This post is a special one because the destination wasn't just one I took a trip too - it's one I lived in for five years.
I was lucky enough to call Honolulu my home for college and a bit after, getting to experience that tropical-dream-like-honeymoon-destination-lifestyle on a daily basis... except when I had to go to school and do homework and work and what not. But trust me, doing homework on the beach is better than doing homework not on a beach.
Between the weather, food, beaches, people, and the rapidly growing city life, it was definitely not an easy place to say goodbye to and is still one of my favorite places on earth (so far). If you're thinking about spending some of your own time in Honolulu, here's some of my old stomping grounds.
Beaches: it's Hawaii, you have to go to the beach right? If you're staying in Honolulu, I'd recommend to Kaimana's - it's a bit away from the ever crowded Waikiki Beach (but still walkable) and much more chill. Plus you can cross the street and get an amazing straight-on view of Diamond Head at Kapiolani Park. If you're up for it, get further out to Kahala Beach for even fewer crowds and picturesque scenes.
Food (aka grindz): literally there's so many amazing places to eat in Honolulu that I couldn't possibly list them all, but these are the top ones that stick with me (even after moving to the food mecca that is NYC):
- Rainbow's Drive In - it's gotten more touristy over the years because of its proximity to Waikiki, but holy crap it's still my favorite plate lunch place. Do yourself a favor and get the mix plate with a slush.
- Sweet E's - if you're looking to get your brunch on, this is the place to do it. Super cozy and homey and the food is incredible. Try any of the omelettes and blueberry french toast.
- The Nook - also an incredible brunch place if you're going for that slightly more hipster, trendy brunch vibe. The entire menu is amazing (trust me, I worked my way through the entire thing).
- Town - literally just started drooling remembering this place. Their motto is "Local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always” so you know its gonna be delicious.
- Doraku - a Japanese/sushi place started by Steve Aoki's brother (random right?). Their happy hour is super cheap and delicious, but even if you go for a full meal you won't be disappointed.
Drink: considering I lived in Hawaii for most of my college years, I wasn't exactly consuming the classiest nor most delicious adult beverages. However, the mai tai at the Royal Hawaiian hotel and the Bob Marley at Bacchus are the two drinks I still want whenever I go back.
Shopping: South Shore market opened up pretty recently and is full of cute, local shops that you're bound to fall in love with. Definitely check out Salvage Public (where I got this shirt) and Mori Hawaii (I occasionally do design work with them and they're awesome). If you're looking to go a little more commercial, Ala Moana Center is the biggest open air mall in the woooorld and you could literally spend an entire day there.
Areas to explore: if you've already run through the touristy spots, make your way to Kaka'ako for some amazing murals (re-painted yearly by Pow Wow Hawaii), downtown Honolulu (especially on First Fridays) for bars, cafes, and tons of history, and Waialae Avenue for a good walk up full of restaurants and shops near the University of Hawaii (my alma mater!).
Long story short, Honolulu (and all of Hawaii) is a lot more than just nice beaches, drinks in pineapples, and girls wearing coconut bras. Don't forget that Hawaii only became a state in 1959 - its culture and community were booming way before it because a part of the US and it's evident when you're there. Definitely get yo' tan on and have a mai tai, but take time to appreciate the other aspects of the city and the Hawaiian history that was there long before the high rises.
Image Honolulu as a tropical Brooklyn - full of artistic vibes, quickly growing, packed with amazing people, but with a culture all its own. It's one city you'll never want to leave.