Once a year I’m lucky enough to travel across the country to the magical island of Oahu- home to my two best friends (hi birds) and some of my most cherished memories. When traveling to tropical areas, all I really care about is the beach, some shopping- and the food. If you’re looking for the best tourist attractions in Honolulu, this probably isn’t the post for you. But for the most delicious, beautiful, Instagram-in-real-life experiences, I’ve got you covered.
The most perfectly milled white sand lines the shore of this crystal clear beach. It is the most beautiful water I have ever experienced in my life and I think if you get the chance to visit Oahu and don’t take a dip in it- you’re missing out. My friends and I usually head to the Whole Foods in town and pick up sandwiches, seasonal fruit (cherries and nectarines in the summer are the best) and some snacks to keep us full while we bask in the Hawaiian sun until it sets. Parking in the area can be tricky, but my best advice would be to head over in the morning and circle the residential streets by the beach’s multiple entrances- as long as you’re not blocking anyone’s driveway, you’re good!
The North Shore
My second favorite beach is Waimea Bay, located on Oahu’s North Shore. The North Shore is almost like the countryside of the city- huge sections of beach line the town and you’ve definitely seen photos or videos of people jumping off of its cliffs into the ocean. Dotted with beaches home to turtles and surfers alike, if you’re headed to the North Shore you NEED to make a stop at Haleiwa Bowls. The cute shack is located on a street filled with shops and makes the freshest, juiciest acai bowls ever. Top yours with fruit like papaya, bananas, strawberries, raw coconut flakes, and honey, or go the super healthy way and get some spirulina blended in- your choices are endless.
If you’re on the island, you should dedicate at LEAST one day/night to the town center-Waikiki. The streets are filled with designer stores, famous restaurants, and tons of tourists, but the beach is beautiful as ever. I’d recommend heading to Kaimana beach for the day and staying for the sunset- so worth it!
If you couldn’t tell from the name of my blog, I’m not exactly a star athlete. Fittingly, I HATE hiking. There’s nothing better than sliding down sandy dirt paths while grabbing onto sparse tree branches for balance. Yum. (note: this is sarcasm). However- if I just HAD to hike for the purposes of exercise or spending time with my loved ones, Hawaii is the place I’d choose to do so. I’m going to rate the hikes I’ve been on based off of difficulty and my overall experience.
Pillboxes (Lanikai) – 4 Stars
The pillboxes hike goes up a dirt mountain in the beach town of Lanikai. It’s not the most exhausting of hikes, but definitely not a walk in the park, either. I think the most difficult part of this hike was the steepness going up and down the mountain, but the view… Absolutely stunning. The top of the hike looks out onto a turquoise ocean and the two islands Lanikai is famous for showcasing, and you can head to the beach to reward yourself for all the work you put in right after!
Koko Head Hike- NEGATIVE STARS
This hike is stair master on severely debilitating steroids. It is literally a set of 1000+ stairs that goes up the entire mountain. Needless to say, as someone who despises strenuous physical activity, this was my biggest nightmare. I will say that the view from the top was actually breathtaking, (let’s be real here I could barely breathe so everything was breathtaking at that point) and I don’t regret trekking up the mountain for it. If you’re looking to burn off some extra calories, give it a try! I will warn you though, some of the steps were worn down and very easy to trip on, so make sure to wear shoes with good tracking and be careful!
Diamond Head Trail Hike- 4 stars
This is the perfect hike if you’re looking to get a jump-start to your morning. Diamond Head is a beautiful area of the island with tons of luxury homes and the most athletic people you’ve ever seen. The hike itself takes about an hour and offers beautiful 360 degree views at the summit. When you’re done, you can reward yourself with some delicious food at a few of my favorite restaurants (conveniently located on the same block)
Alas, my favorite part of every trip. The food. Hawaii is home to some of my favorite foods EVER, and I’m so happy I get to share them with you!
Moena is home to my favorite food of. all. time. The banana chantilly pancakes are what I would request as my last meal if I were ever to be incarcerated and put on death row, as well as the meal I’d choose if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life. The pancakes come in a single or double stack, are filled with moist bananas, and topped with the most amazing vanilla custard sauce and toasted coconut flakes. I have tried (and failed) several times at attempting to obtain the recipe for this sauce. All I can say is that it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten and I would take the 12 hour flight (I’m terrified of planes) JUST to have some. Some of my other favorites at Moena are the veggie omelet, the eggs benedict, and the yogurt with fruit + granola. I recommend getting your own meal and splitting the pancakes so you get a chance to try a bit of everything.
Bogart’s is the master of fried rice. Their Mama’s Fried Rice is to die for, and I can never get it right no matter how many times I try to replicate the recipe. They mix mushrooms, asparagus, corn, and eggs in their version. Put some Sriracha on it for a little kick, and enjoy the magical flavors as you transport each grain into your mouth. My other favorite item off of their menu is the Tuscan chicken sandwich- their website describes it as Grilled chicken breast marinated in herbs and spices, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, melted parmesan cheese and garlic aioli served on a toasted bun, but I swear they put some kind of magic in there. The bread is so soft and buttery, and the garlic aoli is the best I’ve ever had. Head there after your Diamondhead hike for lunch.
Just a few doors down is Health Bar, the best place for Acai bowls. I’ve had many an acai bowl in my life, and these take the cake. I always ask for the classic with bananas, blueberries, strawberries, granola, and the honey they’re famous for (NO ONE else on the island has access to it). Get one to go and eat it in bliss while laying on the beach.
Diamond Head Market
Across the street and down the block is Diamond Head Market, where I’d recommend you get dessert. It may look unassuming on the outside, but their food is golden. They have an assortment of fresh pies and cakes, including Haupia (coconut) and carrot cake. But what I demand you get is their scones. I know what you’re thinking. A scone… a usually dry pastry that crumbles during every bite. These are not your average scones. They are so moist, doughy, filled with bits of cream cheese, and the size of my head. My favorite is the blueberry, but they have banana and cranberry orange available depending on the day of the week. Get as many as you can, especially if you want an amazing in-flight snack for your trip back!
Last, but not least, Bubbies! Oahu has a few locations of this famous mochi ice cream store, so check out which one is closest to you. My absolutely favorite is their banana cookies and cream flavor- heaven. All of their ice creams and mochi ice creams are homemade in-store and so delicious! Definitely a spot you shouldn’t miss.
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favorite parts about Oahu- if you ever get the chance to visit, take it! It is one of the most unique, welcoming, beautiful places I have ever been to and I pinch myself every time I get to go. Let me know some of your favorite places to visit in the comments below!