On the island of O’ahu, Waikiki combines the best of a city holiday with the best of a beach holiday to create a very unique travelling experience.
Waikiki was the second stop on our Hawaiian getaway and, after first spending a week on the island of Kauai and seeing how different each island is, I wanted to share some of my experiences.
I should note I went to Hawaii with a list of suggestions from a colleague who loves Hawaii and has shared her own recommendations so many times she had a list all typed up for me. Many of these recommendations were originally hers so all credit to her for being an amazing ‘tour guide’!
We spent the week at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort right in the centre of all the action on Kalakaua Avenue. It was the perfection location and the resort itself is modern, has generous rooms, and three restaurants including the famous Dukes. All of the major shops, restaurants and bars are just a few steps away from the front door and the resort also backs right onto the beach.
We would definitely stay there again when we return, but we also liked the look of the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider resorts on either side on the Outrigger.
If you do stay at one of the resorts right in the centre of the action in Waikiki you don’t really need a car. There are plenty of options for transportation but you can also walk to a lot of attractions, shops and dining establishments.
While Kauai was all about exploring from a car, in Waikiki there are so many places to discover on foot. Every day we would walk down different streets and explore the city, but we still didn’t get to see and do everything we had wanted to. Waikiki beach is a fantastic way to see more of the city as well because you can walk along it for quite a distance and explore different resorts and parts of Waikiki on the way.
One of the things we wanted to do while on the island was hire a car and drive up to the North Shore. Once you get outside of Honolulu the island shares many more similarities with the relaxed island of Kauai. We hired a black convertible Mustang for the day (much to my husband’s delight) which was perfect for exploring the coast.
The North Shore is known for its many food vans that line the roads along the shore – everything from burger trucks and shave ice stands to shrimp vans and and juice stalls. We had just turned in to a park full of food vans when a spring shower decided to make itself known, which meant we were forced to enjoy our coconut shrimp under an umbrella as the rain fell around us.
After the storm passed we continued along the coast, stopping at beaches and parks on a whim. It was a beautiful day and the perfect way to appreciate the beauty of O’ahu.
On the day we hired a car to explore the island we first ventured past the airport to shop up a storm at the Waikele Premium Outlets. This factory outlet has some of the best shopping bargains on the island with labels like Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach, Levi’s and Calvin Klein. My focus was entirely on the Kate Spade NY outlet though and I was lucky enough to enjoy a 50% sale on everything during my visit. I will blog about this gorgeous label later on and some of my purchases but it is safe to say these outlets are well worth a visit. While we drove you can also take one of a few different shuttle buses.
Closer to home is the Ala Moana Shopping Centre, which has most of the big name brands shoppers are after with some good prices. It is a big centre though and luckily enough there are some food options and coffee spots to fuel up between shops. Try Honolulu Coffee for the closest thing to good Aussie coffee and California Pizza Kitchen for some great lunch options.
In the heart of Waikiki, Kalakaua Avenue is home to luxury and American brands like Chanel, Tiffany & Co, Prada, Kate Spade, Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, a Macy’s department store and much more.
You will also find a million ABC Stores in Waikiki that are essentially convenience stores with a wide selection of groceries, beach and suncare products, souvenirs, wine and cosmetics.
There were so many places we could have eaten on our holiday and there really is something for everyone, but here are some of our favourites.
Bill’s Sydney is new to Waikiki but was on my list of places to try because of its Australian influence. Part of Bill Granger’s restaurant empire, we went to Bills just hoping for a good coffee. Not only was the coffee fantastic but the food was fresh and exciting. We loved this spot so much we returned twice. As well as being a great brunch spot it is also open for lunch and dinner.
Another good spot for coffee is Honolulu Coffee which has a cafe next to the Moana Surfrider on Kalakaua Avenue.
We venture up to a rooftop bar one night for Mexican, which I love, and margaritas, which I love even more! Buho Concina y Cantina is in the centre of the main strip but high enough up that it is away from the hustle and bustle. It is a great spot for nibbles, cocktails and enjoying Hawaii’s ridiculously good weather.
P.F. Changs is another place I would recommend, especially if you find yourself craving some veggies as we were. Expect fresh and generous Chinese dishes full of flavour and vegetables at reasonable price. Try the Moscow mules if you feel like a cocktail; so refreshing!
Cheeseburger Beachwalk is one of a number of locations for this chain and is worth a visit. I had a Californian burger with lots of avocado and pineapple plus a side of onion rings and it was pretty awesome. My favourite thing about American burger joints is the have all the condiments you could possible want on each table so you can add as much mustard and ketchup as your little heart desires.
Dukes at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort is a fun beach bar with good food and a great view, but it is popular with locals and visitors so you will most likely have to book. The cocktails here are also amazing but be aware that the technique of a three second pour instead of a measured shot is embraced here and at many of the bars and restaurants we went too so your drinks can sometimes be much more generous than you might be used to!
Our last meal of the holiday was at the Cheesecake Factory, partly for the novelty factor after hearing about this place on shows like The Big Bang Theory and partly because every single day there was a giant queue for this place so it had to be good. We went early to avoid the line up and I’m so glad we did. Warning, the menu is extensive and the servings are huge but delicious which is a dangerous combination. We had burgers and shared a side of Mac and cheese and were so full from our mains that we got our cheesecake to take away! I had the key lime and my husband had the caramel and they were both seriously good.
Places I would like to try next time I visit include Eggs ‘N Things for breakfast, Tony Roma’s for ribs and Leonard’s Bakery, which I am told is a must-visit for malasadas (Portuguese donuts).
There is so much to see and do on this island and we didn’t come close to doing everything we wanted, but I would definitely recommend lapping the island by car if you can.
Shopping is also one of the big reasons many tourists visit Waikiki so embrace it! My husband, who hates shopping with a passion, actually enjoyed himself because there is a great range of brands you can’t find easily in Australia and they are generally very affordable.
Swimming at Waikiki Beach is a must! Be prepared for a very calm beach without many breaking waves, perfect for a relaxing swim.
For a good stretch of the legs try walking to and around the Honolulu Zoo. The zoo can be found at the end of Waikiki Beach and is home to so many beautiful animals making it a great spot to walk around especially with kids.
Next time we would also like to see the Friday night fireworks display hosted by the Hilton village at the other end of the beach. My sister also did the hike up the Diamond Head Crater which I am keen to try. The stunning views that she photographed from the top make it seem it would be well worth it.
I also would have liked to try some new things like stand up paddle boarding or kayaking in the ocean, but as my husband said “you have to give yourself a reason to return”!