Now when I think of Hawaii, a visit to Waikiki is not top on my list. It’s just not what I think of when I picture a vacation in Paradise. But I will say, it’s a great quick trip if you are island hopping or planning to stay elsewhere on Oahu for an extended period of time. Which is exactly how we ended up in Waikiki for 24 hours before heading to the North Shore!
The Nuts & Bolts
You gotta have a way to get there and a place to lay your head… luckily being in Wine Country, there are many options when flying. You can regularly find direct flights from OAK or SFO to a few of the Hawaiian Islands. Or if you don’t mind a plane change you can fly out of the Sonoma County Airport with Alaska, American or United.
As for where to stay in Waikiki, the options are endless! If you want to spend a few extra bucks and stay in a historic hotel, there is the Moana, which opened its doors in 1901 and features an iconic banyan tree in an open air courtyard facing the beach…so dreamy! Another classic, The Royal Hawaiian Resort, you know the bright pink one, opened its doors in 1927. But if you’re like me, you go onto Hotel Tonight, find a reasonably priced room with a partial ocean view and are good to go. My reasoning is this; you are there for 24 hours, you’ll be out and about, you just need a clean, safe place to sleep and that is what we found at the Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel.
Now do you rent a car or just ride-share? A ride from the airport to Waikiki is about 20 minutes and roughly $20.00. Once in Waikiki, it’s very reasonable to walk to many of the attractions.If you do plan on traveling to another part of the island, I would recommend a rental car or you can totally hop on a giant tourist bus, but that doesn’t give you a lot of freedom.
Food & Fun
Sometimes the best food finds are found by complete mistake! That was our experience when the ride-share driver took a wrong turn and drove past the Maguro Spot. Which ended up being our first stop after unpacking… give me all the poke bowls! But this small super sweet spot is owned by a father son team, the dad’s local surf shop is just the next block down, Moku. Next up was a stroll down Kalakaua Avenue, popping in and out of the shops, finally arriving to Maui Brewing Co., a gorgeous top floor open air bar with seating as far as the eye could see! What's even better, they have two happy hours, 3:30-5:30 pm and 10:30 pm to close, daily! Another thing I appreciated about the visit to MBC was their selection of other local craft beverages, like Paradise Ciders (more on that in a moment)! So after more snacks and beer samples, we wattled out the beach access path and landed smack dab on Waikiki beach, looking onto Diamond Head… it doesn’t get more classic Hawaii than that! We wrapped up the afternoon with some sand, sun, and waves before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
Now being the curious person I am and loving the Killah Dragon by Paradise Ciders at MBC, I wanted to make a trip to the tasting room. Luckily my travel buddy aka fiance, though a little reluctant, agreed. If you decide to visit Paradise Ciders, you’ll need a car or catch a ride-share. You should also know that it looks like you’re driving back to the airport but take a wrong turn down an industrial side street with little light and just before you blurt out where the F*@% am I, you arrive!
Some fun facts about Paradise Ciders:
It’s Hawaii’s first Hard Cider Company
Was founded in 2017 by friends and former bartenders and home brewers, Kasey Sulheim, who was behind the bar the night we visited and Shaun Peck, who you could see in the back office working on labels.
They have 2 menus: Their flagship flavors and a rotating menu
Tasting Room is open Wednesday - Saturday 3 pm- 8 pm
Ciders are currently available throughout Oahu and in one spot on Maui - So if you see it on the menu, grab a glass!
We wrapped up the night with dinner at Uncle Bo’s, which has two locations: one in the Waikiki area and one on the North Shore. I am not sure how to describe Uncle Bo’s, maybe eclectic? Whatever it is, it’s not what you expect, the menu feels random, a little bit of everything. But the place was jumpin’ and the food was tasty, a must try if you’re in the area. On our tasting menu we tried: Pot Stickers (crispy), Six Little Piggies, and Boca Rota (which we named Italian Nacho’s)... talk about stuffed and after a 15 minute walk back to the hotel we called it a night!
Bright & Early!
I don’t know about you but it always takes me a couple days to adjust to a time change. Which in this case is a beautiful opportunity to sit on the Lani, drink a cup of coffee, and watch the sunrise over the ocean. Seeing surfers catch early morning waves and listening to the city come to life is pretty unique.
But before check-out, which is noon at the Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel (who-hoo) there were a couple food stops left on the list. This included breakfast at Rainbow Drive-In; an order of the Breakfast Special; white rice, two fried eggs, with Portuguese Sausage and Sweet Bread French Toast. I also highly recommend Loco Moco, white rice or fried rice topped with a beef patty, a fried egg and brown gravy...SOOOO damn good! Then headed for the last stop, Leonard’s for Malasadas, or Portuguese doughnuts, another delicious treat and favorite among locals and tourists!
There is a lot going on in this area of the island. A couple things we missed but you should try to catch… Eggs ‘n Things is right out front of the Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel and had a line out the door for breakfast. Or visit the Sunrise Shack, we stopped at the original Sunrise Shack across from Sunset Beach on the North Shore for a cup-o-bullet coffee, a great pick-me up. Grab a Mai Tai at Duke’s, located on the beach in the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel or visit Chinatown and try out Lucky Belly (that's definitely on my list for the next visit). For things to see, if you’re into Zoo’s or have kids, the Honolulu Zoo is right off the main drag in Waikiki. Lastly, Hawaii is filled with history, both a rich cultural history and military history. To learn more about it, stop by the ‘Iolani Palace or Pearl Harbor.
When you’re ready, grab your rental car and head to North Shore to slow down and live that Aloha life of sun, sand & surf!