A Family Vacation in Honolulu
What a wonderful place to spend a week, Waikiki. We loved every minute of our sun, surf and week of adventure. The week was spent eating amazing food, seeking adventure and soaking up the sun with a bit of culture on the side.
Thinking of an escape to Hawaii for the beaches and cocktails? Think again and this time put food on your agenda. So many hidden gems when it comes to the fabulous food on the island of Oahu. Just in Waikiki the food scene is huge.
With a heavy Japanese influence on the island there are lots of Japanese style food places. We joined a long queue that moved fast at Marukame Udon Waikiki. It was exactly like restaurants we visited in Tokyo. Grab a tray and select your noodles and pick a few tempura pieces. Delicious, fresh and so cheap.
After hiking up Diamond Head you will need to refuel! A MUST is Leonard’s Bakery for the yummiest hot MALASADAS which are Porteguese donuts. The bakery has been in Honolulu since 1952 and creating these masterpieces every day since. They are cooked to order and come in a variety of flavours.
To experience a real Tiki Bar that only the locals visit head to La Mariana Sailing Club. We sat by the water, overlooking all the boats in the marina, sipping cocktails from Tiki glasses while eating our pupu platter (Hawaiian tapas).
Head two or three streets back from the main tourist strip of Waikiki to experience the bargains of this Japanese BBQ treasure. Gyu-Kaku is a fun place to take the family for dinner and let the kids do the cooking! Individual hot plates at each table make dinner lots of fun with the most tender, delicious meat to BBQ.
Whole Foods is an all time favourite for our family and the Waikiki outlet did not disappoint. There is a bar that serves delicious fresh food. OR grab some freshly cooked pizzas or a cheese platter to eat while watching the sunset.
The Rainbow Drive In is an institution in Waikiki. Hawaiians love a meal called a plate lunch which is meat, rice and salad on a plate. We are at Rainbow Drive In a few times for dinner. The meals are large, the variety seems endless and it is so cheap. Dinner for all 5 of us was around $35 with soft drinks.
The highlight of our day was choosing where we would be positioning ourselves to watch the sunset for the day. Waikiki beach is crowded with everyone having their camera ready to capture the sun sinking. We loved being in the water during the sunset, floating in the warm water while the day finishes is magical.
Our other favourite way was watching the sun disappear with a cocktail in hand and delicious snacks close by. Making the choice by 5pm was important as the sun was setting around 6.30pm in September. We did grab a cheese platter for one sunset and watched from the park near Waikiki Beach.
The options are plentiful, one of our favourites was the Tiki’s Grill and Bar in the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel where the drinks were well priced, the food so yummy and live music playing in the background. The bar has a large eating area on the balcony that has a magnificent balcony to watch the end of the day.
Duke’s Bar is a famous place to watch the sunset and the bar is very busy. The iconic bar is a must on the tourist list but was not our all time favourite place.
Inside the Westin Moana is the Beach Bar Under the Banyan Tree was one of our favourites. We stumbled across this bar after being enticed into the hotel by the large wooden rocking chairs on the front balcony. There was a concert on the night we arrived, we were lucky enough to find a spot and enjoy the spectacular atmosphere.
Another absolute beach front bar is House Without A Key is in the Halekulani Hotel and the whole atmosphere is classy. There is live music and a hula dancer to complete the Hawaiian experience.
Chinatown and Downtown Honolulu
Away from the tourist sections of Waikiki, is the lovely Chinatown. full of markets selling fruit and bakery items and lots of quirky and unusual shops. We loved a coffee from The Manifest and billy managed to fit in getting a tattoo from Old Ironside in Chinatown.
Downtown also was a lovely place to wander and it did have the feel of a small city. We stumbled across many food trucks which were outside the Royal Palace.
My number one tip for hiking up Diamond Head is to go early to miss the heat of the day. The Bus took us to near the entrance of the Diamond Head crater. The entry cost is $1 a person or $5 a car. We watched the wait for the car park which seemed to be never ending. The climb to the summit is an easy enough walk it is just long, so take plenty of water and be ready to listen to your children whinge. It is all absolutely worth every drop of sweat once you get to the top to see the spectacular view.
Learning to surf was a must do for our boys and they were so keen to get started once we arrived. We did not book in to any surf school but I had read lots of good reviews online about Sparks’s Surf School. We called the number to find Sparky as there is no shop front. Sparky met us on the beach and we booked in time for the boys to have lessons with only the two of them in the class. This was the cheapest of all the surf schools. Sparky was amazing and his manner with the boys was awesome. He was calm and gave them clear instructions. After 5 mins on the sand the next hour was in the surf. Both boys stood up immediately and caught endless waves for the entire lesson. There was a photographer on the beach who took their photos and we got video footage also. This was an extra cost and there was no pressure to buy. Highly recommend Sparky.
There is no getting away from the fact that the accommodation in Waikiki is expensive. I spent a lot of time searching for the ideal place. I wanted to be able to walk to the beach in less than 5 minutes, have a balcony and if possible have a view of the water. I managed it all within our budget. Hotels were far too expensive so Airbnb came to our rescue. Our place was perfect and a place I would highly recommend. We have also stayed in this Airbnb which catered for all 5 of us. Beds for everyone, a pool, outdoor basketball courts and 2 jacuzzis. It was very quiet and the views to Diamond Head were sensational. It also had free parking which was a huge advantage. if you are wanting to book an Airbnb here is our link for a $55 discount. https://abnb.me/e/X0wiYbwmuT
The best and cheapest way to get around the Waikiki and Honolulu area is with DaBus as it is known. Adults are $5.50 and children are $2.50 for an all day pass. This is the cost of two trips so well worth buying a pass for the day. We used Google Maps which gave us the bus routes and arrival times. Catching the bus was super easy and we were able to access all we needed.
Handy Tips for Honolulu
A few tips that will make your trip easier once you get to Honolulu
- Airport transfers – we used SpeediShuttle from the airport to the door of our accommodation. This was approx. US$15 a person, they will try to book you a return trip which saves $1 total. We chose not to which worked well as we were given a brochure for a local company that only charged $7 a person to the airport.
- We also have used Dangs transfers. This cost $50 for a limo which was definitely arriving in style.
- Car Hire – we hired a car from a local company from a vendor we found near Waikiki beach. We didn’t want to commit to a car before we left so we were more flexible and could shop around. We also used the TURO app which saved us so much money and was very flexible.
- When hiring your SUP or surfboard try hiring a street or two back from the beachfront. The boards are half the rental price.
- Which board will you take to the waves?
We have more tips on the island of Oahu here
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