Skip the tourist traps and vacation in Hawaii like the locals do (tips from a former “local”)
A couple weeks ago I was in an amazing place…
If you’ve been around awhile then you know that Matt and I used to live there. We always joke that we had a three year long honeymoon because we moved there just two days after our wedding day.
This visit to Hawaii was incredible. My husband was there on “business” so I flew out for a few days to make it a true vaca.
It was so fun to be a tourist in the island again and but have the knowledge to vacation in Hawaii like the locals!
Have you been to Hawaii? Or maybe you are planning a trip?
I thought it might be fun to reveal some of my favorite places around the island of Oahu. Some of them are tourist spots and some are off the beaten path but all were my favorites as a local!
10 TIPS to experience Hawaii like the locals
1. Snorkel the North Shore: North Shore is known for it’s beautiful beaches and gnarly waves but we love the underwater view! Turtle Bay and Sharks Cove are our personal favorites. You will see a ton of sea life including honu (sea turtles).
2. Visit Waimea Bay Beach: This beach is my favorite one to spend the day. We would jump in the car in the morning and not get home until late afternoon. The beach is beautiful, the water is pristine and warm. People come here for picnics and family outings. There’s a nearby cliff that some enjoy jumping off (I’ve never been so brave). It gets busy and the parking area is small so you have to come early but it totally worth it.
3. Visit the Windward Side: The Windward Side of the island of Oahu was never super touristy when we lived there but I did notice that the interest has picked up. There are amazing beaches, great food, and the people are just wonderful! Be sure to check out Lanikai beach, it’s the most beautiful on the island, to me. It’s right next door to Kailua Beach Park which is great for kayaking and paddle boarding. Also, if you like breakfast, I definitely recommend checking out Cinnamon’s in Kailua. Matt loves the carrot pancakes but I just go for the coconut syrup. It’s the bomb.
4. Eat at the Kalapawai Market: This is hands down my favorite place. I get so happy when I see this adorable green little store. Whether it’s grabbing coffee in the morning or my favorite BLTA sandwich for lunch. I absolutely love stopping in; everyone is so friendly, the food is amazing, and it just has so much aloha.
5. Two words. Shrimp Truck: In my mind there is only one shrimp truck. It’s Giovanni’s. There are several along the North Shore and I think most tourists probably stop at the first one they see but if you keep along the road another few miles you’ll see Giovanni’s, recognizable by it’s signature graffitied truck.
6. Drive the Pali Highway: The Pali Highway goes from the Windward side of the island to downtown. We lived on the windward side of the island so driving the Pali became a regular occurrence. Somehow, I forgot about how beautiful it was. The entire drive is lined with stunning landscape. Be sure to stop at the Pali lookout that overlooks the entire Nu’uanu valley, it’s breathtaking.
7. Drive Kamehameha Highway: I think the best part of Hawaii is it’s natural beauty so my favorite parts of the island are the ones where I get to just admire it. Kam Highway allows you to just that. It probably takes just about 1.5 hours to make it from the North Shore to the windward side without stopping but of course, you have to stop. There are lots of lookouts along the way as well as stunning beaches like Sandy’s and Waimanalo, both of which I absolutely love.
8. Try a hike: Locals are very active and in such beautiful weather and surroundings you completely understand why. Get your vacation exercise by trying out one of many hike options. I personally love Makapu’u Lighthouse. It’s a fairly decent trail and is just a mile each way. The view along the way is breathtaking and certain times of year you can even see whales.
9. Eat at the Beach House: If you have room in your budget for any upscale dining make sure the Beach House at the Moana Surfrider is at the top of your list. When we lived in Hawaii this was our go to restaurant for celebrating. The charming hotel is my absolute favorite one in Waikiki. It’s right on the water, and the food is absolutely incredible.
10. Check out China Walls: Officially known as Koko Kai Beach, we just call it China Walls. It’s basically a rock along the ocean so there is a bit of climbing involved but the view is absolutely beautiful. The water slams against the rock so it can get pretty slippery so definitely be careful. We used to love going there around sunset for the one of a kind view.
Have you had a vacation in Hawaii? What are your favorite Oahu finds?