What I realized on my last trip to Honolulu: it's all-essential to vet my travel partners. Not because it was a disaster but because it was awesome. I’m thinking a survey would do, maybe with a question like, “Do you have the aplomb to horseback ride through the Jurassic Park valley, swing by the local fish shop for a poke bowl, catch a few waves in an Outrigger canoe, search out the best Mai Tai in Waikiki, then clean up to be Instagram-ably chic in under 22 minutes?”
What do you guys think? I mean, you already know that Gaby is one of my best food friends, but with our trip to Oahu we might have done quite possibly my favorite Girls Getaway trip of ever. It was three and a half days of action, adventure, eating, and cheers-ing, Aloha style. I've never thought of doing a long weekend in Hawaii but am now counting the days until the next trip. I’ve been to Oahu a lot since I met my Hawaiian boyfriend 7 years ago but it’s been almost two years since my last trip and oh how much its changed. There are awesome boutiques, the best version of tropical cocktails I’ve ever tried, even better food, yet still all the classic hikes and markets I so love.
This trip we were on a mission to earn our eats by working our butts off all day and partying all night so I went on some epic adventures including swimming with dolphins, hiking to my favorite lookout, riding horses through ancient valleys, and even trying my hand at Outrigger canoeing (which I’m pretty much in love with by the way).
So, whether you’re planning a weekend away, an active vacation that won’t stop, or a romantic vacation that’s a little more than cocktails and cuddling, well, here are a few things I think you should seriously check out.
WHERE TO STAY
STAY for classic Hawaiia: Royal Hawaiian - As classic as it gets, walking the halls of the Royal gives you a glimpse of what Hawaii must've been like during its glory days.
STAY at the cool kids place: Modern Hotel - Honestly, I’ve loved this place since the day it open, if not for its registration desk (hello, surfboard collage) than for its awesome bars, contemporary design,and overall chic feel. The only drawback? It’s on the harbor, which means there’s no beachfront to speak of. Luckily, Waikiki and Ala Moana Beach Park are just a few steps away.
STAY at minimal and laidback: Lotus Hotel - Waikiki can get to feel like Disneyland sometimes so you might want to escape that and that Lotus is perfect for that. It’s a 5-minute walk from Waikiki but in a area that’s a little sleepier.
WHERE TO SHOP
SHOT Hawaii chic at Rebecca Beach - Hawaii chic at its best, Rebecca Beach now has three locations, each carrying cheerful island-appropriate outfits.
SHOP indpendent local desigerners at Owens & Company - In the heart of Chinatown, this eclectic boutique specializes in handmade creations from independent designers, many based in Hawaii.
SHOP for your man at Roberta Oaks - If you need to bring something home for you man to thank him for putting up with you taking off for a girls' weekend, then head over to Roberta Oaks where you'll find updated versions of vintage aloha (read: Hawaiian shirts).
WHERE TO EAT
EAT casual but clean food at Kaimuki Superette - My friends Ed and Dave just-opened this high-end cafe and diner across the street from their ever-popular first restaurant, Town. Superette is more laidback but every bit as diligent about celebrating local farms and local flavors.
EAT Vietnamese that's show-stopping at The Pig and Lady - There's no shortage of great Asian food on Oahu but Pig and The Lady stands out for its awesome contemporary take on Vietnamese classics. If you can't snag a table at their Chinatown location, then stop by their booth Saturdays at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market.
EAT classic malasadas at Leonard's - It's not a visit to Oahu for me until I've had one (or three!) Portuguese donuts (aka malasadas) from Leonard's Bakery. Yes, the lines are worth it -- just be sure to eat what you buy immediately becuase their best hot!
WHERE TO DRINK
DRINK old-school Mai Tais at Mai Tai Bar Royal Hawaiian - For years I've been searching for an excellent Mai Tai on Waikiki and while classic spots like Duke's hold their own, my favorite of this trip was the ginger version from the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian.
DRINK new-style mixology: The Manifest - Smack dab in the heart of Chinatown, this bar is all about proper whiskey cocktails, but, while they mix a great cocktail, they don't take themselves too seriously.
WHERE TO GET OUT
EXPLORE the lush valleys of Kualoa Ranch - Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed here so this ranch has some serious Hollywood cred -- but you want to visit for the views, the pristine land, and the chance to horseback through it all.
EXPLORE dolphin swims and snorkels with Wild Side Island Adventures - Wild Side taught us a lot in the course of a really fun day, including how that there's this underwater shelf on the West Side of Oahu that makes dolphins very happy, that there is a method to how to best swim with dolphins and sea turtles, and that we should all swim with dolphins at least once because it's pretty special.
EXPLORE Outrigger canoe-ing with Faith Surf School - If crisscrossing the island in the name of adventure isn't in the cards for you, then just stay put on Waikiki and head over to Faith Surf School where they'll teach you the finer points of surfing, stand-up, and -- one of my new favorite discoveries - outrigger canoe surfing.
A special thanks to Oahu Visitors Bureau, Outrigger Resorts, and Hawaiian Airlines for making this trip possible. As a guest of Oahu Visitors, I was treated to many of the services and adventures on this trip; however, all coverage and opinions are my own!