After five days adventuring in Maui, Mr. A and I were ready to relax in Ohau. We planned Honolulu to be our spot for laying on the beach, drinking mai tais and maayybbee if we had the energy to eat some fancy food. We made it through a day and a half of relaxing before we rented a car and drove out of the city to see what the island had to offer and how it differed from Maui. It’s a nice mix of everything. It’s certainly not as “natural” as Maui, but it does have your sightseeing, Hawaii views, tourist options, shopping, nice hotels, and great eating and drinking. Actually, if I had to pick between the two islands, I would pick Ohau. It was nice to be able to have the city when we wanted and open island when we wanted. Oahu didn’t have the rain forest, Jungle Book feel that Maui did, but there were many of the same sights and sounds with the convenience and amenities of city living.
Catch our trip after the jump!
MUST DOS: Shaved Ice | Food Trucks | Pearl Harbor | Surfing | Mai Tais | Waikiki Beach | Hiking | Bakeries | Baked Manapua | Spam Musubi | Loco Moco | Honolulu Cookie Company
WHERE WE SLEPT:
Due to making last min. arrangements and a work conference thrown in, we did a fair amount of hotel hopping during our stay.
Sheraton Wakiki: I would live here if I could. The room was comfortable, spacious, clean and had a lanai that looked out over the ocean. It was so nice to be able to watch the sunset from the comforts of our room. It was to literally die for (not even being dramatic). Amenity wise, it has everything you would need, including: shops, a gym, various restaurants and coffee spots, complimentary lei making and surfing classes, and the Rumfire, the best and really only beach-side restaurant/bar in Honolulu. It’s also home to the infinity pool. The infinity pool is this glorious spot with bean-bag-chair-esque pool floaties and bar tenders that bring you drinks in the pool. Surrounded by comfortable pool chairs, there was really no need to leave. Location wise, this is smack dab in the middle of all the Honolulu action. Close enough to walk to many of the shops and restaurants we visited. Of all the places we stayed, this was the most convenient.
Park Shore Waikiki: We stayed here for one night due to a little booking snafu at the Sheraton. It’s on the opposite end of the strip, but still a lovely location. It’s right across from the Honolulu Zoo and the main area of Waikiki beach. Had we not stayed here, we probably wouldn’t have even ventured this far along the beach, so we were happy we made the mistake.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village: This was the conference hotel so we stayed here for five nights by default. It’s literally a little city with restaurants, shops, various pools, ongoing activities, firework shows and so, so many rooms and people. So if you like that kind of isolated, never-need-to-leave-the-hotel type of spot, this is a great option, but to get out of the property and enjoy the city, it’s far away from anywhere and again is so huge, it’s obnoxious.
The Royal Hawaiian: Ok, so we didn’t stay here, but we tried; they were booked. It’s a little on the spendy side, but splurge one night and stay at this pink paradise. In existence since 1927, this hotel has served royalty and holds lots of historical value within the Hawaiian culture.
WHAT WE DID:
North Shore Drive: Ohau’s North Shore is famous for three things: surfing, beaches and food trucks. From Honolulu, it’s a 45 min. drive on one lane highways and you’ll want to plan at least a half day for this trip. This translates to: head out early. We left Honolulu around 8:30 AM and it was smooth sailing, but noticed on our way home cars at stand still headed the opposite direction.
Because you’re getting on the road early, few shops and food trucks are open so plan on hitting the beaches first: Ehukai Beach (home of the Banzai Pipeline), Waimea Bay Beach, Sunset Beach, Sharks Cove (good snorkeling) or Laniakea Beach (SO many sea turtles) are all great options and along a single 7 mile stretch.
After getting some rays, make your rounds to the food trucks. There is a food truck park directly across from Sharks Cove Beach that had a few of our favorites: The Elephant Truck for Thai, North Shore Tacos for tacos, Crispy Grindz for Brazilian, and up the highway a few miles, the truck that made food trucks famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. The authenticity, quality and taste at these trucks is unbelievable.
On your way back to Honolulu, make a pit stop in Haleiwa Town for a little shopping and shaved ice. Number 808 was my favorite little shop of everywhere we visited on our trip. It’s an amazingly curated shop that mixes vintage with clean and modern. They had a variety of vintage tees, great sunglasses, both men and women’s apparel as well as all things surfing. I picked up quite a few small souvenirs and gifts.
Haleiwa also has Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice; one of the original, favorite spots for the delish shaved ice. Shaved ice in Hawaii is the exact opposite of the grainy snow cones you find in the states. It’s shaved so thin and smooth that the flavors cling to the ice and you’re left with an almost ice cream texture. Many times it’s served over sweetened condensed milk to make it even more creamy. It really is a must try I’ve never experienced elsewhere.
China Town: If you have access to a kitchen on your trip, do a little grocery shopping here. They have everything from fresh fish to crab to exotic fruit and other delicacies. Fun to just walk around and gawk at all the little shops and grocer stands. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, grab some pineapple and sprinkle some li hing powder for an authentic treat. The li hing powder is is a preserved plum powder that adds a savory, malt-like flavor and enhances the sweetness of the fruit.
Eat the Street: A GIANT food truck festival that takes over a parking lot downtown Honolulu the last Friday of every month.
Pearl Harbor: You can’t go to Honolulu and not go to Pearl Harbor. It’s a short tour and very moving experience. If you’re planning your trip far enough in advance, you can reserve tickets ahead of time here, or plan on arriving at Pearl Harbor by 6:30 AM the morning of your visit. You’ll have to wait in line and be prepared to get the tickets that are left for that day. The full process is explained on the website. During your tour, you watch a short documentary of that infamous day and then take a boat to the site of where the USS Arizona sunk. The memorial was built on top of the ship and you can still see parts of the wreckage and oil still seeps to the surface as a reminder.
Hiking: Due to my work schedule, we didn’t make it hiking, but there were two places on my list: Diamond Head or a little further of a drive: Makapu’u Lighthouse. Both appeared to have incredible views while not being too intense of a hike.
WHAT WE ATE + DRANK:
Doraku: We ate here several times. Their happy hour is fantastic and sushi is the best I’ve tried. My favorites were their version of the Spider Roll and something about their California roll got me. They also make a mai tai with tequila instead of the normal rum that is to die for.
Buho Cocina y Cantina: Where Aloha meets Hola: a unique fusion of Mexican and Hawaiian. Also a great happy hour and a fancy spin on street food.
Heavenly: Breakfast deliciousness and decor straight outta Pinterest. Don’t be alarmed by the line, it actually goes quite quickly. Service was not the greatest, but my eggs benedict made up for it.
Crackin’ Kitchen: A put-a-bib-on-and-crack-some-crab-legs kinda place with signature sauces and a laid back, friendly atmosphere.
Royal Kitchen: Let me introduce you to a little thing called baked manapua. Manapua is somewhat like a Hawaiian dumpling, but in a bun form. Instead of being steamed, the Hawaiian sweet roll is stuffed with meat, spices and vegetables and baked creating a doughy pillow with extreme flavor pocket. The char siu manapua was one of my favorite snacks on the trip.
Liliha Bakery: This is the spot for baked goods, specifically their coco puffs (disclaimer: absolutely nothing like the General Mills cereal). Their sales of more than 5,000 of these suckers PER DAY backs up that claim. Imagine a cream puff with a chocolate-y custard filling and a Chantilly frosting on top. They are to die for.
The Pig and the Lady: Bevy, Bar 35 and The Pig and the Lady are all within walking distance with a few other good spots close by. Plan on hitting all of these in one night starting with dinner at the Pig and the Lady. An Asian Fusion place that actually gets it right with noodle soups and a french dip banh mi, their menu is creative without trying too hard.
Bar 35: Stop here after dinner at the Pig and the Lady. With live music, a giant screen playing old cult classic movies and mystery drinks, this is a really fun spot. Their mixed drinks are tasty and happy hour goes into late night.
Bevy: This is the spot for a night cap. Their coffee beverages are warm and expertly concocted.
Honolulu Cookie Company: Something about Hawaii and baked goods… These shortbread cookies are worth standing in line for. With a shop on nearly every corner and samples galore, be prepared to spend an obscene amount of money on shortbread, but these are the perfect gifts to bring back to family members at home.
ABC Store: This spot will be your best friend while on vacation. Prices are comparable to back home and they have everything from snacks to liquor to souvenirs.
(See what I did there? Aloha means Hello and Goodbye- eh? eh?! 🙂
As always, let me know what I missed; I love your input! Happy Travels!