Whether you and your partner want to get active or simply sip on a cocktail and savour the sunsets, there is a whole lot to love about Waikiki, writes Stephanie Azzopardi
“Aloha!” says a smiling man adorned with a floral lei necklace.
The warm Hawaiian greeting that has become entrenched in western culture instantly puts me in holiday mode, and in my head I hear the words “welcome to paradise”.
As we step out from Honolulu airport the sun is rising, showing us in sunbeams filtered through the palm trees; these are good omens for our Oahu honeymoon.
Hawaii, a popular holiday spot for Americans, is also accessible for Australians, with flights from Melbourne taking only 10 hours, and routes on budget airlines available.
We have made our base Waikiki Beach, a bustling strip of high-rises, bars, restaurants and shops, all dotted along a picturesque stretch of sparkling blue ocean.
The Waikiki strip of beaches has sections bordered by rocks to provide calmer swimming water perfect for families. The open water is constantly dotted with mostly wannabe surfers trying to catch a wave.
I can’t help but think they might be trying to emulate Duke Kahanamoku, known as the father of modern surfing, who is immortalised with a statue adjacent to the beach.
Many places along the strip are named after Duke such as Duke’s restaurant where you can enjoy ‘lava flow’ cocktails and delicious fare while live music makes you feel totally relaxed.
When you think Hawaii, your mind can often drift to pork roasted on the beach at a luau. While this is still the case, and Kalua pork is indeed melt-in-your-mouth delicious, there is much more to try.
Hawaii is quite the melting pot of different cultures when it comes to dining choices. Mexican fare is popular, as is your classic American chilli dog or mac and cheese.
However, it would be a culinary crime to leave Hawaii without trying a Japanese poke bowl, think sushi, but deconstructed and full of even more fresh goodies. Tuna is caught on the Hawaiian waters, so you cannot get fresher sashimi.
It would be easy to settle in by the water and feast on all the cuisine and feel quite satisfied, however there is a lot more to this little island that is waiting to be explored.
To see how diverse this island is, you need to get up high.
We decide to tackle Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone and a United States National Natural Monument. Don’t worry, the volcano is dormant.
The 1.1-kilometre hike leads to the edge of the crater’s rim, the moderate walk features many steps. Due to its popularity and congestion you will almost be forced to take your time.
From the summit you can see the barren crater, the Pacific Ocean and Waikiki in all its glory. Make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen, and carry water while you are outdoors. Saying it’s hot out during August is an understatement.
Hawaii is not immune to the excess of the United States. The meals are big, the drinks are super-sized and grandeur is everywhere.
Juxtaposing this is the natural beauty of the many nature walks across the island. We head inland to explore stunning waterfalls amongst lush rainforest.
First stop is Manoa Falls, a short and slightly steep walk that is well worth it when you look up to see the water cascading from about 45 metres above you. Bring strong insect repellent as the mosquitos are rampant in this area.
Lulumahu Falls is not signposted so look out for the large number of cars parked along the Pali Highway and then the gap in the fence. This hike takes some maneuvering over rocks and across streams, however the beauty awaiting you at the end makes the effort totally worthwhile.
Feeling slightly better about all the mac and cheese we have eaten after a few hikes, it’s time to get back to the main event; let’s be honest, we are here for the beach and the ocean.
The easiest way to do this is by hiring a car and tackling driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, heading north from Waikiki along the coastline to some of the most beautiful beach spots on the island. We first make our way to Hanauma Bay, known as the best snorkelling spot on the island. There is a set capacity inside the popular bay but arriving at about 7am will guarantee you a spot.
The serene nature of the activity gives you the opportunity to glide above the coral and really study each fish, in various vibrant colours and sizes. It is an ideal way to connect with nature.
As far as wildlife goes, our hopes of seeing some turtles were realised at Laniakea Beach. Sea turtles bob up and down from the waves just metres from where we stand on the beach. In some moments we see a head poke out from the water, sometimes just a fin, as if they are giving us a wave.
If you want to jump in and relish in the waves yourself, Sunset Beach Park is the best spot to park yourself. The water is beautifully warm and the beach so expansive, you must make time to swim and relax all day.
The waves are moderately strong, so it pays to check you are in a supervised area or are a confident swimmer.
To finish this sun-kissed day, we head across to a cluster of food trucks parked on the side of the road.
At a caravan decorated with all the colours of the rainbow, aptly named Over The Rainbow Eats, we enjoy fresh tacos as the sky turns orange at sunset.
At this moment we understand why this is such a holiday hotspot now.
And we grapple with the realisation that the sun is setting on our trip here as well. Until next time.