Salt & Wind Travel

Our 24 Hour Honolulu Itinerary

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As a food lover, this here is my perfect Honolulu itinerary.

I’m the first to admit that I’m 100% partial to O’ahu when it comes to the Hawaiian islands. Maybe it’s because my husband is from Honolulu. Maybe because, as a born and raised Angeleno, I can never really give up city life.

Or perhaps because it’s a bit of an island underdog—people prefer lush Kaua’i, laidback Maui, or adventurous Island of Hawai’i. But O’ahu has all of that and what I consider the most mature food and cocktail scene in the state.

A Food Lover’s Honolulu Itinerary

With this Honolulu itinerary, you can get a taste for it all in just 24 hours.

6:00 AM: Tour The Honolulu Fish Auction

I know, I know, it’s a super early wakeup call but trust, it’ll be worth it. Being in the middle of the Pacific means you’ll see fresh-caught fish from across the islands, like ‘Ahi (tuna), Mahi-Mahi (dolphinfish), Opah (moonfish) and other open ocean species and watch the auction (so long as you make a tour reservation).

You can feel good about supporting this local industry because Hawai’i Seafood comes from a sustainable, intensively-managed American fishery.

Don’t leave the pier until you head across the way to Nico’s Pier 38 where you can grab a cup of coffee. Or, if you’re up for it, try one of their fish omelets made, of course, with some of the freshest fish around.

Hawai’i Seafood Council
1131 N Nimitz Highway
Honolulu, Hawai’i
Photo: Lee Anne Wong

7:30 AM: Surf at Canoes

In my mind, I’m a world class surfer, but the reality is that any 8-year-old in Hawai’i schools me. Even so, I love heading out off of Waikīkī beach to the Queens & Canoes surf breaks because early in the morning, the waves are forgiving and the crowds are minimal.

Starting the day here means you’ll get a slice of Hawai’i surfing history because these are the waves that Duke Kahanamoku made famous. Oh, and if you’re not up for braving the waves alone, Faith Surf School offers great lessons for everything from surfing and SUP to outrigger canoeing.

Canoes Beach
Honolulu, Hawai’i
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp

9:00 AM: Malasadas at Leonard’s

Don’t even talk to me if you don’t make this stop because it’s essential in my book. I’m not alone in my love for Leonard’s because everyone from locals to tourists wait for the freshly fried malasadas — in other words, don’t be surprised if there’s a line.

Sure, they sell a variety of treats but I go for the custard-filled Portuguese donuts known as malasadas (like a chewier take on a jelly doughnut stuffed with custard instead of jelly). It’s hard to go wrong, but I usually order the haupia (coconut) or lilikoi (passionfruit). If you’re feeling adventurous, get them coated in li hing (salted dried plum) sugar.

933 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu Hawai’i
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp

9:15 AM: Shopping at Kapiolani Community College (KCC) Farmers Market

In reality you want to get here early to avoid lines (say 8 AM), but this is my perfect day, so there are no lines! True, there are other farmers markets with more local produce and less tourists, but if you’re visiting Honolulu, you probably are less in search of produce and more on the lookout breakfast treats, so this is the place to go.

Check out Naked Cow Dairy so you can get some of their fabulous cheese before it’s all gone and grab a local guava or taro roll so you can snack as you shop. If fresh juice is your breakfast staple, look for the stands that usually have some awesome tropical concoction of fresh guava, pineapple, or passionfruit juice.

Or if, like me, you don’t see straight until you’ve had coffee, head over to local micro roaster, Koko Crater Roasters for a cup. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the breakfast sandwiches from the modern Vietnamese restaurant, Pig and the Lady.

KCC Farmer’s Market
4303 Diamond Head Road
Honolulu Hawai’i
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp

10:00 AM: Hike Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

After all that eating, it’s clearly time to get moving and the hike (er, more of a glorified walk than a hike) to Makapu’u Lighthouse is a pretty perfect option.

It’s a short, breezy hike at the eastern tip of the island, which means you start out with a view of Diamond Head and end with a pretty perfect view up the east coast of the island.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
Honolulu, Hawai’i
Photo: Serff

10:45 AM: Makapu’u Beach

It’s a given you’re gonna get overheated when hiking Makapu’u so take time to cool off in the ocean. Just around the corner from the lighthouse is Makapu’u and Baby Makapu’u beaches, which both have great views, crystal clear water, and waves friendly enough even for me!

Makapu’u Beach
Honolulu, Hawai’i
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp

12:30 PM: Lunch at Mud Hen Water

I’m lucky to have made fast friends with many of the food people in Honolulu, and Ed and Dave, who opened Town Restaurant are no exception. Their newest project is Mud Hen Water, situated just across the street from the former Town location in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Kaimuki.

Mud Hen Water
3452 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu Hawai’i
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp

2:00 PM: Doris Duke’s Shangri La Estate

Doris was the daughter of a well-known tobacco tycoon and she spent a good portion of her life as a philanthropist and art collector. She was particularly fond of Islamic art, which she brought to Hawai’i and put on display at her Shangri La estate.

Yes, the artwork and the architecture are worth the trek, but even if you aren’t an art buff, check this place out for the view. Shangri La is near Diamond Head in the gated and very exclusive neighborhood of Black Point, which you’re not likely going to see unless you take a tour of Shangri La.

Shangri La
4055 Papu Circle
Honolulu, Hawai’i
Photo: Chris Kalima

5:00 PM: Happy Hour at The Modern Honolulu

Get there on time so you can snag a seat at at the Modern Hotel’s Sunset pool for pau hana (happy hour). The bar’s cocktails are all contemporary (aka less sweet) takes on island classics but I almost exclusively order the Frozen Coconut Mojito.

True, I don’t like tropical drinks, I don’t like frozen drinks and I don’t like mojitos, but I like this cocktail.

Sunset Pool at The Modern Honolulu
1775 Ala Moana Boulevard
Honolulu Hawai’i
Photo: The Modern Honolulu

6:30 PM: First Fridays in Chinatown

First Fridays in Honolulu’s Chinatown seems to get bigger and more popular with each passing month. Start out at the intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and Hotel Street and poke into the various galleries and boutiques (my favorites are the trendy Fighting Eel and the very vintage Roberta Oaks).

The actual brick-and-mortar for Pig & The Lady is down the street but, if you already had their food at the farmers market then head to Lucky Belly for modern ramen. After dinner, check out some live music at one of the venues like Next Door or just grab a drink at Tchin Tchin! to toast the day.

Nu’uanu Avenue and Hotel Street
Honolulu Hawai’i
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp

More Hawai’i Travel Tips

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Hawaiian Diacritical Marks: In an effort to be accurate and respectful of the Hawaiian language, we use diacritical marks in our articles on the region. For more about which marks are used in the language and how to find proper spelling, refer to this Hawai’i Magazine article.  

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