In the case of an accidental first-time visit to Honolulu through a few hours of stopover en route to another destination, or perhaps due to a delayed or misconnected flight, why bury yourself with airport boredom when you have the opportunity to say hi to a piece of the city’s tropical paradise without spending for additional plane ticket? Your first visit to Hawaii may not be planned and is just a result of a long stay at the Honolulu International Airport, but this doesn’t mean missing out on what’s in store for tourists just a few miles outside the airport premises.
Other than taking into consideration your taste, preferences, and interests on where to go, there are two crucial things you have to take note of when leaving the airport for a quick day trip: the length of time you can actually spend outside; and the often notorious traffic situation around the city, especially during rush hour. Of course, you don’t want to miss your next flight.
Many flights coming from the U.S. Mainland arrive in Honolulu on or before sunrise. As the sun moves further up the sky, so as the arrivals of planes coming from the mainland. For such morning arrivals, checking out the USS Arizona is a nice and easy option, as it is fairly close by.
The best time to visit the Memorial is early in the morning right before the tour buses arrive. Open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can just take a cab and prepare for a boat ride experience. Expect to see interpretive programs and a 23-minute documentary during the trip. If you have many hours to spare, you can further explore the rest of what the Pearl Harbor area has to offer for visitors.
Make sure you have your ID and passport, as they check your records and only allow visitors with good credentials. It may be ideal to get the ticket in advance online, while you’re still at the airport, to avoid longer waits or missing out on tickets, which are issued on a first come, first served basis. There are also some days that the tickets sell out because of pre-arranged school and tourist trips.
Ala Moana Beach Park
It is hard to miss the Hawaiian beach and the tropical, which are primary things the island is best known for. So if your luggage is checked in, your carry-on has space for wet stuff, and you have enough time to waddle through the water, the Ala Moana Beach Park in Waikiki is a good choice for you.
This free public beach park is readily available for travelers doing an unplanned visit. If ever swimming is not an option, simply enjoying the cool breeze, the crystal waters, and the golden sand may be enough to let you have a taste of a Hawaiian beach paradise. If you have ample time because of your layover schedule, further exploring the stretch of Waikiki is a must.
Make sure you have allowance for the long travel time going to Waikiki, as it usually takes 30 to 40 minutes of cab ride. If you’re hitting the morning rush hour, expect bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way — which can sometimes lead to a shocking two-hour drive.
Aloha Tower Marketplace
Located right on the oceanfront, the Aloha Tower Marketplace in Chinatown is an alternative way to spend your time in Honolulu when you have limited time, needing to avoid heavy traffic, and lacking beach get-up or space for wet clothes. You can also walk around the shops and enjoy the Chinatown Historic District, which is known as one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States. This cultural district in downtown Honolulu is part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
A gateway to many Southeast Asian immigrants, this area offers an eclectic blend of traditional and modern items, herbal products, fresh produce, and Asian delicacies.
This breezy shopping, dining, and entertainment destination boasts of sweeping ocean views that are often full of cruise ships and a variety of boats. Before going back to the airport, you can have a leisurely dining experience at a noodle house or seafood restaurant for that more exotic way to bid farewell to your first visit to Hawaii.