To say we were pleasantly surprised with Oahu would be an understatement. Perhaps it was that everyone discouraged us from going there or that we expected it to be entirely a city but regardless we absolutely loved it & highly recommend visiting yourself if you get the chance. While known for Honolulu, there is so much more to the island to explore: beaches, adorable towns, waterfalls, hikes – the list, below, goes on & on. Honolulu itself is incredible for high-end shopping & hotels (we recommend staying in that part of town as the hotels are wonderful!), but it’s the North Shore & other hidden gems that made us completely fall in love with the island.
WHERE TO EAT:
Waiola Shave Ice: Easily my favorite shaved ice place in all of Oahu, make sure you order the cherry flavor with their toppings of chocolate drizzle, condensed milk & melted ice cream (sounds weird but it’s HEAVENLY!). Note: it’s cash only.
Waialua Bakery: Located on the North Shore of Oahu, this bakery is a perfect lunch spot as it has the most delicious sandwiches. They’re HUGE so come hungry. You’ll likely want to walk around after lunch as it’s situated on the cutest street of shops, restaurants, & views of the ocean. Definitely worth spending a few hours here to explore what feels like a true Hawaiian town. Note: it’s cash only.
Leonard’s Bakery: This place came highly recommended & it lived up to the hype. They sell hot malasadas which are basically sugary, warm donuts. We loved the plain & cinnamon flavors though you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. They come in a cute pink box if you buy 6 or more & take credit card.
Sunrise Shack: We were in Oahu for 3 days & ate at Sunrise Shack every single day. It’s that good. Their location in Honolulu has the most delicious sandwiches ever. Their turkey caesar avo wrap & vegan vibes sandwich were our absolute favorite & we highly recommend you try both! They also have the most incredible banana bread (from Totally Baked Goodies) at both locations. Their location on the North Shore unfortunately doesn’t offer sandwiches but it has delicious açaí bowls, smoothies, more of that banana bread & is the cutest location ever. It’s a bright yellow shack on the side of the road in front of stunning gardens & mountains. Their Honolulu location, while has better food options, is located inside a hotel & mall.
Ted’s Bakery: Another place that came highly recommended was Ted’s. We weren’t crazy about their plate breakfasts (a little flavorless to be totally honest), they had to make the list purely for their Chocolate Haupia Pie which is to die for. Located just a few minutes from Sunrise Shack, we recommend grabbing this pie to go & eating it on the beach or on the way to your next destination.
Matsumoto Shave Ice: Shaved ice is everywhere on the island & this was another one of our favorite spots. Fun fact: apparently they filmed a scene in 50 First Dates here! Expect a line that’s worth the wait for their shaved ice on top of ice cream.
WHERE TO RELAX:
Banzai Pipeline Beach: In the wintertime, this beach is filled with some of the most talented surfers in the world. Unfortunately while we were there in May, the waves were too small so there were no surfers out but the beach itself is absolutely beautiful & a great place to relax on the North Shore.
Beach With Swing: On the 83 highway, which has a million beaches you can pull off at, is the cutest little beach with a swing hanging from a tree branch that is totally usable! It’s super fun & obviously makes for a great ‘gram. Unfortunately there is no exact address for this place but if you type in “Shrimp Shack” on your GPS (located at 53-356 Kam Hwy) you’ll find it just a short drive down from there. According to our photos taken there, our phones said the address is: 53-391 Kamehameha Hwy in Punaluu.
WHERE TO EXPLORE:
Makapu’u Tide Pools: Like most adventures in Oahu, they are technically off limits with signs saying “do not enter”, some even illegal to enter. This was the case with the Makapu’u Tide Pools & while it was extremely dangerous to get to (you’re literally scaling a mountain, rock climbing down to them & then back up), they were absolutely stunning & so much fun. Located right on the ocean, these tide pools are huge & filled with fish, sea urchin & more incredible sea life. As always, enter at your own risk but if you do go, make sure to pack lightly, wear lots of sunscreen, wear shoes with great traction & be very, very careful!
Hanauama Bay: We had the absolute best time snorkeling at this spot. The water is crystal clear, it wasn’t too crowded (more on that later), & you could see SO many different types of fish in all sizes (they’re harmless & such incredible colors!). We recommend getting there super early as it opens at 7am & the line starts to form right away. We got there at 6:15am & enjoyed the beach for about 15 minutes before getting in line so we could be one of the first few people in the ocean. By 8am, tour groups start arriving making it super crowded. Plus, if you arrive before 7am, it’s free to enter! Otherwise, expect to pay an entrance fee on top of your equipment fee. You have the chance to buy all snorkel gear here, including a brand new mouthpiece (best $4 ever spent 😂).
Lulumahu Falls: Another “closed” area, this hike is relatively easy though long & a bit confusing as there are no signs on where to go. You’ll have to walk through a giant hole in a fence to enter & take the bamboo path straight back to enter the forest. From there, veer left, cross the small open field (not the large one which is blocked off), & enter the muddy, rocky patch to get to the waterfall (you’ll have to zigzag along the stream to get to the falls). You can follow pink & red ribbons on some trees to help you figure out which direction to go in. If you go early in the morning, you’ll need to rely on those ribbons to figure out where to go. If you go from about 12pm-3pm, there will likely be lots of other groups going that you can follow to figure out how to get there. Note: it’s super muddy & can get a little slippery at times due to the streams so wear shoes you don’t care much about & that have great traction!
Town of Haleiwa: This charming little town is filled with tons of great restaurants, shops, & of course, shaved ice. Located just steps from the water, you can easily walk the block from one end to the other & go a few steps further to explore the ocean & beautiful beaches. It’s a picturesque town filled with colorful buildings & make us feel like we were living like locals while exploring the town. Make sure you pop into North Shore Goodies for the absolute best coconut peanut butter ever!
WHERE TO STAY:
The Laylow, An Autograph Collection: If you’re like us, we’d rather spend our money on experiences & exploring Hawaii, rather than the hotel. We cannot recommend The Laylow for your time in Oahu enough. It’s adorably designed with pink palm leaf wallpaper, has the friendliest staff, & while located in downtown Honolulu, their pool is incredibly relaxing & feels like a Hawaiian oasis.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
Rental Car: We rented a car through Alamo & it could not have been a better experience. It was about $75/day for a mid-sized SUV & it was SO worth it. The island is very spread out & if you want to explore various areas or go on different adventures, a car is necessary. The island itself is easy to navigate as there are just a few major roads/highways.
PIN FOR LATER: