Travel Guide: Getting Real In Honolulu
Honolulu is more than just Waikiki beachfront and honeymooners – the Hawaiian capital captivates travelers with its diverse mix of island offerings.
In addition to aloha spirit and warm vibes, expect to find a buzzy mix of cool new eateries and outposts in Honolulu, plus postcard-perfect beaches and breathtaking hikes. A surge of chef-fronted restaurants in Chinatown and a smattering of lounges and nightclubs keep things hot even after the sun goes down. Bonus if you’re traveling with children: The tropical city was named one of Travel + Leisure magazine’s top 2017 destinations for families. From iconic resorts to unmatched surf and sand, Honolulu truly offers something for everyone.
WHERE TO STAY
$$: The Laylow is one of the area’s newest resorts and features bright and airy rooms complete with your own ukulele. Close to both Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head State Monument, it’s quickly gaining reputation as one of the hippest stays on the island – a sleek midcentury design with quirky rattan finishings is just one of the reasons why.
$$$: Families and young couples flock to Moana Surfrider, which is just an 11-minute walk to the Honolulu Zoo and 3 miles from Diamond Head. Grab a book and post up in one of the resort’s ocean-view lounge chairs or nosh on an order of poke at the outdoor bar. If you’ve got the budget, book a traditional Hawaiian healing experience at Moana Lani Spa.
If it’s a bucket-list trip: The Royal Hawaiian – aka the Pink Palace of the Pacific – is a classic Honolulu experience.
WHAT TO DO
Head to Makapu’u Beach to watch some of the world’s best surfers and boogie boarders take on winter’s sometimes 12-foot waves. Come summertime, the water is safer for swimming. Snap photos of the beach’s coastal lighthouse – which dates back to 1909 – with black cliffs and sparkling water in the background.
If you’re seeking more of an urban adventure, make your way to Honolulu’s Chinatown. One of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States, the area is rich with new restaurants, cool boutiques and eclectic markets. The Hawaii Heritage Center offers historical and cultural walking tours of the region.
If you need a break from the outdoors, the Bishop Museum houses an impressive collection of Hawaiian objects and royal family heirlooms. It’s also the largest museum in the state of Hawaii and internationally revered for its celebration of local and Pacific island cultures.
WHERE TO EAT
$$: Chinatown’s The Pig and The Lady is a modern Vietnamese restaurant with communal tables and a laidback vibe, making it a popular spot for lunch. Nosh on pho bac (hand-cut rice noodles in beef soup) or Hawaiian prawn fried noodles.
$$$: Alan Wong’s is famous for incorporating local dishes with creative passion and has been voted the best on Oahu for years.
Don’t Miss: Manoa Falls
Manoa Falls is a quick blitz of magical nature-y splendor straight out of a fantasy novel. Located in Manoa Valley, the 150-foot waterfall empties into a serene pool and requires a tropical trek along pathways canopied by Banyan trees, wildflowers and ginger. Manoa Valley receives the most rainfall on Oahu, so bring a light jacket along for the adventure.
Andrea Kasprzak‘s writing assignments have taken her everywhere from outdoor Hawaiian spas to haunted South American hotels. Her work’s been featured in Teen Vogue, Allure, Men’s Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Style section, among others. Digitally, she’s contributed to Refinery29, HelloGiggles, Elle.com, DailyCandy and Brit+Co. She’s currently working on a playbook about the imagination, forthcoming from Seal Press.