Now I understand why Hawaiian people always seem so happy – with beaches and food and shopping like they have, what’s not to smile about?!
A long weekend in Honolulu was a fantastic introduction to the ways of island life on Oahu. After taking the overnight flight from Haneda, I rented a car and headed straight to the hotel to relax by the pool. Staying in the Trump Hotel on Waikiki Beach was perfect as it meant I was within easy walking distance of great restaurants and bars, an amazing collection of shops along Kalakaua Avenue and, of course, the famous Waikiki Beach itself!
Although Waikiki was on my doorstep, I also wanted to see what other beaches the island had on offer. The first one I headed to was Kailua Beach, on the south east side of the island, about a 30 minute drive through some gorgeous mountain scenery. A lot of Jurassic Park was filmed in parts of Hawaii that looked exactly like the areas I was driving through – I half expected a velociraptor to jump out at some points when the trees started rustling in the wind.
Kailua was a great spot to chill out and watch the kite surfers showing off in the bay. Although it’s not the most tranquil place due to the very windy conditions (the fact that it’s a favourite spot for kite surfing should have been a warning sign…), it’s close to Waikiki and definitely worth checking out.
The following day, I decided to head north, this time in search of some good garlic shrimp! From speaking to friends and locals, it seemed that no trip would be complete without getting food from one of the famous Kahuku Shrimp trucks that dot the island. I made a beeline for Fumi’s Shrimp Truck, which is right on the top of Oahu, close to Turtle Bay, and well worth the trip! Hands down, these were some of the juiciest, tastiest prawns I’ve ever tried.
On the drive back south, I stopped off at Waimea Bay to have a look at a beach on the west side of the island. This beach is famous for surfing but is great for swimming too since the beach is pretty steep and you can get into deeper water closer to shore.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was in Honolulu. Everywhere I went past seemed to have a great variety of fish and seafood, as well as the local staples of loco moco (rice with a burger in gravy, topped with a fired egg) and kalua pig (slow roasted pork, traditionally done in an underground oven). For breakfast one morning, I tried my first acai bowl (which is actually a Brazilian dish of mashed frozen berries with various toppings) which I had heard about as a “healthy breakfast” fad and wanted to see what all the hype was about. I went to Lanikai Juice to get mine and ended up going every morning thereafter – they’re brilliant!
I think acai bowls will be the thing I miss most from Honolulu… Oh, that and malasadas! On the recommendation of the concierge at the hotel, I made a trip to Leonard’s Bakery one evening to try out these deliciously light and fluffy fried doughnuts.
It’s a really cute old bakery that doesn’t appear to have changed since it first opened up in the ’50s. And their malasadas were just brilliant! Dangerously so in fact…
Thankfully, being surrounded by beautiful beaches, open water and lush mountains, it’s easy to get some exercise between all the eating! One sunny morning (well, I was blessed with sunshine every morning, but I think I got lucky) I headed over to Diamond Head to hike up to the edge of the volcanic crater’s rim. This hike takes less than an hour each way and is well worth doing; not just to work off the doughnuts, but because it affords some fantastic views from the top.
I didn’t really know what to expect from Hawaii before I got there, but now I can’t wait to go back and explore some of the other islands! Honolulu was a great mixture of a relaxing beach holiday, a city shopping break and chance to get close to nature in the mountainous areas. And on top of all of that, the food was great and the people were some of the friendliest I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
How to get there: there are direct flights to Honolulu from the east coast of the US or from most major cities in east Asia.
Holly’s Top Tip: rent a car! There are some public trolleys that will take you around downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, but to really enjoy the island’s best beaches and explore the Jurassic Park-esque scenery, it’s much easier to have your own car.