Hi hi!!! It’s Tra.
Henry, London and I just got back from a 9-day vacation to Oahu, Hawaii. Due to multiple requests, I am writing this blog posts to share all of our favorite food places, beaches and attractions while vacationing in Hawaii. Before our trip, I received a lot of recommendations from friends on Instagram so it is only fair that I give back. If you’ve been to Oahu recently, I hope the pictures will bring back some great memories. If you are planning a trip to Oahu in the near future, I hope this guide will be a good starting point to help you plan an amazing vacation.
Let’s start with food, shall we?
10 MUST-TRY FOOD PLACES IN OAHU, HAWAII
- Heavenly Island Lifestyle for French toast. It is located in a large shopping area. You can park at the hotel garage next door and get parking validated. We waited about 30 mins here before getting seated. The price is very reasonable and the food was great!
- Marukame Udon- They make their own udon on site. Choose your udon bowl and add on tempura from the many varieties. They have 2 locations: one by the International Market Place and one near Chinatown. We tried several and I really like the original udon with the traditional broth the best. It’s only $3.90 for the bowl too so you’ll have plenty of money left to buy tempura as the add-ons.
- Shirokiya Japan Village Walk– an indoor food court at the mall with rows and rows and rows of different eateries. There were mostly Japanese food but I did see a Thai and Italian food stall. Try the takoyaki here. When we came, there was a guy walking around with free balloons to give to the kids. London was super happy bouncing it up and down. At the back, there are a lot of $1 toy machines which will make a good treat for the kids.
- Ono’s Seafood– Best poke spot ever. A small hole in the wall restaurant with plenty of parking in the front. They only serve ahi and octopus poke. Regular size bowl is $10 and large is $12. It even comes with a drink. I highly recommend getting a large since my regular size bowl was not enough. It was so good that we went here twice! In the same day. It is on the way to Haunama Bay so perfect to drop by if you plan to head that way.
- Kapi Olani Community College Farmer’s Market– lots of street food, tropical flowers and veggies/fruits. A bit pricey but super fun. We went on a Saturday morning at 8am and it was packed!!!! I loved, loved loved to takoyaki and the ube ice cream here.
- Manichi Ramen– Their special ramen was so good! I ate all of the noodle and drank all of the broth. lol.. It looks a bit sketchy on the outside but inside is so pretty and modern with the red and black decor.
- Giovanni’s shrimp truck – Located in North Shore. $14 per plate for a dozen jumbo grilled shrimps with white rice. Cash only. Be prepared to wait in line. They are located in a food truck park so there are many other food trucks to choose from if you want to venture out.
- Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas (Hawaiian donuts) . We love the original but they also have cream filled donuts too. There are 3 locations. The main one is really busy most of the time but the truck locations are not so bad. If you order a half dozen, they come in a cute pink box (which is good for a boomerang for Instagram. hahaha)
- Magnolia Ice Cream– so many fun & exotic ice cream flavors like Ube, coconut & pandan, lychee, avocado, Thai tea, etc. Plus the traditional ice cream flavors. They also have Halo Halo, the famous Filipino bean dessert. Located inside The International Market Mall on the 2nd floor right by the elevators.
- Waiola Shave Ice – The shave ice just melts in your mouth. I loved the passion fruit flavor. Lychee didn’t have much taste though but the shave ice was sooooo soft and smooth.
5 BEACHES TO VISIT WHILE VACATIONING IN OAHU, HAWAII
While on vacation, we went to the beach almost every day. Sometimes to go swimming and sometimes just go walk around on the shore after dinner. Here are our favorite choices for beaches:
- Haunama Bay Nature Preserve– probably the most beautiful beach I have even been to. It is closed on Tuesday so plan accordingly. Parking is $1 per car. Entrance is $7.50 per person. Since it is a research center, you have to sit through a 15-min “orientation” before entering the beach area. Expect lots of people here since you can go snorkeling among the reefs. There are waterproof cameras and food at that you can buy near the entrance. Snorkeling gears are available for rental as well. From the entrance, it is a 10-minute walk to go down to the beach. It was very steep so we walked down but took the shuttle to go back up. The shuttle was $1.50 per way. I don’t recommend bringing a stroller if you can do without since it is so hard to handle with the steep slope and sand.
- Waimanalo Beach– located on the east side of Oahu. We saw it on the way to the Botanical Garden. On one side is a tall, majestic mountain range and on the other side is blue clear water. We were so mesmerized that we pulled over randomly. The sand was sooooo soft here. The beach was pretty secluded as well. Lots of privacy if you don’t want to be surrounded by lots of other beach-goers.
- Ala Moana Beach Park– Lots of parking. Some shades (among the palm trees). Semi-busy. The sand was very soft here. It is super close to Shirokiya Japan Village Walk so it is easy to build it into your itinerary.
- Hale’iwa Ali’i Beach Park- Went here after we visited the Dole Plantation and Giovanni’s Shrimp truck. We originally had plan to go to Turtle Beach or Laniakea Beach but you have to park on the side of the road for those and we didn’t like that. It just looks dangerous since we have a 1.5 year old baby. So instead we went to Hale’iwa Ali’i Beach Park since there is a full parking lot that you can pull in. That way you can walk out onto the beach comfortably without having to worry about cars driving past all the time.
- Magic Island- good to watch the sunset. You can see the city skyline from here. The water is shallow too so it’s a good place to swim and play in the water, especially if you have kids.
5 MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS IN OAHU, HAWAII
- Byodo-In Temple- Probably my favorite place in Oahu. I was mesmerized by everything: the bridge that you have to cross upon entering, the mountain in the back, the lush trees, the red color they chose, the rooster sculpture on the roof, the koi fishes in the pond, the giant bamboo trees, the manzanitas everywhere. You can even ring the gong on the side of the temple. Entrance is $5 per person.
- International Market Place- major shopping mall with lots of high end shops, and pretty trees. There is a free hula dance performance daily in the evening. After the performance, they even allow you to take pictures with the dancers.
- Salt at Kakakako- This area has TONS of murals worth checking out. And lots of shops and restaurants as well. But TONS of murals!!!!! Every Friday, there is some sort of event happening like live music in the big warehouse-looking area. When I was here, there was a lei-making station with someone teaching you how to make your own lei. For free.
- Hawaii State Capitol – a cool mid-century modern building that has lots of beautiful columns and an open air plaza at the middle. Great to admire architecture details. You can even take the elevators to go to the 4th floor. The Capitol is surrounded by many beautiful buildings and some giant trees that makes it worth visiting.
- Dole Plantation – Very touristy. The ground is beautiful with lots of tropical plants. Has amazing pineapple soft serve ice cream. $10 but it’s huge. You can tour the plantation by walking or via a train ride. There is a maze that you can work through as well. All of them require an entrance ticket. We went on the Pineapple Express Train ride. The wait was long but it was worth it I thought because you get to see where the pineapples are grown. It’s something that I would only do once though cuz crowded places and waiting in line is not my thing.
OTHER THINGS WE DID THAT MAY BE WORTH TRYING
- Musubi Cafe Iyasume– A tiny little shop selling musubi and snacks located next to Heavenly. It reminded us so much of Japan so we stopped by after breakfast at Heavenly to buy snacks for the road. Cash only.
- Lanikai Pill Box Hike- If you like a semi-challenging hike, this is perfect! The hike is literally in a dirt path up a really steep hill. The view is amazing once you get there. Just be extra careful with your steps since the dirt makes it so dangerous. Definitely not recommended if you have children.
- Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden- Free to the public. It looked really big on the map but was smaller in person than I expected. There was only one trail to hike down to the lake with lots of green trees. We hiked down, played with the ducks near the lake, looked at the koi fishes in the lake for a bit and hiked back up. The other parts were gated off. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you really love plants, green plants. We spent about 1.5 hour here. Oh, if you have kids, don’t bring a stroller since the path is a bit elevated and is filled with rocks which made it really hard to go up and down.
- Honolulu Zoo- London (my 1.5 year old daughter) was mesmerized by the 2 elephants and the hippo here. But otherwise I thought it was okay. There wasn’t too much shades and we didn’t see that many animals. It is probably good if you have young kids and they love animals.
- Ono’s Steak and Shrimp Shack- We went here after Waimanalo Beach since it was only 5 mins away and has lots of good reviews on Yelp. The steak was really good but the shrimp and ahi were just okay. I expected the shrimps to be grilled with fresh garlic but it looked like it was sautéed with garlic from a jar. So yes! Would only recommend it for the steak if you go there.
- Lanikai & Kailua Beach Park- Good for family with kids since we saw a large area with very shallow water that would be perfect for young kids to play in. We didn’t go here, only drove by so I can’t comment much. My sister-in-law said that Lanikai is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world though.
OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS THAT WE DIDN’T GET TO TRY
- Matsumoto shave ice – tourist attraction.
- Island vintage – try island latte
- Boots and Kimo for pancake
- Bubbies Homemade ice cream and dessert – best mochi ice cream ever
- Ichiriki Japanese hot pot
- Hulu Grill
- Cinnamon’s restaurant – breakfast
- Maguro’s Brother – great quick sushi, uni … there’s one in Waikiki and one in ChinaTown
- Sushi Murayama – new generation Japanese seafood dishes
- Nico’s Pier 38 fish market ( go to the poke area)
- Polynesian Cultural Center
- Kapolei- spend a day at the lagoon