Oahu Adventures

Steve "Shanghai" Brown

At the tail end of pandemic restrictions, we headed to Oahu - forced to use the credit for a trip we had to cancel in 2020 when Hawaii completely shut down tourism. It was worth the wait.

Diamond Head, Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, O‘ahu, Waimea Valley, Shark’s Cove, Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, Haleiwa, The Byodo-In Temple, Uahi Island Grill, Makapu’u Beach Park, Makapuʻu Lookout, Halona Blowhole Lookout, Halona Beach Cove, Japanese Fishing Shrine(Umi Mamori Jizo), Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Hanauma Bay, Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design, Summit of Diamond Head Crater, Diamond Head State Monument, Royal Lobster, ZIGU, Salvage Public, Piggy Smalls, Kaka'ako Farmers Market, Foodland Farms Ala Moana, Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor National Memorial, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (Nanakuli), Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park, Pokai Beach, War Memorial Natatorium, Barefoot Beach Cafe @ Queen's Surf Beach, Public Art "Surfer on a Wave", Waikiki Wall, Kūhiō Beach, Waikīkī Beach, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue, Duke's Waikiki, Hau Tree Bar, Kahanamoku Beach

  • Diamond Head in Honolulu, United States

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  • Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      We always enjoy swap meets wherever we go. They can provide fantastic local culture. This one does, though you have to look for it as it is massive and has a lot of stuff haole visitors wouldn't be interested in. But, if you want to find Hawaiian-made aloha shirts for only $16 (don't get the Hawaiian-designed, Chinese-made ones - but hidden amongst all of those, there is the real deal), stunningly beautiful locally grown flowers (a local widow grows them and they're gorgeous), and a range of souvenirs that don't cost an arm and a leg (there's always the ABC Stores!), then the swap meet is a fun option. Go early, avoid the heat, and if you miss it this time, it's okay. It's fun, but not mandatory.

  • O‘ahu, United States

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  • Waimea Valley in Haleiwa, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      There's a good farmers market here (mostly stuff to eat, but that's not so bad, eh?), shops, more food, AND a whole nature preserve. It costs, but it's a beautiful spot to wander and enjoy. Definitely a place we'll return to again.

  • Shark’s Cove in Haleiwa, United States

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      A popular place for snorkeling (one of very few on Oahu). We were there at low tide, and found that not very conducive to snorkeling, especially when we found we could just go out, sit on a rock, and watch all kinds of fish swimming by. A nice stop, but often crowded. Parking Tip: Parking fills up quick at the Shark's Cove park, but there is another park segment just to the south where it's easier to find parking, and it's a very short walk to the cove from there. Pay Attention Tip: During whale season (December to May) you can often catch a glimpse of the kohola, or humpback whale off the coast here. We were entertained for quite a while by watching a number of whales do whalefully frolicky things like slapping their tails and spouting. It was incredible how many haoles just walked right by and didn't notice the show, but we loved seeing them in action.

  • Giovanni's Shrimp Truck in Haleiwa, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Kind of a must-stop for hungry wanderers on the North Shore. Giovanni's is a - pardon me - THE - food truck visitors must seek out on Oahu. Their scampi plate is piled high with tasty garlicky shrimp, locally sourced, of course. They're located in a food truck park of sorts, so if shrimp ain't your thing, or you want to add to that pile o' shrimp, you've got plenty of choices. Don't let the yellow jackets steal your shrimp!

  • Haleiwa, United States

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  • The Byodo-In Temple, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Sure, you want to go to a cemetery while visiting Oahu, no? Of course, you do. And there are so many to see! But for visitors to Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, there is a treat - the Byodo-in Temple, an authentic Buddhist temple at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains that commemorates the long history of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Maybe you just need a little quiet contemplation after partying so much in Waikiki? Maybe it's a misty morning and you want a little touch of Japan on your journey. Maybe you need to ring the temple bell to have your prayers heard? Whatever it is, this is a great stop to take in a little zen.

  • Uahi Island Grill in Kailua, United States

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      Not a bad place for a lunch or dinner and drinks. Not exceptional, either.

  • Makapu’u Beach Park, United States

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      Always be on the lookout when parking in the parks on Oahu. Plenty of broken glass to remind you that someone is often around waiting to break into your car.

  • Makapuʻu Lookout, United States

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  • Halona Blowhole Lookout in Honolulu, United States

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  • Halona Beach Cove, United States

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  • Japanese Fishing Shrine(Umi Mamori Jizo) in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Beautiful shrine and great views of the coastline from here!

  • Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Honolulu, United States

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  • Hanauma Bay in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Oahu is not known for its snorkeling, with one exception - Hanauma Bay. Having been over-fished and over-touristed, the bay is now a protected preserve, and I'm glad for that. If you love snorkeling like I do, this is a must. But, there is a catch. With the increased pressure put on the bay by its popularity with us snorkelers, you must now make reservations. This is a little tricky. You can only make reservations two days in advance, so no advance planning is possible. Then, you have to make reservations online, with timed slots available starting (if I recall correctly) at 7 a.m. Snorkeling is best in the morning, so if you care about that, or want the most time at the bay possible, then try to reserve your spot right when reservations open, or you will be disappointed. There is immense competition for the most desirable time slots. It's expensive to come here, though locals get a hefty discount. I'm pretty sure it was a local who stole my snorkel gear here, making the haole price even more expensive. There are lockers you can rent for valuables (thank God I had my wallet and iPhone in the locker or they would have been gone too), and you can rent snorkel gear, which comes in handy after yours have been stolen. Out in the bay, which is why we come here, there are plenty of fish, and I absolutely loved following them around for hours. Around noon, the water begins to get crowded a bit, and after seeing more haoles than fish for a while, we decided to move on. If you want to hang out though, there is a food vendor here that appears to be decent, and a gift shop where you can buy things like a book with all the fish you can see in the bay. We saw a remarkable variety here, but for future snorkeling trips, the big island of Hawaii and Maui (even Kauai) are better choices.

  • Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design in Honolulu, United States

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      We wanted to go here, but unfortunately, if you want to tour this museum home, you must make online reservations well in advance. Hopefully, next time!

  • Summit of Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      See my comments for the state park here. This is a must-do Oahu activity, but come early to avoid the crowds - and an extra-long walk when the parking lot fills up.

  • Diamond Head State Monument in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Great hike to the summit of Diamond Head with magnificent views. Tip: Go early in the morning to avoid the heat as a lot of the trail is in direct sun. Plus, you'll avoid the parking problems and crowds that increase as the day goes along. The food truck and pineapple stand provides a great cool reward for your hiking efforts - a fresh fruit acai bowl in a half-pineapple. There are picnic tables to enjoy that, or just fresh cut pineapple slices, after your hike. A visit here is a must-do Oahu activity!

  • Royal Lobster in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      It's just a tiny place, in the basement stairwell of a big building off the main drag. And it's awesome! Sweet people and the absolute best lobster bisque ever (splurge and get the lobster chunks included), made from lobster broth and poured into your bowl at your table. This is an overlooked treasure in Waikiki.

  • ZIGU in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      I cannot say enough good things about Zigu. It's a fresh, innovative take on Japanese food, and it's sooooooo good. Make sure to include the local farm red skin sweet potato salad (artsy presentation and delicious), the entertainingly moving fried octopus ball, mochiko fried chicken, one of the tempura options, and some of the sushi and noodle options (we loved the local vegetable chilled moringa noodles though my wife was mad at me because I mixed the noodles and the moringa sauce "all wrong," and she had wanted to do it). The sake flights are delightful. Everything we had here was fresh and wonderful, and the staff was superb. As a result, this is the restaurant we had to return to on our last night on Oahu. Definitely get reservations, and good luck with parking.

  • Salvage Public in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Hawaiian-designed clothing with exceptionally high quality. Want to support independent Hawaiian designers and get great fitting, top-quality material clothing in the process? This is the place.

  • Piggy Smalls in Honolulu, United States

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      Piggy Smalls is billed as a Vietnamese restaurant, but that's a bit of an understatement. It's a highly creative take on Vietnamese food, along with surprises inspired from dishes around the world. The noodles and soups are exceptional, and instead of relying on spicy heat, there are an assortment of subtle, delicious blends of seasonings. A true delight. Feel free to go more than once, or check out their sister restaurant, The Pig & The Lady, also in Honolulu.

  • Kaka'ako Farmers Market in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      This place is an excellent market for browsing and grazing! Tons of great food, so go hungry! The best malasadas (Hawaiian donuts) ever! Mochi, and musubi (with or without Spam)!

  • Foodland Farms Ala Moana in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      If you're staying in a condo near Waikiki, this is da kine place to stock up. Great food, and tons of yummy poke varieties! Make sure to register for the Foodland customer discount program (use your phone #), so you don't pay haole prices!

  • Arizona Memorial, United States

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  • Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu, United States

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  • L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (Nanakuli), United States

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      L&L is always a good standby for Hawaiian plate lunch-style foods. If you're in a bind for grindz, L&L will take good care of you.

  • Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park, United States

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  • Pokai Beach, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Stop here for a visit to the remains of a traditional Hawaiian heiau on the point. It's a special place, so please be respectful. There's a definite energy here - my camera produced several full black photos here - something that has never happened before or since. We came across an endangered monk seal basking on the rocks by the sea - give them room and leave them alone if you encounter one. The wildlife in Hawaii is under great stress from all of us haoles visiting! The park here is used mostly by locals and there is a homeless presence here, and all along this western shore, so be aware of your own security while visiting. We had no problems at all, but it's best to be aware instead of regretful. Also, as a world traveler, this park ranks high in the category of the world's worst bathrooms - a close runner-up to the Turkish bus station men's room in Istanbul! You have been warned!

  • War Memorial Natatorium in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Sad, decaying, and closed, this once was a memorial competition-sized swimming pool and viewing stands, set seaside on San Souci Beach. Created to honor the 10,000 men and women from Hawaii who served in World War I, and the 101 who never returned, this was built in 1927, but has suffered in recent years.

  • Barefoot Beach Cafe @ Queen's Surf Beach in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      This place is a little treasure. Casual and on the beach, removed from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki itself, it's an oasis of tasty goodness. Everything I saw come out of the kitchen looked fantastic, and the Royal Loco Moco (if you're going to actually eat loco moco, just go for it and get the biggest and best you can find) was absolutely divine (loco moco, for haoles who don't know, is traditionally two scoops rice with a hamburger patty on top, smothered with brown gravy. but the "royal" treatment here means the gravy is demi-glace goodness with a sunny-side-up egg on top - so good). You can grab breakfast, including sweetbread french toast, served until 2 p.m., or maybe a fresh caught furikake fish sandwich for lunch, or an ahi poke bowl for dinner. Ono grindz here, brah.

  • Public Art "Surfer on a Wave" in Honolulu, United States

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  • Waikiki Wall in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      I noticed the map says this is some kind of covered walkway into the ocean. It is not. It is a rock jetty with a walkway on top. No cover. Just some locals feeding the fish - and boy, can you see a lot of fish here when they're feeding them (it's actually not good for the fish, so please don't feed them yourself, but I'm not going to be the haole picking fights with the locals, so if they feed the fish, just enjoy). There was everything here from a moray eel to the humuhumunukunukuapua'a (the Hawaiian state fish). Instagrammer tip: Walk to the end of the jetty and grab a wide angle photo facing back at the shore. You can almost get all of Waikiki into the picture!

  • Kūhiō Beach in Honolulu, United States

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  • Waikīkī Beach in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      We walked the entirety of Waikiki Beach one morning,and were able to do nearly all of it on the beach. It's a relaxing walk and there are plenty of distractions along the way.

  • Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue in Honolulu, United States

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  • Duke's Waikiki in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Spendy, but kind of a Waikiki classic. The food is good, the drinks are a little light on the alcohol, but are tasty. Plan on blowing some cash here. Lots of people love the breakfast buffet, but for me, it's Duke's on Sunday afternoon, outdoors at the Barefoot Bar, where you can catch the legendary Henry Kapono (from the iconic Hawaiian group, Cecilio and Kapono) most weeks (except when he's touring). The coconut shrimp and Korean steak street tacos were delish and the beach vibe was great. There can be a bit of a haole tourist vibe here though, so if you wanted to avoid that, you may want to take a pass on Duke's. (Locals tip: you can pretty much catch Henry's show free from the beach.)

  • Hau Tree Bar in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      So, it's often hard to get into the beachfront bars in Waikiki, especially on Friday nights when fireworks return (post-COVID). But we found that not only does this little outdoor bar make a decent mai tai, but it also almost always has tables available with no waiting. A friendly staff and beachside tables make it a great place to enjoy sunset.

  • Kahanamoku Beach in Honolulu, United States

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    • sunrunnermedia

      Great place for hitting the beach, or sunset people watching. No fireworks on Friday night when we were there (COVID restrictions to prevent large gatherings of people - it didn't work), but still a fun place to hang out.