There is a lot to see and do on O’ahu and in Honolulu as well, and to be honest, it can be quite overwhelming especially if you are on a time crunch. So where do you start? What makes the cut and what gets kept on that to-do list? These are the questions Michelle and I had to ask ourselves, to make the most of our time in paradise.
With the help of Meena, one of the concierges at The Laylow, we had to put things into perspective and decide what we wanted to accomplish in a day. We ended up renting a car just for the day, even though we didn’t really want to, but for our time restrictions, it made the most sense.
We were out the door by 6:30am headed down to the lobby, and grabbed a cup of coffee at The Hideout (you can read more about them here) and walked to the car rental place to wait for it to open. Once we got our wheels for the day, a 2019 Toyota Corolla, I opened up maps, punched in our first destination, and we were on our way.
We wanted Pearl Harbor to be our first stop for a couple of reasons. One, if you get there early enough, you probably won’t have to wait long for tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial Harbor Tour. Second, because these tickets are free, only 1,300 are given out a day, and it is on a first come, first serve basis.
You can easily make a day out of Pearl Harbor if you want to see everything it has to offer. The Battleship Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine and the Pacific Aviation Museum are open as usual.
The USS Arizona Memorial is closed to the public for safety reasons but you can still go out on the Harbor Tour, and this is what we came to do. You start your tour with a 23 minute documentary on that tragic day so many years ago. After the documentary, you make your way to the boat and start the narrated harbor tour of Battleship Row and the area around the USS Arizona Memorial.
It’s important to note that since this is still an active Navy Base, you are not allowed to bring any bags on site for security reasons. You may bring cameras, water bottles, and wallets. They do have a bag storage building located to the right of the visitors center, but they charge $5 per bag.
This experience was a lot more emotional than I expected it to be, I did end up shedding a few tears but I’m incredibly grateful for it, and I’m glad we decided to make Pearl Harbor apart of our trip.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
Was our second stop, I know a couple people who have been to this swap meet, and they said it was a must-do. We also heard rumors that this swap meet was ending, I don’t know if that is true or not but, Michelle and I figured we might as well check it just in case it is.
The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet has been open since 1979, and it features over 400 vendors! You can find just about anything here, from jewelry, to clothes, to handcrafted products, and numerous food options.
It was a pretty warm morning when we were here, I’m glad I brought my water bottle with me. From what we could tell the rows and rows of vendors goes almost all the way around the outside of the stadium. Just when I thought we were done with the first row, it tricked me, and it kept on going!
Michelle and I were each tasked with finding certain items for our friends and family back home, I was surprised we found the items rather quickly and pretty early on in the maze of vendors.
We didn’t even come close to walking the whole swap meet, I think after the first 3 or 4 very long rows we decided we got our money’s worth and called it a day on the Aloha Stadium. My only purchase for myself was food lol, I got a pressed sandwich, it was focaccia bread, cheese, spinach, and an herb spread. It was delicious and easily the best $5 I spent at a swap meet.
Some important info on the swap meet. It is only open 3 days a week. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 8am-3pm and it costs a $1 per person, children 11 years and under are free.
The Palace is open Monday-Saturday 9am-4pm, for tickets you need to head to the ‘Iolani Barracks on the Palace Grounds. They offer two different tours, a guided tour with a Palace docent and an audio tour.
The Guided Tour is limited Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the entry time is from 9am-10am, a tour starts every 15 minutes. Friday and Saturday the entry time is 9am-11:15am and tours begin every 15 minutes, and it costs $27 per adult. I was hoping to get a guided tour, but we missed the last one by 10 minutes.
The self-guided audio tour is $20 per adult, and on Monday the entry times go from 9a-4pm. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the entry times run from 10:30am-4pm. On Friday and Saturday, the tour entry times go from 12pm-4pm and the last ticket for any of these days is sold at 3:45pm phew! The audio tours times are all over the place as you can see, so plan ahead.
Parking on the Palace grounds in limited and metered, they recommend that you add at least 2 hours to the meter so that you have plenty of time, as the audio tour is an hour by itself. I didn’t know this at the time, but apparently, there is also a private parking garage at Alii Palace (1099 Alakea Street.)
While you are waiting for your tour to start, you are given shoe covers so that you don’t bring any gross stuff inside and ruin the beautiful carpet inside the Palace. You are also given your headphones and audio device for the tour. Once inside, press number 1 and begin your journey.
I really enjoyed being inside the only official royal residence in the United States, and learning more about the history of Hawai’i, its people and the culture. While here, you can see the King Kamehameha I Statue across the street in front of Aliiolani Hale, which is home to the Hawaii State Supreme Court.
After the Palace we headed back to the Waikiki area for lunch at Arancino di Mare, you can read more about that here. After lunch, it was time to drop the car off, and after a short rest in the hotel room, we went shopping on Kalākaua Avenue and called it a night, we had another big day ahead of us, which will be my next post, Hiking Diamond Head.
Our day started at 6am and ended at 10:30pm HST, it was exhausting but we got a lot accomplished, and I wouldn’t have changed anything about our busy day in Honolulu. Have you been to any of the places we visited? What did you think about them? Is there something else we should have done in Honolulu? Let me know in the comments! Mahalo for reading!