There's so much to do in Hawaii.. but so little time. How to choose? Take it from me... born and raised / an Oahu local. These never get old.. even for me.
So here are my hands-down favorite / top 7 things to do:
Float in the Crystal Waters of Lanikai Beach
You don’t win The Travel Channel’s #1 Beach in the World multiple years in a row without deserving it at least a little bit. This one-time hidden gem is now world renown for its calm shores, glassy blue water, and awe-inspiring view of the Mokolua Islands. Lanikai is definitely a must-go. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled – you may even see celebrity residents and beach-goers like Paul Mitchell or Barak Obama.
Feast on Fresh Poke at Foodland
There are many great places to get fresh, delicious poke. But for those who actually call Oahu home, the Foodland fish counter is your go-to. Foodland's one-two punch of quality yet affordable poke solidifies its spot on Oahu's finest. You'll see it at family parties, Super Bowl gatherings, or post-surf snack sessions everywhere. Get the spicy ahi with masago roe and the ahi tuna with oyster sauce.
Make a Splash at Waimea Bay
Located on the Oahu's famous North Shore, Waimea Bay is known for it's long stretch of superfine white sand and its deep undertow just off-shore (perfect for cliff jumping). At just over 30 feet, the rock at Waimea Bay towers over the crystal blue water, just begging for you to dive in. There are a number of spots to jump ranging from 10 to 30 feet so you can choose your level of thrill. For locals, it's a rite of passage. The first time took the plunge as a child it took me over an hour just to muster up the courage to leave my perch. Worth it.
If you’re lucky, you'll get to witness more daring jumps from locals – cannon balls, jack knives, and back flips. My favorite includes a football in hand and letting it go at the bottom of the jump so it's catapulted over 50 feet in the air.
Get a Chili Chicken Mixed Plate from Zippy’s
Zippy’s is the Oahu staple you've never heard of. The diner-style restaurant specializes in local favorites like Saimin, Korean Fried Chicken, Oxtail Soup, and of course, everyone's favorite: mixed plates. For me, Zippy’s was the go-to after beach days, soccer games, graduations, and family dinners out. Believe it or not, Zippy's most famous item on the menu is chili, which you can tote around in a gallon bucket. It's sure to make an appearance at 95% of local potlucks on Oahu. My top recommendation? The Chili Chicken mixed plate.
Sweeten Things Up at Island Snow
Island Snow is the best shave ice in the world. Period.
All right.. full disclosure, I grew up in Kailua – home to Island Snow – so I may be a bit biased. But don't take it from me, take it from our 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, a former Honolulu resident and likely Island Snow's biggest promoter. Obama makes a special stop at Island Snow any time he visits home. While he sticks to his order of POG (passion orange guava), cherry, and lemon-lime, I rarely stray from Li Hing Mui with a snowcap (condensed milk topping) and vanilla ice cream at the bottom. A show-stopping treat for your last several bites.
Learn to surf at Barbers Point
Barbers Point is a perfect wave to learn to surf on. It’s a pretty lengthy left with exciting yet forgiving waves. Definitely not as crowded as other renown beaches to learn on such as Waikiki or Ala Moana, which means more shots at waves and less chances of collisions. Best part: the break is pretty close off the shore so no mile long paddle needed.
Hike Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs)
So full disclosure, this hike is not the most legal hike in the world so I wouldn’t fault you for not doing it. But if you end up making it past the “Stairs closed. Keep Off.” signs, you are in for a treat. You are hiking up one of the ridges of the Ko'olau mountains which boasts one of the best views of the picturesque windward side of Oahu. Soak it in!
Native Hawaiians and locals of all ethnicities care deeply about our 'aina (land). So we hope to pass on this appreciation and respect to you. Happy exploring!