Below are some recommendations for some of the many things you can do on your vacation, plus some tips.
Enjoy your stay on Oahu!
— LODGING —
- You’ll have plenty of hotel options in Honolulu and some on the west side (Aulani Disney Resort, Four Seasons, Ko Olina Villas). There are also many AirBnB rentals available on the island (Psst! You’ll probably save a lot of money over getting a hotel). Get a discount on your first AirBnB stay with my promo link!
— TRANSPORTATION —
- If you’re not in a hurry and want to save money, you can catch the bus to many places on the island. Public transportation isn’t extremely efficient, here, but it’s only $2.75 for two rides (if you get a transfer and use it within a certain amount of time). If catching an Uber (use promo code lolao856ue for a free ride – new users only), you’ll get quick service in Waikiki. If you’re on a less crowded area of the island, you may find times when no Uber drivers are available to come to your location. This is when also having the Lyft app may come in handy!
- There are various other travel options on the island of Oahu including shuttles, taxis, the Waikiki Trolley, and more!
— PARKING —
- Most beach parks have free parking lots as well as restrooms (although cleanliness is hit or miss). If visiting Waikiki, try your luck parking along the Ala Wai for free. There is also a small free parking lot just west of the lagoon that is outside of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Otherwise, be prepared to pay for metered parking which is $1.50/hr (some spots have a two hour limit), park at the Hale Koa for $8/hr or $72 for 24 hrs max (there is both a covered lot which gets full during big events happening at the Hale Koa Hotel as well as an outdoor lot across from the Fort Derussy Beach Park). Of course, if you’re staying at a hotel you can probably also valet. You know… if you’re fancy.
— FREE/CHEAP ACTIVITIES & SHOWS —
- Ward Village (Honolulu)
At and near the Howard Hughes building in Honolulu off of Ala Moana Blvd., you’ll find fun free events such as Kona Nui Nights (live Hawaiian music and hula dancing), Courtyard Cinema (indie films shown here), free hula classes, yoga, discounted movie theater tickets, and more. Check their website for details!
- Royal Hawaiian Center (Waikiki)
Catch weekly hula and Hawaiian entertainment in this beautiful grassy spot in the heart of the outdoor mall off of Kalakaua. There is also another place in the mall (near LUSH) where they have live entertainment for you to enjoy in between shopping in Waikiki, as well. Check out the schedule here.
- Daily Hula Show at Ala Moana Mall
No kidding, you can catch a free 20 minute hula show at the mall at 1pm every day at the Centerstage (just a few minutes walk from the parking lot on the Kapiolani side)! Seriously, you need to check it out. The dancers are amazing and the show is really well done.
Every Friday at 7:45pm on Waikiki Beach near the Hilton Hawaiian Village, catch a fireworks show while overlooking the ocean.
- Waikiki Strip
Catch street musicians, dancers, magicians, artists, and mannequins along Kalakaua on Friday and Saturday nights. Similar to Hollywood Blvd. in California, the Waikiki Strip never fails to have random entertainment for you to enjoy while walking to a shop or restaurant.
— PLACES —
- Dole Plantation
There is a fun maze, here, and a shop full of everything pineapple. I think they also do tours of the property.
— BEACHES & LOOKOUTS —
- Lanikai Beach
This beach has the most beautiful turquoise water and you can see the Mokulua Islands from the sand (you can also kayak to them).
- Hanauma Bay
This beautiful beach is a safe place for the family go to snorkeling. The fee is $7.50/person and you have to watch a 9 minute video on protecting the sea life. You can rent snorkel gear down by the beach and even take a ride a the cart to and from the entrance if you don’t want to take the trek down the hill on foot.
- Makapu’u Beach
This beach is my favorite, for aesthetics. If you’re a surfer you might find this spot to be great. I am not sure if people are ever allowed to swim there as I have seen signs that say no swimming.
- Alan Davis Beach
Just up the street from Makapu’u Beach, park in the lot designated for the Lighthouse Trail Hike and walk down the dirt path. This beautiful spot has lava rocks and a small beach area.
- Ko Olina
There are four beautiful lagoons, here, and three have hotels nearby (Disney Aulani Resort, the Marriott, and the Beach Villas). Just west of the Disney Aulani Resort there is a secluded beach. If facing the lagoon in front of the resort, take the sidewalk to the right and follow it until you get to the sand. There is a small walkway that will bring you to rocks. Turn right, watch your step, and keep going until you reach the nice little beach that is just gorgeous! Sometimes a seal hangs out there during which time there will be yellow tape restricting access to the few yards around the seal, in all directions, but you can still walk across and check out the nice view.
- Laie Point
This spot is really beautiful and unique! There is also a beach nearby if you walk through a somewhat conspicuous walkway between the houses and down a flight of stairs.
- Magic Island
A lot of people don’t know there is a beautiful lagoon at the end of Magic Island. After you park in the large main parking lot, walk south until you see the water. You’ll also get a nice view of Diamond Head to the east!
- Lanai Lookout
Also near Makapu’u beach, this lookout is breathtaking (see the background photo on this page). Be careful if climbing over the wall, of course, but make sure to have someone snap a photo of you. You’ll love it!
- Bellows Beach
Sunsets are amazing here! Be careful parking, my car got stuck in the sandy parking area, once.
- Halona Blowhole
This is just a fun thing to see. As the water crashes up against the rocks, it shoots out through holes, like a blowhole.
- Halona Cove
Right next to the blowhole mentioned above, this cove is famous for its cameo in a few movies and is a cute little spot to sunbathe off the beaten path.
- Pali Lookout
This spot gives you a view of Kailua to the right and Chinaman’s hat to the left. Parking is $3 and the parking lot is populated by chickens and roosters. It’s a nice spot to snap some scenic photos!
- Tantlus Lookout
Another beautiful spot, this lookout gives you a great view of Waikiki for above. Parking is free here.
— HIKING —
- Manoa Falls
For the able-bodied, walk a relatively easy 20 minutes up the bamboo-covered mountain to find a waterfall (how much water there is depends on time of year). Be prepared to leave with muddy shoes and be careful; it may be slippery. For the adventurous type, take a side trail and hike all the way to the top of the mountain for a beautiful view. Also, don’t forget the bug spray. Trust me!
- Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
This 20ish minute “hike” is beautiful and overlooks Kailua and Makapu’u. It’s paved with asphalt and has binoculars along the way for catching a glimpse of whales that may be swimming by in the distance. If you’re able bodied enough you can take the trek down the side of the mountain to the Makapu’u tidepools (not suitable for little ones)!
A sidewalk leads all the way to the top of the mountain and has railings part of the way. The view at the top is beautiful and there is a food truck at the bottom where you can get pineapples! Parking costs $1 and the lot gets filled up quickly during the day.
- Lanikai Pillbox
It takes approximately 20-25 minutes to walk to the first pillbox and the second one is not too far beyond the first. The view is breathtaking!
–– NATURE —
- Harold Lyon arboretum
This is just a drive up the hill past Manoa Falls. This place is definitely for the tree lovers out there as it is lush with lots of beautiful greenery and an open field of grass.
— FOOD —
- Down to Earth (King St., Honolulu)
This vegetarian grocery store has all the vegan junk food you could ever want as well as produce and natural cleaning, makeup, body, and haircare products. Their deli is to die for with a rotating hot bar that is so much better than Whole Foods!
- Ai Love Nalo (Waimanalo)
After visiting Makapu’u Beach, drive up the street and get lunch at this place. They have awesome buddha bowls and they host movie nights out in the backyard with vegan pizza!
- Peace Cafe (King St., Honolulu)
This place is more for people who like food that tastes healthy. I would definitely recommend getting the Morraccan Stew *drools*.
- Simple Joy (King St., Honolulu)
This place has a mix of Asian, Italian, and American dishes, all vegan and all good!
- Loving Hut (King St., Honolulu)
This franchise restaurant will be different from one you may have visited (all my California people) so expect a mom-and-pop feel to it. The food is amazing. I recommend going to the one on King St. verses the one in Chinatown.
- Greens & Vines
This raw vegan restaurant is pricey but the food is delicious. It’s right across from the Neal Blaisdell Center and closed on Sundays. Stop by and grab a raw vegan lasagna from the fridge!
- Downbeat Diner (Chinatown)
They can make most dishes vegan and it’s so bad for you, but so tasty. From nachos to french toast, get your junk food fix here!
- Ruffage (Waikiki)
This is a small spot with delicious menu options as well as some snacks and miscellaneous items like soap etc. You’ve gotta try their vegan burrito!
- ABC Store
You’ll see these everywhere in Waikiki. They’ve got snacks and even some miscellaneous items like camera and phone accessories, tshirts, and other gift items.
- Farmer’s Markets
Walk to a farmer’s market in Waikiki (there’s one almost every day of the week) or catch one on another part of the island. The food isn’t really cheaper than in a grocery store but at least it’s local and fresh. Plus, there are often food vendors selling cooked food, as well!
- Tommy Bahamas
There is a chic rooftop lounge with sand and fire pits that overlooks a bit of Waikiki. Buy an expensive shirt and then go up the stairs to enjoy a cocktail and some apps, here. It’s so random but I love it!
- Vegan Hills
I’ve only been here twice but the food was good and the place gets busy fast. Early is best!
— SHOPPING —
- Ala Moana Mall
As the largest open-air shopping mall in the world, Ala Moana Mall probably has every store you could ever dream of entering. From high-end stores to your basic fast-fashion shops and everything in between.
- Waikiki Strip
Walk down Kalakaua and you will find store after store of a variety of things to buy. From Gucci to Tommy Bahamas, your shopping addiction can be tended to while you stroll through beautifully manicured sidewalks sprinkled with palm trees.
- Hilton Hawaiian Village
This property has various cute tourist shops and a few restaurants. The best part is you don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy them!
— WHAT TO EXPECT —
It rains every day somewhere and, often, only for a few minutes. If the forecast shows rain during your stay, definitely keep a small umbrella with you unless you don’t mind getting wet.
Naturally, there is a rainbow everyday somewhere. This never gets old *smile*
It gets really hot, here. I actually think the ozone is thinner over Hawaii, or something, because… ouch! Make sure to keep an eye on your tan lines because the sun doesn’t care if you have a photo session coming up *smile*. Also, you might want to consider not packing any heavy clothing because you won’t need it. I rarely find the need to wear close-toed shoes, here, and tank tops/light tshirts are a must, to avoid overheating.
You might want to keep bug spray with you, especially anywhere near lots of vegetation.
The speed limit is fairly slow here so plan for extra travel time as there is traffic during rush hours and some areas only have one road.
Waikiki is the busiest spot on the island so if visiting this area, don’t expect to get anywhere too quickly. Also, there are parades in this area during some holidays (Hawaiian holidays included) so on those days, Kalakaua will be blocked off for part of the day.
- Familiar Spots
You’ll find a lot of familiar restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, and the Yardhouse. You’ll also find places like Safeway (grocery), Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Ross, Whole Foods, and more. So if you’re from the mainland, it shouldn’t be too much of a culture shock.
- Random produce vending
Keep an eye out for a pickled mango or avocado stand while driving along the coast.
— WHERE TO FIND IT —
You can find leis at many stores including Times Market, Longs Drugs, Target, and Walmart. There are also various little shops that sell them such as in Chinatown.
If you’re looking for gifts to bring home, you’ll have great luck finding macadamia nuts (Walmart has an entire aisle dedicated to them), aloha shirts, and other Hawaiian themed items at chain stores like Walmart, Target, and Don Quijote. There are also many gift shops in Waikiki and, of course, at various hotels and in the airport. Of course, you’ll save money by going to a chain store over shopping in Waikiki, at the airport, or at a hotel!