If you were following along on our instagram in February, you may have noticed an influx of tropical hues, sundresses, and beach photos coming through the gram. That’s because (lucky us!) we spent 10 amazing days in Oahu, Hawaii, soaking up the sunshine, hiking, exploring and swimming all over the island, and trying as many local eats as possible. While we would have happily stayed forever, we’re back to work in Toronto, and I’ve finally put together a Oahu guide for anyone planning a trip to the island.
It’s a pretty long journey from Toronto to Oahu, so we wanted to make the distance worth it, but even 10 days away felt much too short! Randy and I were joined by my sister Jodi, and her husband Zach for the whole trip. We checked off a lot of things on our list, but there were so much more we would have liked to do. I included a bunch of our top faves, plus a few extras that we won’t miss next time.
TO DO & SEE
Crouching Lion Hike
This is a short hike with amazing views of Kahana Bay and the east side of the island. Bonus points if you can spot the lion head shape in the cliff side! We started our day with this hike and then spent the rest of the day at Kokololio Beach. It was the first hike we did on the trip, and after seeing the amazing views it encouraged us to try more hiking spots on the island.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
This is a pretty quick and easy hike with an amazing view on the west side on the island and the Na Mokulua or “mokes” Islands. The entrance to the trail is in the Lanikai neighbourhood near a golf course.
This was the toughest hike we did of the bunch, It took about 1:20 min to get the the top of the first of 3 peaks. There are some steep parts, and some seriously nerve-wracking areas especially when you are nearing the top, but it’s totally doable and totally worth it. We heard that peak 2 isn’t worth the hike and peak 3 is downright scary (think narrow path with cliffs dropping off on both sides, gulp!) so, yeah, we opted out of those. Peak 1 was more than enough, the view at the top is AMAZING! I’d do this hike again if I ever get the chance to go back. Take LOTS of water with you!
Paddle boarding and Surfing on Waikiki Beach
Waikiki beach is beautiful, but also super busy and right downtown Honolulu. We didn’t spend a lot of time here other than to do paddle boarding and surfing. The waves are much smaller and manageable for beginners, and we saw lots of sea turtles while we were out on the water (they swan right beside us!). Another plus was the board rentals were much cheaper here, about $25 per board.
Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay
This is rumoured to be one of the best snorkelling spots in the world. The parking lot fills up by 7am, so you’ll have to get there early before the crowds. But there are early-bird perks: You’ll get a short intro from the park ranger instead of having to wait in line to watch the information video, and get in the water earlier before the water gets cloudy from the sand being turned up from all the swimmers. And the early morning is worth it, I promise! We saw SO MUCH. It was amazing.
Sunset Beach on the North Shore
A great spot to, ahem, watch the sunset, but also see professional surfers catching some huge waves off shore. There’s a food stand across the street that makes Pina coladas with fresh coconut milk and pineapple that they picked that morning (it was a dream!).
We really wanted to go here, because it’s legit stunning (see @garrypeppergirl’s insta) but it turns out it’s just not the easiest to get to. You either have to drive for an hour and a half (from where we were) or drive for 30 min and then hike for 45 min. The day we had planned to do it was also the day that we were switching to a hotel on the other side of the island and had an hour long drive ahead of us. Sooooo it just wasn’t in the cards. But if you do find yourself on the island, and plan your day better so you can actually make it there, I’m jeals!
There was no shortage of yummy places to eat in Oahu. We made an effort to try local flavours and special dishes whenever we could. (the poke bowls were unreal)
Nalu Health Bar & Café
Best Acai Bowl I had the whole trip. Enough said.
This spot is a must if you’re in the North Shore. The food is AMAZING. There is a menu, but there’s really no need for it. Chef Opel comes to your table and asks a couple questions about what you like and dislike, and then crafts an entire meal tailored to you and your table. Anyone with allergies, or food limitiations need not worry, they can handle that too. Also BYOB. This place seriously rules.
Pupukea Grill (by Shark’s Cove in the North Shore)
There’s no shortage of food trucks to choose from, but the Pupukea Grill was my favourite of the trip. Just SO good. I’m still dreaming of their Coconut Curry Bowl on the daily.
Matsumoto Shave Ice (Haleiwa)
Shave Ice is a big thing in Oahu, and the lineups for this place were out the door. The traditional way to order it is with ice cream in the centre and topped with red beans. People go crazy for it. I wasn’t so blown away but it was fun to see what the fuss was about.
It looks like the last place you’d want to grab lunch, but this spot boasts the best poke bowls on the island, and it seriously doesn’t disappoint.
Buho Cocina y Cantina (Hololulu)
A rooftop mexican joint with great cocktails and good food. Also the restaurant decor was on point.
| PB medium cases hanging out on the beach. Shop em here |
There’s really no shortage of beach options to choose from since the entire island is literally surrounded on all sides. Some we searched out specifically, and others we just happened upon while driving to other destinations. You can’t go wrong!
Super soft white sand and turquoise water. This is one of the best beaches on the island. We visited this beach more than once because it was so great! Just don’t try to park nearby on a Saturday. The neighbourhood roads are off limits, and you will get a ticket if you risk it.
This beach is a neighbour to LaniKai, its not quite as nice, but has parking and public washrooms. You can also rent double kayaks and paddle to Mokulua Islands from here.
Kokololio Beach Park
This beach was one of my favourites, there was no one around and it was so lush and sunny it felt life we were on our own private island. Go here in the morning because the beach ends up in the shade in the afternoon.
Pretty big waves, and great for body surfing
A small beach in the North Shore where the turtles like to sunbathe. We stopped by here to catch them in action but only saw one in the water. Locals told us they can be seen here pretty regularly though!
Ok, this is the busiest beach ever. But it is a beautiful beach and the water is great. There are huge banyan trees lining the shore and (some) amazing heritage buildings. There are a lot of activities to do here ie. the aforementioned paddle boarding and surfing, and there’s also sunset cruises and luaus and all that touristy stuff, which, lets be honest, can be pretty fun.
This section is terribly light because we barely went shopping this whole trip, instead we focussed on packing in as much adventure and beach time as possible, but these are the ones that suck out in my mind as lovely spots I’d want to visit again.
Surf N Sea, Haleiwa
Built in 1921, this spot is the oldest surf shop in the US. It’s filled with every piece of surf related items imaginable, plus a loooot more.
This sweet lil shop was filled with the sweetest treasures curated by owner. Ask her about a particular item and she’ll tell you exactly where she found it on her travels. Also the shop puppy is the cutest.
This is a town on the North Shore, it has lots of cute shops and cafes, with a lot a local spots. We spent an afternoon here drinking iced coffees and browsing the local shops.
Happy Travels! Let me know if you have any questions and if you’re into posts like this and I’ll be sure to put one together on the next Pepper B. trip.