Monday, December 5, 2016

Oahu, Hawaii Travel Guide: Where to Stay + Where to Eat + What to Do

 Hello friends! Today I am super excited to share my Hawaii travel guide with you guys! I know it's been awhile since my trip but I wanted to share all the details with you all so if you decide to travel to Oahu you are in the know! 

I did a ton of research before my trip looking at travel blogs, websites, TripAdvisor and Pinterest for the must sees, dos and eats of the island. Whenever I travel I have the mindset that I am only going to be there once so I want to make sure to do and see everything I want so I don't leave wishing I coulda done this or that. 

From my vlogs (you can watch all them here) you know that we did not stop the entire time we were in Hawaii. We spent all day from about 7am till 11pm doing something. I feel like we saw all of the island and did all of the things and I was so happy with this trip! So without further adieu let's get to it! 

Also I'm sorry that it's so long... I just wanted to make sure you all had the information about each thing! #oversharerprobs

I'm also rating each on a 1-10 scale. 1 being don't even waste your time to 10 being oh my gosh a must do, such a great experience.


We flew Hawaiian Air and it was super nice (this is not sponsored lol).  It cost a little over $550 each person roundtrip from San Diego to Honolulu. We also booked in July and we left in August so I'm not sure if you booked sooner if the price would be cheaper. We had a personal item like a backpack or tote and a carry-on like a weekender or small suitcase free of charge and shared a large suitcase that we checked for $25. Included in our ticket price was drinks, snacks and a meal. On the way to Hawaii we had a pretty good pasta meal and on the way back we had a chicken dish which wasn't bad. The flight itself was nice with in-flight entertainment available (I slept most of it to be honest), the seats weren't bad either. It took roughly 6+ish hours to get there which is the longest I've ever flown (until Fiji). It wasn't that bad as I slept most of it and then watched movies the rest of the time. 

Once we walked 10 miles from our gate to baggage claim, literally not even joking, we waited for our airport shuttle to take us to our hotel. We booked it through this website for $25 a person round trip which isn't bad at all. We had never used an airport shuttle before so once we got our bags I called the number and the service rep was super helpful in explaining how it worked and where to be. Within a few minute our shuttle arrived, one of the bus ones, and the driver helped us load our bags. There was only one other couple on there so it was basically like a private shuttle. Our driver was super nice and friendly and chatted all about Hawaii and the different things to do. Our shuttle from the hotel to the airport wasn't a bus this time but a taxi cab van. The driver was pleasant but didn't talk to us at all and basically dropped us off and then drove away. It didn't impair our experience at all but just thought I'd share. Overall for $25 it was a good deal and we got to where we needed to go without any problems or hassle. 


Image from Google

We went with some family friends and stayed at the Park Shore Waikiki, rated #4 of most popular hotels in Honolulu on TripAdvisor. We stayed from August 27th to September 3rd, so 8 days and 7 nights. It's the last hotel on the end of the Waikiki strip, faces the beach and the beautiful Diamond Head crater and is a short walk to the Honolulu Zoo. We were so close that if you went to the balcony on our floor you could look out and see the zoo and hear the monkeys howling!

It was a great hotel; very clean, the rooms were nice, modern, well furnished and the staff attentive and accommodating. It has a pool and fitness classes, a sushi restaurant, an everything restaurant/bar and grille and a little bakery/cafe inside as well as an ABC Store (SO handy) that is connected to the lobby and a Starbucks 50 feet from the door. It's not too far from anything, with the beach being a 5 minute walk (literally just crossing the street) and is just a 15 minute walk to the heart of the strip. I saw people of all demographics there: young couples, older couples, families it's a hotel for everyone. 

My only complaint is that they don't have offer breakfast, but with the cafe/bakery, Starbucks and ABC Store all within the lobby it's not hard to find a cheap, yummy breakfast. 

I would 100% recommend this hotel! 

Oh and fun fact the lobby was used in a scene in the season 7 premiere of Hawaii Five-0! 

We weren't there when they were shooting but it was a nice surprise to see it while watching the episode and super cool that they filmed at the same place we stayed! 


Whenever I travel I like to eat at places that are new and that I don't have back home and this trip I ate a new place every day. It was so fun to eat at places that were new and different! We also ate around the island so some of these places are at different parts but I'll list where, not to worry. 

Also we only went out to eat for dinner. We ate muffins, cereal, yogurt, granola bars and fruit for breakfast from the ABC Store and packed a lunch of sandwiches, fruit, water, chips, granola bars, cookies for lunch since we were typically out doing adventures and didn't have time to stop and eat lunch. Plus it saved money too. 

Waikiki- Strip

Duke's Waikiki: Next to Tori Richard through the 'tunnel' (Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, 2335 Kalakaua Ave #116, Honolulu, HI 96815) | Open: M-Sun. 7am-12am  | Menu: Grille food and tiki drinks | Price: $$ | Rating: 9/10 | 

This was our first restaurant we ate at and our favorite of the trip. We ate here 3 or so times for dinner because the food was great, drinks delicious and strong (Mai Tai pictured) the views were amazing (beach side at sunset GORGEOUS) and the price was reasonable ($10-$20). The menu consisted of favorites like nachos and wings, burgers and sandwiches, fresh seafood like fish tacos, salad and even a lunch buffet. 
BUT Make sure you go to the Duke's patio that's beachside, NOT the dining room 'inside' one. There is a huuuuge difference in menu (grown up fancy food) and price ($$$). 

Island Vintage Shave Ice: In front of Kate Spade (Royal Hawaiian Center, 2233 Kalakaua Ave #107, Honolulu, HI 96815) | Open: M-Sun. 10am-10pm | Menu: Shave ice, ice cream, bubble tea | Price: $ | Rating: 8/10 | 

You can't go to Hawaii and not get a shave ice! The cold classic is perfect for an after dinner treat. This one is the Super Island that had acai, strawberry, fro-yo, fresh blueberry and strawberry, mochi and a snowcap and oh my lawd was it good! It was so creamy and delicious. The strawberry was my favorite and I would definitely order it again. I wasn't a fan of the mochi or snowcap (sweetened condensed milk). Seriously it's a must eat when on the island!

Image from Google

Cheeseburger in Paradise: Corner of Kalakaua Ave & Kealohilani Ave. (Foster Towers, 2500 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815) | Open: Sun.-Thurs. 7am-11pm, F-Sat. 7am-12am | Menu: Burgers, sandwiches and drinks | Price: $$ | Rating: 7/10 | 

If you're looking for good ol American cuisine this is the place. They're known for their burgers and tiki drinks which are as delicious as they look. I had the nachos and my brother had one of their burgers which was tasty and reasonably priced for both. If you're looking for a good meal at a decent price Cheeseburger in Paradise is the route to go. 

Waikiki- Off strip

Image from Google

Side Street Inn: Inside the Prudential Locations Office Building (614 Kapahulu Ave #100, Honolulu, HI 96815) | Open: Mon-Fri. 3pm-11:30pm, Sat. & Sun. 1pm-11:30pm) | Menu: Asian inspired, family style dishes) | Price: $$ | Rating: 8/10 | 

Okay so I know it says it's in an office building and it doesn't look like much but guys this place is soooo good! It's Asian inspired, family style dishes that are freaking amazing. Since we had a big party we got several and split the bill among us. They are famous for their fried rice so obviously we ordered that along with pork chops, shrimp scampi, teryaki chicken, chicken katsu and a side of garlic bread. Their fried rice was the best I've ever eaten. I honestly could have just eaten that and been so happy. The pork chops were a little dry and the chicken alright, the katsu was the better of the two chicken dishes. The garlic bread was also really good so if you like rice and bread order those two and your belly will thank you. 

 Leonard's Bakery: (933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816) | Open:  Mon-Sun. 5:30am-10pm  | Menu: Malasadas and other baked goods | Price: $ | Rating: 10/10 | 

If you only go to one place to eat on my entire list you HAVE TO go to Leonard's Bakery. You HAVE TO. Ever since I saw Hawaii Five-O show malasadas and the characters rave about how amazing they were I knew I had to have one. Leonard's is the spot to go for them and for good reason they are beyond words delicious. Malasadas are hot Portuguese donuts that are glazed or filled with custard and jellies. After a short wait in line, 10 minutes or so we ordered. We tried the original malasada, cinnamon sugar malasada no filling and the malasada puffs with chocolate filling. All three were out of this world. Everything is made to order so they were soft, fluffy and hot, well worth the short wait. They also sell other baked goods like donuts, variety of pastries, cookies, cakes, breads and pies. If you have a sweet tooth or craving a sweet treat Leonard's is the place to go. I promise you won't regret coming!

North Shore

Macky' Shrimp Truck: Past the round-a-bout on Kamehameha Hwy, next to the 7-11 gas station ( 66-632 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712) | Open: M-Sun. 9:30am-6:30pm | Menu: Shrimp and rice | Price: $$ | Rating: 10/10 | 

Okay I take it back if there are only 2 places you are going to eat at on the island make it Leonard's and Macky's. After spending 30 minutes driving around trying to find it, only to find out we were so close every time but then turned around because we thought we passed it, we finally made it to Macky's. While Giovanni's is the go-to shrimp truck we heard raving reviews from locals, online and in our guide book about Macky's so we decided to give it a try. We walked up to the truck don't let the appearance fool you, it's a very simple, no frills place and ordered our meals. We ordered the garlic butter shrimp plate and split it between myself and my brother. It cost $13, cash only for 8 good size pieces of shrimp, a scoop of garlic rice, a small salad and a piece of pineapple. We had water so we just drank that but there's a 7-11 right next door so you could get cheap drinks there. This was the best shrimp and rice I've ever eaten in my entire life. Actually if I'm being 100% honest the rice was the best part of the meal. I could have eaten scoopful after scoopful of it. The shrimp was good too, flavorful, good size, not dry. The salad wasn't half bad actually and the pineapple was sweet and juicy. Overall for $13 I'd say it was a good meal and I can't wait to go back!

SpaghettiniNext to Malama Market ( 66-632 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712) | Open: M-Sun. 11am-8pm | Menu: Pizza, pasta and sandwiches | Price: $-$$ | Rating: 6/10 | 

Just a few miles down the road from Macky's is Spaghettini pizza place. We stopped off here because not everyone in our group likes/eats shrimp and 8 shrimp between two people isn't a lot of food. It's sat in a small strip mall on the main road of Haleiwa and got great reviews online. The walk-up, eat outside place offers handmade, hot pizzas, pastas and sandwiches. We ordered the vegetarian, small for under $20 and split it between us and it was soooo much pizza. You honestly could have split it among 4 people. The pizza was thin crust, oven baked and pretty good. To me $20 is a little pricey for a pizza, especially with no meat on it (would have been $24 or so) but hey you're in Hawaii and things are gonna be higher than normal. Overall it was a good pie and I'd go back. Their sandwiches looked good and were reasonable so maybe I'd try that next time.

Waialua Bakery & Juice Bar: Behind Spaghettini and beside Malama Market (66-200 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712) | Open: M-Sat. 10am-5pm, Closed Sun. | Menu: Bakery, cafe, juice bar | Price: $ | Rating: 8/10 | 

After pizza we wanted a sweet treat and found this bakery, cafe, juice bar tucked right behind the pizza restaurant. It's a family run, all homemade, fresh, baked in house quaint little place that serves all sorts of food from sandwiches and salads to baked goods, smoothies, lemonades and fresh juices. I got one of their Wonder Bars which is like a blondie but with nuts and caramel and it was so freaking good! It hit the spot perfectly! I would definitely go back and try their food menu because all of it looks so yummy!


We spent every day on Oahu doing something, there was never a moment where we were just sitting around. We were constantly on the go! We researched what the musts were and saw a lot of the island and did almost all of the 'hotspots' of things to do. I felt satisfied with the trip and that I saw and did everything I wanted to. 

Hanauma Bay: (7455 Kalanianaole Hwy Honolulu, HI 96815) | Open: M, W-Sun. 6am-6pm, Closed Tues. | Price: $7.50 per person, $1 parking charge- cash only| Ages: All | Rating: 4/10 | 

This is like one of the top things to do in Oahu and one of the best snorkeling spots on the island so needless to say we had high hopes. We arrived in the morning, a bit cloudy and overcast from the hurricane that was coming in, but nonetheless we wanted to go. We managed to find a parking spot, luckily as there are a limited number of spots. We payed $7.50 per person (cards accepted) to get in at the entrance and had to watch a short film on Hanuama Bay and the rules and regulations of it once we got into the park. After that we were free to go down to the beach. The views from the entrance are beautiful and this is where I snapped this photo. There were 8 of us in the group and we had a stroller along with bags, snorkel gear, umbrellas, towels, etc. What we didn't know was that there was a pretty long, steep walk down to the beach... There is a tram that runs $1 going down and $1.25 going up and spend the money and take it, trust me. Once we got down to the beach we set up camp and went to the snorkel shop for some de-fog spray. They don't rent out lifevests so make sure to bring your own or rent them before you go. The waves were choppy and rough, the water murky, I snapped one of my flippers and it was just a mess. We didn't see any fish due to the weather being cloudy and the hurricane churning up the ocean. It's hard for me to recommend going when I had a less than pleasant experience but it is rated so high. I think it would be 100% different if the weather wasn't so overcast and the ocean wasn't choppy. 

Hawaii Nautical Snorkel Tour: Open: M-Sun. | Price: $$$ | Ages: All | Rating: 10/10 | 

After our failed snorkel attempt we needed to redeem ourselves and decided to book at professional tour. We had researched online and in our guidebook and both said the Hawaii Nautical snorkel tours were top notch. It cost around $90-ish bucks a person for a 2 hour tour complete with snacks and drinks and the equipment. We took the morning tour from 8am-10am which was plenty of time and still left the day open to do whatever else we wanted. After a bit of confusion on where we were suppose to meet we made it to the harbor and was instantly greeted by Captain Jason who chatted with us about the snorkel. Once everyone arrived, 15 of us total and were boarded we were greeted by the crew and offered refreshments. During our ride out to Turtle Canyon we were riding with spinner dolphins! They were all around us, jumping and spinning out of the water. It was so cool to watch! (You can see more on my vlog). Pro tip: go sit on the nets for the best view. Once we got to the destination Captain Jason explained all the safety procedures and helped everyone get their gear on. We brought our own which made it easier in my opinion. Lee and Bree, the other crew members, were going to be in the water with us: Lee was our guide and Bree was the "lifeguard". Once we got in the water Lee was telling us about all the marine life around us and showing us where the turtles where. It was such an amazing experience that I can't even put into words. He even dived down to capture a shark and turtles with our GoPro!  We saw so many amazing fish and of course tons of sea turtles. We stayed in the water for about an hour or so then boarded the catamaran for snacks and drinks on the way back to the harbor. Despite my scary previous snorkeling attempt I felt 100000% safe with Jason, Lee and Bree. They went above and beyond the call of service and gave us one of the best snorkels and an experience we will never forget. This is must do if you are an experienced snorkeler (3 in our group were) or if you have never done it before (me and my brother were the newbies). If you want an amazing snorkel adventure book with them. They will give you one that you will remember forever.

 Diamond Head State Monument: Open: M-Sun. 6am-6pm, last hike at 4:30pm | Price: $5 per car or $1 per person not in car, cash only | Ages: All | Rating: 10/10 | 

Diamond Head was another highly recommended, highly rated adventure to do so we decided why not! It promised beautiful views and we all enjoyed hiking. It it costs $5 per car with limited parking spots, but that's the only cost to hike. There are bathrooms at the bottom so go before you start, there are none along the way or at the top. The first bit of it is paved but the whole rest of the way (98%) was rocky, uneven and had steps. Note: if you have a baby or little kids you are going to have to carry them or put them in one of the baby holders. There is no way, zero way to take a stroller through it. There were flat spots where you could stop of and catch your breath and the entire way had a handrailing. I wore sneakers so I didn't have a problem hiking some in our group wore sandals which was a problem. The views on the way up were absolutely beautiful. There isn't a bad view on the entire hike. When you get to the top you have 360 degree view of the crater, ocean, Waikiki and the rest of the city. It's magnificent. The entire hike was a little over 3 miles (roundtrip) and took us a little over 2 hours to hike that includes stopping off for drinks and photos. Pro tip: go to the bathroom beforehand, bring lots of water you're gonna need it, a hat is also a helpful thing to bring, wear sneakers or closed toed shoes. There weren't many bugs/mosquitoes but I put on bug spray just in case. It was an amazing hike and a must do when in Hawaii. 

Dole Plantation: (64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786) | Open: M-Sun. 9:30am-5:30pm | Price: $-$$ | Ages: All | Rating: 5/10 | 

Dole is popular fruit brand and one of the main importers in Hawaii with their famous pineapples. We were warned online and in our guidebook that it's nothing special and you'll spend unnecessary money but we decided to try it anyways. It's a plantation that has various parts from the famous maze, to a restaurant, gift shop, train tour and botanical garden. The items in the gift shop were you guessed it pineapple themed but overpriced in my opinion. We decided to do the tour of the plantation and got the train, maze and garden. The train was nothing special, a 20 minute ride around the crop which the pineapples were already harvested so we didn't even see any. The garden was nice, lots of lush landscape and pretty places for photos but ripe with mosquito so wear repellent or get bitten. It was so hot the day we went that we didn't have enough energy to do the maze which can take hours so we got refunded our money for it. We finished off with their famous Dole Whips, I got mine in a souvenir pineapple cup which was creamy, cool and refreshing after the time spent outside in the heat. Honestly the Dole Whips were the highlight of this adventure.... I would say skip it and go do something else. It's a tourist trap and quite frankly not worth you time on the island. 

 Star of Honolulu Dinner Cruise: Open: Based on availability | Price: $$$ | Ages: All | Rating: 7/10 | 

Something fun and new that we decided to do was go on a sunset dinner cruise. After reading reviews and looking at our guidebook we settled on this one. It was the decent on price roughly $100 per person for a 2 hour cruise, 1 drink, 3 course steak and all you can eat crab leg dinner and a Hawaiian/Polynesian show. The ship was nothing special, a little old/outdated but clean and the staff was friendly and welcoming.The rooftop deck had gorgeous views of Waikiki, Diamond Head and sunset which made for the most stunning photos. We had one Mai Tai included which was okay, not super strong but not just juice either. The first course was a romaine salad which was actually pretty good, along with a sweet Hawaiian bread. Second was the steak and crab with veggies and mashed potatoes also pretty tasty and lastly was a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream. After dinner there was a Hawaiian/Polynesian show which was so cool to watch. There were the traditional hula dancers along with other Hawaiian/Polynesian dances like the haka. Overall it wasn't a bad cruise: the views were beautiful, the dinner pretty good and the show fun and entertaining. 

Paddleboarding: Waikiki Beach | Open: M-Sun. | Price: $$ | Ages: All | Rating: 6.5/10 | 

Looking for something fun, in the water and relatively inexpensive to do? Paddleboard at the famous Waikiki beach! We paddleboarded twice during our stay and it was fun and had pretty views of the beach and ocean. I've paddleboarded here quite a bit in California so it was nothing new to me but if you don't have access to the ocean constantly it's a nice change of pace. 

Pearl Harbor: (1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818) | Open: M-Sun. 7am-5pm | Price: Free | Ages: All | Rating: 10/10 | 

Pearl Harbor, the day that will live in infamy and one of the most known sites of the US and Hawaii. If you love history, World War II history have family who fought in WWII or just want to feel patriotic this is a must do. We went during the week, in the morning maybe 9am or later and there were still tickets available when we arrived so we didn't have to pay to visit the memorial. We did go during the off season so if you're going during the holidays or summer I'd recommend getting there earlier the better. Also you are not allowed bags into the "park" (we learned the hard way), not even clear ones so make sure to leave it in the car or use one of the lockers you can rent for the day. You are allowed a wallet, camera, phones and bottles of water. Once you enter the park you watch a 23 minute documentary on Pearl Harbor and the history of it at the visitor center. Then you are taken by boat, 15 minutes or so, to the memorial itself. It is such a powerful feeling being there and seeing the Arizona underwater, reading the names of all the lives lost on the wall. You feel so honored to be there and this deep sense of patriotism and gratitude. It's a feeling I've never experienced before and can't really describe. After about 15 minutes or so you take the boat back to the visitor center. Overall the entire tour lasts about an hour. We also did the tour of the USS Bowfin which is the submarine for $12 but that is optional. It was neat to see inside of the sub which I've never toured before and walking through the museum was cool too. There are other various tours you can do but we were getting hungry and wanted to see more of that part of the island so we moved on. If you are only on Oahu for a day I would 1000% recommend seeing Pearl Harbor, it is an experience and a feeling you won't ever forget.

Shark's Cove: (Google search it and use maps that way) Open: M-Sun. | Price: Free | Ages: All | Rating: 8/10 | 

This was one of the top rated snorkeling sites on the island so we decided to give it a try. It's kinda hard to locate so we stopped in a parking lot to ask for directions and actually managed to be in the parking lot for the cove! You have to walk down the hill to the cove but it's a short walk and not too steep. There is a sandy area and some shade so we made camp there. The cove isn't really a cove per-say but more like tide pools or a lagoon. The water is really calm so it's perfect for first timers.  It's pretty rocky so be careful when walking and swimming. I think we went when it was low tide so we were swimming around/on top of rocks. I cut my knee pretty bad and have the scars to prove it. BUT we saw so many amazing fish from clear ones to colorful ones, little ones and big ones. It was pretty awesome and definitely worth a few hours to check out! 

Waimea Valley: (59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712) | Open: M-Sun. 9am-5pm | Price: $$ | Ages: All | Rating: 5/10 | 

We had to see a waterfall while in Hawaii and Waimea Valley is in the North Shore so we stopped off here on of our days visiting that part of the island. It's a beautiful lush, tropical garden that has a waterfall where you can swim in/under! It costs $16 to get into the park, $12 if you're a student with ID (score!). To me that's a bit pricey to walk through a bunch of trees but that's just my opinion. It's a 1.5 mile roundtrip, paved walk throughout the tropical jungle. There are lots of mosquitoes so wear long clothing or bring repellent. I got eaten alive which made the hike miserable. There is a shave ice place just before the waterfall but it's nothing like the shave ice stand mentioned above. It's nice for a cool treat after the hot walk. The waterfall itself is quite underwhelming... It was small and the swimming area was small and very muddy. I've seen photos of waterfalls in Hawaii and this one is not like those. You can swim in the pool but it's pretty difficult as the currents are strong. Lifeguards are there and make you wear a lifevest which is good. If you're debating whether or not to go here and hike I'd say skip it. It's pricey and while the garden is beautiful it's nothing you can't see elsewhere. 

La'ie Point: (55-001 Naupaka St
Laie, HI 96762
) | Open: M-Sun. | Price: Free | Ages: All | Rating: 6/10 |  

We were driving along and decided to stop off, after seeing it in our guidebook and see the "hole in the rock" as we called it, and aptly so. It's kinda hard to find as it's at the end of a residential neighborhood and parking is very limited. The point is exactly that a point where you can walk down and see the hole in the rock and get some great photos of the waves crashing onto the rocks. It's a popular spot to cliff dive (it was in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall)  but we didn't see any when we went. Mind you it was during a hurricane/tropical storm so the ocean was churning more than normal. It's a beautiful spot with stunning views of the ocean and the cliffs. Would I make a special trip and go out of my way to see it no, but if you are passing by the area it's a nice spot to stop off for 20 minutes and see. 

Pro-tip: We did a lot of ocean activities so if you plan on doing the same and don't want to buy/lug it in your suitcase go to Snorkel Bob's and rent snorkel gear for the week. I bought a mask and snorkel from the ABC Store, under $30 then rented flippers and a life belt for under $20 for the entire week. You could probably rent it cheaper than $30 for the week but I just prefer having my own mask and snorkel. 

So there you have it my complete travel guide of Oahu! I know it's long but I wanted to make sure that I included all of the important information and my experience/thoughts on each thing. I'm one of those people who love to know all of the details before I do something so I hope this helps you in your Oahu research. If you have questions about something please don't hesitate to reach out and ask, either in the comments or by sending me an email (! I'd love to help answer any! :) 

Have you been to Oahu? What are your must dos or skips? Share in the comments below!

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