While New Zealand is completely beautiful and amazing it is also the most geographically isolated country in the world, so holiday destination lists often favour proximity and travel time over anything else. If you want beautiful beaches, you'd probably choose one of the Pacific Islands (Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, and even Tahiti are all under six hours away). If you want excellent shopping you might stick with the eastern side of Australia (I have excellent advice on Sydney  and Melbourne). If you want amazing hiking trails, perhaps you'd choose Indonesia or even just head to the majestic mountains of the South Island.
However, since heading to Hawaii in August I have most definitely changed my mind. It has everything.
Better still, it's only nine or so hours from Auckland (I was under the delusion that it was 12 for some reason - so was pleasantly surprised when I got on the plane!)
By 'everything', I mean regardless of your age or interests you'd be hard-pressed to not find something in Hawaii you enjoy. Even sitting in your hotel room reading a book is an altogether pleasant experience when you have beautiful vistas and 500+ cable channels to watch (hey! Down here we have, what, five channels. I happen to like watching back-to-back episodes of Teen Mom when jet lag kicks in, thankyouverymuch).
But just in case you still are not convinced, here's a list of five essential things to do on the island of Oahu if you find yourself lucky enough to be heading to Hawaii someday soon.
|Sunset spectators on Waikiki|
Watch a sunset. Anywhere on the island is sure to provide lovely views, but it's all the more fun to do it with dozens of others. Whether they're paddling out on paddleboats or paddling in on surfboards, it almost feels as if everyone stops and takes a few moments to watch the sky turn a myriad of colours and the sun sink below the horizon for another day.
|Sunsets from hotel balconies are also pretty great.|
|8am beach action on Waikiki|
2. Try a water activity. The water here is completely amazing and everywhere you look people are taking advantage of it. The above was shot at 8am in a very busy area of Waikiki beach - the end further away from Diamond Head is mellow compared to this. I highly recommend trying paddleboarding, or going on a boat dinner cruise on a katamaran. Kiosks selling packages are situated along the beach and prices seem standard across the different vendors. Paddleboarding is insane amounts of fun, is very good for your core, and an experience like no other. You actually feel like you're walking on water and it's magical.
|Or you could go crazy and take in a surfing lesson!|
|Contrasting views from the summit of Diamond Head.|
3. Walk up Diamond Head. The volcanic crater that anchors the Eastern edge of Waikiki's coastline is a must-visit. Not only do you get a mad dose of stair-climber holiday action, but you also get to see an amazing panorama of the island of Oahu. From the breathtaking blue-green water below to the insane expanse of hotels of Waikiki, it is an excellent way to take in your surroundings. The trail is approximately 1.5 hours round-trip and includes lots of steep stairs. It's not difficult if you take frequent breathers, but definitely requires a few bottles of water if you're there during the day. And the sliced pineapple from the food truck at the bottom is the sweetest and most well-deserved you'll ever taste.
|Beautiful beaches and boys on the North Shore|
4. Visit the North Shore. It seems such a shame that so many visitors to Oahu will never see more than the few streets of Waikiki. Sure, there's a lot contained in those streets to keep you busy - but the North Shore is only a few hours away and such an incredibly different experience. The sand is whiter, the beaches less crowded. The people seem more relaxed, the food more authentic. Plus, there's beaches with turtles on them. If you can't spend a night there (at least!) I highly recommend a bus tour. It's not my preferred choice while travelling, but I was fortunate to get the Robert's Hawaii Oahu Island Circle Tour for free (a long story involving a very harshly-worded phone conversation) and I'm really glad I went. You see the entire island, stopping at key places along the way and seeing things you would never otherwise knew existed. Not only that, it has put the North Shore right up the top of my list for when I go back - I'd love to spend 3 or 4 nights there.
|Helena's Hawaiian Food. Seriously good.|
5. Eat an authentic Hawaiian meal. Helena's Hawaiian Food was recommended to us by the hotel my friends were staying at. Oh, my tastebuds! What a feast! The taxi ride took about 20 mins from Waikiki, so it's a bit off the beaten tourist track, but the queue outside quickly confirmed that our efforts were worth it. Then when the food arrived we couldn't have been more certain. I highly recommend this place - truly delicious, inexpensive, and a full-on authentic Hawaiian experience. If you go, just ask them to feed you whatever they like. It's even better if you don't have to make decisions after a long wait in the blazing sunshine.
- Ala Moana Centre - your one-stop mall for amazing American shopping. If you hit up Macy's, be sure to take your passport or overseas driver's licence - they give you a 10% off everything card for being from out of town! (Seriously - 10% on top of whatever other sales are on at the time. I got a Michael Kors shirt for $45, reduced from something ridiculous like $200)
- Shorebird Restaurant - not exactly authentic Hawaiian, but a truly entertaining experience all the same. You order off a menu of fish or poultry or cuts of meat, which are then brought to your table - raw- on a tray with cooking suggestions from your server. You then head on over to the huge BBQ and grill your meat with the help of a chef, if needed. A thorough salad bar completes your meal. Plus, the whole restaurant is open-air and right on the beach, so it's really quite amazing.
- Cocktails at sunset - there's multiple places to choose from here, and they're all spectacular. I recommend Duke's if you're into people-and-plastic-surgery spotting (more fun than it sounds!) or the historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The above sunset shot was taken just outside Shorebirds, which also does an excellent cocktail hour.
- Don Quijote - if you're staying on Oahu for a while, and you're lucky enough to have a fridge in your room/apartment, you need to take a trip to Don Quijote. It's the local's supermarket and filled with a huuuuge range of inexpensive and local wares and produce. Also, it just beats throwing all your money at WalMart (although, admittedly, that's pretty fun - have you seen their cosmetics section?)
- Cafe Kyra - a tiny little kiosk outside Don Quijote that makes hands-down-the-best coffee in Hawaii. If you're missing your daily latte and you can't bear the thought of going to Starbucks (me neither! Let's be friends!) you need to detour past here on your way to Ala Moana. Totally worth it.