From Hawaii with Love – best sights and restaurants in Honolulu
The end of last year caught us off guard and with about 2 weeks before Christmas we were panicking about not having any plans. Fortunately, after some serious detective work on the internet, we managed to find some available flights and a hotel room in Hawaii for the holidays.
Thinking back now, I guess this was meant to be because I ended up falling in love with Hawaii, and I know I’m saying this in most of my travel diaries but here I go again… I loved it, I wanna live there…
Hawaii has a special charm to it and I couldn’t help but wonder about a much simpler life. I love big cities, the sound of the honking cars and the ambulances at night are just background noises for me. I don’t enjoy silence much and I plan to live my whole life in the middle of the action…but places like this have the power to make you question what exactly are you chasing.
For this reason, Hawaii is a great place to disconnect, to rethink, to enjoy yourself, to meditate and to recharge. If you are not about that life, I promise you will find activities to enjoy, so let me tell you about the best places, activities, and restaurants I discovered during my time here.
Molokai and Lanai – a very ecologically sound destination, perfect for silence and meditation due to the fact that there are not so many tourists.
Big Island – is known for its sandy beaches, waterfalls, and Kilauea – one of the most active volcanoes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, so great for those who are seeking adventure and an active kind of vacation.
Kauai – known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and popular for the coastal trail along the Northside.
Maui – here you’ll find the best beaches in the world and is the second-largest island. Amazing for whale watching, snorkeling, and diving.
Oahu – the capital of the state of Hawaii, the most popular island and very rich in different cultures. Oahu pretty much has it all: fun activities, great beaches, natural resorts and of course the Perl Harbor Museum.
We visited Honolulu (Oahu Island) which really has it all. There are huge shopping places, the famous Waikiki Beach and insanely beautiful natural parks. Keep in mind that the only available way of traveling from an island to another is by airplane.
WHERE TO STAY?
Alohilani Resort was our choice for this destination. We decided to go with the Diamond Head Ocean View Room since the view was offering both greenery and the Pacific. The Hotel is absolutely beautiful, the staff friendly and the beds comfortable. The only downside to this was the breakfast (unfortunately pretty bad coffee and quite boring food), but thankfully Morimoto, the Asian restaurant in the hotel made us feel much better.
The hotel offers a pool with private cabanas, a few restaurants, working places, a concierge, shops and a gym. The entrance is spectacular and on the left side, you will find a bar that features a huge aquarium.
WHAT TO DO?
Leahi – Diamond Head Crater
A lot of travelers recommended us to start our trip with a hike to Leahi – Diamond Head Crater early in the morning, on a clear day before it gets too hot. Leahi is an iconic state monument with a panoramic view of Honolulu. It is a little bit of a challenge to get there: includes two sets of stairs, totaling 175 steps, as well as dark, underground tunnels and old military bunkers that require a flashlight, but the effort is well awarded – you get to see the stunning and unforgettable view plus is a beautiful spot for taking pictures.
After an amazing hike, we needed a break so our evening was dedicated to the Rock-a-Hula Show where we met Elvis, Michael Jackson and had a great time. A tip if you choose to go see the show is to skip the fancy dinner they offer and just enjoy the show because the food is not the greatest.
Doris Duke’s Shangri-La
Another must-see place is Doris Duke’s Shangri-La – an Islamic style mansion where you will get to see some interesting architecture. The place is filled with marble and precious stone-inlays, mirrored columns centered by a fountain, and an enormous Iranian tile mosaic. You’ll also find a Syrian interior from the 19th century that is exquisitely hand-painted and lifted from the home of an aristocratic family in Damascus.
Polynesian Cultural Center
After a little treat, make sure to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. Most tourists go there for an evening show, but I recommend coming during day time to visit villages set up that reflect the culture and traditions of various Polynesian nations: Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Aotearoa, Marquesas, and of course Hawaii. A very interesting and educational experience.
Another wonder of Hawaii is Laniakea Beach often referred to as the Turtle Beach. The main attraction is the green sea turtles who often come out on the beach to get a tan. The best time to see the turtles is in the morning and afternoon but please don’t pick them up and stress them, they are wild animals and don’t like to be disturbed.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
If you want to take a break from the heat, take a drive to Ho’omaluhia which is a 400 acres tropical rainforest garden where you can enjoy fresh air, amazing nature and lots of walking trails.
Paradise Cove Beach
After a long walk in the Botanical Garden of Oahu, we headed to the beach where we climbed on the rocks, watched the surfers and enjoyed the sunset.
WHERE TO EAT?
One thing is for sure: the food in Oahu is always fresh and pineapple never tasted better. Here are some of the best restaurants we discovered:
Orchids at Halekulani Hotel
This is by far one of the best culinary experiences I have ever had. We had a buffet breakfast here where there was a man playing piano behind us and in front, we could see the ocean. The food was absolutely amazing. It is quite pricey but so, so worth it!
Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill
Without a doubt, one of the best fish restaurants in Hawaii and it comes with a great story. The staff is very friendly and the environment super casual. They have a variety of dishes but the fish (any fish/seafood) is absolutely fresh and delicious.
Hard Rock Café Oahu
Weird I know, but as I mentioned earlier you will not taste fresher produce than in Hawaii. I had the most amazing Twisted Mac & Cheese at Hard Rock Café and I’m quite the expert on this particular dish (because I ate it everywhere I traveled).
Banzai Sushi Bar
Not your average sushi place for sure. Banzai has a great ambiance, great staff, and delicious meals.
Located in Alohilani Resort, Morimoto is named after the famous Japanese Chef Masaharu Morimoto and every single dish will only leave you wanting more. Keep in mind that this is quite a popular restaurant in Oahu and you might have to stay in line a bit before getting seated.
The rest of our vacation in Oahu was spent in the sun, on the beach, by the pool or simply strolling around the streets. There are many other sights available but these were the ones I enjoyed the most.
I hope you liked this chapter of my travel diary and ‘till next time, stay brave & confident!