If you are traveling from the mainland to Oahu, your first morning in Hawaii will most likely be an early one. If you are traveling from the west coast 8am suddenly becomes 6am and if you are traveling from the east coast it will be 3am Hawaii time. Take advantage of your internal clock with an early morning visit to the Pier 38 Fish Auction.
The Hawaii Fish Auction
It’s the only fish auction between Tokyo and Maine and the only fresh tuna auction of its kind in the United States. Up to 160,000 pound of fish are sold–most of them individually—six days a week.
When you first enter the auction space, be sure to stay out the way of all the hustle and bustle. New crates of fish are continuously moved in and out of the large room for auction. Wander around a bit and take in the amount and types of fish.
Be sure to dress appropriately because the auction space is cold. Wear a jacket and if you have them, closed toed shoes. If not, there are galoshes at the auction location they’re willing to lend you as you explore and watch one of the most fascinating auctions you’ll ever see.
How The Hawaii Fish Auction Works
The day starts at 1:00 am. That’s when unloading begins, 6 days a week. But don’t worry you don’t need to be there until much later! The fishing vessels are unloaded in order of arrival. Fish are weighed, tagged with the vessel name, displayed on pallets, and kept clean and cold. Before being offered for sale, each fish is carefully inspected by the United Fishing Agency staff to ensure fish quality and safety. Buyers arrive before the auction begins to inspect the day’s catch. By tradition, the auctioneer rings a brass bell at 5:30 am and the bidding begins.
Follow the auctioneer and watch the quick fire bidding in action. If you’ve ever been curious about where the fish you just bought at Costco or ordered in a restaurant came from, there is a good chance it started at the Hawaii Seafood Auction.
Nico’s at Pier 38
When you are able to tear yourself away from the fish auction, walk over to Nico’s at Pier 38 for breakfast. Guaranteed you’ll have an amazing breakfast and if you order any of their items that incorporate fish, it will be amazingly fresh because they buy their fish every morning from the auction.
Try the Fish and Eggs; the catch of the day grilled and served with eggs any style. The day we visited, tuna was the fresh fish and beyond delicious. The Fish Omelet is very popular and also served with the catch of the day and green onions.
Atlantis Submarine Ride
After breakfast head to the Hilton Pier located in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Ali’i Tower for an 11am Atlantis submarine tour (note: the 9am & 10am tours are in Japanese). It’s time to see Oahu’s underwater habitat. The Atlantis XIV is the world’s largest hi-tech passenger submarine and holds 64 passengers. The adventure begins by boarding a boat that will ferry the group out to the submarine. Boarding the submarine single file, all seats have a great view—it’s set up so that everyone is back to back with their own porthole window.
The sub takes a slow decent to 100 feet underwater—many types of Hawaiian fish, coral, turtles, sunken shipwrecks, an airplane and other artificial reefs can be seen. If you’re lucky you may even see a whale or dolphins. It’s definitely an “oooh” and “ahh” experience as you see the beauty and vibrant colors of the fish as they swim by. When the submarine heads back to the surface millions of tiny bubbles from the pressurization surrounding the sub windows provide a final ‘ahh’ factor. The whole tour runs a little over an hour and a half.
Next, head to Waikiki Beach for lunch at the Shorebird in the Outrigger Catamaran hotel. Located right on the beach, the views and food can’t get much better. This is one of my have to stops whenever I’m in Oahu. I’ve got a thing for their Mai Tai and Fire Roasted Chicken Breast Sandwich (the cage free sandwich is served with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon and avocado) with Maui chips. Can you say Yum!! Other favorites are the Big Kahuna Burger, Island Fish and Chips and Mahi Tacos.
While it’s easy to spend hours at the Shorebird bar talking with locals and meeting fellow travelers it’s time for another adventure. Just a few feet from the Shorebird you’ll see the Waikiki Rigger Catamaran.
Waikiki Rigger Catamaran
It’s time for another way to experience Oahu with the 3 pm High Speed Tradewind Sail. This is the fastest catamaran in Waikiki and a fun and sometimes wild ride. The boat heads out for an hour and a half of fast fun. If you’ve worn your bathing suit or enjoy getting wet or potentially drenched sit up front on the nets. It’s a great vantage point where you’ll have the wildest ride. If you are in the mood to stay dry and take in the scenery find a seat on the main deck. Either way, it’s an invigorating experience. As the catamaran returns, it’s a great time to see the shoreline and a perfect photo opportunity.
After the Catamaran ride you’ll have time to head back to your hotel, relax and freshen up before heading out for a night on the town Oahu style.
What & Where:
Hawaii Seafood Auction (located dockside on Pier 38)
Nico’s Pier 38 (1133 N Nimitz Hwy Honolulu, HI 96817-4522; 808-540-1377)
Atlantis Submarines (800-548-6262; www.atlantisadventures.com/waikiki)
Shore Bird Restaurant (2169 Kalia Road Honolulu; 808-922-2887)
Waikiki Rigger Catamaran (2169 Kalia Rd, Waikiki; 922-2210; www.outriggercatamaranhawaii.com)
Waikiki Hotel Suggestions:
If you are traveling with kids:
The “Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk” is a great choice. Just one block from the beach, this is the only all-suite hotel in Waikiki. With 1 or 2 bedroom suites it’s a great choice for families. A stay at this hotel includes the breakfast buffet with made-to-order eggs and lots of great local fruits and more. A nightly reception is hosted at the rooftop pool from 5:30-7:30 with complimentary beverages and snacks. Add in the beautiful Hawaiian sunset—it’s the perfect way end the afternoon. The hotel also offers live entertainment four days a week. Tip: For ocean views request 11th floor or higher in the Hula Tower. (201 Beachwalk St, Honolulu; 808-921-2343; www.embassysuites1.hilton.com/)
For Luxurious Accommodations
The recently renovated Outrigger Reef on the Beach is a great choice. The multimillion dollar renovation expanded the size of guest rooms and updated decor making it one of the poshest places to stay in Waikiki. Besides the updated rooms, the hotel offers a quintessential tropical open air entry and all the perks of staying at a large hotel. (2169 Kalia Rd, Waikiki; 808-922-2887; www.outriggerreef-onthebeach.com/)
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.