From its pristine sandy beaches to its haute fashion haunts, O'ahu is one sizzling Hawaiian retreat.
Where The third largest – and oft visited — of all the Hawaiian islands, O’ahu, with the state capital of Honolulu, is located on the southeast coast. Home to roughly 1 million people, the island is full of bikini babes and hardcore surfers looking to catch a lucky break on the infamous North Shore. World-renowned for its Big Wave Invitational, surfers from across the globe compete in mandatory surf measures of 20 feet in memory of Hawaii’s most legendary wave riders, Eddie Aikau who drowned tragically in 1978.
The vibe O’ahu has become a tourism and shopping mecca for millions of visitors every year due to its relaxed island feel and the multicultural aspects of the community. With endless sunshine, idyllic miles of beach and plenty of Margarita’s in tow, it is the personification of a tropical oasis. With an annual temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, the locals embody sporty chic. Think Quicksilver board-shorts, sarongs and the latest designer shades. Whether you’re on the beach or off, a girly sundress, flip-flops and a shell necklace is all you need to pull off the all-Hawaiian look.
If shopping is on your vacation To-do list then you’re really not at a loss for some incredible designer – and local – finds. Just a few steps away from the sun and surf, you must check out the strip of 2100 Kalakaua Avenue (www.2100kalakaua.com), an ultra-glamorous retail establishment on Waikiki’s main thoroughfare. Renovated in 2004 with an estimated budget of $156 million, shoppers can indulge in a little retail therapy by visiting several luxury boutiques — Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Tod’s and Chanel, to name but a few. With complimentary valet parking from 10am-10pm and many available shuttle services, you can say Mahalo (thank-you) as you enjoy your day perusing the latest trends.
Also, don’t forget to check out the Ala Moana Centre located in the heart of Honolulu (www.alamoanacenter.com). One of the world’s largest open-air shopping centres, it boasts over 250 boutiques worthy of your pocketbook. Check out Christian Dior, Betsey Johnson and Macy’s before heading for a snack at Pearl; an oh-so-chic restaurant-cum-nightclub that serves up delectable prosciutto-wrapped kurobuta pork tenderloin and signature coconut Mojitos.
What to do The possibilities are endless! If you’re an adventure-seeking maven, look no further than Clyde Aikau’s Pure Hawaiian Surf School located on the beach fronting the Hilton Hawaii Village Resort. Learn to ride the waves on Waikiki Beach with lessons by the legend himself.
Or, if working the tan is more your speed, hop on the Outrigger Catamaran Sail (www.outriggercatamaranhawaii.com) which will take you along the picturesque Waikiki beach, Diamond Head Crater and Black Point. A favourite? The Sunset Sail where you can experience the magnificence of a Hawaiian sunset — all with a cold cocktail in hand.
Also, don’t forget to check out the Sail/Snorkel Eco Tour. A 2-hour tour takes you in search of dolphins, whales, flying fish and seabirds. Snorkel with turtles and amazing sea life.
Where to stay Celebrities flock to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa and with good reason. Perfecting paradise, the resort occupies 22 oceanfront acres on the widest stretch of Waikiki Beach. Stroll through the lushly landscaped grounds to take snaps of the exotic wildlife that inhabits the tropical gardens and surrounding waterfalls. Or, visit over 22 restaurants and 90 shops on the grounds that cater to a variety of different guests. Free resort activities include snorkeling, lei-making and nightly torch lighting with music, song and dance performed by Polynesian dancers.
After a day of activity, head to the Mandara Spa (www.mandaraspa.com) where you can choose from a selection of luxurious therapeutic treatments, such as: Elemis Aroma Spa Ocean Wraps, Balinese Aromatherapy massage or, for the adventurous at heart, the “Exploration In Chocolate” treatment where you and your honey get to indulge in a side-by-side massage with a pot full of rich chocolate scrub. Yum.
Where to eat Foodies who want to experience true Hawaiian fare must have their first culinary experience at the Side Street Inn. Tucked away is an indiscriminate watering hole that is a local favourite of top Hawaiian chefs, guests enjoy ‘family style dining’ while they dip into massive portions of their signature mouth-watering fried pork chops or Furikake (rice with seaweed, sesame seed and bonito seasoning). For the quintessential breakfast, head for your first meal of the day at the Hau Tree Lanai in the new Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel (2863 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu). Nestled beachfront with spectacular oceanfront views, nibble on Poi buttermilk pancakes or a seafood omelet with shrimp and calamari caught fresh from the ocean. If you are seeking classic Hawaiian fare, add the Kapiolani Community College Farmer’s Market to your itinerary. Browse through a traditional Hawaii farmer’s market — the only one featuring all homegrown and produced wares — with booths selling indigenous fruits and vegetables, spices, aqua-cultured seafood and so much more. Open every Saturday from 7:30am –11:00am (www.kapiolani.hawaii.edu/object/farmersmarket.html). Head to Bali by the Sea for truly exceptional haute cuisine prepared by Chef Adam Hightower. A venerable culinary landmark, this award-winning restaurant provides the finest open-air dining with Pacific-inspired dishes, such as: Roast rack of Sonoma lamb, scallion-crusted Ahi tempura and their sautéed Island Opakapaka. Reservations fill up fast so book early!
Where to party Throw off the Havaianas and slide into a pair of sexy stilettos because the Island offers some swanky nightlife partying. Sip a martini at the Wonderlounge at the W Honolulu and check out the hip crowd before making your way to the Monkey Bar — Waikiki’s newest multi-level club with DJ beats in an indoor/outdoor setting. Lotus Sandbar offers house and club classics sure to keep you moving ‘till dawn.
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