How often does one come across a major urban center where it is completely normal to be walking past a Louis Vuitton shop, dripping wet in surf trunks, carrying a surfboard? Welcome to the pearl of the Pacific, Honolulu: home to the best shopping in the mid-Pacific, and its most famous waves.
Waikiki beach is where most of tourist hotels are, and with good reason. It’s gorgeous. If you ever wanted to learn to surf, this is the spot you will want to learn. It’s where Elvis and Gidget learned. The wave at Queens is a soft, slow-moving endless one that is easy to catch and a dream to ride. You can get a surf teacher right on the beach, rent a huge plank, and you will be up and riding in no time. All ages, all fitness levels—it’s one of the rare waves that beckons everyone.
If the confines of the city are not your thing, a 45-minute car ride to the east will take you out to Hanauma Bay, for pristine snorkeling. Keep driving north a few miles to Sandy Beach Park if you’re into the craziest (or spine-crushing) bodysurfing wave experience ever—you’ve never seen water get vertical like that.
We like the bar at Nobu (and the black cod) for dinner in Waikiki. For breakfast, it’s the buffet at the Halekulani. Spendy, but worth it. Chinatown with its hipster art scene is also worth exploring, especially at night. And of course, the Doris Duke Islamic Museum of Art for something completely magical and utterly unexpected.
We have stayed in a dozen different hotels here, all are nice. The key is to get a room with a balcony and an ocean view.