Honolulu, Hawaii, Destination Guide

Its beachside skyscrapers may have earned Hawaii’s capital the nickname, The Big Pineapple, but visitors usually just call it paradise. Honolulu has the best of both worlds, from palm tree-fringed beaches to world-class restaurants and bars— all within minutes of each other. Here are some of journalist Katie Lockhart’s favorite things to eat and do in Honolulu.

To Stay:

Credit: ESPACIO The Jewel of Waikiki

ESPACIO The Jewel of Waikiki

Directly across from Waikiki Beach, each of ESPACIO’s nine elegant suites take up an entire floor. The 2,250 square-foot, multi-bedroom beachfront apartments have light woods, airy spaces and colorful French marble that match the gem-themed name of each suite. Here you’ll have everything you need and more, including a chef’s kitchen, a Japanese-style bathroom, a sauna and an outdoor hot tub to watch the surfers and, later, the stars.

Credit: Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club

Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club

Quirky and cool, this boutique hotel channels 1960s Honolulu with its retro-chic design. Inspired by North Shore bungalows, Surfjack’s 112 rooms and suites have reed ceilings, vintage upholstery, cheeky local artwork and statement-tiled bathrooms to wash the sand off after a short stroll from the beach.

To Eat:

Side Street Inn 

A local favorite for more than 30 years, Side Street Inn brings Hawaiian comfort food to the hungry masses. In true Aloha spirit, its whopping family-sized plates are designed for sharing. So come hungry and order the spicy mayo Ahi poke, Side Street’s signature fried rice and the famous pan-fried pork chops.

Nami Kaze

Recently rated one of America’s best new restaurants by Eater, Nami Kaze focuses on fresh and sustainably-caught seafood from Hawaii’s shores. In fact, 95 percent of its menu consists of local fish and produce. Located at Pier 38, you’ll need a reservation to secure a taste of the Big Island abalone, the Kaua’i prawns or the Oahu shishito peppers with local honey.

To Drink:

Credit: Nikki Jennifer

Skull & Crown Trading Co.

This new Chinatown go-to is a modern take on a classic tiki bar. Its decor is as kitschy and fun as its cocktail menu, featuring rum-centric drinks mixed with local fruits. Try the signature lit Skull & Crown—literally, a skull on fire. 

To Visit:

Hike Diamond Head

Early birds get one incredible sunrise from the top of this iconic Waikiki hike. Open at 6 am; this is the best time to make the steep trek to the top of this volcanic cone, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views over Honolulu. Booking tickets for this two-hour trek is required. Post-hike, visit the KCC Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.

Visit Iolani Palace

Constructed in 1882, this unique “American Florentine” style palace was the former home of Hawaiian royalty. Today, Iolani Palace has been restored to the time when King Kalakaua reigned. Visitors can reserve tickets to the palace and partake in a docent-led or self-guided tour.

Hang Out in Kaka’ako

Arguably Honolulu’s trendiest neighborhood, the warehouses around Lana Lane are worth exploring for their fantastic Hawaiian and Asian street art. Then, walk to SALT at Our Kaka‘ako: a creative community shopping center, for Hawaiian plate lunch at Pioneer and chocolate at the Lonohana Chocolate Tasting Bar. And on Saturdays, browse local goods and produce at the nearby Kaka‘ako Farmers’ Market.

Surf at Waikiki Beach

Hawaiian icon Duke Kahanamoku popularized surfing on this very beach. Those keen to be like Duke and ride the waves can rent a board for $20 from any of the vendors set up along Waikiki Beach.

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