Whenever my entire family plans for a trip, a lot of destinations will be called out “Mexico! Caribbean! New York!” Most of the time, we end up going back to the sunny and beautiful Hawaii (bonus, no need to go through customs!). When my cousin got married a year ago she even decided to make it a destination wedding in Hawaii. Ian has never been before so we planned for a trip to Oahu where I showed him around one of the most popular islands of Hawaii.
Crispy Grindz: one of the best acai bowls on the island. Acai has gained popularity in the recent years for being the magical Brazilian berry with health benefits. Acai bowls are these berries frozen and made into a smoothie. Thick, creamy, and delicious! Other locations good for acai bowls are Diamond Head Cove Health Bar and Halewai Bowls.
Eggs n Things: my favorite loco moco (traditional Hawaiian dish with rice and hamburger patty covered in gravy with a fried egg on top) is at Eggs n Things. This is also a great place to go for breakfast/brunch in general, they serve delicious pancakes.
Koko Head Cafe: good place to get a big breakfast before being active the whole day. MUST ORDER: Cornflake French Toast!!
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: North Shore is like a 70’s surfer town, and the most popular places to eat at are shrimp trucks (my favorite is Giovanni’s). The shrimps are sauteed with lemon, olive oil, butter and chunks of garlic. Prepare to get your hands dirty with some garlic-ky shrimp goodness!
Alan Wong’s: if you happen to be celebrating a special occasion, make a reservation at Alan Wong’s. This upscale restaurants serves innovative Hawaiian fare.
Rainbow Drive-In: Obama’s favorite place to eat at in Oahu. They sell all sorts of plate lunch, what is on the menu is what you’ll get. I like the mix plate.
Airbnb: we were lucky this time we visited Oahu – a friend was sent there for work and had a two-bedroom house all to herself. But Airbnb or HomeAway both have great selections of places to stay at.
Halekulani: if you’re celebrating something special and want to go all out, stay at Halekulani! It is one of the top hotels in Oahu, right on Waikiki beach and in the heart of town.
Hike at Diamond Head: this the most famous hike at Oahu. It’s an inactive volcano that is now a national park. Ideally the best time to go is in the morning or late afternoon, as it can get really hot during the day (mornings will also have fewer crowds!) The top has stunning views and it’s not that hard of a hike, about 60-90 minutes up and less than an hour to get down.
Manoa Falls: this was my favorite hike of the trip with its thick, Jurassic World-like foliage. For those of you that want a hike without the heat, this is the one to do.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay: on the east side of the island, it’s a nature park perfect for snorkeling with its calm, clear water. Arrive early for parking and fish are also more active in the morning. After you pay admission ($7.50) there’s a short video about safety, and they have snorkel rentals as well. Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays (for nature preserve), open other days from 6am to 6pm. We saw a variety of tropical fish here.
Farmer’s Market at Kapiolani Community College: every Saturday from 7:30 to 11am, there is an expansive farmer’s market full of local produce and foods. Bring a bag to carry your goodies! Parking can get crazy so arrive early. Try the fried green tomatoes.
Ala Moana Center: usually I would never recommend someone to go to a mall, especially in Hawaii. But this outdoors mall is a destination itself, with a huge food court selling every type of cuisine. It also doesn’t hurt that tax in Hawaii is low (around 4%)!
Walk around Waikiki area and Kalakaua Avenue: this is a good area to walk around after dinner. There are plenty of shops to pop in if you need an extra set of swimming gear or souvenirs to bring home. My favorite is this hat store.
Waimea Bay: is our favorite beach on North Shore. It has a parking lot and bathrooms, we spent hours here reading, napping then watching the sunset.
Scenic points: stop at Makapuu Point and Halona Blowhole on the windward (east) side of the island. Great places to take pictures at.
Laniakea Beach: best place to spot sea turtles tanning on by the rocks.
Dole Plantation: you’ll pass it on your way to North Shore. It’s a tourist trap, but fun at the same time. Stop by to stretch your legs and get a sweet snack (fresh pineapple on a stick or dole whip, like the ones from Disneylanad!). You can also buy boxed pineapple or do the human maze.
- Sunscreen (stay tuned for a upcoming post on sunscreens!)
- Sneakers (for all the hikes)
- Beach towel (I like this quick-drying, sand repellent one)
- Snorkels if you don’t want to pay to borrow one
- Underwater camera
- Rent a car! It’s the best way to get around the island.
- Parking lot fills up fast for all the beaches, make sure you get there early to have a place to park.
- Unfortunately, petty theft breaking in cars seem quite common. Don’t leave anything valuable in your car, especially if it’s visible.
- If you need anything (water, sunscreen, gifts), stop by an ABC store. They are all over the island and sell everything. It’s like a mashup of drugstore, deli, grocery store and gift shop.
- Get a few maps from your rental car place/hotel, it’s the best way to get oriented to the island.
- If you want to take a surf lesson, do it on Waikiki beach. The waves are mild and great for beginners. You can sign up at any of the stands along the beach.
Oahu Food Cheat Sheet
- Eggs n Things: 343 Saratoga Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815
- Koko Head Cafe: 1145 C 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
- Bogart’s Café: 3045 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
- Café Haleiwa: 66-456 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
- Crispy Grindz: 59-406 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
- Diamond Head Cove Health Bar: 3045 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
- Halewai Bowls: 66-081 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
- Leonard’s Malasadas: 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
- Liliha Bakery: 515 N Kuakini St, Honolulu, HI 96817
- North Shore shrimp trucks
- Rainbow Drive-In: 3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI, 96815
- Ono Seafood: 747 Kapahulu Ave, Apt 4, Honolulu, HI 96816
- Helena’s Hawaiian: 1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817
- Ono Hawaiian Foods: 726 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
- Fish tacos at South Shore Grill: 3114 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
- Alan Wong’s: 1857 S King St #208, Honolulu, HI 96826
- Sushi ii: Samsung Plaza, 655 Keeaumoku St, Ste 109, Honolulu, HI 96814
Mahalo! Thanks for reading & have fun in Oahu!