As the Hawaiians say, “Hele me kahau ‘oli” or “Go with joy.”


Despite its remote location in the middle of the Pacific, Oahu is a dynamic fusion of cultures that excites your senses. 

You’ll find unique vibes across each part of the island, from the bustling city of Honolulu on the South Shore to the laid-back, surfer town vibes of the North Shore. But regardless of where you choose to explore, you’re met with lush, dramatic ridges overlooking sparkling, turquoise waters and pristine beaches, incredible food and cocktails, and the “Aloha Spirit.” You truly can’t go wrong in this paradise, but we’ve compiled our local photographers’ best hidden gems on the island for your next visit.

Family travelling in Honolulu on Oahu in Hawaii USA
Best places to eat in Honolulu Hawaii
  • Opal Thai – For a one-of-a-kind experience in buzzy Chinatown, here’s our tip: ignore the menu and let Opal make a dish just for you. Bursting with local Thai flavor and an upbeat vibe, this popular spot is a must-eat. – Natalie
  • Egghead Cafe – Two words. Mochi waffles. While this treat is only available at the Kailua location, every dish at this breakfast spot is a winner. Top your morning off with a cup of local roasted coffee, and you’re ready for a day of adventures. – Natalie
  • Banzai Bowls – Whether you’ve been riding the famous North Shore waves all day, or just enjoying the laid-back surf culture from the sand, a refreshing acai bowl is the perfect healthy meal. With generous portion sizes and island-fresh fruit to top it off, this is my go-to spot. – Enzo
  • Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering – The secret is out because this always-packed spot boasts the best poke… and that’s high praise when you’re on an island! In true Hawaiian style, I recommend getting your food take-away and dining on the beach with your toes in the sand. – Enzo
  • Seven Brothers – This locally-run burger joint is owned by – you guessed it! –  seven brothers, and their burgers and fries with an island flair will blow your mind. Their motto is “It’s not about about us, your happiness always,” perfectly captures the small-town, North Shore spirit. – Daniella
  • The Beet Box Cafe – Originally built in the quirky town of Hale’iwa with a second location in Kailua, this cozy vegetarian restaurant will absolutely beet your expectations. Whether you’re craving savoury or sweet, there’s something for everyone. – Laura

Honourable Mentions: North Shore Shrimp Trucks,  Leonard’s BakeryMatsumoto Shave Ice

Best places to go for drinks in Honolulu Hawaii
  • ChadLou’s – With cheery vibes, top-notch local roasted coffee and fresh banana bread, you’ve got the afternoon snack of champions. With stylish indoor and outdoor seating, sit and stay awhile as you enjoy your coffee and plan the rest of your Hawaiian adventures. – Natalie
  • Deck – A daily happy hour, stunning panoramic views of Diamond Head and live music Thursday through Saturday (plus “Sunset Sessions” on the last Sunday of the month) make Deck a rooftop bar win. With this view… boomerangs and selfies encouraged! – Natalie
  • The Tchin Tchin! Bar – Hidden in the Chinatown art district, this trendy bar is the perfect start to an evening of bar hopping around Chinatown’s bustling nightlife scene. I recommend ordering a plate of truffle fries to enjoy in the breezy outdoor lounge. – Tara
  • Bar Leather Apron – For a moody, speakeasy vibe, look no further than Bar Leather Apron. Reservations are a must to score a stool at the six-seat bar, and it’s worth it to taste any of their bespoke cocktail creations. The Leather Soul is a crowd favourite. – Reese
  • Ko’olau Distillery – Nestled in the foothills of the legendary Ko’olau mountains, this is like no distillery you’ve seen before. Whether you’re a whiskey fan (and we truly hope you are!) or not, you’ll appreciate the knowledge and craftsmanship that goes into every bottle. – Tristan

Honourable Mentions: Hideout at the Laylow, Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, Aloha Beer Company and upstairs, HI Brau room

Best places to see and do in Honolulu Hawaii
  • Paddleboard or kayak to the Mokes from Lanikai Beach – Lanikai beach is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and you’ll enjoy stunning, one-of-a-kind views from the water. If you’re ready to earn your afternoon poke bowl, rent a kayak  to paddle out to “The Mokes” – the twin islands just off the coast. – Natalie
  • Hikes  – Each and every trail on Oahu is worth exploring but if you only have time for 3, these are our top picks. Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail has a breathtaking summit that shows off a panorama of Waikiki, Honolulu, Waimanalo and Konahuanui, but this 5-mile round trip hike at an elevation of 1,600 feet is no easy walk in the park. Hananuma Ridge Trail. If you’re looking for an easier, family-friendly trail with a waterfall, Manoa Falls Trail is the perfect choice. Makapuu Lookout is located on the East Shore and offers a stunning coastline view and hikes nearby to a local lighthouse (See photos below). – Enzo
  • Kualoa Regional Park & Kualoa Ranch- If the stunning mountains framing this beach park feel a little too familiar… you’ve probably seen them before! Jurassic Park, Hawaii-Five-0, Jumanji and more were filmed at Kulaloa Ranch, and you can take an ATV tour to experience the movie-worthy views yourself. The beach is also a stunning retreat, and if you’ve still got your kayak or paddleboard, it’s an easy paddle out to Mokoli’i. – Reese
  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens – This lush, 200-acre botanical garden is a leisurely, winding drive through emerald flora and fauna, with plenty of places to stop along the way. Light and easy hiking trails make it a perfect adventure for the whole family to enjoy. – Tara
  • Yokohama Bay – It’s an impossible task to choose just one beach to visit on Oahu, but if I had to recommend a “hidden gem,” it would be the absolutely stunning Yokohama Bay. It’s a secluded and tranquil bay on the leeward side of the island surrounded by beautiful mountains. – Reese

Honourable Mentions: Lanikai Pillbox Hike at sunrise, beginner surfing lesson at Waikikisnorkeling at Electric Beach, Byodo-In Temple

Best places to shop in Honolulu Hawaii
  • Olive & Oliver – One store. Two storefronts. These popular boutiques run by a local husband and wife team feature local, handmade jewelry, a curated collection of home goods, and clothing inspired by the iconic surf culture and easy-breezy beach vibes. – Natalie
  • BikiniBird – As the name suggests, this is the place for swimsuits and beach accessories that will stand the test of time. With exclusive collaborations and only the best-quality selections, you may even be inspired to do a swimsuit photo shoot! – Laura
  • Island Bungalow – Every curated item, from their home goods to their clothing, is the perfect blend of chic and bohemian. On a girls’ trip? They offer workshops for DIY techniques like indigo dyeing, block printing, floral crown-making and more for making one-of-a-kind souvenirs and memories! – Daniella
  • Guava Shop – With a focus on well-loved brands and storefronts in both the Hale’iwa and Kailua, you’ll find a colourful array of swimsuits, dresses and even Hawaiian-made items. Just don’t blame us when you need a second suitcase to fill with purchases! – Tristan
  • Paiko – This botanical boutique is located in the trendy neighbourhood of Kaka’ako, and it’s worth a visit for the major Instagram-vibes alone! While you may not be able to take home the towering snake plant you’re eyeing, they have plenty of Hawaiian-inspired decor you’ll fawn over. – Natalie

Honourable Mentions: Sand People, North Shore Soap Factory

Book a local Flytographer in Honolulu

Book Now