of it all with the hustle and bustle then you want to consider a hotel in Waikiki. If you want a more relaxed and laid back atmosphere the island is full of resorts in more spread out areas.

We choose to spilt our stay with 3 nights in a hotel in Waikiki and then 2 nights at Aulani Disney Hawaiian Resort, which is in the more relaxed suburb of Ko Olina. We wanted to include a stay in Waikiki to be able to have a few days of the bustling city atmosphere which we enjoy.

Getting To Oahu

We started off this trip in Kauai and then we island-hoped to Oahu via Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu. We flew Hawaiian Arilines and our experience was perfect and the whole processes was fairly simple. The flight itself was under 30 minutes and we were soon in the large Honolulu Airport. This airport felt very familiar with lots of stores and dining and many more gates than the Lihue Airport on Kauai. Thought it did have some areas that are open air which is lovely in a tropical climate. 

If you have any hesitation about visiting more than one island during your trip, don’t. It was an efficient and affordable way to see two very different islands.

After landing we grabbed our bags at baggage claim. Some gates here require a shuttle to get to the main terminal. With our bags in hand we grabbed a taxi to head to our hotel. The taxi ride was around $50 and took around 30 minutes. 

We choose not to rent a car during the Waikiki portion of our stay. The charges to park at the hotel were high like in any city and we knew we would be able to use ride-sharing or taxis to get to the few places we could not walk to from the hotel. We did rent a car when we transitioned to Disney’s Aulani through the end of the vacation. 

Our Hotel 

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach which is a tower hotel located in the heart of Waikiki and is two blocks from the beach front, but has water views. 

The lobby here had lots of comfy seating and a nice island vibe. Also in the lobby is a store with a good amount of pre-packaged food, snacks, treats, and souvenirs. Step outside the hotel and you are on a busy city street just steps aways from a large shopping and dining complex. Cross 2 blocks and you are at the beach front. The pool here is a rooftop pool and you will hear the sounds of a busy city while you enjoy it. There are loungers and a hot tube as well as a bar on the pool deck. The hotel also has a fitness center and offers yoga classes. Parking is available at an additional charge. There was also a laundry room available. In the lobby you will find the hotels restaurant and bar which served breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Our room was a 1 king bed standard room low floor. We opted for one of the less expensive rooms on a low floor (aka no view). We wanted to have rooms with an ocean view in Kauai and at Disney’s Aulani so to make the budget work we opted for a low floor in Waikiki. This is a choice I would make again. We did not miss the view here and we were not in our room that often as this was the busiest part of the trip for us. Also each floor had an area of the hallway that was essentially a large open air balcony where you could see the views. The room itself was on the small side, common in city hotels anywhere. The room was well appointed and had everything I have come to expect from a Hilton Garden Inn brand hotel. The room has a mini-fridge, microwave, TV and free wifi. 

Why did this hotel works for us? We choose Hilton properties wherever possible as we enjoy the amenities and participate in their loyalty program. The presence of a fitness center is also high on the list when we choose a hotel. It also offered a mini fridge and microwave in room, we typically make our own breakfasts and sometime pack lunches when on vacation. So access to the appliances is a huge convenience. This hotel worked perfectly for what we needed. I did not expect to spend much time at the beach or in the pool so the walk to the beach was not an issue for us and the rooftop pool was more than adequate for our purposes. The biggest selling point for this hotel was the location, we would be able to walk to many of the places we planned to go. There was also easy access to taxis or ride-sharing. The option for a lower floor room at a lower price was a big plus as well. This was my least favorite hotel of the trip but it checked all of the boxes for what we needed for our stay. 

I recommend this hotel for anyone who wants to stay in Waikiki and does not require direct beach access as a must have. Best for those who do not plan to spend a lot of time in their rooms due to the smaller size. There are many many hotels in Waikiki so make sure to check your options and find the right fit for you and your price range.


Historic Honolulu 

On our first day staying in Waikiki we did some sightseeing in the historic district of Honolulu. We took an Uber and the ride was about 15 minutes from our hotel. This area of Honolulu houses a lot of historic and government buildings. If you enjoy history, museums, or architecture I would advise taking a half of a day to visit this area. 

First we toured the Iolani Palace, completed in 1879, it was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii until the overthrow and end of their rule not too long after that time. The last Hawaiian Queen, Queen Liliʻuokalani, was inprissoned in the Palace for some time. The quilt she made during that time is still on display.  The building had various government uses after that and was eventually transformed into the museum it is today. The palace tells the story of the royal family of that time, the end of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and the start of the road to eventual U.S. statehood. It is a sad story and one that American’s don’t typically learn enough about. I recommend a visit. This is a great activity for a rainy day as well. 

Afterwords we crossed the street to check out the Ali’iolani Hale the home of the State Supreme Court. Outside of which is the King Kamehameha Statue. You might recognize this as the fictional home of Hawaii 5-0. 

On the other side of the Iolani Palace is the Hawaii State Capital Building where we walked the grounds of the open air home to the House and Senate of Hawaii. Nearby you will find Washington Place the Hawaiian Governor’s Mansion. Walking back toward Waikiki on S King Street there are several other historic buildings including Kawaiahaʻo Church and the Mission Houses. Keep your eyes open for the heritage site signs. I suggest doing some research before visiting and plotting out which buildings you want to see and which if any you want to tour. 

The Honolulu Art Museum is also walking distance from these historic buildings. If you are looking for even more history, check out the Bishop Museum that features collections about Hawaiian culture and history. Located about a 10 minute drive past the historic district. 


Waikiki is essentially four things, shopping, dining, the beach, and resorts. 

If you are looking for some inexpensive souvenirs check out one of the dozens of ABC Stores around. There is also always the popular Aloha Stadium Swap Meet that goes on every weekend. 

For mall shopping or more high end items, as well as plenty of dining there are two malls The International Market Place and the Ala Moana Center. The Ala Moana Center is a very traditional mall, including some department stores but it is open air. It also has some stores that sell more Hawaiian specific merchandise. The International Market Place is right in the heart of Waikiki and takes up several blocks right near the beach. It was directly across the street from our hotel. Both are great places to take a walk and the International Market Place had a lot of restaurant options including a food court we ate at several times. Across from the food court you will find Kona Coffee Purveyors which my husband absolutely loved and called the best coffee he has ever had. 

There is food everywhere! We stuck to mostly Asian food while we were there which is extremely popular in Hawaii and easily available. We loved both the Goma Tei Ramen and Seoul Tofu House.

The beach in Waikiki is beautiful. All beaches in Hawaii are public so you can go wherever you would like. The “main” beach area would be that near the Duke Kahanamoku Statue. We are not beach people so we only spent a short amount of time at the beach just to experience is. 

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather-permitting from 6:30pm to 7:30pm (6:00pm to 7:00pm Nov-Dec-Jan) there is a free hula show on the beach. At the Kūhiō Beach Hula mound on Kalākaua Ave near Uluniu Avenue across from the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī. The main seating area goes fast (bring you own chairs if you want one). But there is a lot of room for standing and viewing but you may not have the best view. I recommend checking it out it was a lot of fun to see and you can’t beat free. 

Diamond Head

** Starting April 2022 you must make timed reservations 14 days in advance to visit Diamond Head **

Diamond Head is an extant volcano and is the most convent hike you can do from the Waikiki / Honolulu area it is also probably the most famous and most popular on the island. We walked from our hotel which was a bit of a walk but doable if you are used to walking that distance. The parking here is limited so if you plan to drive and park get there as early as possible. You can also take a taxi or ride-share and there are public transportation options available. There is an entrance fee whether you are walking in or parking. 

At the base of the hike there are picnic tables, and some concessions available. As well as restrooms, a small store, and water fountains. 

The hike from the entrance to the top of the mountain is just about a mile, and then another mile for the return trip. The trail is extremely well marked but it is steep and uneven and parts even have steeps including a spiral staircase. At the top you will find the remains of an old military bunker and their are dark tunnels you will walk through. This hike would be challenging to those not prepared physically. If you have concerns I suggest that you check YouTube to see if you feel comfortable with the trail. Also if you are afraid on heights I would skip this one are you are essentially walking up the side of a mountain the whole time. 

If you are looking for a nice quite hike this is not your pick. It is very popular with lots and lots if people. Come early to beat the crowds. There is also no shade so come early to beat the heat. 

The payoff at the top if the great views of the whole island including Honolulu and Waikiki. This was a really fun activity and I would strongly suggest it to anyone physically up to the hike. 

Allow an hour and half to two hours for the round trip hike. If you are looking for more activities in the area the Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo are both nearby. 

There is a lot more to do around Oahu if you want to explore the island further. Of course there are also additional things to do in Waikiki and Honolulu but these are the things we choose. 

After our time staying in Waikiki we walked a few blocks to a car rental location and picked up our car and headed to Disney’s Aulani Resort which was about 40 minutes away. Check out the additional blog links at the top of this blog to read about other parts of our trip. 

I am a travel agent and I would love to help you plan your trip to Hawaii or anywhere else!

All of my travel services are complimentary. 

If you would like to discuss your next adventure contact me at: katiev@themagicsyours.com 

Published by katiethemagicsyours

Hi, I’m Katie! I’m an independent travel agent with The Magic’s Yours Travel. I specialize in Disney vacations but I book all sorts of travel all over the world. I book Disney, Universal, cruise, resort, all-inclusive, hotel, and guided travel. All of my travel agent services are FREE of charge to the traveler. You pay no extra fees for using a travel agent, but you get an expert in your corner to offer you VIP planing services. Contact me for a free quote today. Email me at: katiev@themagicsyours.com

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