I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since we first arrived at Hawaii. A magical island filled with amazing people and a beautiful culture. I remember getting to the airport and walking out to a gorgeous view of the mountains. I had never seen mountains as beautifully sculptured as those in Hawaii. We proceeded to grab our belongings at the baggage claim to then head to our new temporary home at the hotel in Honolulu.
As soon as my husband had received his military orders to go to Hawaii, I immediately started doing research on things to do: hikes, beaches, waterfalls, shops, restaurants, tours, you name it. I Pinterested everything I could, kept a list on my phone and on Trip Advisor, saved locations on Google Maps, and even had a notebook filled of places I wanted to go to. Honolulu was one of the must see places on my list for sure. It’s the capital of Hawaii and it is known for the restaurants, shops, hikes, city vibes, and the world-wide known beach of Waikiki. This is what a one day in Honolulu usually looked like for me.
A Day In Honolulu
Best thing to do is to wake up early. You can go to a breakfast spot to grab your morning coffee before heading out to enjoy your fun-filled day. We usually ate at home to save money but Honolulu has a few great places to grab some delicious breakfast at.
- Moena Cafe – they serve an amazing breakfast filled with delicious pancakes, several Hawaii styled dishes, waffles, and much more.
- Sweet E’s Cafe – This is another breakfast joint that is very delicious and highly recommended. They serve delicious pancakes, french toasts, eggs, and much more. All of their recipes have a Hawaiian flavor to them making them unique to the island
- Koa Pancake House – (pictured above) This was our go to breakfast joint. Their pancakes were amazingly delicious along with all of their other menu items. Best of all they have various locations making it easy for you to find one close to you. We always went to the one in Wahiawa which was were we lived at after moving out of our hotel. Every time we had a little extra to splurge, we will eat at Koa Pancake House on our way down to Honolulu. View here for all of their locations.
Well your tummy is full and you are wide awake with coffee or maybe you want to hike before going to get some breakfast. Either way, a hike is one of our must do’s in Hawaii for a day trip. With kids usually breakfast was first and then the hike. Hiking with hungry little ones just wasn’t all that fun to be honest and a few snacks only go so far without a good breakfast.
Here’s a few hikes in Honolulu that we loved to do.
- Diamond Head Crater – This beautiful crater has a hike that starts inside of it and works its way to the top part of the rim. Once you reach the highest point you can overlook all of Honolulu and its sorrounding mountains and oceans. You can read more about it here on my blog.
- Manoa Falls – This hike goes through the rainforest on the outskirts of Honolulu. This was one of the very first hikes I did with my little ones in Hawaii. I do recommend doing this hike after some rain. It will be muddy but the waterfall will be flowing at its fullest. You can read more about it here on my blog.
- Koko Head Crater – I wasn’t lucky enough to do this hike but my husband was and the photos he showed me were amazing. The view over Honolulu is exquisite especially for sunrise. It is a harder hike going up steps without any to very little shade so I recommend doing this hike early in the morning for sunrise, carrying your little ones on your baby carrier (I recommend using the Ergo. Read more about it here), lots of water, sunblock, sunglasses, and headgear.
Beaches & Treats
Honolulu is filled with things to do. After our hikes we usually headed to Leonard’s Bakery to grab a delicious malasada. These malasadas are amazing to say the least. They are like big doughnut holes filled with different flavored cremes covered with sugar. It sounds like a very sweet treat but I promise that it is to die for. You can read more about Leonard’s Bakery on my blog here and see why they are our go to place for pastries. They also have tons of other options for you to choose from as well. Best of all it’s only about 5 to 8 minutes away from Diamond Head and about another 5 minutes from Waikiki Beach.
After grabbing some delicious Malasadas we would head to Waikiki beach. We usually changed into our swimsuits at Diamond Head Park cause their restrooms were pretty clean. Parking can be a pain but we usually found some on the side of the road and just paid the parking meter for a good 2 to 3 hours depending on the time we got there. We usually packed sandwiches for lunch so we can enjoy the rest of the day at the beach till sunset. The sunsets at Waiki were always beautiful so we never wanted to miss it.
A few things you can do while at the beach are snorkeling, swimming, walking, and my favorite, collecting seashells and sea glass. You can also paddle board, kayak, and surf. Some spots along Waikiki has surfing lessons and even rentals for surfboards, kayaks, paddle-boards, and even diving and snorkeling gear. Definitely call ahead as some places do it by reservation only.
Watching the sun set, dinner is the next thing on our minds. At least for our little ones it is. Honolulu is filled with restaurants to choose from. Lots of local restaurants as well as restaurants that you can find on the mainland. We usually played this by ear depending on how the littles ones were after a long fun day.
Here’s a few of our favorite restaurants but don’t be scared to try a new one. You can also do dinner cruises where you can watch the sunset from the cruise while having dinner. We did something similar to this but for breakfast. We did a whale watching breakfast cruise with my mom, aunt, and a few friends and we had loads of fun.
You can also find restaurants that may be having a small luau or event. Usually some hotels and resorts do this and allow others to go to the restaurant to visit.
- Kona Brewing Company – Our favorite restaurant ever was Kona Brewing Company located near Koko Head Crater. Their food is amazing and their beers even more amazing. It is a Hawaiian native restaurant and they are very well-known for their Kona beers. You may have seen them in your grocery beer aisle. Only thing is that you can try all of their beers here not just a few. Their restaurant lies on the side of the water close to a marina so the views are very pretty as well.
- Red Lobster – Yes I know this is a mainland restaurant but we are in love with their biscuits. I mean, who isn’t?
- Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel – This restaurant was a lot of fun. One day when my best friend was visiting the island, we decided to go here for dinner. Best choice we made that night. They had a luau going on for entertainment, some delicious food, and the best Mai Tai’s ever. I highly recommend this location for some night-time fun.
- You can also view tons of top ranking restaurants here. This is where I usually went to for new restaurants and recommendations from other tourists and locals.
Usually by this time we headed home just cause we had little ones with us but don’t let that fool you. Honolulu has loads of fun things to do for nightlife fun. They have some very fun clubs and bars. You can find here the top 10 ranking nightlife spots in all of Honolulu. The Rumfire on Waikiki is one that I heard about over and over again from friends so if you are lucky enough to be free from the little ones for a little while, definitely check it out.
Hope this guide helps you have a fun filled day in Honolulu, Hawaii. If you have any recommendations, favorite restaurants, bars, hikes, etc. Feel free to share below. I would love to try new things next I go visit Oahu.