Most folk’s first trip to Hawaii consist of staying in a high-rise hotel in Waikiki, visiting the beach, enjoying the nightlife, and seeing all the sites in group tours and shuttle buses. This can be quite fun, but without a car you miss a lot.
Most people avoid car rental because traffic is a problem and there is little parking. The island is small, but really crowded. Except for the three freeways that crisscross the island, you can’t call them interstates since there are no bridges to the mainland, there are only two lane roads with low speed limits and lots of other folks trying to get places as well. It is also a common belief that there are actually only two available parking places left on the whole island.
OK, so what’s the problem? You are on vacation. What’s the hurry? And, the goal is to see stuff outside of the tourist bustle of Waikiki. There is always a place to park along the North shore beaches. Hotels usually have underground parking which you often have to pay a little extra for and are tiny and a real adventure trying to squeeze your car into. But, again, it’s your vacation. What’s a little extra cost and adventure is what you are looking for.
Waikiki is much like an amusement park. It’s like Disney World without the rides, but with miles of beach. It is full of sun-screened tourist and half naked young people with sand in their hair dragging surfboards twice their size. There is food and entertainment and lots of shopping. It is so much fun, but also weirdly unreal. Every once in a while you are tempted to rap on one of the walls of one of those finely architectured buildings to make sure there is no fiberglass involved. It’s a surreal world.
If you are curious to find out about the rest of the island, hop in your car, take your time, and enjoy what many others never see. Here are few of the possibilities:
— Drive around the rugged east side of the island. It is a bit of a roller coaster ride along the towering cliffs and rocky shoreline. Stop often and enjoy the natural beauty of wild ocean waves crashing against stony walls producing great geysers of foamy spray.
— Lay for hours on end on a North shore beach, watching surfers battle the endless waves crashing on the sandy shore. Sure you can see surfers at Waikiki, but the waves are wilder and the surfers seem more daring on the North shore.
— Grab a shrimp platter lunch from one of the shrimp trucks just outside of Kahuku. It’s a tasty meal in a rustic setting. It takes a car to get there. I don’t think you can get the tour bus to stop. There is nothing like it in the big city.
— Enjoy some leisurely hours rambling around Hale’iwa, shopping, eating chocolate, shaved ice, or great hand dipped ice creams from one of the funky little shops in this quaint little village. Don’t miss the surfboard painter who plays some cool jazz and blues music with his family in his studio workshop when he is not producing artwork.
— Spend a half-day wandering in the Waimea Valley Audubon Center. There is lush tropical plants and some wildlife and you can even take a dip in the pool at the base of Waimea Falls. It’s kind of like that being stranded in a tropical paradise dream you have every now and again. But it’s only the North shore.
— Hit one of the weekly Aloha Stadium Swap Meets. It’s a giant flea market/sidewalk sales where you can get all those Hawaiian shirts, and other souvenirs for about half what you pay for them downtown. Stuff your trunk and ship them home. You can’t do that if you are riding the bus.
— If you get homesick you can even drive through a fast food place or spend the day at Wal-Mart or the mall. There is always someplace to park at the mall.
Oahu is a pretty small island and the public transportation is really quite good. You can see a lot on the bus and there is lots to see. But with a car you are in total control. This little list tells of only a small sampling of the possible things to do if you are in control of your mobility. The key is to be an explorer. Find your own adventures. Get behind the wheel. It’s vacation.