Travel Guide to Oahu, Hawaii

23 January

O‘ahu, Hawaii, USA

Aloha

Welcome to the ultimate guide to visiting Oahu, Hawaii. 

Intended for everyone planning a trip to see the beautiful island, this blog post will serve as your Covid-safe travel guide to booking your flights, stay as well as recommendations for must-eats and activities.


Before We Begin

Please be sure to follow CDC guidelines on protecting yourself and others from Covid during your travels and use your best judgement on traveling during a pandemic.


Flights

Travel Requirements

A mandatory Covid test is required by the State of Hawaii and you must test negative for Covid in order to be exempt from quarantine on the island. Please review Hawaii's Travel Requirements prior to visiting Hawaii and be sure to follow all of the guidelines shared on the State's web site.


Booking

The most convenient way of searching for flights to HNL, which is short for Honolulu International Airport, is using the Google Flights tool. If you're in California like me, a simple search of entering your preferred airport as your departure location and HNL as your destination, Google will populate prices based on the date range you selected. As of early 2021, the following is the price range for traveling from two major cities in California to HNL throughout the year:

LAX (Los Angeles) to HNL: $273 - $421

SFO (San Francisco) to HNL: $251 - $453

Prices do fluctuate depending on which month you are planning to travel to Oahu and it's worth noting that flights are typically 40-50% higher during the holidays in late November and December. 


Stay

In my experience, I find that visiting Hawaii for a minimum of 5 nights is necessary as the flight time can be quite long at about 6 hours each way from California. I recommend booking your departure flight early in the morning before 9am and return flight in the mid afternoon before 3pm to maximize the time you have on the island.


Lodging

What's fascinating about Oahu is that the island has the perfect mix of both nature and city surroundings. If you are spending a minimum of 5 days on the island, I recommend booking two different stays with one in Waikiki Beach and the other on the North Shore. However if you're a city girl like me, booking two separate stays in the Waikiki area to experience different style of lodging is also a great option.


Waikiki

Both gorgeous and lively, Waikiki is the heart of Oahu situated on the southwest region with its famous Waikiki Beach, luxury resorts and unique eats that you may only find in other parts of the world. I had the pleasure to stay at the following two hotels while visiting Waikiki:


Alohilani Resort @alohilaniresort

Shared directly from their Instagram bio, "A CondΓ© Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2020 Recipient; Vote in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2021", Alohilani Resort is the definition of modern elegance when it comes to hotels. What impressed me about this resort is their infinity pool that looks out to Waikiki Beach and relaxing live music that plays throughout the week in their pool lounge. Location is also highly ideal being directly across from the beach and walking distance from shops and local eats.



Queen Kapiolani Hotel @queenkapiolanihotel

Casual, easy-going vibes with a boutique touch, Queen Kapiolani hotel welcomes their guests with colorful decor, panoramic view of Diamond Head and a communal co-working space at their lobby floor. Although Queen Kapiolani is also situated in Waikiki, it is much quieter compared to hotels near the beach and I felt as if I could connect more to the nature of Oahu with views of gorgeous mountains.


Important Note
Both hotels take handling Covid very seriously and emphasize the priority of their guest's well-being. I personally felt very safe during both of my stays and it ultimately made my trip more enjoyable knowing that I could rely on their safety measures. For more info, visit their individual health & safety pages.


Food

Food options are plenty on the island and lucky for visitors, majority of them are open during the pandemic. I made a goal to support and give back to local businesses on the island while practicing social distancing in all of my dining experience. Recommending a few of my favorites in the following categories:


Snacks

Musubi Cafe @musubi_cafe_iyasume πŸ™

Relax by the beach and grab a musubi (or 3) from Musubi Cafe in Waikiki. The restaurant is pick up only as seating is closed for safety reasons.


Try these:
  • Salmon Mayo
  • Tuna Mayo
  • Small Fish Jako Musubis

Leonard's Bakery @leonardsbakeryhawaii  🍬

One of the most well known spots in Oahu, Leonard's Bakery specializes in malasadas or sometimes called "Portuguese Fried Dough" that can be filled in different delicious flavors in the center.

Try these:

  • Custard Malasadas puffs
  • Guava Malasadas puffs
  • Seasonal Malasadas puffs (The flavor was Taro when I visited)

Cow Cow's Tea @cowcowstea πŸ§‹ 

A twist from the typical boba shop, Cow Cow offers a variety of yogurt drinks topped with mildly sweet rice in the color purple.

Try this:

  • Purple Rice Yogurt Drink with Taro Flavor


Breakfast/Brunch

Rainbow Drive-in @rainbowdrivein 🌈

Outdoor seating at the Drive-In is open with customers being mindful of keeping at least 6 ft apart from each other. The lunch plates here have a variety of selections and it's the perfect brunch spot to fill you up before a full day of activities around the island.

Try this:

  • Portuguese Sausage with 2 Eggs Plat
  • Mixed Plate (BBQ Beef, Boneless Chicken and Mahi Mahi)

Ono Seafood @ono.seafood πŸ™

My trip in Oahu was not complete without stopping by for local poke. The small market shop called Ono Seafood in Waikiki makes some of the most flavorful ahi poke I've ever tasted.

Try these:

  • Ahi Poke
  • Spicy Ahi Poke

Nico's Pier 38 @nicospier38 🐟

Now moving onto both fried and pan seared fish, Nico's is by the pier with great views into the ocean and sounds of birds chirping nearby. We took advantage of the in door seating at Nico's which made me feel like we're back in our normal settings prior to the pandemic.


Try these:

  • Furikake Pan Seared Salmon
  • Fried Ahi Tuna Belly

Dinner

Pig & The Lady @pigandthelady πŸ₯—

Located in Chinatown, this restaurant was the one we looked forward most to with reservations booked days in advance. 


Try these:

  • Papaya Salad
  • French Onion Dip Bahn Mi
Tamafuji @tamafuji.honolulu πŸ›

A comfort food I'll have over and over again, except this time it's a step above the usual takeout version of tonkatsu. Tamafuji offers a small range of specialty cuts of pork that are fried into perfection.

Try this:

  • Tonkatsu Pork Loin Curry

Hoku @hokusatthekahala 🦞

If you're feeling a little fancier than usual, visit Hoku for their 4-course tasing menu of fine dining and unique flavors. When choosing entree, definitely go for the lobster dish if you're into seafood!



Try theses:

  • Grilled Keyhole Lobster
  • Chocolate Coulant

Activity

What I love about Oahu is the accessibility to hiking trails and gorgeous scenery. I highly recommend scheduling in hikes a few days out of your visit to Oahu. I find myself extra active in hikes that are paired with breathtaking views and climbs that challenge my physical stamina. Sharing three hikes that I would do over and over again:


Diamond Head

A must-hike in Oahu, Diamond Head is a relatively easy hike that took ~20 minutes to reach the very top of the trail. The trail was fairly crowded with tourists but most of everyone that hiked near me were conscious of keeping their distance and wore their masks.



Lankai Pillbox Hike

One of the most windiest hikes I've ever done, Pillbox Hike is a well known spot for visitors with a great view to the ocean and nearby town in Kailua.


Makapu'u Lighthouse

Located in the Makapu'u region of Oahu, this hike feels more secluded having to venture out to drive approximately 30 minutes east of Waikiki. Toughest hike of the three listed here but one of the most rewarding with possible whale sightseeing and serene ocean views that stretch beyond the horizon.


Final Thoughts

Hawaii will always have a special place in my heart. It's the perfect getaway filled with delicious food options, gorgeous sunshine and easy access to nature. While this isn't my first time visiting Hawaii, I think Oahu is by far my favorite island with so much to offer that makes me want to come back for more. 

Interested in travel guides for your future trips? Subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of the page and follow me on Instagram @cece.lam.

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