Since I lived in Oahu, Hawaii for 3 years, I thought I would compile a list of my favorite things to do/places to go there. There are tons of things to do there, and on the other islands but Oahu is more my specialty.
Have you ever been there? What are your favorites?
Want a hell of a workout and a beautiful view at the same time? Go on this hike. It’s 1106 wooden stairs straight up a mountainous crater. At the top, the views are unreal. You can see the whole south side of the island. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s definitely doable.
2. North Shore beaches
When you think Hawaii, you probably have an image of big waves and surfers and a chill island-y atmosphere right? At least, that’s what I thought of before I moved there. Well, that’s the North Shore for you. Whereas much of the other parts of the island are urbanized and heavily populated, the North Shore preserves some of that old Hawaii feel. It’s less commercialized, and the only resort or hotel up there is Turtle Bay. The beaches are fantastic, and during the winter months (November through February-ish), the waves are bigger, there are tons of surf competitions to check out, and it’s no big deal to see some of the best surfers in the world walking around. Check out Waimea Bay, Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Haleiwa Beach Park, or Turtle Bay.
3. Haleiwa town
Enter “Historic Haleiwa town”- tons of cool shops, art galleries, and restaurants. You won’t find too many chain stores here, but that’s part of the charm. A touristy must-try is the shave ice. You don’t need to wait in the long line at Matsumoto’s- Aoki’s is just as good and the lines are shorter.
4. Lanikai Beach & Pillbox hike
I’ve seen on some travel TV shows that Lanikai beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and I believe it! The thing is, it’s pretty short, and can get pretty crowded on weekends and nice days. The sand there is like powder, and the water is clear turquoise. You can rent kayaks nearby and go out to the Mokulua islands (the “Mokes”). Pillbox hike is a short, easy hike with a great view of the Mokes and the beach. It’s easy to get there, too.
5. So many amazing restaurants
When I went back to visit recently, there was not enough time to go back to all my favorite restaurants, but it made me realize just how many good ones there are. These are by no means the only good restaurants, just some of my favorites- and one for every occasion.
- Soul de Cuba- delicious Cuban in Chinatown
- Creampot- awesome breakfast food in Waikiki. Yummy crepes.
- Royal Hawaiian Hotel breakfast- expensive but damn good! Banana stuffed french toast with berry compote?? Yes, please.
- Doraku- Asian fusion, in Waikiki. Great date atmosphere.
- Kalapawai Cafe- in Kailua. There are actually 2 locations- one that is a bit hidden but more of a sit down restaurant in Kailua town, and another near Lanikai that is more of a market.
- Ted’s Bakery- Sunset Beach, North Shore. Get a Hawaiian plate lunch (meat, white rice and macaroni salad) here, or try some of their famous pie.
- Diamondhead Grill- Diamondhead, Honolulu. Awesome grab & go food, or order from the window.
- Grass Skirt Grill- Haleiwa, North Shore. I personally love their grilled fish sandwiches and garlic sauce fries. Yum.
- Coffee Gallery- Haleiwa. GOOD coffee and pastries. Cute atmosphere.
- Maharani- Honolulu. Indian food, some of the best I have ever had and a cute little place. Gets pretty crowded though, so arrive early or try take-out.
- Alan Wong’s- Honolulu. This guy is a famous chef and has a few restaurants, which I have tried but this remains my favorite. It’s expensive, worth every penny, and the food is damned delicious! They are really strange sounding combinations that go together so well.
- Bogart’s- Diamondhead, Honolulu. I like their breakfast food- especially the bagel sandwiches.
- Boots and Kimo’s- Kailua. Breakfast food- must try their famous Banana pancakes with Macadamia nut sauce.
- Yardhouse- Waikiki. Great music, food & drink.
6. Walking around Waikiki
Yes, it’s touristy- there is no avoiding that when you are in Hawaii, and especially Waikiki. However, it’s really clean, the views are ridiculous and for me, it just brings back a lot of fun memories. The “main drag” is Kalakaua Ave- it’s along the oceanfront in places, and the street itself is nice and clean, lined with palm trees and tons of shops and restaurants for every budget- ranging from Tiffany to Quiksilver to ABC Store convenience market. Go back one street to Kuhio, and it’s a bit grungier, especially at night when the “ladies of the night” make their way to the street corners.
You know that scene from the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Jason Segal’s character attempts to jump off that cliff and falls and is hanging on by a root or something? Yeah- that’s here. I jumped off this one time when I lived there and it scared the shit out of me. The day I went was a bit choppy, and it’s pretty high up. After I had made fun of one of my other friends for taking so long to work up the courage to jump, I had to make myself do it pretty quickly for my ego’s sake- and when I finally did jump, I landed right on my butt. Ouch. I had bruises the next day, but it was pretty cool to say I did that. After you jump, you have to scramble back up the rocks and climb to the top- but it’s worth a few scrapes and bruises. Maybe just pick a calmer day. 😉
I lived here for 2 years (well actually Lanikai, which is a part of Kailua), and I just love it. It’s on the east side of the island, so the weather can be a bit unpredictable (read: rain) which is why I ultimately decided to move to Waikiki. It’s got a great little community atmosphere, a few cute boutique-like shops, and a couple great coffee shops (love Morning Brew!). The beach park here is nice too and has some paved sidewalk trails throughout. If you’re heading to the beach here or Lanikai beach, check out Kalapawai Market for some yummy food and snacks.
DEFINITELY not for the faint of heart. Also off limits. Now, who is still interested? This hike is about 3922 steep stairs up a mountain. There are 3 separate platforms to take a rest at. At some points of this hike, it’s literally like climbing up a ladder. It can be rainy and slippery, and dangerous. This is part of the reason that it’s off limits. You have to be pretty dedicated to do this hike because they have really beefed up security to prevent people from doing it. You need to get up in the middle of the night before security get’s there. I would recommend no later than 3am. To be honest, you will want to do your research of when to go and it may take a few tries to get past security.
Hawaii has some of the best surf in the world, so if you’re a bit sporty, or even if you’re not, you should try it out! And stop thinking about sharks… they are like unicorns… they are a mystical creature of old lore (just keep telling yourself that) 😉 If you’re a noob, try renting a board on Waikiki beach. There aren’t always waves, but they are generally milder and lots of people just trying out surfing go there. You can even get a lesson. Just watch out for the reef! It’s shallower than you may think. You could even try Stand Up Paddle boarding- which is becoming increasingly popular around the world.
If you get the chance, definitely visit Oahu! It’s a very beautiful island, with so much to do!