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Information from the Local Chairs

Aloha. Welcome to Hawai‘i!

Hawai‘i is an archipelago consisting of over 130 islands, islets, and atolls. Only seven closely-grouped islands are inhabited (by people), with O‘ahu having the largest population. The city of Honolulu, located on O‘ahu, is the state capital and by-far the most populous city in Hawai‘i. Waikiki, where most CHI’24 conference attendees will probably be located, is the well-known seaside resort section of Honolulu. This material focuses mostly on O‘ahu.

Hawai‘i offers visitors many things to do. Because of the warm climate, beautiful ocean, thrilling mountains, exotic jungles, and spectacular lava fields, many activities are outdoors. However, Honolulu also offers interesting cultural, educational, culinary and entertainment venues.


It is useful to become familiar with how locals talk about directions. We do use the compass directions to describe large sections of O‘ahu, especially the North Shore and the South Shore. Honolulu is on the South shore. The east and northeast coasts together are commonly referred to as the windward side and the western coast is commonly referred to as the leeward side. Central O‘ahu is everything in the middle. On a more local level, when we are trying to describe where something is in relation to our current position, we use the terms “mauka,” which means toward the mountains, and “makai,” which means toward the sea. Mauka and makai can be any compass direction depending on where you are. Other than that, we use landmarks and place names. When you are located in Honolulu, you can think of the directions as mauka and makai, which roughly correspond to north and south respectively, and “Diamond Head” and “Ewa” (pronounced “Eva”), which roughly correspond east and west, respectively.


You won’t really hear Hawaiian spoken much, but you will certainly see it in place names, street names, store names, person names etc. The easiest way to deal with what can seem like impossibly long words is to just sound them out one syllable at a time without worrying about accents. The ‘a’ is a soft sound like “ahh,” ‘e’ is pronounced like the ‘ay’ in “hay,” ‘i’ is a pronounced like ‘ee’ in “peek,” ‘o’ is pronounced like “oh,” and ‘u’ is pronounced like ‘oo’ in “boom.” You will see a character called ‘okina (there is one at the start of the word ‘okina!), which is a glottal stop. So kau, which means setting sun or resting, is pronounced like “cow,” whereas Ka‘ū, which is a place, is a two-syllable word pronounced “ka oo.”

You will commonly hear the word “aloha” used to greet and to say goodbye. You will hear “mahalo” for thank you. You might hear “keiki,” which is a child, and “‘ohana,” which is a family. ‘Ohana is broadly defined as a group sharing mutual interests, benefits, and obligations, so we can talk about the CHI ‘ohana for example. You might hear “mauka” and “makai,” which you now already know! In situations like driving or queuing, you might see signs that say “Please kokua,” which are asking you to be considerate and do the right thing. Restrooms marked “kane” are for men and “wahine” are for women.

Finally, people who live here are called “locals,” or “Hawaii residents.” The word “Hawaiian” is used for people of Hawaiian ancestry. Also, we call the rest of the U.S. “the mainland.”

Sun Protection

The UV index is always strong in Hawaii. Many vacations have been ruined by nasty sunburns, and it doesn’t take long at all to get a sunburn. Use sunscreen and wear a hat when outside for any length of time. Please kokua and use reef-safe sunscreen.


Needless to say, there are a lot of beaches in Hawai‘i. From the CHI’24 hotels, you have easy access to Ala Moana Beach, the beaches adjacent to Hilton Hawaiian Village, and, of course, Waikiki beach.

Ala Moana Beach Park is a half mile of sandy beach right across the street from the Ala Moana shopping center. It is protected by an offshore reef so it is very calm with no wave activity on the beach. There is a steep drop off a few feet out into the water, however, so be aware of that. Magic Island is an adjacent park with shade and benches. In addition to swimming and stand-up paddling, Ala Moana beach and Magic Island are great places for running. There are no commercial activities such as stores or rental facilities at Ala Moana.

Right behind Hilton Hawaiian Village is Kahanamoku beach and a shallow artificial lagoon. The hotel tries to make it look like these areas are private, but they are public beaches. Adjacent to Kahanamoku beach, going in the direction of Diamond Head, is Fort Derussy beach. You can rent stand-up paddle boards and other gear at these beaches. Unlike the other beaches in this guide, there is no lifeguard station at Fort Derussy.

Continuing in the Diamond Head direction, you come to the most famous beach in Hawaii: Waikiki. Waikiki beach stretches for about two miles between Fort Derussy and Kapi‘olani Park. Waikiki Beach on the Fort Derussy end is dominated by hotels. On the one hand, they offer great seaside dining and opportunities for renting beach gear and taking catamaran trips. On the other hand, they have contributed to beach erosion and it can actually be difficult to walk this stretch of Waikiki while staying on the beach. You might have to resort to walking along Kalakaua Avenue for this part of your Waikiki trek. The two original Waikiki hotels, the Royal Hawaiian built in 1927 and the Moana Surfrider built in 1901, are beautiful and worth a stop.

Still heading toward Diamond Head, the Moana Surfrider hotel marks the end of the beachfront hotel section of Waikiki. At that point, there are no hotels between Kalakaua Avenue and the beach. This section, also called Kuhio Beach, is where you will find the Waikiki Beach Boys who can give you surfing lessons. South shore surf is usually gentle and Waikiki is a great place to learn. Regardless of whether you take a surfing lesson, you will want a selfie next to the Duke Kahanamoku statue. The Duke is one of Hawaii’s most famous surfing legends and is credited with introducing surfing to the world. A portion of Kuhio Beach is protected by a sea wall, so it is always calm and shallow – great for kids and for adults who prefer a more pool-like beach experience. Where the walls end, Waikiki Walkway juts out and creates great conditions for body boarding and an excellent perch for watching the sunset.

You can continue past the Waikiki beach area and enjoy Kapi‘olani Regional Park, which has tennis courts, more beach, exercise stations, and spectacular views of Diamond Head. Runners, a jog around Kapi‘olani Park is recommended. You can get there from the CHI hotels by running along either Kalakaua Avenue (commercial and crowded) or alongside the Ala Wai canal (quieter and almost uninterrupted by cross streets). The start of Ala Wai Blvd. is right across the street from the Prince Hotel and it runs all the way to Kapiolani Park.

If you drive around the island (see below), you will have many other beach opportunities.

Nearby Cultural, Historical and Educational Experiences

Hawaii has an interesting history. Hawaii is the northernmost part of the Polynesian Triangle which includes many island nations throughout the south and central Pacific. People have travelled extensively throughout this region for millennia. The Bishop Museum in Honolulu has the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. It is dedicated to studying the history of Hawai‘i in particular, and it is a must-see destination. You can get to the Bishop using the #2 bus that runs through Waikiki.

Iolani Palace, completed in 1882, served as the seat of government and official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy before the kingdom was overthrown by the United States in 1893. The last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Queen Lili‘uokalani, was tried for treason before a military tribunal in the throne room of ‘Iolani Palace in 1895, and the Queen was actually imprisoned in the palace for a time. A tour of ‘Iolani Palace is an eye-opening experience. Across the street from the palace is a statue of King Kamehameha, a selfie destination for sure.

While we are on the topic of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, I recommend finding out what Hawai‘i Pono‘ī is up to while you are here. Hawai‘i Pono‘ī is a coalition founded “to educate those who live in and visit Hawai‘i about its true history and the Native Hawaiian people.” Before the COVID pandemic, they offered living history tours of ‘Iolani Palace, focusing on the overthrow. Hopefully, these tours will be available again by the time CHI’24 rolls around. They also offer many other activities and should absolutely be on your radar.

Pearl Harbor is only about a 30-minute drive outside of Honolulu. The Pearl Harbor Historic Site consists of a visitor center and several museum and memorial sites. Reservations are recommended.

The Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA) is a delightful oasis in the city. Their Asian collections are especially good, and HoMA houses the James A. Michener collection of 5,400 Japanese woodblock prints (there is always a display of some of these prints). HoMA Café, open for lunch Thursday-Saturday and brunch on Sunday, is a hidden treasure.

Foster Garden is a 14-acre urban tropical botanical garden located adjacent to Chinatown. Further afield, so to speak, Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden on the leeward side is a 400-acre garden featuring collections from Philippines, Malaysia, Tropical America, India & Sri Lanka, Melanesia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Africa. Koko Crater Botanical Garden is a small dry-land, xeriscape garden inside of Koko Crater on the east side. Lyon Arboretum is a public botanical garden administered by the University of Hawaii. Reservations are required to visit.


You may wish to take a day some day trips by car to see other sites around Oahu. Strangely enough, you cannot drive all the way around the perimeter. On the northwest corner of the island, Ka‘ena Point State Park juts into the sea and cuts off the road that would otherwise complete a perimeter circle.

A nice mini-circle drive (3-6 hours) takes you from Honolulu toward Diamond Head, then around part of the leeward side to a town called Kailua, and then over the mountains on the Pali highway returning to Honolulu. The sites along this stretch are Hanauma Bay for incredible snorkeling, several coastal road lookouts where you can spy Molokai and Maui on the eastern horizon, Sandy Beach, Makapu‘u lighthouse and lookout, Waimanalo Beach, Kailua town and beach, and the Nu‘uanu Pali lookout.

Hanauma Bay is VERY popular. As such, it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to give the fish a rest, and has requires a reservation for non-locals. You can rent snorkeling gear there. Plan ahead and go early to get parking. (You can get to Hanauma Bay on the #1 bus from Waikiki.) Sandy Beach is for very experienced body surfers. It is a beautiful sandy beach, but the shore break is treacherous. One very experienced body surfer who likes Sandy Beach is former U.S. President Barak Obama. Kailua Beach is a three-mile long stretch of sandy and (usually) calm beach with no hotels or commercial activity of any kind. The Pali Lookout is the high point (1168 feet) of the Pali highway that crosses the Ko‘olau mountains between Honolulu and Kailua. It has a spectacular view of the windward side.

A much longer circle drive can be taken if you want to spend the whole day. It begins like the mini-circle drive just discussed, but instead of returning to Honolulu over the Pali highway, you continue along the North Shore. Sites along the way are Byodo-In Temple, macadamia nut farms, local food trucks and roadside fruit and vegetable stands, some of the most famous surfing beaches in the world, the beach town of Haleiwa, Dole Pineapple Plantation, and coffee farms. An interesting destination along this route is Waimea Valley. Waimea Valley has been returned to Native Hawaiian governance. You will find culturally significant built and natural sites throughout the valley. Guided cultural and botanical tours are available. There is an admission price to enter Waimea Valley.

Other Islands

If you have a chance to visit another island, take it. Unfortunately, only air travel is available between the islands, and you must rent a car when you arrive. The “big island” of Hawaii is most famous for the two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Volcanos National Park is unique, and allows you to drive through lava fields from many eras. If you are more of an ocean type, there are opportunities to see manta rays on guided night dives, both snorkeling and using scuba gear. You may see glowing lava at night if one of the volcanos is currently erupting! Kaua‘i is the “Garden Isle,” and is renowned for its natural beauty. Examples include Kalalau Valley and Waimea Canyon. The island of Maui is dominated by Haleakala, the spectacular volcano in the center of the island. Haleakala National Park offers visitors hiking, camping, and sightseeing opportunities. It is popular to view the sunrise from high on Haleakala. Also, a night trip to the heights of Haleakala will reveal a night sky that is unbeatable. Once again for the ocean types, a tiny crescent-shaped island called Molokini lies just off of the Maui coast and is a very popular snorkeling and dive spot.

Hawai‘i Tourism Authority

The official site of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority offers an excellent guide to things-to-do in Hawaii.

Map of Activities

See Jason Leigh’s map of his recommended spots to visit on the island.