Hey beautiful people and welcome back to my blog!
Hawaii is an extremely beautiful and popular travel destination and is also my family’s favorite place to vacation! My family loves it so much, they’re going without me… and on my birthday LOL. I’ve tried my best to accumulate all my experiences over the years and pack it into this travel guide!
I know a big question for people when they travel is should I rent a car or not? In this day and age, we have cheap rideshare programs at our fingertips, so renting a car isn’t always the best route.
If you are staying in Waikiki and are just doing activities within the main beach area, I don’t recommend you rent a car. Packed with a bunch of tourists and locals who work in the hospitality industry, Waikiki, especially the main beach area, always has heavy traffic. Hotels also charge a pretty steep daily/overnight parking rate, so you really don’t want to rack up extra expenses if you don’t need to.
Alternatives to renting a car are:
- Walking (my top choice because you get to fully immerse yourself in the bustling beach city)
- Waikiki Trolley
While Waikiki is super fun, I 100% think you should rent a car and explore every inch of the island. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t. Look into your favorite travel booking sites to find great rental, hotel and flight packages.
PLACES TO STAY
I’ve stayed in a lot of places over the years, but mainly through my parents (timeshares or paid hotel stays), so I don’t feel too comfortable recommending places that I don’t have direct booking experience in. Really research the area and find the best fit for you! They also have a lot of Air Bnbs/short term rentals available.
My family and I normally stay at Ko Olina Marriott Beach Club, Wyndham Waikiki and Imperial Waikiki (all timeshares).
THINGS TO DO
Luaus are a staple activity when visiting the islands. Not only are they really fun, but they’re opportunities to learn about the Hawaiian culture, people, and traditions. From eating ceremonial foods, like kalua pork, to learning the hula, you’ll leave even more in love with Hawaii.
I’ve been to this one the most and always have a great time. As a kid, I always loved going to the lei making and basket weaving stations. The food was always delicious, and the entertainment level is top-notch. It’s also right along the water and they offer transportation from your hotel and back.
This one is also along the water and offers great entertainment value! I believe they include drink tickets in the price, for all my 21+ friends.
The PCC offers the most interactive packages. Here, you can participate in native activities, canoe rides, and more. I’ve never been here, but I have friends that have gone and absolutely loved it. One even met Bretman Rock there! I know! So jealous!
I’ve been to a handful of luaus throughout the years of select companies, but there are so many! Do your research to see which one seems like the best fit for you and your loved ones and I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time!
Last year, we took my sister to Keana Farms for a zipline adventure tour on her 18th birthday. The package was at most $170 a person and totally worth it. The views were amazing, the tour guides were really helpful and easygoing, and the tour itself was just a lot of fun. It is pretty strenuous on the body, you will be hiking throughout the trail and up and downstairs for three hours under the island sun and heat. I recommend you be in at least decent shape, cause it’s a lot.
Kualoa has a lot of activities you can do, from ATV, kayak, and horseback rides, there’s never a dull moment on their property. Kualoa has been a filming location for movies like Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates, and you’ll most definitely see where they shot iconic scenes during your tour. The tours are a little pricey, but definitely worth it.
“A date which will live in infamy” is how President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the event that led the U.S. to fight in WWII. While undeniably tragic, the memorial that honors and commemorates the American lives lost in the attack has to be one of the most moving, beautiful, and inspiring places I’ve ever been in my life.
On my visit, I had the honor of meeting a survivor. It sounds incredibly cliche, but that experience really made me grateful for the sacrifices our armed men and women make every day.
Tips for Diamond Head
- Go really early in the morning!
- This hike is more of a trail, so it does attract a lot of tourists. The later you go (like past 9 am), the higher the chance of there being a lot of people and it taking way longer to complete than needed.
- Wear athletic shoes!
- Even though it’s a more touristy trail, you will be walking a lot and going up and downstairs, so you don’t want to be going in your flippy-flops.
Tips for Kokohead
- Don’t be silly like me and my friends and go right after another hike (unless you’re super fit/super crazy :P)
- Take your time!
- This hike is hard. The “stairs” aren’t actual stairs, but just an abandoned railroad that’s caved into the mountain.
- Bring minimal items
- I suggest storing your items in a fanny pack or light backpack. There’s a part of it where there’s no ground under the railroad, and you don’t want loose items fallings through the (literal) cracks
- Wear proper hiking gear!
- STAY HYDRATED! Actually, just drink gallons and gallons of water before, you’ll need it lol.
If staying in/visiting Waikiki, you’ll see half a dozen catamarans along the shore offering rides out to the sea for about $20-30. They’re normally stocked with alcohol or some non-alcoholic tropical refreshments that are either included in the price or offered at just a few bucks. I always have the best time on these, and especially love sitting in the netted part and feeling/seeing the ocean right under me. If you’re prone to motion sickness, you won’t like these, so don’t even go.
Sea turtles are treasured in Hawaii, so much so, the state protects them. While you can’t touch or physically interact with these beauties, you can visit them at Laniakea Beach. Parking is a little sparse, but if you enjoy sea life, this is a cool place to check out for a few minutes. You can donate to environmentalist groups that help protect them once you’re at the beach.
Hanauma Bay is a popular spot. Known for its vibrant reefs, it’s the top spot to go snorkeling and see so many sea creatures and fish. If you’re not that great of a swimmer, I suggest you don’t go. The reef is protected, and the importance and fragility of the habitat are (over) emphasized which made me too freaked out to relax my legs for just two seconds. I was constantly doggy paddling and was tired af. Also, the last time I went, the current was constantly pulling me and kept making me kick my friend with my fins… He was not happy lol. And… if eels freak you out, then maybe this isn’t for you. One popped out into my face, which caused me to scream so much underwater and book it to shore. Fun times.
If you don’t want to snorkel, you can definitely feed the fish closer to the shore (hip-deep water).
Obviously, Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to surf. You can take classes basically anywhere, but if you’re a newbie, I’d take them at Waikiki beach, cause the waves are a little milder than in North Shore.
Paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, and so many more activities are available to do too.
PLACES TO EAT
I’ve been to Oahu 20ish times, and this list has all my favorite spots to eat. I definitely haven’t even scratched the surface, but they’re worth checking out! I think most places take card, but I’d have cash handy just in case!
Henry’s Place – Though it may be small, it is mighty! Henry’s only takes cash, so don’t show up emptyhanded! They make such refreshing homemade sorbets and ice creams in really unique and exotic flavors, like POG and halo halo. I went here every other day on my last trip.
Banan – Banan has great dairy-free banana-based soft serve flavors that are sure to hit the spot! They even have the option to eat it in papaya! This is a great post-hike snack.
Sunrise Shack – Smoothie bowl GOALS right here! There’s a location in Sunset Beach and in Waikiki (Outrigger Hotel), so you can get an icy treat to help cool you down.
Island Vintage Coffee – Frozen banana mocha coffee. That’s all you need to know!
Duke’s – One of my favorite places ever! The food is good, but not to die for, but what I go for is the ambiance. I have a lot of fond memories at this restaurant and love every experience here.
They have a pretty good breakfast buffet and barefoot (bar) menu. The star of the show, however, is Duke’s Hula Pie.
Musubi Cafe Iyasume – This is the spot for all things musubi! They have so many options that are all delicious.
Marukame Udon – This place is SUPER popular, so get there way before the time you actually want to eat.
Mitsuwa Marketplace – Located in the International Marketplace, it’s good for snacks, really cheap sushi trays, and has a food court with good ramen.
Shirokiya Japan Village Walk – A really good Japanese food court with a lot of variety! Not all places take card, so have cash!
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Bring cash! There’s a line and a lot of flies around, but the food is so good.
Bubbie’s Mochi – Famous, a must-try. It has so many flavors of ice cream mochi!
Scoop of Paradise – Located in North Shore, the lilikoi cheesecake and blueberry cheesecake are my fave flavors.
Leonard’s Bakery – Get the malasadas and try all the flavors
Fruit Stands – have cash on you to stop at fruit stands!! The freshest fruits 😋 usually on the way to North Shore.
And there you have it! Here’s is my guide for traveling in Oahu! I’ve done so many things throughout the years, but these are the top experiences and places that come to mind. There are so many other places to check out and explore! If you go to places not mentioned, please leave a comment so I can check it out next time I’m there!
Until next time, ALOOOOOHAAAAA!