Hawaii Travel Guide
Ete Swimwear Founder, Jess Williamson, has just returned from her Hawaiian adventures so we caught up with her to find out all the top things to see and do on your next #EteAdventures.
Hawaii truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. The beautiful beaches, natural landscapes and great food, there is so much to see and to explore. I have always loved Hawaii and wanted to take my boyfriend Chris to see how amazing it is because he’d never been to Hawaii and last time I visited I didn’t get to do nearly close to everything I wanted to, there’s just so much! Below you can find out all about our trip and my favourite things to do while in Hawaii!
WHERE TO STAY IN HAWAII
We visited the island of Oahu, this is the main tourist island of Hawaii. We decided to stay at Waikiki beach which is where you’ll find the majority of the hotels, restaurants and shops. A city skyline is probably not the first thing you think of when you think about a vacation in Hawaii but staying in Waikiki was super handy for getting around the island. All busses & tours leave from Waikiki and also its quite close to many of the main things we wanted to do and was easy to find a place to eat each day, there’s just SOOOO many restaurants (I’ll tell you my favourites below).
If you are looking for a more laid-back atmosphere then the North Shore maybe more your style.
BEST BEACHES ON OAHU
First things first, let me tell you about the beaches! We went to so many beaches during our trip and they all were so different from each other and amazing in their own ways. Here are my favourites:
Let’s start with Waikiki Beach! Waikiki Beach is right in the middle of Waikiki with hotels lining its shores. If you are lucky enough you maybe staying in one of the hotels right on the beach, but for us we were about 2 blocks back from the beach, only a 5 minute walk. We didn’t really swim or spend much time at Waikiki beach because its so crowded being in the main tourist area however it’s known for great surfing and the beautiful view of Diamond Head Crater. In the evenings we sometimes took a walk along the beach before dinner and some nights we sat to watch the sunset along with the other million people there haha! The great thing is that its super central and close so you don’t have to go far to reach the beach.
Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve is amazing for snorkelling and is only about 15 minutes from Wakiki by car or around 50 minutes by bus. We took the bus to get here which leaves right from Waikiki beach and is only $5 for a full-day pass. Before entering the beach you will have to watch a short video which explains you on how to interact with the nature and how to treat the sea life and you will have to purchase an entry ticket for $7 per person to help preserve the beautiful bay. The bay is beautiful, the water clear and turquoise and it’s perfect for snorkelling, we saw so many fish!
Lanikai Beach is on the east coast, a little further from Waikiki but so worth it! The water is the most turquoise green water I have ever seen and with two mountains in the water the views are very scenic. The sand is super white and soft here, other beaches the sand is a bit more shelly and coarse. Lanikai was the most picturesque beach I have seen! Luckily we took an Uber here so our driver showed us how to get to the beach because it’s in a residential area, there are little alley ways between the houses to reach the beach.
We took a drive up the east coast one day and happened to discover so many cute and private beaches so we stopped along the way (sorry I’m not sure what they were called). My favourite was this tiny beach with a swing in the trees. We also came across Chinaman’s Hat which is right near Kualoa Ranch if you’re planning on going there.
We rented a Jeep for a few days and took the opportunity to drive up to the North Shore for 2 days and visited a few beaches while we were there. Sharks cove was perfect for snorkelling, we saw so many huge fish! Waimea Bay is good for cliff jumping OR to watch others jump, but on the day we went, the waves were huge so we just relaxed on the sand. We also went to Turtle Bay but didn’t see any turtles so maybe we were in the wrong spot haha!
Waimea Falls is also in the North Shore, right beside Waimea bay. It is a botanical gardens with paths all the way through the beautiful gardens, leading to a natural waterfall at the end where you can swim in the freshwater.
HIKING ON OAHU
Wow! The hikes in Hawaii were beyond incredible, the views and natural environment is like nowhere else. Here are a few of the hikes we did:
You can’t come to Waikiki and not hike Diamond Head Crater! This is just 5 minutes from Waikiki and is the old volcano crater that you can see from the beach. We woke up super early one morning to get to the crater by 6am which is the time the hike opens. We wanted to experience sunrise as we hiked, and it was so worth it! It was quite a busy trail with a lot of people plus it was mostly paved or stairs but at the top it has a breath taking view over Waikiki and the beaches nearby.
Manoa Falls was the second hike we did. This trail looked like a scene from Jurassic Park, it was so luscious and green! It was about a 20 minute car ride from Waikiki and is in the mountains so it’s quite a wet trail so make sure you wear good shoes. It took us around 1 hour to hike to the end where there is a large waterfall.
The Pillbox Trail is one of the most rewarding trails because the hike up is only about 20 minutes and the views are breath taking. The view at the top is looking over Lanikai beach, where you can see the 2 mountains in the most turquoise clear waters!
Last but not least, this hike was a last minute search on Google where we found Kuliouou Ridge Trail. Wow! This hike was something else… it was the most versatile hike, going through the valley and up to the top of the ridge of the mountain we saw tropical plants, a pine forest and the most amazing views! This hike was by far my favourite and most rewarding. It took us around 3.5 hours to reach the top because we stopped to take so many photos, there was a new view everywhere you look and it just kept getting better the further we went. Once we reached the top, we were as high as the clouds, the view speaks for itself! This was more of a quiet trail with mainly locals and an unmarked path at some sections, which made it more authentic and fun.
One of the greatest experiences was seeing Waikiki from above. Chris got us tickets for a sunset helicopter ride for my birthday because he knew how much I love sunsets so one afternoon we took to the skies and had an unforgettable helicopter ride. We were so lucky the sunset that night was just magical and seeing everything from a new perspective was one of my favourite things we did.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
While we still had the Jeep we took the opportunity to take a drive to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. The botanic garden is beautiful and you can easily drive through the stunning nature. I would recommend going here with a car as the gardens are quite large and it means you will get to see it all.
BEST FOOD SPOTS
Tucker & Bevvy Picnic Foods: I am going to say this is the BEST Acai Bowl on Oahu, probably the best one I have ever had! We went here about 5+ times for breakfast and got the Acai bowl every time. Tucker & Bevvy have all sorts of healthy foods and sandwiches for taking on a picnic. There are 2 locations and we were lucky to have one right across the road from our hotel, perfect for breakfast.
Cheesecake Factory: Don’t hate me for this one but we went there 3+ times! It has so much variety on the menu, the meals are insanely huge and they are super fast at service so its great to eat there before going for an activity. It does get very busy and there will be a long wait for dinner so we always went for lunch or at 5pm for an early dinner to beat the ques. Chris and I actually shared an appetiser nachos and could not eat one more thing, the meals really are huge! Which makes it a cheap dinner J And don’t forget the cheesecakes.
Sunrise Shack: The cutest food shack in the North Shore! How can you not go here when it is super cute and super tasty! They serve Acai and smoothie bowls that are so pretty!
Top of Waikiki: This is the only revolving restaurant on the island! Before dinner we went to the rooftop bar just below it and had a fruity cold drink while we waited for our dinner booking. We timed it perfectly to watch the sunset from on top of Waikiki. It was such a beautiful view and delicious dinner!
Banán: Banán has acai bowls in cups, bowls or papaya - it kind of looks like a soft serve. They have a few shops on the island but we went to the one in the centre of Waikiki which was down the alleyway with all the surfboard right at the beach.
Haleiwa Bowls: It’s in the heart of the North Shore and they serve Acai bowls. It’s super convenient to go to, so we had breakfast here before heading to the beach.
We didn’t really come to Hawaii for shopping but a tropical storm came in one day and since everything is outdoors in Hawaii we decided to do a little shopping. There are a lot of different place for shopping near Wakiki! We decided to go to Ala Moana shopping centre, its still outdoors but has the biggest range of shops! If you are looking for some bargains you can go to the Waikele Outlets, this is about a 20-30 minute drive from the centre of Waikiki. The main area around Waikiki beach is where you find all the restaurants and touristy shops as well as lots of high end stores.
Overall, Hawaii was so amazing and we will certainly be back!
For more Travel inspiration read our Bali Travel Guide