A good friend of mine who used to live here in Hawaii is in town for a week. With her is her daughter, grand daughter, friend, and friend's daughter. We brainstormed a bunch of ideas to figure out where to hang on Labor Day and wound up doing the Honolulu Zoo for the little one's sake (and mine), then on to Waikiki Beach, where we baked and swam for a good two or so hours.
At some point in our conversation, we were talking about the places visitors should avoid. Here's my take:
1. Starbucks--I'm not a coffee drinker, but I suggest Mocha Java at Ward Centre or Honolulu Coffee Company (locations at Ala Moana Shopping Center, 3rd floor; Moana Hotel in Waikiki; Sheraton Hotel in Waikiki; or Bishop Square in Downtown Honolulu at Bishop and King Street). These coffee shops are locally owned and operated and have much better Konas.
2. Walmart--yes, they sell cheap Hawaiian souvenirs, but come on, it's WALMART. Instead, plan a trip to the Aloha Stadium on a Saturday or Wednesday and buy from local vendors, many of which sell unique wares not to be found even in tourist-laden Waikiki.
3. Neiman Marcus--just don't go there.
4. Tanning salons--hello.
5. Taco Bell, McDonalds, Jack-n-the-Box, Burger King, Pizza Hut, et al--instead try Zippy's, Hawaii's own locally established fast-food joint. Against my local grain, I will recommend California Pizza Kitchen at Kahala Mall only because my son works there. Otherwise I'd say, "pass" on this place as well because we're in Hawaii, not California. Thank God!
There are plenty of other great places to visit here in the Aloha state. One of my favorites: Ice Palace in Aiea. It's the only bona fide ice skating rink in the state, a place to go when you really want to put on a sweater and mittens and show off some blade action. You can even see your breath when you exhale!