Honolulu is perfect escape from mainland wintertime blues


Waikiki in the distance seen from Diamond Head in Hawaii. (Photo by Bill Malcolm)

Sick of winter yet? Honolulu is a perfect escape. The temperatures are in the low 80s year round. I only packed shorts. 

What to do

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The first day I hiked up Diamond Head State Monument for great views of Waikiki. Take the no. 2 bus to the trail head near the community college. It’s not only a mountain but a giant crater with lots of interesting plant life. On the way back, I stopped at the Pineapple Shack for coconut juice (and pulp to eat). They also sell fresh pineapple juice. Stop by the Diamond Head Market and Grill on the way up to pick up a picnic lunch. 

On day two, a friend and I toured the beautiful University of Hawaii at Manoa campus. Stop at the Student Center for lunch for local fare. The L&L Hawaiian Barbeque had great garlic shrimp. We hiked up to the Lyon Arboretum which is run by the university. You will learn about the endemic plants of Hawaii and hike through fern valleys, a native Hawaiian plant garden, and more. The no. 5 bus will get you there. 

Day three featured a hike through the St. Louis neighborhood to Wa’ahila Ridge Regional Park. It features a Norfolk Island pine forest and great views of the city. We hiked up and took the bus back down. 

Day four included a tour of the Army Museum at nearby Fort DeRussy Beach run by the military. The beach is handy and open to everyone. 

I went swimming everyday with my friends at Queen’s Surf Beach. Honolulu apparently does not have a gay beach anymore, but this one was close enough. 

Night life

Bacchus Bar at 408 Lewers is a lot of fun. It has bingo on Thursday nights and features a friendly neighborhood crowd with great nightly specials. Its owners boast that it’s one of the best gay bars in the U.S.

Check out Hula’s Bar (134 Kapahulu Avenue) for the sunset views. It had live music and great happy hour specials the night I was there and is close to the beach. 

The In Between Bar (2255 Lauula) features karaoke every night and a friendly local crowd. 

Where to stay

I stayed in Waikiki at The Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club, which was perfect. I had a small apartment with balcony. The Surfjack features local room design and art work and local fare in its restaurant, Mahina and Sun where guests at the hotel get a $10 per day credit for a meal. 

Surfjack has live music every night at 7 p.m and wine tasting on Tuesdays.  

Free bikes and helmets are nice too not to mention its pool (with free towels and sunscreen) and a tote bag to take your stuff to the beach. 

The hotel is right next door to Bacchus. Next door is an ABC Store (408 Lewers) that has everything you would want to eat or drink. Show your Surfjack room key at the Honolulu Museum of Art for free admission. The Surfjack has it all and is highly recommended. 

What to eat

Bargain hunters will love Da Spot where dinners start at just $6. You will find the at 2569 King Street near University Avenue. 

Getting there

I redeemed just 19,000 points for a free ticket on Southwest Airlines through Oakland (from Indianapolis) to Honolulu. It’s a new route for the company. However, the five-hour-plus flight on its new seating types was uncomfortable and the crackers and cheese snack (plus pretzels and fruit candy) was insufficient for a dinner-hour flight. No food was offered for purchase either. 

The flight attendant barked at me for not separating my cup trash from other trash for pick up as instructed. Another complained when I had the temerity to ask for a full can of Diet Coke on a four-plus hour flight from Indy to Oakland. Worse, the gate they use at HNL is a 20-minute walk to baggage claim and the main terminal where you catch the bus to town, although there is a shuttle bus.

The flight back on American Airlines was much better. Besides being in the main terminal, the red eye through Phoenix featured a great cheese and fruit tray for purchase plus French wine. The seats had chargers for your electronic devices (unlike Southwest). The staff was professional and top notch. 

You won’t need a rental car for your Honolulu trip. It is a very walkable city (especially Waikiki). You can take “The Bus” (their name for the city bus system) everywhere. 

Take the no. 19 Bus to and from the airport for just $2.75. Better yet, by an all-day pass for $5.50 

Travel tips

All the hotels charge a resort fee of around $25-35 so always check what it is when you get a hotel room quote. (At least you are at a resort area, unlike downtown Portland, New York City and other places that now also tack on a resort or amenity fee.) Resort fees are the worst trend of the year in travel. 

Most of the Honolulu hotels are expensive and the ones that aren’t are not part of national chains. Many of these get so-so reviews (see TripAdvisor), so shop around but be prepared for the high room rates. It took a lot of research to track down the Surfjack. 

Try the Japanese food. It’s excellent and everywhere — even at the 7-11. This is because about half the tourists are from Japan. 

Aloha means hello and mahalo means thank you. 

Don’t jaywalk and don’t ride your bike on the sidewalk. These laws are strictly enforced. 

Be sure and take time to learn about the fascinating history of Hawaii and its world-famous plant life while you visit. The locals are friendly and welcoming.

Honolulu indeed makes for a perfect winter get away. 

For more information, try the LGBT pages at visit hawaill.com. The Good to Know LGBT Oahu Pocket Guide also lists everything you need to know in terms of LGBT activities plus lists great hike ideas and beaches on Oahu. Pick one up at a bar. 

Bill Malcolm’s syndicated LGBT value travel column appears in LGBT publications throughout the country. His opinions are his own. He resides in Indianapolis and writes as a hobby. He paid for his own travel and hotel for this trip. 

The post Honolulu is perfect escape from mainland wintertime blues appeared first on Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights.

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