This was my second trip to Hawaii, a place I didn’t think I’d come back to so soon after my honeymoon in 2017, but couldn’t pass up another opportunity to visit. I was on Oahu with New Balance, shooting their Spring/Summer catalogue – so excited to see it but can’t believe we have to wait until 2020.
Because Hawaii is FAR (like 17 hour flight from the UK), I decided to tag on a couple of days after we finished shooting to enjoy the island and explore the areas that Tom and I didn’t get to see when we were here.
I stayed in Waikiki initially because that’s the area that we had been booked in by the production company for the first few days, secondly the prices in this area are often cheaper due to high competition than other areas on the island for the days that I covered my own hotel and also because you don’t need a car in this area. Traveling solo I felt really safe walking around here, even at night, with plenty of other tourists milling around. And it was full of families and friends traveling together rather than honeymooners as we experienced at the Four Season Ko’olina.
With that said, Waikiki is not my fave spot to stay in Oahu, and if you’re here as a couple then it probably wouldn’t be my first recommendation.
However, it was in easy reach of everything, the prices were reasonable for hotels (even in peak season), and there was so much going on.
What to do:
Surfing/Paddleboarding – Waikiki is famed for its beach, and the plethora of surfers and paddleboarders. Join the cool kids on a board or get a lesson from any number of beach vendors or surf shops lining the main road.
Snorkelling – either join a tour group or rent a mask and flippers on the North Shore and explore the waters yourself. Shark Cove is gorgeous, whilst Hanauma Bay is a little closer to Waikiki and is said to have the most fish in one place in all of Hawaii!
Run – there are plenty of flat running paths and undulating trails to choose from. I ran through Ala Moana Regional Park and along Ala Wai river for a flat paved route with plenty of water fountains. The Westin (Moana Surfrider Hotel) has twice weekly run clubs, although I couldn’t find any info about these online, they had the activities listed in the hotel lobby.
Yoga – One of my favourite ways to do yoga is at sunrise or sunset on a beach. Many of the hotels offer beach or poolside yoga to guests, it’s definitely worth finding out if yours does. There’s also Pilates O Ka La, Ohana Space, Shakti Flow and Corepower Yoga in the area.
Workout Classes – Of course F45 and Orange Theory have made it Waikiki! If I’d had more time, or wasn’t hiking as much I would definitely have gone to a class. There are also a couple of Crossfit options for the hardcore, plus some local options like Zumba Fitness by Jen and Island Club and Spa.
Hike- There are so many amazing hikes on Oahu, of all different levels and accessibility. I didn’t bring my trail shoes on our first trip here but will never come to Hawaii again without them. There is just so much to explore and so many trails within close proximity.
Diamond Head – this one is walking distance from Waikiki and is a paved trail all the way making it great for all levels. The gate closes for visitors at 4.30pm, but as long as you’ve started walking up by this point, you can stay on the summit as long as you like – perfect for watchings sunset across the beach.
Koko Crater – Tom and I climbed this and loved it. It’s a 1 mile hike straight up along an old railway line, with amazing views across Waikiki and Honolulu. Be prepared to be shamed by the kids trotting up alongside you or the army cadets running past with full backpacks.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike – I did this with Kristen from New Balance on this most recent trip, and although we sort of missed sunrise, our intentions were good and we still had an epic view across the twin islands just off the coastline. This one is short but can get a bit scrambly. Also don’t forget the inset repellant, I was attacked by flying fire ants at the top and still have the bites to prove it. Head to Kalapawai Market post hike for coffee and breakfast sandwiches to enjoy on Kailua Beach, it’s a bit of peace and quiet after the chaos of Waikiki Beach.
Stairway to Heaven – possibly the most incredible hike I’ve ever done (bar Kilimanjaro). If you’re not afraid of heights, add this to your bucket list. Not for the faint hearted or unfit but perfect for anyone after a bit of adventure. Read my full recap here.
Stairway to Heaven is the only one of those three hikes that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing alone if you’re travelling solo. The others were busy enough and well signposted, making them not feel creepy!
Where to Eat
As usual this is a mix of healthy food and the not-so healthy, but all of it delicious.
Hideout at the Laylow – a very trendy coffee bar and brunch/lunchspot. The wifi is decent too if you need a place to catch up on emails.
Banan – local, banana based ice-cream. These are huge and delicious, eat immediately or risk it melting all over you.
Piggy Smalls – this is apparently the little sister restaurant of the big deal ‘Pig and the Lady’. Serving up eclectic Vietnamese inspired dishes, the Pho was amazing as were the LFC wings and cauliflower.
Mud Hen Water – modern takes on Hawaiian classics. This restaurant was recommended by a number of people but sadly we didn’t make it on this trip. Worth a visit if you’re on the island!
Sunrise Shack – the best smoothie I’ve had in ages, perfect for breakfast and lunches on the beach. And for the Hawaiian special; the Acai bowl.
Where to stay:
To be honest, I just went with the cheapest using Priceline (which gives great deals but you don’t know what hotel you’re staying at until you actually pay/book). I think they are all fairly similar around there, depending on budget. Don’t forget you’ll often have extra resort fees etc to add onto the price.
Top tip; If you’re hotel does not have beachfront access then renting a lounger and umbrella is going to cost you. big time. I spent $40 for a half day at the Westin which doesn’t even come with a bottle of water. So, find out if your hotel lends chairs for the beach (mine did), or many of the surf shops will rent chairs/umbrellas at a fraction of the cost. Or just bring your beach towel and find your perfect spot.
Top tip; It can be quite expensive to eat out so take advantage of happy hours on drinks and food!