I’m really happy to be part of Gracious Delights by contributing to City Love and sharing my passion for exploring new (and old) cities! Like I mentioned to Ginet when I signed up to be a contributor, I am by no means an expert on travel nor am I claiming to be. What I hope to bring to City Love are the things that I love and find interesting about the city, and more importantly, I hope you get to share with me your own experiences and the loves you have about that city too! So with that said, read on to see what I have to say about Oahu (I know that’s not a city – I know I’m already cheating)!
The island of Oahu… aaahhh paradise! I personally love going to Hawaii because it makes me feel like I’m in a totally different country even though it’s still part of the United States. The combination of the weather, the people, and the beaches is something I have yet to find and experience anywhere else in the US. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to the island of Oahu at least 4 times now and with each and every trip I find myself discovering and doing new things. I’ve broken up my highlights with the following categories: beaches, food, and points of interest.
When I think Hawaii, the first thought that comes to mind is the beach! For me, there’s nothing better than doing nothing and just laying out on a beach. Call it lazy or boring, but when I’m on vacation, I’m ON vacation. No agendas, no sites to see, no tours to go on. Just pure relaxation and there’s no better setting for that than a tropical beach and Oahu has plenty to choose from.
Believe it or not, I only discovered Lanikai Beach during my last trip and even though it’s a recent find, it has now become my most favorite beach on Oahu! The water is calm and blue and the beach is oh so beautiful! It’s located in a residential area on the east side of the island so parking get a little challenging since you’ll have to find parking on the street and there’s no clear beach park type of entrance. It can get pretty busy on the weekends, but not Waikiki Beach crowded. Be forewarned, the east side is known for being the windward side so it does get windy but I still think it’s well worth it!
2. Sandy Beach
I found out about Sandy Beach Park from a friend who lived in Oahu for his grad program. He said that it was Obama’s favorite beach and is well known for attracting the most attractive beach goers. I knew right away that I had to pay it a visit just to make sure that I help contribute to that reputation! 😛 Sandy Beach Park is located on the lower east side of the island off of the Kalanianaole Highway. The waves are kind of insane, like really big and strong! It’s not really a beach to swim around in, but is definitely a boogie boarder’s paradise. Sandy’s is a great place to people watch given its reputation so make sure to bring your sunglasses!
3. Waimea Bay
The very first beach that I fell in love with the first time I went to Oahu! Waimea Bay located on the North Shore off of the Kamehameha Highway and is actually a beach park so there’s designated parking and plenty of sand and grass to lay out on or picnic. The beach doesn’t stretch out too far and is kind of crescent shaped so it kind of gives off that secluded feel, like you’re enclosed which I like. There’s also a rock that people jump off of (I did, but it was more of a falling than a jump because I was so scared), but in the past couple times I have been it has been prohibited. The waves are pretty manageable but there’s been occasions when it’s been really strong. My friends and I have also encountered sea turtles and dolphins in this bay and that’s always a treat!
Probably the biggest reason why I travel! I love FOOD and my body doesn’t lie about that truth! Hawaii in general has great food because of all the cultures that have settled there. From Polynesian, to Japanese, to American, to Filipino, to Portuguese, you’ll be sure to find great food at every turn and part of the island. Below are just a list of foods I love to have whenever I’m on Oahu:
1. Spam Musubi
Okay seriously, by far the best invention ever! Some rice, meat (questionable), and seaweed wrap to make it compact and easy to eat… I consider that a well balanced meal! It’s the perfect snack to bring with you while you relax on the beach or if you’re the sporty kind, a snack to enjoy during your hike. Spam musubis are also so accessible and can be found at any ABC Store, grocery, 7-11, and some restaurants! I personally love it when it comes with extras – cucumber, egg, etc. My new favorite place to get spam musubi is Iyasume Musubi which is located in an alleyway in Waikiki. Can be hard to find but the variety of musubis and bento boxes they have is great and totally worth it!
2. Shave Ice
No, no typo there. It really is just shave ice. Another Hawaiian treat that I CANNOT NOT have while I’m in Oahu! The hot weather and the salty after taste that stays in your mouth after being in the ocean all day calls for some sweet sweet goodness, and shave ice is just that. People say we have that here and it’s called a snow cone, but it’s sooo not the same. As in apples and oranges. Okay maybe not, but shave ice is finer and the extra fillings you can get it with puts it on a totally different level. People will also argue about the best shave ice but I will forever be Team Matsumoto’s (located in Haleiwa in the North Shore). Aside from the flavor of syrup(s) you can put in your shave ice, I like getting a scoop of ice cream, azuki beans, and CONDENSED MILK! Yes it has to be in all caps.
3. Shrimp Truck
I’m a sucker for garlic anything and the garlic shrimp trucks do not disappoint! I know that there’s been this recent trend of food trucks, but these shrimp trucks have been around way before it got popular to overcharge for food prepared in a truck. But honestly the $13 I spend for 13 large shrimps and two scoops of rice is a small price to pay to have this garlicky goodness back in my mouth! These trucks are mostly found on the North Shore and my favorite is Giovanni’s, more specifically the one located in Haleiwa. Locals have recommended Romy’s over Giovanni’s but my bff and fellow fatty still prefer Giovanni’s.
Points of Interest
The following are just random compilations of other things that I enjoy whenever I’m in Oahu that you might find worthy of visiting too!
Ala Moana Center
It’s a mall but I love going to this place not necessarily for the shopping but for the drinks! Yup. This mall actually has pretty good happy hour spots that can be found at the Mai Tai Bar and Shirokiya YATAIMURA. Mai Tai Bar is an open air bar that has live music and frequented by both tourists and locals, but who wouldn’t when you can get $9 pitchers?!? Shirokiya YATAIMURA is kind of like a Japanese food court with bentos, sushi, takoyaki (octopus balls), and Japanese beers for only $1 during happy hour!
The most beautiful beaches are on this part of the island and it’s probably because it’s not as busy as the beaches in Waikiki. It’s definitely a drive if you’re staying in Waikiki or Honolulu but totally worth it. The North Shore is famous for all the surfing competitions but the country feel also attracts many people to get away from the city. My friends and I will usually rent a beach house in the North Shore and just beach bum around for a week and then head into the city to also get that aspect of Oahu.
Shopping for Pasalubongs
We all know that you should never really buy your pasalubongs/souvenirs from the tourist trap shops found near the hotels and resorts, but what I bet you didn’t know is that the best places to get these goodies for all your jealous friends and family at home are at Costco and Walmart. They’re usually cheaper and come in bulk. Oh and special shoutout to the poke’ from Costco and all the other local Hawaiian treats (chocolates, chips, drinks, etc.) that you will never ever find at the Costcos here at home!
Ughh. Now I want pack my bags and use up my mileage to go back to Oahu! My mouth is seriously watering and my feet itching to touch the sand and the warm waters, but alas reality hits and now I have to get back to doing my laundry….