After travelling from Glasgow to Tokyo over several weeks without flying, I had a choice of where to continue my onward journey from Japan. Getting a flight for a ridiculous £40 from Tokyo to Honolulu made the prospect of visiting Hawaii one impossible to turn down.
I visited Honolulu in 2015, my first trip as what could very loosely be described as a beach holiday. Or certainly my first since I was a kid.
On my last trip here I got stuck in a daily routine. It involved getting up and going for a swim as the sun came up, going for a long wander along the coast in the morning, beer and seafood for lunch, a relaxed afternoon then out at night. Tough going. One of the reasons for stopping in Hawaii after Japan was to do something I tend not to do: go back to the same places. After living out of a backpack for weeks, after multiple long train journeys and ferries, I wanted to stop for a few days. To plant myself at a Waikiki-beach-side bar and drink a beer in the sun, to get chilli shrimp from the food truck I had been to before, to watch the sunset from a quiet spot in the evenings, to go to a bar I like in the evenings and eat too many buffalo wings.
So I did just that.
Aside from revisiting the routine, this time I saw a lot more of the island. O’ahu isn’t that big; easy to drive or cycle around and, like other Hawaiian islands, it has so much to explore, from hikes to quieter beaches to surf to wildlife.
I took a loop heading east from Waikiki. It included Halona Beach Cove, Kailua, numerous beaches around to the north coast, Kaneohe Bay, Waimea Falls, Koolau Mountains and Manoa Falls. I also had a short stop at the Nuuanu Pali lookout, and a comment online suggested Mark Twain thought this spot had the most beautiful view in the world. With mountains overlooking lush greenery and a stunning tropical landscape, it’s easy to see why he was seemingly so taken by it.
The short stop at the Pali lookout was due to a quirk of the Hawaiian weather: the micro climates. The Big Island seems to have the most diversity but even on O’ahu, a comparatively small island, the surroundings can go from scorching sunshine on the beach, to volcanic, to rain forest, all within a short distance. And at Pali the more tropical rain forest climate lived up to its name.
Getting away from Waikiki, Hawaii feels even more relaxed. The islands are a huge draw for tourists from the USA, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and Waikiki is the local tourist hot spot. If you’re there to avoid people and have a more tranquil time of it, choose another island or, if on O’ahu, avoid the Honolulu area. You won’t need to stray far from here to find a spot that feels wonderfully secluded.
In all, five days on O’ahu: no trains or buses to catch, no ferry trips to arrange, no work, no responsibilities or expectations from anyone. Just a routine that involved swimming, eating seafood, having a beer, sitting in the sun, seeing the island at my own pace and watching the sun go down in the evenings. Perhaps the most switched off few days I’ve had. Ever.