Among the #paradiseproblems visitors have to contend with, early airport arrival tops the list for many malihini. Cheeky hashtag aside, you absolutely want to make the most of your time on Oahu and don’t want to waste hours waiting to check into your accommodations, especially if your flight lands in the early AM with the standard 3 PM hotel check-in hours away. But there’s no need to pass the long morning walking the open air corridors of Daniel K Inouye International Airport, even if the amenities have improved over recent years. Instead, we’ve laid out a list of ways to get the most out of your pocket of time.
4 Best Ways to Pass the Time Between Early Honolulu Airport Arrival and Accommodation Check-In
1. Waikiki Beach Walk (where applicable)
Historical data from the Government of Hawaii states that Waikiki alone hosts approximately 45% of the state’s visitors. That number is for the entire state, which means that if you’re arriving at HNL there’s an even greater chance that you’re staying in Waikiki. If so, you can bide the time after an early arrival by dropping off your luggage with your hotel valet service and joining the thousands of others who are already doing the Waikiki Beach Walk shuffle. Waikiki is no sleepy beach town, it’s a bustling oceanfront resort community and even if your HNL transportation gets you on to Kalakaua or Kuhio Avenue at 7 AM there will be like-minded travelers everywhere, grabbing cups of Kona coffee and planning their day/s ahead by browsing the sites and sounds, and soaking up the plumeria/hibiscus scents of the early morning. Trust us, you don’t need much more guidance than this. Once you tuck your luggage away and step out on onto Kalakaua you’ll see what we mean.
If you happen to be staying in Ko Olina, Oahu’s “new Waikiki”, then you’ll be able to cruise around to kill time in the upscale Kapolei resort community too, although it’s not as teeming with early AM activity as its south shore cousin. We suggest dropping off your gear and heading over to Ko Olina Center to Island Vintage Coffee to sit on the lanai until Monkey Pod Restaurant opens (11 AM) for brunch. From there, browse the art collection at Gallery Olani steps away and check out the boutique shops until your resort suite is ready to accept you and your party.
2. Eat (all destinations)
No matter where you’re staying there will be some amazing places to get your grind on (eat) near your hotel, resort, or vacation rental. Waikiki and Ko Olina are a given, but even if you’re shacking up in rural areas and can’t yet get through the gates to your Airbnb or bungalow there are cozy little spots to drop your bags and sample some ono (delicious) island food. For example, many visitors (not staying at Turtle Bay) who are heading from HNL straight to the North Shore are concerned about what to do when arriving early, given the rural nature of this side of the island. But don’t sweat it, because if eating is one of your favorite things to do you can spend a few hours basking in the glory of the world-class food truck collectives in Haleiwa Town and at Shark’s Cove Pupukea which is near popular vacation rental spots such as Ke Iki Beach Bungalows and Ke Iki Beach Hale. If you’re staying on the eastern end of the North Shore, the Kahuku Food Truck Marketplace is also ripe with plate lunch selections.
Then of course there’s shave ice, one of the most popular “must haves” on Oahu. If you’ve got kids (or kids at heart) eager to sample this island delicacy you can skip everything above and simply go straight from HNL to one of these top shave ice spots near (enough) to Honolulu International Airport, while en route to your accommodations.
3. Shop (resort destinations)
Shopping is another popular pre-check-in time killer on Oahu, and while Waikiki Beach and Ko Olina visitors will enjoy access to some great shopping near their hotel, those of you who have a few hours to spend are advised to head from HNL to Ala Moana Center – the biggest shopping center in the entire Hawaiian Island chain. Other shopping destinations within relative striking distance of the airport include Pearlridge Center and Waikele Premium Outlets. View more on the best shopping destinations near HNL along with advice on how to get to each.
4. Take a Custom Island Tour (starting from HNL!)
We saved the best for last with this one.
There is no better way to spend those surplus hours than with a comfortable, air-conditioned, and VERY affordable custom island tour, one that can pick you and your party up from HNL baggage claim and whisk you off to whatever it is on the island you want to see. That means even if you’re staying in Waikiki, you can start off with a breezy driving tour of the Seven Mile Miracle known as the North Shore before getting dropped off to the steps of your Waikiki Beach hotel hours later. In fact, you can even do a pre-packaged Circle Island Tour right from the get go. This tour is a GREAT way to get familiar with the island and can help you decide what you want to see more of later on in your week long (or more/less) stay.
Whether you want to create the itinerary or need help from us to customize one for you, we will make sure that your vacation starts off the best way possible. View more about Honolulu Airport’s Transfer’s Custom Island Tours of Oahu.
Honolulu Airport Transfer will take you and your party from HNL to any of the destinations addressed above and can even work them into your own custom tour. If you have any questions whatsoever, please call us toll-free at 1-800-929-1219.