Chocolate cake. Those two words best describe Waikiki on the Hawaiian island of Oahu; good in small doses, but sickening if you get too much. After returning for a week, we overdosed!
Three years ago we spent three nights in Waikiki before heading to the island of Kauai. We had expected to hate Waikiki, but ended up liking it a lot. Here is what I wrote about it:
While we were expecting our trip to Oahu to not be a good one, we were really surprised that it was a lot of fun. I especially liked Waikiki and if we were ever to move to Hawaii, I would want to live right in the middle of Waikiki. It is close to a great beach, a great park with a zoo, Diamond Head, shopping, it’s very clean, the locals are very friendly, and it has a great vibe to the place. Sure it has a lot of tourists, but so do a lot of other places. The prices are high, but the weather is perfect and the activities are plentiful. It could be a great place to live after we are done traveling the world.
Wow, we really liked it! We liked it so much that we decided to go back and spent all of last week there. But after this last visit, I no longer feel the love I did the first time we visited. It really is tourist hell! I think the difference between our two visits was the fact that we had a rental car the first time around and spent most of our time outside Waikiki visiting Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, and Diamond Head. But having to spend $25 a day for parking was a bit too much for us to rent a car on this last trip, so we decided to use local transportation, which kept us trapped in the hustle and bustle of Waikiki.
Hawaii is generally very expensive, but Waikiki is even more expensive. Milk costs over $9 a gallon, bread is $5 a loaf, and vehicle fuel is 50+ cents a gallon more compared to the mainland. We met an Australian family visiting the island for a few weeks and we asked them how the prices in Hawaii compared to those in Australia. They told us that the prices for food and goods in Hawaii are a lot cheaper than in Australia. Wow, there goes our plan of staying long term in Australia. I don’t think we will be able to afford it.
Waikiki is home to a lot of high end shopping. Walking down the street you see stores with designer names like Rolex, Coach, Armani, Chanel, Prada, and Gucci. On our first visit I was wowed by the glamour and glitter. But this last visit, I was sickened by the commercialization and the high prices people feel compelled to spend to keep up with the Jones’. Even the guidebook said that Waikiki will present a lot of options for you to lose your hard earned money. Waikiki is the land of dreams, not reality. And who the hell are these Jones’ that everyone is trying to keep up with?
One of the things we love about visiting the tropics is waking up to the sound of tropical birds and the smell of tropical plants. In Waikiki, you wake up to the sounds of sirens, garbage trucks, and transit buses and the smell of vehicle exhaust. We already live in a big city and like to find some solitude on our vacations. There is no solitude in Waikiki.
Okay, so I have spewed a lot of negativity towards Waikiki, and that may not be entirely fair. It does have some great things like a great beach with warm ocean water that you can go in without worrying about hypothermia, unlike the Oregon coast. There are large parks and plenty of free outdoor activities. The trade winds are warm, and the people are friendly. It’s just not a place for quiet and solitude. But neither is any other large city that is a tourist magnet. Waikiki is Las Vegas with a beach. And I think the older we get, the more solitude we want. Damn, we REALLY must be getting old!
Our visit to Waikiki had some unexpected consequences. Every time we travel we gain experience that will better prepare us for our upcoming round the world trip. Usually, the experience is more about our gear and clothing; what works, what doesn’t. But this time it was our expectations that we realized need to change. We plan to visit some seriously touristy places around the world and we cannot expect to like them all. We travel to see new places and try new things. Long term travel is an adventure, not a vacation, and we need to keep that in mind. We also realized that we should probably split the time in each of the countries we visit between the touristy sites and the non-touristy areas so we can get a true feel about each of the countries. You cannot experience a countries culture by hitting just the tourist traps. But then again, we wouldn’t want to miss out on seeing some amazing places like the Eiffel Tower and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. There is a reason they are tourist traps! We also learned that there are places around the world that are more expensive than we would have thought and we had better get a good sense of the cost of living before heading to a new country. After all, the longer we can stretch our travel budget, the longer we can travel.
So, if you are thinking about staying in Waikiki for a vacation, you may end up hating it if you stay too long. Best to split your trip up and spend a few days in Waikiki to see the sites, and then head to one of the other islands for solitude and to finish off your vacation the way a vacation should be. Relaxing! After visiting Oahu twice, Hawaii (the Big Island) twice, Maui once, and Kauai twice, we can honestly call Kauai our favorite. That island is truly magical!