June 2, 2013

Hawaii: driving a Mustang around Oahu

If you’ve been to Waikiki before, you’ve trawled the shops and sprawled on the sand, then rent a car and head off to see more of the island of Oahu. Cue the Ford Mustang…

Mustang Hawaii

Just call me Sally!

Driving at the speed of Hertz is the company tag line. But there must be some kind of trick to getting the car and leaving on time that I didn’t master. Ours was booked for 9am. We got there about 9.20 and there were no Mustangs. They were being brought in to the depot at the Hyatt Regency on Waikiki from the airport and disgruntled people were being told to come back in an hour. It’s hard to believe that this is the way business is done every day here, but if it is, make sure you show up at your allocated time and be prepared to kick around for a bit.

Apparently they hold your car for an hour in its booked slot, but either they let ours go to someone else or just never got it in.

Anyhoo, we were happy to be on Island Time and just after 10 were in the Mustang, plugging in the GPS and pulling out, slowly, on the wrong side of the road. Which is actually the right side. See what I did there?

We had our own GPS because after Hawaii we’re driving from Nashville to Memphis and New Orleans. I’d definitely advise adding the GPS to your booking, but our paper map was also essential for locating which points we wanted to stop at so we could plug those names in.

Driving anti-clockwise means the ocean is on the right hand side and therefore easy to slip off and stop along the way. Beaches, views, shrimp trucks, quirky tourist attractions, shopping outlets and Pearl Harbor, which I’ll list below.

Kailua Hawaii

Swimmers, sunbathers – and a wedding – on Kailua Beach

You can tell who the tourists are – we’re all in convertibles and the brake lights are on at the most ridiculous curve in the road.

Alas the sky was a moody grey and sprinkles of showers meant we didn’t peel the convertible top down except for a few minutes just to say we did.

Deciding we wanted to be back by about 5pm, we decided not to go to the southern point of Oahu, but cut through on the Pali Hwy to Kailua Beach. The sea was as calm as a mill pond all the way around – which disappointed me when we got to the famous Pipeline on Banzai Beach. I had to take this pic of the warning signs as kids played in water like a bathtub.

Kualoa ranch

The lush movie-set view at Kualoa Ranch

Heading north we plugged in Kualoa Ranch. This en0rmous cattle ranch spreads over 4000 acres from the sea to the mountains and today it’s under a thick mist that hides the mountain top. It’s also the movie set of 50 First Dates, Lost, Hawaii 5-0 and Jurassic Park and you can jump on an open top tour bus and take the 1 hour tour through this prehistoric land. You can take ATVs (quad bikes) and go for a tour, or book a 2 hour tour and head back towards the way you’ve come to an ancient fishing lagoon which is still in use today on their private beach.

Polynesian village, Hawaii

Aloha, Kia Ora, Io Rana, Bula…

Next stop: The Polynesian Cultural Centre. Celebrating 50 years this year, this place was highly recommended. I didn’t have enough time, but whipped in for a look so I can tell you about it. Inside you’ll find 7 “villages” including Aotearoa, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Marquesas and Tonga. Wander through each and meet natives from each island nation as they demonstrate their music, dance, spear throwing, jewellery making and other activities. Add a buffet lunch or luau dinner if you come later. You can also book a tour here and be picked up at your Waikiki hotel if you just want to see this place.

Fumi's shrimp shack

The truck has been upgraded to this blue shack with tables to the right


Mmmm, shrimps!

By now I was getting hungry and had my heart set on the shrimp trucks. They’re dotted up the coast from about this point on and you’ll see tables set up under awnings. We stopped at Fumi’s blue shrimp shack which have shrimp breeding ponds in the back. Salt and pepper shrimp was our choice and they were deep fried with shells on then seasoned and served with rice and lettuce. We got a dozen for $12 and the trick to getting the full goodness out of them is to suck the salt off then peel and eat. Love.

Just a little bit further and we’re at the northern tip of Oahu. Turtle Bay Resort is another great spot for lunch. Albeit posher than a shrimp truck.

For great snorkelling, stop at Turtle Bay or Shark Cove (there are no sharks here). We’d bought snorkel and masks from one of the plentiful ABC Stores near our hotel for $6.99 each. But in the end, with the weather threatening and wanting to get to the shopping outlets, we didn’t even get wet!

Surf Hawaii

Beware this dangerous surf!!

The famous Banzai Pipeline is also up here which attracts extreme surfers in the winter months (October to April), but today the water was so calm people were paddleboarding despite the signs warning of immiment danger. A bummer because yesterday swells were 8-12 feet. Today 1-2.

Dole Pineapple ice cream

Mmm Hmmm

Heading south on the Kamehameha Hwy, I insisted on a pit stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation. With more time we could have taken a train around the orchard and if we’d really had hours, could have lost ourselves in their huge maze shaped like a giant pineapple.

The place was heaving with people as it’s not far from Honolulu if travelling the other way. Their snowfreeze pineapple ice cream is sweet as, and I added fresh pineapple to it just to be sure! The gift ship is huge and stole my husband’s will to live. I found him a few minutes later in the car. Worth a stop tho, even if just to see how pineapples grow – on the ground.

Pineapple growing

Did you know they grew like this?



Next stop: Waikele Premium Outlets. Here you’ll find 50 outlet stores including Armani Exchange, Adidas, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Coach, Guess, Michael Kors… Alas I left empty handed.

Pearl Harbour was our final intention, but it was about 4.30pm by now. Unfortunately we were too late. But the car is hired for 24 hours so my advice would be get up early for the 7am opening and get tickets to get out on the USS Arizona ship which is now a memorial for the sailors who perished that fateful day.

Hope this is helpful! Feel free to make comments or ask questions and I’ll do my best to help 🙂

I flew here with the assistance of Hawaiian Airlines who fly direct from Auckland to Honolulu >>>

About Megan Singleton


Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio every week and a few newspapers and mags from time to time. I set off on this travel writing journey 18 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!)I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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