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Planning Your HI Trip: Where to Eat in Oahu, What to Do, & More!

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Are you planning a trip to Oahu? Whether you’re going with family, friends, your spouse, or by yourself, Oahu is an amazing place that you’ll want to make the absolute best trip out of. Keep reading to find out where to eat in Oahu, things to do in Oahu, Oahu travel tips, and more Hawaii vacation tips!

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

 

Why visit Oahu?

 

People tend to think of Oahu as just Honolulu and/or Waikiki – the more urban areas. When compared to Kauai, Oahu definitely does have more urban areas, but that’s not all it has.

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

 

Oahu is great because we have all the fun aspects of a city: lots of shopping, great food, etc. And we also have so so much natural beauty like the other Hawaiian islands! There are lots of hikes, open beaches everywhere, waterfalls, mountains, and jungles upon jungles to explore. 

 

 

couple running on road in Oahu

 

All four corners of the island have a different feel and a unique terrain to them, so keep reading to find out more about each side of the island as well as my top Oahu travel tips!

 

General Oahu travel tips

 

In general, there are a few key things to keep in mind when traveling to Oahu, or really anywhere in Hawaii. 

 

man picking up woman on his back

 

1. Leave No Trace

 

The biggest thing to be aware of when you visit Hawaii is the seven “Leave No Trace” principles. These are principles that are in place to protect land around the world and to minimize the impact that we humans have on the places we go.

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

 

Really quickly, here are the seven basic principles of Leave No Trace, according to the LNT website:

 

  • Plan ahead & prepare
  • Travel & camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

 

Each of these principles is pretty self-explanatory, but I highly encourage you to visit the Leave No Trace website to learn more about each one. 

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

 

Oahu is a very small island with so much natural beauty, but with that comes also a huge amount of tourists that visit each year. That means the footprint left by humans on the island is huge, so it’s imperative that we protect the land and minimize our impact as much as physically possible when visiting the island (and any island of Hawaii).

 

How to be respectful of the land

 

It’s pretty easy to be respectful of the land: simply clean up after yourselves whenever you’re outdoors. Don’t leave any trash behind, and do your best to leave things the way you found them (e.g. don’t pick any flowers, don’t step on any plants, etc.), and respect the animals.

 

couple running on road in Oahu

 

It’s also hugely important that you stay on trails when hiking to avoid contributing to soil erosion, and so you don’t trample on any plants or flowers that you could harm.

 

2. Adhere to marine life laws

 

Piggybacking off the Leave No Trace principles and protecting the environment, it’s really important that you adhere to marine life laws. It’s not worth that Instagram photo if you’re going to cause stress + harm to our wildlife. It may seem harmless to chase a turtle, but think about how many visitors encounter that turtle and do the same.

 

man picking up woman on his back

 

Hawaii.com has a great article outlining Hawaii’s marine life laws that you need to pay attention to. Here are the guidelines it includes for anybody viewing marine wildlife in Hawaii:

 

  • “View marine wildlife from a distance. Consider binoculars.
  • Stay at least 100 yards from humpback whales, 50 yards from dolphins, monk seals, and sea turtles.
  • It is not illegal for an animal to approach you, but it is against the law to approach, chase, surround, touch, or swim with marine mammals, including dolphins.
  • If approached by a marine mammal or turtle, put the engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass.
  • Do not harass, swim with, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal.
  • Limit observation time to 30 minutes.
  • Do not approach whales or dolphins.
  • Feeding marine mammals is prohibited under federal law.
  • To report suspected violations, call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.”

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

3. Shop local!

 

Hawaii has so so many amazing local businesses. When you visit Oahu, be sure to shop local + support small businesses as much as you’re able to instead of visiting chain stores/restaurants!

 

couple walking on a beach in Oahu

4. Take everything out of your car

 

My last general tip for traveling to Oahu is to be sure to take everything out of your car while you’re at the beach or parked at a trailhead! Unfortunately, break-ins and petty theft are very common on all sides of the island.

 

couple walking on a beach in Oahu

 

You can minimize this risk by taking everything with you (especially any sort of valuables) and not leaving anything in plain sight – even empty bags!

 

The South side of Oahu

 

Now, let’s get into what you probably came here for where to eat in Oahu + what to expect from the different sides of the island! We’ll start off with the South side of Oahu.

 

couple walking on a beach in Oahu

What to do

 

The south side of the island is the more urban area, with Waikiki and Honolulu being the biggest areas (and the most famous that people usually think of). Honolulu is the capital, and Waikiki is a small tourist area on the beach within Honolulu!

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

 

There are a ton of things to do in this area since it is more urban + populated. You can go surfing at some famous spots, catch surfing lessons, go shopping, or walk the strip. There is plenty of fun, trendy coffee shops, yummy açai restaurants, and so much more that I’ll get into just below this. 

 

couple walking on a beach in Oahu

 

The best thing about the south side of the island is that it’s very easy to walk around – you don’t need a car in this area.

Where to eat

 

Here are my top 8 suggestions of where to eat on the south side of Oahu!

  1. To Thai For – yummy homestyle Thai food
  2. Tane Vegan Izakaya – a fully plant-based restaurant that uses Japanese culinary techniques
  3. Simple Joy – a family-owned vegan restaurant
  4. The Sunrise Shack – offering organic coffee, smoothies, smoothie bowls, salads, & more
  5. Banan – uses Hawaiian-grown bananas to make dairy-free frozen treats
  6. Kokoro Cafe – for all your dessert + sweet cravings
  7. Helenas Hawaiian Food – serving delicious, local, traditional Hawaiian food
  8. Rainbow Drive In – serving classic, Hawaii-style plate lunches

couple holding hands with backs to each other

Oahu’s North shore

 

The North shore of Oahu is the more rural side of the island. Haleiwa is the main town, a historical surf town roughly an hour from Waikiki.

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

 

North Shore:

More country, Haleiwa is the main town, food trucks all over, big surf competitions (winter swells can get to 25 ft +!), beautiful beaches. 

 

What to do

 

The north shore has tons of delicious food trucks all over, big surf competitions (winter swells can get to 25 feet plus!), and plenty of beautiful beaches.

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

Where to eat

 

Here are my top 7 favorite places to eat on the north shore!

  1. Cosmic Kitchen – an organic vegan cafe
  2. Raised by the Waves – a vegan plant-based eco cafe
  3. Farm to Barn – a cafe & juicery serving yummy bowls, various entrees, sandwiches, & more
  4. The Sunrise Shack – offering organic coffee, smoothies, smoothie bowls, salads, & more
  5. Surf n Salsa – a Mexican food truck
  6. Banzai Sushi Bar – healthy sushi from raw fish + fresh locally grown organic produce
  7. Rajanee Thai – a vegetarian Thai restaurant

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

The East side of Oahu

 

The East side of Oahu features more jungles + is the more wet side of the island. Because of the rain, it’s very green and luscious everywhere!

 

couple holding hands on beach

What to do

 

This side of the island features so many beautiful hikes and beaches. Kailua Beach + Lanikai Beach are two of the most famous beaches on the east side, both featuring super beautiful fine, white sand. Kailua Beach is very walkable, and lots of people ride bikes along it. There are also plenty of fun eateries in the area that are easily accessible!

 

man lifting woman on a beach

Where to eat

 

Here are my top food recs on the east side of the island:

  1. Kalapawai Cafe at Kalapawai Market – serving a variety of things from coffee to sandwiches to wine & more
  2. Nico’s Kailua – a Hawaiian restaurant specializing in local seafood + refreshing cocktails
  3. Mother Bake Shop – a super yummy vegan bakery. They also serve pizza on Friday nights and WOW.
  4. The Beet Box Cafe – organic & vegetarian breakfast + lunch
  5. Paniolos Hawaii – Hawaiian fresh burritos

couple running on road in Oahu

The West side of Oahu

 

The West side of Oahu is the more rural, dry side of the island with lots of wide, gorgeous beaches.

 

man picking up woman

What to do

 

Lovebigisland.com has a great article with the top things to do on Oahu’s west side, ranging from visiting white-sand beaches to hiking to boat tours. **Be very selective when choosing a boat tour that they are responsible, some are known to harass the marine life (especially the dolphin boats!).

 

couple dancing on a beach

Where to eat

 

And finally, here are my top recommendations of where to eat on the West side of Oahu!

  1. Pupukea Grindz – a yummy seafood restaurant serving a variety of lunches, bowls, & more
  2. Poke on Da Run – the perfect poke restaurant
  3. 808 Urbanbowls – serving delicious açai + pitaya bowls
  4. Kahumana Cafe – a cafe serving farm-fresh + organic dishes

 

couple embracing on a beach in Oahu

 

All in all, every side of the island is really beautiful in its own unique way. Each side offers a different experience for visitors and has tons of places to explore. Oahu really has something for everyone, which is part of the reason I love this island so much!

 

couple walking on a beach in Oahu

 

If you liked learning about the different sides of Oahu, check out my blog post about the different locations + landscapes the island has to offer to see even more! Can’t wait to have you on the island – you’ll love it!

 

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Hey friend!

I’m Emily! Your fellow adventure junkie here to document you and your amazing babe of a human. I am based on Oahu and shoot adventurous couples, elopements, and tiny weddings!

YesI will take beautiful photos for you to perfectly preserve your day, but guess what else? I’m also here to help you: find the perfect location, plan out the best time of day, choose the best outfits, and pump you up on our adventure together.