Live Like a Local | Hawaii in Two Weeks
things to do in Oahu + Kauai
My first year at Belmont University (my sophomore year) I was put with a random roommate who turned out to be one of my very best friends. She was studying to be a nurse + in ROTC during college which meant she became a military nurse after college. She was stationed for her first three years in Hawaii. When my friend Jenny and I had a chance to visit her, we jumped at the opportunity! We were her first visitors and had so much fun exploring Oahu as a local. Enjoy a list of our adventures + more during our two week trip. Also we are so grateful for your service, Elizabeth!
My old high school basketball trainer in Georgia is originally from Hawaii. His family moved back to Kauai a few months prior to when we were flying to Hawaii. So we decided to island hop to Kauai. We flew Hawaiian Air to Kauai to see him and his family + explore the island of Kauai. We even had a chance to run a basketball camp for the local high school. Thankful for Coach Z and his Ohana.
Pro tip: to save money on your flight from the mainland to the islands look for quick layovers where you can potentially stay with friends / family. We first flew Delta Atlanta to Phoenix. We spent a day exploring and visiting with my cousin who lives there. He then took us to the airport the following morning and we flew American nonstop to Honolulu, Oahu!
Pearl Harbor National Memorial: remember those we lost the many years ago as a surprise attack and learn more of the history of this tragic day. You can go any time to get tickets but sometimes have to wait a few hours before the tour. One way to spend your time is to get tickets for the afternoon and while you wait for your tour go to Kaka’ako to look at murals and get coffee at Arvo - try the tie dye latte!
Diamond Head Hike: a beautiful semi hard hike with a gorgeous view of downtown Honolulu / Waikiki. Best time to go is right before they close! Or early in the morning, because there is not a lot of parking. $5 to park.
Learn to Surf at Waikiki Beach: we were lucky enough to have some of Jenny’s family teach us how to surf (yes we all got up at least once) but there are plenty of companies that offer surfing lessons as well. Go visit Moniz family surf for the best experience! Located at the Waikiki billabong store.
Sky Waikiki Night Club: if you’re into that type of thing, the music was great and the rooftop views of the city were fabulous. Ladies get in for free with a glass of champagne Friday nights before 11!
Paradise Cove Luau: touristy but even Elizabeth said this was a must. We had so much fun at Paradise Cove Luau. I would definitely recommend it!
Leonard’s Famous Donuts: warm donuts - that is all you need to know!!!
Watch a Sunset from Waikiki Beach: a breathtaking view as gorgeous hues radiate the sky and the sun sets over the hustle bustle of the city. On Sundays stop by Dukes Restaurant for live music 4:00pm - 6:00pm, get a backscratcher or coconut mojito!
Pillbox Hike: this was our very first hike and it was right around the corner from Elizabeth’s house. Pay attention to bike path and parking signs to avoid a ticket!
Kayak to the Mokes (small islands) from Lanikai beach: rent kayaks from the beach and venture across to a tiny island where you can find a “bath” right next to the ocean. (see picture) This is only for the brave (LOL) - I was freaking out the whole way, just ask Jenny but we made it and had so much fun at the island. If you aren’t with a local (thanks Elizabeth) it is worth it to get a tour guide from Kailua beach adventures.
Makapu’u Lighthouse hike: this hike is along a winding pavement path. Not too hard at all but the views were so worth it! On your way home, stop by Ruka bowls for one of the best acai bowls and stuffed strawberries. Cash only!
Snorkel in Hanauma Bay: touristy but worth it! Such a fun day in a historic bay. It is $7.50 per person (military, local residents and kids under 12 are free) and the park opens at 6am. I would recommend getting there right when it opens or a little after. We arrived around 6:30am/7:00am and it was the perfect time.
Local Farmers Market: Sunday’s 8-12 at Kailua elementary school and Thursdays starting at 530 behind the Kailua Long’s parking lot. Make sure to try fresh WowWow Hawaiian lemonade!
Beach time at Lanikai beach: nothing beats relaxation time on a beach that is off the beaten path. Stop at Kalapawai Market for lunch!
Shark Cage Diving: if you know me you know im obsessed with sharks. I convinced my BFF jenny to come with and unfortunately we didn’t see any sharks. You should still check out Hawaii Shark Encounters because it wasn’t their fault no sharks showed up - apparently that means that a larger shark (great white) or whale passed through overnight and scared the smaller sharks away. The staff was extremely friendly AND they refunded us our full amount. If you’re up for a riskier adventure, try island view shark dive without the cage!
Cliff Jumping: You know all those pictures of cliff jumping in Oahu? Yeah Waimea bay, this is your spot.
Giovanni Food Truck: here is the famous strip food truck that you do not want to miss out on, any shrimp truck is great! But if your into the food network Giovanni’s is the famous one!
M. Matsummoto Shaved Ice in Haliewa: the best shaved ice around! If you aren’t into shaved ice there are plenty of delicious açaí bowls around Haliewa as well! If you like things sweet, make sure to get your shave ice “snow capped.” This is condensed milk drizzled on top! You can also get Azuki beans (black beans) Macadamia nut ice cream and mochi.
Dole Plantation: one of the most touristy spots we went to BUT still fun. We didn’t do the tour but walked around, took some pics and DOLE WHIP! They have a maze and train ride, but the dole whip is where it’s at.
Wing Mural Pic by Colette Miller: these wings are located in Haleiwa and are too cute to pass up! Learn more about her Global Angel Wings Project here. Shave ice (Hawaii is different and doesn’t call it shave(d) ice) by the wings mural is delicious too.
Haleiwa North Shore Sign: Don’t miss another photo opp at this cute spot on the side of the road!
See the Na Pali Coast: we took a sail boat day tour that included breakfast, snorkeling, lunch and 20 minutes of sailing. Little did I know that the 20 minutes of sailing would not be good for this sea sick prone gal. I spent the whole trip back throwing up over the side of the boat. BUT it makes for fun memories and the crew were so kind to me. I wore the seasick bands but I think next time I’d take some seasick medicine before as well. Lesson learned! Best tour guides are go blue adventures for the zodiac boats!
Napoli Coast Helicopter Tour: I personally did not do this but my sister recently did and raved about it.
Visit Queens Bath (there is a short / semi-dangerous hike to get out to the Baths): if you’re up for a challenge this is the place to go. This is actually blocked off now, hike at own risk and possibility of getting fined.
North Shore: on your way to the north shore make sure to stop at Duane’s Ono-Char Burger shop off the side of the road to grab the most delicious burger! Once you get to the north shore look around, grab an açaí bowl, jump off the pier and enjoy the sunshine. Did you know that the mountains across from the pier at the north shore are where “Puff the Magic Dragon” came from because it looks like a Dragon!