Before our trip to Hawaii, if you had asked me which Hawaiian island would be my first choice to visit, I'm certain I wouldn't have said Oahu. Not that I was complaining - I was ecstatic to get to vacation on any Hawaiian island (or any island at all for that matter!), but given my pick, I would've been more attracted to Maui's famed beaches, Kauai's natural beauty, or the Big Island's active volcanoes than the reported crowds and tourism on Oahu.
Oh, how wrong I was. I had heard that traffic was terrible on Oahu and that everything on the island was overpriced and ridiculously expensive. I found that both of these rumors were untrue, though it probably has a lot to do with the fact I've spent most of my life in the DC area. Honolulu traffic? Ha ha, Washington traffic kicks your butt! Many people in the DC area commute further than the entire distance across Oahu on a daily basis (and they don't get to look at palm trees while they're driving, either). $9 resort cocktails? They're $12 in DC.
Yes, Waikiki (where we stayed during our first week on the island while Larry was working) is crowded and touristy, and typically the kind of place I like to avoid on vacation. However, I had no problem keeping myself occupied during the days while Larry was in meetings.
There were plenty of people out and about: shopping, walking down Kalakaua Avenue, and taking pictures in front of the Duke Kahanamoku statue, but if you walked far enough, there were also places to get away from it all. (And cool off with a fruity cocktail!)
Waikiki Beach with a view of Diamond Head. Bonus view: Accidental Butt Crack!
As for the famously crowded Waikiki Beach? (Who hasn't seen the photos of this beach, with beachgoers packed so tight that not even the sand is visible?) It wasn't any more crowded than any public beach I grew up going to along the mid-Atlantic. It was definitely less crowded than the Jersey Shore, Rehoboth, and Virginia Beach. And also? It has a view of a volcanic tuff cone. You can't see that in New Jersey!
That being said, we were happy to leave the Waikiki area after that first week as we are both secluded beach/hiking/get-away-from-it-all types and neither of us has any interest in shopping on vacation. Luckily, the rest of the island is pure beauty and has much fewer tourists.
But back to Waikiki: I had five days to myself to explore the area on foot. My plan for these days involved lots of beach time and a stack of books. But on my first day, I set off with the only two things I needed for my favorite way to explore a new place: my camera and my feet (preferably with comfortable shoes). I spent the day walking along the beach, watching the surfers, checking out the resorts, admiring the banyans and palms, and taking photos along the way:
By day two I was done with sightseeing and was ready to head to the beach to start the beach-towel-&-books part of the week. I wore my bandeau-top bathing suit to prevent tan lines. I lathered up with sunscreen. I swam in the Pacific for the first time (there were fish!). I gazed at Diamond Head and people-watched from my spot on the sand. I didn't want to expose my
Too late - I was already pink.
And that was the beginning and end of my Five Days on the Beach with a Stack of Books Plan. With our wedding just a week away, I imagined myself as a lobster bride (or worse: a peeling snakeskin bride!) and chided myself for being so foolish. Luckily, it was a very minor burn and it faded away before our nuptials. But the rest of the week, I stayed off the beach and stayed covered up and coated with SPF 45. (Spoiler: This is why I came back from two weeks in the tropics with skin still the color of virgin snow. And also why I didn't read a single page from my stack of books.)
No worries though, there were still plenty of other things to keep me occupied in Waikiki. Most of which involved rum...