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What I love about Honolulu…

This November, we’re headed to Hawaii again! This time, it’s Honolulu on the island of Oahu! Even though everyone seems to think Oahu is not the most “Hawaiian” island, because of it’s busy roads, city-like downtown area, and large number of tourists,  I honestly think it offers one of the most authentic Hawaiian escapes you can find. With most of Hawaii’s population living and working on Oahu, you are guaranteed to find very local experiences – food, culture, nature, history, and entertainment to satisfy a breadth of interests. In fact, CheapOair has also put Honolulu on it’s short list of Most Enjoyable Cities in America. Click on the link to read more and to vote for Honolulu!

Here are some things Steve and I love about Honolulu and more specifically, Oahu, that we are looking forward to on our November 2016 trip!

1) Beaches

Oahu has some amazing beaches! Most tourists stay in the heart of tourist central: Waikiki, therefore Waikiki Beach can get crowded, but it is a great beach to people watch and to learn how to surf and boogie board because the waves are very gentle.

Sun worshippers on Waikiki Beach

The beaches on the windward (east) side of Oahu are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Taken at Lanikai Beach on the windward side of Oahu

And the North Shore offers some fantastic scenery!

North Shore’s fabulous scenery…can you spot the turtles?


2) Culture/Historical sites

A visit to Honolulu will not be complete until you visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. It is one of the best national monuments that provide an in-depth look at the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor and the lives lost on that day. There are numerous exhibits, a short film, and then you board a boat to take you to the USS Arizona where a monument was built on top. You can peer down into the water to see the wreckage of the ship. A somber experience not to be missed.

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

One place I’ve always wanted to go to is Iolani Palace. It is the only royal palace in the United States! It will definitely be a must-do on this upcoming trip.

Iolani Palace in Honolulu – former residence for Hawaiian royalty

Another place I’ve often wondered about is Doris Duke’s Shangri-La estate just outside of Honolulu. The billionaire heiress built this palatial vacation home in  1937 and contains priceless Islamic and Asian art. Tours are offered in conjunction with the Honolulu Museum of Art. It’s definitely some place I’d love to check out!

An Islamic-style mansion on Hawaii that belonged to the late heiress, Doris Duke, is now a museum.


3) Nature/Hiking/Activities

Diamond Head Crater is one of the most popular destinations in Honolulu. It offers an easy hike and plenty of gorgeous views! I’ve seen everyone from young kids and senior citizens, to hip Japanese girls wearing high heels tackle this hike. It’s a great way to get a lovely view of Waikiki Beach and it’s a short bus ride/drive away from the main tourist drags. I recommend going early in the morning for less crowds and cooler weather!

The hike up to the top of Diamond Head crater is well paved with guard rails all the way up.

The views are gorgeous all the way up

You are rewarded with one of the best views of Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu

The north shore of Hawaii provides some excellent and easy hikes. If you’re staying around the famed Turtle Bay resort, the grounds provide a lovely place for walks amid lush greens and grand beaches.

North Shore at Turtle Bay Resort

Kualoa Ranch in Kaneohe provdes a one stop shop for adventurers and movie buffs alike. The grounds house a number of activities and tours amid the splendor of beautiful Hawaiian mountains and valleys. There are a ATV tours, ziplining, caramaran rides, or they offer guided bus tours for those who just want to sit back and enjoy the views. The 2-hour ATV Movie Sites tour was one of the best things I’ve done!

Kualoa Ranch is the location for many movies and TV shows filmed in Hawaii including Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, and LOST.

Pretty stunning!

For those of you with a more athletic side, a short drive away from Honolulu, the Koko Head mountain hike takes you up former abandoned railway tracks. It’s a straight shot to the top, but it’s pretty strenuous, but the views are pretty great!

Steve attempting the hike up Koko Head. I didn’t make it quite all the way up but I was close behind!

There are a ton of activities on Oahu. I’ve also been kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving! I have yet to learn how to surf or stand-up paddleboard, but it’s just one more thing to tackle on upcoming trips!


4) Dining and Food

Oahu is my favorite island for dining in Hawaii, there is just something for everyone, from international celebrity chefs like Roy Yamaguchi and Bill Granger to traditional Hawaiian luau foods, it is a very exciting time to be dining out on Oahu, especially Honolulu!

Fresh island-caught fish will be brought in that morning and featured in many restaurants that evening. My favorite way to eat fish: raw, as in sushi and sashimi! This was at Izakaya Nonbei

Tuna poke bowl from Paina Cafe in Ward Center

A Hawaiian breakfast staple, Loco Moco. This one is take-out from Rainbow Drive-In just outside Waikiki.

Fat Pig Fried Rice (pork and kimchi) with Portugese sausage at Yogurstory

Traditional Hawaiian favorites at Young’s Fishmarket: From top R clockwise: Chicken Long Rice, Tuna Poke, Pork and Fish Laulau, and Squid Luau.

Oxtail Ramen set with fried rice and gyoza at Ramen Nakamura in Waikiki

Fine dining on Hawaii is not to be missed either, a favorite of ours is Alan Wong’s which is one of my favorite restaurants in the United States. Don’t be fooled by the location in an office building in downtown Honolulu, the lack of water views means there will be nothing to distract you from the delicious and beautifully presented food featuring local flavors melded with global technique.

Part of a tasting menu (highly recommended) at Alan Wong’s Honolulu.

And don’t forget the sweet treats!

Homemade mochi ice cream from Bubbies Hawaii. I love their different flavors!

Coco Puffs with chantilly icing (tastes like condensed milk topped cream puffs with chocolate pudding) at Liliha Bakery

Specialty Asian-style desserts and treats from Shirokiya, a Japanese department store in the Ala Moana mall in Honolulu.

And we can’t forget the local Hawaiian favorite, shave ice! It’s different from a snow cone because the ice is shaved so finely that it’s light and fluffy, and never icy or hard. There are numerous syrup flavors to choose from with my favorites being the tropical ones: lychee, lillikoi, mango, and li hing. I usually get it with sweet azuki beans and ice cream at the bottom of the cup…mmmm, the perfect treat on a hot day.

A Hawaiian shave ice! This one is from Matsumoto’s on the North shore but I also enjoy Waiola, Shimazu and Uncle Clay’s house of Pure Aloha which are closer to Honolulu.

These are just some things that make return to Honolulu, Oahu year after year. It’s never boring, and there are always new activities and restaurants popping up, that my list of go-to places to eat keeps getting longer and longer! All the more reason to travel there more often! There are also numerous events happening all the time, including SPAM Jam, and the upcoming Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. If you’re interested in reading some of my own personal experiences on Oahu and Honolulu including trip itineraries and restaurant reviews, read some of our previous trip reports to Oahu here and here.

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