This past winter, my significant other and I desperately wanted to escape the cold, icy weather back home, so we planned a trip to the tropical Hawaiian island of Oahu. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with warm, balmy air and aquamarine waters. We spend most of our vacation on Oahu’s North Shore, but by the end of our trip we realized that we wanted to explore more of the island. So we decided to spend our last two nights in Honolulu, Oahu’s major city. While Honolulu is a hotspot for tourists, there are also plenty of locals living and working in the city, so we decided to avoid most of the touristy attractions and instead experience Honolulu like a local.
Since we had to change our travel plans at the very last minute, we were worried that we weren’t going to be able to find a hotel room in Honolulu. It is Hawaii, after all, and hotels are in high demand year round. Fortunately, we were able to book a last-minute hotel in Honolulu in mere minutes thanks to HotelTonight. With our hotel room booked, we hopped in our rental car and made our way from the quiet North Shore to the bustling city of Honolulu.
Since we had spent several days enjoying the beaches and the laidback vibes of the North Shore, we were happy to experience a different side of the island. Honolulu is busy, filled with both locals and tourists, but it’s the perfect home base for adventures on the south and east sides of the island. After checking into our hotel, we changed into hiking attire and headed out to experience one of the top hikes on the island – Koko Crater Trail. Oahu locals love getting outside and staying active, which is why we crossed paths with many locals, as well as some tourists, as we hiked up the Koko Crater Trail, which culminates with breathtaking views of the island and the Pacific Ocean.
Following our hike at Koko Crater, we made our way to the windward coast of the island to see one of the world’s most beautiful beaches for ourselves – Lanikai Beach. Since Lanikai is a bit of a drive from Honolulu, we were pleased to discover that it wasn’t packed with tourists. Instead, we noticed that Lanikai seemed to be a popular beach among locals. After basking in the sunshine and swimming in the bright blue waters of Lanikai, we slipped back into our hiking shoes and headed up the trail to the Lanikai Pillboxes, which provides some of the most picturesque views on the entire island. After our afternoon in Lanikai, we fully understood why this beach’s name means “Heavenly Sea.”
Since we wanted to stay away from the tourist-ridden streets of Waikiki and Honolulu as much as we could, we chose to visit Chinatown for dinner. This vibrant neighborhood in Honolulu is actually one of the oldest Chinatowns in the U.S., and it’s home to a great selection of authentic Chinese markets and restaurants. We spent the evening exploring this unique neighborhood before enjoying some delicious Chinese food for dinner.
Since I don’t like spending my vacations stuck on a beach chair, I decided that we could squeeze in one more hike before our time in Hawaii ran out. So the next morning, we traveled inland to hike Manoa Falls, a picturesque rainforest hike that ends at a staggeringly high waterfall. Manoa Falls was unlike any other hike we did during our Hawaii vacation, as it was a trek through the lush rainforest rather than a climb up cliffs or craters. The hike through Manoa Falls offers plenty of great spots for photo ops, as well as spots for quiet reflection.
Before heading to the airport, we decided to make one last stop. We visited Iolani Palace, the only royal residence in the U.S., and the former home of the Hawaiian monarchs. We took a tour of this opulent estate, which combined European influences with tropical styles, and learned about the fascinating history of the Hawaiian monarchy. Taking a quick tour of Iolani Palace was a great way to end our sun-filled stay in Honolulu, and we definitely can’t wait to return to Hawaii in the near future.
Oahu is full of awe-inspiring natural beauty, as well as lively neighborhoods and busy beaches. While Honolulu is a popular tourist destination, it’s easy to explore this Hawaiian city like a local. There are plenty of reasons why locals love living in Honolulu, and we were able to experience these reasons firsthand by spontaneously changing our travel plans. Without HotelTonight, our last-minute vacation in Honolulu may not have been possible, and we could have missed out on our chance to explore a new part of this beautiful island.