Hawaii is a wonderful little slice of paradise. The first time I was on Oahu it was only to sleep on my way to South Korea (flying Space A; a military-only privilege with a million limitations). We arrived at night, and left early in the morning. So in 2009 my only experience was a brief visit to a convenience store for beer and dried squid. My second visit in 2019 was significantly more robust.
For our fifth anniversary Mister Jupiter and I agreed to get out of town – WAY out of town for a week. He has a habit of working all the time, so he really needed to be far away from the office. I just prefer warm places, especially in the middle of December. So off we went to Honolulu.
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Having many military friends stationed in Hawaii, we had the unique privilege to visit friends in the Air Force, Army, and Marines. Clearly we need some Navy friends too, so we could close that loop. Regardless, we stayed in Waikiki, but spent a few afternoons driving around the island to see friends and take in some general sightseeing. Here are my five favorites in Oahu, and I hope these are around forever.
Waikīkī Yokocho (2250 Kalakaua Ave Ste 515 Honolulu, HI 96815)
Vocabulary – a yokocho is a Japanese food hall…and in my limited experience are rare outside of Japan. Luckily Honolulu is essentially Japan Lite, so there were a lot of Japanese things all around, including at least one yokocho! When we wanted authentic Japanese food for dinner, this is where we went. If we wanted Japanese beer and bar snacks, we went to our favorite bar in the yokocho (Nomu). Ramen? 20+ options. We could have had dinner there every night and not try all of the restaurants. This is a must if you’re in Honolulu and want to immerse yourself in Japanese food and culture.
☞ Speaking of Japanese food, you may appreciate this: Food Photos from Tokyo Japan
Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar (2259 Kalakaua Ave (at The Royal Hawaiian, Waikiki) Honolulu, HI 96815)
This was our favorite hotel bar. Many evenings ended with a last cocktail or snack at this bar on the beach. Mai Tai Bar is part of The Royal Hawaiian hotel, and is just as thoughtful and decadent as the hotel itself. Our favorite part is that even on a busy weekend night we could walk up from the beach side and still get a table. It’s not a bargain choice…we easily spent $70 each visit, but it was worth it. Service is fast and friendly. Drinks are delicious, and the food is made with knowledge and care. It was a total splurge, and we loved it.
Bellows Air Station (220 Tinker Rd Kailua, HI 96795)
This stop was recommended from two people that had prior experience, and I am happy they spoke up. After several afternoons on Waikiki’s crowded beach we hopped in the truck to see this private beach that is open to military ID holders (and general public on the weekends). We were greeted with a calm beach with plenty of space, rentable cabins within strolling distance, and one AAFES Express that carried essential sunscreens, snacks, and laundromat. The water was cold…but we were on a beach in December, so we embraced our decision and mostly laid out and made vitamin D. When Baby Jupiter is bigger, we may return and stay there in a quiet cabin instead of busy downtown.
Surfers Rice (@Barefoot Beach Cafe. 2699 Kalakaua Ave. (btwn Monsarrat Ave. Poni Moi Rd.) Honolulu, HI 96815)
We took turns choosing our activities, and Mister Jupiter is responsible for this one. He prompted a walk to Queen’s Beach to visit Barefoot Beach Cafe for a nibble, then stroll back down. Long walks on the beach to get food?! YES PLEASE I LOVE YOU.
I wan’t terribly hungry, but when he ordered their surfers rice I suddenly had an appetite. It’s just fried rice, with carrots, peas, peppers, onion, Spam, and an egg – simple ingredients, and oh so good. We’ve already made it once at home and loved it. Don’t forget the sriracha!
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (2040 Kuhio Ave (Ambassador Hotel) Honolulu, HI 96815)
We love all of the coffee shops, and spent many dollars in Dean & Deluca before getting hooked on Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on Kuhio, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is across the street from the parking garage. If we started the day on foot we would visit the Dean & Deluca at the Ritz for coffee. If we needed the truck, Mister would go to the garage, and I would get espressos from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf while I waited for him. Their line was often long, but moved quickly. Thanks for the caffeine!
We had a wonderful week overall, and maybe I can go back in 2029 if my Hawaii-every-decade visit becomes an actual trend. Until then I will think about that week and these five things very fondly. Big thank you to all of the staff in the above locations, you deal with all of us tourists and evoke smiles around the world. You’re the holiday MVPs!
☞ Still feel like traveling? Let’s go to Las Vegas, NV
Oh! I wrote a companion post for this topic for my brother. It’s a quick list like this, but without the pesky photos (for now) for faster scrolling, but also with google map links. The purpose is to be a quick easy reference of why I recommend something, and how to get there. It’s twelve spots in Waikiki that Mister Jupiter and I really enjoyed, so I wanted to share it with by brother and you! Here it is Waikiki Part Two.