If you’re planning a trip to Oahu, I’m super jelly because I’m dying to go back. Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world. There’s the beaches with white sand, gorgeous hikes and views, and the food… OMG the udon, the shaved ice, and the strawberry shortcake pancakes. I could go on forever.
Except Oahu is soooooo much more than that.
Like, so, so much more (ie: snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, cliff jumping, etc).
But if you’re anything like me, you like to plan your vacation around food (anyone else with me?).
Think: Hike, breakfast, beach, lunch, dessert, dinner, dessert.
Basically, we explored a different area of Oahu each day and planned our meals around that spot. It only takes roughly 3.5 hours to drive around the whole island, so if it’s your first time… you definitely need to make your way out of Waikiki (tourist spot), and into the other beaches.
On a side note: my friend woke me up at 6am EVERY morning to go workout and hike (cue: heavy sighs and evil eyes), but I’m glad I did because we had to work off all these calories.
So. If you’re into hiking + food + beaches, then this post is for you. We also planned everything so that it’s conveniently located right next to where we’re going. And everything is SUPER cheap too, like $5-6 bucks for a full meal.
Here are my top 10 favorite places (in no particular order, these are just separated by area)
Food spots around Waikiki: (~ 10 min)
1. Leonard’s Bakery
Why: You can’t come to this island and NOT have a malasada (cream filled donuts) from Leonards. They’re a local and tourist favorite, super fluffy and delish, and the OG of malasadas. (plus, it’s only $1 each)
What to get: Everything. Seriously, get 1 of each flavor.
2. Marukame Udon (Yelp’s Top 100)
Why: The noodles are made fresh, you get to pick your order, then they make it right in front of you (think: chipotle).
Side: If you follow me on Snapchat (cyneats), then you know that we came here three days in a row. Yah, obsessed!
What to get: I always get the beef udon, add an egg, extra green onions and extra both (they must hate me). Every bowl is like $5 bucks too!
Tip: This place is conveniently located a few blocks down from our hotel (Grand Hyatt). If you’re staying in Waikiki (which you probably are), then this shouldn’t be too far from your hotel either. The lines are always long and out the door, but it moves fast.
3. Ono’s Seafood (Yelp’s Top 100)
Why: They’ve got one of the best ahi poke bowls on the island! Plus, they’re on Yelp’s top 100 – And the hype is REAL.
What to get: Anything, it’s all good.
Ps: It’s a hole-in-the-wall, so be cautious or you might miss it! Seating is limited, so we brought our poke bowls ($6-$7) to enjoy at the beach.
4. Island Vintage shave ice
Why: They don’t just give you plain, old shaved ice. The flavors and syrups are made with REAL fruit (none of that fake, chemical sh*t), so you can really taste the difference. They also give you ice cream (trust me, it’s there… hidden), with mango, strawberry and pineapple chunks depending on your order.
What to get: Anything with the strawberry flavor! Sooooooo bomb, fresh and tasty.
PS: You might think this is a tourist trap since they are located in a kiosk at the Royal Hawaiian Center. But trust me, this place is even better than the OG shave ice places on the island (yeah, I’m talking about Matsumotos= over rated)
5. Sushi Sasubune (Yelp’s Top 100)
Why: If you’re a sushi lover, then this place is for you. The fish was so fresh, and the creativity + combinations of flavors were truly one of a kind. This place is an awesome spot for date-night.
What to get: Omakase or order individually off the menu.
Ps: You need to make a reservation
Why: One of my favorite breakfast spots in Oahu. This place is kinda classier (meaning: you can’t wear your bathing suit and a towel). We came here right before we left for the airport and our trip could not have ended on a better note.
What to get: Strawberry shortcake pancakes!!!!!! (<–OMG). Also get the fried rice with Portuguese sausage and a fried egg on top.
Why: GUYS. Their mochi ice cream is LIFE CHANGING. I usually don’t even like mochi because the dough is usually too thick. But this was perfectly thin and the flavors are all on point (strawberry, mango and green tea are my favs). This is a must visit. They also have ice cream pies!
What to get: One of each (not joking lol)
8. Bogarts Cafe
Why: This is the perfect place to stop by and grab a quick breakfast, especially after you’ve hiked Diamond Head. It’s a tiny shop where you order at the counter and find a seat.
What to get: Lox bagel, Acai Bowl, Portugese sausage
Where to hike: Diamond Head
Why: This is only a 10 min drive from Waikiki. It’s also a super easy hike and you get great views up at the top. Plus, walking is SO good for you, especially if you’re on vacation and eating a TON (ahem: me).
Foodie tip: After you’re done with the hike, stop by: Bogarts, Leonards (malasada) or Ono’s seafood (poke bowls) for lunch. It’s all right around there. You’re welcome.
Beach: Waikiki beach
Why: This is the beach where all the tourists go. It’s great and all, but try to hit up some other ones!
Foodie tip: Walk to Marukame Udon for lunch and to Island Vintage Shave Ice for dessert.
What to do in North Shore:
North shore is about an hour away from Waikiki and it’s totally worth the drive. This is where you can go cliff jumping, where they hold surf competitions and where you can see all the sea turtles. Plus, all the bomb ass shrimp taco trucks are here.
9. Giovannis Shrimp Truck
Why: On your drive to North Shore, you HAVE TO, have to- stop by Giovanni’s to get their garlic shrimp plates. Soft, succulent shrimp, generous portions with garlicky flavors. (Ugh, I die)
What to get: The shrimp plates, duh. We also got these pineapples & coconuts from the food truck next to it… I swear these are the SWEETEST things ever. I would kill for one right now. (Too bad I can’t Postmates it. Lol).
Then if you drive down (~2 miles), you’ll hit some beaches along the way. The first is sunset beach and the second is Waimea Bay, where you can go cliff jumping! (we didn’t do this because I can’t swim).
Must visit: Kailua/ Lanikai
Lanikai is my all time FAVORITE beach in Oahu. Plus, it consistently appears on rankings of the world’s best beaches.
This beach is about 30 minutes away from Waikiki and is nestled in a residential neighborhood of Kailua- there’s less tourists here, the sand is whiter and the water is bluer (is that a word?)
These are twin islands called the Mokuluas – or Moks
Pill Box Hike
The best part of this area is the PillBox hike (also my fav hike on the island). This was super fun and exciting because you’re kinda like rock climbing in some spots. It’s not as easy as the Diamond Head hike, but it’s definitely not a hard one. Plus, the views are insane.
Side: We suddenly had the bright idea to bring these malasadas to our hike and enjoy them up at the top (motivation, duh). And yes, we had to be EXTRA careful to save the donuts (if you followed me on snap, you know what i’m talking about lol).
Foodie Tip: Go eat at Cinnamons for brunch after the hike (sorry, I don’t have a good picture of the place).
10. Go to a Luau
We went to the one at the Royal Hawaiian (I think it’s one of the best!)
But most importantly, the food was sooooooo bomb. They even had a whole roasted pig… just chillen there, waiting for us to have at it. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet style with unlimited drinks (<– #win).
The scene is gorgeous with a breathtaking backdrop of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. You also get to enjoy a show with great performers, hula dancers and the “fire knife” dancer was awesome to spectate.
Here’s a map of the Island:
For a list of activities, check out this list from one of my fav bloggers: Gal Meets Glam