THINGS TO DO AND EAT IN OAHU:
It’s been awhile since I’ve added any new city guides to my site. I’ve been getting a huge amount of requests these past few weeks for Hawaii, so I’ve finally decided to add a new post! People have been asking me which island they should visit, but I can’t really say because I’ve only been to Oahu! Why? Because it’s foodie paradise! We would’ve loved to island hop and visit the other islands, but our time was limited.
Continue reading below to see my tips and recommendations!
Where to stay – If you prefer to stay in a busier area where all of the tourists go, Waikiki is a great place to be in! You’ll find that many of the businesses here will close much later than the rest of the island. Looking for a quieter and more relaxing area? North Shore would be the place to go. Everything here closes much earlier, but you can still find plenty of beautiful beaches and great eateries! Before planning the trip, I asked a few friends what area they’d recommend us staying in. The majority selected North Shore, because it was more laid back. Because we had so many mixed reviews, we decided to spend the first half of our trip in North Shore, and the second half in Honolulu. That way we could experience both! If we were to go again, I’d probably spend most of the trip in Honolulu first, and then unwind and relax in North Shore at the end of the trip, for about two days. That way, I could get some rest before the long flight home and returning to the “mainland.” When we stayed in Honolulu, we stayed about 10 minutes away from Waikiki. It was better this way because we wouldn’t have to pay for overnight parking at a hotel. Those parking fees are outrageous!
Car Rental – If you’re only planning on staying in Waikiki and not exploring the rest of the island, you can get by without renting a car. You still have the option of taking a ride share like Uber or Lyft. We ended up renting a car because we wanted to go all over the island, and we definitely didn’t regret that choice. Do keep in mind that you have to pay for parking almost everywhere in Waikiki, unless you’re lucky and find street parking. We stayed in an Airbnb at both locations, so the parking was free at those properties.
THINGS TO DO:
Kualoa Ranch & Private Nature Reserve – The 2-hour ATV tour ($129.95 + tax) was one of our absolute favorite activities we did. We spent our first day in Oahu riding ATV’s through 4000 acres of private nature reserve and it was magical! We got to see great views of the mountains and ocean, as well as stopped at a few movie sites. If you’ve seen Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Hawaii Five-0, Pearl Harbor, Lost, and Godzilla, these are among a few of the many movies that were filmed here! We rode in a group of six individual ATVs, plus our tour guide. If you take the 1-hour ATV tour, you’ll be riding with a group of maybe 20+? We were definitely glad we did 2 hours instead of 1, because time just flew by! If you’re uncomfortable about driving your own ATV, there’s also the option of riding a multi-rider ATV with the tour guide. Kualoa Ranch also offers other tours and activities such as horseback riding, zip lining, and more, if you’re not into ATV’s.
Lanikai Pill Box Hike – This is one of the hikes I’d repeat, over and over! Anyone who goes to Honolulu should experience this hike at least once. It’s about a one-mile roundtrip hike that’s mainly a dirt trail that consists of rocks and gravel. Be sure you go to both pillboxes! Once you get to the second pillbox, you’ll be glad you did! The views are absolutely stunning.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail & Lookout – Almost everywhere you go on the island will have breathtaking views! This was among one of my top spots. It’s a pretty easy hike going uphill the entire time. Along the way, there’s a few rest stops and lookouts, as well as pillboxes you can easily get to.
Spitting Cave – I wish we were able to spend more time here! We got here shortly before sunset and sat around admiring the view. Listening to the waves crash against the rocks were so relaxing!
Laniakea Turtle Beach – If you’re hoping to see sea turtles sometime during your trip, this might be one of the best spots! Located in the North Shore, you can find them more often during the summer months, when the water is calmer.
Diamond Head – This is one of the easier trails that we took during our trip to Honolulu. If you want to go to one of the most popular trails that shows panoramic views of Honolulu, and an extinct volcano, this is it! I recommend going as early as possible to beat the crowds.
USS Arizona Memorial (Pearl Harbor) – This memorial marks the resting place to all of the sailors and marines killed on USS Arizona, during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s only accessible by boat, so keep an eye on the weather and wind speeds! If it’s too windy, the boats to the memorial may be suspended or cancelled by the US Navy due to high winds. You can book your tickets up to two months in advance, or visit at 7 am the day before your visit. There’s also 1,300 free walk-in tickets that are released daily, but it’s first come, first serve.
USS Missouri Battleship ($29-$72) – If you’re into American history you may like to tour the battleship! Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States. It’s also known as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan, which ended World War II. You have the option of taking a guided tour around the battleship, or exploring on your own. The doors close at 4PM, so give yourself plenty of time to see the entire ship!
Byodo-In Temple – Walking through here made us feel like we were back in Japan again! After all, it’s a replica of a temple in Kyoto. Admission to the temple is $5 and parking is free!
Lanikai Beach – Of all the beaches that we went to while we were in Oahu, this was one of my personal favorites. The sand here was the most soft, powdery and clean compared to everywhere else we got to visit.
Other places we’ve been:
Spitting Cave, Sunset Beach, Waikiki Beach, Tokidoki Mural, 7sketches Mural, Audrey Kawasaki Mural, Waimea Valley, Waikiki Boardwalk, Waikiki Yokocho, Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, Ala Moana Shopping Center, Waimea Falls Park
PLACES TO EAT:
Shirokiya Japan Village Walk – This is the perfect place to go if you’re in a group. It’s a food hall filled with many Japanese eateries! You can find anything from ramen, katsu, onigiri, drinks, and much more. Definitely make a stop here sometime during your visit to Honolulu.
Waikiki Yokocho Gourmet Alley – This is another Japanese food “alley” that’s smaller than Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. It’s a great way to explore all of Japan’s best culinary exports, all in one place. There’s restaurants specializing in everything from hand-made sushi, Michelin-endorsed ramen, rare whiskies, innovative desserts, and so much more!
Hale’iwa Bowls – This was something I craved for every morning! The acai bowls were absolute perfection. It was so fresh and satisfying. There was always a long line when we drove by here, but the wait wasn’t very long after we ordered.
Tonkatsu Tamafuji – I’ve been craving for good tonkatsu ever since having Maisen Tonkatsu in Japan. This comes veryyy close to it! I’ll definitely be coming back here because it totally hit the spot!
Papa Ole’s Kitchen – This was pretty high up in our list of favorites! We might’ve gone twice in one day. Their loco moco was the best out of the places we’ve tried. The patty was flavorful and the gravy was great. Their pulehu ribs were pretty awesome too!
Helena’s Hawaiian Food – The pipikaula ribs and chicken long rice was our favorite here!
The Pig & The Lady – We had so many dishes here that I lost count! My favorites were the pandan cocktail called, “redivider” (pisco, pandan and coconut water), ahi tataki on Spanish toast, pb&j, and the smoked pork jowl. The other dishes we tried were pretty good too. I can’t wait to be back to try the others!
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Of course we had to stop by the infamous shrimp truck that everyone talks about! We wanted to try more than one flavor but didn’t want to order an entire plate for each. Instead, we ordered the half & half. Hot and spicy was our favorite compared to the garlic scampi. As for the rice, it was just mushy and unappetizing.
Alicia’s Market – This was one of our very first stops when we got to Honolulu. As soon as we picked up our rental car, we went straight here. It reminded me of the Asian rice boxes I usually get back home, but with the addition of poke. And oh my… the poke! I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Musubi Cafe Iyasume – If you need a snack, this is the perfect choice! You can find dozens of different spam musubis, rice balls, bentos and more.
Maguro Brothers – I went to the location in chinatown and found it tucked inside the Kekaulike Market. The fish was fresh and you can even add uni to your poke bowl!
Boots & Kimo Homestyle Kitchen – Known for their brunch items and onolicious pancakes, it did not disappoint! If you go here, you musttt get the pancakes with their famous macadamia sauce. It was delicious!
Ono Seafood – I haven’t tried any poke places in Oahu that I didn’t like. This was one of my top choices! The fish was so fresh and buttery. I’m so glad I was able to make it here before leaving to the airport. I brought it on the plane to eat as a snack and it was so satisfying!
抹茶スタンドMaiko (Matcha Cafe Maiko) – Found in Honolulu, there’s also a location in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and soon, Houston! So happy to have a place closer to home. I’m sure I’ll be making stops here pretty often when I’m in town.
Leonard’s Bakery – This Portuguese bakery is known for popularizing the malasada. What’s a malasada? It’s a Portuguese donut without a hole. These fried pillows of dough are coated with original (plain sugar), cinnamon sugar, or li hing, and then filled with your choice of filling (custard, chocolate or haupia). It’s best eaten when it’s hot! Soo good!
Matsumoto Shave Ice – We couldn’t go to Hawaii and NOT get Hawaiian shaved ice! The flavors were all so good! As for the mochi here, we were not a fan. The ones we had were flavorless and starchy. I’d definitely get it again though, but without the mochi. The ice cream and condensed milk were the perfect addition!
Honolulu Cookie Company – Do not leave Hawaii without grabbing a box of these delicious shortbread cookies! You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors. I got the variety box that came with all the flavors. There’s also a location in Vegas!
Gaslamp Speakeasy – Hidden within a bar called Kailua Town Pub & Grill, you’ll need a password to get in! You can make reservations on their website and they’ll text you the password the day of. The mixologist here definitely knows his craft. He creates cocktails based on what fruits are in season and also offers a variety of different Japanese whiskies, among many others.
Nomu Waikiki – Whenever I see guava on a menu, I always get it! I tried the guava moscow mule and ended up getting a few more! The matcha old fashioned here is the first I’ve seen. If you’re into old fashioned’s and matcha green tea, this is definitely something to try. They also had Japanese whiskey highballs on draft here, but it tasted watered down to me.
Other places we’ve been:
Food: Kahuku Superette (poke), Island Vintage Coffee North Shore (lox and cream cheese on taro bagel), Fumis Kahuku Shrimp, Curry House CoCo Ichibanya (japanese curry rice), Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp, Inc. (butter garlic prawns), McDonald’s (Hawaiian breakfast, spam, haupia/taro pie), Uncle Woody’s BBQ Corn, Seven Brothers (paniolo fries & burgers), Ramen Nakamura (oxtail ramen), Mike’s Huli Chicken, Marukame Udon, Ceviche House, Hukilau Cafe (breakfast/brunch)
Desserts: Ted’s Bakery (chocolate haupia cream pie), Paalaa Kai Bakery (snow puffies), Hawaiian Sweet Potato Factory, Kushikatsu Tanaka, Ubae (ube cheesecake and more), Kamehameha Bakery Inc. (poi and haupia donuts),
For more photos or places I haven’t listed, you can find it on IG under the hashtag #sherrytravelsoahu
Check back later for more updates on this guide!