Ultimate Guide to Oahu

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Here it is…the best food, sites, hotel, and art around Oahu. My husband and I spent 10 days on the island last August when we dropped our daughter off at college. We had been for brief trips previously, but this time we really surveyed all the offerings, and got some insider insight on where to eat, snorkel, and scuba dive. And yes, we even did a luau 🙂

Where to stay: The Courtyard by Marriott, Waikiki Beach

We stayed at two other hotels previously. They were both right across the street from the beach, and were lovely. But, both hotels, and all hotels in that vicinity charge an exorbitant resort fee plus daily parking fees. We found The Courtyard driving around and loved that it was only a block and a half from the beach. Plus it is right in the middle of all the restaurants and shopping- everything is still walking distance. Even better- no resort fee! It was a beautiful property with a gorgeous pool, bar in the hotel, cute little coffee shop, and a restaurant attached. It is where we always stay now.

What to Eat:

We had a wonderful concierge who is native Hawaiian. We had a long conversation with him when we were booking our luau, and he gave us some insider insight about where locals like to eat, and where he takes his family out. His name is Shane, and he was the best concierge I have ever dealt with. We still have a list of places we could not get to, but plan to visit on our next trip.

Breakfast

Heavenly 342 Seaside AveShoreline Hotel Waikiki 1FHonolulu, Oahu, HI

This was our last breakfast on the island…I wish we found it sooner. Tucked between hotels it is easy to miss, but wow, that would be a mistake. We had the Tomato Avocado Benedict and the French Toast with mixed berries. The coffee was delicious and local, our server was friendly and attentive and the atmosphere was classic Hawaii. The french toast was perfectly dressed with a drizzle of local honey- it was pillowy soft, the honey added just the right sweetness to berries and toast with no syrup needed. The Benedict had some of the sweetest tomatoes and firm avocado I have ever had at a restaurant and as an aside there was the right amount of hollandaise! A lot of restaurants just give you a drizzle, but there was enough for both muffins. Also, the pure sweet potato wedges were the perfect compliment. I loved the decor and aloha vibe the whole place gave off. Be warned it is open air- plenty of fans, but not air conditioned. This is a def breakfast spot for us next trip!

Koko Head Cafe 1145 12th Ave Ste CHonolulu, Oahu, HI

I watched Lee Anne Wong on Top Chef, and loved everything she made. Koko Head did not disappoint! We got the Cornflake French Toast w/black pepper maple syrup and the Breakfast Bibimbap. Both were so good! The crispy garlic rice and homemade kimchee on bibimbap was ridiculously flavorful. Then the cornflake french toast was served with frosted flake gelato and bacon. Normally my husband does not eat sweet, but he sopped that toast up like it was a last meal! Def go here for brunch! #brunchallday We ate here three times while we were there- these were our favorite dishes, but everything was delicious!

Lunch

Kono’s North Shore  66-250 Kamehameha HwyNorth Shore MarketplaceHaleiwa, Oahu, HI

Happened on this place after some North Shore adventures. Unfortunately, we got there as they were closing, but the young ladies were sweet enough to serve us some to go lunch. We had the pork sliders and pork plate. Both were delicious! The pork was tender and accompanied by a very tasty guava bbq sauce. This was the first slider with a toasted bun and it was a really good choice! Wish we made it earlier to sample a milkshake, but it was still a fantastic lunch and bonus there were chickens hanging out with us at the picnic table while we ate. Also, they have satellite locations in other parts of Oahu, and San Diego. And, they serve breakfast 🙂

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Highway Inn 680 Ala Moana Blvd Ste 105Honolulu, Oahu, HI

Went here for lunch and loved all the family memorabilia and the tutus program for local grandmothers! We had the poke pupu and the fish tacos. Loved the taro tortilla and the fish was well-seasoned and well-cooked. I prefer poke that does not have mayo but the spice was good. Service was very friendly and all the local dishes coming out looked great. Bonus points for the food served on lunch trays!

Dinner

Lucky Belly  50 N Hotel StSmith StreetHonolulu, Oahu, HI

Dropping the daughter off at college and her RA suggested Lucky Belly. Parking is challenging, but worth it. We ordered the pork bao, belly of beast ramen and shrimp ramen. All was delicious, homey and huge! It was fairly pricey- $12/glass of wine, $20-23 ramen. The atmosphere is hip, and it was steady busy on a Thursday night. Def delish, just be ready for the check. (We actually ate here twice because it was sooo good)

 

Brick Fire Tavern 16 N Hotel StHonolulu, Oahu, HI 96817-5102

Took our daughter to Brick Fire Tavern last night before we left her at college. Really friendly staff and the food was delicious! We had the burrata salad which was ample and fresh. Followed by the Funghi pizza. The crust was crisp outside, soft inside. Mushrooms were earthy and the selection of cheese was inspired. We did switch out the bechamel sauce for marinara, just as a personal preference. The pistachio cheesecake with oreo crust was also divine! The surprise though was the banana nutella calzone- it was enormous! I am still not sure about pizza crust as the vehicle for nutella and banana, but the filling was very tasty. Great little find in Chinatown!

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Duke’s Lane Market & Eatery 2255 Kuhio Ave. Honolulu, HI

So this was the scene of some quick lunch items to make a picnic for snorkeling, hiking, and the beach. It was also where we went for dinner a couple of times. It reminds me of Liberty Station in San Diego- lots of little counter restaurants, a wine shop, some gourmet food shops, and bakeries. There is seating at bars/counters of each restaurant, as well as a large open area of seating. It is adjacent to Duke’s Alley which is THE place to pick up touristy souvenirs (like inexpensive Hawaiian shirts).

Poke

It gets its own heading because we tried it everywhere to find the best! In my opinion, Ahi Assassins is hands-down the freshest, tastiest poke on Oahu. It is a little bit sketchy in locale, but so worth it. Many locals swear by Foodland. It is a grocery store that makes and sells Poke in their deli section. There is a large variety, and it is very reasonably priced, but just serviceable in my opinion. Maguro Brothers was suggested by our concierge, and it was really good, but the Assassins still beat them. They have two locations we visited- a walk-up near our hotel, and in the back of a liquor store. There were many others- we tried 10, but these were the best options.

Liliha Bakery

There are multiple locations, and we visited them all! We went for breakfast, lunch and pastries. Everything was delicious, especially the loco moco! The thing we kept going back for though was the coco puffs, and the malasada donuts. We even got some to go for our plane ride back. Do yourself a favor and go to their original location, sit at the lunch counter, and experience some old Hawaii.

Murals

Art is all over Oahu. This is a smattering of what you will see just driving and walking around!

Fun Stuff

There is so much to do that you need multiple trips to experience it all.

  • We researched and dove with Honolulu Scuba Company, and they were fantastic. We did a Friday night dive and a two-tank Sunday dive. Both were great, but do not miss a night dive if Scuba is your thing.
  • We snorkeled a number of locations from just places we parked on the side of the road to more formal locations. Our favorite spot was lagoon 3 at Ko Olina. They are public parks, and mostly full of juvenile fish and turtles. The coral was gorgeous and the abundant fish life made for great snorkeling. Bonus if you have new or young snorkelers- these are very safe, protected spots.
  • We planted a succulent for our daughter’s dorm. It was so much fun and the owner of Paiko was on site. She gave us lots of information about native plants and care. She also offered to feed my daughter if she git homesick 🙂
  • In the same little incubator of shops we found a chocolate tasting room, Lonohana. It was delicious to say the least! There are lots of plantations and working farms on Oahu, but again you need more than 10 days to experience all that. This was a nice satellite location.

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The Luau

Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, you must do it, at least once. I spent a longggggg time researching the best luau experience, and came up with Paradise Cove Luau. Our concierge assured me it was indeed the luau experience on the island. I wanted one where we learned some history, experienced some cultural activities, ate some traditional food, and saw some spectacular dancing. Paradise Cove delivered! We went in knowing this is something tourists do and had a great time! The site is breathtaking and the entertainment was amazing! Very talented dancers and I learned how to make my own lei. It was a little more expensive, but we went for the deluxe package and it was so worth it. We sat in a covered box with direct view to stage. We had an “auntie” who served our dinner and got drinks- no buffet or bar lines and we did not even use all of our cove credit we got with the package, even after paying the bar bill. This was an exceptional evening and I never felt like it was overdone! I will say the food is nothing to write home about, but I was prepared for that. Go meet some cousins at Paradise Cove!

 

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