Honolulu makes for a great beach holiday, but offers so much more. I recently spent five days there and enjoyed the beaches, culture, and tropical vegetation. I stayed at the fun Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club which has a lobby with a pool in the center, free sunscreen, and offers live music and other events every night. The 10-story hotel is next door to Bacchus, a fun gay bar as well as the In Between Bar just a block away. The nearby ABC store has everything you need. The property has a surf themed personality with charm and great service that’s not typically available at the other hotel chains and high rises. Plus you get a deck or lanai to relax and enjoy the tropical breezes.


Don’t miss the Foster Arboretum in the center of the city, as it showcases the amazing vegetation of this tropical island. Enjoy the huge trunk of the Kapok tree and the many palms, including the double coconut palm.  The cannonball tree has huge fruits that way several pounds. Enjoy the art work of Hawaiian artists at the Hawaii State Art Museum. Stop by the beautiful Iolani Palace which was home to the Hawaiian monarchy, and contains the statute of King Kamehameha, who united the islands into one country. Unfortunately, I learned the U.S. was behind his overthrow and takeover of the Island. Walk around the beautiful campus of the University of Hawaii. Lay back and catch some rays at the nearby Fort DeRussy beach that also features great views of Diamond Head.

Walk or run with the Frontrunners Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. who meet behind the zoo. Then grab breakfast and explore the Farmers’ Market at the nearby Community College. You can hike up to Diamond Head from there.  The College also has a botanical garden featuring a cactus display. You are on the dry side of Oahu here. Work out with the locals at the 24 Hour Fitness. The West Coast chain has a branch near Waikiki.


Bacchus (next door to the Surfjack) has an outdoor deck which is good for people watching. Try the Thai food at the restaurant next door. Join in Karaoke night Sundays at In Between (just steps from Bacchus). Filled with friendly locals, and offers Honolulu non-touristy culture at its best. The Velvet Lounge has sexy supplies just upstairs from the bar which is located in an alley off the main drag. Catch the sunset at Hula’s on the 2nd floor of the Grand Hotel, and enjoy happy hour Monday through Friday. They too have many special events including a catamaran cruise some Saturdays. Dance the night away at the new Atlas Club. Have a drink with locals at Tapas.


From the airport, take the #20 bus (known as The Bus) to your hotel in Waikiki. It’s a bargain and runs frequently. You can take The Bus everywhere around town and around Waikiki.


Grab some local dishes at Da Spot (2469 King Street) and also enjoy their great smoothies. Nearby the Down to Earth Natural Living (2525 S. King) has a great food bar, including salads and fresh juices. The ABC Stores (including the one near the hotel at 408 Lewers) has everything you need for your vacation including the Japanese inspired snack musubi, which is a block of white rice with a slice of meat (including spam or “salmon flakes”) on top, with a thin wrapper of dried seaweed to hold it together. Also try the papaya. Wash it down with a coconut or pineapple juice.


The aforementioned Surfjack is my go to. I have stayed there twice. Unlike other hotels, they are currently not charging a resort fee. There is so much to do on the property, that includes a great espresso bar which also sells tropical clothes and more, a restaurant that provides food and beverage service around the pool, live music, and other events nightly. The spacious rooms are amazing and feature balconies or lenais with handmade furniture. It’s popular with locals and hotel guests and has a personality missing from the other high rise chain hotels. It’s the Trader Joe’s of hotels in Waikiki. This place has a fun and tropical vibe. 


Book your hotel before your flight as hotel rates vary and can be expensive at times. Learn the Hawaiian language. Aloha not only means welcome, but peaceful and friendly. Please practice Aloha at all times. Wear plenty of sun screen (free at the Surfjack), as you are in the tropics!

About the Author

Bill Malcolm is the nation’s only LGBTQ+ syndicated value travel columnist. Residing in Indianapolis, he travels with a focus on the local and value orientation.