My good friend is Hawaiian and I’m ashamed at how long it took me to visit her in Honolulu (especially when that means I have a free place to stay on Oahu) but this past January after 20 [mumbles incoherently] something years of cold Canadian birthdays I wanted to celebrate somewhere warm and sandy. Between online travel research, major Instagram creeping and the guidance of my friend I was able to discover some pretty fabulous places.
1. Get Malasadas
Go to Leonard’s Bakery, get them every day. Let me clarify, get a dozen every day. I didn’t know these existed before January and I don’t know how I lived without them.
For those of you who don’t know, Malasadas are similar to a doughnut. They are best fresh and warm so yes, you will have to wait in line. This place is very popular (due to how amazing they are) but waiting for 15-20 minutes is nothing compared to how they will change your life.
2. Snorkel at Hanauma bay
I’ve never snorkeled before and Hanauma Bay is the perfect place for first timers. It’s a beautiful 30-minute drive from Waikiki (bonus: there are shuttles that can take you out there) and you can easily rent all the snorkel gear you need. There is a fee since it’s a state park but it’s minimal. The beach is so beautifully pristine and the park has all the amenities you need (including a tram if walking uphill is too much for you).
I really sucked at snorkeling but saw some beautiful fish and it definitely made me want to keep practicing—though how I’ll do that in New York remains to be seen.
3. Lanikai beach
From Honolulu, take the HI-61 for a pretty drive (40 minutes) to Kailua. Once we pulled into town (and after I stopped at a Target for some affordable Kona Coffee) I immediately regretted not allotting more time there. Kailua has adorable cafes, shops, quaint beachfront parks and the beach itself is so stunning, better than Waikiki I will argue.
4. SALT At Our Kakaako
There is more to Honolulu than just beaches and I really wanted to discover what else the city had to offer. After Instagram creeping some local Hawaiians (that’s not weird right?) I discovered SALT: a trendy area of local shops, restaurants, events and super cool murals.
I mean hello, this place was made for Instagram.
5. Stay at The Surfjack & Explore Waikiki
My boyfriend and I decided to stay at a hotel for part of the time (as to not burden my friend too much) and it was a tough choice between classic hotels like the Royal Hawaiian or the newer and cooler Surfjack. I’d stayed at the Royal Hawaiian before and it was dreamy, but the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club was cheaper for more space. I hate making decisions but let me tell you, this place was amazing, believe the hype. Designed in the spirit of vintage Honolulu, this hotel pays homage to classic surf culture while utilizing local artisans, graphic designers, etc to furnish and decorate the hotel.
The staff was so helpful and kind, and the room was incredible. We had a giant balcony where we drank coffee and tea every morning, it was centrally located in Waikiki, walkable to everything, including the beach. The hotel also puts on some cool events like morning yoga, evening movies and concerts (we randomly saw Jack Johnson while we stayed there).
The nice thing about Waikiki is that even if you’re not staying at a certain hotel it’s easy to explore it. On my birthday we had afternoon Tea at the Moana Surfrider which was delectable and made me feel very fancy.
We also strolled around the Pink Palace aka. The Royal Hawaiian, as they have numerous shops, a beautiful courtyard, and the dreamiest pink cake.
6. Check out a local boutique
Most people who’ve never been to Honolulu before (including my boyfriend) are shocked at how many chain stores are there. Most people picture deserted beaches and lush greenery and certainly not a 3 story H&M. I think it’s important that if you want to go shopping while on vacation you visit and support local Hawaiian shops.
Some of my favourites are:
What are some of your favourite places around Honolulu? Or where are you dying to go? Share in the comments 🙂