Waikiki, Oahu Plus Hawaiian Islands Cruise



Most of the information I’m about to provide about Hawaii, other than a few exceptions here and there, is focused on waikiki and the surrounding areas on the island of Oahu because we’ve stayed primarily on this island.

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Staff Hospitality
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Food / Dining
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Total Cost (All Inclusive)
Starts at $90pp per night plus food & air

Places To Stay

About Hotel & Resorts Options

There are a LOT of hotel and resort options in Hawaii, so regarding places to stay, it really depends on your budget. For us we’d rather spend less on hotels and travel more than to spend a lot of money on hotels and spend less. Below is a short list of places we’ve stayed when we’ve visited Hawaii. Everywhere we’ve stayed has been on the island of Oahu. If you’re looking at a specific island, there are plenty of online reviews about the best places that fit your budget and style. The examples below are organized in lowest price order first.

Aston Waikiki Circle

There are two Aston Waikiki hotels in Waikiki that are literally across the street from the beach. We’ve stayed at the Circle one, which served our purposes well. It’s an old hotel that has been restored so it’s got a great retro feel. We’ve gotten an upgraded room that has a beach-side balcony. The rooms are modest in size but are nice, there is a small fridge near the coffeemaker, and in the small “lobby” area is Eggs ‘n’ Things, a great restaurant that gives you a 10% discount if you show them your room key when ordering. Parking here is also very limited; we always take a cab from the airport so it’s never an issue for us. The location is perfect; everything from shopping to restaurants to public transport is a short walk away.

Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger

When we stayed here it was owned by Holiday Inn. The Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger is in an excellent location, with the beaches right there across the street, and as with the Aston hotel, everything we really need is within walking distance of the hotel. I would advise to try to get one of the higher floors and to consider splurging for an ocean view. There’s a pool and fitness center, and  Outrigger also happens to own Maui Brewing Company, which is an amazing restaurant that serves really good craft beer and live entertainment, and is located right next door.

Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club

This is an absolutely beautiful resort. We stayed here as part of a birthday trip. The grounds are amazing. The rooms and villas are top notch. It’s family-friendly, and it’s within an exclusive gated community. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu/Waikiki Beach, so keep that in mind.

Cruise Ship Stateroom

One option is to get on a cruise ship and choose a room with a balcony. Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship Pride of America offers a 7-day cruise to four Hawaiian islands (Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island) with two overnight stays (port locations are apt to vary due to volcanic activity on the Big Island). We’ve done this cruise at least twice and love it. The port is in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Though the cruise is the most expensive for hotel stay,, it is still by far the least expensive option overall since the costs are all inclusive.

If you choose to cruise, this is a great way to spend a day or two on each island in the itinerary, so if you’d like to return in the future, you have an idea of the island or islands you like best.  You may still want a few days in Waikiki either before or after the cruise to complete your Hawaii experience.

Something to keep in mind about this particular cruise: It’s more expensive than the average Caribbean cruise, in part because the staff are mostly American so wages are higher, and the fact that there is no casino on this ship due to state laws.

Things To Do

There are so many things to do in Hawaii that it can easily get overwhelming, particularly if you don’t have deep pockets or weeks of vacation time. The internet is full of websites, blogs, and Pinterest pins with lists of things to do on various Hawaiian islands, so instead of trying to compete with all that, I’m sticking to things we’ve done when in Hawaii.


Featured Honolulu Activity - Chief's Luau

Chief’s Luau is one of the highest rated luaus on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google. We’ve actually been to this one twice and of the 4 or 5 luaus we’ve experienced, this one is our favorite. It’s very well-organized, guests arrive in buses (which picked us up and dropped us off at the same location in Waikiki) so there’s no worry about where to park, the food is really good, and the entertainment is amazing. There are three “experiences” you can have, based on budget. The higher priced tier groups sit closer to the entertainment and have some other perks. Guests in all tiers get the all-you-can-eat buffet and all get to see the show. It’s not cheap (prices start at $95 for an adult ticket) but for us it was well worth the admission. What’s interesting is that this luau is on the same property as Wet ‘n Wild water park. Since the luaus are held in the evenings, there is no conflict with the water park activities.

If you’re looking for an amazing luau and you aren’t going to be on the island of Oahu, I suggest you head to TripAdvisor

Featured Waikiki Activity - Surf Waikiki

Yellow Cap Mike has provided the best surf training experience on Waikiki Beach Hawaii for over 25 years as well as outrigger canoe rides, stand up paddle, burials at sea, and island tours. We offer customized excursions to meet all your expectations. Our passion is to provide high-quality services using state-of-the-art equipment that matches your skill level. We are very dedicated to providing our clients with great memories that will last a lifetime.

Learn to surf in one of the best surfing spots in the world! We provide surfing lessons for all ages, both private and group instruction. From paddling out to riding your first wave, your instructor is there every step of the way to ensure you have a great experience. Boards are provided in lessons, and board rental is also available.  Call Mike directly at 808-753-6082. Please leave him a message he does not answer the phone as he is on the beach all day most days.

Guided Tours

One of the best ways to see Hawaii is to do it via a tour company. Many tour companies will pick you up and drop you off at or close to your hotel. TripAdvisor has reviews of various tour companies and specific tours, and again, it depends on your budget here. If you choose to cruise, it’s easy to book excursions through the cruise line, but keep in mind that there is almost always an upcharge, so we booked directly with the tour company we used.

Roberts Hawaii

We’ve had good experiences with Roberts Hawaii tours, which has tour options all over the islands.. One tour that we enjoyed was Rainbow Falls in Hilo on The Big Island. We also did a Lava Tube / Hawaii Volcanoes National Park tour. Due to the volcano activity on the Big Island, though, these tours may not be available.

Tom's Barefoot Tours

This tour company also has tour options all over the islands. They’ve got pretty good reviews, and we’ve had good experiences with them. We did a waterfall hike/tour on the island of Oahu that was a lot of fun for an afternoon.




Pearl Harbor

Diamond Head State Monument

Honolulu Zoo

Queen Kapi‘olani Park

Dole Plantation


Shopping districts and malls

Farmers Markets

ABC Stores

North Shore village


My advice on transportation in Hawaii is limited, because we don’t rent a car when we go to Hawaii. We stay in places that have everything possible within walking distance or are a relatively short bus ride away.

Take The Bus

Hawaii has great bus systems in our experience (and a lot of online reviews agree). We’ve taken buses in Maui (to Big Beach/Little Beach) and Oahu. Day passes are very reasonable. The main downside is that it can take a while to get to your destination (for example, if a place is 20 minutes away by car, it could take an hour by bus).

Use a car-sharing service

There is a “car sharing” option called Turo, where you basically rent a local’s car for a specified duration, and the fees are based in part on make/model/year. It can be a better option than using a rental company, but reading reviews are helpful.

Car rentals

I was told by a local that Hertz had the best rates in Waikiki, but you may want to research rental companies and see if you really need one during your stay. Parking can be very limited and quite expensive. We purposely stay in areas that are pedestrian-friendly to avoid needing a vehicle.

There's always Taxis and Uber

I will admit that we haven’t used Uber in Hawaii and only used Taxis to get to and from the airport. We checked out the prices and decided that for our purposes it was better to bus it when needed.

Good Eats

A lot of tourists will go to a bar, like Margaritaville, during an afternoon off-resort, down a bunch of margaritas or Red Stripes, and then decide to go shopping because they don’t have a care in the world. First of all, if you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, you can limit the alcohol when you’re off the resort, since drinks almost always add up to a big tab at the end (by the way, you need to be somewhat sober to make sure that the tab is correct, because even bartenders at home can add an extra drink or two to your bill and figure you won’t notice). Then, if you’re sloshed and make the brilliant decision to look in a few stores, you’ll likely end up either buying a lot of crap you don’t need, you’ll pay full price for items that you may have been able to negotiate for a lower price had you been sober, and, worst case, you could get pickpocketed or mugged by someone who decided to take advantage of your inebriation.


If you love bananas, and you love ice cream, and you’re anywhere close to Waikiki, you have to go to Banan. They make dairy free, straight up banana ice cream (I make it at home with a food processor and frozen bananas and it’s amazing) and you can pick assorted toppings and the like. There are 2 locations, one of which is basically on the beach between hotels. It’s not cheap (prepare to spend around $9 per bowl on average) but it is SO worth it.


If you want a lovely sunset dinner, or just dinner in general at a great beachfront restaurant, head over to Duke’s in Waikiki. If you want to sit outside so you can get a view of the sunset (check the time of when sunset should be during the time you’ll be in Hawaii), make reservations well in advance. You should be able to make reservations up to about 3 months in advance. Duke’s has an AMAZING huge salad bar that you can have as a one-trip visit or have it as your meal. The seafood and presentation are outstanding. Prices are what you’d expect at a beachfront restaurant in Hawaii but if you’re going to Hawaii you know you’ll be dropping some decent dough. This place is worth it. (Hint: if you’re a guy and want to impress your significant other, bring some extra cash for a freshly made lei that you can usually find just outside the main dining room. They are gorgeous and smell wonderful). Also, GET THE HULA PIE for dessert. It’s huge and freaking awesome.

Eggs ‘N’ Things

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

MauiHard Rock Cafe

Jamba Juice

Maui Brewing Company

Rock Island Cafe

Hawaii On A Budget

We spend money where we feel it counts, but we don’t splurge on every single thing possible. It’s not all-or-nothing; we just choose wisely when it comes to a few things that we know can easily add up. Here are a few tips:

Pick a hotel that has a fridge in rooms

Look on the hotel website or ask the staff when booking your hotel reservation. Not every hotel offers this. We find it totally necessary because we get a lot of fruit and other perishables at farmers markets and grocery stores, which saves us money because we aren’t constantly eating out.

Pack your favorite snacks in your luggage

I pack boxes of my favorite crackers, raw almonds, and other lightweight non-perishables because if I wanted to buy the same things once I got to Hawaii I’d pay a good bit more. Everything in Hawaii is more expensive since most everything is imported and because it’s so touristy. If you love Chips Ahoy and can’t live without them, consider packing a box in your luggage instead of buying them locally, and then you’ll later have that room in your suitcase for souvenirs.

Get sunscreen before you go to Hawaii

We always pack at least 5 spray cans of high-SPF sport sunscreen because, again, everything in Hawaii is so expensive. I also take a jar of clear zinc for when we are at the beach, particularly surfing. I swear by the stuff. And it’s way cheaper to bring it from home.

Find a grocery store or food market within walking distance

We go to the Food Pantry to grab bottled water and snacks. It’s a small grocery store (the one we go to is in Waikiki, a few blocks from our hotel) that also has takeout and a coffee place. We’d rather get stuff there than at a pricier convenience store.

Go to Ross before you hit the surf shops

You might be surprised at the brands you’ll find there. The enormous Ross in Waikiki has a lot of the same brands as the myriad of surf shops – Billabong, Hurley, RVCA, etc – and you can pick up less pricey souvenirs here as well. We’ve also gotten cheap sunglasses (that had UV protection) to wear when surfing so our Oakleys wouldn’t be in danger (I lost a pair of Oakleys a few years ago while bodysurfing). It’s a very good option when you have kids. If anyone needs a rashguard, try Ross first unless you plan on paying full price at one of the surf shops.

Hawaii Photo Gallery