Adventure

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide To O’ahu, Hawaii

It’s the land of the hulamai tais and impeccable surf, but scratch just below the surface and there’s plenty of non-cliché experiences waiting to be discovered on O’ahu, Hawaii’s most populated island.  For an authentic holiday experience, skip the Ala Moana Shopping Centre and the Cheesecake Factory, and fill up the itinerary with these unique places to eat, play and stay instead 

You will be feeling like a local in no time!  

Where to eat in O’ahu

North Shore 

 

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Start your day with a local Hawaiian Gourmet Coffee Roasters brew in the historic town of Hale’iwa. Roasted in small batches by hand, this is the sort of coffee Aussies dream of finding in the U.S. While you’re ordering your coffee at the North Shore Coffee Gallery, pick up one of their fresh, homemade pastries to go. 

After surfing the North Shore breaks, do as the locals do and tuck into some shave ice back in town. Load your creation up with sweet azuki beans, mochi and some vanilla ice cream for the ultimate post-surf-workout treat.   

Most visitors to Hale’iwa will go to the iconic Matsumoto Shave Ice (the queues are testament to that), but the locals get their fix at Aoki’s Shave Ice across the road.  

Honolulu 

 

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A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without eating your weight in poke. The traditional Hawaiian version isn’t as jazzed up as the Australian poke bowl, but trust us, the diced and seasoned fresh ahi (tuna) and some white rice is all you need.   

Grab some for lunch straight from the source at Honolulu’s Fresh Catch (they have about 30 types to choose from), or pick up some prosecco with your poke at any of the Tamura’s Fine Wine stores. 

Dinner at Mud Hen Water is a must. It’s a little out of Waikiki and you will need to trade the double-pluggers for sandals at a minimum, but the fragrant chicken long rice croquettes alone are totally worth it. For something a little more traditional, order their Pa‘i ’ai (a starchy taro cake). 

If barbecue and beer are more your style, you can always sip your way across Honolulu on a craft beer crawl.  

 

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The Honolulu Beer Works, Waikiki Brewing Company, Aloha Beer Co trifecta is a good place to start. Like most breweries, tasting paddles are the go, but it is worth spending US$12 (AU$17) extra for samples of some of Honolulu Beer Works more funky beers, like their tequila barrel aged Belgian tripel. Save your appetite for Waikiki Brewing Company though; they serve up a drool-and-insta-worthy giant pretzel, and some mean barbecue. 

What to do in O’ahu

You would be nuts to ignore the surf on O’ahu, but once you’ve clocked up some hours on on the waterthere is plenty more to explore on dry land.  

Name a Hawaiian experience more unique than hitting the studio with a Honolulu-based hip-hop artist collective. We’ll wait…  

Download the Art World Escape app, and you’ll have a whole bunch of insider experiences like this at your fingertips. The app basically connects you with local artists, who can give you a completely different insight into Honolulu.   

 

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There are all sorts of unique things listed that you wouldn’t get to do elsewhere; from meeting with the husband and wife team behind Wooden Wave in their studio and going on a guided street art tour, to heading out to the Mānoa Valley to gather materials from the land to make your own earth based paintings.  

Less into art and more into food and drink? No worries… 

 

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Sugar cane production stopped on O’ahu a long time ago, but  Hana Rum are making it cool again. The boutique distillery is doing some pretty amazing things for Hawaiian rum. Not only is their product small batch and farm-to-bottleit is made from heirloom sugar canes that they grow and harvest by hand. Explore the different canes and rums through a guided tasting, or treat yourself to a scoop of their rum ice-cream. 

Keep the good times rolling post-rum tasting and end the night on a (karaoke) high note. Order a few jalapeño and cilantro margaritas, and belt out a few tunes at Wang Chung’s in HonoluluThere is one private room available for booking, otherwise karaoke here is a public affair in the main bar! 

Where to stay in O’ahu

 

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There are plenty of accommodation options on O’ahu for the tight budgeted travelerA bed in a dorm at The Beach Waikiki Hostel starts from from US$111 (AU$162)But, ithere is some more space under that budget belt, get your fancy pants on and book in a stay at one of Honolulu’s quirky boutique or art hotels. 

Set back from the main drag, The Surfjack is one of Honolulu’s hidden gems. It is good vibes only here. With its vintage surf bungalow decorInsta-famous pool, and super spacious, dog-friendly rooms, it is hard to not love this place. They even provide complimentary hot tea and coffee in the lobby in the morning. If your Aussie taste buds can’t handle the free morning filter coffee, don’t worry, there is a bangin little cafe right next door serving espresso coffee  

 

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For an artsy stay a smidgeon closer to the beach, give The Laylow Waikiki a go. A cross between mid-century and laid-back Hawaiian style, it is a deco-lover’s paradise.  

The writer was a guest of Hawai’i Tourism Oceania and O’ahu Visitors Bureau.