Proper Guide to Oahu, HawaiiJune 2, 2017
This past April, I took the plunge and got married! Fortunately for me, my new wife Cece was born and raised in beautiful Hawai’i. So naturally, our nuptials took place there (slightly better option than getting married in my hometown of Midland, Texas). So, for this latest edition of the Proper Guide, we are taking you to picturesque Oʻahu, home to the beautiful beaches of Waikīkī, the famous surfing mecca of the North Shore, and now the birthplace of our union.
You know we’ll be giving you the local’s low down on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat, but we’ll also give you tips on what tourist traps to avoid because sometimes that can be the most useful intel.
Where To Stay
There are no shortages of hotels in Waikīkī. Here are four of our favorites, each with its own unique vibe.
In the days leading up to the wedding, we needed some time to prepare for the chaos that was about to ensue. So, we hid out at the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club. The Surfjack is a new boutique hotel in the heart of Waikīkī with a swanky, 60’s, Vintage-Hawaii vibe. They showcase the work of local artists and photographers and host creative workshops weekly. Classic movies are screened over the pool nightly, and their restaurant Mahina & Sun’s is amazing with a delicious spin on local cuisine.
The Laylow, Autograph Collection is also in the heart of Waikīkī, right next door to the brand new International Market Place. The Laylow caters to the tourist rather than the experience seeker, but we still appreciate the mid-century modern vibes at this beautiful boutique spot.
At the Laylow Waikiki, wearing our Slub Jersey T-shirt in White
Cece’s favorite staycation spot, The Modern Honolulu, is an up-scale place right across from Ala Moana Center which is Hawaii’s biggest and best mall. This hip hotel houses one of the island’s best nightclubs – Addiction. For a more low-key evening, The Study bar in the lobby has bookshelves that rotate after 6pm to create a sleek cocktail lounge with live music. The Modern has both a sunrise pool as well as a sunset pool, which has THE best frozen coconut mojito.
Known as the “First Lady of Waikiki”, the Moana Surfrider is full of rich history. It was the first hotel built in Hawaii back in 1901 and led to the birth of tourism for the islands. Join one of the weekly cultural & historical tours, enjoy nightly live music in the courtyard under the giant banyan tree or sit in one of the rocking chairs on the deck overlooking Waikiki strip.
What To Do
One of my favorite things about Oahu is the booming art scene in Kaka’ako. The streets are full of lively shops, cafes and restaurants and on every building you’ll find an incredible work of art. This is where Pow! Wow! Hawaii started and is still held. They also hold monthly night market here with all young, creative, local vendors. This place is a consistent source of inspiration for me.
If hiking is what you’re after, skip the tourist overloaded Diamond Head trail and try Koko Head instead. It is HARD, but rewarding with a view of the island and a margarita bar at the top (you’ll wish). Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is also fairly intermediate. Great views at the top, whale sighting during season, and Cece’s favorite: a secret trail down the side of the cliff that leads to tide pools where you can take a dip and snap some great insta-photos. To get there from the whale watching sign, head directly down the cliff toward the ocean. This is pretty dangerous though, so be cautious.
The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet & Marketplace is the best place to buy all the little knick knacks and souvenirs to bring back home. Avoid the insane tourist prices in Waikīkī. This open air flea market has hundreds of local vendors and cheap prices.
Where To Eat & Drink
Start your day at Arvo for some coffee and avo toast. For pancakes, French Toast, and other breakfast mainstays head over to Scratch Kitchen or Koko Head Café. The best spot for an amazing, authentic Hawaiian lunch is Helenas. Pig & The Lady is our favorite spot for dinner. We recommend the twice fried chicken, uni ragu, and the Cobra Commander cocktail. For sushi we like Sushi Murayama, and Sushi Sasabune. Now for cocktails Bar Leather Apron and Pint + Jigger top our list, but for a local spot with live Hawaiian music, get yourself a frozen Maitai at Maitai’s Alamoana.
The North Shore
Where To Stay
Turtle Bay Resort is the only resort on the North Shore, and while it is beautiful, their prices often reflect that. Instead opt for an AirBnB. There are so many amazing beachfront rentals with gracious and informative hosts.
What To Do
Polynesian Cultural Center is like a Polynesian Disneyland with an amazing luau dinner show at the end of the day. Great place for the whole family. If you’re brave, free dive with sharks (without the cage) through Island View Hawai’i. Skip Hanauma Bay and their entrance fees and head over to Sharks Cove instead. There are so many fish, turtles and little caves to explore (for free). But watch your stuff as a lot of thefts occur here. Cece loves Yoga in the Orchard for some “off the grid yoga” in the middle of the Waialua mountains. Surf aficionados will want to check out Pipeline when the waves are BIG (October to March), or Sunset Beach or Ehukai.
Where To Eat & Drink
Foodland Supermarket Poke Bar
Need a morning pick me up? The best Bulletproof coffee is at a little shack across from Sunset beach called The Sunrise Shack. For some healthy eats head on over to Beet Box Café. Cece’s tip on the best poke bowl: Foodland Supermarket! Her favorite acai bowl is at Scoop of Paradise – don’t forget the macadamia nuts! For appetizers and drinks we like to go to Uncle Bo’s. The Surfer Bar at Turtle Bay is also another good spot for drinks, live music & if you plan it right – a “talk story” session where they host Q&A’s with different surf legends. Head over to Lei Lei’s for dinner which is also at Turtle Bay. I love their Oyster Shooters! Matsumotos Shave Ice is yummy, but the line is always way too long. You can order the same thing at Anahulu Shave Ice, or at San Lorenzo with no line.
What To Wear
At the Beach on the North Shore wearing the Hybrid Shorts in Tidal
Hybrid Shorts are perfect for the North Shore. You can explore the town, jump in the ocean, go to lunch…all without having to change. Chill out in our cotton, draw string Ricardo Resort shorts, and just about anything to match. Devereux Jersey Slub T-Shirt, hoodie, button down, or polo shirt; these shorts are so versatile and super laid back. Which is perfect for the North Shore, where shoes are not required almost everywhere you go. Think twice before you wear those matching aloha shirts that scream “tourist”. Opt for a more subtle floral print like our Paradise or Palm Polo. These will keep you a hell of a lot cooler in the Hawaiian humidity, and bonus – I collaborated with a Hawaiian artist to make these. Oh and get yourself a pair of slippers (and don’t call them “flip flops”, in Hawaii they are “slippers”).
Hitting floating balls into the water in my Ricardo Resort shorts
What To Avoid
A final note from my new wife: Beware of the traffic on Haleiwa Road – especially when the waves are big. Don’t try to swim when the surf is big, read the signs and take them seriously. Do not touch ocean life, including turtles, fish, and monk seals. They are very sensitive, often endangered, and the locals are very protective of them. Don’t honk your horn, don’t litter and definitely don’t wear your shoes in anyones home! Hawaiians are very loving, welcoming, and generous to people who respect them and their land. Return that ALOHA spirit, and you’ll have a great time!