Vacation Idea: Lazy days in Oahu, Hawaii

Have you ever been to Hawaii? Our photographer friends Max and Margaux are lucky enough to travel there for work every year and have discovered the coolest little spots. Here’s their mini guide (and please share your tips, below!)…
What we love about it: Hawaii holds a special place in our hearts. Not only have we traveled there together annually (for both work and pleasure) since we started dating, it’s also where Max proposed. Additionally, he and his family used to live there (for 8 years!) so it’s always been a home away from home. Stepping off the plane and walking into that soft, sweet air is like an instant dose of relaxation. For this particular post we’ll be focusing on Oahu, but each island is wonderful for its own reasons. We recommend you visit them all!
Where to stay: If you’d like to rent a house, one area we’d highly recommend is the little beach town of Kailua. (Here are some airbnb listings.) It’s only a 20-minute drive from Honolulu. Lanikai (arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on earth) is only a stone’s throw away. If hotels are more your scene or if you prefer to be closer to the action, we’d recommend staying at the Aqua Lotus in an area called Diamond Head, where there’s beautiful Kapiolani Park, a zoo, and some easily accessible beaches. And for more of a splurge, the Kahala Hotel would be our first choice for its tucked-away location and quiet private beach.
Where to eat/drink: Andy’s Sandwiches & Smoothies has been a neighborhood fixture for over thirty years. Andy and his wife, Norma, can be found behind the tiny counter whipping up smoked ahi sandwiches and a great selection of smoothies made using local fruits. We also like Tamura’s in Kaimuki for what many people consider the best poke on the island (they also have an amazing wine selection). And another must-stop is Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas (imagine if a churro and donut had a baby!). Our favorite flavor is the cinnamon sugar.
What to do: Lyon Arboretum is great for hiking and exploring the rainforest, and it’s only a 15-minute drive from Waikiki. Lanikai Beach is our favorite beach on the island—pack a lunch and spend the day lounging in the sun, paddle boarding or kayaking to the Mokulua Islands. Visit Kualoa Ranch and explore the valley via all-terrain vehicle, bicycle, or on horseback. Or take a trip to the North Shore to experience the Hawaiian countryside. We could sit for hours watching the spectacular waves in winter, or you can drive over to the charming Haleiwa Town, which is famous for shave ice, surf shops, and aging hippies. Oh, and you must stop along the way at one of the many shrimp trucks. Yum!
When to go: The beauty of Hawaii is that it’s always a good time to visit! But to avoid the crowds we like to go towards the end of September, after schools are back in session.
Insider tips: Whatever you do, please please please rent a car! Oahu gets a bad rap because of Waikiki (an area we’d say you can skip entirely), but there’s so much more to it if you hop in your car and explore a little. Be sure to soak up the Aloha Spirit so you can bring it back with you and share it with everyone back home. Oh, and wear sunscreen!
Thanks, Max and Margaux!

Have you guys ever been to Hawaii? Do any of you live there? Any recommendations or tips to add? I’d love to go one day…

P.S. More awesome vacation ideas. And Max and Margaux also photographed our engagement and wedding!

  1. Amazing pictures!! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Love these photos. Then I saw the Leonard’s sign and now I need a malasada :)

  3. Mostly, I remember the food from my last trip. Fell in love with Japanese hot pots while I was there.

  4. I loved reading many of the posts here. I will be making my third trip over to the islands in about 3 weeks and I can’t wait!! I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Kauai, The Big Island, and Oahu. I’ve been to Lanakai Beach, which was more than beautiful. Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay was really incredible. The amount of colorful fish and coral was truly something to behold for me.

    I can’t wait for my next Hawaiian vacation and to explore even more the Island of Oahu!!

  5. I have been thinking about vacation ideas for my girlfriend and I and Hawaii is starting to sound really nice. We have been considering it as
    an unlikely possibility, but after seeing your pictures I want to make it happen. I will have to talk to her to see if she is up for a relaxing vacation like this.


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  7. Thanks for sharing your experiences, along with the pretty cool pictures! I just moved to Honolulu because I am starting my own business down there. However, the building I bought had to get some repairs done to it, so I had to look for commercial roofing in Hawaii so that the roof can get repaired and I can start the business as soon as possible.

  8. Going to Oahu, Hawaii was the first family vacation, I remember all the amazing experiences with being able to spend the whole week with my parents for the first time. Thanks to Portico Club who facilitate our vacation.

  9. Hawaii is a beautiful place to go for a vacation! I went there last summer and I had a ball. The only downside is the bad weather it experiences, especially during hurricane season. A great tip is to hire some roofing contractors in Hawaii to ensure that your roof is strong enough to weather the violent storms.

  10. My family lived on the Big Island (Hawai’i) for a few months in 1995. If you have anyone in your group that’s geologically obsessed, there’s a ton of places you can visit (the volcano, craters, black sand beaches, etc.). You can drive around the island in one day, but you can break it up if you’d like a more leisurely pace. Kona has gotten a lot more tourist-friendly in recent years. I’ve always wanted to check out the other islands, though.

  11. JB says...

    I just moved to Oahu last summer and am still exploring. I fell in love with Maui as a teenager on a family trip and after 15 years of visiting just decided that if I could find a job I was moving! Oahu is way busier than Maui but still amazingly beautiful and I am thankful every day that I took this adventure. It has been quite rainy this winter (more than I expected) but its really not that bad, its almost always warm rain that doesn’t last too terribly long.
    I am excited to try Andy’s now and since my mom is flying in tonight for a visit I think we might pair it with a trip to the arboretum. Lankai is ALWAYS on the list :)

  12. JB says...

    I just moved to Oahu last summer and am still exploring. I fell in love with Maui as a teenager on a family trip and after 15 years of visiting just decided that if I could find a job I was moving! Oahu is way busier than Maui but still amazingly beautiful and I am thankful every day that I took this adventure. It has been quite rainy this winter (more than I expected) but its really not that bad, its almost always warm rain that doesn’t last too terribly long.
    I am excited to try Andy’s now and since my mom is flying in tonight for a visit I think we might pair it with a trip to the arboretum. Lankai is ALWAYS on the list :)

  13. This is pretty interesting article! I love the photos shared, so perfect! Hawaii is indeed one great place to spend time with our loved ones. The islands are amazing and so magical as well.

  14. In 2011 we honeymooned in Hawaii and loved every minute of it! Every moment was a highlight, but some of our roadtrips really stand out, including driving to: Ted’s bakery (North shore, Oahu), Mokuleia Beach (where LOST was filmed, Oahu), Hotel Hana (Maui), Julia’s Best Banana Bread (Maui), and spotting sea turtles (Punaluu Beach and A-Bay, Big Island).

  15. I love seeing posts about Hawaii. Born and raised on Oahu, and back after living on the mainland, its always nice to see Hawaii’s less touristy places (like Andy’s, Tamura’s, and Lyon Arboretum) get attention.

    Places to eat (besides Leonard’s Malasada, of course):
    -Opal Thai in Haleiwa: Thai food with the sweetest owner Opel, and his family. Favorites: Crispy Sweet Chili Tofu, Crab Country Style Noodles, Chicken Laab.
    -Sweet Home Cafe: a hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving Taiwanese Hot Pot. Always packed, always delicious, and you get a free SHAVE ICE at the end…a treat indicating its time to go, due to the line of people waiting outside. My favorite restaurant in Hawaii.
    -En Fuego: a “plate lunch” spot with amazing Garlic Ahi and Spicy Garlic Chicken.

    And please visit the Big Island. It is the best island of the Hawaiian Islands, in my opinion, with something like 8 different climate zones, and the best mellow feeling. Check out Waimea town, where farms, rolling hills, a chilly nip in the air, and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) live. While there, eat at Hawaiian Style Cafe: an awesome greasy-spoon joint, where gluten meets gluttony. If you are in Hilo town, visit Aloha Monday’s for a “fancy take on plate lunch”. It’s delicious and owned by my brother (I’m sorry I had to plug!).

    Enjoy, if you ever make it out here. And don’t worry if it’s raining; showers are aplenty and it will probably be over within 5 minutes.

  16. aahhh, hawaii…the world’s most secluded archipelago. this is really as close to paradise as it gets! everyone who ever gets the chance to visit: don’t think twice, just GO! we’ve been to kauai, maui and oahu. all islands are awesome and very unique. we personally liked kauai and maui better.

    oahu has the densest population and honululu is flooded with tourists. it’s a shopping destination for asia and this commerzialisation kinda spoils the “tropical island vibe”. the north shore is beautiful and more pristine though and hanauma bay is really an awesome snorkeling spot. oahu is the only island with a decent public transportation system: “TheBus”. so you can explore the island without a car (which we did, it was less convenient but doable) – on the other islands a rental car really is mandatory.

    kauai is very pristine and was our perfect honeymoon getaway. the waimea canyon and the napali coast are beautiful beyond belief, these are the most breathtaking places i ever saw. kauai is the smallest and northernmost island, it is the greenest and has the most sandbeaches of them all. it feels less touristy and is perfect for hiking and enjoying the nature. the best hikes are the pihea trail in waimea canyon and the hanakapai trail (plus the kalalau-trail with one overnight stay for the very daring). i’d recommend a helicopter-ride and a napali-coast boat tour, cause 90% of the island can’t be reached by car and this is the only way to really see all these unspoiled places.

    maui is a great compromise between kauai and oahu: it’s bigger and more touristy than kauai, so there’s more to do and to see, but the island is still very pristine in most parts. must do’s are the famous road to hana, a drive up to the haleakala crater and lot’s of snorkeling (honolua bay in summer, la perouse bay in winter), we saw many turtles and dolphins here…

    oh, now i’m so struck by wanderlust again!

  17. My husband and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and after 7 years its still one our favorite destinations. I was pregnant and I had an amazing time. There’s this little spot called the fishbow, you have to walk through a lava field to get there, once you’re there you can swim and all sorts of fish will be all around you. It was breathtaking.

  18. I’ve had family in Haleiwa my whole life (some of those aging hippies mentioned above) :-). I second the recommendation for Haleiwa eats (Thai food) on the North Shore and shopping in the surf shops is always fun. If you have little ones there are virtually no waves whatsoever at the beach lagoons of Ko’Olina. If you’re there at the right time of year (winter) you can go out to Kaena Point and watch for whales or go to either Sunset or Pipeline and watch 1.) Stupid tourists get washed away in the surf or 2.)Surfers doin’ their thing! It’s great make sure you don’t over schedule your trip. It’s about being relaxed in Hawai’i. Don’t dress up unless you’re in the City at night and don’t wear socks. It makes you look like a tourist.

  19. It was many years ago since that I went to Hawaii with my family (Oahu, Maui and Kaua’i specifically) and to this day it’s a trip that I catch myself thinking about and one that I remember so vividly. We rented houses whenever possible and would spend days just driving around around the islands, through different national parks and beaches. The landscape is breathtaking – I don’t think I’ve ever seen any place so beautiful. The island of Kaua’i is particularly special. I would go back again in a heartbeat and I hope one day that I can. You should definitely go! :)

  20. We love Oahu! It’s my husband’s hometown, and, since all of his family live there, it’s also where we got married! We go back every year to visit the family. I definitely second the recommendation to stay in Kailua- it’s a lovely town. And while you’re there you must take advantage of the wonderful breakfast places: Cinnamon’s (amazing pancakes), Boots & Kimos (more awesome pancakes), and Moke’s (wonderful omelettes). You cannot go without hiking up to the Lanikai Pillboxes (abandoned WWII pillboxes on the ridge above Lanikai beach)- it’s the best spot in the world to view a sunrise (in my opinion). Spending a day on the North Shore is a must- if you’re there in the winter, Waimea Bay is a great spot for massive wave-watching. Moana Lua Gardens is free and beautiful. Hanauma Bay is fun for snorkeling, and Sherwood Forest is a great beach for kids (gentle surf, good sand, safe swimming). Finally, Mitsu-Ken (in Kalihi) has some super cheap AMAZING food, but be forewarned that you have to get there early to get some. They sell out by about 12 or so everyday. These are the recommendations that come most readily to mind :)

  21. We definitely want to visit all the different islands of Hawaii. We went to Maui for our honeymoon and fell in love – especially visiting the local areas (except those areas that don’t allow tourists for preservation purposes) and talking with local people. That was the best and the most memorable part of our honeymoon. Love these pictures! Can’t wait to visit Oahu!

  22. I LOVE Oahu! Gorgeous pictures!

  23. Love Hawaii! I went with my family to Maui just under a month ago and it was amazing. The best thing to do there is not do too much. There are a million things you can do, but it’s an amazing place to just relax and play at the beach with the kiddos, go for walks, watch the sunset. We did less than we thought we would just because it was enough just to soak the place up!

  24. My husband and I visit Hawaii at least one time per year, with the ultimate goal being a total relocation (from the east coast, with pets)! Every time that we visit, it’s harder to get onto the return flight. So far, we’ve been to Oahu, Maui, and The Big Island, and it’s Oahu with its mix of city living and paradise that calls to us. It’s a truly magical place, and everyone should visit at least one time. I’m saving this post, and might contact some of the folks who have made the move to the islands and posted their email information :)

  25. We spent a week in Oahu — taking our camping gear with us. We rented a car and drove all of the island and loved it. A couple of our favorite things were camping in the Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens (we were the only people and it was gorgeous) and hiking to the top of Koko Crater (off the beaten path, but gorgeous views of the island from the top).

  26. I was in Hawaii for a synchronized swimming meet two years ago. And, unfortunately, the pool we were competing at and our hotel were in Waikiki. I spent most of the hours swimming, sweating and being yelled at in the pool. But swimming all day under that light and those colors, from the early morning, before anyone was up, seeing the sunsets, staying up until late at night in the water… it was amazing anyways. That little part of hawaiian sky we could see from the pool was simply beautiful and I’ll probably never forget it.
    On the last day after awards, we rented a car and went all around the island. So I feel like really I’ve only spent eight hours in the island. I should definitely go back.

  27. I was lucky enough to spend the summer I turned 16 on Oahu and I worked at Sealife Park all summer. I loved driving up into the clouds every day to go to work. I worked at a little popcorn/snow cone/hot dog stand right in front of the dolphin show and we used to have snowball fights with the trainers. It was so laid back and wonderful. We (my sister, my cousin and myself) drove a two-tone yellow Volkswagen beetle that broke down everywhere but people were always willing to help. They love their beetles in Hawaii! I have such great memories, it really is a beautiful place and has a special spot on my heart because I sort of came of age there. Great post, thank you for sharing! I’d love to get back there now and experience it as an adult.

  28. I spent 10 days in Hawaii with my husband last May. We did the Big Island (both sides) and honolulu. If anyone has questions about the big island get in touch with me. We just rented a car and explored. It was phenomenal!

  29. I’m from Hawaii and we go back to see my family once a year (at least). It gave me shivers to see so many great places mentioned here! Not many people know about Andy’s, and my favorite thing is to rent a cottage in Kailua, too. It’s much less expensive and way less touristy than Waikiki. For food, I’d also recommend Town, Happy Day (for dim sum) and Goma Tei (ramen).

    A couple of years ago, I went to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens for the first time, and it was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe I’d missed it for most of my life! Another must: Valley of the Temples. Both are close to Kailua Town and totally stunning.

  30. My brother used to live there, so we didn’t stay in a touristy area when we visited, but my mom and I spent 8 FULL days driving around the island of Oahu. I’d say Max and Margaux completely nailed this guide. The only extra thing I’d suggest is Pearl Harbor. Its touristy, but its one of the most moving exhibits you’ll ever see in your life. Don’t miss it.

    Mmmmmmm, shrimp trucks!!!

    • I agree with you on Pearl Harbor. Watch the movie with Ben Affleck and then visit the site, it will bring it to life. We live on Schofield Barracks which is another amazing historical site and close to the North Shore where we go to our favorite beaches. In three years – and we’ve been TRYING – we have not seen every beach on Oahu. They change with the seasons as well. We will miss Hawaii so much when we live to live … somewhere not-Hawaii.

  31. Hi Joanna –
    Thanks for this awesome post & pictures – Love them!

    I’m planning our 1st trip to the islands to see the Aloha Festival in Sept. this year…anyone have any feedback or tips for this event?

    Also thanks to all your readers for adding really helpful notes (like Jessica & Lizzy re Revealed Guidebooks), Max and Margaux for the inside scoop and @Hawaii_travels on Twitter (which is how I found this blog). Before I found this post, I was feeling overwhelmed on how to plan for our trip…much, much appreciation for sharing info & insights :)

    – Nell

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    • Accidentally deleted my first comment… whoops!

      I lived on Oahu for a few years with my husband and now that we’re back on the mainland, I miss it everyday. The post is absolutely correct: Hawaii is such a special place. A few places to add that we loved: Olive Tree Cafe (delicious greek food & BYOB), Bubbies (try the mochi ice cream!), Aoki’s shave ice on the north shore, and Ted’s Bakery in Haleiwa (a must eat is the chocolate haupia pie…).

      We are counting down the days until we can return for vacation!

    • Meredith, i hope you can return before Aoki’s closes this May. their lease is up, and this local favorite (better than Matsumoto’s in A LOT of our opinions) will sadly close their doors for good. It’s really unfortunate for Haleiwa and Hawaii!
      You are right on about the other spots you mentioned though!

  33. I live on Oahu and am a wedding photographer. I absolutely love visitors! I live on the North Shore and I must say, so many people don’t get out to the North Shore and they miss out!
    The North Shore has SO much to offer. The beaches are amazing – secluded, big, and in the winter months are full of competitions! We have wonderful little places to eat that are GEMS!
    If one really wants to embrace Hawaii, you must come to the North Shore where you can get the wonderful ocean, culture, and relaxation you are looking for!

    If any of you have any questions or plan to take a trip (and need photos!), feel free to email me!

  34. I went to Hawaii about 10 years ago with my family and family friends. We rented to houses on Oahu and two Jeeps to drive around the island. We cooked in some nights and went out others. We did everything from surf lessons to helicopter rides, to driving around exploring. It really was one of the best holidays I’ve had. I thought Hawaii was overrated, until I actually went; it surpassed all expectations!

  35. ooooh I live on Oahu and have to say that these are all great recommendations! Waikiki (my neighborhood!) isn’t all bad though– there are some fun beaches and a few great dive bars for us normal folk + lots of fancy pants shopping if you’re into that! Honolulu in general has a great art scene and tons of local talent. The Kaka’ako neighborhood is famous for awesome street art and totally worth doing a walking tour of the murals.

  36. I’m totally checking airbrb next time we visit the islands!

  37. Love this post!! Keep the vacation guides coming! Nothing better than getting recommendations from insiders with good taste :)

  38. I live in Hawaii and my house looks over the Kahala hotel. They didn’t mention that the hotel has DOLPHINS. Like, real live dolphins swimming around in the hotel pond. Most places have a koi pond, they went for dolphins. Yep. I agree that Waikiki is totally skippable, and definitely rent a car. Makapuu beach is my favorite, but it’s for very experienced ocean swimmers only. Get a hiking guide book for Oahu!!! The trails are spectacular and you can go the whole day without seeing anybody else, which is crazy considering how crowded it is. Hiking on Oahu is so under-appreciated but it’s incredible, and so different from what everybody thinks of when you say “Hawaii.” The shrimp trucks are extremely overpriced and not as great, in my opinion. Bangkok Chef has the best Thai food, and Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (HOPA) in Aina Haina has the best shave ice. Gah, it’s so good. I rest my case, Amen.

  39. my husband and i just got back from 5 nights in hawaii! we left our three small babes at home, and enjoyed reconnecting with one another in paradise. we stayed at the four seasons hualalai…on the big island. a total splurge and totally worth it! ahhhh, still dreaming of drinking mai tais while watching the sun set…

  40. I currently live in Hawaii and have grown up my entire life here. I’ve lived both on Big Island and ‘Oahu. Best time to travel is off season for sure. There’s a whole lot of places to go and a million things to do here but the main thing i’d advise is to not do anything stupid. For instance, knowing how to swim in a pool and knowing how to swim in 6-8 ft waves with a strong current are totally different things. Also, this is a place where people def like to jump off of huge rocks and cliffs into waterfalls and beach sides but if there are locals around, talk to them first. Most likely if they are jumping they know how to jump and navigate that particular area (maybe to avoid jumping in the middle of the pond because of a big boulder in the center.) Safety first guys, its always so sad to here about people who come down here to enjoy the islands and don’t get to make their way home.

  41. My boyfriend is from Moloka’i (don’t worry, you’re not the only one going “Which island is that on?” haha) so we go back each year since his family still has a home there. It is so far off the beaten path but the most beautiful and magical place I have ever been. My favorite time of year is September…no tourists (not that there are many on Moloka’i anyway), beautiful weather, and super cheap tickets ($250 rt from SFO!!!) If you want to visit, however, prepare for creating your own fun, there is no real shopping/restaurants/entertainment except for what you create for yourself: hiking, fishing, swimming, and relaxing. And it’s A LOT more expensive than the other islands since they ship everything to Oahu and then Moloka’i. But rent a house on the East End (Mana’e) and enjoy the tranquility!

  42. I want to go to Hawaii so badly!! My boyfriend and I, if we get married one day, have decided mutually that Hawaii will be our honeymoon spot! I can’t wait for that possible day!! It looks like a beautiful place! =)


  43. OMG thank you for this!! My boyfriend and I are “eloping” in Oahu this June! (In quotes because my sisters know and are coming :). This just makes me that much more excited!!!

  44. Great guide! I live on Maui and love the mix of international transplants and locals. Top foodie picks: the mopsey pizza at Flatbread in Paia, lilikoi quark flavor gelato at Ono Gelato in Paia, French pastries at La Provence in Kula, the saturday Kula farmer’s market for fresh-pressed cane juice and a strong cup of coffee, Milagros in Paia for wailua wheat beer and a heaping plate of nachos and the Fish Market in Paia for the best fish and chips of your life. Can you tell I’m loyal to the north shore? Enjoy!

  45. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Maui and Hawaii and fell in love with the islands! The idea of moving to Maui seriously crossed our minds. We just had so much fun and were more relaxed than I think we’d ever been. I refuse to watch that new show Hawaii Life, afraid it will talk me into moving there (from Boston)!

  46. I’m moving there in May, thanks for all the wonderful tips!

  47. This is such a great guide! My boyfriend and I have been toying with the idea of taking a Hawaii vacation this year – such great tips to keep in mind :)

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  49. Ah, this is inspiring! Has anyone rented a great house in Kauai? My husband and I are going this summer, but haven’t found a sweet little place to rent yet.

    • Definitely stay in Hanalei! It might be my favorite place on Earth.

    • Kauai is amazing! Definitely stay around the Hanalei area, or even around Princeville. There’s a beautiful hike along the coast that starts at Ke’e beach that has absolutely gorgeous views!

  50. I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii. Living on the east coast doesn’t make it a quick/easy trip, but I’m really hoping to get there someday. Thanks for all the fantastic suggestions!

  51. Why didn’t anybody mention Waimea beach or Pipeline?! The North Shore is the place to go; like a few others have said Haleiwa is the best – Banzai Sushi and Haleiwa Eats Thai will always be my favorites. Also, I do agree that Lanikai is the most beautiful beach but beware because it can also be pretty crowded! This makes me pine for my Hawaiian home…

    • I was surprised by this too – but the pic of the person cliff jumping looks like the spot at Waimea beach where people do that. Was just there in June. Oahu is great!

  52. My husband and I moved to Maui (with our 2 cats!) just last year from Philadelphia. We love it! The air is clean and sweet, the people are super friendly, the beaches are phenominal; it’s a pretty magical place. I’ll be visiting the mainland in a couple months and I’m sure there will be some culture shock being amongst the hustle and bustle of the east coast. Biggest change since the move? I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the sky so much in a single day as I do since we’ve moved here. It’s always so beautiful!

    • Amazing that you made the jump from Philly to Maui!! We will be there next month and looking at hotels – it looks like the one in Paia is really cool and hip. Any thoughts? I’d love a former East Coaster’s take (and my man is from KOP!) much appreciated. xo

    • I’m an east coast girl living on Maui! I love the Paia Inn– cute, stylish but its a bit spendy for what you get. I’d look on Airbnb for a rental in Paia, Makawao or Kula. The Mangolani is a great little spot on Baldwin Ave. Good luck! shaunna xo

    • Hey Sarah!
      Paia is definitely fun. I agree with Shaunna. The Inn is cute but a bit on the pricey side. You can find some really amazing vacation rentals that are a bit more affordable. Either way, you’ll have a great time. You have to eat at the Fish Market and stop by Ono Gelato for some dessert after. We live upcountry which is worth the drive if you’re renting a car at all. I can’t recommend catching sunrise from Haleakala Crater enough. It’s amazing up there. I have tons more to suggest if you’d like. Feel free to email me for more ideas:
      KOP! It’s been a while since I’ve heard that! Have fun!!!

  53. Love the post and all the gorgeous photos. I’ve lived on Oahu for the past 5 years and agree with all of their tips. I have a three year old and there’s such a wealth of things to see and do. Here’s a few random tips to add to the list: Magic Island (little beach park across from Ala Moana Mall); I-Naba Soba restaurant on Punahou Street (authentic Japanese noodles and sushi); mochi ice cream at Bubbies; Honolulu Museum of Art; and hiking Manoa Falls or Makiki Trail (easier for little ones). Enjoy!

  54. I live there!! And I feel continually blessed to call this place my home. These are fantastic recommendations. My husbands parents live here and rented a house in Kailua for when my sister-in-law and family came to visit. It was a blast!

    We live on the island of Oahu and have also traveled to Kauai (my FAVORITE island), the Big Island, and Maui. Still working on Lanai and definitely Molokai someday too. It’s the perfect place to raise a small one. We frequently just pop on over to the beach for the afternoon (exactly our plan for this afternoon, actually), the Waikiki Aquarium for rainy days (it’s small, but great for kids, and we also have a zoo membership too.

  55. I left my heart on Big Island when I went there about six years ago. I was able to do a lot during those two weeks, but my favorite memories will always be the small things – the rain, lying awake at night and listening to the coqui frogs, the glow from the lava flow that you could see all night along the horizon, that humid smell that smacks you in the face the second you step off of the airplane. I love it and miss it so much!

  56. Looking at these photos make me realize how lucky I am to live here! I live on the North Shore of Oahu and it truly is paradise. All of Max’s recommendations are great.

    • Ohmygosh. There’s also this AHMAZING little north shore town called Laie that’s just full of awesome people and adorable beaches!

  57. The Hawaiian Islands are a life-long special place for my family and I. My mom and grew up in Kailua blocks away from the spectacular Lanikai beach that was mentioned in the post, and my husband and I were engaged on Maui and honeymooned on Molokai and Kauai. Each island has it’s own personality and unique beauty. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
    To the above post I would suggest that the best times to go to Oahu are Fall, when the summer tourists are gone, the heat has subsided a bit and costs are lower, or in the late Spring before the summer rush. Depending on which island you go to early Spring can be busy and more expensive because of whale watching season (this is particularly true on Maui).

  58. I was born and raised in Kailua! Someone asked when to visit and the truth is that ANY time of year it’s warm and beautiful. It tends to rain more during the winter months, but typically that’ll mean just a short, soft rain and then it gets sunny again. Don’t miss Island Snow and Lanikai Juice in Kailua!

    • Ahh Lanikai Juice! If anyone’s planning a vacation, it’s a must-go! (One in Lanikai and one in Haleiwa Town).

    • Also one in the Kahala area! Love me some Lanikai Juice!

  59. I was born on Oahu and then my family moved to Maui when I was two. Now I live just outside of Seattle and let me tell you a secret: the weather is not the same! I miss Maui weather every day of my life. My husband likes to tease me by saying how much better the Big Island is than Maui, and how he’s heard that Kauai is the most beautiful of the islands. Then I give him a poke on the arm.

    The reason I think Maui is so great is that it hits the right balance between stuff to do and natural beauty. Oahu can sometimes be…too much city, whereas the Big Island has not a lot going on. It depends on what you’re looking to experience, I suppose. If you want to see lava beds and hike down into an active volcano with steam vents and whatnot, the Big Island is the place to go.

    If you guys ever do make it to Maui, you must must take your littles to the Maui Ocean Center ~ it’s a wonderful aquarium! And you also must make the trek to a bakery called Komoda Store Bakery, it has the best doughnuts and malasadas (doughnuts made with portuguese sweet bread you have ever had, or will ever have, in your life!

  60. We honeymooned in Kauai last summer and it was the most amazing place I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. Visiting the Na’Pali coast via helicopter is in the top 3 greatest things that’s ever happened in my life. I can’t wait to go back!

  61. I fell in love with the Big Island when we went there about a year ago. If you’re looking to feel revived and relaxed, we stayed at the Yoga Oasis – a little off-the-grid retreat in the rain forest near the village of Pahoa. It was wonderful and laid back and convenient to Volcanoes National Park. I’d go back in an instant.

  62. I took my fiance there (which is “home” for me) for the first time in January, for his birthday and to meet my parents. It was so hard to think of what he HAD to see in our very short trip. We did Hanauma Bay, Lanikai & Kailua, and drove around to the North Shore. While you’re up there, Waimea Bay is my favorite beach on that side because of how expansive the bay and beach are – great for surf watching in the winter, and swimming in the summer. Also, I recommend getting a little culture by attending a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s meant for tourists, but we went there many times as children as a requirement for school and it’s a fantastic way to learn more about Pacific Island cultures!

  63. Oh and ono grinds on the North Shore that won’t break the bank but are still fun for date nights include:
    Haleiwa eats (thai fusion BYOB)
    Banzai sushi

    And random things to try:
    malasadas (portuguese donuts) from a truck
    manapuas and spam musubi from a 711 (I’m not joking)

  64. Uh… I have so many good memories of Oahu and I want to go back so bad! My ex was stationed in the military there, so I got two go twice. It was amazing – definitely the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

  65. We honeymooned on the Hawaiian islands and went back to live on the North Shore of Oahu for four years. I emphatically recommend the “Revealed” series of guide books (Oahu Revealed, Maui Revealed), etc. as they are written by kama’ainas (locals) and are reliably spot-on. :)

    Also for snorkeling, nothing beats early morning at Shark’s Cove (misnomer) in the summer. Absolute paradise.

    • I also purchased these guide books when I visited Maui & Kauai. They were very helpful in finding out where the locals hang out(especially important if you want to know where the secluded beaches are located and where to get a good cheap meal(eating out every meal can get pricey).

  66. I live on Oahu! Love this post and agree with their suggestions! Lots of Hawaii locals love to use Yelp so it’s a great resource to find everything from cheap sushi places to hiking spots.

  67. Love Oahu & love the Kahala! My family started going there when I was 10 & have probably been 15+ times. Thanks for the great tips & some new places to explore next time we’re there!

  68. My parents had the worst honeymoon ever there so I’ve been wary to go, but a friend of mine is building a house there, so I’ll just have to pay for a plane ticket if I want go!

    • My parents had a terrible honey mooon in Greece and their stories completely soured me on the idea of going to Santorini which is crazy. I say bite the bullet and go to Hawaii. Maybe crappy travel experiences skip generations?

  69. We’re thinking of Kauai for our honeymoon. If they have any suggestions for that island, we’d love to hear them!

    But I’ve also been to Oahu and it was amazing. The island has a great variety of things to do.

    Now I wish I were on the beaches of Hawaii rather than at my work desk :)

    • My parents own a condo in Kauai and it is by far my favorite of all the islands (I’ve been to Oahu, Maui and the big island) and a perfect site for a honeymoon! The Waimea Canyon is considered the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” with gorgeous views and you can’t beat the Napali Coastline. It’s known as the “Green Island” and is so lush and tropical with natural beauty and side waterfalls we’re constantly discovering driving around the island. Kauai has tons of adventurous activities (zipling, hiking, kayaking, surfing, snorkeling) plus beautiful and relaxing beaches so a little bit of everything really.

      My one warning, depending on what sort of person you are, is Kauai isn’t like the other islands with lots of destination shopping or a great nightlife. They joke that the national island bedtime is 9:30 p.m. and I believe it! But also could be exactly what you’re looking for. :)

    • I go to Hawaii almost every year (since I was little – my Nana is from there) and I completely agree. Kauai is my most favorite island. It’s so relaxing and there are a lot of places that are somewhat isolated (Shipwreck’s Beach for one). Plus, I think it’s the most beautiful!

    • I agree with Emily! I’ve been to Hawaii many times (it’s a Californian’s Caribbean) and I prefer Kauai. It’s definitely quiet, but by far the most gorgeous and authentic. I think both Oahu and Maui are overrun with stores and restaurants that cater to tourists (Waikiki is like Vegas on the Ocean and Maui reminds me of San Diego). There are definitely some amazing hotels there (St. Regis anyone?), but you can also rent an amazing home!

    • We loved Kauai, too. We stayed in Hanalei Bay, in an ocean front house, which was amazing – we’d just roll out to the water whenever we wanted to, for 10 minutes or 2 hours. And it’s where South Pacific was filmed! It was amazingly beautiful.

      It was also quiet, which for us was a draw. And the St Regis has a great restaurant and bar.

    • My husband and I spent our honeymoon there a few months ago and we loved it! We rented a house, which we both agreed was a great choice since it was quite spacious and it gave us the option to be a bit creative with our food. Tunnels Beach was our favorite spot to just hang out for an afternoon. I personally would stay near Kapaa- that’s where we found our favorite restaurants. I highly recommend Kintaro (Japanese Food), Mermaid Cafe (wonderful ahi wraps), Java Kai (coffee/cafe), Kountry Kitchen (breakfast) and Ono Ono Shave Ice. Do keep in mind the pace of life is wonderfully quiet and slow (so be a patient driver). Also, renting a car is a must.

    • Kauai is fabulous. My fiance and I got engaged at Queens Bath this past October. South Side of the island (Poipu) if very different than the North Shore and there is a bit more to do on the south shore (and there were way more families and kids too). Generally, the south shore is sunny and the north shore rainy. Grand Hyatt in Poipu is very nice – but the beach isn’t great for swimming. St. Regis on the north shore is fabulous and peaceful and very quiet. Snorkeling and a great beach right at the hotel.
      There are tons of outdoor activities in Kauai, but renting a car (or even better, a jeep) is a must. Ziplining, tubing through sugar tunnels, kyaking, paddleboarding,boat tours of the Napili coast, helicopter tours, you name it- – there is so much to do. I recommend taking a day and driving all the way to the top of Waimea Canyon. The views of the Napili Coast from the top are amazing. Pack food and water though because it is a long trip (even from Poipu all the way to the top of the caynon and back).
      We did so much sightseeing on our first trip to Kauai in 2010 that we went back in 2012 to mostly just sit on the beach and relax. Thinking about it now makes me wish I were back on the island!

    • One more vote for Kauai! My boyfriend’s family has owned a house there for decades, and I went for the first time this past summer. It’s heaven on earth for all of the above reasons (Napali Coast, gorgeous beaches, good snorkeling, helicopter tours, incredible farmers’ markets…) and so un-touristy to boot!

  70. I’ve been! We went to Oahu for our honeymoon and it was beautiful!! My husband went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay and loved it. This year we are going to Maui. I can’t wait. Definitely add it to your list if you haven’t been.

    • Just went to Maui in November for our honeymoon and it’s amaaaaazing. I want to live there. We stayed up in Napili and had the best time.

  71. c says...

    I’ve always wanted to take my husband there so thanks for this. I’d love to know WHEN they think is the best time to go. If you can amend this post with that information it would be marvelous. Love your blog, Jo!

    • I would go in the summer. It’s less rainy then and a wee bit warmer. Though summer (and all school holidays) tend to be more expensive. The least expensive time is most definitely September-November.