Chinatown Honolulu, Oahu on a Budget
There are plenty of accommodations to consider and things to do in Honolulu's Chinatown even if you are on a budget. Sometimes all you need is a little bit of research to find those places that won't take away your life savings and activities that are fun yet inexpensive.
Things to do in Chinatown
You may want to visit Hotel Street to hear the best disc jockeys in Honolulu, or see the Next Door Independent Film Festival. Hotel Street is located between the streets of Smith and Bethel. The notoriety of this strip during the Second World War, as a result of its brothels and bars, is not that evident anymore. The remaining memento of its unpopular past is Smith's Union Bar, which is located at 19 Hotel Street.
You can also be part of the First Friday Evening Festival in Chinatown, where boutique shops, artists' studios, and art galleries remain open until late night. The celebrations include open bistros and coffee houses, tattoo parlors, and antique shops as well as street entertainment and live music. One of the highlights of the event is the Downtown Gallery Walk.
You may also enjoy shopping for leis at Maunakea Street that is located between the streets of King and Beretania. Leis are used to welcome visitors and serve as gifts for various occasions such as graduations and birthdays. Stores that sell leis line the street. You can even smell the flowers from a distance. Simple leis with purple orchids can be had for a few dollars.
You can also visit the Kuan Yin Temple at Vineyard Boulevard that is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Don't forget to bring a basket of flowers or fruits that you can put on the altar. Don't bring in your shoes but leave them outside. You may also want to burn some funny paper money to attract prosperity. You may purchase the paper money and fruits from shops in the area. If it happens to be a feast day, there will be vendors right outside the temple.
At Bethel Street, you can watch an opera, a dance, a play, concerts, and even a Hula contest at Hawaii Theatre Center. You may also participate in tours of this art deco theater that was totally restored in 1996.
If you are interested in herbal medicine, you may want to visit the Asian herb store named Viet Hoa at King Street. Various kinds of roots, herbs, and dried flowers are available; you may even consult a herbalist to obtain a prescription.
Special activities for children
From Chinatown, you can go to the Dole Plantation on Kamehameha Highway, where children can play in the Dole maze, which is made up of more than 11,000 hibiscus and pineapple plants. The 2001 Guinness Book of World Records listed it as the biggest maze in the world. The Pineapple Express train also allows you and your children to see the whole garden and its various sites.
You can also bring your kids to the Honolulu Zoo Twilight Tours at Kapahulu Avenue. This is a unique experience because children may see the night animals coming out and playing. Meanwhile, your children can learn more about the Polynesians at the Polynesian Cultural Center at Kamehameha Highway. This is a cultural theme park that occupies an area of 42 acres. Here, visitors enjoy good food, music, crafts, and interactive activities from the islands of Samoa, Tonga, Marquesas, Fiji, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Tahiti. A minimum two-hour visit is recommended to make the most out of the cultural center.
At the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, you and your kids can enjoy 25 acres of slides, wave pools, swimming pools, and inner-tube flumes. For example, Da' FlowRider is capable of producing waves at a steady pace so that boarders and surfers may be able to enjoy their sports throughout the whole day.
After all those activities, you can enjoy some good food at Chinatown, Honolulu. The best dining places for someone on a budget are those that serve inexpensive but delicious ethnic dishes, such as Korean kimchee, Filipino chicken adobo, and Vietnamese pho. Just remember that most of the establishments in Chinatown do not accept credit cards so be sure to bring along some cash.
You can also go to the Maunakea Marketplace to find Filipino, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese fast food restaurants. There are also a number of budget Chinese restaurants. One such place is the Hong Kong Noodle House that is located at the Chinese Cultural Plaza on Beretania Street. It offers delicious homemade noodles that are typically served at a Cantonese restaurant.
Also at Beretania is the Legend Seafood Restaurant, which may arguably be the best Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. The prices here are reasonable. The dumplings, which serve as appetizers, are presented via a series of circling carts. There are more than 100 kinds of dishes to choose from, and almost one-third of them are seafood items.
At Bethel Street is the Brasserie du Vin, which is a French wine bar and restaurant. It has a wide range of wines to choose from, with prices ranging from $20 dollars to more than $100. A daily menu is made up of an appetizer, the main meal, and dessert.
For Vietnamese food, you may try Pho To-Chau at River Street. You can enjoy the pho noodle soup for a price ranging from $4 to $6. If you don't like falling in line, be sure to be there early to avoid the long line of customers.
Choices for accommodation
Not far from Chinatown and Downtown Honolulu are budget hotels in Waikiki. One such place is The Breakers at Beach Walk Street. It is a carefully preserved historic hotel from the 1950s. Some of the rooms have sliding Japanese screens that serve to hide the large closets and small kitchens. A few of the rooms have black lanais that let you view Japanese tea ceremonies.
The ResortQuest Coconut Plaza Hotel at Lewers Street is a boutique hotel where all rooms have balconies. All of the rooms also have kitchenettes, except for the standard doubles. At Kapahulu Avenue is the Queen Kapiolani Hotel, which has regular hotel decorations. It has 315 rooms and a large pool, a lounge, and a restaurant.
Also at Beach Walk Street is the Hawaiiana Hotel, which is slightly bigger than The Breakers. Its social center is made up of two swimming pools that are surrounded by tropical plants and lava rock walls. The rooms are standard, but all are provided with kitchenettes.
If you want something that is a little bit more classy, you may try the Waikiki Parc Hotel at Helumoa Road. It is only 100 yards from the beach, and many of the rooms provide you with beautiful views. At one of its floors is a petite exercise room and a swimming pool. What makes the rooms unique are the shuttered-windows from the floor to the ceiling.
It's best consider all these options before you set foot on Honolulu. A map of Honolulu can be your best guide when looking for sights to explore or preparing an itinerary. For such a vibrant neighborhood, you'll surely enjoy going around Honolulu's Chinatown. Here, you'll get to meet friendly locals and enjoy the cultural diversity of this place. Just remember that every street has something to offer, so don't miss out on some important details such as where to shop for herbal medicines or get fresh fruit baskets.
Because Chinatown is near other tourist spots, it can be your starting point when exploring other exciting places in Honolulu.