Hawaii is a popular vacation spot for those looking for a safe, clean, holiday destination, and like the ease of staying in North America.
Oahu is particularly popular with its stunning beaches, (often) cheap flights, and bustling state capital, Honolulu.
If you’re planning a trip to Oahu, here’s what you need to know before you go.
What You Need To Know About Oahu Before You Go
You aren’t welcomed off the plane with a lei necklace.
Disappointed? Yeah, us too.
Thanks for nothing every movie ever based in Hawaii for giving me that expectation.
There’s (much) more to Oahu than Waikiki.
While Waikiki is the main place to stay, it is not the only place. Even if high rises, tourist-filled beaches and high-end shopping and dining aren’t your thing, don’t rule out Oahu entirely.
There are areas of the island that can still offer a peaceful and quiet out-of-the-way beach vacation. If you look for it, you can easily find nice pieces of unspoiled Oahu all for yourself (namely in the North Shore and Windward side). It’s not ALL an over-run metropolis.
Waikiki Beach is busy as all get out.
It’s actually baffling how congested it is near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
But there are parts of Waikiki Beach that aren’t so busy (hint: the northern section). And times of day when it’s less crowded (aka early morning).
Related Post: Oahu Beach Guide
The weather can be extremely bipolar.
One minute it’s sunny. The next minute it’s raining. Wait ten minutes and the sun might come out again.
There are chickens everywhere.
Literally everywhere. Like up on a mountain, in the jungle, middle of nowhere every.where. One jumped up on a picnic table and stole a piece of garlic shrimp right off my plate!
Don’t hold back from making a “why did the chicken cross the road?” joke at every opportunity. There’s no way your friends or family will tire of it.
You don’t necessarily need to rent a car.
Waikiki is small and walk-able. The Bus is cheap and effective, with routes going around nearly the entirety of the island. There’s also Uber & Lyft. Altho they can’t pick you up from the airport.
That being said, we so very highly recommend you rent a car for at least part of your trip.
If you do rent a car, you don’t need an off-road 4WD rental for Oahu. The roads are quite well maintained.
The Bus is actually a great way to get around.
We even used it to get to and from the airport. Even though our flight got in around midnight! Fares are $2.50 for an hour and a half and include one transfer.
The sun can still burn you through the clouds.
Rainy overcast weather will leave you crispy if you aren’t careful. The ocean breeze can also mask the effects of too much sun until it’s already too late. So lather on that sunscreen nice and thick.
You don’t need to leave Waikiki for groceries.
Food Pantry in Waikiki has pretty decent prices. The same or better than Safeway (which you have to take a bus/car/uber/lyft) to. Wal-Mart is cheaper, but consider if it’s worth the trek (and cost to get to) downtown Honolulu.
Costco is great too, but only if you’re staying for a while or are with a big enough group to eat everything you get. No sense paying to throw food out you couldn’t finish.
If your hotel is in Waikiki and you don’t have a vehicle, you are just fine getting your groceries at Food Pantry & ABC Stores. Really.
The locals are friendly. The tourists are rude.
Like, push a pregnant lady out of the way to get on the bus first kind of rude.
Don’t worry if you forgot to pack something.
Sunscreen, toothpaste, even pool floaties were all much cheaper in the ABC Stores than expected. ABC Stores are to Hawaii what 7-Eleven stores are to the rest of USA. Maybe even better. And they’re one practically every other corner.
There’s an H&M and Forever 21 in Waikiki and at Ala Moana Center if you realize you left your swimmers at home or need a sweater for evening.
Get used to seeing Spam on the menu.
Spam and rice are served basically everywhere, and for nearly all meals. Even the McDonald’s has a spam rice and egg breakfast option on the menu!
Bring real money.
Many of the best local food joints are cash only establishments. If you want to snag yourself some authentic shave ice and plate lunch, bring along cold hard USD chashola.
This is not a budget vacation destination.
Every corner you turn you’ll find someone or some establishment more than happy to help you part with your hard earned savings.
Nevertheless, there are definitely ways to save money so you don’t go way over budget. There will be a whole post on that coming soon.
Oahu is so much more than just pretty beaches. But let’s be real, the beaches are out of this world. The issue is that there are so many of them to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. But fret not! We’ve created an Oahu Beach Guide to help with that. You can also head over to Destinations/Oahu to see all our Oahu posts. And remember to check back because we have so much more tips and guides to share with you.
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