Think Hawaii and you probably think of beautiful beaches, big surf and bloody expensive. Well, Hawaii can be done even as a backpacker. We had a 5 day trip as a stop over from Canada to Australia as we found it was actually cheaper to fly via Honolulu with two separate airlines than direct to Sydney, so a free stop in Hawaii was a no brainer. Here’s our rundown of what we got up to on the main island of Oahu without breaking our daily travel budget (too much!)
Pearl Harbour Memorial
I'm sure you've seen the film. Pearl Harbour was the US Naval base that came under attack by the Japanese during WWII. The Japanese launched an unprovoked, surprise attack on the base in December 1941 sinking many battle ships and destroying even more planes. Now the site is a memorial to the lives lost and can be reached easily by bus from Honolulu/Waikiki for $2.50 each way. Unlike the rest of the site, the Arizona memorial can be visited for free with a limited number of tickets being released to the public each morning. We arrived super early (6am) and were about 100 back in the queue. Once you secure a ticket, you get an allotted time to board the boat that takes you across to the memorial which sits on top of a sunken battleship - the Arizona. There's also two really interesting museums and a film to digest, I was surprised how much we enjoyed this one.
Diamond Head crater hike
Diamond Head Crater is an old volcanic crater that sits just south of Waikiki Beach and boasts some incredible views back down across the city. To reach the entrance to the crater you can walk 40 minutes from the end of the beach or take a bus to the entrance road for a couple of dollars. Once through the tunnel which takes you into the crater itself, you pay just $1 to enter the site. The 90 minute return hike will lead you up inside the war bunkers with fantastic views in each direction. It's great seeing World famous Waikiki from up high.
Hanauma Bay snorkelling
There are many tour operators lining the busy streets of Waikiki offering snorkelling trips to Hanauma Bay but it can be done very easily and a lot cheaper if you go it alone. We simply caught the public bus for $2.50 each way which takes you directly to the National Park on the East side of the island. Hanauma Bay itself is probably a victim of its own success. With coral reefs and tropical fish being literally only a few meters offshore it draws big crowds which isn't necessarily good for the reef. The reef now has some irreversible damage but there's still a lot of cool fish to see including the national fish of Hawaii - the trigger fish. To enter the park you have to pay $7.50 and watch a safety video. Renting a snorkel/mask was around $40 each but we bought our own from one of the many ABC stores in town for half that. The beach is really good for sunbathing and the views of the bay amazing.
Lanikai pillbox hike
This hike, sometimes known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail offers some of the most spectacular views in all of Oahu. It's on the east side of Oahu i.e. more remote and much less busy than Waikiki. Again, we got out to Lanikai via the public bus for $2.50 and tackled the hike from the lesser known end starting near the Enchanted Lake Centre. The hike is a steep one and the footing is quite loose so decent footwear is a good idea but once you've tackled the red mud and walked through head high grass the views from the top looking down over Lanikai are amazing. A couple of old bunker/shelters offer some good vantage points on the way down. Lanikai beach offers fine white sand and some excellent snorkelling too.
Waikiki beach sunset
An obvious one but one not to be missed. The most perfect sunset on Waikiki beach with boats and many surfers catching the last waves of the day was one of our favourite things during our short time in Hawaii. We watched it every night, well the nights it wasn't raining anyway.
We barely scratched the surface during our five days there, we would have loved to go up to the north side of the island and even get across to one of the other islands but simply didn't have the time. A good excuse to go back I'd say.