Hawaii Part Two : O'ahu Faves

Good morning everyone!  Today's post is a large one so I'll keep my intro short and sweet.  This is my second post all about Hawaii (check out my first one where I talked about the hikes that I went on here!), and I'm packing in all of the favorite things that I did, from restaurants to landmarks to beaches.  I even include a few things that I didn't like!  I hope you enjoy!


Roy's Waikiki (seafood) - one of the more expensive restaurants on the island, but really excellent food.  Use the Yelp app to unlock a free chocolate dessert.  I got the fish trio, and one of the best things that I ate this entire trip was the butter fish (lower right in the picture, soooo amazing)

Sansei (sushi)- our hands-down favorite restaurant on the trip! Everything we got was so amazing, especially the rainbow roll (below).  We ended up tipping the sushi maker, who brought us over a piece of fish with fresh wasabi on top.  Amazing experience!

Beet Box (vegan)- cool little place near the North Shore with all vegan/vegetarian options and kombucha on tap (side note- kombucha is HUGE in Hawaii!).  I got a portobella mushroom sandwich and it was really good, but messy!

Island Vintage Coffee (coffee shop)- delicious coffee and great menu.  Got my first acai bowl here and I loved it!  I like the location in Royal Hawaiian Center for good people watching and a great view if you can get a seat on the lanai.

Green World Coffee (coffee shop)- cute little shop and farm near Dole Plantation.  Lots of coffee to buy and samples to try.  I stayed for a while and just sat outside because it was so beautiful!

Liliha Bakery (bakery)- amazing puffs, try the coco puff (what they're known for) and green tea puff.

Doraku Sushi (sushi)- another cool sushi place with really interesting options and fun atmosphere.  I got a vegetarian roll which was the best the I've tried anywhere, and the drinks were delicious!

Marukame Udon (Japanese)- tried the location in Chinatown and it was a great value for what you get.  Delicious broth and perfectly cooked noodles, and the location is so neat.  It's on a pedestrian street right in the heart of Honolulu!

Local Joe (coffee shop)- great place to stop if you're in downtown Honolulu.  They have a machine that will make cool foam designs (I asked to be surprised and got a map of Hawaii since it was my first visit, but you can request a design too).  Really nice workers who gave me tons of suggestions on what to do on the island!

Kona Brewing (brewery)- probably the best-known brewery in Hawaii with lots of great beers (especially the seasonal ones..really fun flavors) and amazing pizza (I got the truffle which was so good!)

The Street (everything!)- located in the International Market Place, this is kind of like a food court with lots of different restaurants and two bars.  It's a great place to go with people who like different food because you can each go to a different "restaurant", then meet up at the tiki bar or beer garden to eat together!  Dan got a really cute drink at the tiki place (with an edible, printed wafer on top) and I wish we went back to try more places.


Halona Blowhole - beautiful crashing waves, and a big parking lot so you're able to stop with no issues!  It's close to a lot of touristy areas so it's a great stop to make if you're out for the day.

Iolani Palace - self-guided audio tour is so good! You get a device that takes you on a personal tour around the palace with options to learn more or keep going, so you can spend as little or as much time as you want.  Great to learn history of Hawaii and see a beautiful building.  Royal Hawaiian Band plays on Fridays (sadly the weather was bad so they had to cancel when I went but I got to see the truck!)  The self-guided tour is $14.75, and a guided tour is $21.75.  You can visit Monday through Saturday from 9:00-4:00.

Foster Botanical Garden - neat place to stop if you're wandering around Honolulu.  When you enter, there's a map with a route to follow and information on the plants you'll pass.  There's a Buddhist Temple located on the garden grounds as well that looked really incredible, but it was closed when I was there. $5 to enter and open 9:00-4:00 daily.

Byodo-In Temple - gorgeous location, you can ring a bell for good luck and enter the sacred temple (remove shoes and you can pray or light an incense).  It was built to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii and is a replica of the Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan (which is 950 years old!).  Might recognize if you watch Lost or Hawaii Five-O.  It costs $5 to enter (cash only) and is open 8:30-5:00 daily.

Laie Point - Great place to stop if you're driving around the island or stopping by the Polynesian Cultural Center.  There are places to walk around to get great views of the waves breaking, and a small rocky island with a hole in the middle for some cool pictures.  Parking can be limited, but it's worth the wait!

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden - free (!!) with lots of trails to explore and tons of parking lots.  The drive alone is gorgeous, but it's really breathtaking when you walk around!  I believe there are also camping sites on the grounds, and this would be a really cool place to camp!  Open daily from 9:00 to 4:00.

Shark's Cove - cool little beach up in the North Shore.  Lots of places to hike around or go snorkeling, and the views are incredible.  Make sure you bring shoes with a sturdy base because it's all sharp volcanic rock!  The Banzai Pipeline and other amazing beaches are in this area, so make sure you take your time and explore a bit, then stop in Haleiwa on your way back.

Ko'Olina Lagoons - kind of out of the way, but perfect place to watch a sunset.  There are a few resorts in this area (including a Disney resort!) but anyone is able to walk around the lagoon area.  I would recommend spending the afternoon there, getting a meal or a drink, and enjoying the beautiful man made beaches.  I parked near lagoon 4, which has the largest parking lot, but make sure you get out by sunset.  I was able to park for free, but I've heard that it can cost up to $10.

Not so good

Dole Plantation - too touristy for me, and I thought Dole whip was way too sweet.  There are a few activities that you have to pay for (train ride, world's largest maze and garden tour), but otherwise I didn't think it was worth visiting.

Waikiki Beach - one of the most popular beaches in the world, but I thought all of the other beaches in the area were nicer!  There's not much parking and it's really crowded, so I would recommend checking out one of the other dozens of amazing beaches on the island.  If you're staying in Waikiki, I would recommend Fort DeRussy, Queen's Surf, or traveling a little to Sandy Beach.

Leonard's Bakery - This is one of those places that EVERYONE recommended that I visit, and unfortunately it didn't live up to the hype to me.  I got three types of malasadas (which are the famous Portuguese donuts that put this bakery on the map)- original, dobash, and haupia.  They were much larger than I expected, and were just too doughy for me.  Plus, they were covered in sugar that got everywhere!  If you're a baked-goods fan I would suggest trying to find the Malasada Mobile, but I personally didn't find the wait worth it or the actual bakery that exciting.

Shave Ice - another thing that everyone recommended I try was shave ice.  I decided to visit the highest rated and most famous place on the island- Matsumoto's in the North Shore. While it tasted fine (still too sweet for me) , both Dan and I agreed that it didn't taste any different than regular ice balls from Pittsburgh.  Probably another case of having high expectations!

Haleiwa Joe's Haiku Garden - I want to preface this by saying that the restaurant itself is absolutely gorgeous- the Haiku Gardens and mountains that surround the restaurant offer one of the most beautiful dinner backdrops that I ever experienced.  Make sure to get to the restaurant early to get a seat by the railing for the best view possible, and walk around the gardens before or after dinner.  With that being said, Dan and I were both let down by the food.  We only ordered appetizers so we might be biased, but everything just tasted like generic bar food.  The view definitely made up for it though, so I would put this as a maybe-visit (if you have enough time or are in the area).

Herringbone - this was probably my biggest disappointment of the entire trip!  I've been a huge fan of the show Top Chef since it started, and have been dying to visit one of the contestant's restaurants for a while now.  I was excited to see that one of my favorites- Brian Malarkey from season 3- owned a restaurant near our hotel in the International Market Place.  The restaurant itself was gorgeous and had one my favorite interior designs of any other place that we visited.  Unfortunately, the food (and drinks) fell flat to me and just seemed over priced compared to other food that we had on our trip. 

Who else has been to Hawaii before?
Did I miss something on my list??
Dole whip- yay or nay?

linking up with Amanda!


  1. So much good food! Are you still doing the vegan diet? I know sometimes on vacation I end up trying new non-vegan dishes.

    1. At home I eat 100% vegan! When I go out (which isn't often unless I'm traveling) I'm more lenient and eat more vegetarian with the occasional fish dish if there's nothing veggie-based on the menu.

  2. I am hoping to make it to Hawaii one day so I'm very interested in this post! Thanks for all the good tips. Did any of your restaurants happen to have gluten free options, if you remember? I'm thinking I should probably be fine (?!) but always good to know first hand :)

    1. I didn't notice a ton of gluten free (or vegan) options unfortunately :(


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