WHAT TO DO, SEE AND EAT IN WAIKIKI
You don't need us to give you reasons to visit Hawaii—it's paradise. But if you want help choosing an island, try Oahu. With its clear views of the Diamond Head volcanic tuff and calm yet surf-friendly waters, Oahu is arguably the Aloha State’s most famous destination. Read our full itinerary here: http://bit.ly/1RCYixt
- •Stay at The Modern HonoluluYou know you’ve arrived at a hip, oceanside resort when you check in and see the jutting Herbie Fletcher surfboard sculpture behind the front desk. Your room, like the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four-Star hotel’s name, is modern, fresh and immaculate. Wispy white gauze curtains flutter when you let the ocean breeze in. such as a ukulele and three brightly colored sarongs give the hotel an added sense of place.
- •Wake up before dawnYes, you’re on vacation, but you should absolutely wake up before dawn in Waikiki because a pre-dawn swim in the blissfully cool ocean is one of those things you just have to experience. And if you’re so inclined, make the short walk to the public beach for 6 a.m. surf lessons. This is great way to meet some cool locals, too.
- •Have a volcanic breakfastEschew a table in favor of bar seats that face the open kitchen at chef Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Cafe, and watch as dish after mouthwatering dish appears in front of you. Maybe it’s the daily pop tart, covered in lychee frosting and filled with local mango jam; the fresh fruit bruschetta that will light up your Instagram page; or the killer skillet known as Volcano Eggs, runny yolks oozed into a bed of spicy tomato sauce flavored with cheese, local vegetables and diced Portuguese sausage.
- •Book a private walking tourIf you want a local’s perspective and someone to guide you around, book a private Chinatown walking tour with Aloha Food Tours for a two-hour trek for some of Chinatown’s best bites. Potential stops could include Lucky Belly for ramen and modern Japanese tapas; hidden gem Maguro Brothers for ocean-to-table ah tuna poke; and Wing Ice Cream Parlor for small-batch ice cream in local flavors like guava habañero chili or vegan lilikoi banana coconut.
- •Visit Chinatown pho lunchHead to Honolulu’s Chinatown, where you’ll encounter some of the city’s most innovative and exciting food. Chef Andrew Le’s critically acclaimed The Pig & The Lady serves one of the best bowls of Vietnamese pho you’ll have in your life. Just be sure to wash it down with a Vietnamese iced coffee.
- •Explore the nightlifeAnother option is to pay a visit to The Study, a Modern Honolulu lounge that is hidden behind a bookcase during the day but opens up to reveal a sexy bar in the evening. Live music — perhaps a singer-songwriter one night or a soulful jazz crooner the next — further sets the mood for a relaxing nightcap. But if you’re still restless for a night on the town, from Thursday through Saturday night, head to the Modern’s Addiction Nightclub, where you can dance the night away until 3 a.m.
- •See Oahu from aboveVisit Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours for a 45-minute, guided aerial tour of the entire island. A must-not-miss excursion, the tour takes you above the Diamond Head crater, over the tops of the Ko ‘Olau Mountains featured in Jurassic Park, to the fabulous beaches of the famous North shore, the Dole Pineapple Plantation, Pearl Harbor and more.
- •Savor an only-in-Hawaii dinnerOn the patio of local-born chef Ed Kenney’s Mud Hen Water, you’ll experience the story of Hawaiian food as it is now. Kenney’s food is a modern interpretation of the Hawaiian dishes he remembers growing up with as a child. He uses fish caught by local farmers and produce only found on the islands, and turns them into memorable courses like his inspired roasted beet poke with gorilla ogo (seaweed), avocado and smoked macadamia nuts.
- •Capture Waikiki's best sideMake your way to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail on the Southeastern tip of the island. There are numerous scenic points along this drive, so be camera ready. Plan to make several stops so you can marvel at the intensely turquoise shade of water set against jutting volcanic rock formations. At Makapu’u Point, it’s an easy 20- to 30-minute hike to the top, where panoramic views of Koko Head Crater can be seen on one side, and Waimanalo Beach all the way to Mokapu Peninsula on the other.