Aloha! It’s getting hotter as the summer months start rolling in. Where better to spend this time than on Oahu, Hawaii! This year for my birthday, my close friends and I went on a foodie/travel adventure to Oahu for 5 days. Sylvia and I filled the group’s (with fellow friends Tammy Cody and Clay Levering) itinerary with lots of places we have not been before. Stay tuned for a brief overview of where we went and what I highly recommend! Spoiler: every single place was amazing and photogenic beyond belief, because it is Hawaii.
Oahu is becoming more and more jam-packed with Japanese influence and fun activities. While it may be viewed as overpopulated and touristy, I still love Oahu for the variety. You can never be bored on the island. As long as you are willing to travel a bit, you can find all sorts of hidden treasures and places. To organize our trip to Oahu better, I have split up the food into categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (drinks, desserts, etc.). I have also done a smaller section on favorite destinations/activities to do while there. ‘Ola iā kāua (“let’s go” in Hawaiian)!
BREAKFAST on Oahu, Hawaii:
My favorite thing to get for breakfast in Hawaii is Loco Moco (white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy), and the traditional version at Goofy Cafe & Dine on Oahu is perfect. The fried eggs on top have that yolk porn consistency and the plating is beautiful. They also have a rarer item: a taro muffin. Taro root is a Hawaiian favorite, used in poi (a popular paste made from taro and water) and other staple foods. The muffin is like an English muffin in consistency, but a subtle earthy taste from the taro (which also leaves it with a beautiful purplish blue hue). I also love the acai bowls they have here that are made with the freshest fruits available that day. Goofy is casual and popular – you may wait an hour for breakfast but it is worth it.
(1831 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 201, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 // 808.943.0077)
Cinnamon’s has been rated one of America’s top pancake houses. Cinnamon’s feels like a local secret, hidden inside the courtyard of a small plaza in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii. Parking is street only, but you should be able to find a metered spot on the surrounding streets. The wait can be a bit long 30-60 minutes, but they move fast. The Guava Chiffon Pancakes may be the best pancakes I’ve ever had – light, fluffy with the just the right amount of sweetness coming from the guava syrup all over the pancakes. The red velvet and blueberry macadamia nut pancakes were also delicious. We also had the crabcake benedict and a side of Portuguese sausages. Everything was so good.
(315 Uluniu St., Kailua, Hawaii 96734 // 808.261.8724)
Ever wanted to see a coffee farm and the coffee bean process in person? Green World Coffee Farm is a perfect little getaway in the middle of Oahu for exactly this. The clientele is a lot of armed forces with some tourists, but not many considering the remote location. In the back you can walk through their coffee bean farm and relax in the middle with a freshly roasted cup. I prefer to shop amongst their wide array of privately roasted coffee beans. You can taste and feel the quality on the plantation. If you are heading out to North Shore from Waikiki, I strongly suggest you take a pit stop at Green World Coffee Farm to relax and take in the Hawaiian air (and their pastries are delicious too – try the hapa brownie).
(71-101 N. Kamehameha Hwy., Wahiawa, Hawaii 96786 // 808.622.2326)
LUNCH on Oahu, Hawaii:
The one thing you have to get in Hawaii is poke (raw fish salad consisting of tuna traditionally, soy sauce, sesame oil, and green onions), and the most authentic, melty poke I have had in Hawaii is at Ono Seafood on Oahu. Ono is a simple shop with enough seating on the patio for about 10 people. You go in to this small market-like space and take your food to-go. The best on the menu is either the shoyu ahi (“shoyu” is Japanese for soy sauce, so this is a traditional poke) or spicy ahi (spicy mayo). Ono Seafood offers fresh, melt-in-your-mouth fish covered in a delicious salty sauce over white rice with seaweed – what more could you ask for?
(747 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii 96816 //808.732.4806)
Musubi Café Iyasume is a simple grab-n-go shop in the bottom floor of the Aqua Pacific Monarch Hotel on Oahu. You can grab fresh musubi, bento boxes and rice bowls for a quick meal on the go before you head out to adventure and the beaches. We tried the spam musubi (traditional favorite – spam is a popular salty canned meat made primarily from ham that tastes similar to bologna) and the spam musubi with avocado, bacon and egg. Both are perfect snacks that I could just keep eating and eating.
(334 Seaside Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 // 808.277.7421)
Fumi’s on the North Shore is my go-to shrimp truck on Oahu. Fumi’s is parked in the lot of a small jewelry mini mall with a colorful shrimp on the side of the truck and red picnic tables surrounding it. I strongly suggest the garlic shrimp – the garlic sauce with huge chunks of clove is soooo good, I can’t even begin to describe it. So salty and garlicky, and it pairs so well with the rice and fresh shrimp. We also loved the fried codfish and chicken katsu. Love love love Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp.
(56-777 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku, Hawaii 96731 // 808.232.8881)
Acai bowls originated from Hawaii and Haleiwa Bowls is one of the originals. I always make a point to stop by whenever I am on the North Shore on Oahu as it is refreshing and filling and you feel tropical having it. Haleiwa Bowls is run by a couple locals that wanted to bring local produce to the main roadside in Haleiwa, so while you walk around and shop try carrying one of these around as your lunch.
(66-082 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 // 808.551.9507)
DINNER on Oahu, Hawaii:
Most of the good food on Oahu is from casual hidden eateries that only locals go to. However, if you are looking for fine dining for that one special night, go to Alan Wong’s. It may not look like much from the outside, with it being the 3rd floor of a very small building in the middle of town with very little signage. However, there is valet for parking and once you enter Alan Wong’s you find yourself in an upscale restaurant. I strongly suggest getting a reservation. The menu changes slightly per season, but you should be able to get the following: local butter tasting (home baked bread with three butters made locally from different sea salts and cow farms), ginger crusted onaga (similar to red snapper, one of Hawaii’s staple fish), twice cooked short rib (so melty and sweet with the soy braise), and the coconut for dessert (a beautiful coconut shape that is actually chocolate crusted and filled with haupia sorbet and lilikoi sauce). Just for reference, “haupia” is coconut and “lilikoi” is passion fruit. This was my birthday dinner and it was incredible. The service to top it all off was impeccable: they even gave me a dinner menu signed by everyone that was there that day working (including chefs) to take home. Classy stop in a casual Hawaiian setting.
(1857 S. King St., 3rd Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96826 // 808.949.2526)
Helena’s Hawaiian Food is what it feels like to eat at a Hawaiian home. The unassuming Helena’s Hawaiian Food on Oahu is cash only, very casual with bland aesthetic, and has some of the most authentic Hawaiian food you’ll ever have outside of a local’s home. We had Menu C between two of us, which comes with Kalua Pig (baked pig covered in salt), Lomi Salmon (fresh tomato and raw salmon salad), Pipikaula Shortribs (salted and dried beef), rice, salsa, onions with Hawaiian salt, and macaroni salad. We also added ahi (tuna) poke. Everything was so simple and delicious – just good natural ingredients cooked to perfection. Just remember CASH ONLY!
(1240 N. School St., Honolulu, Hawaii 96817 // 808.845.8044)
If you love, or even like, udon, then you MUST go to Marukame Udon on Oahu. The udon noodles made here fresh every day are perfect. Pair them with the salty broth of your choice and any toppings you wish (vegetable tempura, seafood tempura, fried chicken, etc.), just take my money already! Marukame Udon’s service is quick – you walk in a line along the prep station and choose your items as you go. Then you pay at the end and sit down to eat anywhere you like. I suggest the Kake Udon (traditional broth with a light fish and seaweed taste) and top it with shrimp tempura or the Niku Udon (traditional broth with sweet beef and caramelized onions on top). The only downside to Marukame Udon is that the secret of their noodles is out; the line to get in is usually at least an hour and wrapped around the corner. We got in right away because we went at 10am in the morning (not usually a preferred time of day to have udon). Despite that, it is a must try in Honolulu. In case you do not know, udon is a thick wheat flour noodle of Japanese cuisine that is often served in a hot broth flavored from fish and seaweed. Udon is so comforting and warm, I could have Marukame Udon every day.
(2310 Kuhio Ave., Suite 124, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 // 808.931.6000)
SNACKS (DESSERT, DRINKS, ETC.) on Oahu, Hawaii:
Leonard’s Bakery is well known on the islands for some of the best malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts without a hole that are light and fluffy with a sprinkle of plain sugar on the outside). These doughnuts can be the size of your palm or the size of your face, depending on where you go. Leonard’s has some of my favorites, and you really can’t go wrong with any of the choices! You have three options for coating: original (plain sugar), cinnamon sugar and li hing (dried plum powder). You have four options for filling: custard, dobash (chocolate), haupia (coconut) and the flavor of the month (lilikoi is my favorite). I love the dobash, but who doesn’t love a chocolate filled doughnut. Leonard’s Bakery is pretty popular, but the line moves very fast and there should be plenty of parking. You can always call ahead and order pick up! Just a thought. Don’t let anything stop you from trying these.
(933 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii 96816 // 808.737.5591)
Lappert’s is the one and only place that I stop EVERY SINGLE TRIP to Hawaii. Lappert’s is a one-stop shop for gourmet ice cream with exclusive Hawaiian ingredients and Hawaiian coffee. I can’t get enough of Lappert’s while I am on Oahu, especially since the main one I go to is literally downstairs from my room at my hotel Hilton Hawaiian Village. You should check out all the unique flavors on their website, but I will say my favorites are the Caramel Coconut Macadamia Nut, Kauai Pie, and Nene Tracks. Put a scoop of any in their chocolate dipped waffle cone…treat yourself! They have a delicious array of pastries and cookies too, as well as locally grown Hawaiian coffee. You must try it all!
(2005 Kalia Rd., Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 // 808.943.0256)
Some of the best shopping is in the outdoor malls along Waikiki, such as the Royal Hawaiian Center where this particular Island Vintage Coffee is located. There is beautiful outdoor seating overlooking the busy Kalakaua Avenue, where street performers and tourists create the hustle and bustle city feel. You can relax at Island Vintage Coffee with a Hawaiian Honey Latte (my favorite), frozen Vintage Kona Mocha (macadamia & coconut with peaberry chips), or an acai bowl if you are hungry. Once you are done, I strongly suggest heading over to the Duty Free mall for some low-priced designer goods.
(2301 Kalakaua Ave., C215, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 // 808.926.5662)
I’ll admit shaved ice is not one of my favorite things, but I can see why people are drawn to Matsumoto’s Shave Ice on the North Shore. The flavors here are incredibly unique and everything is made fresh. For example, we got their Ichiban’s Special which comes with homemade mochi (very moist and bland to balance out sugar), shaved ice, red bean, flavor of your choice (I went with Green Tea to pair with mochi and red bean), and ice cream of your choice (I went with vanilla to not overpower the Green Tea flavoring). It all went together really well and I do love pairing ice cream with shaved ice. I like the creamy texture mixed with the cold refreshing crunchy ice. There is always a line out the door here, but the line moves fast. And you can relax in Matsumoto’s cute courtyard out front with other good shopping stores around.
(66-111 Kamehameha Hwy., Suite 605, Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 // 808.637.4827)
Ted’s Bakery is a small, little stop-n-go shop for some quick food or, more importantly, homemade cakes and pies that are exclusive to Hawaii. You can’t miss it; the building is a bright blue with a huge wave mural on the side and usually a line out the door. Ted’s Bakery has cute outdoor seating right in front or a gazebo with picnic benches on the other side of the parking lot. Everything is to-go, so you grab the slices you want from the fridge and pay. We tried the dobash (chocolate), dream cake, pineapple macadamia upside down cake (my favorite), and chocolate haupia cake (a Hawaiian favorite). So good!
(59-024 Kamahameha Hwy., Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 // 808.638.8207)
Cheesecake we all know to be rich, creamy and sugary. Something that is definitely a treat yourself, once-in-a-while dessert. However, at Uncle Tetsu, you do not have to feel guilty because the cheesecake they make is light, fluffy, organic and not nearly as much sugar! Japanese cheesecake is naturally lighter, and my friend Sylvia and I ate a whole one by ourselves with no guilt whatsoever. This location is in the Royal Hawaiian Center mall, so you grab it and go. Seriously, if you even like cheesecake in the slightest, you must try Uncle Tetsu.
(2201 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 // 808.922.2299)
Go to Dole Plantation for Hawaii’s complete pineapple experience – see them grow, explore the pineapple maze, take the pineapple express train around the garden, shop and eat pineapple. The one thing you must get here is the Dole Whip – a Dole pineapple sorbet made exclusively here (the only other places you can get them but not as fresh are Disneyland and Disneyworld). The Dole Whip here is so fresh and full of pineapple flavor that you can only get from growing them yourselves. While I love exploring the grounds here as well, you really only need to come here for a whip. The plantation is a perfect midpoint between Waikiki and North Shore. Love it!
(64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy., Wahiawa, Hawaii 96786 // 808.621.8408)
I end my foodie adventure talk in Oahu with the best gift to bring back home – shortbread cookies with various flavors from the Honolulu Cookie Company. Again, I am extremely lucky to have this in my hotel the Hilton Hawaiian Village, but they are all over the place. I love shortbread cookies; they are light with just the right amount of buttery sweetness, and they pair so well with tea or coffee. The ones from Honolulu Cookie Company are particularly delicious and consistently perfect across the whole line, and the packaging is sooooo cute that I can’t resist bringing them back for friends, co-workers, and family! They always change it up according to the season, but my favorites are the White Chocolate Dipped Macadamia, Lilikoi Mango, Kona Coffee and anything dark chocolate dipped. I love them all so much and they are sooo addicting! Honolulu Cookie Company’s stores are always beautifully branded with generous clerks that give lots of free samples. Also, there are usually special gifts if you spend a certain amount. They travel well and everyone loves them, so bring some home with you when you go (and feel free to ship me some as well). J
(2005 Kalia Rd., Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 // 808.946.8090)
As far as adventures, there is so much to be had! I have done the following and can comment on any: whale watching, catamaran sunset cruise, luau (Germaine’s is most popular), hula dancing, parasailing, scuba diving (go to the North Shore and see if you can find yourself a rare Sunrise Shell), hiking (Manoa Falls is gorgeous, but bring bug spray), jetskiing, surfing (Hawaii is the perfect place to learn since the water is calm and warm), kayaking, and so much more that I just can’t think of at the moment. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or any advice on adventuring on Oahu!
Oh, and I always rent a car so I can drive to other parts of the island freely. I suggest a Mustang Convertible so you can really feel the Hawaiian air!
Hawaii is every Californian’s perfect getaway – it’s close yet feels like you are on another country! Happy traveling!