To say that I was prepared to visit Hawaii’s most populated
Most of this came true, but with 300 more people around. Even with the crowd (and
What to See
If you’re looking for a quiet, serene and secluded seaside spot—Waikiki is not it. Waikiki is bustling with tourists (both international and domestic), packed with brand name shopping that you all know and lines everywhere. But Waikiki Beach should be penciled in as a stop for the pretty blue waters and people watching at the beach. This is also the epicenter of Japanese food on the island, so don’t miss out on fresh bowls of udon, the classic spam musubi and mochi donuts.
Unlike Waikiki, you won’t find a single high-rise apartment or chain store on the North Shore. Instead, expect to find a single small town (
Hankering for some snorkel time while in Hawaii? Hit up Shark’s Cove on the North Shore to see some needlefish, Hawaiian rainbow fish (my fave!), and sea cucumbers—amongst many other sea creatures too! Be sure to pack water shoes that protect your feet from rocks and DO NOT step on the coral (unlike some other folks I had to scold). Anything for you, Mother Earth.
Pow! Wow! Street Art in Kaka’ako
If you’re frequent readers of the blog or if we’ve traveled together, you know that I love me some street art. Pow! Wow! is a public
Traveling in O’ahu sometimes felt like a mini-Japan—from stepping into Mitsuwa Market to driving by a literal Japanese Food Court in the heart of Waikiki. It’s a smaller-scale replication of the actual, 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan and was built to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Located at the foot of a mountain range, it’s peaceful, lush landscape is totally unexpected. Stop by to slow down.
Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art
Constructed in 1937 by the “richest little girl in the world,” Doris Duke’s Shangri La served as her Honolulu home, which she built from the ground up (unlike her other homes). After being inspired on her around-the-globe honeymoon travels, Duke began construction on her island property and began to collect and fill her home with Islamic art from the inside, out. If you want to pretend that you too, were born into money or thoroughly enjoy art or architecture, stop by. Admission to her home also grants you a day pass to the Honolulu Museum of Art.
KCC Farmer’s Market
If you don’t know, now you know: I friggin’ love a good farmer’s market. As I reflect back on our Hawaii trip, I honestly think this was the thing I most enjoyed. From tasting fresh macadamia nuts, tasting Hawaiian honey, eating fresh rambutan, to drinking fresh sugar cane juice with lilikoi (the best thing I have EVER
What to Do
Hike Manoa Falls
We had big pipe dreams to walk to a waterfall, then jump into it’s running waters for a post-hike swim. Instead, we chickened out and were our rule-following selves and didn’t make it past the “do not climb” sign. The hike up to the waterfall is a quick 20-40 minutes depending on how speedy you are, full of tropical flora and is quite muddy and slick—so be sure to wear non-stick shoes and clothes that can withstand some dirt.
Swim at Kailua & Lanikai Beach
My favorite part about any warm-weather, seaside vacation? Cerulean blue water. Kailua and Lanikai beaches are located right next to each other, but traffic and parking could be pretty hectic to shuttle between the two. Lanikai frequently ranks as one the world’s top beaches, while Kailua is just plain beautiful. Block off an afternoon for each, then hit up Island Snow (see the Eats section) for a post-beach treat.
Hike Diamond Head
For a good sweat sesh, views of Waikiki and an endless expanse of
Swim with Sharks
As I write this, I’m realizing that we had a pretty adventurous trip. Who would have thought that the girl who was once 100% convinced that sharks might swim up the toilet would one day swim with sharks? We went cage diving with North Shore Shark Adventures and swam with Galapagos sharks which, if you’re wondering, rarely eat people.
Take a Surf Lesson on North Shore
Barrels, big waves
Where to Eat
Kaimuki | 747 Kapahulu Ave.
Direct and to the point. That is how I like my people and my poke. Ono is a no-frills joint where parking is limited, your food is served in styrofoam take-out containers and you’re simply there to promptly eat, then leave. Get the
Waikiki | 2310 Kūhiō Ave #124
Even though you might think eating hot noodles in a hot climate is a no-go, try resisting these handmade noodles (made with Sun Noodle flour!). Ordering mimics a Chipotle (or vice-versa) and
Barefoot Beach Café
Waikiki |2699 Kalakaua Avenue
Good food and views of turquoise blue waters—this is what brunch dreams are made of. Even though it’s technically on Waikiki, it’s situated far away enough from the main strop that you feel like you could steal some generous minutes of silence before you head back into the tourist horde. Go there for breakfast or brunch and order Dad’s
North Shore | 66-030 Kamehameha Hwy
The perfect spot for a pre or post-surf snack. Like the name implies, Hale’iwa bowls serves up açaí bowls, fresh smoothies and juices to keep you feeling light and fresh in the Hawaiian heat. I sprung for the blue majik bowl, which solicited lots of stares from others, but a lot of good food for me.
Oh my malasada. Do yourself a favor and avoid eating any malasadas until you get to Leonard’s. What is it, you ask? “A Portuguese donut without a hole” as defined by Leonard’s Bakery themselves. They’re light, fluffy, but just dense enough. Get the Guava filling and try the Li Hing (sweet and salty) powdered version to get a taste of this island favorite.
Kakaʻako | 675 Auahi Street
Tucked next to a flower store and complete with an order-at-the-window window, Arvo is the brainchild of Instagram-loved Dixie Rose (who yes, I’ve been following for years) and Casey Wiggins. It’s cute, it’s hip and serves up freshly roasted coffee and Australian-inspired eats like vegemite toast.
Shaved Ice in O’ahu
Waikiki | 2255 Kalakaua Ave.
Apparently, Lawson is a chain of convenience stores in Japan, but a purveyor of very fine shave ice in Waikiki. No wonder there were so many Japanese snacks in there. Spring for the Hawaiian Punch flavor, it really does pack a punch of finely shaved ice powder.
Waiola Shave Ice
McCully | 2135 Waiola St.
The one, the only and the very famous Waiola. The best food on the island was mostly served in styrofoam containers—no exception here. Pull up and park, then attempt to master the ordering system (number of bowls, ice cream or no ice cream, then flavors one at a time).
Kailua | 130 Kailua Rd
We basically vacationed just like the Obama family in Oahu. But, only when it came to stopping by the very same shave ice spot that they go to too. Get it straight—visit the Island Snow location that’s closest to the beach to increase your chances of
Need a map? Save this to your phone for your trip!
Alright, that’s O’ahu—through my take. What’d I miss? What do like to do? Let me know!