We traveled to Oahu, Hawaii this past summer, and I’ve been meaning to write a travel guide! That’s why I’m so happy that Expedia.com asked me to share my tips for traveling to Oahu. I’ve been to Hawaii many times because, fortunately, we live relatively close. Oahu is my favorite island — there is so much to see and do balanced with the fact that you don’t have anything to do! It’s the best, relaxing combination.
Here is my round-up of where to stay/what to eat/and what to do in Oahu:
Where to Stay
Area: I personally like to stay in Waikiki. While it’s busy and touristy, I love its proximity to beaches, hikes, and restaurants. We usually rent a car to explore the rest of the island, so I don’t feel locked into just one area. If you’re looking for a more remote resort, consider the North Shore or even other islands, like Maui (here are my Maui travel posts).
Hotel: This last trip, we stayed at Sheraton Waikiki (this isn’t sponsored, I just really enjoyed my experience). It’s in a premium location and the walkability can’t be beat. The first photo was taken from our balcony — I can get used to waking up to that view every day!
My absolute favorite thing about this hotel, hands down, is the infinity pool! Husband and I spent hours on the inflatables just bobbing around the edge of the water, overlooking the ocean. Servers came around with drinks and food and complimentary frozen grapes (so refreshing in the heat). Sometimes I get too hot, sandy, and bored laying out on the beach, so I’m all for hanging out on an inflatable in the pool overlooking the beach.
We also loved retreating to their waterfront bar at night. We would watch the sun set over the ocean, listen to the band lightly playing in the background, and sip on a few piña coladas… ahh paradise.
What to Eat
Breakfasts in Hawaii are polarizing — like you can either go with healthy fresh fruits or indulgent loco moco with a side of coconut cream pancakes… or all of the above! You know what they say… breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
From top left to right:
Diamond Head Cove Health Bar – My favorite! It’s about a mile away from the Waikiki beach strip. Get everything. I stopped here most mornings (after coffee) to fuel up before any activities. I love their acai bowl (the honey is incredible — also, buy a jar of the Big Island honey as your souvenir), pitaya bowl, and papaya bowl.
Island Vintage Coffee – We frequented this cafe because it’s right by our hotel, and they’ve got a good acai bowl and, most importantly, coffee. Every morning while I was getting ready, Husband would head down and grab us coffee and breakfast (he’s a keeper). I like their macadamia nut latte.
Diamond Head Market & Grill – I usually picked up treats and lunch to-go before heading to the beach. Their grilled ahi salad is so fresh and flavorful, I ate it multiple times for lunch. Also, head next door to their Market for baked goods. You must get their famous lemon crunch cake, even if it means you’ll eat cake for breakfast. They also have scones the size of your face: blueberry cream cheese is particularly delightful.
Bogart’s Cafe – I had taro banana pancakes smothered with coconut cream, and Husband ordered the short rib loco moco. For macadamia cream pancakes, go to Boots & Kimo’s. Scratch Kitchen has cereal milk pancakes.
While pokē has been taking over Seattle, nothing compares to the OG pokē in Hawaii. I literally had a pokē bowl a day the last time I was there — will that keep the doctor away?
From top left to right:
Nico’s – The restaurant is delicious (order the fried ahi belly appetizer), and you can just go to the fish market next door for lunch. They offer raw white crab, which is not often seen at other pokē spots. You can eat by the water out back.
Ono Seafood – This is pokē, straight and simple. I like the no-frills approach that is backed by amazing, fresh seafood. I got a split order with octopus.
Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquor – Yes, it’s a liquor store… that has my favorite pokē stop in the back! It’s so good we went here multiple times (both bottom photos are from Tamura’s). I still dream about their wasabi king crab. Since it’s also a market, grab seaweed salad, taro chips, and Hawaiian rum while you’re at it.
There is, of course, the famous Bubbies for mochi ice cream, Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas, and Waiola or Matsumoto for shave ice. Once you’ve hit those classics, you can also check out these additional dessert shops.
Nisshodo – I hunted this place down! They freshly make daifuku, which is mochi wrapped around red bean paste and a fresh strawberry. Make sure you go early because they sell out! While you’re there, pick up some chichi dango — first, the name is fun to say, and second, it’s deliciously chewy, melt-in-your mouth mochi.
Banán – They have non-dairy banana soft serve. I got the greens banana soft serve base (with kale, spirulina, mint, and ginger) and coconut, pineapple, and banana toppings. The greens base is definitely… green-tasting… but the honey and fruit add natural sweetness. It feels like a healthy alternative to ice cream!
Frostcity – This is a hybrid between a shave ice and ice cream joint = shaved snow! The coconut and black sesame ones are so good. Plus, you get a side of mochi, fruit, and jelly.
I really like eating at the chill mom-and-pop restaurants in Hawaii, but every once in a while, I might want a nice dinner out. In the past, I’ve enjoyed the classics like Roy’s Waikiki or the more modern MW Restaurant.
This trip, we were in Hawaii at the same time as friends, so my girl friend and I went to a few new (to me) places. We loved the view at 53 By the Sea and the cute decor at bills Hawaii.
What to Do
We rented a convertible for the week, and one of the days, we headed up to North Shore with some friends. While you’re there: see turtles at Turtle Bay Beach, eat lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, hangout at Waimea Beach, freshen up with Matsumoto Shave Ice, watch the sunset at Sunset Beach Park, and grab pies at Ted’s Bakery for the drive back.
If we weren’t laying out by the beach, we were in the water! I enjoyed snorkeling at Hanauma Bay and parasailing over Waikiki. Parasailing is relaxing after the initial jolt of being released into the air, as long as you’re not afraid of heights. Another activity is renting a beach umbrella and boogie boards. It’s such a rush when you catch a wave and also quite the workout! You can also rent stand up paddle boards. They start you off in a lagoon so you can practice before heading into the ocean. It takes a lot of arm and core strength to stay balanced, but even if you fall, the water is clear and warm and refreshing!
Lanikai is my favorite beach. It’s a bit of a drive but so worth it for the softest sand and bluest water. There are also rarely crowds, which feels like a nice retreat from Waikiki.
Hawaii is always a fun, beautiful time. I miss it and writing this post brought back so many memories. I’ll have to go back soon, but until next time… Please let me know if you have any questions or additional recommendations in the comments!