Travel Guide To Oahu – Local Favorite Restaurants, Bars, Beaches, Hikes & Activities

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Oahu tavel guide. One of the main reasons I decided to create this blog was because people were reaching out to me & asking about Hawaii and recommendations of what to do. After a couple of Google docs, endless emails and Facebook messages I decided to put together a list of my favorite things in a complete ‘Oahu Guide’. The following suggestions are based off what I take visitors to do when I’m playing tour guide. Some of the activities are better suited for active people where others are suited for the more relaxed vacationer. I’ll try to note as I go through which are more intense but hopefully there will be a happy medium for everyone.

These recommendations are aimed to support local businesses.


Where to Eat in Oahu

I know Drake loves The Cheesecake factory, but please- if you come to Hawaii try somewhere unique to the island.

Nanzan GiraGira

Nanzan GiraGira

  • Makers & Tasters: Food truck park on the water near Ala Moana. The food trucks rotate so make sure you check out their site to see what’s available. Great casual outdoor atmosphere.
  • Nico’s Pier 38: Absolute favorite restaurant near Chinatown. Grab a table outside at sunset and order the Furikake Ahi. Seriously, do it.
  • Highway Inn: Local Hawaiian food near Ala Moana. One of my go-to places when visitors come to get a taste of Hawaii. Some favorites: Pork laulau plate, poke, smokin’ moco loco.
  • Konos: Kalua pork restaurant located in Haleiwa and Kapahulu (in town). Great for breakfast and lunch. Casual + to go. Recommend: Haleiwa Bomber
  • Leonards: Malasada=Portuguese donut puffs covered in sugar. Next to Kono’s on Kapahulu. If you don’t get an entire box of these delicious treats I will judge you. Recommend: cinnamon sugar malasada and macadamia filled malasada.
  • Kahumana Organic Farm: Go here for a yoga retreat or after some adventures on the west side of the island. Located in Waianae, this farm to table cafe is sure to satisfy your taste buds. You can also walk around the grounds and check out their produce. The outdoor seating provides a phenomenal view of the mountains as well.
  • Pig & The Lady: Vietnamese fusion restaurant in Chinatown. One of the best lunch/dinner spots on island.
  • Lucky Belly: Ramen restaurant in Chinatown. Also great lunch/dinner spot.
  • Koko Head Cafe: Breakfast/Brunch restaurant in Kaimuki by Chef Lee Anne Wong. Recommend: Cornflake French Toast
  • Bread & Butter: New restaurant near Ala Moana. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A great place to stop in and grab a quail egg musubi or a glass of pino nior at the wine bar.
  • Arvo: Great coffee boutique in Kakaako. They serve beautiful plates if you want to grab a bite and is joined to Paiko which has cool plants and local products you can browse while you wait for your beverage.
  • Goofy Cafe: Breakfast served all day. Located near Ala Moana. Everything is good, but go early for breakfast or beware the wait.
  • Sure Shot: Breakfast hole-in-the-wall in Makiki. Great for on the go before heading out for the day.
  • Artizen MW: Cafe located in the Honolulu State Art Museum in Chinatown. Great breakfast and lunch specials.
  • Hawaiian Irie Jerk: BYOB spot in Kaimuki. Small place with phenominal jerk chicken. They also have a food truck that pops up around the island so if you see it, GO!
  • Nanzan GiroGiro: If you wanna be fancy. Make reservations here and treat yoself to a 6 course set menu with optional wine pairing. The plating is beautiful and if you are a foodie, you’ll wanna spend the money here.
  • Buhos: Rooftop Mexican restaurant in Waikiki. Late night happy hours and one of the better Mexican joints. Most tourists don’t really know about it even though it’s the center of Waikiki because you have to take a not-so-well marked elevator up to the rooftop. Great place to get dinner if you plan on exploring Waikiki night life.
  • Franky Fresh: 90’s themed burger restaurant in Kaimuki. Go to after a big hike. Make sure to try the Cinnamon Toast Crunch milkshake. It’s worth the calories.
  • Chiba-Ken: Sushi restaurant in Waikiki. This is off the beaten path but it’s some of the best sushi I’ve had and is conveniently located across the street from my apartment so I order often.
  • Ai Love Nalo: If you’re  on the east side of the island head to this vegan restaurant for a healthy, local meal in Waimanalo. Recommend: Medi-Bowl
  • Elephant Food truck: Best Thai food on island. Located in Haleiwa next to Foodland.
  • Beetbox Cafe: Another great vegan restaurant in Haleiwa. Best for breakfast if you get to North Shore early enough.
  • Haleiwa Beach House: New to Haleiwa. This restaurant is best for a nice dinner overlooking the ocean.

Where to Drink in Oahu

Hawaii isn’t really known for a wild night life but I’ve tried to pick out some of the best spots. If none of the following tickle your fancy, grab some booze and relax under a palm tree. 

Kona Brewing Company beer

Liquid Aloha

  • Rumfire: One of the only places I’ll still go to in Waikiki. $10 cover but it’s right on the ocean and has a decent DJ. If you’re not into the club scene or loud music then go around sunset before the madness begins.
  • Sky Waikiki: New rooftop bar in Waikiki. Also one of the more upscale bars. There’s a dress code and a cover to get in but is overall a good time.
  • The Study: Off the main strip in Waikiki near Ala Moana, this is a cool bar located in the Modern. No dress code, no cover.
  • Addiction: Located above The Study, this is one of the only clubs in Honolulu. Dress code and cover required.
  • The District: The only late night club I know of in Waikiki. Opens at 12 and closes at 4. Go at your own risk.
  • The Surfjack: New boutique hotel located in Waikiki. They have great signature drinks and a 70’s atmosphere. Great place to grab dinner and drinks in the evening. They usually host different events (think old surf films, talk story, etc) on the weekends so check out their site if you plan on heading over.
  • Genius Lounge: Mellow bar in Waikiki. Not too many tourists but a great place to grab a beer before going out. If you have a big party they rent out a private patio downstairs.
  • Bar 35: Indoor/outdoor bar in Chinatown (this is my favorite bar). DJ’s on the weekend and only charges cover on the first Friday of the month (more on that later)
  • Manifest: Bourbon bar in Chinatown. Similar to Bar 35 and has a dance floor/DJ on the weekend. Great spot for pau-hana as well.
  • Tchin Tchin: New wine bar in Chinatown. Fantastic food & atmosphere This is also a favorite.
  • Beerworks: Brewery in Kakaako. Great place to grab a pretzel and try some good draft beer.
  • Pint + Jigger: one of the coolest spots to grab a drink. Located in between Waikiki and Ala Moana. Go here for a signature cocktail and relax.
  • Palate: New craft brewery in Chinatown. I’ve gone once so far but enjoyed the atmosphere. Great to grab drinks with friends.
  • Cafe Duck Butt: Korean Karaoke bar that is more fun than it sounds. Located between Ala Moana and Kakaako. Get the watermelon soju and the korean friend chicken.
  • Brew’d: Pub in Kaimuki. Smaller venue but awesome beer.
  • Amuse Wine Bar: Located in the Hawaii Design Building in Honolulu, this is a tucked away gem. Buy a card and enjoy tastings from wine dispensers. On Wednesday they have specials for 50% wine.
  • Na Hoku Booze Cruise: I know, I know. I advise against the super tourist things but this is actually fun if you like unlimited alcohol and unbeatable views of Diamond Head. Located in front of Dukes in Waikiki.

Where to Shop in Oahu

Mori

Mori

 

  • Mahina: boho boutique in multiple locations around the island.
  • Kai Luxe: Beach boutique next to Mahina in Waikiki. One of the few stores that sells acacia swimwear on island.
  • Owens & Co.: One of my favorite boutiques in Chinatown. Has a variety of local made items from thank you cards to jewelry.
  • Diamondhead Beach House: Beach boutique on Kapahulu. Go here for all your beach needs.
  • Roberta Oaks: Another trendy boutique for men and women in Chinatown. You can find local made treasures like jewelry, soap, fragrances, and art.
  • Ginger 13: Go here for crystal jewelry and small gifts. Located in Chinatown.
  • Green World Coffee Farm: This is one of my favorite places to take visitors. Perfect for souvenirs to bring back home they have vintage postcards, sample coffee packs, tea, spices, t-shirts, and local art. Plus, free samples of coffee and chocolate while you wait for your drink or browse the gift shop. Located near North Shore.
  • North Shore Soap Factory: One of the coolest areas on North Shore. The old sugar mill has multiple shops and a coffee bean tour. Another great place for unique souvenirs.
  • Mori: Store of the Hawaii Art + Flea. Find items from local featured artists.
  • Aloha Superette: Boutique in Hawaii Kai.
  • Pineapple Flea: Located near Ala Moana in the same parking lot as Makers & Tasters. Local food vendors + made in Hawaii merchandise.
  • Honolulu Night Market: Monthly event (more on this later). Full of local artists and food vendors.
  • Kakaako Farmers Market: Every Saturday morning from 8am to 12pm. More local food vendors and great place to pick up local honey, coffee, macadamia nuts, Hawaiian sea salts and other goods!

Monthly Events

  • First Friday: Art and boutique sale in Chinatown the first Friday of every month. The bars and restaurants usually are packed. Because of this, most of the bars charge covers but it’s worth it for a guaranteed fun night.
  • Art After Dark: My favorite event every month. AAD takes place the last Friday of every month at the Honolulu Museum of Art. One time admission of $25 gets you in for free for the rest of the year. Each month is a different theme and the event starts at 6pm-9pm. Great food, great drinks, and great art if you make it to the galleries.
  • Honolulu Night Market: Located in Kakaako, this event is an open night market (as mentioned above) with food vendors and local artists/vendors. They usually have a DJ, live music, or both. They also have a beer garden. It’s a good time all around.
  • Vino & Vinyasa: This is aimed for the tourists at the Moana Surf Rider in Waikiki, but I LOVE it. An hour of yoga in the courtyard, free parking, and $5 organic wine + featured vendors for, you guessed it, LOCAL PRODUCTS.  Happens the third Tuesday of the month.
  • Love of Libations: Another event aimed for the tourists at Moana Surf Rider but I think locals need love too. Each month is a different theme and from 6:30-8 you get 5-6 handcrafted cocktails and an appetizer. They also drop some knowledge on you regarding the theme so you leave a little tipsy, but feeling sophisticated.

Hikes in and around Oahu

these are just a few of my favorite go-to hikes. Please research these hikes on your own to assess your level of comfort.

Lani Kai Pill Box

Lani Kai Pill Box

  • Lani Kai Pill Box: Easy hike with views of the Mokes (two small islands off Lani Kai beach)
  • Koko Crater Arch: This is a short and sweet hike for perfect photo ops.
  • Crouching Lion Mini Hike: This hike has spectacular views of Kahana Bay and is easy-intermediate. It is by far one of my favorites on island. The hike is on the east side of the island and takes about 45 minutes to an hour to hike up to the first point.
  • Sunset Pill Box: This hike is located on the North Shore of Oahu, across the street from sunset beach. It’s another easy-intermediate hike with a well maintained path.
  • Pali Puka: This is an intermediate short hike off the Pali Highway. This is a ridge hike so make sure you check the weather conditions before you head out. Strong wind and rain can make it slippery and you don’t want to stumble off the edge.
  • Hanauma Rock Bridge: Short and easy hike near the entrance to Hanauma Bay. Takes about 1-2 hours round trip and is a hidden gem.
  • Lahi Lahi Point: Easy short hike located on the west side of the island. This area is where many of the local Hawaiian people live so be respectful of the land and the people there.
  • Three Peaks/Olomana: This hike is for immediate to advanced hikers only. It’s a ridge hike that involves a some rock climbing and ropes and takes 3-4 hours to complete. It offers some of the most beautiful views but be cautious if you decide to make the trek alone.
  • Kuliouou Ridge Hike: This hike is located near Hawaii Kai and on a clear day offers incredible views of the valley. It’s about a 4 hours round trip.
  • Wiliwilinui Ridge Hike: This hike is also located near Hawaii Kai and is a similar ridge to Kuliouou. The hike is about 2-3 hours round trip. Great for visitors to the island.
  • Hamama Falls: One of the best waterfall hikes on island. It is located in Kaneohe and the trail is well maintained with a swimming hole within the first quarter mile. The trail is about 3 miles and at the end you’ll find a gushing waterfall.

Makapuu Tidepools: There’s two ways to do this hike. The first is up the paved trail to the lighthouse and the second is the costal trail which isn’t well marked or maintained. The costal hike has better views and you reach large turquoise tide pools at the end. PLEASE check the wave report before heading down. If the tide is high and there’s a swell you could be swept out to sea or caught on sharp rocks. Trust me, it sucks.



Best beaches in and around Oahu

Lani Kai Beach

Lani Kai Beach

 

  • Waimea Bay: One of the most infamous beaches in Hawaii. Known for The Eddie big wave surf competition (I was lucky enough to attend that this year) and during the summer days Waimea Rock is the place to be.
  • Sandy Beach Park: Coolest beach on island. Big shore break and LOTS of body surfers. If you’re not an advanced ocean swimmer I’d advise to hang out on the beach. Lifeguards are known for calling out kooks. Don’t be a kook.
  • Yokes: The most beautiful beach, in my opinion. Catching sunset here is mesmerizing. This beach is on the west side of the island and as I mentioned previously in the post, this area is primarily local Hawaiian people. If you head out this way be sure to be respectful of the ocean and land.
  • Sharks Cove: This cove is great for snorkeling and is located on North Shore. Almost alway see a turtle swimming about, so have your go pro ready.
  • Three Tables: Another prime snorkeling spot, located to the left of Sharks Cove.
  • Bellows: Beautiful beach on the east side of the island. Great place to swim and post up for the day.
  • Lani Kai: Rated one of the prettiest beaches- this is a fun family beach with gentle waves

Cockroach Cove: Don’t let the name fool you. This is one of the BEST coves on Oahu. A short hike down from the Blowhole and you’ll find mini tide pools, rock jumps, and crystal clear ocean.


Best activities in and around Oahu

Sky Diving on North Shore

Sky Diving on North Shore

  • Kayak to the Mokes: The Mokes are the two small islands off Lani Kai beach. Rent a couple kayaks and spend the day exploring the small islands. A popular place to see Monk Seals sunbathing.
  • Paddle board or swim to China Man’s Hat: Located on the east side of the island near Waimanalo is China Man’s hat. This is an awesome place to swim/kayak/paddle out to. Once you reach the island theres a trail to the top. You feel like you’re on your own private island. Check the tides before you go.
  • Skydive: Now this is a big tourist thing BUT if sky diving is on your bucket list you should do it here. An aerial view of the mountains and ocean below you are breathtaking.
  • Pelagic Dive: I have a whole other post dedicated to this and is my#1 recommendation. Support ocean conservation and free dive (yes-without a cage) with sharks and other marine life. It will change your whole perspective. So get the JAWS horror stories out of your mind and sign up.
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Travel Guide To Oahu R…

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