If you've met me, it probably doesn't surprise you how much I love Hawaii. It's without question one my favorite places to visit. The smell of salt water, the sound of the ocean, and the spirit of the aloha wash over me and it's another world. My heart rate slows, my shoulders lower, and I forget about whatever I used to worry about on the mainland. It's a place I truly can unwind and rebalance. I never look forward to spending 9 hours on a plane more. It's practically a quick work day anyway!
I'm lucky enough to have family in Hawaii and getting to connect with them as an adult has been awesome. My grandparents grew up on the Big Island, so growing up we would visit every so often, but often times that meant bypassing Oahu. Going back to Oahu and spending time with family there has been quite special.
People always ask what recommendations I have for visiting Hawaii, so here we go! I tend to stay more local. No knock on Waikiki, it's just not my thing.
Things to do:
North Shore: Visit Tamayo Perry [Oahu Surf Experience] for private surf and SUP lessons. I’ve worked with Tamayo for probably 12 surf sessions in the last 18 months [I like to believe I'm his prized pupil :)]. He’s awesome, so is his wife, Emilia. Both were pro surfers and both still surf massive waves. If surfing isn’t your thing, they also do stand up paddle boarding. I love them. He’s my first call when I am back on the island. They are pros in water safety and perfect for first timers and beginners. Truly down to earth good people, I really can't say enough good things about them. Support local and small business! Maybe you'll be lucky and get to watch them rip.
North Shore: Waimea Falls Farmers Market [times might vary, but it was on Thursdays 3-7]; It’s a small, but fierce market and has really awesome local vendors. Hawaiian Fresh Farms has a chimichurri sauce there that I would eat on a shoe. There’s also Baker Dudes who are awesome - so is their tomato and goat cheese tart. The falls area is also really cool to walk around. Warning: no/little cell reception. Arrive hungry. Lots to snack on. Wash it down with a Hawaiian brew.
Kailua: Pillbox hike. Online guides say it’s ‘easy’. It’s not a paved path, so a lot of rocks and loose dirt [but not like you’ll fall off the side kind of thing]. It’s a generally safe hike [there were kids and dogs] and views are worth it. Some areas are a bit steep. Probably a 20 min hike up. It’s a nice quick hike.
East Side: Lanikai Beach – see the two famous ‘mokes’ out in the water. Beautiful beach, not much shade, so just take that into account if you like to escape sun. The view is amazing and the color of the water is insane.
South Shore: Diamond head. I actually just did this for the first time last October. Short paved walk. I wouldn't classify this as a hike. Worth the view to see down to Waikiki and over the east side. Nice to burn off a few calories :)
Waipahu: Sugar Plantation … really cool if you like history. Come here to learn about how sugar cane played such a major cultural role in Hawaii's history. Walk through the village and see replicas of homes from the many different cultures that came to Hawaii.
Places to eat:
Honolulu; AHI ASSAINS. Holy moly, super fresh tuna poke … I’d eat here every day. It’s a hole in the wall, so you have to take it and eat someplace else. No big deal in my opinion. They are closed Sun-Tues to fish. It doesn't get fresher than this. Their smoked marlin dip is also out of this world. This is, without question, my favorite place to eat here. Yum, yum, yum!
North Shore: Ted’s Bakery is pretty famous for pies… I don’t love pie, but they also have plate lunch. If you surf/SUP with Tamayo, this is the pickup spot. Pick up a coffee and spam musubi :)
Haleiwa: Haleiwa Bowls — THIS IS A MUST for acai bowls. So good. They’re fairly large. So eat as a meal or share one as a snack.
If you visit the islands, don't forget to leave the islands how you found them. Keep it clean, respect the local, respect the earth and don't be an ignorant tourist!