I was recently able to spend 8 incredible days in the stunning Hawaiian island of Oahu, the third largest Hawaiian island, and home to the state’s capital city of Honolulu.  Rarely does a place make such a dramatic emotional impact on me right away, and the second I arrived to this island I started to feel it’s magic.  I can’t mention this magnetic attraction to Oahu without mentioning the spirit and cultural reverence that I was able to experience from the Hawaiians.  They truly embody the amazing spirit of Aloha, something I quickly learned wasn’t just a greeting, but a way of life.  Aloha transcends gender and age and is inviting, respectful, compassionate, caring, and very friendly.

I was impressed at how incredibly welcoming and warm the Hawaiians are, and how proud they are of their cultural heritage and how eager they are to share it with you. The beauty of the island and the people goes hand in hand, and in Oahu you can’t have one without the other.

Since I was able to spend quite a bit of time on the island, we were able to do quite a bit, however I quickly realized how much more there is to be seen and done.  I’m looking forward to going back to Oahu as soon as I am able to, and in the meantime I’ll leave you with some fantastic options for things to see and do while you’re there, as well as where to stay.  Also, I’m now a Certified Hawaii Destination Specialist and Oahu Specialist, so please feel free to reach out when planning your next vacation, I have tons of info and the best contacts to ensure your trip is unforgettable!

Lodging in Oahu

I was able to tour and stay at several different properties on the island, and while they each have their own unique offering and charm, the following are the ones that I would recommend in a heart beat.

Luxe Accommodations:

Halekulani: located on five prime oceanfront acres, Halekulani has been a Waikiki Beach landmark for almost 100 years. Each tropically elegant guestroom features a large lanai that opens to views of the gardens, the Pacific Ocean or Diamond Head. Sunbathe or watch the surfing action on famed Waikiki Beach; relax by the dreamy swimming pool, made up of 1.2 million mosaic tiles; or indulge in the Pacific Islands–inspired treatments at SpaHalekulani. Two cocktail lounges and three distinctive restaurants are available, including La Mer, the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star Award–winning restaurant featuring neoclassical French cuisine. When booked through me, you’ll receive perks like upgrade at time of booking or upgrade upon arrival (subject to availability) on all other categories (excluding suites), daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests at either House Without a Key (buffet breakfast) or Orchids (full American breakfast), a $100 Hotel Credit, early check-in/late check-out, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel, A Luxury Collection: If you’re wanting to stay at a classic and luxe resort in the heart of Waikiki beach, then the “pink palace of the pacific” is perfect for you.  This beautiful and historic property offers both water front and garden views, with the historic part of the hotel offering more traditional rooms with garden views. Their newer tower includes rooms with more modern decor and stunning views of Waikiki beach.  Also on the property is their Mai Tai bar, which is not to be missed. Virtuoso perks available through me include an upgrade on arrival, subject to availability, full breakfast daily for up to two in-room guests in restaurant, $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay, early check-in/late check-out, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

Four Seasons Ko’Olina: An oceanfront estate held sacred by Hawai’ians adjoins the 371-room Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. The celestial setting makes an idyllic escape from Oahu’s more touristy scene, where guests can stroll their own beach and snorkel with sea turtles. Practice sunrise yoga, try stand-up paddleboarding and enjoy preferred tee times at the Ko Olina Golf Club; deep-sea fishing and whale-watching are available at the Ko Olina marina. There are plenty of activities for the kids, along with quiet relaxation by the adults-only pool. Dining ranges from fresh seafood to Italian favorites. Virtuoso amenities include an upgrade at time of arrival, subject to availability, complimentary continental breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay, and $100 USD Spa credit to be utilized during stay.

Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa: the charm of this hotel is on the outside, with it’s stunningly beautiful white, historic facade.  Inside the hotel, you’ll enjoy traditional rooms that are consistent with the Starwood brand, and a beautifully shaded outdoor area with a lounge to enjoy a cocktail under their massive banyan tree.  The Moana Surfrider also happens to have a spa, so you can treat yourself to some extra relaxation while staying on Waikiki beach.

Hip, Modern, and Affordable

The Modern: The Modern was probably one of my favorite hotels that I got to stay at.  As the name entails, it’s a modern hotel with luxe touches and a laid back vibe.  It faces the harbor, and is a short walk from Waikiki beach.  You can still get water/ocean views, and features two hotel pools, one of which is an adult only pool.  The Modern also has one of the coolest hotel bars, The Study, which can be found behind a sliding book case.  The Modern also has one of the hottest night clubs in Oahu, Addiction, and pretty soon the resort fee paid with your stay will allow you to jump the line like a VIP.  Virtuoso amenities include an upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability, a welcome amenity on arrival, MODERN HONOLULU daily breakfast for two at The Grove, a $100 USD Hotel credit to be utilized during stay, 20% off spa services,early check-in and late check-out based on availability.  Penthouse bookings receive: Roundtrip Sedan Airport Transfer for two; In room Spa amenity; Personalized pre-arrival mini bar; Breakfast for two daily: Modern Honolulu or Morimoto Breakfast; Welcome Fruit Bowl; Daily use of VIP Daybed at Sunset/Sunrise Pool.

The Laylow: The Laylow’s decor focuses on mid-century modern design, located in the heart of Honolulu (not on the beach).  It’s an Autograph Collection hotel, and skews on the trendy side.  Their $25 resort fee includes a basket of local goods, as well as some pretty fantastic flip flops (or thongs as they’re called in Hawaii).  They also have ukulele lessons during happy hour, and you are welcome to take the ukulele that is featured in your room.  The resort fee also includes shaved ice by the pool from 1:00-2:00 every day, and they also have cruiser bikes that you can borrow.  The Laylow also has one of the hottest outdoor patio bars in Honolulu, the Hideout.

The Suarfjack: The Suarfjack underwent renovations not too long ago, sprucing the hotel up from a dated, 2 star hotel to a 3 star hotel with hip and modern touches.  It reminded me of the Hotel San Jose in Austin, and boasts the “most Instagrammed Hotel pool in Hawaiʻi”.  The hotel is also not on the beach (but it’s within a short walk), thereby helping to keep the prices low.

Adventure & Sightseeing

Spend the day at Kualoa ranch. Kualoa is a 4,000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, as well as a popular tourist attraction and filming location on the windward coast of Oʻahu.  There, you can hang out on their secret island and play volleyball, ping pong, and do water sports like kayaking or stand up paddle, or just lay in a hammock and absorb the stunning beach views.  You can also zip line across jurassic Valley, the area where many films like Jurassic Park or tv shows like Lost have been filmed. They have ATV tours, horse back riding tours, catamaran outings, and so much more.  If you’re interested in checking this place out let me know know, I can help secure special packages for you to make sure you make the most of your time on the ranch!

Surf lessons on Waikiki beach:  We were able to take surf lessons in the same area where it was first invented! We used Waikīkī Beach Services, who has been the premiere destination for surfing in Waikiki since it began operations in 1955. Waikīkī Beach Services offers daily surf and SUP lessons, outrigger canoe rides, and catamaran charter sails with a staff of licensed Waikīkī Beach Boys. Waikīkī Beach Services also rents surfboards and stand up paddle-boards by the hour, with two convenient locations right on the beach in Waikīkī. If you want to get set up with a beach chair and umbrella, they’ll do that for you as well. They just about guarantee that you’ll be able to stand up on the surf board while doing your lesson, and they were good on their word with the group that I was in!

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

Check out the surfers on Oahu’s North Shore, once a laid back and largely unfamiliar neighborhood beyond a certain circle of residents, surfers and wannabes.  In recent years, however, there’s been a huge surge in interest in the North Shore thanks in part to the great surf that can be had there. There are famous sites such as Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline or lesser-known breaks such as Backyards and Velzyland, so doing a little bit of research beforehand is a good idea. Once you’re in the North Shore area, make sure to make a pit stop at the iconic Matsumoto’s Shave Ice for a little refreshment. Here’s a great resource that will give you more info on the North Shore’s beaches.

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

Take a hike up Le ‘ahi, or Diamond Head: Diamond Head is a crater that is visible from Waikiki beach, and when you hike up the crater you can enjoy spectacular views of Honolulu. There are some tours you can do that include the use of a tryke (let me know if you’d like ore info on that). This historic trail was built in 1908 as part of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery defense system. The view from the summit was ideal for identifying potential sea and air attacks. Access to the trail from the crater floor is actually located on the other side of Waikiki.  You can get there via rental car (take the Kalakaua Avenue bearing right along the way to Diamond Head Road for a scenic drive), or you can get there taking public transportation (or an uber).The park hours are from 6:00am until 6:00pm, with the last time to start the hike at 4:30pm.  To see more hiking trails, check out Hawai’i State Department of Land & Natural Resources website for official recommended trails on Oahu.

What else is there to see and do? Well, there are waterfalls to check out (Manoa Falls, Waikahalulu Falls), horse back riding, tours of the Dole pineapple plantation, golf, helicopter tours, more water sports (kite surfing, wind surfing, snorkeling and snuba), dolphin watching, turtle watching, etc.  As you can see, there are tons of things to see and do, and when you work with a travel professional like me you can rest assured that you’ll get the best recommendations while using the most reputable guides or tour operators.

Voluntourism and Sustainability in Oahu

Check out an ahupuaʻa, essentially a land division usually extending from the uplands to the sea. In the Hawaiian culture everyone takes care of each other in a community and participates to help produce and care for the land, up from the mountains where farmers will raise crops and fruits, down to the water where people take care of fish ponds in order to be able to feed those in the ahupua’a. It’s a way to connect the area’s past with a sustainable future. You’ll learn about Hawaiʻi’s cultural and natural resources, environmental restoration, and economic sustainability fully integrated with Hawaiian knowledge in order to exemplify a lifestyle respectful of kānaka, ʻāina, and akua (Hawaiian natives, land and God) . We got to get in the mud and pull weeds at a farm that grows poi, or tarot root, and learned about the land and importance of taking care of it.

Check out Kahumana Farm and have lunch.  The menu highlights produce grown just steps away from your table, wild-caught fish brought in by local fishermen, and responsibly farmed local meats. It’s an organic farm, whose mission is to co-create a healthy, inclusive and productive farm-based community with homeless families, people with disabilities and youth, and it’s all done through mindfulness, empathy, and working together.

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

beautiful dragon fruit picked fresh from Kahumana farm

Naked Cow Dairy – cheese-making workshop: Naked Cow Dairy is a dairy farm on the island of Oʻahu that opened in 2007 with the idea of bringing back the small family dairy of the past focusing on natural treatments for their cows, and going back to a time when cows had names not numbers. Unable to compete with mainland milk production, they began to create gourmet butters and artisan cheeses to add value to their milk. They follow the organic guidelines for the treatment of their cows, and don’t use antibiotics or hormones. They are committed to producing milk and other dairy products naturally, and offer group classes where they teach you how to make delicious cheese.  They also have sunset cheese tasting events that are paired with wine, which makes for a unique and different way to appreciate what Oahu has to offer.

Cultural Oahu

The Polynesian Cultural Center: The Polynesian Cultural Center is a unique destination created to share the cultures, diversity and spirit of the nations of Polynesia with the world.  This place is somewhat reminiscent of Epcot Center, where you essentially have a country being represented in a theme-park like atmosphere,  It can be a bit kitschy, but it’s a great place to get a better understanding of the Polynesian cultures and see a hula show, so it serves as both entertainment and education. 

The Bishop Museum: The Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. The Museum houses the extensive collection of Hawaiian objects and royal family heirlooms of the Princess, and has expanded to include millions of objects, documents and photographs about Hawai‘i and other Pacific island cultures.

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

Iolani Palace: The Iolani Palace was the home of King Kalakaua and his heir and sister Queen Lili’uokalani and was once the site of grand balls and receptions until the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown. This palace is one of Oahu’s most revered landmarks, and served as the capitol for the Republic of Hawaii, the Territory of Hawaii, and the state of Hawaii until the current state capitol building was built in 1969.

Pay your respects at Pearl Harbor: On December 7th, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service surprise attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, which was the impetus for the United States to join the second world war. The base was attacked by over 300 Imperial Japanese aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.  All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. What most people don’t know is that the official name of the memorial is called World War II Valor in the Pacific and it’s a national monument.  The most visited site is the USS Arizona Memorial, and access to the memorial is free, however access is limited so getting a reserved ticket at least 60 days out in advance is recommended.  Once you’re on the Pearl Harbor Naval base, you can also check out other sites like the USS Missouri or “Mighty Mo/Big Mo,” a US Navy battleship named in honor of the state of Missouri. To plan your perfect day and to get access to specific sites, I’ll be happy to help secure guided access to make the most of your visit.

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

View of the USS Arizona memorial from the USS Missouri battleship

Food in Oahu

While eating in Oahu, you may come across several dishes or ingredients that are constantly prevalent.  Those would be poké, poi (taro root), bread fruit, and passion fruit or Liliko’i.  I encourage you to try it all if you can (of course there’s also pineapples, dragon fruit, and other tropical fruits), as these are common everyday produce that can be enjoyed in Oahu.

Restaurants:

There’s no shortage of great restaurants all throughout Oahu, and since we were only there for a few days we only hit up a few.  One of the highlights was The Street, A Michael Mina Social House.  The concept is centered around a collection of various culinary concepts curated by highly acclaimed chefs.  There are 13 different restaurant concepts, each presenting a delicious menu that’s a result of each chefs’ passion for the foods they love to cook and eat. You can enjoy a casual lunch to a late night gathering, with 280 seats in a communal space.

Another great spot for a healthy snack in Oahu is Banan bowls. Bananas represent the heart of Banán, and EVERY banana they use is grown in Hawaiʻi, along with many of their other fruits, veggies, and spices. They created the banana bowl, essentially a smoothie bowl similar to an acai bowl where it’s topped with fruit, nuts, and other toppings. They believe in full transparency and will always indicate on their menu which ingredients are locally sourced. By being a little flexible, they intend to please and inspire the lives of more people, leading to better business for local farmers, and ultimately leading towards building a stronger and more sustainable Hawaiʻi. Many of the waste they produce is organic matter and gets sent back to local farms, so essentially they’re farm to market and market to farm.

Stripsteak is another great option that happens to be another Michael Mina restaurant and serves steak and elevated cuisine.  If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back, Mahina & Sun’s is located at the Surfjack hotel, with local ingredients prepared by Honolulu-born chef Ed Kenney. The place is a trendy, colorful setting turning out innovative Hawaiian plates & cocktails, and has outdoor seating in front of Hawaii’s most instagrammed pool.  Another favorite was Ravish at The Modern Hotel. Ravish serves innovative dishes and cocktails in a swanky setting and they believe food should be experienced, not just enjoyed. The restaurant blends Pacific Asian flavors and South American tastes with Pacific Rim influences and is worth checking out.

As you can see, there are very many things to see, do, and experience in Oahu–too many to mention them all in one blog post.  I want to give a huuuuuge shoutout to Kainoa Daines who is the Director of Sales for the Oahu Visitors Bureau (and self-appointed, self-elected mayor of Waikiki) who was the best person to introduce me to Oahu.  He lives and breathes the spirit of Aloha and is so incredibly proud to share his island with the millions of people that go and visit every year. I also want to shoutout my new friends that were part of the FAM fam, who each brought a unique perspective and sense of humor to the trip–it wouldn’t have been the same without everyone!

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

Kualoa Ranch, photo credit Malama Tours Hawaii

Why You Should Go To Oahu | The Hungry Chronicles

Last night with the FAM fam

Last but not least, if you’re considering going to Oahu or Hawaii, please reach out to me at [email protected] so we can talk about the experience you want and how I can help you plan the perfect trip.