My husband and I went to Oahu last month and I got so many requests on my Instagram account to share some of my thoughts on what we did during our stay. I did a recap of my Mykonos and Santorini trip when we went to Greece so I thought it would be fun to add to the travel section of this blog! Here is my little recap along with my tips and recommendations of things to do in Oahu. We spent half the time in the Honolulu/Waikiki area and the other half on the North Shore so there will be little of both worlds in here for ya!
Where We Stayed
Ala Moana Hotel
The best thing about this hotel was the location. It connects to the Ala Moana center so you can walk right over to whatever you need. It’s close to Waikiki and walking distance to Ala Moana Beach Park. The rooms weren’t great to be totally honest. They were pretty tiny and not the most up to date in terms of decor/amenities but it was a place to stay for a few days and it had a nice gym that I took advantage of.
North Shore Area
Wailua - Air BnB
We LOVED our Air Bnb in this area. The room was super spacious and it was a short drive to everything we wanted to see in North Shore. It’s definitely not walking distance from many local attractions but we knew that when we booked it. There is a small beach area within walking distance that is pretty isolated but we ended up not popping over there too often in favor of other beaches. The best thing about this place was the view! It was so nice to see the ocean everyday and fall asleep and wake up to the sound of crashing waves. I would definitely stay here again! The amenities were great and they also had a washer and dryer in the unit which made our lives so much easier before coming home with a pile of dirty clothes. Check out the exact listing here.
Where we ate
This place is SUPER touristy. The food is good but it's pretty pricey for the portions they serve. The selling point for Duke’s is the location since they are smack in the middle of Waikiki beach. So you could come here for a meal and then stroll along the beach after. Which is exactly what we did. They do have a pretty kick-ass salad bar though that is only $4 when added on to an entrée. If I came back I would probably just get the salad bar as my actual meal.
This place is located in the International Marketplace. You head down the stairs and there are several restaurant options for ramen and other Japanese cuisine. We chose this place because it was the busiest and we figured the more people the better right? I had the Shoyu ramen with a soft-boiled egg and it was delicious! I would definitely come back to this place.
We stopped here for breakfast one morning and it was pretty tasty! We ordered breakfast along with a couple of drinks. I will say they are very generous with the champagne pours for mimosas. Just how I like it! (wink wink) I ordered the Loco Moco (my favorite one I ordered during our stay in Oahu) and my husband got the guava chiffon pancakes and he loved it. This place gets packed so I would definitely go early or prepare to wait a bit. We waited for about 40 minutes at the bar until our table was ready but the mimosas helped with the wait. 🙂
This was hands down one of my favorite places we ate overall. It’s a super casual local spot. They have tons of varieties of poke so we ordered a few to share along with the smoked meat platter (super good!) and the Ahi Katsu. We had no idea how much all that was actually going to be option wise and the cashier looked at us and said "Oh! You guys are hungry!" Oops. I wish we would have had time to come back to this place again. I probably could have eaten here everyday of the trip. Seriously. So good!
Surprisingly, there are some really tasty options for poke at the local grocery stores. It’s made fresh over in the sea food area and you can order bowls to go. We did this a couple times throughout the trip after a beach day and we were not disappointed whatsoever. It's also relatively inexpensive compared to other poke places.
Bar Leather Apron
Bar Leather Apron was such a cool experience! First of all though, prepare to shell out some money cause this place is NOT cheap. Drinks here run between $15-20 each. But really, part of what you’re paying for is the show. If you’re sitting at the bar you can watch as they make the drinks. They explain what goes into each one, the history behind it and some are even done with some fun little smoke tricks. I ordered the Mai Tai (definitely a fun little show) and the Matcha Old Fashioned. Both were delicious! This place is pretty tiny and if you want to sit at the bar it’s best to make reservations in advance. There are only about 8 seats at the bar and then there are a few tables beyond that. It’s in the financial building and has a speak easy feel to it. Once we entered the building one of the security guys pointed us in the right direction because we for sure thought we were in the wrong spot. My wallet probably couldn't afford another trip but I would have loved to go back here!
Oh malasadas! When we got here there was a local guy in line who told us all the good things to get. So we listened and got a little of everything. My faves were the plain malasadas and the macadamia nut filled ones. So good! Definitely worth the hype!
This place is known for their cream/cocoa puffs but since I’m not really a cream puff fan, I gotta admit, I wasn’t super into them. But what I did love, was their Mochi donut. I went back for another to bring home. And then another. George and I both were obsessed! In terms of food, I had the Loco Moco here but it was just ok. But I would come back for the bakery section!
North Shore Area
Banzai Sushi Bar
We came here on a Friday night when we just needed to find a place to eat that was open a little later since things in the North Shore tend to shut down kind of early. The sushi was actually incredible! The sushi was so fresh and basically melted in your mouth. I would definitely eat here again. Since we went on a Friday we did have to wait about 30-40 minutes but we just used the time to walk around and check out the area which was nice.
Sprout Sandwich Shop
If you want to eat here, make sure to check the hours on their website and not yelp or Google. Because they are both wrong. This place closes at 3 and the first time we went here we got there at 3:10 and were super bummed since Yelp said they were open til 5. We shared the Fonz and the Duke. Both were sooooo good. It was a rainy day so we parked in front of the ocean, ate in the jeep and enjoyed the view.
The sandwiches we got here were good but not quite as good as Sprout. What WAS really good here were the Wonder Bars. Definitely worth a stop for these!
We ate here on our last night in Hawaii. We were looking for something quick that was still open and this was nearby so we went for it and we were pleasantly surprised. The grilled ahi sandwich is amaaaaazing! George got the Ortega burger and that was delicious too.
There is so much hype surrounding this place and it is well deserved. Be prepared to wait in line. They do Shave Ice traditional style with azuki beans, unsweetened mochi balls and vanilla ice cream. George said it reminded him of how him mom used to make it at home. Definitely worth a stop!
We tried both Giovanni’s and Big Wave Shrimp truck and I gotta say, Giovanni’s won by a landslide! The shrimp was delicious, super fresh and the portions were very generous. Over at Big Wave the shrimp was good but not quite as good as Giovanni's in my opinion. Plus, we had to wait a full hour after ordering to get our food and it wasn’t even very busy. We waited about 10 minutes tops at Giovanni’s. I do think we got lucky with that because I did see reviews of people waiting for over an hour at Giovanni's. We went to the one in Haleiwa about 20 minutes before closing. Maybe that's the secret.
This hike is a paved uphill trek that goes up to a point and then you come right back down. It was about 3 miles total and I would say this is an easier hike that is good for most fitness levels. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely huffing and puffing at some points but it wasn’t too intense. You have the ocean at your side once you pass the first 10 minutes of climbing so the views are amazing. The road is also wide so you’re not having to walk around lots of people in a small space. We started the hike at about 7:45 am and it wasn’t too bad in terms of crowds. By the time we left, it was definitely starting to get busier and the sun was getting intense so go early if you can!
This hike is another easy-moderate intensity workout. It is a paved and sometimes narrow trail where you will have to move aside sometimes to allow people to pass. Towards the top you have to go through this very dimly lit tunnel and then up a flight of stairs. So if small dark spaces freak you out, just be aware. The views are amazing up top! This one gets crowded too so the earlier the better. Total distance was just under 2 miles.
Holy Hike batman! I went into this one not really sure what to expect but this one was definitely an intense hike for me. It is super steep and straight up with makeshift stairs on an old railway track. Going up I had to stop multiple times to take a breath and a drink of water. Sometimes I was basically on all fours climbing up like a ladder. It was reassuring to see lots of others doing that too.
This one is definitively pretty narrow so you have to find ways to step aside when people are coming down. The views were so worth the workout to get to the top! But the tricky part sets in when it’s time to go down. All the steepness going up feels downright scary on the way down. Because I have a bad knee, I took it very slow and steady on the way down. Sometimes even sitting down altogether and scooting down on the parts that felt like I could face plant forward. I was so proud of myself that I did this hike, especially considering where I started my fitness journey . This one is definitely not for the faint of heart! We started this one at about 7:30 and that was perfect because we were done before the sun started blazing. The total distance here was 2 miles.
This beach is soooo pretty! It’s a smaller and slightly more secluded beach compared to places like Waikiki. We came here on one of our first days. Parking can be a little nuts because you have to park in the residential streets and walk to the beach path but this place is definitely worth a stop!
Waimea Beach Park
This beach is more populated than Lanikai. It’s got its own little parking lot and restrooms and lifeguards and all that. We showed up at 11:30 am, got a parking spot (there were none by the time we left) and spent the afternoon just soaking up the sun. Apparently in the summer, people also jump off the big cliff here but since it was winter the waves were MASSIVE so they actually were kicking people out of the water. We ended up coming here twice because it was convenient and just a pretty place to hangout.
We came here one evening to watch the sunset and it’s one of my favorite memories from our trip. We sat on the secluded beach and watched the surfers ride the crazy big waves and just existed in this perfect little space. There is a small skate park across the street where we parked. The day we went there were maybe about five other people there. If you're looking for a less crowded sliver of sand, this is a good spot in the late afternoon/evening.
Turtle Bay Beach
We ended up coming here mainly because this is where Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed and I just love that movie. 🙂 But the beach area outside is a pretty little space to lay out with a full bar nearby and plenty of parking. Need I say more?
We loved hanging out here! This is a nature preserve so you have to pay about $7 and watch a short video before they allow you to head down to the beach area. There is a pretty steep walk downhill to the beach and then back uphill on the way back. They do offer little tram rides for a dollar each way if you don't feel like getting in a mini workout before laying out. We hung out here and enjoyed the sun before renting some snorkeling gear and exploring the water. I definitely recommend checking this place out.
This beach is obviously the most famous of the Oahu beaches but it’s also the most populated. We actually didn’t come here during the day for real beach time. We walked long the water in the evening after dinner at Duke's and it was perfect. Not too many people and we could see the beautiful shoreline and buildings against the perfect water. No crowd included.
Welp, that about does it for my Oahu recap. There are a couple things we didn't get to that were on my wishlist. One was snorkeling in Shark's Cove and the other was hanging out at the Banzai Pipeline to watch the surfers. We did get to see a lot of surfing at other beaches but passing by Banzai, the amount of people out there riding the waves was crazy! Definitely so much to see in Oahu! Another thing I highly recommend is simply driving up the Kamehameha highway. It is such a beautiful and peaceful drive. Even if you're staying in Waikiki, you gotta take a day and up to the North Shore away from the crowds. I hope these Oahu tips and recommendations help if you are heading there for a visit!