O’ahu nicknamed “the gathering place” is the heart of Hawai’i. The average temperature ranges from 75-85 degrees with trade winds making it comfortable to visit all year round. The third largest of the Hawai’i islands and the most populous, makes O’ahu the most visited island with nearly 4.7 million visitors annually. Tourists flock from all over the world to enjoy beautiful beaches, endless activities, world-class shopping, feast on local farm to table cuisine, and to experience the history and culture that is truly unique. Waikiki is definitely a great choice for the sheer convenience of lodging, dining, shopping and nightlife, but we suggest venturing out to the neighboring towns to explore all the island has to offer. O’ahu truly holds a special place in our hearts and we consider it our home away from home. Tune your radio to Island 98.5 to enjoy Hawaiian Reggae while cruising around this beautiful paradise.
The North Shore
Renting a car will help you get the most out of your O’ahu trip, but beware parking in Waikiki is not cheap and will range from $25-$40 per day. Many excursions do offer hotel pick-up and drop-off and Uber is available in the area as well. The North Shore is a must visit to see the Dole Plantation, here you can enjoy delicious whipped Dole pineapple ice cream and test your problem solving skills in their huge Pineapple Garden Maze! Continue onward from the plantation to hit the historic town of Haleiwa. You will find lots dining options, galleries, activities, and shopping in this cute quaint town. We recommend Souvaly Thai food truck for a quick bite to eat. This cash only establishment has tasty offerings with generous portions, which we enjoyed on the covered patio. Be sure to stop by Matsumoto for the best shaved ice before heading out-of-town to the most famous surf spots, the Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Surf fans plan your trip in the months of November-December to see Vans Triple Crown of Surfing events. You can finish out your day with a stop at Waimea Bay to enjoy the beach or perhaps some cliff diving off “Da Big Rock“. On the opposite side of the bay is the Waimea Falls Park, which houses lush botanical gardens and an easy one mile hike to the waterfall for a nominal fee. The parking lot at Waimea Bay is usually full, but across the street at Waimea Falls Park, you can pay $5 for beach parking, possibly more during peak season. The beautiful Turtle Bay Resort, as seen in the film forgetting Sarah Marshall and Mike & Dave need wedding dates, is also great place to stop off for happy hour and to see the sunset.
Take a 30 minute drive on the Pali Hwy to the other side of Waikiki and you’ll be in the thriving beach town of Kailua on the Windward Coast. Leave some time to detour off to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout to experience some amazing views on the stone terrace before you hit the tunnel into town. The lookout can be very windy and chilly since the elevation is over 1,000 ft. Kailua and Lanikai beach are two of the most beautiful on the island which offers miles of white sand with clear turquoise water. This is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy water activities from surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing and many more. We did a beautiful sunset hike at Lanikai Pillbox, located in a residential neighborhood, parking can be a little tough but worth the effort. The beginning of the hike has a steady incline, but easy breezy the rest of the way with views of Molulua Islands , beaches and the surrounding neighborhoods. The trail goes for miles but you’ll reach the first pillbox bunker within 20-30 minutes, a perfect spot to take in the views and the sunset. There are plenty of dining options in town from Buzz’s Steakhouse, located across the street from the beach, to a very popular breakfast and lunch spot Boots & Kimo’s. Some of our local favorites is Uahi Grill, offering a delicious menu and one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had from North Shore Roasters. The Food Company is also a great place to pick up some local style plate lunches for a day at the beach. Definitely stop by Lanikai Brewing Company for some great local craft brews, they have limited hours so double-check before heading over there. Try and make your visit on a Thursday to experience the local Farmers Market after a fun-filled day at the beach. Located in the parking lot next to Whole Foods, you’ll be able to support the community and sample some delicious local treats.
Waikiki is synonymous with Duke’s, surfboards, Mai Tai’s, and bronzed babes in tiny bikinis. Along with world-class shopping, Michelin star restaurants and 5-star hotels, this famous beachfront neighborhood of Honolulu you will keep you entertained for days. Stroll along Kalakua Ave. and you’ll be immersed in the heart of Waikiki, surrounded by visitors from all over the world, and you’ll start to understand why it’s a popular destination. Shopping, shopping and more shopping, that’s what you’ll find on this main drag along a plethora of choice dining spots and beachfront hotels. You can easily plan a relaxing day at the beach with chairs and umbrella rentals available for about $25 bucks a day if you’re not staying at one of the beachfront properties. Grab all of your essential supplies at the local ABC stores, located on every block and I mean every block on this one-way street. You’ll find a variety of healthy salads, bento boxes, ice-cold refreshment and snacks along with beach floats and bamboo mats all at reasonable prices. They will even inflate your floats for fifty cents. There are endless water activities to choose from, we definitely recommend taking a sunset sail with Manu Kai Catamaran for unlimited drinks and breathtaking views of Diamond Head. Be sure to walk towards the end of Kalakua Ave. to visit the iconic bronzed statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the five-time Olympic medalist who popularized the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing. After a day of sightseeing or relaxing at the beach, you’ll be ready for happy hour, some grub, and everything in between! Here are some of our favorite spots.
- Top of Waikiki Best rooftop views, service can be slow
- Doraku Japanese cuisine with patio dining
- Moana Terrace Waikiki Marriott, live music and beach views
- Sansei Waikiki Marriott, 50% off sushi and drink specials
- Tiki’s Aston Waikiki, live music and great food
- Hula Grill Outrigger Beach Resort
- Tropics Bar & Grill Hilton Hawaiian Village, hands down the best Mai Tai’s in O’ahu
- Shirokiya Japanese Village Walk, Ala Moana Mall, a must see
- Kona Brewing Co Great beer and great food
- Maui Brewing Co. Perfectly located in the heart of Waikiki
- Honolulu Beerworks Great craft beer and the best pulled pork sliders on taro bread
- Waikiki Brewing Company Local craft beer and yummy fries
- Marukame Best udon and very popular. Lunch and early dinner are the best times to avoid long lines
- Eating House Eatery Roy Yamaguchi eatery in the International Market Place
- Siam Square Best Thai food
- Bario Yummy Ramen
- Noi Thai Located in The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
- The Pig & The Lady Very popular Asian fusion joint in Chinatown, definitely need a reservation
- HASR Bistro Chinatown
- Livestock Tavern Chinatown reservations recommended
- Lucky Belly Hip ramen joint in Chinatown
- Da Hawaiian Poke Company Best smoked ahi dip and poke bowls
- Rainbow Drive-In Popular local spot for plate lunches and local fare
- Leonard’s Bakery Best Malasada’s, Portuguese sweet fried dough pastry
- Liliha Bakery & Diner Great breakfast or lunch spot and known for their cream puffs
- Harbor Restaurant Fresh Mediterranean menu
- Nico’s Pier 38 Fresh local foods with great pier views and live music
There’s definitely no shortage of things do in O’ahu. Make some time to visit the museums to learn about the Hawaiian culture and its rich history.
- USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
- The Brewseum Brewpub and museum
- Iolani Palace Royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii
- Byodo-In Temple located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial park
- National Cemetery of the Pacific Punchbowl Crater
O’ahu is littered with hiking trails to satisfy all levels of fitness and limitless land and sea activities. We highly recommend you visit Kualoa Ranch. We did an awesome ATV tour, catamaran ocean voyage and zip-lining! Kayaking out to Chinaman’s Hat was pretty easy, but be careful once you get the island. Make sure you get the timing just right between the waves to avoid slamming into the sharp rocks while trying to dock. If you plan to hike up, bring pants and long sleeve top because the trail is overgrown with very sharp bushes. We attempted to hike up but had to turn around because it was too painful. There’s a nice little cove to swim in and plenty of places to sit and enjoy lunch before heading back to shore.
- Kualoa Ranch 4,000 acre private reserve
- Kaneohe Bay Rent a boat or kayak out to the massive sandbar
- Mokolii Chinaman’s Hat (Intermediate level) Rent a kayak to venture out and hike up to the top
- Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail Easy scenic hike, if you’re feeling adventurous hike down to tide pools
- Manoa Falls Easy one mile waterfall hike. Have lunch for Andy’s Sandwiches after your hike
- Koko Crater Stairs (Intermediate level) Tough steep hike with rewarding panoramic views, stop by Kona Brewing Co. for dinner after your hike
- Diamond Head One of the most popular moderate hikes with beautiful views of Waikiki
- Lulumahu Falls Moderate hike with impressive waterfall