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Why Every Traveller Should Check Out Waikiki On A Trip To Honolulu

When it comes to the iconic city of Honolulu on Hawaii’s island of Oahu – it’s safe to say everything you’ve seen and heard in the movies is true. The skies are cobalt blue, the beaches shimmer, and when you’re not busy shopping or trekking to the top of a world-famous hiking trail while pretending you’re in Jurassic Park – it’s perfectly acceptable to be poolside and two cocktails-deep by 11am.

Here’s what you need to eat and where you need to go when you visit Honolulu.

It’s All Happening In Waikiki

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If this is your first trip to Honolulu you’re going to want to stay by the beach in Waikiki. Yes, it’s a tourist area, but that’s the beauty of it – it’s basically the Gold Coast in the ’90s. The streets are filled with restaurants, bars and shops, and everyone’s in a great mood because all they’ve done is swim, sleep and eat for days.

Head to the heart of Waikiki’s main strip and you’ll find the breath-taking Grande Dame of Honolulu – the Moana Surfrider hotel. It’s located in the middle of the action but still gives visitors an escape from the hubbub of the main drag. The views are spectacular, the room rates are reasonable, and you’ll have access to the freshwater pool and private section of the beach.

There also happens to be a number of delicious dining options within the hotel, including Veranda At The Beachhouse with its sweeping deck, as well as the Surfrider Café perfect for late night drinks and live music by the water.

If you’re looking for something slightly more in line with a millennial Instagram aesthetic – the entirely pink Royal Hawaiian is just down the road and waiting to be snapped. Note: no matter where you stay you’ll be slugged with a resort charge, so make sure you make the most of your stay.

For those heading to the North Shore – look no further than the one and only Turtle Bay Resort. Kristen Bell and Jason Segal may have made the hotel famous in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but this place truly speaks for itself. Again, the room rates aren’t exorbitant, and considering you’re located on the most top north point of all of Honolulu and can literally snorkel with turtles, ride horses on the beach or enjoy a helicopter ride around town – it’s money well spent.

You Need To Try The Food

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Swimming so much you need to carbload every ten minutes? Have no fear – there’s plenty of delicious delights to satiate your appetite. While staying on the main strip in Waikiki enjoy killer cocktails and nacho’s the size of your head at Duke’s, fill your belly each morning at the chilled-out LuLu’s and pay Nobu a visit for the best sushi of your life. No, seriously.

For those driving through Haleiwa on the way to the North Shore, make sure you hit up as many food trucks as possible. Most will serve traditional Hawaiian cuisine including garlic shrimp and rice. Check out the trucks opposite Shark’s Cove including Pupukea Grill and Sharks Cove Grill (grab a Vegan Taro burger), and if you’re continuing your drive further north – pull in at Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp for some garlic shrimp, corn, rice and pine nuts.

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Heading to the North Shore and looking for a cheap, quick and insanely delicious tasting breakfast? Look no further than Ted’s Bakery – a favourite with tourists and locals for good reason. The breakfast sandwiches are LIFE.

For a taste of Hawaii’s famous shaved ice, head to Matsumoto Shave Ice – but be warned – this is a super sugar-heavy treat. If you’re not used to the concentrated white stuff, keep that in mind while you shovel it all in.

You Can Shop Up A Storm

Keen to spend and have money to burn? Head to the Ala Moana Center instead of the outlets. It’s new, filled with great stores and feels a lot more modern than the rest of Waikiki. If you’re working with a lower budget, save your coins for the Urban Outfitters opposite the Moana Surfrider – they sell everything from clothes to music and homewares.

You’ll Be Getting Out And About


While you might want to kick straight into sightseeing mode, please for the love of all the shrimp in Hawaii – take a day or two just to chill. That’s the beauty of Honolulu – you can literally do nothing and not feel guilty about it. If you are determined to get out and about, get up early to trek Diamond Head before the heat and the tourists kick into overdrive, head for Waimea Valley to explore Waimea Falls or visit the famous Dole Plantation for all your pineapple needs.

If you’re keen to spot a turtle or swim with the cast from Finding Nemo, grab some scuba gear and head for the beaches (Turtle Bay allow you to take your scuba gear from the hotel for the day). Shark’s Cove on the North Shore was a winner in my book and has been rated as one of the world’s best shore dives – but be careful – most of these beaches have no lifeguards (with the expectation of Banzai Pipeline) and lots of sharp coral and rocks. I saw plenty of injuries from people who couldn’t read the tide or the water.

Pro tip: If you’re going scuba diving, grab some of the local naupaka plant and rub the leaves around the inside of your mask – this will stop it from fogging up.

Keen to explore more? Check out our guide on having the very best time in Hawaii.

(Lead image: Jed Santos / Pixabay)