In case you’ve missed my obnoxious pictures on Instagram, I flew out to Oahu a couple weeks ago and spent 9 days in a tropical paradise — my first visit to Hawaii! This trip was extra special because I was visiting Michael, who was there already.
I can’t wait to tell you guys all about it: the food, the places, the beaches, the drinks….everything. & all from a first-timer’s perspective. Before I even arrived in Hawaii I had FOMO that I’d miss out on a must-see beach or something. So, I’m going to break down the coolish things we did for all of you that are planning a visit to Oahu. As always, feel free to pin this post for later — just hover over an image and click the “pin” button.
I’ve been back in California for a week since my Hawaii getaway but honestly, it feels like it was MONTHS away already. As soon as I landed back in San Diego, real life caught up real quick. I realized my driver’s license was two months expired (whoops), had a little ant invasion in my house while I was away (ew), and Shadow poked her eye kinda bad getting into the Jeep (a vet visit was in order).
Also, no one drives with aloha here. But for now I’m going to reminisce for just a sec.
We stayed on Waikiki Beach, which is like the resort row for Oahu. It’s VERY crowded, overpriced, and touristy. Even with all the cliche tourist things, it was fun being in the center of it all. At night we could walk to a ton of different restaurants and bars. The ocean was just feet away. And Waikiki Beach is SO swimmable. Some of it even has a wave break, so you’re essentially in a salt water pool with a sand bottom.
On the day I arrived in Hawaii, Michael and I had to make an emergency run to TJ Maxx because I didn’t pack a single swimsuit. For a Hawaiian vacation????? seriously could not believe I forgot that.
After dealing with the swimsuit crisis, we began exploring.
It didn’t take long to familiarize ourself with the island — after all, it’s really not that big. Most of our days looked like this: wake up. lather ourselves in sunscreen for 2o minutes before running out the door. get brunch somewhere. find a beach. try not to get sunburnt. get more food in said beach town. come home. go out on the waikiki strip for dinner.
One of the highlights of our trip was a HELICOPTER RIDE we did! AH! I’ll be dedicating an entire blog post on this and will fill you guys in then.
We were there for the 4th of July holiday AND it was also during RIMPAC — a massive international maritime warfare exercise involving 26 countries and 20,000 people. Needless to say, things were CROWDED. If you can help it, I’d recommend you avoid visiting during this time.
Ho’omaluhia Biological Park: if you’re craving some lush greenery + jungle vibes, this is the place to go. It’s a free park that you can drive through. There are also lots of opportunities to park your car and walk around. Chances are, you’ve seen the now-iconic Oahu photo of people standing in the road lined with palm trees and mountains in the distance — this is where people take it at.
North Shore: not to be cliche but, loved North Shore soooo much! We went back there again and again. It’s SO laid back and has such a great feel to it. There are lots of little shops, restaurants, and food trucks. LOVE a good food truck.
Dole Movie Theatre: I feel kinda bad saying we went and saw a movie while in Hawaii…but we did. One day we were so burnt out from being on the beach all day that we just wanted to chill at night! So, we headed to the movies and saw the new Jurassic Park — it worked out perfectly because we were essentially in Jurassic Park
Waikiki Strip: We ate a lot of meals in the busy hubub of Waikiki! Waikiki is the place to be if you want to see and be seen. There are cute hole-in-the-wall diners and also boujee restaurants. There’s also lots of good nightlife and fun bars.
Leonard’s Bakery | Waikiki: oh my gosh, GO TO LEONARD’S and get the malasadas! I am craving one right now so bad. They are pretty hearty and Leonard’s serves them hot. We walked into Leonard’s totally starving and ordered 18 (yes, 18) just for the two of us. What were we thinking?? No regrets, tho.
Lulu’s Waikiki | Waikiki: convenient food choice in Waikiki with oceanfront views. Loved: the pina coladas + nachos.
Maui Brewing Company | Waikiki: loved this place so much we went there twice. Their cocktails are amazing — not too sweet (can’t stand super sweet cocktails). Order the nachos & thank me later!!
Cheeseburger’s in Paradise | Waikiki: Supposedly some of the best mai tai’s in Waikiki?? Burgers were amazing, obvi.
Round Table Pizza | Waikiki: SO underrated! Not to be dramatic but this was the best veggie pizza I’ve ever had in my life (make sure you get the gourmet veggie).
Mai Tai Bar | Waikiki: an ideal up-scale Hawaiian bar situation. Beachfront mai-tais with an ocean view? Yes please. Although…I got a pina colada here.
Morimoto Asia | Waikiki: boujee restaurant on the Waikiki strip. Yummy cocktails but overrated IMO. The waiter was so hoity toity I honestly felt judged when I ordered the orange chicken LOL. Do not recommend.
Cafe Haleiwa | North Shore: super cute cafe in Haleiwa (north shore). Just an FYI, it’s very casual and lowkey! But that’s the vibe of North Shore. LOVED the veggie omlet with delicious fresh veggies.
Haleiwa Bowls | North Shore: this was the most magical, ideal, delicious, and aesthetically pleasing acaii bowl spot.
Surf n’ Salsa | North Shore: a super cute + DELICIOUS food truck in North Shore. They have outdoor seating around back and had live music while we ate. Loved it so much.
Killer Tacos | North Shore: SO BAD, AVOID. It’s like bulk meat they made at 7am and then just microwaved it throughout the day.
Moke’s Bread & Breakfast | Kailua Area: a solid breakfast choice in the Kailua area. Super friendly + delicious coffee + yummy veggies.
Waikiki Beach: convenient, beautiful, and crowded. If you’re staying in Waikiki then you can’t beat the convenience! The water is beautiful and the wave break is nice if you aren’t big into ocean swimming. Literally no parking so not worth it if you aren’t staying in Waikiki.
Lanikai Beach: SUPER hyped up beach. Lanikai Beach is repeatedly included on “best beaches in the world” lists. The only catch is it’s residential parking. We looked for an hour and a half and could not find a single parking spot.
Waimanalo Bay: Right next to Lanikai Beach (so a great back up plan!). Tons of parking. Tons of space. The only catch is the water isn’t as calm. But it’s still beautiful.
Kailua Beach: FAVORITE BEACH. Aqua water. Super flat ocean bottom. Calm waves. Like something truly out of a dream. We had an 8-hour beach day here. There is a parking + street parking (but it goes fast). There’s a cute little market you can walk to for sandwiches and snacks.
Hickam AFB Beach: military ID holders only. Gorgeous aqua water! Quiet, easy parking. Not a ton of shoreline but it didn’t feel crowded at all. Loved this beach.
Haleiwa Alli Beach: a fun beach in Northshore. Not the prettiest water but it’s a chill North Shore beach. We actually went here twice! There was something about it we just really liked. Super easy parking.
Chun’s Reef: Quiet off the side of the road beach in North Shore. Supposedly people see sea turtles here! Really chill and not that populated (when we were there, at least). There were some rocks in the water so we didn’t feel like swimming in it.
Halona Blowhole: wasn’t sure to include this because it’s not a huge beach area! It’s a must-do scenic overlook. Once you get past the “danger do not enter signs” there’s a little trail that takes you down to a cove. There is a little swimming area but the waves looked really intense. Wouldn’t recommend swimming here unless you’re really experienced.
I read a few articles/blogs advising people not to stay in Waikiki, but I actually loved staying in Waikiki. I think the key is exploring the island during the day and going out in Waikiki at night. Personally, I love being where the action is and Waikiki is exactly that.
Highly recommend getting a rental car! Honestly, you won’t really get to experience Oahu without a rental car. I know rental cars can be crazyyyy expensive in Hawaii so you could always rent one for just half of your vacation and plan day trips then.
Like I said earlier, if you can help it I’d avoid visiting over a holiday weekend/major holiday like 4th of July. All of the popular spots/beaches were SO busy.
Okay guys I think that’s it! If you have any questions just LMK. I’m always available via email or Instagram DMs.