Waikiki Backpackers hostel
My first goal after I had booked my plane ticket through Honolulu was to set up somewhere to sleep while I was there. Thankfully at this point I had gotten fairly good at searching for Hostels (thanks Nelson and Motueka!), and so I jumped online, and had found a cheap and highly rated backpackers within less than half an hour. I booked through for seven nights, set up a pickup at the airport, and went on my way without a worry.
Once I got to Honolulu and had dragged my pack through customs, I called up the shuttle service and let them know where I needed a pickup from. Meeting the shuttle went smooth, and before I knew it I was standing outside of a semi-swank hotel, wondering where exactly the hostel was. (Ed Note: Ben used “Hostel” and “Backpackers” interchangeably here – they do actually mean the same, its just that Backpackers seems to be a more Kiwi / Aussie term). I called them up, and found out that the Hotel WAS the hostel – they simply booked out the hotels spare rooms as needed, forming a rather impressive symbiotic relationship with the hotels in the area. Because of this, I found myself sleeping on a queen sized bed in a hotel in Hawaii, barely two blocks from the beach.
The main lounge of the Hostel was, unfortunately, in a hotel next to the one that my room was located in… meaning that I needed to find someone to sign me in every time I wanted to get up there. And I wanted to go to the Penthouse, as well called it, a lot – they had free breakfast every morning, free WiFi all the time, and on Tuesday and Saturday they had “free beer night”. Granted the beer wasn’t the fanciest stuff out there, but it was in fact beer, and it was in fact free. Those two traits caused it to be quite excellent, in the opinion of this traveler.
The best part about this backpackers though, even above the free beer, was the people. Immediately I was drawn to a small group in the lounge area – they just had this energy that meant that I couldn’t resist just walking up and introducing myself. These people ended up being my constant adventure partners, and are still amazing friends that I keep in touch with regularly. The backpackers here simply brought people together; people with similar energy and vibrancy – travelers who all share the same thirst for adventure and excitement.
My first few days in Hawaii were relaxed. After my long roadtrip of constant movement, with the looming threat of returning too late to catch my flight, I really appreciated the change of pace. And if you want someone to relax, Waikiki is the ultimate place to be. The stereotypical Hawaiian beaches are here, and pretty much any “touristy” activity can be found within a ten minute walk from the center of town.
I started my adventures the same way I start in any city that I’ve never been to – I walked. I took the advice of one of my Uncles, and picked a hotdog stand as my destination. The place was called “Hanks Haute Dogs”, and it had been rated one of the ultimate places to go on O’ahu, so I felt pretty safe choosing it as my first official lunch on the island. The walk was a bit more than 3 miles away, which gave me a long time to check out the feel of the city… and listen to a few tunes that I had gotten stuck in my head during the long New Zealand drives.
After devouring the second best hot dog I’ve ever eaten (Sorry Hanks, but Spikes is still clearly superior) I wandered around the area a bit more, and then turned back towards the main beach by my hostel. On the way though, I found myself watching a spray-artist working on a full-wall mural for a car dealership. The mural depicted the creation of the Hawaiian island chain, according to the mythology of the native Hawaiians. It was amazing, and even though it wasn’t 100% complete I could see the amazing skill that the artist was putting into the work – it honestly rivaled or exceeded many of the “professional arteests” that I’ve met in my travels. We chatted for a few minutes as he waited for one of the layers to dry, and he pointed me in the direction of a few other areas in Waikiki that had amazing “urban artwork”, which I of course went and photographed.
Overall I spent nearly two and a half days just wandering around Waikiki itself. I spent time sitting and reading on the beaches, watching volleyball matches, and staring gape-jawed as surfers carved waves bigger than any I’d ever seen (Ed Note: Heh. The biggest waves he’s seen SO FAR. See Ben’s post on the North Shore exploration for descriptions and pictures of “real” Hawaiian waves). The place was so laid back, and yet so hectic at the same time, that I found myself having trouble sitting still long enough to finish an entire chapter of my book at any one sitting… I guess its the danger of a nearly pure tourist city.
And that brings up the comments on the people that I met and saw while walking around this tourist city. The people here ranged from gaggles of Japanese middleschoolers to busloads of venerable Americans, all decked out in the latest “theft-proof” tourist gear. The sheer number of orange women I saw around was staggering, and honestly a bit confusing to me – I mean, if you’re coming to Hawaii, why go into a spray-tan booth ahead of time? Why not just wear a wee bit of sun screen and get a natural tan while your on one of the sunniest islands in the world? <shrug> I’ll never understand some people.
And of course, to contrast all of the tourists were the native Hawaiians, though by that I don’t necessarily mean the true “natives”… instead I simply mean “people who live in Hawaii”. These people were generally easily identifiable by their annoyance at the tourists getting in their way, the smooth way that they navigated the city, and by the impossible amount of ink that they had embedded in their skin. Not to make broad generalizations, but the amount of tattooing that I saw in this city was astounding to me – not often single large pieces like Kitty or Oliva have, but dozens of smaller pieces covering their bodies. The most prevelant piece of tattooing that I saw was the Hawaiian island chain in its complete glory – I guess its a mark of “islander pride” to have that inked onto your stomach.
The restaurants ran the same broad spectrum as the people, and I ate at more than a few very interesting places, that almost always seemed to have a mirroring “American” restaurant located right across the street. For every Da Big Kahuna or Hanks Haute Dogs local dig, there seemed to be at least one Dennys or Chile’s, and while I didn’t personally recognize them, I’m sure many of the other Asian restaurants that I saw were, in fact, chains from Japan or China.
But even with the number of “stupid tourists” and chain restaurants, I found Waikiki to be a stellarly relaxing city, and it was almost definitely the best way for me to ease my way back into an “American Lifestyle” in a real city, instead of the suburb of Christchurch.