Insider's Guide to Oahu - Highlights
If you're looking for the perfect island getaway that offers a mix of breathtaking natural beauty, rich history, and modern amenities, look no further than Oahu, Hawaii. This stunning island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Waikiki Beach and Lanikai Beach, where you can soak up the sun, surf, or snorkel in crystal-clear waters. But Oahu is much more than just beaches; it's also home to iconic hikes whether you're a beginner or an expert. And with its vibrant nightlife, incredible food scene, and world-class shopping, Oahu has something for everyone. ๐Ÿ‘‰ Save yourself hours of research and planning by choosing from my list of recommendations-- this is the list I give my friends and family! โœจ This guide is perfect for families, small groups, and solo travelers. Includes: โ˜•๏ธ 2 cafes ๐Ÿณ 3 breakfast ๐ŸŸ 3 poke spots ๐Ÿฅ˜ 4 lunches/dinners - that are not poke ๐Ÿจ 7 shave ice & sweets ๐Ÿ–๏ธ 4 beaches to relax at ๐Ÿคฟ 2 beaches for snorkeling ๐Ÿ›๏ธ 3 landmarks/sites ๐ŸŒƒ 5 hotel recommendations - including every budget ๐ŸšŠ Transportation tips
33 Places โ€ข 29 Saves โ€ข ago
Free

Looking for full itineraries?

Check out my detailed full-itinerary that includes everything you'll need for every day of your trip:

Cafes

Kona Coffee Purveyors | b patisserie
@theresearchgirl
Known for their high-quality Kona coffee and delicious pastries. Tip: The seasonal kouign amann is particularly tasty.
Add to
Details
Surfjack Shop
@theresearchgirl
Trendy boutique that also serves delicious coffee and light bites, making it a great spot for a quick caffeine fix or a leisurely morning brunch. They have the cutest coffee cup designs!
Add to
Details

Breakfast

Island Vintage Coffee Waikiki
@theresearchgirl
Popular coffee shop that offers a variety of specialty coffee drinks made with locally sourced, 100% Kona coffee beans, as well as healthy breakfast and lunch options featuring fresh, local ingredients. Tip: They're known for their acai bowls, island inspired coffee flavors, and ube bagels.
Add to
Details
Leonard's Bakery
@theresearchgirl
Beloved and famous for its malasadas. The line does get VERY long and the parking lot only holds a few cars. Come early (6am is ideal) or be ready to get dropped off to wait in line. Tip: Guava is a personal fav! Open daily 5:30am to 7:00pm
Add to
Details
Rainbow Drive-In
@theresearchgirl
Popular spot for locals and tourists alike, offering classic Hawaiian plate lunches such as the famous "mixed plate" with teriyaki beef, chicken, and mahi-mahi, as well as tasty burgers and fries.
Add to
Details

Poke

Ono Seafood
@theresearchgirl
Some of the best poke on the island, with fresh and high-quality ingredients, friendly service, and affordable prices. Tip: Every plate comes with a free drink!
Add to
Details

Alicia's Market
@theresearchgirl
Known for their mouth-watering Hawaiian plate lunches, fresh poke, and an extensive selection of meats and seafood.
Add to
Details

Maguro Brothers Hawaii Waikiki
@theresearchgirl
Small seafood shop in Waikiki, is a go-to spot for locals and tourists seeking the freshest sushi and sashimi made with locally sourced fish, including a wide selection of hard-to-find delicacies
Add to
Details

Lunch / Dinner - that's not poke

Marugame Udon
@theresearchgirl
Affordable handmade udon noodles and a variety of toppings that can be customized to create a personalized bowl of warm, comforting goodness. The line can get very long, but is relatively fast moving. Tip: The sweet potato tempura is divine.
Add to
Details
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
@theresearchgirl
Serving up some of the most authentic and flavorful ramen on the island, made with rich, savory broth, tender noodles, and a variety of toppings that make each bowl a satisfying and unforgettable experience.
Add to
Details
Aloha Shrimp
@theresearchgirl
Delicious garlic shrimp plates with generous portions of shrimp, rice, and salad, making it a must-visit destination for shrimp lovers visiting the North Shore. If you've looked up shrimp trucks, you've probably heard of Giovanni's. However, Aloha Shrimp is low-key a tastier option and experience.
Add to
Details
Foodland Farms Ala Moana
@theresearchgirl
This Foodland location is by far the biggest and newest looking one I've seen on the island. They have a vast variety of *hot* bentos, musubis, poke, sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and snacks! Perfect for bringing to the beach or back to the hotel.
Add to
Details

Sweets

Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha
@theresearchgirl
Wide variety of flavors made with all-natural, locally sourced ingredients and a warm and friendly atmosphere that embodies the true spirit of aloha. Tip: Add mochi to your bowl!
Add to
Details
Matsumoto Shave Ice
@theresearchgirl
Historic shave ice shop in Haleiwa, is a must-visit destination, offering a wide range of colorful and flavorful shave ice combinations with a unique Japanese twist, such as azuki beans and mochi balls.
Add to
Details
The Sunrise Shack - Sunset
@theresearchgirl
Created by pro surfers-- Sunrise Shack is a popular spot to grab a delicious acai bowl and watch the sunrise over the beautiful Hawaiian landscape.
Add to
Details
Ted's Bakery
@theresearchgirl
Famous chocolate haupia pie and a variety of other baked goods that are perfect for a quick snack or a satisfying meal.
Add to
Details
Banan Waikiki Beach Shack
@theresearchgirl
Delicious plant-based swirls made with locally sourced ingredients and topped with fresh fruits, nuts, and granola.
Add to
Details
Leonard's Bakery
@theresearchgirl
Beloved and famous for its malasadas. The line does get VERY long and the parking lot only holds a few cars. Come early (6am is ideal) or be ready to get dropped off to wait in line. Tip: Guava is a personal fav! Open daily 5:30am to 7:00pm
Add to
Details
MATCHA Stand MAIKO
@theresearchgirl
Must-visit spot for matcha lovers, offering a wide selection of traditional Japanese matcha drinks and desserts, including their famous matcha soft serve. Tip: My fav is the Matcha Latte Float
Add to
Details

Beaches to relax

Kailua Beach Park
@theresearchgirl
Stunningly beautiful and popular white sand beach located on the windward side of Oahu, known for its turquoise waters, soft sand, and picturesque views of the nearby Mokulua islands.
Add to
Details
Ala Moana Regional Park
@theresearchgirl
Local favorite beach located in Honolulu, known for its calm waters and expansive green spaces, perfect for picnics, jogging, swimming, and surfing.
Add to
Details
Kฤhala Beach
@theresearchgirl
Secluded and pristine beach on the southeastern shore of Oahu, surrounded by luxury homes and resorts, and offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the nearby Diamond Head crater.
Add to
Details
Waimea Bay Beach
@theresearchgirl
Popular surfing destination, known for its towering waves that can reach up to 30 feet during the winter months, as well as the famous Waimea Bay cliff jump, which is a thrilling activity for adrenaline junkies looking to make a splash.
Add to
Details

Beaches to Snorkel

Hanauma Bay
@theresearchgirl
Beautiful snorkeling destination on the southeastern coast of Oahu, known for its vibrant coral reef and diverse marine life, including colorful tropical fish and sea turtles.
Add to
Details
Sharks Cove
@theresearchgirl
World-renowned snorkeling and diving spot, offering crystal-clear waters, unique rock formations, and a variety of marine life, including octopuses, eels, and colorful reef fish.
Add to
Details

Places to See

Hoสปomaluhia Botanical Garden
@theresearchgirl
Tranquil and picturesque garden located in Kaneohe, Oahu, featuring over 400 acres of lush greenery, scenic walking paths, and a large man-made lake, making it a popular spot for picnics, birdwatching, and photography.
Add to
Details
Kualoa Ranch
@theresearchgirl
Located on the eastern coast of Oahu, featuring a variety of outdoor activities, such as horseback riding, zip lining, and ATV tours, as well as guided movie site tours showcasing famous locations used in Hollywood films.
Add to
Details

Pearl Harbor National Memorial
@theresearchgirl
Visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial offers a moving experience that honors the lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor and provides a deeper understanding of the events that shaped World War II.
Add to
Details

Places to stay

Turtle Bay Resort
@theresearchgirl
Luxurious and scenic resort that offers stunning ocean views, world-class golf courses, and a variety of outdoor activities, including surfing, horseback riding, and hiking.
Add to
Details
Prince Waikiki - Honolulu Luxury Hotel
@theresearchgirl
Sophisticated and modern hotel located in the heart of Honolulu, offering breathtaking ocean views, elegant accommodations, and exceptional dining and entertainment options.
Add to
Details
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club
@theresearchgirl
A trendy boutique hotel that boasts an Instagram-worthy swimming pool, complete with colorful poolside cabanas, retro-inspired furnishings, and a pool bar, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing day in the sun.
Add to
Details
White Sands Hotel
@theresearchgirl
An affordable (especially with the Costco package) hotel, with colorful decor, cozy accommodations, and a convenient location just a short walk from the beach, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers.
Add to
Details
Aston at the Waikiki Banyan
@theresearchgirl
An affordable family-friendly condominium-style hotel in Waikiki that features spacious suites with kitchenettes, a large recreation deck with a heated pool, tennis and basketball courts, and a convenient location just a block away from the beach.
Add to
Details

Transportation

Oahu offers a variety of transportation options for visitors.

One of the most popular ways to explore the island is by renting a car, which provides the flexibility to visit different parts of the island at your own pace.

However, if you prefer not to drive, there are also public transportation options available, such as TheBus, which offers an affordable and reliable way to get around.

Another popular transportation option is to hire a taxi or ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.

If you're only planning on staying in Waikiki, most food options along Kuhio and Kalakaua, Waikiki Beach, and Kuhio Beach are all walkable and you won't need to rent a car.

However, the island's east side and north shore are worth the visit.ย  It's possible to rent a car for day trips to Kailua or Haleiwa, if you want to avoid paying the parking fees that come with most hotels.

Finally, for those looking for a more active way to explore the island, renting a bike or moped can be a fun and eco-friendly option.

๐Ÿ‘‹ Happy Travels!

* * *
CURATED BY
Not an influencer ๐Ÿซ  Just a girl who researches every vacation destination to get the biggest bang for my buck. And now I want to share what I've learned.
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Support The Research Girlโ€™s work.
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ยฉ The Research Girl โ€ข Privacy โ€ข Terms
Insider's Guide to Oahu - Highlights
If you're looking for the perfect island getaway that offers a mix of breathtaking natural beauty, rich history, and modern amenities, look no further than Oahu, Hawaii. This stunning island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Waikiki Beach and Lanikai Beach, where you can soak up the sun, surf, or snorkel in crystal-clear waters. But Oahu is much more than just beaches; it's also home to iconic hikes whether you're a beginner or an expert. And with its vibrant nightlife, incredible food scene, and world-class shopping, Oahu has something for everyone. ๐Ÿ‘‰ Save yourself hours of research and planning by choosing from my list of recommendations-- this is the list I give my friends and family! โœจ This guide is perfect for families, small groups, and solo travelers. Includes: โ˜•๏ธ 2 cafes ๐Ÿณ 3 breakfast ๐ŸŸ 3 poke spots ๐Ÿฅ˜ 4 lunches/dinners - that are not poke ๐Ÿจ 7 shave ice & sweets ๐Ÿ–๏ธ 4 beaches to relax at ๐Ÿคฟ 2 beaches for snorkeling ๐Ÿ›๏ธ 3 landmarks/sites ๐ŸŒƒ 5 hotel recommendations - including every budget ๐ŸšŠ Transportation tips
33 Places โ€ข 29 Saves โ€ข ago
Free

Looking for full itineraries?

Check out my detailed full-itinerary that includes everything you'll need for every day of your trip:

Cafes

Kona Coffee Purveyors | b patisserie
@theresearchgirl
Known for their high-quality Kona coffee and delicious pastries. Tip: The seasonal kouign amann is particularly tasty.
Add to
Details
Surfjack Shop
@theresearchgirl
Trendy boutique that also serves delicious coffee and light bites, making it a great spot for a quick caffeine fix or a leisurely morning brunch. They have the cutest coffee cup designs!
Add to
Details

Breakfast

Island Vintage Coffee Waikiki
@theresearchgirl
Popular coffee shop that offers a variety of specialty coffee drinks made with locally sourced, 100% Kona coffee beans, as well as healthy breakfast and lunch options featuring fresh, local ingredients. Tip: They're known for their acai bowls, island inspired coffee flavors, and ube bagels.
Add to
Details
Leonard's Bakery
@theresearchgirl
Beloved and famous for its malasadas. The line does get VERY long and the parking lot only holds a few cars. Come early (6am is ideal) or be ready to get dropped off to wait in line. Tip: Guava is a personal fav! Open daily 5:30am to 7:00pm
Add to
Details
Rainbow Drive-In
@theresearchgirl
Popular spot for locals and tourists alike, offering classic Hawaiian plate lunches such as the famous "mixed plate" with teriyaki beef, chicken, and mahi-mahi, as well as tasty burgers and fries.
Add to
Details

Poke

Ono Seafood
@theresearchgirl
Some of the best poke on the island, with fresh and high-quality ingredients, friendly service, and affordable prices. Tip: Every plate comes with a free drink!
Add to
Details

Alicia's Market
@theresearchgirl
Known for their mouth-watering Hawaiian plate lunches, fresh poke, and an extensive selection of meats and seafood.
Add to
Details

Maguro Brothers Hawaii Waikiki
@theresearchgirl
Small seafood shop in Waikiki, is a go-to spot for locals and tourists seeking the freshest sushi and sashimi made with locally sourced fish, including a wide selection of hard-to-find delicacies
Add to
Details

Lunch / Dinner - that's not poke

Marugame Udon
@theresearchgirl
Affordable handmade udon noodles and a variety of toppings that can be customized to create a personalized bowl of warm, comforting goodness. The line can get very long, but is relatively fast moving. Tip: The sweet potato tempura is divine.
Add to
Details
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
@theresearchgirl
Serving up some of the most authentic and flavorful ramen on the island, made with rich, savory broth, tender noodles, and a variety of toppings that make each bowl a satisfying and unforgettable experience.
Add to
Details
Aloha Shrimp
@theresearchgirl
Delicious garlic shrimp plates with generous portions of shrimp, rice, and salad, making it a must-visit destination for shrimp lovers visiting the North Shore. If you've looked up shrimp trucks, you've probably heard of Giovanni's. However, Aloha Shrimp is low-key a tastier option and experience.
Add to
Details
Foodland Farms Ala Moana
@theresearchgirl
This Foodland location is by far the biggest and newest looking one I've seen on the island. They have a vast variety of *hot* bentos, musubis, poke, sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and snacks! Perfect for bringing to the beach or back to the hotel.
Add to
Details

Sweets

Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha
@theresearchgirl
Wide variety of flavors made with all-natural, locally sourced ingredients and a warm and friendly atmosphere that embodies the true spirit of aloha. Tip: Add mochi to your bowl!
Add to
Details
Matsumoto Shave Ice
@theresearchgirl
Historic shave ice shop in Haleiwa, is a must-visit destination, offering a wide range of colorful and flavorful shave ice combinations with a unique Japanese twist, such as azuki beans and mochi balls.
Add to
Details
The Sunrise Shack - Sunset
@theresearchgirl
Created by pro surfers-- Sunrise Shack is a popular spot to grab a delicious acai bowl and watch the sunrise over the beautiful Hawaiian landscape.
Add to
Details
Ted's Bakery
@theresearchgirl
Famous chocolate haupia pie and a variety of other baked goods that are perfect for a quick snack or a satisfying meal.
Add to
Details
Banan Waikiki Beach Shack
@theresearchgirl
Delicious plant-based swirls made with locally sourced ingredients and topped with fresh fruits, nuts, and granola.
Add to
Details
Leonard's Bakery
@theresearchgirl
Beloved and famous for its malasadas. The line does get VERY long and the parking lot only holds a few cars. Come early (6am is ideal) or be ready to get dropped off to wait in line. Tip: Guava is a personal fav! Open daily 5:30am to 7:00pm
Add to
Details
MATCHA Stand MAIKO
@theresearchgirl
Must-visit spot for matcha lovers, offering a wide selection of traditional Japanese matcha drinks and desserts, including their famous matcha soft serve. Tip: My fav is the Matcha Latte Float
Add to
Details

Beaches to relax

Kailua Beach Park
@theresearchgirl
Stunningly beautiful and popular white sand beach located on the windward side of Oahu, known for its turquoise waters, soft sand, and picturesque views of the nearby Mokulua islands.
Add to
Details
Ala Moana Regional Park
@theresearchgirl
Local favorite beach located in Honolulu, known for its calm waters and expansive green spaces, perfect for picnics, jogging, swimming, and surfing.
Add to
Details
Kฤhala Beach
@theresearchgirl
Secluded and pristine beach on the southeastern shore of Oahu, surrounded by luxury homes and resorts, and offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the nearby Diamond Head crater.
Add to
Details
Waimea Bay Beach
@theresearchgirl
Popular surfing destination, known for its towering waves that can reach up to 30 feet during the winter months, as well as the famous Waimea Bay cliff jump, which is a thrilling activity for adrenaline junkies looking to make a splash.
Add to
Details

Beaches to Snorkel

Hanauma Bay
@theresearchgirl
Beautiful snorkeling destination on the southeastern coast of Oahu, known for its vibrant coral reef and diverse marine life, including colorful tropical fish and sea turtles.
Add to
Details
Sharks Cove
@theresearchgirl
World-renowned snorkeling and diving spot, offering crystal-clear waters, unique rock formations, and a variety of marine life, including octopuses, eels, and colorful reef fish.
Add to
Details

Places to See

Hoสปomaluhia Botanical Garden
@theresearchgirl
Tranquil and picturesque garden located in Kaneohe, Oahu, featuring over 400 acres of lush greenery, scenic walking paths, and a large man-made lake, making it a popular spot for picnics, birdwatching, and photography.
Add to
Details
Kualoa Ranch
@theresearchgirl
Located on the eastern coast of Oahu, featuring a variety of outdoor activities, such as horseback riding, zip lining, and ATV tours, as well as guided movie site tours showcasing famous locations used in Hollywood films.
Add to
Details

Pearl Harbor National Memorial
@theresearchgirl
Visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial offers a moving experience that honors the lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor and provides a deeper understanding of the events that shaped World War II.
Add to
Details

Places to stay

Turtle Bay Resort
@theresearchgirl
Luxurious and scenic resort that offers stunning ocean views, world-class golf courses, and a variety of outdoor activities, including surfing, horseback riding, and hiking.
Add to
Details
Prince Waikiki - Honolulu Luxury Hotel
@theresearchgirl
Sophisticated and modern hotel located in the heart of Honolulu, offering breathtaking ocean views, elegant accommodations, and exceptional dining and entertainment options.
Add to
Details
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club
@theresearchgirl
A trendy boutique hotel that boasts an Instagram-worthy swimming pool, complete with colorful poolside cabanas, retro-inspired furnishings, and a pool bar, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing day in the sun.
Add to
Details
White Sands Hotel
@theresearchgirl
An affordable (especially with the Costco package) hotel, with colorful decor, cozy accommodations, and a convenient location just a short walk from the beach, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers.
Add to
Details
Aston at the Waikiki Banyan
@theresearchgirl
An affordable family-friendly condominium-style hotel in Waikiki that features spacious suites with kitchenettes, a large recreation deck with a heated pool, tennis and basketball courts, and a convenient location just a block away from the beach.
Add to
Details

Transportation

Oahu offers a variety of transportation options for visitors.

One of the most popular ways to explore the island is by renting a car, which provides the flexibility to visit different parts of the island at your own pace.

However, if you prefer not to drive, there are also public transportation options available, such as TheBus, which offers an affordable and reliable way to get around.

Another popular transportation option is to hire a taxi or ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.

If you're only planning on staying in Waikiki, most food options along Kuhio and Kalakaua, Waikiki Beach, and Kuhio Beach are all walkable and you won't need to rent a car.

However, the island's east side and north shore are worth the visit.ย  It's possible to rent a car for day trips to Kailua or Haleiwa, if you want to avoid paying the parking fees that come with most hotels.

Finally, for those looking for a more active way to explore the island, renting a bike or moped can be a fun and eco-friendly option.

๐Ÿ‘‹ Happy Travels!

* * *
CURATED BY
Not an influencer ๐Ÿซ  Just a girl who researches every vacation destination to get the biggest bang for my buck. And now I want to share what I've learned.
Send A Tip
Support The Research Girlโ€™s work.
Select your tip amount
$5
$10
$20
$50
Or type in other amount
Powered by Thatch
The home for unique & authentic travel
Powered by Thatch: Where great trips are made.
ยฉ The Research Girl โ€ข Privacy โ€ข Terms