My Favorite 15 Things to do Honolulu and Waikiki
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.