The urban heart of the islands is something that you want to avoid if you are traveling to Hawai'i because of the islands. If you are flying in from L.A. or N.Y., N.Y., then you'd be likely to die outside of an urban environment and Honolulu is close enough to carry you over the one week vacation.

{moszoomimglink:From Queen's beach}Honolulu has most trappings of modern cities, including a vast array of shopping malls and stores. There are beautiful museums and galleries and universities, but none of that really compares with the corresponding institutions and businesses on the mainland. At the same time, you have to search really hard to find a real place, a Hawaiian place.

Since the airport is on the West side of the city and Waikiki is on the East, you'll get a chance to drive through town. I tried both the (crowded) freeway and the (slow) road on the ocean's edge. The former gives you some impressive vistas of Diamond Head, the crater that marks the end of Waikiki; the latter gets you right through downtown, unimpressive as it may be.

Waikiki is a huge conglomerate of hotels in all categories. Right now the most luxurious is the Kealani, the cheapest has no name, and the price difference is probably somewhere in the 10000% range. In between, you'll probably find the accomodation that suits you.

{moszoomimglink:Hula show in Honolulu}Expect little, and you'll be satisfied. Waikiki has a beautiful beach and the feel of Rio, with all those high-risers in the background. It is definitely not what you dream of when you think tropics. The weather is spectacular, very mild and warm. The surf is not the best, so that the masses of tourists on surf boards are continuously disappointed. Honolulu means sheltered bay in Hawaiian...

If you decide to stay in Honolulu, there are a few things really worth seeing:

  • The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a.k.a. the Pink Palace -- an excellent example of Hawaiian architecture
  • Queen Kapiolani Palace downtown -- if for nothing else, then for the pleasure of having been in the only Royal Palace in the United States!
  • Chinatown -- much more interesting than downtown, even more than Waikiki, Chinatown is very much a place where Chinese and kamaainas shop and live. It is a lot of fun if you are not a purist, and you can get some really incredible food
  • Paradise Gardens -- there is a piece of tropical paradise just a few minutes up the hills; definitely worth it
{moszoomimglink:The backyard of the Royal Hawaiian}