This article was written and produced in partnership with Allianz Global Assistance. All opinions expressed within are my own.
I’ve been fortunate to visit Oahu more times than I can count. I used to travel there often on business when I worked as a college recruiter. I’ve even flown there just for dinner one night when I was dating a flight attendant. And these days, Oahu has become a holiday tradition. After celebrating Christmas (either in Toronto or Los Angeles), my family and I usually hop on a plane to Honolulu to welcome the new year. RELATED: 7 Great Restaurants Where Locals Eat in Honolulu
Because I’ve been so lucky to visit Honolulu so many times, I have a list of things I love to do and places I love to stay while I’m there. Here’s a list of my favorite things to do and eat and where to stay in Honolulu:
Where to eat in Honolulu
First things first: Good grub! There are lots of things I love to nosh on when I’m in Oahu so let’s start with breakfast. My favorite breakfast place on the island is Bogart’s. They make amazing acai bowls, which is what I always get. But they also have an extensive breakfast menu including Hawaiian-inspired dishes like taro pancakes and waffles with haupia sauce. TIP: Check out these five places to get acai bowls, recommended by locals.
For lunch, try Goma Tei. It’s in the Ala Moana Center, so it’s not the best location and doesn’t offer views of any kind. But this Japanese place is always busy and serves up delicious ramen noodle bowls.
For dinner, we always make sure we visit Duke’s (named after surfer Duke Kahanamoku) at least once on any visit. This beachfront restaurant is a Waikiki institution. The food is great (you can order off the menu or hit the buffet) but the real draw is incredible views of the beach and ocean. Don’t leave without trying Duke’s signature Hula Pie for dessert. It’s made with macadamia nut ice cream on a chocolate cookie crust and topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and more macadamia nuts. If you skip dessert at the restaurant, then look for someplace to get shave ice, a Hawaii must! Here’s a guide to finding the best shave ice in Hawaii.
What to do in Honolulu
You can’t beat Waikiki Beach for sun, sand and surf. It’s almost always packed and there’s lots to do, from taking a catamaran or outrigger ride to surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. And if you’d rather just lie on the beach and relax, it’s one of the great spots in Hawaii to do that. On a clear day, the view of Diamond Head is spectacular.
Speaking of which, hiking to the top of Diamond Head is another one of my favorite things to do in Oahu. My wife and I like to get up early and get to the top for sunrise. The walk all the way up is about 20 minutes if you don’t stop and the sweeping views from the top are an incredible reward for your hard work! This is how I love to spend a morning in Waikiki.
Another must-do? Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. It represents such a pivotal moment in US history and you can’t help but feel the importance and significance of it when you visit. The memorial was built in 1962 and was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis and honors the crew of the USS Arizona as well as the others (service men and women and civilians) who were killed in the attack.
The Honolulu Zoo is an easy walk from many of the hotels in Honolulu and is a great place to visit, even if you don’t have kids. It’s situated on 42 acres inside Queen Kapiolani Park and is home to many indigenous Hawaii species. Our son loved seeing the roseate spoonbills, which he’d learned about in an episode of Curious George and the monkeys were a huge hit with our daughter. Learn more about the Honolulu Zoo here and plan your visit.
RELATED: 5 Best Hotels to Stay at in Hawaii
Where to stay in Honolulu
The beaches in Honolulu are lined with hotels to choose from but after visiting so many times, I’ve definitely got my favorites.
Now that we’ve got kids, one of our favorite places to stay is Hilton Hawaiian Village. With easy access to both the beach and the shallow Duke Kahanamoku lagoon, where my kids love to play all day long, this hotel makes things easy for families. In addition, the newly-renovated family rooms in the Tapa Tower are extremely spacious, making them a huge incentive to book a stay there. Check out our 10 reasons to stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village here.
The two oldest hotels in Honolulu are the Moana Surfrider, known as the First Lady of Waikiki and the Royal Hawaiian. Both are beautiful beachfront properties. The Moana Surfrider was the first hotel to open in Waikiki in 1901. Today, it’s still one of the most glamorous properties on the island, known for its porte cochere at the front entrance and balcony lined with wooden rocking chairs. The historic banyan tree is the star of the courtyard and the rooms combine the hotel’s original Victorian charms with modern amenities.
Next door is the Royal Hawaiian, which opened in 1927. It’s called the Pink Palace of the Pacific and walking along Waikiki Beach, you can’t miss this standout property, thanks to its pretty pink hue. From the history and the location to the gardens and the views, the Royal Hawaiian is one of my favorite Honolulu hotels. Here are 9 things to love about the Royal Hawaiian.
Another favorite Honolulu hotel is the Sheraton Waikiki. It’s a sprawling resort and with over 1,600 rooms, it’s the second largest hotel on the island. It’s always swarming with people so this isn’t exactly a quiet getaway but it’s great for families. They offer an on-site day care center for children under 12, a children’s pool and lots of great family-friendly dining options. But one of my favorite things about this hotel is the view from the Leahi Lounge, located on the hotel’s 30th floor. The views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach from up there are breathtaking and this might be the best place on the island to get this view!
The Ritz-Carlton Waikiki is another great luxury Honolulu hotel. It’s just off the busy stretch of Waikiki Beach and it’s not oceanfront but it’s just a short, 8-minute walk to the beach. The room interiors are calming and modern with hardwood floors and marble bathrooms. Best of all, since these are residence-style rooms, they’ve got kitchens stocked with dishware and in-room laundry, both of which are enormously helpful when you’re traveling with kids. MORE: 16 reasons to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki
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