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The Ultimate Oahu, Hawaii Travel Guide

July 1, 2016

O'ahu Travel Guide via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

TRAVEL GUIDE TO OAHU, HAWAI’I: 


O’ahu was the very first island we explored back in 2011. My mom has lived on three of the major Hawaiian islands over the past 40 years & spent a lot of her time on this beautiful island living on both North Shore & downtown Waikiki. Since that first trip, we have had many opportunities to explore everything this island has to offer & it’s my pleasure to share my recommendations with you! O’ahu offers adventure & relaxation, nature & luxury, mountains & sea. This island is really special & has so much more to offer than the usual ‘tourist trip’ when you step outside the guide book – you just have to know where to find them!

Here is a glimpse into our favorite things to do in O’ahu. . .

O'ahu Travel Guide via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN O’AHU

THE SURFJACK HOTEL & SWIM CLUB

Looking for a hotel with a nod to midcentury Hawai’i? The Surfjack has a retro vibe, great atmosphere and a beautiful aesthetic. We have loved staying here each time! Don’t forget to grab a coffee & browse through the merch at Olive & Oliver – it’s one of my favorite places!

LAYLOW WAIKIKI

Swanky little spot in the center of Waikiki, this hotel merges midcentury modern style with present-day Hawaiian charm — and they get along famously. You’ll remember the darling design details (hello custom wallpaper!), lounging in the hanging chairs outside your room, enjoying the beautiful pool & drinks at their cafe or rooftop bar.

THE MODERN HONOLULU

No detail was forgotten at this Waikiki Resort + the entire property was pristine. We were greeted with complimentary beverages and taken up to our dreamy, calming room! The rooms + bathrooms are minimal, breezy & delightful. Have dinner at their restaurant, Passageway, and spend the following day lounging in one of their day beds. You must try the Frozen Coconut Mojito – heavenly!

Summer Inspo | Weekend Goals | The Modern Honolulu | Best Hotels in Hawaii | Drinks at the Pool | Best Places to Stay in Honolulu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Summer Inspo | Weekend Goals | The Modern Honolulu | Best Hotels in Hawaii | Drinks at the Pool | Best Places to Stay in Honolulu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Workspace Goals | Home Interior Inspiration | Weekend Goals | The Modern Honolulu | Best Hotels in Hawaii | Drinks at the Pool | Best Places to Stay in Honolulu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Summer Inspo | Weekend Goals | The Modern Honolulu | Best Hotels in Hawaii | Drinks at the Pool | Best Places to Stay in Honolulu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Wakeup Slow | But First, Coffee | The Modern Honolulu | Best Hotels in Hawaii | Drinks at the Pool | Best Places to Stay in Honolulu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

HANA HOU CAMPERS

This beauty is named MANGO (as seen on the license plate) because the owner totally redid the interior of the bus in reclaimed wood from an old mango tree! It was such a stellar experience driving this bus around the island together, taking backroads + going the slower route to simply just explore.We chose to camp on the beach of Maelekahana, steps from the waves, thanks to the recommendation of Brett (the owner of Hana Hou Campers) who was more than helpful when it came to finding beaches to camp on, etc.

Camper van in Hawaii via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN 

We have loved staying at the famous Pink Palace of the Pacific! You can get a feel of what to expect on their Instagram @royal_hawaiian, though take my word for it: it’s amazing. With expansive views of Waikiki Beach, direct beach access, old world Hawaiian charm & so much history…this hotel is really special.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel | Pink Palace in the Pacific | Hotel Accommodations in Honolulu, Oahu | Best Places to stay on Oahu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Royal Hawaiian Hotel | Pink Palace in the Pacific | Hotel Accommodations in Honolulu, Oahu | Best Places to stay on Oahu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Royal Hawaiian Hotel | Pink Palace in the Pacific | Hotel Accommodations in Honolulu, Oahu | Best Places to stay on Oahu | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

BEST SPOTS TO EAT & SIP IN O’AHU

IN TOWN:

ARVO CAFE

THE PIG & THE LADY

KOKO HEAD CAFE

A’I LOVE NALO

 

NORTH SHORE:

RAISED BY THE WAVES

FARM TO BARN CAFÉ

HALEIWA BOWLS

Arvo Coffee | Travel Guide To Oahu, Hawaii | Best Coffee Shops on Oahu | Coffee In Hawaii via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

BEST O’AHU BEACHES & STATE PARKS

Best Beaches on Oahu | Hawaiian White Sand Beach | Beaches in Hawaii | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

LANKAI BEACH
KAILUA BEACH
SUNSET BEACH
KE IKI BEACH 

These beaches are stunning! Absolutely beautiful white sands, talcum powder soft + clear, sparkling aqua waters. They tend to be tourist hot spots (but locals also love them) so make sure to get there early if you want a bit less busy of a scene.

Best Beaches on Oahu | Flamingo Floatie | Hawaiian White Sand Beach | Beaches in Hawaii | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Vintage VW Bus | Green VW Camper Van | Hanahou Campers | Rent a Vintage VW Bus on Oahu | Kailua Beach | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

BEST EXPERIENCES IN O’AHU

VISIT HO’OKUA’ĀINA KALO FARM

This is a deeply sacred & unique hands-on experience where they will take you back in time and teach you the ways of traditional Hawaiian kalo (or taro) farming which was a staple food for Hawaiian ancestors. You’ll get muddy, learn about Hawaiian history and culture and will absolutely leave with a smile on your face!

SHARK DIVING ON NORTH SHORE O’AHU

 

photo from our shark dive by Ben Ono

SAIL OUT OF WAIKIKI AT SUNSET

Sailing off of Waikiki gives you a whole different perspective of the city! We’ve been out with Manakai Catamaran but there are many that depart right off the beach.

IMG_1309-4
IMG_1342-11

BEST HIKES ON O’AHU

CROUCHING LION HIKE

When you google “Crouching Lion Hike” you may see that it’s on the Top 5 Most Dangerous list on Oahu. . . At least, that’s what the locals we ran into told us. BUT don’t let that make you scroll past this! Instead, think about going on the Crouching Lion MINI Hike! This hike is difficult at points but the view from the top are SO WORTH IT!

LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE

100% worth the beeping alarm clock at 5AM! This gorgeous, scenic hike is ranked intermediate because of the steady steep incline right from the start of the trail head. But c’mon! LOOK AT THAT VIEW!

Throughout the climb, you’ll be rewarded with striking views of the Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach + Lanikai Beach! In the distance, you can also see Kaneohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, Waimanalo Bay + the Makapu’u Lighthouse. It’s truly a bird’s eye view!

The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a moderate 1 hour (possibly 90 minute, depending how far you decide to go) round trip. You can easily reach the first old military bunker (aka ‘pillbox’) in about 20-30 minutes. From that point, it’s another 10 minute walk along the top ridge to the second pillbox (less crowded, definitely go here!).  Most hikers turn around at this point + travel back down the Kaiwa Ridge Trail although there is a third pillbox beyond the first two if you’re feeling adventurous!

For directions + specifics, click here.

Lanikai Pillboxes Hike | Best Hikes on Oahu | Sunrise Hikes | Lanikai Pillboxes Hike at Sunrise | Best views in Hawaii | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com
Lanikai Pillboxes Hike | Best Hikes on Oahu | Sunrise Hikes | Lanikai Pillboxes Hike at Sunrise | Best views in Hawaii | Travel Guide to Oahu via @elanaloo + elanaloo.com

With a little research & some local knowledge – you truly do get a better experience when you travel! When are you heading to O’ahu?


Get The Complete O’ahu Island Travel Guide

If you want our full insider’s guide to Oahu for adventurous travelers filled with 90+ personally curated recommendations from our many trips there – grab our O’ahu Guide! You can easily access it from anywhere on your smartphone, computer or iPad.

The guide includes:

+ Over 70 personally curated recommendations for your O’ahu vacation

+ Tips for where to stay on the island, ways to be a mindful traveler & experiences not to miss

+ The cafes, restaurants & bars we love the most from all our times traveling here

+ Our favorite beaches, hikes & ways to spend the day all around O’ahu

TAKE ME TO THE GUIDE

Thanks for reading! I'm a photographer, writer & environmental advocate excited to be sharing regenerative solutions, ideas & concepts for our lives & businesses with you. 

I'M ELANA JADALLAH

Meet the writer

MORE ABOUT ME

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  1. ok I live in Hauula and have yet to come across that swing! Killer find!
    we LOVED our stay at the Surfjack! One restaurant recommendation in Waikiki – Buho. It’s a fun rooftop Mexican restaurant that is sooo good!
    Next time you hop over to Oahu come visit us for a zipline tour at Climbworks on the north shore! Maybe we can set something up :)

  2. Aggie says:

    Fantastic post on Oahu travel and the images are just stunning! Sharing this on our facebook page :)

  3. Avery says:

    Ah! My home :) love this round-up! Too many good spots to list in one place. Love these suggestions, a few to add to my list! I would say watching a surf contest at Pipeline ( & Banzai Bowls acai!!!) is a MUST. My favorite staycation was The Laylow. That palm print and modern style?! To die for. And even though it is “touristy”, Duke’s mai tai and live music at sunset. Made many a good new friend there :) Let me know if you venture– I am planning my own jaunt over to Big Island and would LOVE to see you!

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