At first, four days in Hawaii seemed crazy. 12 hours of flying and a 6-hour time change seemed silly to travel for only a long weekend trip. But after talking to several people, they assured me it was worth it. They were right!
We were going to the Island of Oahu (where Honolulu is) for the ARVO 2018 Ophthalmology Research conference. Jacob’s research in this field with Henry Ford Hospital had been selected to present. He was chosen to attend on behalf of the lab – so cool! Figured it was an amazing opportunity for him and I wanted to be there!
I have always wanted to go to Hawaii- as I am sure everyone does. It is truly paradise. It is so much more than a tropical island. There is such a good vibe there. The people are so incredible, the food is fresh and the energy is so vibrant. I honestly felt so relaxed and grateful to be in such a wonderful place. Hope you enjoy this blog guide to Oahu Island! Hopefully one day I can go back and explore the other islands.
- We were traveling from the mid-west so it took two flights to arrive at HNL airport. We flew through LA on the way there and Seattle on the way home. Both flights were around 5-6 hours so it was nice to break them up. I wish I could have spent a few days on the west coast while I was out there, but it didn’t work out this time! If you can take advantage of that, I would recommend it.
- Traveling to HNL was great because we left on Friday early afternoon EST time and arrive Friday evening Hawaii Time. This was totally idea for jetlag because we went to sleep as soon as we arrived in Hawaii and woke up there the next day. That made it easy to adjust to the time change. The next morning, I woke up at 5am and it was great because the day felt really long and full – I like that about a short trip.
THE ISLAND of OAHU
- OAHU is a great island to visit because it has so much variety. Honolulu is a great, big city. Reminds me a little of Miami and the Cali coast at the same time. There are a lot of hotels, resorts, condos, office buildings and stores. Shopping is incredible out there.
- WAIKIKI is the shoreside beach area where most of the hotels and shopping is. That is where we stayed. We stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki – it was a great because it was close to everything including the conference and associated events.
- Besides Honolulu, I would recommend going to the EAST SIDE, NORTH SHORE, and HALEIWA especially if you want to experience gorgeous hikes, small villages, and secluded beaches. A quick 20-30 minutes outside of Honolulu, you can experience the typical “Hawaii” landscape and vibe without the city hustle.
- If I had more time out there, I would have absolutely traveled to some of the other islands like Maui and The Big Island. Next time!
- Hawaii is the land of POKE, ACAI BOWLS, FRESH FRUIT, KONA COFFEE, and SPAM. Yes, SPAM (the canned meat) is a delicacy there. So beyond my understanding (not only because I don’t eat meat) because it is so not a fresh, quality thing to eat. I didn’t eat SPAM, but it was everywhere! Just something to know if you are going to travel there.
- I did a little bit of research (mainly on Instagram) about the best spots to go, but I didn’t make any reservations before I went. I wanted to go with the flow and make ourselves open to exploring. We actually didn’t go to any real formal restaurants. We stuck to small local spots like food trucks and coffee shops/ cafés. It can super touristy there, so it actually was a good move to go this route.
- Let’s start with ACAI. This acai bowls here are next level. Seriously SO fresh. Tastes like a dream! Now I know acai bowls are typically filled with sugar (natural, but still fructose is metabolized in the liver) so I wouldn’t recommend eating them every single day on a regular basis – but when you are on vacation and enjoying the freshest fruit ever – do not hesitate! ENJOY! My fave spots are below:
- Tropical Tribe – A little more into the city, but I LOVED it. It is a little hard to find since it is on the lower level of a building. They do not have coffee, so make sure to grab your coffee before you go.
- Aloha Coffee – This is a little food truck downtown Honolulu near our hotel.
- Island Vintage Coffee – There are a few locations. There was one near our hotel in Honolulu. It has a huge menu including salads and toasts too. This was my fave. We went here a few times. I love the green bowl because there is spirulina and kale in there. The line gets long, so get there early.
- Island Brew Coffee House – This is out on the east side near KOKO head park.
- Sunset Shack – Literally on the side of the road in Haleiwa area at Sunset beach. Cutest little outdoor seating and they even have bulletproof coffee.
- Crispy Grindz Food Truck – Haleiwa, North Shore (I got a lot of recommendations to go here! The base was amazing, but the granola didn’t taste fresh and the peanut butter tasted like Jiffy (not my style).
- Hawaii Crown Plantation – I didn’t get to go here, but it was on my list. I had heard amazing things!
- Banan– plant-based banana soft serve. INSANELY GOOD. We went like 3 times. The Diamond head location is the best – great thing to pick up before the famous Diamond Head Crater Hike. It was more like a snack/dessert, but they also have acai. Cannot reco this enough. They also have one of these in Waikiki by the beach. The MACNUT butter was beyond. Macadamia nuts are huge in Hawaii and they are SO FRESH. Make sure you grab some of those.
- POKE: If you are a sushi & fresh fish lover you are seriously going to be in heaven. I have never bit into a piece of fish that fresh. I can’t even describe it. Jacob was in heaven. He literally was obsessed the poke! Below are the 3 places we tried… but I am sure they are WAY more.
- KCC Farmers Market (Honolulu) – this is on the way to Diamond Head Crater Hike.
- Ahi Assassin (Honolulu)– This is literally the in what looks like a motel in a random place in Honolulu – but we read that it was the best in the city so we ventured out. The line was long and the actual spot was nothing more than a pickup counter the size of a bathroom. You know those places are always the best J It was insanely incredible. We went twice.
- Aji Limo Food Truck (Sharks Bay, North Shore) – Food trucks are where it is at here. This one was incredible. It was also in a tranquil little garden away from all the other food trucks in the park.
- COFFEE: Kona coffee is everywhere in Hawaii and it’s excellent.
- I loved Honolulu Coffee Co, Island Vintage Coffee Co, Aloha Coffee
- If you can swing it, it is an incredible experience to visit Green World Coffee Farm. It was seriously coffee heaven. I am not kidding – it was like an emporium of coffee souvenirs, retro merchandise, roasters and obviously a coffee shop. They feature a new blend every single day. The best part is that it is on a coffee farm aka like a coffee vineyard. Never smelt anything like it! This spot is on the to the North Shore area from Honolulu, so a great pit stop. It is also right near the Dole Plantation.
- Fresh shrimp is amazing in this area. Mainly in North Shore / Haleiwa area. I cannot remember the names of the food trucks, but they are honestly all incredible. Make sure to try the lemon butter shrimp or garlic shrimp. And if you are feeling adventurous – get spicy.
- SHAVED ICE:
- Someone of a Hawaii special. It is basically flavored ice but more than that. It is a great treat!
- Diamond Head Crater Trail
- Located just east of Honolulu – this is a must. It is not a challenging hike per se, but it is gorgeous and amazing food. It is up an old military site during the second world war. We actually walked there from Waikiki (about 1 hour) and was a great way to experience the area. It gets super busy, so go early!
- Koko Head Crater Trail
- Located 25 minutes from Honolulu on the east end of the island. This is a HARD HIKE. It is basically straight up vertical steps for at least 35 minutes (if you are in super good shape). Otherwise, it can take longer. I went by myself and it was so super fun! Such a good workout and the coastal views are BEYOND INCREDIBLE. Bring lots of water, wear proper shoes and snacks. It was so so rewarding and I would do it again in a second. Remember that the way down is even harder, literally was on hands and knees at one point.
- After this, I went to Sandy beach which had great food trucks, cold brew, and a lovely quiet beach.
- Three Peaks – we didn’t get to go but heard it is great
- There are so many amazing hikes! I love using alltrails app too!
- Diamond Head Crater Trail
- Dole Plantation- This was cool to see for a quick visit to see where tons of pineapples and bananas etc come from that we eat on a regular basis. It was super touristy, so we only went for like 25 minutes to see it. Also worth it to get the Dole Whip which is the pineapple soft serve!
- Pearl Harbor – we didn’t get to do this but would love to go see it one day.
- Hanauma Bay – Apparently this is an amazing spot to snorkel and spend time at the beach. We didn’t have time to go here, but next time we for sure would.
- Sunsets – Never miss the sunset. They are so special and grounding. Sunrise and sunset are my favorite time of the day. It is so amazing to pause and watch the sun go down. No matter where you are on the island, you can find a spot to catch the sunset.
That is it for now! Thanks for reading.