Two women in a convertible on Oahu
December 1, 2018
| by
Maria Mancuso

Visit Oahu: Top Tips for Visiting Oahu - Part 1

If you are a first-time visitor or a returning visitor these Top Tips for Visiting Oahu are sure to help you in planning your visit and while you are here on the island.

Tell people you are planning a trip to Hawaii and it all begins, everyone who has been to Hawaii has a long list of tips and tricks to help you make the best of your visit. Even those who have not even been to Hawaii, are willing to share advice they have heard from a friend or relative.

The follow is our list of advice and recommendations: Top Tips for Visiting Oahu – Part 1. We hope you find it helpful.

1. Getting There: Oahu is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated land masses in the world, meaning the islands are farther away from any other land mass.  Even though there are many airlines that fly to Hawaii, you are not going to find too many bargain basement prices for flights.  

However, if you plan, and if you are flexible on your days of the week that you can fly, you can find great rates.  Also, consider booking a bundle package that includes air fare and hotel together.  This option most often will provide the lowest fare.  If you plan to rent a car, we have learned that this is best done when you arrive in Hawaii – but be sure to compare this option before you travel.  

Check car rental prices online before you leave and call the local Oahu/Honolulu car rental companies and ask for a rate quote, they do not need to know that you are calling from home.  Just ask the representative for a quote based on you picking up the car the next day.  This will give you a good idea on the rate you can receive when you are on the island.  

One more tip: When you are researching hotel/air/auto quotes online always do so using ‘Incognito’ mode, so the booking Websites can not track your location or sessions.

2. Currency: Hawaii is part of the United States of America and the official currency is the U.S Dollar. Exchanging money in the airport is almost always your best bet when traveling.

3. Best time to visit Oahu: This is a highly debated question.  There is a dry season that corresponds to summer, April to October, and a rainy season in winter, November to March.  For us a visit to Oahu any time of year is great.  Sure, there is the rainy season, and Winter months are a bit cooler, but this is the time of year when the Whale Watching is at its best.  

Aerial view of Oahu
Best time to visit Oahu? Anytime!

You are likely to find better rates for airfare, hotels and other expenses during the rainy season.  For us, a visit during September to December is ideal because rates are a bit lower and it is not as hot.

4. Credit or Cash: We recommend bringing and using both credit cards and cash.  You will need your credit card to check into your hotel for the deposit for incidentals.  Also using a credit card means you will need to carry less cash with you which is safer.   Using a credit card is also a good way to protect your purchases in case there is a need to return or exchange a purchase. 

US Currency
Cash or credit?

Credit cards are widely accepted across the island.  Also, be sure to notify your bank in advance of the dates you will be traveling and where you will be traveling to.

5. Getting Around Oahu #1: Unless you are on a very strict budget, or if you are staying at one of the BIG resorts that offer almost every service or amenity within the resort, we recommend renting a car, at least for a few days of your visit if not all days.  Renting a car can be a bit pricey and parking can also be expensive, but in our opinion, the freedom to do more and see more and to be able to go whenever and wherever you want is worth the extra expense.  

Afterall if you have saved your money to finally go to Oahu, but you are only able to experience the part of the island closest to your hotel, then you are not really experiencing all Oahu has to offer.  

At the very least plan on renting a car for a few days, this way you can drive around Oahu, go to Hanauma Bay, Ko Olina, North Shore, whenever you like.  Without a car you are restricted to public transportation, Uber, or paid excursions/tours.  

6. Getting Around Oahu #2: Oahu has a good Public Transportation/Bus System and you can get a Bus Pass for the days you will be visiting.  The bus does not go to all areas of the island that you may want to go however.  A bus ride from Waikiki to North Shore will cost about $5.00 and will require that you take 2 buses.  

The buses do not make stops along the way other than for the passengers to get off one bus and board the second bus.  By comparison, if you have a rental car you can take your time driving to North Shore, stop as often as you like, etc.  

You will appreciate the value of having a rental car when you can stop at the roadside fruit stands, stop at a secluded beach to snorkel on a whim or pull over for that perfect selfie with the mountains or ocean as the backdrop…have we convinced you to rent a car at least for a few days yet?

7. Getting Around Oahu #3: Uber and Lyft offer service on Oahu. You will need their apps to use their services.

8. Cost of Food: Contrary to what you may hear it is not too terribly expensive to eat on Oahu.  Yes, there are very expensive restaurants if you want to splurge but you can also find many options for good quality restaurants on the island.  If you go out to eat breakfast away from your hotel (some hotels offer Breakfast Packages which can be cheaper or in some cases, free), expect to pay between $15 and $20 per person for Breakfast at a local restaurant, including drinks.   

Garlic shrimp and rice
Yum! Garlic Shrimp and Rice is a very popular and affordable lunch you'll want to try.

For Dinner, there are many options from fast food restaurants to high-end ocean front restaurants.  You can find very good restaurants outside of the heart of Waikiki where you can expect to pay between $20 - $40 per person depending on the quality of the food + the cost of drinks.  There are many options for great Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and local Hawaiian restaurants to choose from in this price range.  

For something a little more upscale, you can choose to dine at one of the nice beach front hotels in Waikiki and expect to pay $50 and $100 per person depending on the quality of the restaurant and the number of drinks you have.  Alternatively, if you plan to stay on the island for more than 5 days or so, it is worth it to buy some food at the local supermarket.  You can buy several staple items and store the perishable’s in your refrigerator in your hotel room or rental.  Plus, going to the local supermarket is a great activity to see how locals’ shop.

9. Fireworks:  Yes, this is a thing in Hawaii.  Each Friday just after sunset, make your way to the beach in Waikiki – close to the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  Each Friday night there is a spectacular firework show to kick off the weekend.

10. Drones: Can I fly my drone?  Yes, but like on the mainland, you must ensure that you have all the correct permits and you must obey the local fly/no fly zones.  If you have any questions, go online and contact the local Drone Group or a top photography store or Facebook Group and they can provide you with more details on the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’s’ of flying your Drone.   

11. Mobile Phone Coverage and Wi-Fi Coverage: If you have a Mobile carrier on the mainland, you will have no issue with mobile service on Oahu.   Multiple cellphone companies provide service to the Hawaiian islands and issue no extra fees or roaming charges for using your cell on the islands. National carriers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc., all provide visitors with cell service. 

Alternatively, if you are not coming from America, you could buy and use a SIM card for service.  Oahu, and primarily the Honolulu and Waikiki areas have good Wi-Fi coverage and almost all Hotels provide Wi-Fi coverage for free or a daily fee.  Be sure to ask at check-in if there are any related fees.  If you are renting a Vacation Rental, Wi-Fi is almost always included. Hostels are also very good about providing Wi-Fi at no extra charge.

12. ABC Stores: That’s all we need to say, but we promise you as hard as you may try, you will likely enter an ABC Store at least once a day, every day you are on the island…or if you are like us, you will find yourself in an ABC Store so often you may think you work there. We love this place.

Look Tips for Visiting Oahu – Part 2 for more tips and tricks for making the most of your visit to Oahu!

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