Driving around Hawaii Honolulu and Waikiki can be maddening, and no matter how much effort we put into our descriptions, they can’t cover up the fact that our road system was created by… well, morons. (Sorry, but it’s true.) Having a navigator who’s good at reading maps on the fly can help, but you should count on getting lost, irritated and driving in the vicinity of something you’re trying to get to only to curse in rage that you can’t find it or maneuver to it. Hey… it’s O‘ahu. After a week or so you’ll learn some of its tricks and shortcuts, but the learning curve can be steep. Even living here, we get frustrated at the unintuitive layout. And getting on and off the H-1 freeway can be a joke. We still find it incredible that the primary place where visitors stay—Waikiki—doesn’t have a dedicated on-ramp to get back onto H-1 west. From McCully, you’re directed though a neighborhood until you wander onto an on-ramp. It’s embarrassing, but it’s part of our charm, right?
Hawaii Honolulu hotels
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
Typically this Hawaii Honolulu resort is ranked among the world’s best hotels—for good reasons. This is probably our favorite O‘ahu resort. It has all the trappings of a big, fun destination resort without any of the annoyances, like waiting in line or crowds. The Kahala isn’t in Waikiki; it’s about 15 minutes away on ultra-protected Kahala Beach. The Kahala hotel exudes a relaxed, old world, luxurious feel. There’s afternoon tea on the open-air veranda, mature gardens and grounds, and clean, well-tended surroundings.
This resort is set apart from the rest of Waikiki. Located at the extreme edge of Waikiki where the Ala Wai Canal meets the ocean, odds are that whenever you want to wander around Waikiki, you’ll either take their free shuttle into the main area, the public bus, or drive and battle for a parking place. Same goes for going to the beach. On the other hand, it’s close to the massive Ala Moana Shopping Center—a 10-minute walk—and there are shopping-starved neighbor island residents who like to stay at the Prince Waikiki for this very reason.
Fine dining Honolulu
This is one of those places about which much hype exists. It’s one of the in places. Sometimes in places are good at nothing but hype. But not in this case. Simply put, the food at this Hawaii Honolulu restaurant is excellent. It’s unclassifiable with a Pacific Rim bent. What does that mean? The menu changes often with items such as ginger-crusted onaga (snapper), steak, an appetizer called da bag (hard to explain but effective), macadamia nut coconut-crusted lamb chops (the best lamb we’ve ever had), and more. Menu changes constantly. The restaurant’s small but fairly loud. When you make reservations (which you’ll need—they even call you back the day before to confirm), ask for a lanai table, if possible, which has nice views of Manoa Valley in the distance. Alan Wong’s is pricey, but the food’s top notch.
Absolutely epic flavors in an ultra chic ambiance. Japanese food with a Peruvian influence. The selection is vast and overwhelming, and it’s not practical to list individual items. But honestly, we haven’t had anything here that wasn’t off the charts. Flavors are not Japanese subtle but rather finely infused. Whether it’s fish or salads or steak, they serve some of the best food in the state. Don’t get us wrong. It’s pricey. And if we have a complaint, it’s that the service might not be attentive enough. But if you’re looking to splurge on wicked food in Hawaii Honolulu, this is the place to do it.
Honolulu things to do
The experience is absolutely epic! We found it easier to learn than we expected with water jets attached to your fixed boots. It feels similar to a snowboard. Turning takes some practice, and if you are proficient enough, they might let you do dives like a dolphin. Keep a constant eye on the jet ski. You are pulling it (and the instructor who controls your throttle) around, and if you get too close, they’ll kill your jets to keep you from smacking into it.
If you’re looking to sail in Hawaii Honolulu, Makani Catamaran is a great choice, but snorkelers might want to look elsewhere. Makani literally means wind, which is appropriate for this ultra fast, top-of-the-line 64-foot sailing cat. No expense was spared on this catamaran. They claim that the carbon fiber mast alone cost $400,000. The boat’s sleek design lets it rip through the waves faster and steadier than any other cat we’ve seen.
Honolulu Chinatown market
This isn’t a manufactured, made-for-tourists Chinatown. This is the real deal. And for me, having once worked in China for a few years, going to the markets here is like going back to the Far East. Stroll through the crowded aisles, and you’ll find raw chicken feet, freshly caught fish (some still swimming in tanks), whole pig heads, more fruits and vegetables than you even knew existed, Asian orange soda (which is ubiquitous in China), salted duck eggs and more—all with the sound of Cantonese in the background and the ever-present haggling: How much? Figh dalla!
Local restaurants in Oahu
Very popular Oahu restaurant with locals. A huge menu of local items, such as Chinese five-spice shoyu chicken, tempura fish, sandwiches, ‘ahi wraps, salads and a lot more. Reasonable prices for the quality. Order at the counter, and they’ll bring it to your table in a take-out container. Their coconut mochi is a wonderful, dense-as-lead dessert, and their pumpkin bread is outrageously pumpkin-y. (Is that a word? It ain’t in my spell checker. Then again, neither is Kaka‘ako…) Avoid the eggplant Parmesan. Even if you don’t eat your meal here, the desserts (to go) are great.
Mud Hen Water
This restaurant takes local classics and elevates them to a whole new level. With dishes like Buttered ulu and chicken long rice croquettes, there’s no comparing these elevated local staples to your average Hawaiian-style fare. They pride themselves on using hyper-local, sustainable ingredients, even down to their liquor. (The bartender made sure to explain that their vodka is extracted from leftover pineapple bits.) Speaking of booze, the drinks here are not to be missed. Handcrafted cocktails such as Vishnu’s Vice—an awesome gin libation made with juiced turmeric—is not something you see every day. Casual upscale, with a communal, yet romantic vibe.
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