Honolulu Highlights

Waikiki, photo by K.Sark

“Aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.”

Breakfast / Brunch:

Pitaya bowlHeavenly – healthy, local breakfast and lunch café with a small patio (at the Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, 342 Seaside Ave., close to the Royal Hawaiian Center) Open 7am-12am.Try their Pitaya bowl with fresh fruit and granola! They also have great salads for lunch, try the kale quinoa salad and fresh juices! $12-25.

Orchids, photo by K.SarkOrchids – High-end brunch, lunch, and dinner restaurant (2199 Kalia Rd., on the beach front of the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki). Open for breakfast Mon-Sat. 7:30am – 11:00am, Sunday brunch 9am – 2:30pm, daily lunch 11am – 2pm, afternoon tea 3pm – 4:30pm, and dinner daily 5:30pm – 9:30pm. No beachwear and dress attire required in the evenings. Great water view of Waikiki beach! Fresh juices. Try the eggs benny! $25-55.

Island Vintage Coffee – Coffee shop, boutique, café (2201 Kalakaua Ave. second floor of the Royal Hawaiian Center) Open daily 6am- 11pm. Always busy. Great food and coffee! $10-20.

Hula Grill – Beach-front café (2335 Kalakaua Ave #203, second floor of the Outrigger Hotel in Waikiki) Less formal beach-front restaurant. Great for brunch! And they also have great fish tacos! Open daily 6:30am-10pm. Great view of Waikiki beach! $15-35.

Health Bar – Organic and fresh breakfast and lunch food (3045 Monsarrat Ave #5) Delicious smoothies, juices, breakfast bowls, sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Open daily 9am-8pm. Cash only! $10-20.

Eggs ‘n Things – most popular breakfast and brunch diner since 1974 (in three locations in Waikiki, including 2464 Kalakaua Ave., and there is a gift shop with great and yummi souvenirs at the 343 Saratoga Rd. location) – they are always busy and you may have to wait in line, but it’s worth it. Open daily, 6:00 am – 2:00 pm/4:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Try their fresh guava or pineapple juices and waffles! $15-20.

Eternity Bay, Oahu, photo by K.Sark


Pau Hana Market Waikiki – food truck park (234 Beach Walk, behind the Royal Hawaiian Center) Open daily 11am-10pm. Try the jumbo garlic shrimp at the shrimp truck! $10-15.

South Shore Grill – small, family-owned diner (3114 Monserat Ave. on the way to Diamond Head Crater) – Best fish tacos and burgers. Open 10:30am-9pm. and 12-9pm on Sundays. $10-15.

Baker and Butcher – bakery and deli (112- 1111 Bishop St., Downtown) – Open Mon-Fri. 6:30am – 3pm. Closed on the weekends. Try their Lilikoi bread (like banana bread, but better!) $5-15.

Pho Saigon – Great Vietnamese restaurant with authentic soups and stir fries (1538 Kapiolani Blvd) – Open daily 9am-11pm. Try their soups. $10-15.

Honolulu, photo K.Sark

Sunset Happy Hour:

Photo by K.SarkThe Edge of Waikiki – Infinity Pool and Beach Bar at the Sheraton Hotel (2255 Kalakaua Ave.) Open for drinks from 10am to 10pm daily (last call at 9:30pm)
and for food from 11:30am to 9pm daily. Live music, nightly 6:30-8:30pm. Great for drinks at sunset and happy hour. The infinity pool is a big tourist attraction and has a great view of Waikiki beach, Diamond Head Crater, and sunsets on the beach. Check out the Happy Hour Pal app for all happy hour locations near by if you prefer to bar-hop before or after dinner. $10-30.

IMG_20160214_163910Mai Tai Bar – Beach bar of the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel (2259 Kalakaua Ave.) one of the oldest hotels (built in 1927) on Waikiki beach. You can see it in the final scene of The Descendants (dir. Alexander Payne, 2011). The Mai Tai Bar is open daily 11am-11pm. The dress code is casual. also try their desserts, especially the “Baked Passion Fruit Cream” with caramelized mango and coconut sorbet. In the afternoon you can relax in the hotel courtyards and terraces in the wooden rocking chairs. $15-50.

House Without a Key – Beach lounge and resto (2199 Kalia Rd., Halekulani Hotel) Open daily 7am – 9pm. Immortalized in a 1925 Charlie Chan novel, and famous for their signature Mai Tai cocktail (recipes available to download). Nightly, distinctive Hawaiian music is paired with the graceful dancing of five former winners of Miss Hawaii.Experience Sunset Kiawe Grill gourmet grilling at its finest every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5pm – 8:30pm, overlooking world-famous Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.$20-65.

Honolulu, photo K.Sark


Barefoot Beach Cafe – lovely and delicious cafe in the Queen Kapiolani Park, between the zoo and the aquarium, on the beach (2699 Kalakaua Ave.). They have a fancy BBQ buffet every Friday and Saturday evening and a full menu of fresh fish, garlic shrimp, and other local delicacies. Open daily 7am-9pm. Try their world famous garlic shrimp plate and the fresh pineapple smoothy served in a pineapple! $10-20.

The Pig and the Lady – Modern Vietnamese and Asian fusion resto (83 North King St., Chinatown). Open for lunch 10:30-2pm, and for dinner 5:30-10pm, closed on Sundays. Best Asian resto I’ve been to! Their menu changes regularly, but everything is delicious, including the exotic sorbets for dessert! The waiting staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. They also have special cocktails. $25-55.

Greens and Vines – Raw Vegan cuisine (909 Kapiolani Blvd.) Open for lunch 11am-2pm, and dinner 5-9pm. Closed on Sundays. Try their vegan lasagna! $10-20.

Chef Chai – Asian fusion cuisine (1009 Kapiolani Blvd.) Open daily 4-11pm. Award-winning chef and delicious, healthy cuisine. $20-40.

Dagon – Burmese cuisine (2671 S King St.) Open daily except for Tuesdays. 11am-2pm for lunch and agin 5-10pm for dinner. Try their eggplant and tofu salad and their green tea leaf salad! $15-35.

Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar and Grill – Hawaiian-Vietnamese-Asian fusion (559 Kapahulu Ave.) Pupus are appetizers, and this place has a lot of very delicious ones to choose from. Everything is tasty! Open daily 5pm-1am. $20-40.

Town – Modern Italian cuisine (3435 Waialae Ave # 104) Open daily except Sundays, 11am-2:30pm for lunch and 5:30-9:30pm for dinner. Try their fresh fish dishes! $20-40.

Waikiki, photo K.Sark


IMG_20160210_222924Sarento’s Top of the Ilikai Hotel (1777 Ala Moana Blvd., across from the Marina, next to the Hilton Waikiki Village) Open daily 5:30-9:30pm. A glass elevator overlooking the marina takes you up to the top of the Ilikai Hotel. The lounge serves a limited food menu, while the restaurant has round booths facing the ocean and several luxurious private dining rooms for larger groups and celebrations. Great view for sunset! Try the shrimp cocktail. $30-60.

Honolulu, photo K.SarkTop of Waikiki and Sky Waikiki Bistro Patio – Rotating resto and roof patio (2270 Kalakaua Ave, across from the Royal Hawaiian Center). Open daily 5-9pm. The restaurant is famous for its award-winning Hawaii regional steak and seafood. Sky Waikiki rooftop bistro patio is open until 11pm. Great for cocktails and appetizers. Great view of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Waikiki. $20-60.

Honolulu, photo K.Sark


Honolulu, photo K.SarkSanuk – casual shoe store (2424 Kalakaua Ave. #113, across Waikiki beach) – best flip flops in the world, made out of soft yoga mats. Open daily 9am-11pm.

Bailey’s Antiques and Vintage Aloha Shirts (517 Kapahulu Ave.) – second-hand and vintage shop. Open daily 10am-6pm.Founded in 1980, Bailey’s has the world’s largest selection of aloha shirts (over 15,000). In addition Bailey’s has a wide selection of Americana and Hawaiiana antiques and collectibles. The antiques include lighters (Zippos and Hawaiian), Levi and Nike items, Hawaiian LPs, figurines, jewelry, sheet music, military items, toys, postcards, ephemera, etc.

Honolulu Cookie Company – cookie boutique (in the Royal Hawaiian Center, and many other locations). Delicious pineapple shaped cookies in all kinds of flavours. You can taste all their cookies in their stores. Great for gifts to bring back home – all sizes and custom packages available.

Swim Spot – swim wear boutique (Ala Moana Shopping Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd #3560) Great selection of bathing suits.

Hawaiian Style Bike Rentals – best bike, scooter, and motor bike rentals in Waikiki (2556 Lemon Rd.) Open daily 8:30am-5:30pm. They have bikes with baskets!


Things to see and do:

Zoo, photo by K.SarkBishop Museum (1525 Bernice St.) – Hawaiian history museum and special exhibitions, native Hawaiian gardens, planetarium and Science Center. Open daily 9am-5pm.Founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop (1822–1915), the co-founder of the First Hawaiian Bank and Kamehameha Schools, in memory of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831–1884). Great gift shop with many books on Hawaiian history, culture, cuisine, as well as local souvenirs. $23 for adults and $5 for parking.

Iolani Royal Palace – former royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii beginning with Kamehameha III under the Kamehameha Dynasty and ending with Queen Liliʻuokalani under the Kalākaua Dynasty, founded by her brother, King David Kalākaua.(364 S King St., Downtown) Open 9am-4pm, closed on Sundays. Guided tours are $21 for adults, while self-guided audio tours are $15. The Royal Hawaiian big band performs for free on the palace grounds every Friday at 1pm. 

Art Museum, photo by K.SarkHawai’i State Art Museum –  (250 S Hotel St. Downtown) open 10am-4pm, closed on Sundays and Mondays. First built as a hotel in 1872, under King Kamehameha V, it was then converted into a YMCA in 1917 and used by the military in World War I. In 1926 the termite-infested building was finally torn down, and a new one designed in Spanish mission style by Lincoln Rogers and opened in 1928. The two-story U-shaped building includes a swimming pool in its courtyard. Across Richards Street is the Hawaii State Capitol building. The Hawaiʻi State Art Museum is operated by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and is located on the second floor of the No. 1 Capitol District Building. The museum consists of three galleries. In addition to changing temporary exhibitions, there is a permanent display of Hawaiian art. It reflects a mix of Hawaii’s ethnic and cultural traditions through 132 works of art by 105 artists. In a wide variety of artistic styles, movements, and media, the exhibition illustrates the varied cultural influences that fuel the creativity of Hawaii’s artists. Admission is free at all times.

Honolulu Museum of Art and Doris Duke Theatre (900 S Beretania St., between Ward and Victoria Streets) Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4:30pm, and 1-5pm Sundays, closed on Mondays. Founded in 1922 by Anna Rice Cooke, it houses one of the largest single collections of Asian and Pan-Pacific art in the United States, and it officially opened on April 8, 1927. The Doris Duke Theatre at the Museum seats 280. It hosts movies, concerts, lectures, and presentations. The theatre is also home to Hawaii’s LGBT film festival the Rainbow Film Festival. The daughter of a wealthy tobacco tycoon, Doris Duke was able to fund a life of global travel and wide-ranging interests. These extended across journalism, competition surfing, jazz piano, wildlife conservation, and Oriental art.

Pearl Harbour – USS Arizona Memorial – The memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona during the Japanese surprise attack on 7 December 1941. The memorial, built in 1962, is visited by more than two million people annually. Accessible only by boat, it straddles the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it. Historical information about the attack, shuttle boats to and from the memorial, and general visitor services are available at the associated Visitor Center, which opened in 1980 and is operated by the National Park Service. The sunken remains of the battleship were declared a National Historic Landmark on 5 May 1989. Open daily 7am-4pm.

IMG_8424Hoku Hawaii Tours – Guided tours of Oahu in an airconditioned small bus with lunch, snack, and bottled water included. Best tour is the Pearl Harbour and Circle Island combo tour. Best driver and guide is Greg! Try the various flavours of macadamia nuts at the Macadamia Farm and pineapple ice cream and pineapple gummi bears at the Dole Pineapple Plantation.

Doris Duke’s Shangri-La Mansion –  Islamic-style mansion built by heiress Doris Duke near Diamond Head just outside Honolulu (4055 Papu Cir,). It is now owned and operated by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Open Wednesday to Saturday 9:30am-1:30pm.

Diamond Head Crater – best view of Waikiki from the top of the summit. The hike is 0.8 mile (1.3 km) long and 560 feet (171 m) high from the crater floor. The trail follows an uneven and steep terrain requiring caution and appropriate footwear. Portions of the trail involve steep stairways. Other portions of the trail go through a long tunnel which is lighted. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for a safe and leisurely round-trip hike. After exiting the tunnel, turn right and take the 99 steps into the Fire Control Station (built in 1911) up to the summit. To avoid congestion, take the loop trail along the rim and interior slope back to the tunnel.The trail was built in 1908 as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system. At the summit, you’ll see bunkers and a navigational lighthouse built in 1917. Open 6am to 6pm, but the last entrance to hike the trail is at 4:30pm. The gates are locked at 6pm daily.  $5 per car, or $1 per person for pedestrians and bikers. CASH ONLY.

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail – a great, low-key hike with amazing views  of the Koko Crater on one side, off-shore islands, and a great spot to watch whales! 1.5 miles round trip.

Honolulu Magazine – for more cultural events, concerts, exhibitions, film festivals and screenings, lectures, and much more, check out this great online resource for the city’s cultural life.


Best Beaches:

Makalei Beach Park – Hidden from the tourists, this little residential beach park is just at the foot of Diamond Head Crator, about a 15min walk from the Kapiolani Park (3111 Diamond Head Rd.) Very nice place for a picnic.

Photo by K.SarkKalaha Beach – best hidden beaches along Kahala Road, where Elvis’ Blue Hawaii (dir. Norman Taurog, 1961) was filmed. Hidden behind a row of residential houses and mansions, this stretch of beaches is very secluded and almost empty during the week. When the ocean is calm, the water is amazing. It is less pleasant on windy days when the waves are more powerful.

Kailua Beach – about 25min from Waikiki this azure beach is ideal for kayaking and paddle boarding (the Kailua Beach Adventures shop rents out everything and provides guided tours). Great for active and peaceful beach days!

Eternity Bay, Oahu, photo K.SarkEternity Bay – where From Here to Eternity (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1953) was filmed. Right next to the Halona blowhole. The best time to swim in this small cove is when the water is calm. However, don’t swim too far out because strong, dangerous currents are often times present and the water is very turbulent further out. Since there are no lifeguards stationed here, it is not recommended to get into the water if the surf is up. There are no facilities at Halona Beach Cove. Free parking is available at the Halona Blowhole lookout point.

Hanauma Bay – best beach for snorkeling and state park. The horseshoe-shaped bay was formed by a volcanic explosion. These days, a coral reef thrives close to shore in shallow waters, making it ideal for snorkeling with everything from tropical fish to green sea turtles.The bay is closed to the public every Tuesday, Christmas Day and New Years Day to allow the fish a day of feeding without interruption. You can drive out on your own it’s $1.00 to park, there are only 300 parking stalls. The parking lot fills up early, around 7:00 or 7:30 am, and guarded by security for your protection.You can rent snorkel gear at the bottom, beach level, for $20. There is also a shuttle that goes from Waikiki to Hanauma for $25. The Bay is not far from Koko Head Crater hiking trail (1,048 steep stairs). Even from a distance one can see the hiking trail that leads to its peak.

Sandy Beach – 8801 Kalanianaole Hwy – Public beach with large shore breaks offering strong waves for experienced bodysurfers.


Further afield:

Photo by K.SarkWaimea Beach – on the legendary North Shore, Waimea Bay was an influential surf spot during the dawn of big wave surfing in the 1950s. Adventurous surfers began to challenge the powerful winter waves of Waimea. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, known as the Super Bowl of Surfing, happens every year between November and December on Oahu.Waimea Bay is also home to the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surf competition. Honoring legendary Hawaiian waterman Eddie Aikau, this special contest only happens during massive swells when “The Bay calls the day.” This is where the cult film North Shore (dir. William Phelps, 1987) was filmed. Also check out the documentaries Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau (dir. Sam George, 2013), and The Endless Summer (dir. Bruce Brown, 1966). During the summer, the waves of Waimea actually subside making the waters suitable for swimming. A rock outcropping in the bay is a popular spot for locals to climb and jump off of, but this can be dangerous and is not advised. Nearby you can also explore Waimea Valley, a botanical garden and cultural attraction that is home to beautiful Waimea Falls. And after the beach, a trip to Haleiwa for a cool shave ice will hit the spot. There is a parking lot at Waimea Bay, but parking is limited since this is one of the more popular beaches on the North Shore.

photo by K.SarkSunset Beach – One of the famous beaches along the North Shore, known for big wave surfing during the winter season. The original Hawaiian name for this place is Paumalū. It was home to the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational surfing competition until 1985. The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in honor of Eddie Aikau started at Sunset Beach in 1984. Today Sunset Beach is home to the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which is part of the World Cup of Surfing. It also holds contests such as the Pipe Masters and a stop on the WSL Championship Tour. Like many beaches on the North Shore, Sunset Beach is considered dangerous for inexperienced surfers, due to extensive coral formations near the surface that present the risk of serious injury. Conditions for swimming change depending on the particular location and season. Generally speaking, the water is flat as a lake in the summers and has waves in the winters. All the surfing contests take place in the winter around December and January, that being the time of the largest and best waves for surfing.

Photo by K.SarkLa’ie Point Lookout  – along the North Shore of Oahu this look-out point has a rock island known by the locals as Puka Island, or the island with a hole. The hole in the middle of the island was created by the pounding waves of a tsunami in 1946. It is located along the Kamehameha Hwy, (HI-83W) just after the Polynesian Cultural Center ( 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, in the town of Laie). Great view!

Honolulu, photo K.Sark

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