Honolulu Confidential


If you’re a normal tourist flying into Honolulu and staying in Waikiki in a luxury hotel near all the high end shopping malls, your impression of Honolulu might be a bit different than if you arrive by cruise ship. First of all you won’t see this outside your hotel room.

Nor will you get this view of Diamond Head across the terminal parking lot.

Nor will you experience the Aloha Tower from the water.

These were all photographs taken from the ship, of course. The land experience is a bit different. In fact the Honolulu cruise terminal was one of the more disappointing places we encoutered on this trans- Pacific journey. It’s clean and modern enough; however, there is absolutely no reception for cruise passengers, no maps, no tourist information, nothing. There’s a shuttle to a local mall but that’s it.

This caused a lot of problems for us, given that we wanted to go to the Arizona Memorial. We had some idea of the bus we wanted to take, but where to find a bus stop?

We began a walk downtown and after some directions from a local guy we found this nice little park.

Not far away were the Iolani Palace and the Hawaiian Supreme Court you may recognize from Hawaii 5-0.

Next we discovered the Old Stone Church – the first Christian Church in Honolulu.

Next to the church is the tomb of King Lunalilo – a true Hawaiian monarch of the people.

And right by the church was a bus stop. Unfortunately it was in the direction of Waikiki, not the Arizona Memorial. I didn’t have a good feel for the area but I knew this direction wouldn’t be right. So we kept walking.

After a circle tour through an industrial strength shipping area we found ourselves back near the terminal. A short distance away was another bus stop and this turned out to be the right one. No thanks to the Honolulu Tourist Bureau though.

We waited about 30 minutes and then good old city bus #20 showed up. After getting a cheery “Aloha” from the bus’s electronic messaging system we were off on a tour of the bowels of Honolulu. We saw such tourist highlights as Costco, Home Depot and Walmart before passing the former Dole Pineapple Cannery. Apparently this is now a not too successful shopping mall, but we didn’t get off the bus to find out.

Next we had a nice drive under the elevated Interstate, and then a tour of the Airport, terminal by terminal. After that we were at the Arizona Memorial – which was phenomenal and the subject of my next blog post.

When we finished our visit to the memorial we had to find our way back to the highway at a different bus stop – this one had a grotty homeless sleeping area behind it. Then we were back on the bus with some of the more bizarre fellow riders I’ve met – including one guy wearing an NFL official’s jersey. We toured the airport again, and finished up with a drive through Chinatown that would not be on any tourist bus itinerary, believe me! At last we found our way back to the cruise port.

The next day we decided to visit the Aloha Tower as that was a stop off point for a real tourist hop on hop off bus. There was supposed to be a mall there too – but we found that it was totally dead except for Hooter’s and a couple of similar eateries. Redevelopment is underway as a residence for Hawaii Pacific University.

The tower was open though. It was a free elevator ride to the top.

And the view from there was quite impressive. Definitely worth a visit.

Next to the tower is another dead attraction – the Hawaii Maritime Center. Closed for some years according to Google.

And a historic sailing ship – Falls of Clyde – is just rusting away in the harbor. What a shame.

We hopped on our bus and off we went to see Waikiki – all the luxury hotels, Rolex shops, and pristine beaches. Quite a difference from the Aloha Tower area near the ship.

Next we drove by the Art Museum.

Then we finished up with a visit to the lovely Foster Botanical Garden.

Oh yes we went through Chinatown on this tour as well, but it was a considerably sanitized version compared to our city bus trip.

So there you have it. The real Honolulu, not the Disneyland version you’ll see if you go to the Waikiki beaches.




Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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