Pronounced Ow-aa-hoo, this beautiful lush island is a traveler’s paradise and perfect for anyone who loves to hike, surf, explore, shop, and or just drink in some vitamin D and work on their tan. We booked a trip to Oahu because, let’s face it, coming from the east coast, we don’t get a lot of sun and I was so ready to ditch my parka for shorts and tank tops!
Today I’m sharing all the highlights from our trip covering where we stayed, where we ate (and recommend), and what you can do to ensure you get the most out of your trip to this beautiful gem of an island!
Where to stay: Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina
If you want your vacation to feel truly like a vacation, I highly recommend you book a hotel far from the city. We booked at Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina, which was perfect. It neighbors Aulani, a Disney property, and they share access to the Ko Olina Lagoon. The lagoon is large and offers plenty of space for you to swim, snorkel, walk, or build sand castles.
I love that this property feels so private because there is very little foot traffic. The guests range from friends get together, newly married couples, and families. What stood out about this Four Seasons property is that the food was always on point (food is a big deal for us), they have an adult-only pool, and our top favorite – they offer a kids club, get this…for free! If you are a parent, you will love the last perk, and so will your kids.
Four Seasons Oahu private beach
If you have any little one that wants to visit the Aulani property, you can do so and buy passes to get access to their waterpark and get a chance to see and mingle with some Disney characters like Mikey, Minnie, and of course, Moana!
Four Seasons Oahu borders on Disney’s Aulani
Returning to the property, the resort offers various activities for their hotel guests, including yoga, snorkeling sails, catamaran sail tours, paddle boarding, canoe sailing, scuba diving, and more. It almost felt like there was no need to leave the property because you could do so much right there. You can find their daily activities on the large surfboards they have mounted by the lobby and when you are en route for your buffet breakfast.
As I mentioned earlier, food is essential for us. It sets the tone for the whole trip, and I don’t know about you, but I cannot eat burgers and fries daily. I must mix things up, try to experience something different, and simultaneously be wowed!
During our stay, we had the Resort Junior Suite – a large spacious unit with a king-size bed and a sofa bed – idea for a family of four. I love that each room has 1000 sq ft, a balcony (ideal for drying your bathing suit and wet clothes), two TVs (perfect for kids), and a shower and bathtub.
Snaps of our room
The room was spacious, giving us all the space we needed to move around comfortably without knocking into each other. If you have young ones, this is room is perfect because my babies loved running around the space while I got ready.
View from the hotel
The Four Seasons property really knows how to add the special touches to make you feel welcomed on their property, and they extend that to everyone in your family. The kids were so happy to be greeted with sting ray stuffies (the blue stuffies you see on their pillow) on their beds and a complete bath kit, including sponges and bubble baths that we could use when we unwind after a fun day at the beach.
Where to eat: Restaurants on the property
The property offers five restaurants you can try, including in-room dining. I’ll cover those we tried personally.
Mina’s Fish House
This one is a favorite for anyone who comes to visit the property. Chef Mina is a James Beard award-winning chef and everything we tried from the menu was amazing right down to some of the unique drinks we tried. In fact, we loved this place so much that we dined here twice!
Food we absolutely loved: Kona Lobster platter, fish and chips, Kona Kanpachi Crudo, Japanese Hamachi Crudo, blistering shishito peppers, Island greens, and Okinawan Potatoe Puree. Everything was too good, and their kid’s menu (not on the menu) was perfection!
For dessert, I highly recommend you try their berries and cream, chocolate rocher, tropical shaved ice and warm malasadas.
This is a great place to start your dining experience on the property because everything they serve is fresh, with a diverse selection of influences you can find in Hawaii. I loved that you could dine out while listening to the slow rhythmic sounds of the ocean.
What we ate and recommended: Oahu Roll, Sashimi Trio, Ahi Tuna Roll, Passion Fruit ice cream coated in chocolate
This place was our go-to for their buffet breakfast. They offered a wonderful mix of American breakfast and some local Hawaiian favorites. Make sure you ask for fresh papaya and pineapple because, I kid you not; they are the sweetest you have ever had. We made sure to splurge on this every morning.
Another thing we made sure to also take advantage at La Hiki was their special buffet dinner that you have to take advantage of. Once a week, they offer their guests a Luaa buffet, consisting of their usual buffet plus roast pig, crabs, lobster, shrimp, oysters, and more. When staying on the property, make sure you find out when they have this available and make those reservations because the lineup gets pretty long for this special dinner buffet.
Noe was one restaurant we didn’t get a chance to dine at. Tucked near the spa in a very intimate setting with hanging wicker lanterns, Noe offers their guests traditional southern Italian cuisine with a modern flair. Chef Ryo Takatsuka, a Micheline-starred Japanese-Italian chef, brings traditional age-old recipes to his guests with a contemporary touch.
Noe restaurant is located right by Koi pond.
Where to eat: Restaurants Off the Property
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
You know you’ve found a good place if the lineup is insanely long! Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is considered to be a gem in Oahu, and rightfully so! This shrimp truck is the best food truck in Oahu, and everything they served on the menu was terrific. We made three trips to this food truck because their garlic scampi on rice was so good! It’s a legitimate food truck tucked away in a parking lot where you have to pay $2 to park (cash), and the truck only operates in cash. We tried their garlic shrimp and spicy shrimp, and it was amazing! I highly recommend you get garlic shrimp or butter shrimp because they are both fanastic!
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, located off the Kamehameha Highway Kahuku
We stopped by Monkeypod Kitchen, located in the complex right across the Four Seasons Oahu in Ko Olina. If you are not familiar with Monkeypod Kitchen, they are known to offer farm-to-table food for foodies in a casual setting that’s perfect for families. I love that they provide live music so you can enjoy classic favorites while dining with friends and family.
What we ate: We had poke tacos, monkeypod lomilomi, Hamakua wild mushroom & truffle oil pizza, and house-made gnocchi. Everything tasted good and fresh. The staff was friendly and accommodating with our kids. If you are looking for casual dining that feels homey without breaking your wallet, I recommend you try Monkeypod Kitchen. And if you don’t drink alcohol (like me), try their mocktails. We tried out all their options because it was a treat to see some exciting mocktails listed, and they all tasted light, refreshing, and mildly sweet.
Leonard’s Bakery Hot Malasadas
If you ask anyone in Oahu or Waikiki what their top 5 food trucks are, Leonard’s Bakery Hot Malasadas will be mentioned. Their hot malasadas are amazing! The pastries are soft, doughy, and warm, and the filling is so good! Inside these warm doughs is coconut cream with a sweet & spice sugar sprinkle. That coconut custard is literally the best donut you’ll ever have.
Kaimana Shave Ice
Oahu and Waikiki has dozens of shave ice shops around the island, and this one was my favorite! It was the best-shaven ice ever, and I loved the flavors – not too syrupy and overly sweet. Plus, they have the most beautiful hidden gem tucked away at the back of the shaved ice shop that you can stroll into and enjoy your shaved ice.
Flavors we tried: North Share is very popular, so we ordered it and it did not disappoint. Another one we loved was Sun Rise and Pineapple Love.
The Beach Bar – oceanfront bar behind the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
If you want quick lunch by the ocean, try out The Beach Bar behind the Moana Surfrider. This place is very popular because it’s located right next to the sand at Waikiki Beach. The location is perfect for you to enjoy some drinks, garlic fries (which by the way are amazing), the surfrider poke bowl (which we practically inhaled), and the chili crunch edamame. The portion sizes are large so sharing is highly encouraged.
53 BY THE SEA
53 By the Sea is one of the premium dining experiences you have to take advantage of when you visit Honolulu. Executive Chef Jose Reyes has created this progressive menu combining local ingredients and favorites with a fusion of what he has picked up from his travels and previous works. The results is amazing!
What we ordered (and highly recommend): seafood platter, regiis ova caviar, negi toro, house salad, 53 by the sea ‘pan roast’, saffron pasta, and truffle lobster pasta. Everything was sinfully good.
On a side note, Chef Reyes is a favorite amongst the locals. When I asked a few people around town their most recommended premium dining venue to try out, 53 By the Sea came highly recommended.
Places I would have tried out if we had more time on the island:
Places recommended to me by locals (but I couldn’t dine due to dietary restrictions)
The Pig and the Lady
Maui Mike’s Fire Roasted Chicken
Places to Visit
Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa in Waikiki Beach
If you plan on staying in the heart of Waikiki or are strolling by the city, the Moana Surfrider is one stop you must make. Oliver Traphagen did a fantastic job designing this beautiful structure. Back in the day, it was known as the place to stay if you wanted to experience premium luxury accommodations on the island.
If you are into architecture, you will love the prominent Creole and Spanish design influence throughout this structure. You’ll find French colonial-designed porches that stretch all the way across the front with columns.
Waimea Bay Beach
If you are looking for a great beach with minimal traffic, Waimea Bay Beach is a must to visit. It’s probably one of the best beaches you will find on the North Shore. Make sure you rent a vehicle to drive over here, and come early so you can nab a parking spot. The beach has beautiful white sand that’s nice and porous, it’s great for snorkeling, and the water is amazing.
We loved this beach so much that we came here twice! Best part, the beach is right by a popular spot where you can spot turtles or go for a hike and swim at the base of a waterfall.
Insider tip: Do not take your kids in the water around November – February, as the currents there are great for surfing, not swimming. I went cliff jumping there and had some difficulty swimming back to shore.
The entrance to Waimea Falls is located on the other side of Waimea Beach. This picturesque waterfall is an easy hike that anyone can do, the best part – the path is paved, so you can bring your stroller with you as you make your way to a pool surrounded by lush foliage. Life vests are mandatory if you want to go in the pool, so make sure you bring a few bills to donate to the folks that supply them at the pool entrance.
During your 20-minute hike on the wheelchair-accessible path, go through the botanical garden and check out the various huts. Get a quick history of the island and make sure to see all the plants and flowers that are local to the island thanks to it’s climate and lush soil.
After you take a quick swim at the waterfall, make sure you stop by the shave ice shop for a quick cool down because it’s a great treat to have on your way back to the parking lot.
Kualoa Park – Jurassic Park Oahu
You know I saved the best for last! Kualoa Park is one place you HAVE to visit when you make the trip to Oahu. Trust me when I say this, your trip will not be complete if you don’t visit this gem of a ranch. Did you know the original Jurassic Park movie was scheduled to be filmed elsewhere? Due to severe weather that caused major damage to the location, they shifted to Kualoa Park. The production team loved the area so much that all the other movies were filmed here. Hence, why it was dubbed as Jurassic Adventure Tour/Kualo Ranch Jurassic Valley or Jurassic Park Hawaii.
Also, did you know many of your favorite movies/tv series were filmed in Kualoa Park?
Make sure you book a movie tour bus that will take you all around the property, even the shelters that were converted to sets for some of your favorite shows and storage place for all the set pieces from previous movies filmed on the property, like King Kong, Jumangi (the one with The Rock), Godzilla, 50 first dates, Pearl Harbor, Karate Kid II and more!
Paradise Island Luau
Out of all the Luau’s the island offers, Paradise Cove Luau comes highly recommended by hotel staff and locals. Most of the hotels offer their own Luau’s and they offer it 1-2x a week so if you want to take advantage of that, make sure you book your slot on the day you arrive at your hotel. If you are late, take advantage of the one at Paradise Cove, located right by the Four Seasons property, where they host a luau every day with award winning fire dancers and performers.
Places to Visit that we didn’t get a chance to:
Here is a list of places I wish we got a chance to see:
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The Byodo Temple
Polynesian Cultural Center
Things to bring with you:
- Sunscreen tends to be very pricey on the island, so make sure you stock up on sunscreen before your visit. I went through one canister of sunscreen every two days. One canister was perfect for covering all of us, plus bring sunscreen for your face.
- If you have little ones, make sure you get these beach toys for them. We got them (you will see them in the snaps above) and they had so much playing with it that other kids joined in.
- Another item you should get is this silicone bucket that’s incredibly durable and easy to store in your suitcase (because you can literally squish it like a sock). This bucket is so popular; you will see it in all their shops because it’s a huge selling item for families.
- Make sure to pack sandals and sneakers if you plan on doing a lot of walking.
- This is not an item to bring with you, but I highly recommend renting a car to help you ger around the Island. Sure you can Uber your way around the island, but everyone visiting the island will say they had the best time exploring different areas of the island because they had their own vehicle during their stay.
- If you don’t mind the crowd, Waikiki is a great place to stay and the beaches are amazing. If you are anything like me, and you are not a fan of the crowd and want a lot of space around you when you are at the beach, head on over to Ko Olina.