10 TIPS to Vacation in Hawaii Like The LOCALS

 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

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?

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  2. So funny, we had the chance to live in Oahu for 6 months in 2011 and we recommend the same as you.
    We used to go in Haleiwa and eat some garlic shrimps after a “jump off the rock”, or have breakfast at Cinnamon’s before swimming at Lanikai with a LanikaiJuice <3
    So many adresses and tips that I have also listed on my blog. Check this out!
    Sophie, from France

  3. This all sounds super great! My Fiance really wants to visit Honolulu and see the war monuments and things like that, but I don’t necessarily want to stay in the city. Do you have a good recommendation on where to stay (that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg)?

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  5. I did nearly all of these things when we had the opportunity to visit in 2013. Can’t wait to go back! Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Don’t stay downtown, first advice. Next advice, get a vrbo or airbnb – especially if staying 10+ days! Then check with your vrbo owner….many will have beach “toys”, touring, and kama Aina passes for things to do on island. This will save serious dollars. Some will even provide a car with addition to the rent.
    Also, do not shop downtown or airport for souvenirs. Make the trip to Kapolei Walmart and you will find island wear, post cards, many many items for gifts or memoirs right inside the door at affordable prices. Ive seen a lot of the same items downtown at 3X the $. The home rental will also save you if you cook meals there. You should try Island flavors around and about, but if you stock up at Sams club or Walmart, your dinners at home can be big savings. Sams club is about the only place you will find fresh meats and deli…Walmart only has frozen foods and supermarkets are very costly. I’ve heard Costco sells fresh also, but I have not personally shopped there.
    This is my third move back to the islands (military dependent previously) and third time is a charm.
    Note* you will have to use credit card for rental cars at airport or use A1 Rentals (5 miles) if using debit and they will charge $25 addl/per day for handling and a $300 hold on Balance. They are very reasonable for long rentals tho (ask for AnnMarie)
    Any rental (lodging) is subject to 14% tax if less than 6 month rental.

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