Our trip to Oahu was filled with digging our toes in the sand, Mai Tai’s on repeat and endless family time that had us leaving with a golden glow and very full hearts. Here’s my personal guide to Oahu, including a free printable to-do list.
Where to Stay in Waikiki
We stayed at the Ilikai hotel, which is one of the older hotels. The nicest thing about this hotel, aside from the super friendly staff, was the kitchens in the suites which I really loved having. The view wasn’t too shabby either if you’re on the ocean or partial-ocean-view side (the photo on the left shows the lagoon: open to the public). Bang for your buck, it was a great choice, even though it does show its age. I have also stayed at the Moana Surfrider Hotel which was really central and beautiful (the lounger situation is something else), and rumour has it that the Hilton has the best pool situation for the kids and from what I could see, I don’t disagree.
Where to Eat in Waikiki
The food was consistently good in Waikiki, albeit on the expensive side. We ended up eating breakfast in our rooms thanks to the awesome kitchen in our units (we just made an Instacart order on our first day). We created a little printable graphic for you that sums up where to eat and where to play. As for restaurants, here are my favourites:
- Tommy Bahama’s: order all the appetizers – so good. I wish it was on the beach, it would make it perfect!
- House Without a Key: beyond stunning location with live music, it is a must.
- Monkeypod: not in Waikiki (in Ko Olina), but Charlie is still raving about the fish & chips.
- Orchids came highly recommended but honestly, it is high-end and a place that Charles and I would have enjoyed just the two of us (sorry kids). Maybe next time.
The Best Mai Tai in Waikiki
After an impressive 10-day mission to find the best Mai Tai on the island, we have a couple of contenders. Let’s be clear: the sample size was decent. Here they are, ranked for your sipping pleasure:
- Monkeypod (worth the trek)
- Royal Hawaiian Hotel (bonus points for the adorable pink exterior)
- Tiki’s Grill & Bar
Top 9 Things to do on Oahu
Enjoy this list below, or take a look at this free printable list!
1. Pearl Harbour. The boys took a trip to Pearl Harbour which was such an important history lesson. Charlie was obsessed with the flight simulator and walked out thinking he was Maverik from Top Gun.
2. Book a photoshoot with Flytographer. I can’t recommend this company enough. Skip the cheap souvenirs and invest in a photo shoot with Flytographer (they have incredible photographers all over the world). We shot with Natalie and she was soooo good! Memories captured for us to enjoy for life: 100% chance we will be making a photo book out of this trip, like all the rest! Use the discount code FRAICHE50 to save $50 on your very own photo shoot.
3. Coconut Ice cream at Lappert’s and Mai Tai’s at the Royal Hawaiian or Duke’s.
4. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay. We missed this thanks to a glitch in the online booking system. You need to book a spot and they go FAST every morning; like, within seconds. Have all your payment information ready. There are tours that take you there or just Uber it to the beach. I was there as a child and have since visited as an adult: it isn’t the same sadly as much of it has been destroyed, but still stunning. Remember to be respectful and super careful with the reef and of course only wear sunscreen that is reef safe.
5. Turtle watching on the North Shore. We went to Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach) and saw turtles – so magnificent. They are watched over by local volunteers who protect them. While this was a great beach to spot turtles, locals told us that many beaches on the North Shore have turtles. Around noon is apparently a good time to spot them.
6. Take a hike. We planned on doing this but didn’t. Blame it on the kids (or the Mai Tai’s). That said, Diamond Head is a great little hike with an epic view of Waikiki. You do need to reserve a slot in advance.
7. Ko Olina Lagoons. Four picturesque crescent lagoons sit next to each other, perfect for swimming or snorkeling. Bring beach chairs but leave the umbrellas at home: they aren’t allowed and will ask you to take them down (speaking from experience here).
8. Drive to the North Shore. We will probably stay up Island next time we visit Oahu: it’s our jam. We didn’t make it to Turtle Bay Resort but it is on my next Oahu bucket list, I’ve heard nothing but amazing things. Even if you don’t stay there, they have an incredible restaurant that I was sad to miss this time. Sunset Beach came highly recommended in this area. We also drove south to Makapu’u Beach which was stunning – the rest of the trip further around the Island beyond that wasn’t quite as picturesque but we didn’t end up going all the way around.
9. Shave Ice & Shrimp Trucks in the North Shore in Haleiwa (love, love this town). Ok, here’s the inside scoop from the locals. Matsumoto’s Shave Ice and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck are both famous, BUT they often have huge lineups. The shave ice at the General Store is just as good if not better, and you can’t go wrong with any of the shrimp trucks in case you are as allergic to lineups as I am. Island Vintage Coffee has an Iced Coconut Macadamia Coffee that isn’t to be missed and we enjoyed an amazing dinner at Haleiwa Joe’s (order the Black and Blue Ahi Tuna). Seven Brother’s makes a mean burger if that’s what you’re craving.
What to Pack to Oahu
Confession: I don’t know if I’m qualified to write this section. I am SUCH an over-packer. My next investment is packing cubes. These were the things that I really needed below with links to my favourites. The things I wished I left at home? Extra sweaters (one suffices) and high-heeled shoes (brought 3 pairs, wore 0).
- Swim suits: loved this coral one and this white one-piece suits.
- Sunscreen: this spray one for your face is my fav.
- Casual sandals: white Birkenstocks FTW
- Dressy sandals: this glitzy pair goes with everything
- Beach cover: I own this set in 2 colours and am contemplating a third
- Light pj’s: Love these adorable bamboo flower ones or this little set from PRIV*
- Shorts, tanks & t-shirts
- Floral dresses: This white lace maxi dress would be great for a tropical vacy!
- Cross-body bag: I have this one in 3 colours
- Classic gold jewelry (looks so good with a tan!)
- Laundry strips (great for travel)
- Sunglasses: these black ones from PRIV* are so classy
- Coconut perfume (ok, not necessary but so amazing)
*Use discount code TORI20 for 20% off of your order with PRIV
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions! Remember to grab the Oahu To-Do List HERE!