To be honest Honolulu is not my favorite Hawaiian island. It’s touristy, crowded and you have to deal with the headache of rush hour traffic. Not really my idea of a tropical vacation, ha. My last trip here, I stayed with my family in the tourist-central Wakiki, which although had a surprising amount of decent food, it often felt overwhelming and artificial.
Luckily, I found a different Honolulu if I ventured just a bit away from Wakiki where I could get a glimpse of local life. As I was exploring, it hit me how much of Honolulu I still have yet to see, and I’m only beginning to scratch the surface.
Here’s my ideal day in Hawaii’s capital city.
For morning fuel I would stop at Royal Kitchen in Chinatown for freshly baked manapua (similar to Chinese baos) and filled with all good things sweet and savory. This shop was one of the first places in Honolulu to offer baked buns instead of streamed ones. I usually gravitate towards one with kalua pig (because when in Hawaii) and another with black sugar.
After eating myself into a carb coma, I walk around the adjacent Chinatown Cultural Plaza and the Maunakea Marketplace, because I cannot pass up a local food market, even if it’s just soaking in the atmosphere.
Since I have an insatiable sweet tooth, I would walk the few blocks over to Mr. Donut’s & Bakery for a glazed donut. On my way I would stop at Cindy’s Lei & Flower Shoppe to admire the beautiful floral garlands and breath in the smell of freshly cut flowers that always reminds me of Hawaii.
My first stop is Nijiya Market in Ala Moana to pick up a bento box or sushi for the beach. Afterward, I would make my way to nearby Ala Moana Beach Park, which tends to be less crowded than Wakiki Beach, but just as scenic and spend a few hours sunbathing and reading.
On my way back to the hotel, I would make a very necessary stop at Waiola Shave Ice, and opt for mango. This local shop has been around for decades and has some of the smoothest ice in town.
After a nice long nap (this is vacation after all), I would go to Sweet Home Café for some delicious Taiwanese hot pot. With plenty of things to boil and an even bigger array of dipping sauces, this place always hits the spot. I love how interactive this meals are here, where you grab items from the refrigerator for boiling, and then head over to the dipping sauce station before cooking everything up. There’s usually a line, but if you get there at opening the wait shouldn’t be too bad.
For dessert (because you can never have enough sweets on vacation), on my way back to our hotel (Ohana Waikiki East) I make sure to stop at Henry’s Place, which serves up homemade fresh fruit ice cream. The service may be gruff, and the atmosphere lacking, but the mango sorbet I get from there more than makes up for it.
What are your favorite things to do in Honolulu?