Following on from our trip to Kauai, we ventured back over to Oahu, which is home of the state capital, Honolulu. We opted to stay in Waikiki, in a very well situated hotel, Alohilani Resort. The hotel was recently refurbished, and was a two minute walk to Waikiki beach.
Where we went
We hired a Mustang convertible because it’s the American thing to do, right? It was actually a lot of fun! If you love the adrenaline rush, I highly recommend you do this. It was the best way to see the island as well, particularly as the weather was magnificent. The first afternoon we drove all up the East coast of the island and took in the beautiful scenery. In fact, those beaches were some of my favourite.
The next day we had planned to go up to the North Shore and spend most of the day up there, but we got a little side-tracked…shopping! When visiting Hawaii, you have to check out Waikele Premium Outlets. Now, I am not a huge believer in buying bulk outlet items, but it is worth it for basics such as Levi’s, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger, etc. Tip: register with the website prior to going so you can collect the extra discounts, and always have a plan as to what you want to buy. Too often than not, people get sucked into buying unnecessary items because it’s cheap. Only buy what you love!
After that stopover, we drove up the North Shore and checked out the food trucks. They’re a bit of an institution in Hawaii, so definitely give it a go. We had garlic shrimp (the most popular) from the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, and it was pretty good! The food trucks are situated in the town of Kahuku, along the Main Street (near the McDonald’s). We struggled finding it at first! Because our shopping expedition took so long, we ran out of time in the North, so we actually went up again on a separate day. If we had known this beforehand, we would have allocated a full day for shopping, and a full day for the North.
The second time with drove up north, we spent some time at Banzai Pipeline, most famous for the Pipeline surf competitions. Unfortunately, that was the only day we received rain, so we couldn’t actually hang out on the beach. But we did spend some time checking out the surfers…they were pretty incredible. And I had to drop in for a coffee at the gorgeous Sunrise Shack. They even had coconut milk with their coffee!
If you’re up for a nice, busy walk up Diamond Head, then definitely squeeze this into your itinerary. We actually walked from our hotel, right up to the top, and then back again. This was a little ambitious in the heat of the day, but it’s doable. I think we clocked up about 14kms. We definitely deserved our açai bowl after that workout!
The rest of our time was spent wandering around Waikiki, relaxing by the beach and the pool, or walking around the shops. Waikiki is quite touristy, but it’s a great place to base yourself, as everything is so accessible.
Where to shop
As mentioned earlier, it’s worth going to Waikele Premium Outlets. There’s all the main American brands, at reasonable prices. But do set aside at least half a day for that, so you can take your time and avoid impulse shopping.
Along the Waikiki strip there are hundreds of stores sprawled across the street, and hidden in side streets, as well as inside various arcades. For an Australian, it wasn’t cost effective to buy most brands. I did, however, buy items from Intermix. I have been receiving their emails for years, but never had the opportunity to walk into a bricks and mortar store. I also purchased some Tom Ford make-up in the duty free store. It was marginally cheaper, and by that I mean $10-20 cheaper at best. It was more so an opportunity to have a play with some of the products, as life doesn’t always permit this.
Ala Moana shopping mall is worth a visit. It’s pretty big, so if you’re a serious shopper, make sure you set aside enough time to stroll through. Again, the prices weren’t justifiable for me, but the variety was most definitely there!
What to eat
Coffee – first things first. So you may or may not know that I am an avid coffee drinker! I drink on average 4 cups a day. So when I travel, it’s imperative that I find the right place to fulfil my caffeine requirements! And as you may be aware, the U.S isn’t so good at making a good cup of coffee, so I knew this was going to be difficult. Most coffees I tried were either burnt, watered down or downright horrible. But I found a couple of places that were pretty good. Not far from our hotel, in the Hyatt Regency building, there was a little place called Kai Coffee Hawaii. I had an espresso there most days, and they did a pretty good job. And Kona had pretty good coffee as well.
Açai bowl (pronounced “ah-sa-EE” roughly) – these Portuguese gems are kind of a big deal in Hawaii. Most places in Hawaii prepare them correctly by using the actual açai fruit, not the powdered versions you can get in other western establishments. The image on the left was delicious! The real deal. We actually stumbled across this place whilst heading back from our Diamond Head walk at da Cove. There’s also a couple of other cafes in that group of shops that do reasonably good breakfasts’ too.
Poke bowl (pronounced “POH-keh”) – If you live in Sydney, you’d be aware of the poke bowl craze at the moment. But in Hawaii, this has been a staple for many years. It’s essentially raw fish marinated in different flavours. In Hawaii, you can buy them almost anywhere, and most supermarkets have quite good quality poke’s too. We were directed by our hotel staff to go to the place where the locals like to eat, Hawaii’s Favorite Kitchen. It’s pretty authentic, and great value for money – the bowl’s are huge! They also sell shaved ice there as well, if you’re into that.
Japanese – if you like Japanese and a fan of the show The Iron Chef, then check out Morimoto. It was conveniently located in our hotel, and was buzzing with atmosphere. It’s definitely worth it.
Pizza – we were told about Flour and Barley by a friend, and it was a great place to get a casual pizza and enjoy a few mai tai’s. They have happy hour from 2pm-6pm every day, so if that’s not enough of a reason to go, I don’t know what is!
Ramen – because what do you feel like on a beach holiday…a hot bowl of ramen? Sure! It was actually pretty, bloody good. Check out Marukame Udon in Waikiki. There’s a usually a long line up, so get there early. But it’s worth the wait!
Happy hour – most hotels and restaurants within the Waikiki Beach area do happy hour anywhere from 4pm onwards. Try a few different places to ensure you sip the best Mai Tai’s whilst on vacay.
Malasadas – these little sugary gems are basically the Portuguese version of a doughnut, without the hole! And the most famous place to try these, are at Leonard’s Bakery. Go early so you miss the crowds. We bought one original and one with cream/custard in the middle, but I much preferred the original. The bakery isn’t too far from Waikiki, but not within walking distance from memory.
In Oahu, make sure you take the time to see the whole island as there are so many hidden gems. Take in all the beauty and the culture, as it is quite unique.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Hawaii. There are so many other things to do on the island/s, that we didn’t get time to do, such as surfing, SUP-ing, Luau show, lei making, etc. But there’s always next time! Have you been to Hawaii, or looking at going? I’d love to hear from you. Comment on this post or drop me an email.
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What I wore:
Denim shorts – Agolde (go up a size for extra comfort!)
One piece swimwear – Acacia via Soleil Blue (not available anymore)
Hat – Lack of Color
Stripe tank – Tommy Hilfiger
White denim skirt – GRLFRND
Orange slides – Lacoste
Tee’s – Levi’s
White leather skirt – Aje
Lemon hoop earrings – Mercedes Salazar