Where we ate in Oahu, Hawaii

This post was a looong time coming, I know the Hawaii trip was awhile ago and I’ve been meaning to write this post all summer, but I wanted to write about all the places we ate while on the island of Oahu. We seriously ate like kings all week and I’m pretty sure I would 100% recommend every meal we had to anyone looking to plan a trip there. With the exception of the one breakfast we had at Denny’s because we foolishly thought it would be cheaper – I mean it was cheaper than any of the other meals we had, but for Denny’s it was not cheap.

Let me start off by saying, if you want to eat out, budget a lot for food in Hawaii. Unfortunately there are no All-Inclusive deals in the US (at least that I have found yet) and while the food was out of this world everywhere we ate, it was not cheap, and we probably could have went on another vacation with the money we spent eating out. There are a lot of things I would do differently next time in order to save some money, but the food was so delicious that I actually don’t regret it one bit! (Don’t tell my husband that, he would disagree). He feels a little jaded towards Hawaii after we added up our expenses!

Our first night we got in late, around 7pm Hawaii time (1am est) so we were exhausted and just wanted to eat food and go to bed. Tropics Bar and Grill was located right on site at our hotel, and it was ocean front so we headed straight for that one. I got the Kalua Pork Nachos, which were so amazing I would have went back and had them every day (had it been an all-inclusive resort).

Our resort had a bunch of different restaurants right on site that all came highly recommended on Yelp and Trip Advisor, so we took advantage of those on several nights. Bali Steak and Seafood was one of our favorites, we ate there twice (despite it being one of the priciest places) it was indoor/outdoor  (mostly indoor) and if you time it right you can catch an awesome sunset (reservations recommended for sure). We went with seafood both times because we just can’t get fresh seafood at home like you can in Hawaii. We always opted for the most authentic Hawaiian fish we could, staying away from stuff like salmon that we can get at home. Ahi Poke, was delightful!

The last restaurant right on property that we really enjoyed was the Rainbow Lanai. We had breakfast there one morning because we read reviews about  an amazing breakfast buffet. That is no lie…. The buffet was out of this world with variety. It had a ton of very European style breakfast items on it and the fresh fruit displays were fantastic (It is Hawaii afterall). We mis-heard the hostess though when we asked how much the breakfast buffet was. We heard $13 (which I’m not sure why in our mind we thought it would actually be that cheap- I guess it was too early) What she actually said was $30. So you can imagine the surprise on our face when they dropped a bill for $72 (plus beverages- not included). Its lucky the buffet was so delicious and that they dropped the bill before we were done, once we saw the price we helped our self to third helpings. We also skipped lunch that day!

On every blog, review, and person I spoke to before going, the one place we were told to go was Duke’s Waikiki. I actually wish we went here more than once too. We went for breakfast on our very first morning and it was a perfect way to start off. It was beachfront, we were able to walk the beach all the way down from our hotel, get a lay of the land,  and we enjoyed a great breakfast buffet, so we were able to try a lot of Hawaiian food that we otherwise might not have spent money on. Dan raved the Banana pancakes! We also had mimosa’s with breakfast that were among the cheapest drinks we’d find all week. I wish we would have went back for dinner another night, the atmosphere was that great!

On my birthday, we went BIG! We started off taking a short walk inland to The Cream Pot. We were recommended to this place by friends that went a few years ago and if they hadn’t told us about it, we never would have found it. The restaurant is super small and absolutely adorable. The decor is so sweet and simple, almost like a charming little dollhouse. Its off the tourist path a little which I think is what makes this place so special. I had the strawberry souffle pancakes and Dan had Eggs Benedict, both were out of this world, and the price wasn’t too bad. cream-pot

For Dinner that evening, Dan had made surprise reservations for my 30th birthday to Nobu Waikiki.  After he told me where we were going I looked it up and come to learn this is where all the celebs go when in Honolulu, one of Obama’s favorite places (Yes!) I was so impressed with him for taking it upon himself to surprise me for my birthday with something so special. This meal could have been much more reasonable, but we were splurging and went with the Waikiki Chef’s Tasting. I couldn’t tell you one thing we ate, but it was all amazing! Basically for a lot of money you let the chef decide what you are going to eat and he pulls out all the stops for about 7 courses. You have to be a little adventurous because it’s all sushi, seafood, weird veggies and sauces, hot and cold dishes etc. I surprised myself by agreeing to do this, but fortunately, being that it was THE most expensive meal we have ever had, it was also the most delicious and amazing food we’ve ever eaten. If you are up for an expensive adventure, this one is fantastic!

The day we rented a car and drove to the North Shore, we made two stops for food. Both were things that were on everyone’s “Must Do” North Shore Hawaii list. We hit up Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck and Matsumoto Shave Ice.

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Both were delicious and well worth all the hype I’ve read online! One place I very easily would have overlooked on Trip Advisor was The Goofy Cafe & Dine. We were so glad we went, that we ended up eating here twice. It was a hole in the wall type place around the corner from our hotel. Just a short walk through the city. You have to go up to the second floor of what looks like a tiny (and kinda dumpy) outdoor shopping center. Once inside it’s a quaint, very beach-house type restaurant, rustic, exposed beams and an amazing super fresh and healthy food menu. Lots of salads, granola, acai bowls etc. I ordered the same thing both times we went because it was that good. We went for brunch one morning and I got a fresh salad with avocado, tomato, bean sprouts and fresh carrot ginger dressing. The second time we went for lunch right before we had to catch our shuttle to the airport and I got the same thing again.

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Lastly,  the one thing that is everywhere in Hawaii is the Acai Bowls. I hadn’t tried one and I had seen them on virtually every menu. So on our very last day, we went to Island Vintage Coffee in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. And I ordered one. It was so delicious I wished I had started every single day with one! I also came home trying to find someplace in Buffalo that makes them and no one makes them like they do in Hawaii!

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If we go again:

There are a lot of things I would do differently next time. I think because it was just the two of us, we were more comfortable with the idea of eating out. If Ada had been with us there is no way we could have gone out that much, I think we would have pushed our luck with good behavior in public. While it was really awesome to try a lot of local food and eat at some famous places, I think it would be worth it to spend a little more and make sure to get a hotel room with a fridge/microwave or small kitchenette. I think it would have saved us a ton to have found a little grocery store and made some meals in our room. Even simple things like oatmeal for breakfast or sandwiches for lunch could have saved us hundreds of dollars. Sampling local cuisine, in my opinion, is half the fun of traveling, so I would never rule it out entirely. Even when we stay at all-inclusive resorts we still like to get out a couple times and try some of the best local restaurants. Just be sure to do some research on the absolute best places to eat before you go, so when you do eat out you can hit up some of the best of the best!

And this is how we could afford to drink all week!! It actually did save us a lot of money!

drinks

Oahu, Hawaii

One week in Oahu, HawaiiIt’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I have some fun news that I’ll share soon so check back for a big announcement! In the meantime I thought I’d share how our big Hawaii trip was!

It was a very looong trip (distance wise) New York is very far from Hawaii and if there is any reason why we wouldn’t go back, that would be it! It was also a looong time to be away from Ada, I decided I won’t do that again either! Aside from that we enjoyed our self very much, and it was great to just be a couple again, not be mom and dad or working all week. I think that was the point of this trip more then anything, we wanted to just have some time to our self, to reconnect, to be adventurous and to sleep! And mission accomplished!

I will say that I didn’t care for Honolulu quite as much as I thought. Waikiki is very touristy and its a big City, and to be honest, that’s exactly what it felt like, any old City USA.  The food was phenomenal though we did not have a bad meal, I’ll do a recap in another post of all our favorite places that we ate on Oahu.

I celebrated my 30th birthday while we were there. We kinda had a  big splurge day that day and did A LOT of expensive things. My hubby spoils me I guess. We started my birthday with a couples massage at our hotel. We stayed at The Hilton Hawaiian Village which was fabulous, and the Mandara Spa actually had really high ratings so we booked that. After our massages we took a snorkel catamaran tour, that again, was right at our hotel, and got to snorkel with the sea turtles. The catamaran was a little shorter then we like, I usually like to spend the whole afternoon out in the open water, but it was still fun and included two free cocktails.

Birthday dinner

Catamaran

We walked to dinner at Nobu-Waikiki and this is where we over-did it a bit. The restaurant came highly rated from some foodie friends that have dined there. Its also known for hosting a lot of celebs when they are in town. Instead of just ordering dinner, we decide to do the Waikiki chef’s tasting, which was a 7 course, (absolutely amazing) display of the chef’s favs. Would highly recommend this, but it came with a hefty price tag!

We took a day to drive  up to the North Shore, which was a lot of fun. We rented a car for only 2 days of our 8 day trip. Most of what we did was walkable from the hotel, but on the days we had the car we were able to really get out and explore which I’m glad we did. We visited Pupukea Park to check out the Banzai Pipeline, there isn’t much to do but watch the surfers since there is no way we were getting in that water. Then we road tripped back up the coast and hit up Waimea Bay, and the little surf town of Haleiwa. We of course tried the garlic shrimp plate at  Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp and then tried the shave ice at Motsomoto, gotta get it with the ice cream for the best thing you’ll ever have. It was huge though and we probably could have shared one!

Shave Ice

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Day two with our rental car we headed to the small town of Lanikai and hiked the Lanikai Pillboxes. Everything we read said the trail was hard to find, and although it was weird that it was situated in the middle of a neighborhood, we didn’t really have any trouble finding it. The hike was a bit rugged, not difficult for anyone in good health, but there were some steep climbs and boulders to scale. It was a short hike and the view of the “moks” was amazing. You could also see Lanikai Beach from the trail, which was our second stop.  After getting our sweat on, we headed to the beach to relax. My husband has a hard time sitting still and relaxing when he knows we have more stops to make, so we didn’t stay long before we headed back out. We grabbed lunch at this small, hole in the wall place that had excellent Yelp reviews.  We both got a lunch plate. It really was amazing, and probably one of the cheaper meals we had while in Hawaii.

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The second part of the day was supposed to be an afternoon at Hanauma Bay, which out of everything I read before this trip was the ONE THING you HAVE TO do! But of course, we got there and it was closed!! We were able to still go into the park because its a state Nature preserve, but the beach access was closed off due to electricity problems on the beach. The day before it was closed because of jellyfish! What are the chances?!

Instead we did something that we weren’t sure we were going to have time to do.  We did the Byodo-In Temple which was beautiful and so peaceful. It was such a change in pace from Waikiki Beach, where its bustling with people. It was quiet, full of koi fish and black swans. We entered the temple where you have to take your shoes off and then rang the gong before we left. The temple sits in the middle of a giant cemetery with a gorgeous volcanic mountain backdrop. It was a photographers dream!

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On our last morning we decided that we wanted to hike Diamond Head before we left, but of course we didn’t have the car anymore. We found out that Diamond head was only about 3 miles from our hotel, so we put on our running shoes and ran! We ran the 3 miles to the crater, hiked about 1.5 miles up to the top at sunrise and then ran back. It was about 8 miles total and worth every second. The Diamond Head hike wasn’t exactly what I thought it was though.  It was like herding tourists up a mountain, there were so many people and tour groups, and the trail was a path with hand rails, hardly a rugged trail hike, there were also a TON of stairs at the very top, which burned a little after a 3 mile run! But in general totally worth the view at sunrise!

Diamond head

The rest of the trip we did a lot of beach time, we took a surf lesson. We sat at the pool and I feel like the trip revolved around where to eat next!   I wish we did more then one island, although we didn’t really have a lot of time to island hop. I think next time I would do a bit more authentic Hawaii in Kauai, Maui or the Big Island. Honolulu was such a big city it felt like we could have been anywhere. We also like the all-inclusive resorts a bit more because we can plan a little better how much we’re going to spend. We also tend to be big drinkers and the all-inclusive is the way to go for that! We can get beaches, palm trees and warm sunny weather without taking a 17 hour plane ride.

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We loved Hawaii, don’t get me wrong. We had a great time and I definitely want to go back again, but we’d do things a bit differently!