|Subject: Re: 9 days in Hawaii seeking advice|
Your stay of nine days on the islands should be ample time to see Oahu thoroughly and a taste of one other island. Which other island you choose depends on your particular interests. I suggest you pick up some guide books at your local library and familiarize yourself with the other islands and choose accordingly. Remember, Oahu is the most developed island and offers both a very urban setting, as well as the tropical setting for which the Hawaiian Islands are known. Oahu has all the natural beauty of the other islands, plus the additional benefit of the U.S.'s most weirdly diverse cultural jumble. The other islands all have their own uniquely beautiful natural attractions along with some small cities, even smaller towns, and very rural settings.
Before going I highly recommend reading Shoals of Time by Gavin Dawes. A history of the islands that will give you an important perspective on this weird jumble of cultures out in the middle of the Pacific.
The public transportation on Oahu is quite satisfactory. It is called TheBus and can get you all over the island. Find info on it at: http://www.thebus.org/
One of the most wonderful things about Oahu (and Hawaii, in general) is the food. In addition to the fine seafood and various Asian cuisines you'll also come across the uniquely Hawaiian plate lunch. Check out the following website for a description of this meal and reviews of various restaurants offering it.
http://www.pixi.com/~hiapp/ for Hawaiian Plate Lunch Critique Main Page
One of the most popular is the Rainbow Drive-in (at Kanaina and Kapahulu) Kapahulu is the neighborhood just north of east-side Waikiki. http://www.pixi.com/~hiapp/Rainbow.html
Also, don't miss the pastries at the following locations: http://www.pixi.com/~hiapp/liliha.html for Liliha Bakery with their famous cocoa puffs.
Leonards Bakery with their famous malasadas is just up the street from Rainbow Drive-In (further north).
Visit fish markets for fresh tuna (sashimi and poke).
Some suggestions on sights to see: Go to the North Shore to see Ehukai (Pipeline) and Sunset Beaches. These are the Mecca of surfing. You'll be at the end of the surf season for that part of the island (sorry, no 20 ft.+ surf that time of year) but they are large sandy beaches and shouldn't be missed. While up in the North Shore look for Giovannis White Shrimp Truck (usually parked in Haleiwa) for some finger-licking good locally raised Kahuku prawns.
Hike out to Kaena Pt. to see the last remote beach on Oahu.
Visit the Hawaii's Plantation Village at Waipahu Cultural Garden Park. This is a gem of a museum. Step back into time to visit a plantation village from the height of Oahu's sugar production days. The docents that lead you through these tours grew up in the very buildings you'll walk through. Their personal accounts of life on the plantation are quite poignant. You'll see how the various ethnic communities (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Filipino, Spanish, Okinawan, etc.) came to Hawaii drawn by the sugar industry. This is a don't miss attraction! Get some background by renting the movie The Picture Bride. http://openstudio.hawaii.edu/hpv/main.html
Go hiking! Diamond Head was already mentioned. Also, head up to Manoa Falls. The lighthouse trail at Makupu. Research the hikes on Oahu. You could spend your whole time just hiking.
Stop at the Pali, the overlook in the mountains between Honolulu and the Windward side. Breathtaking views. Imagine Kamehameha's warriors vanquishing the local defenders over the ramparts of the 1000 ft. cliffs. (Make sure and leave all pork behind! Crossing the Pali with pork is taboo!).
Visit the Bishops Museum. Most likely the world's foremost collection on Polynesian culture.
Visit Iolani Palace. Imagine Queen Lilioukalani's deep sadness during her years of house arrest as she watches her kingdom stolen away by the American businessman.
For some down time head out to Lanikai beach to relax away from the tourists.
Rent a surfboard and hire a beach boy in Waikiki. Paddle out to Canoes and pretend you're Duke Kahanamoku.
Well, I hope these suggestions come in handy. Be careful. Hawaii can be very addicting!
John in San Diego