Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oahu's Waikiki is not (just) a tourist trap

While you will not find a little grass shack, a stroll along 2-mile long Waikiki Beach is a trip through Hawaiian history. To be clear, WKK is sort of Las Vegas minus the gambling, plus the ocean, with some 10 square blocks packed with high-rises, bars, restaurants, fashion shopping, and ticky tack stores that cater to sun scorched tourists just off the jet from Omaha, LA, or Tokyo. But this same ground not long ago (and for centuries before that) was home to the Ali'i (Hawaiian royalty), as evidenced by huge Kapiolani Park next to Waikiki, which was bequeathed to the people by King Kalakaua in honor of his wife. Real Hawaiians flock to the beaches daily, to frolic in the warm water under the watchful brow of Diamond Head.

Surfing is a tradition dating back hundreds of years, yes, even before the Beach Boys. The entire historic stroll along the beach is accented with historical plaques and statues, including these surfers with a monk seal, and also one of Duke Kahanamoku, surfing legend and Olympic champion swimmer.  Not far from the hubbub is the Waikiki Aquarium, operated by the University of Hawaii, where you can get some serious eye-contact with the monk seals (an endangered species, and Hawaii's only native mammals).

This guy may look like an accountant, but his family dates way back in Hawaiian history, and the conch shell that sounds at a nightly beachside ceremony is a call to his ancestors to further the Polynesian cultural traditions.

Theres' nothing like the beach at sunset to cap the day. Although Oahu has its urban corridor, finding aloha is not hard. First-timers on a budget might consider this island, since cheap rooms can be found, and you don't really need the added expense of a rental car or flight to an outer island.

Oahu Trailblazer has details on Waikiki, Honolulu, and the rural reaches of Oahu. If trying to decide which island is best for you, get ahold of No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planner with a self-test that makes sure you make the right choices.