A “To Die For” Travel Guide for O’ahu

Where to Eat and Drink on O'ahu

It's common knowledge - there's no such thing as a bad Hawaiian vacation. The minute you step off the plane and that warm, sweet-smelling air hits your skin, the human happiness hormone increases. This island's fruit is extra-sweet, the Mai Tai's are strong and some of the most delicious discoveries are found roadside. On a recent five-day trip to O'ahu, land of the biggest avocados and papayas you've ever seen, I discovered dozens of flavours that you simply must try and a handful of fun activities to fill your days.

A few spots I hear are great (but didn't get a chance to visit): Manifest (cocktails), 
Koko Head Cafe (brunch), Via Gelato, Otto Cake (cheesecake), Morimoto (sushi), Fresh Catch 
(seafood), Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Romy’s Kahuku Prawns (food truck), Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp 
(food truck), Ted's Bakery, The Curb (coffee).
Thanks to Oahu Visitors Bureau for hosting such a wonderful trip!

The Modern Honolulu

1775 Ala Moana Blvd | 808-943-5800 $$$ | Resort Hotel

@modernhonolulu | Visit website

The Modern is a style-maven's dream resort. From the surf board lobby decor, to the monochromatic coffee bar and study (hidden beyond a revolving bookshelf) to the giant white pillows neatly aligned on every couch on the property, this hotel offers design-surprises around every corner. The breakfast menu delights with an avocado toast that rivals the best I've had, served with feta and radish on Pumpernickel rye. Other options include a green smoothie with kale, organic steel-cut oats and banana macadamia nut waffles. Morimoto is another dining option on property, featuring creative sushi from the Iron Chef himself who is focused on using ingredients from the island. Feel like partying? You've got a handful of tropical bars to choose from -- and the drinks here are strong.

Livestock Tavern

49 N Hotel St | 808-537-2577 $$ | Seasonal American

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If there's one spot you must get to for cocktails in Honolulu, this is it. Located in the eclectic Chinatown Art district, Livestock creates unique, boldly-flavoured drinks that don't just sound good on paper. Execution is flawless, spirits are hand-crated and every syrup is made in house. Try the pumpkin cocktail with maple syrup, a whole egg and lemon -- it's creamy, yet bright-flavoured thanks to citrus and positively exquisite. Livestock's drink and American comfort food menus change with the seasons and they're open for lunch and dinner.

Brue Bar

675 Auahi St | $$ | Espresso Bar

@brue_bar | Visit website

Quite possible O'ahu's most cutting-edge coffee destination with four locations on-island. Get to the Paiko location (675 Auahi St) and sip hand-crafted espresso beverages (made with beans from top international roasters) while attending a tropical floral crown-making workshop often hosted by inspiring founder Tamara Rigney herself. This is most certainly the easiest way to transform yourself into a Hawai'an goddess! Blooms are sourced locally and this girlie activity is perfect for a pre-party (grab the white wine), a birthday celebration or a friend bonding session. You won't want to take your crown off! A post-workshop photo shoot is a must. And lengthen your crown's shelf life by popping it in the fridge or setting it in water. Base price of $350 includes 7 guests; add additional guests for $48. Minimum 6 guests; maximum 15 guests.

Heavenly Island Lifestyle

342 Seaside Ave | 808-923-1100 $$ | Organic Cafe

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A brand new, all-natural health food restaurant featuring local ingredients, conveniently located in the heart of Honolulu. Heavenly serves local seafood (only when fresh) and often-organic meats alongside their vibrant, plant-forward menu. Choose from acai bowls, smoothies & juices, egg dishes, noodles and lots more. Pictured: pitaya bowl.

Morning Glass Coffee

2955 E Manoa Rd | 808-673-0065 $$ | Cafe

@morningglassc | Visit website

Heading to Mānoa Falls for a hike? (If you are, I recommend getting there early to avoid crowds of tourists.) Pit-stop at this beachy, open-air cafe serving creamy almond milk lattes and scratch-made baking (try an Earl Grey scone). Each cup of coffee is freshly ground to order and a variety of beans from top roasters are brewed. "Hawaiian coffee of the day" is also available so you can experience the local roasting. Macaroni and Cheese Pancakes, Breakfast Burritos and Oatmeal Brûlée are also on offer. And keep your eyes peeled for Hawaii Five-0 stars who seem to frequent this humble spot.

Mud Hen Water

3452 Waialae Ave | 808-737-6000 $$$ | Hawaiian

@mudhenwater | Visit website

Easily one of the coolest eateries on the island (design and food-wise) from local chef Ed Kenney who features modern Hawaiian cuisine with an ode to older flavours. Set in an up and coming, off-the-beaten-path neighbourhood, this is where locals go for a meal on the town. Try new flavours like koena hummus, baked mai'a maoli (heirloom banana) and I'a lawalu (opah buried in coals) in the rustic dining room or on the twinkle-light lit patio.

The Pig and The Lady

83 N King st | 808-585-8255 $$ | Asian Fusion

@pigandthelady | Visit website

This food truck-turned-bumpin-brick-and-mortar appears to be the locals' favourite. After seeing huge success at the KCC Farmers Market (where you'll find them to this day), this family-run operation opened a restaurant focused on Vietnamese fusion. Be warned: their dishes are Triple-D worthy. The cocktails are equally outrageous with ingredients like sriracha ice cubes, avocado-infused mezcal and condensed milk.


62 N Hotel St | 808-566-6768 $$ | French Latin

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A casual Latin-French restaurant bar to include in your Friday night cocktail crawl...and an easy spot to stand around with friends or meet bar-dwelling locals. Try the "N. Hotel" with gin, cucumber, sage, coriander, lemon and ginger beer.

KCC Farmers Market

4303 Diamond Head Rd | $$ | Farmers Market

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If there's one thing you do on O'ahu, let it be a visit to the KCC Farmers Market, Hawai'i's largest market, located on the Kapiolani Community College Campus in parking lot C. Your senses will be overwhelmed! The sights, the smells and even the sounds (live music adds to the fun vibe). Sorbet-stuffed tropical fruit and produce shopping is a must (plan for a beach or hike picnic?). The eggplant-sized avocados are particularly impressive (just make sure you buy a ripe one so you can eat it before you fly home and aren't forced to ditch it at customs!). The market is open from 7:30am-11:00am and you can follow @HNLFarmers on Twitter for market updates, specials & pics.

The Beet Box Cafe

66-443 Kamehameha Hwy | 808-637-3000 $$ | Organic Vegetarian

@thebeetboxcafe | Visit website

Breakfast, lunch and dinner heaven for any plant lover. Beet Box offers a plethora of colourful smoothies, bowls, juices, healthy desserts and more. Their baking is sweetened with maple syrup, bowls are big, colourful and filling and there are vegetarian (non-vegan) options for your egg-loving friends. You'll go crazy for this sweet spot!

The Local Hawaii

131 Hekili St | $$ | Shave Ice

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If there's one sweet treat you must try in Hawaii (other than the fruit), it's the shave ice. You'll find it on most corners, but not all syrup-coated ice cups are created equal. Head to The Local for a version made with OnoPops organic syrup, OnoPops ice cream on the bottom and a drizzle of dulce de leche on top. While there, shop at the adjoining boutique for stylish souvenirs, like locally made candles, camping mugs and graphic tees. Looking for more top shave ice spots to try? Get to Barack Obama's favourite shop, "Island Snow".


56-565 Kamehameha Hwy | 808-561-5151 $$ | Vegan & Gluten Free Cafe

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A dream hole-in-the-wall for allergen-prone diners. LaniLove, discreetly located at the side of a building, specializes in vegan, gluten-free and 95% organic food. Order sloppy sandwiches (on sweet potato buns, pictured), pizza, birthday cakes, muffins, waffles and even bread. Other than two chairs out front, there's no seating area, so take your meal to go or be prepared to stand.

Where To Stay on O'ahu

Hunting for the best resort hotels on O'ahu? Here are two great options for travellers who prioritize convenience, urban proximity and luxury...

The Modern Honolulu

If an urban vacation is what you’re craving, The Modern can’t be beat. It’s easily one of the most stylish hotels I’ve experienced, from the monochromatic, wooden-accented bedrooms to the fern-basket wall decor. Anyone with an affinity for minimalist, modern design will appreciate their surroundings here. The property is also riddled with delightful surprises, like a tropical sandy bar poolside, romantic fire-pits and a beautiful dark blue wading pool (ideal for catching some rays and sipping strong Mai Tais). Located three minutes from the beach and just blocks away from the shopping district, The Modern is the ideal resort hotel for an upbeat vacation in the centre of this bustling city. The modern honolulu The Modern Honolulu The Modern Honolulu The modern honolulu room The modern honolulu The Modern Honolulu the modern honolulu full size

Turtle Bay Resort

  Turtle Bay Resort is the only resort hotel on the peaceful North Shore and the only resort on O’ahu from which one can enjoy the sunrise and the sunset. Turtle Bay is also one of Hawaii’s only farm-to-table resorts, with local farms growing ingredients specifically for their restaurants’ menus. Complete with a golf course, seven eateries and bars and plenty of family activities, this massive property is ideal for families and travellers who appreciate convenience — activities and dining are at your fingertips. And a recent multi-million dollar renovation means the building is looking fresh and new — no stinky, out-dated rooms here. Turtle Bay Resort Turtle Bay Resort North Shore turtle bay resort Turtle Bay Resort turtle bay stand up paddle boarding turtle bay resort

9 Things To Do on O'ahu

Besides eating, there are a plethora of fun thingsi to do on O'ahu. Here's a list of my favourite Hawaiian activities...

1. Flower Crown-Making Workshop at Paiko

Paiko Honolulu Ladies, if your schedules allows for but one activity, let it be this: a flower crown making work-shop at Paiko, a most-charming, locally-owned and run botanical bar offering locally-grown blooms and expert advice (from founder Tamara Rigney herself) on how to make fun floral crowns that will instantly unleash your inner Hawaiian goddess. This is a perfect activity for a pre-party, a birthday celebration or a friend date. Base price of $350 includes 7 guests; add additional guests for $48. Minimum 6 guests; maximum 15 guests. More on Paiko here. 

2. Horseback Riding on The Beach at Turtle Bay Resort

horseback riding at turtle bay resort Is there a cooler way to take in the sprawling ocean view than by horseback? The sweet animals you'll get to meet at Turtle Bay's stables are extra-friendly and calm -- it must be the Hawaiian air. Cruise miles of beachfront trails that twist and turn into forest areas that you might even recognize from productions like The Hunger Games, Lost and Pirates of the Caribbean. Learn more about Turtle Bay's horseback riding packages here.  

3. Soap Stamping & Tour at North Shore Soap Factory

soap factory oahu You probably won't realize just how cool the soap-making process is until you see it with your own eyes. Be mesmerized by the beautiful process that's oddly, a lot like baking. North Shore Soap Factory is set inside the iconic Waialua Sugar Mill (a destination in itself). Owners Debora and Jerry are passionate about their natural soaps, which are made the labor-intensive old-fashioned way. They use locally-sourced oils like Hawaiian kukui nut Oil & macadamia nut oil to add moisture. Take a tour of the factory and stamp a design into your own soap. More on North Shore Soap Factory here.

4. A Visit to The KCC Farmer's Market

KCC Farmers Market Honolulu Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture by visiting the largest farmers market around. Your senses will be overwhelmed! The new sights, smells and sounds (live music) are intoxicating. Sorbet-stuffed tropical fruit and produce shopping is a must (plan for a beach or hike picnic?). The eggplant-sized avocados are particularly impressive (just make sure you buy a ripe one so you can eat it before you fly home and aren't forced to ditch it at customs!). The market is open from 7:30am-11:00am and you can follow them here on Twitter for market updates, specials & pics.

5. Stand Up Paddle Boarding (& Turtle Watching) at Turtle Bay Resort

stand up paddle boarding at turtle bay resort Turtle Bay is named appropriately - these green reptiles are abundant. One of the best ways to observe them up close in their natural habit is by stand up paddle boarding, also a great little work-out and an excuse to take a dip in the warm North Shore waters. Turtle Bay's instructors are highly experienced (ours was a formers professional snowboarder) and helpful. Learn more here. 

6. Sunrise Coffee Walk at Turtle Bay Resort

turtle bay resort Turtle Bay Resort is an ideal location for sunrise-worshippers, providing the perfect vantage point from which to watch the sky illuminate in a rainbow of colours as the day begins. Join the handful of hotel guest early birds who gather on the point to gaze at the sky. Before you head out, grab a latte (soy milk option available) from the lobby's coffee bar. See it here.   

7. Hike to Manoa Falls

manoa falls Hawaiian waterfalls are something else, as are the vibrant green, tropical forests -- so completely different than what we have here in the Pacific Northwest. Have your own TLC moment in the Manoa Falls, just a 30 minute hike up from the parking lot. The trail is pretty flat, so don't anticipate a big sweat. Get there early to avoid tourists getting in the way of your perfect waterfall photo opp. And on the drive in, stop at Morning Glass Coffee for a creamy almond mylk latte and scone. More info on the Manoa Falls hike here. 

8. Sunset Hike at Lanikai Pillboxes

lanikai pillboxesFeel like you are absolutely on top of the world when you reach the peak of the Lanikai Pillboxes trail. The 360 degree view is worth the hike, and despite a steep start, it's not all that challenging. In fact, you'll probably notice locals running the trail which extends along the mountain ridge, far beyond the hikers' look-out points. Take a seat on one of the graffiti-covered concrete ledges to take in Oahu's beauty and watch the sunset. Bring a headlamp or your smartphone flashlight for the hike down - you probably won't be alone. This is a fairly well-traveled trail by locals and visitors alike.

9. Shopping & Cocktails in Chinatown

Livestock Tavern Honolulu Honolulu's Chinatown reminds me a little bit of Vancouver's -- it's gritty, but riddled with hidden gems throughout. Many young entrepreneurs have moved into the neighbourhood, adding colour, flavour and style. Since cocktails and shopping go hand in hand, start with a drink at Livestock Tavern and then make your way to either Grondin, Manifest or Pig and the Lady. For boutiques, get to Fighting Eel, Owens & Co, and Roberta Oaks. View more activity's from the Oahu Visitor's Board here