Oahu is very beautiful but also full of tourist traps. It’s easy to get stuck in Waikiki where the crowd is and miss out on many amazing hidden gems across the island. A car is highly recommended as it is utterly dreamy to drive around the island; whether it’s an ocean drive or mountain drive, the scenery looks quite surreal! I personally often felt like I was in the Jurassic Park movie and 50 First Dates at the same time. Click here for some photography proof of the beauty of this island! And below is my guide to explore every bit of Oahu in merely a week!
TO LAY IN THE SUN AND CONTEMPLATE HOW GOOD LIFE IS (aka Beaches)
Pupukea Beach Park (Shark’s Cove, Three Tables) Local spot on the North Shore! The beach looks a bit rocky but if you get over the corals into the tide pool, you’ll find the most beautiful and clear water.
Waimea Bay Also on the North Shore, this beach could be quite crowded and it might be hard to find a parking spot! But if you happen to get in, you’re in for a good time. There are a few food trucks parked nearby that offers some very tasty treats!
Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve If you happen to be heavily jetlagged (like I was), it is highly recommended to get to this reserve before 7am to get in for free! And the sunrise at this beach will be the most beautiful thing that you will ever see… well, I haven’t seen many in my short life span but it was magical to see the dark sky at dawn scattered with cotton candy clouds that are illuminated by the first light of day. I was completely mesmerized watching the sun peeking out from the horizon then slowly rising up.
Halona Beach Cove This tiny little beach is for the adventurous ones! It is hidden and you are required to hike down an unbeaten path to get to the spot. To find it you want to look for the Halona Blowhole (which is supposed to be cool but it wasn’t blowing anything when I was there!). The beach cove is nestled right next to the parking lot for the lookout of the blowhole.
Kailua Beach Park This is definitely my favorite! This beach has the softest sand ever! It’s on the windward (east) side of the island so it is more ideal to go there in the morning as it gets pretty breezy toward the end of day.
Bellows Field Beach Park This beach is inside the Bellows Air Force Station and is only open to the public on the weekend. It is such a gem! Unlike other beach parks on the island, you will never have difficulties finding parking here!
Diamond Head Beach Park This is a local surfing spot (and tanning for me!). The waves are high and the beach is rocky so it isn’t great for swimming, although there is definitely parts of the beach that are very swimmable. The beach is slighty slanted and provides a great angle for tanning. In addition, it’s super entertaining to watch the surfers!
Tantalus Lookout The view from this lookout is worth checking out both during the day and at night! You’ll get a breathtaking view of the city from the lookout; and the drive up and down is beautiful.
Manoa Falls Need a change from being a beach bum everyday? The hike up to the Manoa Falls is a great alternative. The trail is quite easy with countless beautiful foliage to look at. The falls is also definitely worth it (if it’s not dry!).
Turtle Bay Resort This is a private resort with public beach access. The view to the bay from their pool area offers one of the best sunset views on the island — definitely worth a visit even if you can’t afford to stay at the resort. Also, I wish someone told me that their pool bar is a perfect spot to watch sports!
Kualoa Regional Park There are tons of things to do there — a bunch of hiking trails, the film set of Jurassic Park at the Kualoa Ranch, or just lay out on the Kualoa Park beach.
Zippy’s You might look at this fast food chain and think why would I eat here? But Zippy’s is a truly amazing local experience! Their food is delicious and the menu includes a very impressive variety of items from the local favorite noodle soup saimin (created in Hawaii and is a combination of Japanese Ramen, Chinese mein and Filipino pancit) to Korean fried chicken. I especially love their breakfast options which, of course, includes spam, eggs, and rice.
Diamond Head Market & Grill One day in Hawaii, I decided to walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head Beach and found this amazing bakery on the way. I don’t usually enjoy scones but their blueberry cream cheese scones are absolutely delightful. Their spam and chicken musubi (rice balls) are also yummy. Simply put, everything is divine! Try as much as you can!
Sunrise Restaurant Since my first and only trip to Okinawa in 2008, I have not been able to find any Okinawan restaurant in the U.S. (not even in New York City!). But thanks to the great population of Okinawan immigrants in Hawaii, I was lucky to devour lots and lots of the island’s delights. Sunrise Restaurant is a tiny family-owned spot right in Kaimuki that serves up many traditional dishes such as soki soba (soba with braised ribs) and goya champuru (bitter melon). The price is great and the food is even better!
Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream Wonderful mochi ice cream selection!
Lawson Station Not enough can be said about Lawson Station! And I am incredibly glad that this Japanese convenience store chain has made it to Hawaii. When Myke and I lived in Japan, we went to Lawson every day multiple times a day for all of our snacking needs. In Hawaii, it’s perfect to hit up a Lawson before you go to the beach and stock up all of your picnic supplies from freshly made onigiri (Japanese rice balls) to Pocky to sushi.
Morimoto Waikiki You can always count on Iron Chef Morimoto to serves up wonderful food everywhere in and outside of kitchen stadium. Morimoto Waikiki is definitely not an exception! The impeccably designed spot is located in the Modern Waikiki Hotel and offers great deals for lunch. You will be feasting on the food with not only your taste buds but also your eyes!
Izakaya Naru Another Okinawan gem! This small restaurant is very cozy and the food is super tasty!
The Pig and the Lady This relatively new restaurant is a hit! Chef Andrew Le and his family offers Vietnamese-inpired dishes that are really creative and delicious. Brunch, lunch or dinner — go for every meal if you can — totally worth it!
TO DRINK — Who knew Chinatown is where all the bars are at! They’re all solid and stylish if you want a change from the tourist crowd at the beach bars.