So You Want To Visit…Honolulu

Ahhh. Hawaii. Need I say more? We are very fortunate to have two dear friends that are currently stationed in Honolulu, and they graciously entertain us whenever we are over that way. Hawaii is already a dreamy paradise, and having them there is like icing on the cake. I’m so grateful we have had multiple opportunities to travel that way and experience such a gorgeous place with the best possible friends.

Best Times to Visit:

  1. Literally any time of the year. It’s HAWAII. Like…seriously, there is no bad time to go to Hawaii. Even the rainy season on Oahu is better than any season anywhere else. Don’t overthink it. Just grab yourself a ticket to paradise.
  2. But on a serious note, I personally like to escape the winter cold and head to Oahu around December or January — however, that does plant me right in the middle of rainy season. It’s worth it, but also worth noting. June through August typically has the least amount of rain, so do with that what you will.

Best Hotels:

  1. Aulani. Yeah, I said it. If you are all the way in Oahu and you AREN’T staying at Aulani, what are you even doing?! But for real, Disney did such an incredible job with that resort. It fits in perfectly with the Hawaiian landscape, and they kept the whole vibe true to the culture and beauty of the islands. But, of course, there is that little magical Disney flair inserted subtle into the overall design. And overall Aulani adheres to the high Disney standards, so you get clean and comfortable rooms, immaculate beaches and pools, gourmet dining, and magical events and activities. 
  2. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. This resort is a really good option because it’s right on Waikiki beach, and Hilton is almost always going to be an affordable option without having to drastically compromise on quality. Of course it won’t be on the same level as Aulani or Four Seasons at Ko Olina, but if your primary focus is exploring Oahu and you don’t need a five star resort experience, the Hilton on Waikiki Beach is really nice and clean (a step up from a standard Hilton) and it won’t cost you both arms and both legs.

Best Restaurants:

  1. ‘AMA’AMA at Disney’s Aulani. This was definitely our favorite meal of all time in Hawaii. Hawaii admittedly isn’t know for it’s food, but Disney does what it can to change that. Every single piece on the ‘AMA’AMA menu, from the appetizers to the entrees to the sides to the desserts, is delectable. And it’s all regionally inspired and locally sourced (of course). I was really impressed at how good the sides were, since most places that focus so much on mains tend to neglect the sides (I’m looking at you, Wolfgang Puck’s Cut!). Not Disney though. Everything was delightful, and the seared diver scallops with macadamia nut brown butter still haunt my dreams. Here is hoping this awesome restaurant reopens soon so we can experience it on our Christmas trip!
  2. Mahina & Suns. I was first introduced to Chef Erik Leong’s amazing food when we visited Town Kaimuki. That was one of the best farm to table meals I have ever had, but sadly, that restaurant did not survive the economy shutdown during COVID-19. Fortunately, Chef Erik has two other locations, one of which is Mahina & Suns. The menu is inspired by the Hawaiian culture, and is packed with fresh local delicacies. Not to mention he takes a very unique spin on his menu (which I love), such as a goat cheese cheesecake, and of course all of the amazing house made pastas.
  3. North shore shrimp trucks. I have a hard time with shrimp because I cannot handle seeing my food in a way that looks…alive…including shrimp that still have shells and legs on them. But fortunately Dave is a saint and when we hit up a shrimp truck on the North Shore, he peeled them for me. And they were DELICIOUS. Even if you’re not a huge shrimp fan, you can tell how fresh these shrimp are. The shrimp truck we tried had several different flavors. I ended up going for a butter and garlic, and Dave got a hot and spicy seasoning.

Best Activities:

  1. The Dole Pineapple Plantation. I thought this pineapple plantation was absolutely adorable. They had a really fun maze worked into the pineapple fields, so it was almost like a Dutch country corn maze but better, because it was in a pineapple field in Hawaii. They also had Dole Whips which I am obsessed with, and you can buy whole crates of delicious pineapples. We definitely take advantage since Dole pineapples dont actually get shipped outside of the islands, so we get our fill whenever we can.
  2. Lanikai Beach. Lanikai is consistently ranked as the best beach on Oahu, and it really lives up to the hype. The beach is so freaking beautiful, and it’s not nearly as crowded as I had expected (likely do to the limited parking). I would be as happy as a clam spending days on end at that beach. Relaxing under the palm trees, snorkeling, kayaking out to the small islands, and playing in the waves. That’s my kind of paradise. 
  3. Pearl Harbor. I’m a bit of a history buff, especially WW2 history, so Pearl Harbor is always a must for me. I love the tour and I always go to the memorial so I can throw a lei in the water. It’s hard to get through without breaking down in tears, but I think it’s so important to be reminded of what this country has overcome.

Anything Overrated:

It’s Hawaii. I don’t care how overrated things are, I’ll do it just to be there.

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