Honolulu, Hawaii: The ultimate happy place
Why it won: Off-the-charts mental health scores.
Happiness hub: Any beach, anytime.
Few states are as racially diverse as Hawaii, and the melting-pot mentality may be a key reason the people of Honolulu are so happy here.
“There really is no majority group,” says Bill Haning, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Hawaii. “That leads to a sense of belonging and of being respected that other cities may not enjoy.”
Of course, it’s healthy, too, with low BMIs and high cancer-survival rates. “Plus, we’ve had near-universal health care here since the 1970s, so most people get really good care,” Dr. Haning says.
The other reason residents here are so happy? It’s pretty close to heaven on earth, with rainbows, waterfalls, and balmy island breezes year-round.
“I literally pinch myself on my drive to work every day,” says Nancy Sidun, PsyD, president-elect of the Hawaii Psychological Association. Her fellow Honoluluans appear to feel the same. “People really cherish that beauty. Whether you walk on the beach at 5 am or 8 pm, there is always someone swimming. Five months out of the year, you can see whales spouting.”
First, let’s start with the cultural destinations. There are lots of great destinations that frequent by tourists and locals alike. To name a handful, places such as Pearl Harbor Memorial, Hanauma Bay, Bishop Museum, Kualoa Ranch, and Polynesian Cultural Centerare worth visiting time and again. You can check out these places and more by visiting State of Hawaii Tourism web site. If you are interested in exploring the top cultural destinations, there are many touring companies that offer pick up from Waikiki for free with ticket purchases, or a small transportation fee.
Hawaii’s public transit, TheBus, is a great way to travel around town. As a student you are/or will become familiar with the bus system. The easiest way to know available bus routes to various locations is to go to the website, www.thebus.org. TheBus offers great student rate to purchase a UPass for university students. Learn more about TheBus and UPass. You can always contact Commuter Services to obtain information on airport shuttles, on island transportation, apartment rental, and resources about off-campus living as students. Outdoor and Social activities
Hawaii is known for its year round warm tropical weather. Why not take advantage and join a club, learn a new sport, or compete in local tournaments? The following recreation links are activities and groups on Oahu, these are great way to flex your physical and social muscles, or simply get active.
Bike– Besides commuting around town with your cruiser, did you know that Oahu has a growing bike community hidden in plain sight? They race around the island for fun and for competition (think Tour de France). Check out the Honolulu Bicycling League or call 808-735-5756 for details and group rides as a start!
Hike– There are too many trails on Oahu that it’s impossible to list them all. You can also check out the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club or Sierra Club Hawaii for their weekly hiking events. Before you head out, make sure to check out Hawaii State Parks to help you map out a hike route and get great safety tips. Remember, always hike with a partner!
Ultimate Frisbee– Hawaii Ultimate League hosts year-round competitions and great social events. It’s a great way to work out and make new friends at the same time.
Camping– There are plenty of public and private camping grounds on Oahu. First step is to acquire a permit at Hawaii State Parks or through the City and County of Honolulu. You can choose from reserving a lot on the camp ground for tents, to renting a cabin with minimal amenities to fully equipped facilities for a small fee. It’s a great way to get away from the city without traveling far.
YMCA/YWCA– Both the YMCA and the YWCA, have fitness centers close to the downtown campus. YMCA also has fitness center near the Hawaii Loa Campus. Being a member also has the benefit of utilizing their privately owned camp grounds on the North Shore and Windward locations.
Beaches– Living on Oahu means that you don’t necessarily have to fight for the few square feet of sand on the beach of Waikiki. Check out these great spots all around the island. http://www.gohawaii.com/Oahu/guidebook/topics/beaches-of-Oahu
Of course, you will want to visit the famous Vans Triple Crown Surfing competitions on the North Shore during the winter season. It is important to observe up to date ocean safety warnings and be aware of your surrounding at all times when you are visiting north shore beaches during EPIC waves.
Local Arts and Night Life
There’s always something happening around the island. You will find variety of evening entertainments near Waikiki/Downtown area. To stay in the loop, pick up a free newsletter or check websites such as MidWeek to know the happenings from live concerts, night clubs, to theatre plays. Hawaii Public Radio station has a community calendar that connects you to local news and community art events near your neighborhood and across the Hawaiian Islands (in case you are planning to visit another island).
Oahu has a thriving ballroom dancing community that offers weekly dancing events and lessons of variety of dance moves from Waltz, to Salsa; the lessons range from free to a very reasonable fee. Start by checking out Dance Hawaii, a non-profit organization, for events and classes to show off your moves, or learn to tango!
Family and Youth Activities
Family day events such as free music concerts, interactive workshops at the Waikiki Aquarium, arts at Children’s Discovery Center, cultural festivals and parades, and twilight tour of Waikiki Zoo are just a few activities that take place regularly.
Events are listed on Hawaii Public Radio Community Calendar.
Shop Local. Eat Local.
Farmer’s markets have become very popular places for locals and visitors alike to shop for locally grown produces and Hawaii-made items. To name a few near Downtown campus: every Tues. & Fridays, Fort Street Market opens from 8am to 2pm in the court yard between Macy’s and Ross. On Wed. afternoon, hop on a bus from Fort Street Mall and head to Honolulu Farmer’s Market in Neal S. Blaisdell Center on Ward Ave & Kapiolani Blvd., the market is open from 4pm to 7pm. Near Windward Campus: Head down to Kailua for The Kailua Thurs. Night Farmer’s Market, from 5pm to 7:30pm, in the Parking Garage behind Long’s, near Macy’s shopping center. Everyday there is at least one farmer’s market somewhere on the island; check out the following web page, to find farmer markers around your neighborhood: http://www.honolulu.gov/parks/programs/pom/schedules.htm.
Finally, Honolulu Magazine generates BEST PICKS annually. Check out the most recent BEST restaurants and entertainment venues and decide for yourself!