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The Lei Over: Five fab places to explore in Honolulu

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Travelling long distances, I welcome a layover. One of my favourites happens when I travel to the South Pacific where the state of Hawaii becomes the layover destination. The island of Oahu is known as “The Gathering Place.” Most international flights from North America and other countries use the city of Honolulu as a transfer point. This is the ultimate “Lei-over” city.

Honolulu’s international airport is easy to navigate and car rentals are very inexpensive. To see Honolulu on a Lei-over, it is best to have at least 12 hours or more before your flight to have plenty of time to see and experience the best of this city.

No need to take a taxi around the city, rent a car instead, a convertible. Rental rates at the airport are quite low and competitive. Get yourself a flower Lei as you leave the airport, put it around your neck and enjoy the warmth and beauty of Honolulu. Here are five places that should be visited during your Lei-over.

photo by Eric Tessmer, wiki commons

Leahi (Diamond Head Crater)

Hike up Leahi (Diamond Head Crater), which defines the Honolulu skyline rising 231 metres (760 feet). This natural landmark is an actual crater that can be spotted from almost anywhere in Honolulu. The trail leading-up to Diamond Head’s summit is 2.6 km with many steep stairs and a 68-metre (233 feet) long tunnel that feels somewhat tight to navigate through. Diamond Head was a key point of protection for Honolulu during World-War 1 and 2. Bunkers and artillery stations are still in their place. Plan on spending between 1.5 to 2 hours to get to the summit. Once at the top, visitors are rewarded with an amazing panoramic view of Honolulu.

World Famous Waikiki Beach

Waikiki beach is a must. Put on a bathing suit and basque in the warmth of this world-famous beach. Walk along the sandy shore and look at the surfers, from beginners to expert catching the waves. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to surf, there is no better place or time to take a lesson. The crashing waves at Waikiki are quite inviting. Surf shops are set-up along Waikiki beach and they also give lessons – just look for the surfboards. If that is not for you, try paddling an outrigger canoe- Hawaiian style. Or you may just want to enjoy a relaxing dip in the water and then work on your tan. Waikiki is a beach where you can do it all.

USS Arizona Memorial

This spot is one of the most important national historical landmarks in the USA. The memorial marks the place where the “USS Arizona” battleship was bombed during World War II. More than 1,000 sailors and Marines met their demise during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu. This was the event that brought the USA into World War II. The monument is accessible by boat and it is built over the sunken battleship. Stretching 56 metres in length (184 feet), the monument represents the resolve of the American people before, during and after the war.

See the Waikiki Sunset

Depending on the month, the sun usually sets between 5:50 pm to just before 7:00 pm. Honolulu comes alive at night, and hundreds of people gather at various spots along Waikiki beach to witness the majestic sun setting and saying good evening to the day. Outrigger canoes glide along the water and cross in front of the sun as it goes down for the evening. The shadowy silhouetted outlines of everything that crosses in front of the sun provide on-lookers with a mystical experience that is awe-inspiring and makes one appreciate how amazing our planet and our universe really are.

Experience a Hawaiian Luau

There is no better way to experience the local Hawaiian cuisine than attending a Luau. One of the better places to experience this is at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Honolulu. This event features an evening filled with fire dancers, graceful hula dancers, Hawaiian music, Polynesian warrior dancers and delicious food, usually featuring the local poi, and a pig that is cooked in the ancient traditional method, a cooking pit called an “Imu.” Always be ready to be called upon to dance the hula in front of everyone in attendance.

Besides the Lei, there is only one additional item needed for a great Lei-over, a Hawaiian shirt, yes they are still very popular. The flowers around your neck may not last the day, but the Hawaiian shirt will make a statement and serves as a reminder of your lei-over. Do not forget your flight; return to the airport a minimum of two hours before your departure…Aloha!

Frank Greco is a world traveller and TV producer of “The Travel Guy, Gourmet Escapes, other lifestyle programs and documentaries.” Follow Frank on Instagram (thetravelguy1 and travelwithmeandde) or become friends on Facebook (www.facebook.com/frank.greco.338)

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