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  • Janis Nunez

Oahu, Hawaii

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

My husband has always wanted to go to the Pearl Harbor Memorial. This spring break we got a chance to take our boys to pay their respects, and to see what Oahu had to offer. There is a lot to do, and with a car you will have a chance to see a lot more.

CAR RENTAL: We like to rent through Costco. It's almost always the best deal and if something happens and you can't make it for some reason there is no cancellation fee. When you get off the plane you can walk right across the street to the car rental location. There was a bit of a line, but it moved quickly. Once we got the car information, we headed to the garage to pick it up. The system fails here as you have to wait again, for the cars to be cleaned and prepared for the next guest. I'm not sure if this was because it was spring break or if this happens often.

We rented a full-size car. Be sure if you are staying at an Airbnb with free parking that it can accommodate a larger vehicle if you plan to get an SUV or minivan. Some places have small parking spots that make it difficult to maneuver.

WHERE TO STAY: We looked into a number of hotels. Most have resort fees and parking fees, so it was narrowing it down to finding one with cheaper fees and also a kitchen. The Airbnb we were interested in that got snatched up quickly, so we had to figure something else out. Luckily one of the places we looked at was also a hotel, and we were able to book a room through the hotel's website. We stayed at the Luana Waikiki Hotels and Suites. The reviews online looked good, and it was walking distance from the beach.

They do have an amenity fee of $27, and a Valet parking fee of $35. You can take your car in and out as many times as you need to. They were always quick to retrieve our car when we were ready to head out. One of the amenities was a $10 dining credit per day for the Fishhook Cafe located on the grounds. We used this in the morning to grab a bite and some coffee before heading out. The pastries were very good, as was the coffee.

The location of this hotel is great if you like to stay out of the heavy crowds. Fort DeRussy Beach Park is right behind and to the side of the hotel. This makes for a very nice stroll to the beach. Lots of vegetation, birds, and chickens walking freely to look at on your way to the beach. This was actually the beach we preferred to downtown Waikiki beach. Less busy, more sand, and beautiful sunsets. South of the park where the high-rise hotels are, there are beach walls that create less appealing views.

Here is a look at our hotel on the 8th floor room with kitchenette and city view. We were happy to have all kitchen accessories at our fingertips.

COVID INFORMATION: Lucky for us the state of Hawaii dropped the covid mandates on March 26th (we arrived on the 28th). We were still required to wear masks on the airplane and in the airport, but not around the island (indoor or outdoor).


Day 1: We arrived in the afternoon, so we had a late start to the day, but definitely wanted to explore a bit. My husband didn't come until the following day, so we didn't want to do anything he'd miss and stick close to the hotel area, which suited us perfectly.

We were hungry, but not sure where to dine. We knew we needed to grab some musabi to hold us over. You can find it most places and at most ABC stores. Look for the little heat machines and you will find a number of different kinds. We had to try the spam, egg and rice first. My oldest son loved the teriyaki chicken musabi best. I think the basic ones are about $2.50 each, so it's a cheap snack to hold you over in between meals.

We walked around a bit to get the lay of the land and found a local business grilling outside and snagged some fried rice and hula chicken. It was delicious. Then we headed to the beach to see the sunset. The view through the park to the beach is really beautiful. It was nice to have it so close to where we were staying.

We didn't see this much color the rest of the trips at sunset. The sky was definitely amazing that first night. It changed color many times after the sun went down.

It was breathtaking. The photo with trees is walking back through the park toward the hotel.

Drastic change in colors from one side to the other (see video below).

Day 2: I had to pick my husband up from the airport, so we decided to stay close and go to DeRussy Beach again. This time to relax and take in the sunshine. On our way we stopped to grab some acai bowls at Tropical Tribe. They were delicious and just what we needed to start the day. We stayed until the time I had to pick my husband up at the airport. There are lots of flowers along the walk in the park to and from the beach.

While I went to the airport, the boys and my mom got cleaned up so that we could head out to lunch with my husband. We walked over to Paia Fish Market. We all tried the burgers: mahi, salmon and snapper. We were all very happy with this spot.

A short walk takes you to Waikiki Beach. It's loaded with people and there are lots of shops and restaurants along the way, as well as high rise hotels right on the beach. One thing we noticed was that the hotels right on the beach didn't have any loungers and umbrellas out on the beach to enjoy. The stretch of beach is really too narrow for this. And from what I read the pools are not so big, so they get really crowded. Do your research though and you will find what you are looking for. It seems most people purchase chairs and umbrellas from the store and then walk to find a spot to enjoy. There are places on the beach you can rent an umbrella and lounger for around $60/day.

The International Market Place is a short walk from the beach. It's a beautiful mall to walk around. It's open air and also has a tree house you can walk through. We enjoyed the art galleries there. They also had a Japanese grocery store that my boys loved exploring. Be sure to get a photo by one of the lighted signs for a keepsake. There are also public restrooms here if you are walking around and need a restroom.

While walking around we noticed they were setting up for a Luau.

Then we watched the Vietnam Veterans Parade before heading back to the hotel.

We headed to the beach that evening to watch the sunset again. Colors weren't as pretty this time around, but it was nice to get away from the crowds and relax by the beach.

Day 3: We drove to the North Shore for the day. We stopped at Haleiwa Bowls on the way to grab some acai bowls to take to the beach to enjoy while we looked for turtles. Laniakea Beach is known as Turtle Beach. It's not a spot to swim so much as it is to look for turtles. There was one in the water near where we sat, and then another resting on the beach. They had people there to make sure people stay clear of the turtles and enjoy from afar.

Parking here is a bit tricky. We were there early, and so were lots of other people. We parked down the road and walked a bit to get to the beach. Be prepared for lots of cars.

Next stop Waimea Bay I read that this was one of the best beaches on the north shore. It has bathrooms and showers to wash the sand off after your visit. They also have life guards on duty. The waves can get really big here, so you need to pay attention. When we arrived it was safe to boogie board and swim, but as the day progressed the waves got dangerously high. Lifeguards had to pull someone out of the water. Just be cautious and pay attention to the flags on the beach. Be sure to take an umbrella as there is no shade.

There is a parking lot, but it has minimal spaces. Get here early or you will have to wait for someone to leave to get a space.

We were able to see some whales from the beach too!

When we were hot and had enough beach, we headed to Shark's Cove to do some snorkeling. This is THE SPOT to snorkel. We all loved it. You can park for free along the street, and walk right over. It's shallow and easy to snorkel, but you will need water shoes and there are a number of rocks to step over and in-between to get to the snorkeling. It's worth it! We always bring our mask and snorkel on trips. No need for fins.

Take an umbrella for shade. You can also take cover under a palm tree if one is available. We loved this spot. Although several people were there, it never felt like there were too many people, or that we didn't have enough space. One of our favorite stops for sure!

After snorkeling we were hungry. There are food trucks right across the street to grab a bite. I didn't do a lot of research into them and we wasted a lot of money on mediocre fish tacos with rice and beans. I believe the total was $80 for 4 plates and 2 waters. Ridiculous, and not tasty at all. Find something in the area before you go, or take a cooler and eat it on the beach.

Next, we stopped by Sunset Beach to watch some surfing. The waves were brutal, and we even saw someone's board break in two!

After cleaning up, we headed to dinner at Marukame Udon. This was by far our favorite meal of the trip. The line at night is out the door and around the corner, but I promise you it's worth the wait. We probably waited 30-45 minutes to get in. They make the udon noodles from scratch right in front of you. The broth in these bowls is delicious. If you love udon or ramen, you have to go! We got matcha lattes to go with our meals. They have a number of tempura you can get to go with your dish as well. We tried the potato, shrimp and chicken. Everything was excellent. We also had leftovers that we were able to heat up later in our room kitchenette. We still talk about this udon. Seriously, the best!

Day 4: The Pearl Harbor Memorial is a must see when going to Oahu. If you research online everything tells you to reserve your tickets for the boat that goes out to the USS Arizona in advance. It is possible to just walk in if you don't mind a short wait. We arrived right when they opened and were able to get seated in the standby line right away. We were on the second boat out for the day. As long as one person from the group is seated in the waiting area the spot is held. We had a cup of coffee while we waited. Take water and apply sunscreen. It's hot and the sun is brutal. Admission is free. No bags allowed.

There are two museums on the grounds, as well an outdoor film area, and the grounds itself has a number of things to walk to and read. There is also an area where you can pay to go onto a ship and see more, but we didn't do any of that. By the time we finished we were hungry and ready for lunch.

Just down the street from the memorial is Restaurant 604. It's about a 4-minute drive and is an open-air restaurant with a view of the marina. My mom and I got a frozen drink, but found it mediocre. My husband tried a local beer and enjoyed it. The portion sizes for the food are huge! Everything was delicious.

If I haven't mentioned it, the drives along the way to each of these places is beautiful once you get out of the city. Definitely rent a car and explore on your own.

Next, we headed to the Byodo-In Temple.

The drive into the temple through the cemetery is beautiful.

There is an admission fee of $5. It was nice place to walk around and get out of the crowds in Waikiki. It did rain a bit off and on, but it was still beautiful. Be sure and ring the bell!