We are are so grateful to have knocked off Hawaii from our bucket list. Here are some tips to traveling to Waikiki that I’ve gathered just for you.
Hi friends! We just got back from our first time vacationing in Hawaii and there is just way too much to share. If you have ever wanted to visit Hawaii, you must go. I am far from an expert on traveling to Hawaii BUT we went with friends who are practically experts. They have vacationed there many times so we got to experience the best of the best with our built-in travel guides. Here are some tips for traveling to Waikiki as we highly recommend going there because it’s literally paradise on earth.
Waikiki is located on the south shore of the island of Oʻahu.
One day, we would love to visit Maui but our friends suggested going to Waikiki because the food is 10x better. Being big foodies, this is a big deal for us as eating delicious things is always at the top of our vacation itinerary.
A big shout-out goes out to my friend, Jennifer who put together a daily itinerary for places to eat, visit and shop. She is the admin and logistics queen and loves to organize and spearhead our vacations.
Our travel agent, Patti has worked with us numerous times now to put together some of our amazing vacation packages. This particular package included airfare, hotel, and transportation to and from the airport.
We stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki which is a 4-star hotel right off the beach. The hotel is located in the most ideal area in Waikiki which is near tons of great shopping, Duke’s market, and the most delicious coffee and pastry shop called Kona Purveyors.
The hotel rooms are clean, spacious, and comfortable and we had a side view of the beach off of our patio. We ran into some issues with our room because our bathroom started to smell the first night. By the third morning, we had to call the front desk to switch rooms because it smelled so awful. You know how sometimes you walk through the city and can smell sulfur, it smelt like that. We ended up changing rooms but the new room started to smell again from the bathroom! The only pattern we could tell was that every time we used the water, the smell would start to permeate. If only we didn’t have to use water! Lol
Our friend said their room started to smell by the end of the trip. The hotel has been newly renovated but we think something is up with the plumbing because it just wasn’t right. We are not people who like to complain but the smell was unbearable and it wasn’t right for us to pay that much for a 4 star hotel and have to smell sewage in our room. There is a daily $50 resort fee and at the end, ours was $300 so the manager took off $200. To be honest, the hotel was close to perfect except for this part which ended up being a pain because we had to move a couple of times and deal with the stank smell! However, that didn’t dampen our trip because we still had the most phenomenal time.
We rode Delta to Honolulu and arrived in the late afternoon. Since Hawaii is 6 hours behind Atlanta, we had to stay up to fight the jet lag. We ate tonkatsu and curry at Ginza Bairin. Hawaii has taken Japanese culture and made it its own, especially through cuisine. We enjoyed a ton of delicious Asian food and it made our Korean stomachs so very happy!
The hicken tonkatsu was better than the pork and the omurice was fantastic too.
One of the highlights was seeing all the honeymooners from Korea in Waikiki. They all wore matching outfits and by the of the trip, I started documenting them because it was so entertaining. I’m kicking myself for not buying matching outfits for me and Jimmy to wear on Halloween!
One of the coolest parts of being in Waikiki is that we never felt like a minority. We fit right in with the locals and all the Asian travelers.
We were given our own beautiful orchid leis at the airport and so Jimmy and I decided to look like true tourists for the rest of the day. The weather in October is warm in the mid-80s. It only rained once for an hour or so one evening so we really lucked out on the trip. While we were basking in the warm Hawaiian sun, we heard Atlanta was hit with a major cold front and freeze!!
We ended the evening with some shaved ice from Island Village Shaved Ice. We loved the Pink Island and Green tea flavor. It’s made with fresh local fruit, mochi, and frozen yogurt. So good!! We ate this four times!
For day 2 some of the gang went golfing while Jimmy went on a snorkeling excursion, and Jennifer and I went shopping nearby.
We started off the morning usually at Kona Coffee Purveyors or Duke’s market.
I highly recommend ordering the coffee and kouign-amann pastries which are like multi-layered croissants. OMG so delicious!
*EDIT* After my friend Elvira read the blog post, she messaged me saying her high school friend, Jackie owns Kona Purveyors! How cool is that? Jackie, we thoroughly enjoyed your coffee shop every day!
I bought a box to bring home and just ate one while blogging about this trip! Just be sure to toast them. If you plan on bringing some home as I did, pack some zip-lock bags!
I went to Duke’s Market every morning for some hot matcha lattes since I’m not a coffee drinker. They have an American breakfast you can order like eggs and bacon so we had that a couple of times too. Please try the Ube mochi malasadas there! They are to die for. I brought back a couple and regret not bringing back more of those delicious treats.
Jimmy had the best time on his snorkeling excursion and he got to see a bunch of dolphins up close! He booked the Turtle Canyons Snorkel Excursion and rode a short boat ride to an area where there were a bunch of fish and turtles. He highly recommended it. I’m pretty sure he went snorkeling every day while we were in Hawaii.
Of course, he had to enjoy a spam musubi which is a must when you’re in Hawaii. I actually made these for dinner tonight for the kids and they loved it.
There is soooo much good shopping in Waikiki with all your regular stores and luxury brand retailers. The girls all bought a purse we had been eyeing for months and knew would be cheaper in Hawaii. Depending on the brand, it’s about 10% cheaper in Hawaii and the sales tax is also only 4% as opposed to 8% in Atlanta.
When Jimmy got back from snorkeling, we hit Marugame Udon for some handmade udon. They specialize in udon and tempura and they did not disappoint! You can see them making the udon from scratch and it’s by far the best I’ve ever eaten in my life. It has the perfect chewy consistency and I highly recommend cold #6 Nikutama which has an egg and flavored beef.
Okay, I’m drooling!! We ate here 3 times. Yes, you heard that right. #worthit The lines can get very long but it tends to move pretty quickly. Warning: there is no bathroom! 🙁
We walked through the International Market Place every day where there are more retail stores and little local shops. We walked a ton so bring comfy tennis shoes.
After lunchtime, Jimmy and I relaxed in the infinity pool back at the resort. The views are breathtaking and truly a vision of paradise.
The resort has two pools and the one with the infinity pool is for adults only. Guess which one we hung out? #nokids
Once everyone returned, we got ready for Wasabe Bistro which specializes in Sushi.
Everything was tasty except for the fact that we weren’t satisfied so we had to go for dinner round 2. Ha!
It was too picture-perfect right outside of Wasabi Bistro. This Japanese restaurant was also right across from the restaurant, Ginza Bairin Tonkatsu.
Guess where we ended up after this dinner? Right back at Marugame Udon! Jimmy and I shared udon, spam musubi, and tempura.
It was like we never even had our first dinner. The udon has a lot of sodium so you may or may not be bloated the next day like me. 😀
On day 3, we got up and hit the mall that’s about 2 miles from the hotel. It’s called Ala Moana and has a variety of retail stores including department and luxury brand stores.
We walked about 40 minutes to the mall and saw the Pride parade along the way. This day, we logged more than 30,000 steps! Jimmy and Mike went fishing and snorkeling at Magic Island all morning and they said it was absolutely beautiful.
Honestly, the best part of the mall was the food court. Jimmy and I bought poke and it was the most delicious mall food we’ve ever eaten. Hawaii is known for delicious poke and the fresh tuna can not be beaten. The food court boasts a variety of different foods and it’s hard to choose what to eat.
For dinner, we walked 20 minutes to Honolulu Burger which is a hole in the wall. After all the Asian food, we craved burgers and these totally hit the spot. I advise you to order the french fries with truffle oil. Yummmm. We then walked over to Daiso which is a Japanese dollar store. I believe most of the items are less than $2 and it’s a great place to buy stationary, trinkets, and even basic household items. We found some cute little gifts for the kids back home.
We walked back to our hotel and saw the sunset which was beautiful. By this time, our feet were tired! It took some time to adjust to the time because we kept waking up around 4AM and got tired around 8 or 9PM. Some of us hit the gym in the mornings and I loved that it was open 24 hours with plenty of gym equipment.
On day 4, the guys took a trip to visit Pearl Harbor. Jimmy had done a bunch of research on tickets beforehand and decided to wait to purchase them when they got there. That ended up being the best choice because the tickets were less expensive. Being a history lover, Jimmy and the guys really enjoyed the tour.
The girls took it easy in the morning and scheduled a 90-minute foot massage at Sakura Foot Spa. If you have never had one of these, google it now and make an appointment to your nearest one with the best reviews. This felt so good, especially after all the steps we logged the last few days. It was in a tall building so the view was just beautiful. Make sure you bring up the parking ticket so they can validate it. We rented a car for a few days which was convenient for the rest of the activities in our itinerary. It was one of the best foot massages I’ve ever had and I passed out a couple of times because I was so relaxed. You know that foot-jerking action you do when you fall asleep? Yeah, I did that a couple of times during my massage. hehe
For dinner, we ate Korean at New Hyung Jae where we ordered kim chee stew with pork, pajeon (seafood pancake), and spicy marinated barbeque pork ribs. It was extremely busy so the service wasn’t great but the food was still tasty.
Afterward, we enjoyed desserts with an old Atlanta friend who lives in Hawaii now. We drove to a nearby gelato place but it was closed so our friend treated us to some take-out dessert from Moku Kitchen and we enjoyed some strawberry cream pie and gelato in the outdoor patio space.
Good food + good friends = best vacation
On day 5 while one of the couples hit the golf course again, the rest of us drove 30 minutes to hike up to the Pillbox. I recommend wearing hiking shoes or tennis shoes with great treads as it can get pretty slippery.
I would rate this hike a little above intermediate because there are some steep and narrow areas and we saw some people struggling to make it up to the top. It was an awesome workout and the view at the top of the pillbox is truly captivating. It was so worth the hike and got us ready for our next meal! The hike features 2 military bunkers & a panoramic view of Lanikai Beach.
I mean, can you even!?! Is it not absolutely stunning overlooking Lanikai beach.
Be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat because it was sunny and hot. We worked up a good sweat and appetite.
We stopped by Kalapawai cafe and deli where we ate delicious sandwiches outside. I hadn’t eaten any fruits or vegetables in a while so I thought some fresh juice was a good idea only to find out afterward it was $12! Oh well, it was much needed I guess. You know I need that fresh carrot juice.
The small store also has really cute t-shirts, hats, and other goodies so we bought a bunch of souvenirs to bring back home.
Then we drove over to Lanikai beach where the waters were clear and calm. We did some snorkeling, swimming, and napping on the beach.
Truly paradise on earth!
Jennifer met up with an old friend and she got us some local taro chips and they were so huge and crispy. If it looks like we are always eating, we most definitely are.
Then we decided to beach hop to check out some of the other nearby areas. If you haven’t noticed already, some of us really like to take advantage of every minute on vacation. We’re more adventurous and active vacationers than the relaxing by-the-hotel pool type of people.
This area butt up right against the back of people’s residences but there was a narrow public entry we discovered. It was breathtaking to say the least. Can you imagine waking up to this every day in your backyard? We climbed down the rocks and went swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters.
Then, we made our way to Waimanalo Beach and that was our least favorite one for the day. The waters were choppy and not great for swimming or snorkeling. I know, I know. Spoken like a true Hawaiian beach snob!
It was time to make it back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and we took the scenic drive back. I can’t even express how beautiful the drive was going back to the hotel. It’s a little longer route but worth every second. I believe we took the 72 back. If you have the chance, you should definitely make this picture-perfect scenic drive.
Oh yeah, guess what Mike spotted on the drive back? LEONARDS!
These hot malasadas are made from scratch and are the most delicious doughnuts that I have ever had in my entire life. They are Portuguese doughnuts filled with deliciousness like custard or coconut cream. I preferred the regular sugar ones without any filling and omg they are sooo good because they are made hot to order. Guess who was also a big fan?
Happy boy!! Jimmy loves the coconut-filled malasadas. Who am I kidding? He loves them all.
We finally got back and got ready to go out for dinner at House Without a Key which was located inside the fancy hotel next to ours.
The food and ambiance were top notch with some live Hawaiian music playing outdoors. You have to order the Ube mashed potatoes which were a great hit with our friends. All of our meals were cooked and seasoned so well with a vibrant mash of flavors.
There was also a special appearance from the former Miss Universe Brook Lee who performed some Hawaiian dances. So cool!
Our bellies and hearts were full every night.
On the 6th day, we headed to Waimea Bay Beach to hike to the waterfalls.
First, we stopped by this Waimea Bay Beach rock where you can jump off about 25 feet into the water. The ocean’s waves were crazy huge and I was not interested in taking on this challenge. Luckily, we had to make our way to knock all the things off our to-do list that day. We had a lot to see and do that last full day!
Instead of jumping, they waved hello.
Hawaii has some of the most epic panoramic views. All the natural landscape photos that I took do little in comparison to seeing it with your own eyes.
We found out that the waterfall area was closed for swimming and it was around $25/person so we nixed those plans and decided to head to Shark’s cove to snorkel.
I found all the plants and trees so fascinating because they were huge! It’s like seeing the prehistoric versions of all the plants I own at home.
Shark’s cove became one of my favorite parts of the trip. It is a popular area and known for its amazing snorkeling experience. It’s so very unique because the reef-protected beach cove is shallow and allows for easy snorkeling for all ages. The cove has a shape resembling a shark, hence the name.
I would highly recommend bringing or buying swim shoes for this as the reefs and rocks can tend to be jagged and sharp. We all got a few knicks and cuts here and there but nothing too bad. I actually just wore my flip-flops the whole time while I was snorkeling. We were able to see some Moray eels, schools of fish, sea urchins, and a ton of other fish. Is it weird that snakes on land freak me out but I love snorkeling and seeing them in the ocean up close?
The reef is truly a unique area and I’m so glad we got to experience it. The whole time, I kept thinking how much our kids would’ve loved it. Then, I thought about how they could easily have gotten cuts from the sharp rocks and was immediately glad they were back at home. Haha
Remember when I said that the food court Poke bowl was the best? Well, that was before I had this poke bowl from food truck #7 in Haleiwa. They serve Japanese cuisine and words do not justice to the lunch we devoured. It hit the spot after our snorkeling excursion.
THIS is the best poke I have ever had. Also, this was the best donkatsu I’ve ever eaten and I’ve eaten a lot! You just can’t beat the freshness and all the flavors combined to make this the best winning combination in my books. Can you believe my favorite meal from Hawaii was from a food truck? I”m going to dream about this until I return again one day. Just looking at this makes my mouth water.
No meal is complete without dessert so we walked over to the popular M.Matsumoto shaved ice. This shaved ice is more like snow cones with artificial syrup so it’s less expensive. I recommend getting the waffle bowl with green tea shaved ice with ice cream and red beans. The waffle resembles a wooden bowl!
And because it was our last full day, we stopped by the Dole plantation to enjoy some more dole whips. You don’t have to pay to get into the store so you can shop for souvenirs while you’re enjoying your dole whip.
I will say that everything in the Dole Plantation is overpriced so a better place to go is to Old Waialua Sugar Mill to buy some souvenirs and coffee. You can even take a mini coffee tour there. It’s an assuming spot in the North Shore that sells a bunch of local goods and natural shaved ice. I bought a locally made wooden bowl to bring back home which is currently full of Hawaiian candies on our dining table.
It was a super fun, jam-packed day and we finally made it back to the hotel to get ready for our final dinner.
We headed to Arancino di Mare which consisted of Italian fare and everyone’s dishes were delicious! Can you believe we had no bad meals in Hawaii? Again, this was the benefit of going with friends who knew all the great restaurants along with receiving the best recommendations from locals.
My prosciutto and burrata cheese pizza was chef’s kiss. We also recommend the uni pasta that Jimmy ate and the pasta bolognese.
We shared some delicious white sangria and toasted our final night in Waikiki.
We enjoyed our final evening with good food and unfortunately, we had to switch to another room again that evening due to the nasty smell. We checked out at 11 the next morning and left the bags in the hotel. We grabbed some lunch, enjoyed some pastries, and did some final last-minute shopping to bring gifts back home.
I recommend packing a foldable duffle bag like this one so you can put all your dirty laundry and/or gifts for extra luggage space. It worked so well when we took it to Italy because we brought back a bunch of gifts and souvenirs.
Well, this took me forever to document but hopefully, it’ll be useful if you are interested in visiting Waikiki. I wrote similar blog posts for other places we traveled to so you can check those blog posts as well.
- Tips for traveling to Rome
- Tips for traveling to Florence
- Tips for traveling to Venice
- Tips for traveling to Turks and Caicos
We feel extremely grateful we got to enjoy and experience this trip of a lifetime with our friends. Hawaii, we are in awe of your marvelous state. We will definitely be back!
Thanks for reading, friends and lmk if you have any questions!
Let all that you do be done in Love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
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