Hundreds of years ago, the island of Oahu—and Honolulu in particular—were the private domain of Hawaiian royalty. Today the Pacific paradise welcomes thousands of tourists from all over the world, a fact reflected in the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants, Catholic churches and Buddhist temples. Honolulu, the Aloha State’s capital, is also its cultural, shopping and fine-dining center. And despite its high-rise developments and increasingly complex network of highways, Oahu boasts many places as stunning in their natural beauty as any in the archipelago. Here are our picks for where to stay, eat and go off-the-beaten path.
The most sophisticated hotel on Waikiki Beach offers supreme service and sweeping vistas. Its 453 bright and airy rooms, spread out over five buildings, feature lots of wood, light hues and, in most cases, ocean views. For the ultimate in luxury, request the 2,135-square-foot Halekulani Suite. Designed by fashionista Vera Wang, it has a 642-square-foot porch and a two-person sunken tub and is stocked with a china line created by Wang. Gray’s Beach, which the hotel fronts, is quite small but offers every water sport from surfing to kayaking—the superaccomodating staff can get you set up at a moment’s notice. Orchids restaurant is famous for its Sunday brunches and weekly lunch scene.
Splashy Newcomer: Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina For its fifth Hawaiian resort, Four Seasons is taking over a former Marriott property on Oahu’s western shores next to the Lanikuhonua Cultural Estate and nature preserve. Due to open in 2016, the renovated seventeen-story main building will contain 358 guest rooms, almost all with water views, and five restaurants. For swimming and sunning, there will be four pools, in addition to five white-sand beaches. The amenities will be top notch, as you would expect from a Four Seasons hotel, and include tennis courts, watersports, a spa and fitness center and preferential access to a nearby golf course. Suited equally to families and couples looking for a quick, pampering escape, the property is primed to become a go-to for Hawaii vacationers.
Hot Table: Vintage Cave Vintage Cove quickly became a foodie mecca when it opened in 2013. Each night’s tasting menu is built around the freshest local ingredients, through which the chef evokes a place and a tradition, from Japan to Hawaii.
Farm-to-Table Favorite: Town A longtime favorite among locals and visitors who appreciate its commitment to sustainability, Town serves New American cuisine in a casual dining room outfitted with hardwood benches and rotating local artwork. Come early to experience the restaurant’s signature dish — gnocchi with sunchokes, capers and lemon — before it sells out; only twelve orders are filled each night.
Local Flavor: Duc’s Bistro This family-style restaurant, located on a somewhat nondescript street in Honolulu’s Chinatown, offers live music, attentive owners and consistently excellent French-Vietnamese cuisine, for a dining experience that excels on all levels. It is the perfect spot for a comforting meal of shrimp and papaya salad, lemongrass chicken and banana tapioca pudding.
A New Take on Nightlife: Waimea Valley Oahu’s lush interior served as a backdrop for Jurassic Park and the apocalyptic television series Lost, and the stunning world beyond the beaches is even more memorable after dark. Waimea Valley is a historic nature park that includes botanic gardens featuring rare Hawaiian plants and endangered species native to Australia’s Lord Howe Island (one of the world’s most unusual ecosystems). It also offers cascading waterfalls and spectacular stargazing. Contact Indagare to arrange a tour.
Do the Wave: Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach Park Oahu’s north coast is a mecca for world-class surfers, who flock to the dangerous, reef-laden waters to ride awesome waves that can reach fifty feet high in the winter. Novices seeking to try their skill should take lessons on the less treacherous south shore. But those desirous to watch the pros in action will want to attend the Triple Crown professional surf series held here each year. For unrivaled views of the menacing Banzai Pipeline, the last leg of the competition, set up camp at Ehukai Beach.
Homegrown Fun: Haleiwa Farmers Market Named one of America’s best farmers markets by Cooking Light, this community gathering (open on Thursdays only) is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs while mingling with islanders stocking up on locally grown produce. Sample Hawaiian specialties like lychee shaved ice, dance to the live music, and shop the numerous arts and crafts booths. 59-864 Kamehameha Highway; 808-388-9696
Must Visit: U.S.S. Arizona Memorial If you have time for only one side trip while on Oahu, this should be it. The memorial marks the resting place of the Arizona, which the Japanese air force sunk, entombing its 1,177 crew members, in the December 7, 1941, surprise attack that crippled the U.S naval fleet and propelled the country into World War II. More than 1.6 million people each year (many of them Japanese) come to view the ship, which is visible beneath forty feet of water, and pay their respects. The visitor center contains a museum with exhibits about the attack and the U.S. involvement in the war. Also moving is a visit to the U.S.S. Missouri, the battleship on whose deck the Japanese surrendered in 1945, which, along with Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, is located on Ford Island. Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team to arrange guided tour, bypassing the often long lines.
We only feature hotels that we can vouch for first-hand. At many of them, Indagare members receive special amenities.Get In Touch