help! what should we do in oahu?


Sometimes life hands you a break. A pretty nice one. In the form of a free (penthouse!) condo on Waikiki Beach. Oh, and ridiculously cheap airfare. So, next week, the husband and I are packin’ our SPF 50 and leaving the cold & dark of Seattle behind for Oahu! The trouble is, we’re not too in to the touristy stuff, but we really want to have an authentic Hawaiian experience. We’ve scoped out a few cool things to do, like visiting the Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College to stock our little condo kitchen, heading out to Kaneohe to see an old friend and up to the North Shore for garlic shrimp and big wave surf watching, but other than that, we don’t have much planned. This is why I’m asking you, knowledgeable readers, to help me plan my trip — what’s cool and funky and “authentically Hawaiian”? I’m talking delicious, can’t-miss eateries, great vintage shops, jungle hikes, etc… I’m counting on you guys for some great stuff — don’t let me down! –Megan B.

vintage postcard image courtesy of Jane’s Oceania

From our partners

Movies on the Beach — Friday nights on Waikiki beach (if they are being held). Lots of food stands and a great location to watch a movie.

Don Quixote grocery store — its japanese-owned supermarket — great food

Leonard’s Malasadas and Rainbow Drive In for local food (not necessarily good, but local)

Drinks under the banyan tree at the Moana Surfrider (Waikiki) or a visit to the Pink Palace (Royal Hawaiian Hotel) for a taste of Waikiki of the 1930’s.

Shave Ice made with homemade syrup. You can yelp it or try Wailoa Shave ice. There are others, typically in neighborhoods catering to the locals.

Shopping at the Ala Moana mall. Tourists and locals alike shop here. Lots of great Japanese stores as well as the usual mall fare. Catch some hula here and it will be a fun, free show.

I love to dive to the Pali lookout and look down on the other side of the island. There was an amazing Hawaiian battle that took place here — pivotal in the future rule of Hawaii (you can google it).

Lots more too, but keep it spontaneous.



I loved the Buddhist Temple. A nice quiet place after all the people and noises of the city. We also did a rainforest hike, but I can’t remember where it was! It was lovely too, and we did get rained on!


DEFINITELY hit the shrimp trucks – YUM. My favorite memories of Oahu include:
Getting up before dawn and heading to a beach on the eastern edge (???, but way north of Waikiki) where we napped while the sun came up behind the Chinaman’s hat island
Spending a quiet morning at the Byodo-In Temple
Hiking up to & swimming in Waimea Falls and spending the afternoon at Waimea bay
Shaved ice!
Hitting the ridiculous flea market at the football stadium. Every few booths will be a guy with a cooler full of iced whole coconuts; for a couple of bucks, he’ll chop off one end with a machete, stick a straw in it and you can walk around drinking the delicious coconut milk!

Have a great trip!


Definitely hit Leonard’s and Rainbow! If you want to visit a semi-deserted beach, try Waimanalo–jus’ take the Kalanianaole and turn right at the McDonalds :) There’s only parking for maybe 3 cars, and you don’t want to leave anything of value in the car, but the body surfing and gorgeous vistas are totally worth it!


Just started going to the Peace Cafe on King Street. I’m not a vegan but their food (sandwiches, box lunches, and baked goods) are fresh and fantastic.

Bodysurfing at Waimanalo Beach first thing in the morning (but leave your valuables at home). Still not very touristy so often there’s only a dozen people there.

We have a few museums in Honolulu and they are wonderful. The Contemporary Museum in Makiki, The Honolulu Academy of Arts near downtown, the Hawaii State Art Museum, and the Bishop Museum. First Hawaiian Bank in downtown also has an annex for the Contemporary Museum. The three art museums all have nice cafes. Otherwise I’d go to get dimsum at Mei Sun(?) in Chinatown or get pork buns from Char Sun Hut or Royal Manapua (also in Chinatown).

I hope you both have a great time while you’re here!

You will be able to catch some of the Triple Crown of Surfing at Pipeline on the North Shore. Also a hike in Waimea Valley is well worth the visit with botanical collections, native Hawaiian cultural sites and the beautiful waterfall. Do some shopping in Haleiwa and at the old sugar mill in Waialua. You can also check Oahu Visitor Bureau website for a lot more information on what do on Oahu.

You absolutely must go to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling or just wading around. There are colorful fish the size of frying pans that just swim right up to you–tons of them. Yes, there are tourists, but really, go there. I took my Italian family, and my sister-in-law said, “Non ho parole!” (I don’t have words.) Even little kids can walk way out in the shallow sand and see the fish in two feet of water without snorkeling. The parking lot fills up early, so take the city bus which goes straight there from Waikiki, and it is about 20 minutes. I think it was Bus 22. That bus also goes by the Whole Foods if you want to get groceries on the way home. I got oozing sunburns there in the bay, so cover up! If you are going with kids, continue with the same bus up to Sealife Park and kiss the dolphins. It is the only thing my daughter remembers from when she was 2. Also, Friday nights, there are free fireworks over Hilton Hawaiian Village, so walk on Waikiki beach all the way west, and you can have a nice finale to your beach stroll.


Avoid Honolulu or you’ll just be in another big city.

This is slightly out of the way but you need to visit The Poke Stop in Waipahu – and not just because the food is amazing, but because there’s an EXCELLENT Goodwill within walking distance from that parking lot where you can get used Hawaiian Shirts for mere dollars, instead of buying the expensive tourist kinds in the big tourist stores. Good food + thrifting in another state = good times.

My husband was born in Oahu, grew up there as a little kid (his grandfather owned one of the Chinese restaurants in Kaneohe – look for a very ornately decorated place! No longer owned by the family though) and swears by Longs Drugs slippers/flip flops. He bought at least four pairs while we were there in the summer.

Next time we’re there, we’ll be spending more time around what I think is North Shore – beaches and restaurants by the side of the road, fairly quiet in places.


Regarding food, I have found to be a good resource for finding out about Hawaii food places. He visits and reviews all sorts of places, down to the most local of the local holes in the wall. is right next to where my family’s restaurant (mentioned above by Natalie) was. I never ate a meal there but my aunts would take me there to get ice cream from the nice lady when I was a toddler.

Don’t eat anywhere in Waikiki. Natalie and I got lazy and tried a random Thai place there at the end of our trip, and ended paying way too much for way too little.

Megan b.

OMG folks — you guys are great!! Lots of fantastic suggestions. Yeah! I think I may never come back!


No! You must come back! I will miss your virtual cooking too much!

Megan B.

I don’t think I’d ever stop cooking, Sarah. It would just consist of WAY MORE exotic stuff than my usual repertoire.

And stay tuned guys — I think we may just have to do some posts about our trip — I have something exclusive and exciting up my sleeve!


I was in Oahu about 17 years ago, but the things I really enjoyed were going to beach on “the windward side” (east coast) and watching the wind surfing. Then driving up to the “north shore” (to watch the surfers) and stopping for a “plate lunch” at a little diner on the way. (I asked a local at the post office for a recommendation.) I agree with the snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. You can even wade into the water and see fish. Even though it is touristy, I loved the Dole Pineapple factory tour and the free pineapple they give you which is better than any you have had in your life! On our second trip to Hawaii, we went to Kauai, which I definitely prefer over Oahu.

off the beaten path, but a local friend took me to so’mace design when i was in honolulu, and i have a feeling you’d love it! authentically hawaiian art and design that isn’t cheap or cheesy :)

soooo jealous, by the way…the weather in the NW this year feels especially gloomy. enjoy that sunshine!


For the best ramen ever!

Goma Ichi Ramen
631 Keeaumoku St. – Honolulu

Mary T.

@Shopping, WONDERFUL stuff! Love this wallpaper!

Lori R.

I went in ’84 and I remember very distinctly that we discussed NOT coming back home. Not a “what if” but very close to not getting on the plane! Fav Oahu place was Haiku Gardens, a beautiful inland garden park where the locals use for weddings. When we went, there was nobody there! We actually stopped a local on the street and asked what he recommended. So if you’re brave, definitely ask the locals – where they eat, where they party…that’s the real Oahu. Have fun and please get back on the plane….;-)


A visit to Kailua on the east side is a must. Kailua and Lanikai beach have the Clearest aqua blue water with beautiful stretches of white sand. A kayak trip out to the Mokulua Islands (as long as it’s not too windy) about 3/4 of a mile out from Lanikai beach is a breathtaking adventure. On your way out, you have to stop at Island Snow. It’s the locals hangout, and they have the best shave ice on the island, and a cool apparel shop in it. If your timing is right, you may run into President Obama and his family there.

Mike Johnson

In Waikiki, look out for bedbugs. They’re everywhere, even restaurants. We were attacked by bedbugs at Lulu’s Surf Club in Waikiki. We didn’t even know they were bedbugs at the time: I knew how to ID blood spots on a mattress, and how their bites appear, but not what the infernal bugs actually look like. And these were bigger than 3/16″, which some sites say is how big they get.

Anyhow, we just thought they were nasty bugs. Three days later we were back home, and my wife was covered in the telltale rows of bites. Finally, I realized what happened at the restuarant. I called Lulu’s and the manager was incredibly blase about it: Oh yeah, they have bedbugs, lots and lots of bedbug, he said. They have an exterminator that comes once or twice a month to spray for them. Bedbugs are all over Waikiki, he told me, and if you watched the local news you’d know that.

I then called the hotel we had stayed out, and told them what happened. They freaked out. I feel bad, but at the same time, we went to Lulu’s on the recommendation of the concierge.

To make things worse, we had to assume we’d brought some bedbugs home with us. Some stuff got washed in nearly boiling water. Shoes went into the freezer for a few weeks. Other stuff we baked in the sun in black garbage bags. We bought bedbug proof bags to put over the mattresses and cleaned the house spic and span every day for weeks. Thanks, Lulu’s.

In conclusion: check your condo carefully for bugs or their marks, follow all the recommended precautions about keeping hitchhikers out of your luggage, and don’t eat at Lulu’s Surf Club.

shelterrific » Blog Archive » help! where do i eat in new orleans?

[…] Megan B. recently made us all jealous by heading to Hawaii for vacation and dipped into our readers’ expertise for some traveling suggestions. You guys were so fantastic that I thought I’d follow her lead. My husband and I are celebrating our first anniversary with a trip down to New Orleans at the end of January. It will be our first time in the Big Easy so we’re looking to hit up the best of the best. While I’ve been drooling over the thought of beignets at the […]