I visited Hawaii for the first time quite some years ago when I had an internship in the states and spontaneously decided to visit some friends who were studying on Oahu during that time. Well, they said they actually studied ;P. Anyways, the time we had was unforgettable and sometimes even seems unreal to me. We went out on a boat at night to watch the weekly fireworks over Honolulu, camped on Na Pali Coast of Kauai (the most stunning place I’ve ever seen), snorkelled with turtles on Maui, cliff jumped at the North Shore and soooo much more! When thinking about this trip, I still get goosebumps and ever since I’ve dreamed of going back to. Even though my job luckily takes me to so many beautiful places, I somehow never made it back to Hawaii…
When Alex and I went to the Hamptons and LA at the end of July, we were thinking about where to celebrate my birthday and spontaneously decided to fly to Oahu, Hawaii. I normally looove to plan trips and fall in love with a place even before arriving there. But in the end, I have to say that it was amazing to be so spontaneous and plan everything while being already there. As Oahu has sooo much to offer (you will see what I mean when looking at all the pics ;)), we decided to stay on this one island and save the others (Main Island, Maui, Kauai, etc.) for next time! I always love having a reason for coming back! 🙂
Hawaii truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. The wild nature, the beautiful beaches, the wildlife… there is so much to see and to explore. Below you can find out all about my favourite beaches, hikes, food places and much more! I hope you will like the impressions and in case you have any questions: I’m happy to answer all of them in the comments! Mahalo, Leonie <3
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
As a big city girl, I decided to start our Hawaii trip in Honolulu. I guess people either love or hate Honolulu because it’s probably not what you normally have in mind when thinking about a Hawaiian getaway. The skyline, all the hotel and restaurant chains… Still, I personally love living in a hotel at the famous Waikiki beach! You can start your day at the beach and when it gets too crowded or too hot, you can quickly change in the hotel and head out for a yummy brunch in the city (below you can find lots of delicious food places I totally recommend!). Also, Alex and I decided to stay in Honolulu because the location is ideal for most trips. In less than one hour you can be almost everywhere on the island! We were also thinking about staying at the North Shore, but a lot of places I wanted to visit were just too far away.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Most of the time on Oahu we stayed at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel which is also called the “Pink Palace of the Pacific”. The hotel is very famous in Oahu and as you know how much I love a touch of pink, I fell for the place the moment I saw it. My favourite part of the hotel is the patio with beautiful tiles, cute interiors and surrounded by palm trees. You can see more from of hotel: here. The Royal Hawaiian also serves really yummy breakfast, I looooved the pink velvet pancakes! When walking along Waikiki beach, you will easily spot The Royal Hawaiian because not only is the building is pink but also the towels and sun umbrellas.
The Moana Surfrider
For a few nights, we stayed at The Moana Surfrider. It’s the oldest hotel on Oahu and I loved the colonial building which was a nice contrast to all the huuuge hotel chains!
As I did so much research to find a nice hotel on Oahu I found a few alternatives which also seem nice: The Modern Honolulu (boutique hotel), The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club (cutest pool which says “Wish you were here”) & The Laylow, Autograph Collection.
Overall, I have to say that finding the perfect hotel for your Hawaii trip might be the biggest challenge, especially when looking for something a little romantic. 😉 I normally love staying at boutique hotels since I’m very enthusiastic about cute interiors, charming details, etc. But even though I love Hawaii, there is not much diversity when it comes to hotels. Most hotels are huuuge and kind of expensive (there are always so many extra costs on top: tax, resort fee, parking, breakfast, sun umbrella…).
BEST BEACHES ON OAHU
I’m not sure whether I’ve ever been to a place that has more beautiful and unique beaches then Oahu! We went to more than ten beaches during our time in Hawaii and they all were so different from each other and amazing in their own ways. We went to beaches on all the different shores and I want to give you a quick overview of my favourite beaches.
Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve. Before entering the beach you will have to watch a short video which explains you on how to interact with nature and how to treat the wildlife, the beautiful corals and animals with respect. The short time invested and an additional fee of about 7$ are totally worth it for this beautiful bay! It’s one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. The bay is beautiful, the water clear and turquoise and it’s perfect for snorkelling. Plus: it’s only 15 minutes away from Honolulu.
When driving up the East Coast another beach I visited is Makapu’u beach. The beach is a little wilder and you have natural pools built out of rocks. When we visited it, the waves were quite a challenge. 😉
Lanikai Beach & Kailua Beach
Driving up further North you will get to two of my favourite beaches: Lanikai Beach & Kailua Beach. Kailua beach is very popular but I love Lanikai a little more. The water is beautiful and with the mountains, the views are very scenic. One day we also did the Pillbox trail which allows you to see amazing views on Lanikai See below!).
The North Shore
At the famous North shore, I recommend Sunset Beach (for nice sunsets ;)), Turtle Bay (there are ALWAYS turtles but it’s very touristy) and Waimea Bay for cliff jumping OR to watch others jump. I was cliff jumping at Waimea Bay when I visited it for the first time and even though I lost my bikini ;), it was an unforgettable experience!
Electric Beach & Makua Beach
It’s a little trickier to go to the West Coast because there is not too much to do around there and there is also no road connecting the West Coast beaches to the North Shore, BUT that’s the reason why the beaches are still kind of wild. We visited both Electric Beach and Makua Beach because there is a big chance of seeing dolphins. We weren’t lucky, but we did see turtles AND Makua Beach is so beautiful, snorkelling there was one of my best experiences ever!
Last but not least! Waikiki Beach is probably the most famous beach in Hawaii as it’s known for surfing and for being in the heart of Honolulu. When I visited Hawaii some years ago, I learned to surf at this famous beach and I will never forget this experience! Waikiki is very touristy, still, it’s unusual to have such a beautiful beach in the centre of a big city and standing on a board and riding a wave, approaching the big city is so much fun!
HIKING ON OAHU
One of my favourite things about Oahu is the incredible hikes! Alex and I did the Pillbox trail and the Mini Crouching Lion. The Pillbox Trail is one of the easiest and most rewarding trails because the hike up is only about 15 minutes and the views are breathtaking. When hiking up, you see some boxes which offer different views on Lanikai Beach. We hiked early in the morning and brought some food which we had while enjoying the stunning view!
The Crouching Lion hike
The Mini Crouching Lion is a bit trickier. The official Crouching Lion is about 4 miles and as neither Alex and I are super sporty, we decided to do the unofficial mini version. The hike is a bit trickier and as it’s not an official hike, it’s not always easy to find the right direction. You basically just always go up, sometimes on both hands and feet as it gets quite steep and slippery. I have to say that I’ve always loved climbing and I’m quite an adrenalin junkie, but my boyfriend is a little afraid of heights and for him, the hike was quite challenging. When being on top of the mountain, a small path leads you to a rock which is called “The Crouching Lion”. For us, it was honestly kind of hard to get there. On top of the mountain, it was really windy and the path was very small. Sometimes we got on our knees when the wind got too strong. Still, being on top of the Crouching Lion was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and I was also a little proud when we finally made it. I tried to be super nice to Alex for the rest of the day because I know how hard the hike (especially the final meters) must have been for him!
What to do in Hawaii
One of the greatest experiences was seeing Oahu from above. As the island is kind of wild, there are many places which can’t easily be accessed. Therefore, Alex and I booked a trip with Paradise Helicopters and had an unforgettable helicopter ride. My favourite things were seeing the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar (Maldive vibes!), the skyline of Oahu, Diamond Head and some hidden waterfalls from above.
If you’re a fan of Jurassic Park or Lost, you might want to do a tour around the movie place set, Kuona Ranch, where they filmed so many movies! As Alex and I love to explore most of the things on our own, we didn’t book a tour but visited the ranch and the beautiful places nearby. I loved the secret island and its beautiful hidden beaches.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
We had an adventurous day at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, especially because they closed the gates of the garden even though we were still in the park. 😉 The botanic garden is beautiful and you can easily drive through the stunning nature before heading to Kuona Ranch as it’s on the way there. Just make sure to study the opening hours because they won’t warn you before they close the gates. ;P See more pictures: here.
In case you have some extra time and you love shopping as much as I do, there are soooo many options for a little shopping marathon on Oahu! Even at Waikiki beach (50 meters away from the beach), you can find amazing designer boutiques. Next to our hotel The Royal Hawaiian is the Royal Hawaiian Center where you can find everything – with great food options for in between! We also visited the Ala Moana shopping centre! As we spontaneously decided to come to Hawaii, I didn’t bring so many options and the mall is so much fun! I love visiting all the big department stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s.
Kaka’ako neighbourhood, Honolulu
Being a foodie, I made it to Kaka’ako on my first day on Oahu when I was looking for the nicest brunch places. Kaka’ako is an emerging neighbourhood next to China town and you can find so many creative spaces for entrepreneurs, trendy restaurants and colourful murals.
THE BEST FOOD ON OAHU
Those of you who have been following me a bit longer might know that I’m a foodie enthusiast. I can spend hours researching restaurants and never get bored of looking of pictures of yummy food. When Alex and I travel, I always do all the food research and proudly present all the options to him afterwards! 😉 As I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 15 years and I love to eat vegan, I’m a little particular with food – But the happier I am when I find super tasty, healthy and trendy food places! I have to admit that I first had a hard time finding food in Hawaii, as a lot of restaurants serve raw meat because of the Japanese influence and you also see so many big restaurant chains. But in the end, I found some amazing places I visited again and again! Here is a list of my favourite food places on Oahu.
The coolest brunch spot in Honolulu. It’s located in the creative space salt and is half shop, half restaurant. I always ordered a loaded avocado toast with extra avocado (yes, there is never enough avocado!) and the matcha chia bowl. Normally, matcha tastes too green for me ;P but the bowl is super yummy! They also have coffee art and you can get your coffee with a palm tree or something colourful on top! I feel like the prices at Arvo are the best ones I found for a yummy, healthy meal! We also tried the avo burger and the halloumi salad and it was amazing! They serve food until 3pm and beverages until 5pm. Say hi from Leonie when you stop by! 🙂 <3
A must when driving up the North Shore! It’s by far my favourite food shack because it’s both super cute and super tasty! We had two papayas filled with peanut butter and toppings and it was sooooo tasty!
Island Vintage Café
My biggest surprise! I got totally obsessed with Island Vintage Café! They are a chain and serve super delicious food until 3pm and drinks as well as acai bowls all day long! Alex and I often shared the breakfast plates with extra avocado, cranberry bread and cream cheese! Super yum! I do love acai bowls with a chocolate flavour and the coca bowl is to die for! I sometimes went to Island Vintage Coffee multiple times per day, but as it’s so good you always have to wait a little!
They have a few restos on the island (luckily!) and they are my favourites for lunch! They have amazing fresh and colourful tacos and I loved the rainbow bowl with lots of avo, kale and a delicious dressing! We were also obsessed with the shakes, especially the one with a chocolate flavour! 🙂 Unfortunately, they close at 5pm almost every day!
The best chain for a delicious sandwich or salad. I always took the create your own salad option and created a huuuge salad with quinoa, sweet walnut, goat cheese and several dressings (I just love options!;)). Some of the aloha salad shops are in malls so that they have more flexible opening hours, yeeeah! 🙂
We went to Heavenly twice because it was really difficult to find vegetarian options in a laid back surrounding for dinner! I always ordered guava with sweet potato chips and the kale salad with extra avocado and no beans and broccoli (that’s just too raw for my poor stomach!;))
One of the cutest spots for a nice breakfast! Aroma is located in a mall, BUT the interior is very unique and trendy and they serve all kind of waffles – Even acai waffles!
Olive & Oliver
If you have always dreamed about drinking your coffee out of a cup with cute pineapple print: This is your place! ;P The coffee shop is part of the Surf Lodge hotel and you can also have a quick look because the hotel is a lot of fun!
I found Banán only after a few days, even though they have a few shops on the island and one was next to my hotel! Banán has acai bowls in cups, bowls OR papaya and it’s kind of frozen and looks like soft ice. It’s super yummy and ever since I discovered them, I had at least one cup (which was only 7$) every day!
I read it’s the best acai bowl on Oahu… As it’s in the heart of the North Shore, it’s super convenient to go here, but as a chocolate lover, I liked other bowls (with more cacoa bits ;)) more!
Another recommendation for dinner! Buho is very spacious and you can get a seat in a cool, nicely decorated area or on the terrace with a nice Waikiki view. They serve Mexican food and their salads are very yummy!
Bevvy Picnic Foods
Beevy is located at the beginning of Waikiki beach and they have healthy food which is ideal to take out and as the name says: for a picnic! We sometimes grabbed some items for picnics such as the chia bowl, the veggie sandwich and one of the salads!