My Favorite 15 Things to do Honolulu and Waikiki

Posted on October 8, 2016 by in Things to Do (City Guides), TOP Travel Destinations


My Favorite 15 Things to do Honolulu and Waikiki – Understand

Honolulu and Waikiki certainly suffer from mass tourism, though given the sheer numbers they have managed the crowds exceptionally well and provide one of the cleanest and best big city beach experiences anywhere in the world.

Where else can you get awesome, cheap, ethnic cuisine from all over the world, clear and warm waters and a first world city experience within a square mile? Yes, it is expensive, but not exceedingly so.

My Favorite 15 Things to do Honolulu and Waikiki – Safety

Oahu has a number of not-so-safe neighborhoods that are better avoided at night. Besides that, the ocean will be your only danger; stay out when the surf is pounding and return the next day for a gentle swim.

Things to do Honolulu

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Things to do Honolulu

My Favorite 15 Things to do Honolulu and Waikiki – Get Around

Lyft and UberX are both operating in Honolulu – for now. The city isn’t happy with it much and rather comes up with extra fees and police recently arrested (!) two Lyft drivers who dared to pick up passengers from the airport. To get an airport pickup you need to walk out or use a rental car shuttle to request one.

My Favorite 15 Things to do Honolulu and Waikiki – Sights

Hit the beach!

Where in the world do you find a major city beach that has crystal-clear water (at a depth of several feet) with a gentle surf that allows all kinds of (non-motorized) water sports? Learning how to surf in Waikiki is like discovering a new country – it’s just pure bliss. Something you never thought of suddenly becomes something you can’t get enough of.

Things to do Honolulu

Things to do Honolulu

Watch the sunrise/sunset at Waikiki

The sun sets on the western shore of Oahu when seen from Waikiki. While the sunsets are quicker than in the northern US, they are a colorful affair where the clouds mix up with the ocean in one color. Make sure you know the proper times and get up on the pier to see this daily spectacle.
Things to do Honolulu
Things to do Honolulu
Things to do Honolulu

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay nature reserve is a spectacular sight, especially when you set foot along the crater’s edge. Hawaii’s beauty just hits you right there – only 10 miles away from Waikiki!

Things to do Honolulu

Things to do Honolulu

Things to do Honolulu

Diamond Head

Diamond Head is a crater and the edge looks right over most of eastern Oahu and Waikiki. It takes about an hour to get up there (given that there will usually be crowds), but the view is absolutely stunning and worth it.

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Things to do Honolulu

Oahu North Shore

If the surf is up at the North Shore (which happens only in ‘winter’), then this is the place to go. Bear in mind that everyone else on the island has the same plan, so traffic will be rough.

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The North Shore has a couple of other places to check out – notably the Dole Plantation and an ever-growing number of garlic shrimp trucks.

Things to do Honolulu Things to do Honolulu

It is rough (and often rainy) scenery here – much more natural than the suburban build-up on the southern side of the mountain.

My Favorite 15 Things to do Honolulu and Waikiki – Eat & Drink

Marukame Udon

Marukame Udon is a chain, but the Waikiki outlet is a cut above most other outlets, with the fast, cheap and exceptionally delicious temptation of fresh udon and tempura. The lines can be long, so go early or late.

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Things to do Honolulu

Matcha Café Maiko

Right next door to Marukame Udon is Matcha Café Maiko, which has wonderful matcha (green tea) ice cream floats. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.


Things to do Honolulu

Hawaii Sushi

Hawaii Sushi is in my new favorite area, off the strip towards Diamond Head. The outside looks uninspiring but the fantastic sashimi bowls and the friendly owners will make your day. They serve some of the best sashimi in Hawaii. This is a truly local spot and the ratings lag behind the quality this place provides.


Things to do Honolulu Things to do Honolulu

Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar

If you are hungry before or after your flight, walk from the terminal to Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar. Great sushi in a small location for OK prices – yum!

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Things to do Honolulu

The Lovin’ Oven

This unassuming place on Kuhio Av is not easy to find. I swear I must have walked by 15 times and missed it every time. The setting at night is fantastic and so is the pizza, and you can sit in peace alongside a tropical style pool amid palm trees. The pizza isn’t cheap, but it is big enough to share and is very delicious.

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Things to do Honolulu

Ono Seafood

OK, so raw tuna and lots of chili is not for everyone, but you need to try ‘poke’ in Hawaii at least once. Ono Seafood is the best place to do just that. $7 will get you as much tuna as you can buy for $20 in New York or San Francisco, as well as water and a healthy portion of rice.

Poke at Ono Seafoods

Things to do Honolulu Things to do Honolulu

Leonard’s Bakery

Iif you are still hungry after you are done with Ono, then perfect – walk right over to Leonard’s Bakery, which specializes in malasadas – Portuguese filled donuts. It’s just $1.35 per donut and you will ask for a second one – guaranteed.

Leonhards Bakery Honolulu

Things to do Honolulu Things to do Honolulu

Lappert’s Hawaii Ice Cream

Hawaii’s best ice cream is found at Lappert’s. It’s a chain and it is expensive, but you can grab a cone and eat it right on the beach staring into the sunset. Life does get much better than that.

Things to do Honolulu Things to do Honolulu

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Honolulu Coffee Company

Good coffee and coffee growing regions are usually mutually exclusive (the exception to this rule being Ethiopia). Hawaii grows coffee, so don’t expect wonders when you drink coffee here, but Honolulu Coffee brews up a decent one and serves delicious desserts.


Things to do Honolulu
4 / 5 stars     

About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]

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