Frommer's Favorite Experiences in Oahu
Getting a Tan on Waikiki Beach
There's so much to see and do on Hawaii's most populated isle. But we like to start vacations here by just relaxing on the sands. The best spot for catching the rays on the world-famous beach is in front of the big, pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel -- the beach here is set at the perfect angle for sunning. It's also a great spot for people-watching. Get here early; by midday (when the rays are at their peak), it's towel-to-towel out there.
Exploring Oahu's Rainforests
In the misty sunbeams, colorful birds flit among giant ferns and hanging vines, while towering tropical trees form a thick canopy that shelters all below in cool shadows. This emerald world is a true Eden. For the full experience, try Manoa Falls Trail (pictured), a walk of less than a mile that ends at a freshwater pool and waterfall.
Snorkeling the Glistening Waters of Hanauma Bay
This underwater park, once a volcanic crater, is teeming with a rainbow of tropical fish. Bordered by a 2,000-foot gold-sand beach, the bay's shallow water (10 ft. in places) is perfect for neophyte snorkelers. Arrive early to beat the crowds -- and don't forget that the bay is closed on Tuesday. Koko Marina Shopping Center (tel. 808/395-5922), can set you up with fins, mask, and snorkel.
Hiking to the Top of Diamond Head Crater
Almost everyone can make this easy hike to the top of Hawaii's most famous landmark. The 1.4-mile round-trip goes to the top of the 750-foot volcanic cone, where you have a 360-degree view of Oahu. Allow an hour for the trip up and back and don't forget your camera.
Heading to Waimea Bay When the Surf's Up
From November to March, monstrous waves -- some 30 feet tall -- roll into Waimea. When they break on the shore, the ground actually vibrates and everyone on the beach is covered with salt spray mist. The best surfers in the world paddle out to challenge these freight trains. It's amazing to see how small they appear in the lip of the giant waves. And this unforgettable experience won't cost you a dime.
Watching the Ancient Hawaiian Sport of Canoe Paddling
On weekday evenings and weekend days from February to September, hundreds of paddlers gather at Ala Wai Canal and practice taking traditional Hawaiian canoes out to sea. Find a comfortable spot at Ala Wai Park next to the canal and watch the canoe paddlers re-create this centuries-old sport.
Finding a Bargain at the Aloha Flea Market
Just 50¢ will get you into this all-day show at the Aloha Stadium parking lot, where more than 1,000 vendors sell everything from junk to jewels. Go early for the best deals. Open Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6am to 3pm.
Attending a Hawaiian-Language Church Service
Built in 1842, Kawaiahao Church, 957 Punchbowl St. (near King St.), is the Westminster Abbey of Hawaii; the vestibule is lined with portraits of the Hawaiian monarchy, many of whom were coronated in this very building. The coral church is a perfect setting to experience an all-Hawaiian service, complete with Hawaiian song. Hawaiian-language services are held every Sunday at 9am and admission is free -- let your conscience be your guide as to a donation.
Visiting the Lei Sellers in Chinatown
A host of cultural sights and experiences are to be had in Honolulu's Chinatown. Wander through this several-square-block area with its jumble of exotic shops offering herbs, Chinese groceries, and acupuncture services. Be sure to check out the lei sellers on Maunakea Street (near N. Hotel St.), where Hawaii's finest leis go for only a couple of dollars.
Experiencing a Turning Point in America's History
Standing on the deck of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is an unforgettable experience. On that fateful day -- December 7, 1941 -- the 608-foot Arizona sank in just 9 minutes after being bombed during the Japanese air raid. The 1,177 men on board plunged to a fiery death -- and the United States went to war. Go early; you'll wait 2 to 3 hours if you visit at midday. You must wear closed-toed shoes, no slippers.
Ordering a Shave Ice in a Tropical Flavor You Can Hardly Pronounce
In Haleiwa, stop at Matsumoto Shave Ice, 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy., for a snow cone with an exotic flavor poured over the top, such as the local favorite, li hing mui (lee hing moo-ee, which is sweet, sour, and salty), or with sweet Japanese adzuki beans hidden inside. This taste of tropical paradise is very cheap too!
Listening to Live Music
Sit under the huge banyan tree at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider's Banyan Veranda in Waikiki, order a cocktail, and sway to live Hawaiian music any night of the week. Another quintessential sunset oasis is the Halekulani's House Without a Key, a sophisticated oceanfront lounge with wonderful hula and steel-guitar music, a great view of Diamond Head, and the best mai tais on the island.