Oahu is the gathering hub of the islands, and as the busiest island with the largest town, Honolulu is where you’ll most likely have a layover while headed to Kaua`i, Big Island or Maui - or back home. While some consider it lucky to have a quick transfer from plane to plane, we’re fans of travel and see the benefit of an hours-long layover: it gives you time to venture outside of the airport’s doors and get a taste of the island.
So, if you have something around a half day on the “Gathering Island,” make sure to venture out past Honolulu International Airport. Lying on the outskirts of Honolulu, the airport offers drives of equal lengths to Honolulu and its busy streets of Waikiki, or in the other direction to Pearl City in Central Oahu. If you've got about a half a day, it’s a little risky to try to head out to Haleiwa and the North Shore, and virtually impossible to visit Kailua on the east side and make it back in time for your flight.
Once you’ve decided on your destination for the next few hours, you can choose one of the following two itineraries.
For those who have chosen to head west to Pearl City, it’s a short drive along the highway until you veer off into the central Oahu town. As the biggest attraction in the area, the USS Pearl Harbor Memorial can keep you occupied for hours, so remember to catch the flight.
Sunny memorial — Photo courtesy of Pandk
Down to Earth is one of the best places to eat in the area, offering a freshly-made hot bar and salad bar, among a huge array of natural groceries. If you happen to be in the area on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday, the Aloha Stadium Flea Market is a huge hit that offers a giant array of island-style souvenirs and hours of entertainment.
Hawaiian style accessories — Photo courtesy of Aloha Stadium Flea Market
If Honolulu is your decision, head south into what the locals call town. To counter that airplane food, make the first stop at Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Here’s your chance to try some awesome traditional Hawaiian fare. Make sure not to miss the kalua pig, lomolomi salmon, poi and for dessert, coconut Haupia.
It’s important to move on quickly, and a brief shopping spree at the International Marketplace will offer more than you expected. Here you’ll find locally-made and designed jewelry, crafts, clothing and art, along with a huge variety of super unique imports.
Being that Waikiki Beach is right across the street, that’s the next stop. Bust out the camera and the bathing suit and submerge yourself into the same waters where local surfers enjoy long rides on perfect waves. Post-sun-fun, it’s off to the nearby Irifune restaurant, a homestyle Japanese eatery serving up some of the best Japanese dishes in all of Honolulu. Before dark, it can be a quick and easy place to get amazing Japanese cuisine.
Whichever you choose, remember that the airport isn't far away, but don’t forget to make it back to that flight on time.