ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
THIS IS BASICALLY A RAVE PIECE. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
2018 was a BIG year. In so many ways but one particularly meaningful reason is because of my experiences travelling. My biggest travel year yet, I started the year travelling down the east coast of Australia in a campervan, ticked off Maldives from my bucket list, spent some quality family time in Singapore, explored five countries in Europe during the height of summer and to round it out... it was only fitting I ended the year (and started this year) in somewhere worth writing home about.
My first trip to Hawaii was nothing short of incredible and I couldn't be grateful for all the experiences I had that made me connect with the island of Oahu.
where to eat in waikiki..
A seemingly tiny place almost hole-in-the-wall-esque, you'll find this ramen shop by the line outside. I'm not a fan of lining up for restaurants however if you see a do-able line (let's say 6-10 people), get in line! There's a decent amount of seats inside and the line usually moves quickly because the Japanese are nothing if not efficient! The ramen was delicious but what I really loved is that you can choose to order a set with gyoza, which you can see them hand-making in the back, and those are worth a second order which is exactly what we did!
This one took me by surprise. An it's-8am-and-the-line-is-down-the-street kind of surprise. I could not for the life of me figure out why SO MANY PEOPLE were lining up for udon so early in the morning!! The line basically stays that way the whole day so here's my tip - go late at night just before closing at 10pm and you'll get in quickly for a taste of the most popular udon in Hawaii! One of the reasons for its obscene popularity, delicious and filling bowl of udon aside, is its price. It costs less than $8USD for a regular size bowl and this is noteworthy particularly because food is notoriously expensive in expensive - nearly everything on the island is imported. Also one to note, though this place is popular and most likely your friends have already recommended you check it out, this is a cheap and cheerful quick meal, don't expect to settle in and have a long dinner as they serve food cafeteria-style here.
Expensive steak but what can I say, it was a REALLY good steak. Possibly not the best cut (I do live in Australia after all where we get the best fresh meats and produce), however I like my food flavoursome and these guys nailed it. Also helps that they have chip-service - no wasting calories on the bread basket! They bring out thick cut fries with three different sauces to start off your meal.
Two words - miso butterfish (also known as miso cod). If Japanese food is your jam and you're a big fan of this dish then Roy's is the place your miso cod dreams come true. I've always love the sweet marinade style that makes this dish so flavoursome however every time I've had this dish it's come very simply prepared, fish-on-plate-style. I loved how Roy's made eating this fish a sensory experience with various sauces and textures on the plate to make one ultra fulfilling feed. Make sure to try a few of the sushi rolls too, they've clearly some thought into ensuring unique flavour combinations (my winner was the 'Frying Dragon').
A total gem of a find we chanced across as we drove by and saw the 80s style diner signage alerting us that we'd found Leonard's Bakery. They serve up FRESH masaladas which are akin to super fluffy cinnamon doughnuts. This one is a bit out of the way however if you are planning on making the trip out to Hanauma Bay (put this right at the top of your list right now!!!), Leonard's Bakery is the perfect en-route snack stop.
I'm not normally a big fan of Mexican food but the rooftop vibes here make it a great spot to hang and the quesadilla is the one to order!!
Unfortunately, our most disappointing meal of the entire trip. We were so excited to try out Heavenly because of their health-centric philosophy only using locally-sourced organic ingredients. The restaurant promotes an island-lifestyle and while the interior is gorgeous and totally aces the laid-back Hawaiian vibes one would expect, the food didn't quite excite. They do really great smoothie jars that are a super generous serving which is one thing I wouldn't hesitate to return for.
Where to eat in North Shore:
This is one of those local legends which has been around for years upon years and is famous for one thing - Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie - but you leave feeling SO satisfied because you discovered the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken!!! By far my favourite meal of my two weeks spent in Hawaii, this totally exceeded my expectations of what I might find at a casual eatery on the side of the road near Sunset Beach. I can't even begin to describe how unbelievable the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken tastes and it's a serious value for money dish - order it as a plate. Now back to that legendary Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie... imagine one layer of Haupia, aka Coconut, custard cream layered onto dark chocolate custard cream topped with whipped cream on a crumbly pie base.
Another majorly Instagrammable spot, this little shack (and shack it is), is a bright sunny pop of color by the side of the road in North Shore. Before I visited, I'd seen countless photos of Sunrise Shack on my Instagram feed and as much as I wish they made Acai bowls, unfortunately they don't buuuuuuut they do make an adorable Superfood Papaya Boat loaded with nut butter and fresh food. I was hugely surprised that their main menu item is actually...coffee - but not as you know it. They "super charge" each of their numerous coffee drinks to make them 'bullet' coffees which are essentially a shot of coffee mixed with oil (coconut oil, MCT oil or both), and specialty butter and/or creamer. For the first time drinker, there's a high percentage chance that you'll want to spit out your first sip... but think of the health benefits!
all about the acai bowls...
I cannot and will not stop raving about this place! I've always loved Acai bowls but finding this spot really got me hooked. Once we tried the Payapa Boat Acai Bowl at Banan with Acai soft-serve whip (they have several all non-dairy flavours), it kicked off our hunt to find the best Acai Bowls in Hawaii - and there are many places you can find them. This one remains one of my favourite, it's one of those finds that you wish you could bring home with me. During out time in Oahu we managed to go to two Banan locations, one right by the beach in Waikiki. It might be a little tricky to find if you're not looking for it as its down a laneway between The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (the famous pink hotel on the beach) and The Cheesecake Factory (a ridiculously popular American dining chain on the main Waikiki strip). The second Banan we found when we drove out to one of the only two Wholefood supermarkets on the island in Kahala Mall which is about a 10 minute drive from the main Waikiki strip.
ISLAND VINTAGE coffee:
Surprisingly, this coffee shop chain serves up some of the best Acai I've ever tried. I'll always remember my reaction to the fact that the only have one size bowl - 24oz! Let me tell you, that is a lot of Acai for one person (even if you truly love it like me!). We shared this bowl between three and it made for the perfect healthy dessert because Island Vintage Coffee in Waikiki is open late every night so it was the perfect spot to drop in day or night.
Likely one of the most well-known and hyped-up spots for Acai bowls. The hype is worth it because even we had to drive around 20 minutes from where we were staying in North Shore to Haleiwa, the bowls here are fresh and delicious. I love that you can pick between two types of Acai - a smoother version and an icier version. They've really thought of it all so there's something for everyone because you can also pick and mix what toppings you want. The additional plus side of going to Haleiwa Bowls is that the town of Haleiwa is so cute!! I'm not even exaggerating when I say it feels like you've either been transported back in time or onto a movie set, it's so unique and striking. Definitely one location in North Shore worth checking out.
Is it possible to find coffee that tastes like real coffee in waikiki...
To my knowledge, THE most instagrammed cafe in Hawaii! This place is lush with all the green leafy plants adorning the inside and out of this spot - the area boasts some serious LA vibes, I almost felt like I'd left Hawaii. It's a limited menu but what they do have is really great (actual) coffee (that tastes like coffee) so if you need your caffeine hit and want your own snap of the palm tree coffee art then this is your place!
Olive & Oliver
It was such a thrilling find... a coffeeshop in central Waikiki with pineapple-print coffee cups and an excellent cup of coffee, none of that overly artificially sweet tasting coffee that seems to pervade every other coffee-serving joint around. This little coffeeshop is part of the Surfjack Hotel within walking distance of the main Waikiki strip.