My family has been going to Hawaii every few years since I was a junior in college. There have been a few trips that I haven't made with them, but I think this trip marked my fourth and my parents' seventh trip. So we have been there a few times and we have our old favorites (Matsumoto's and Fatty's among them), but every time we go we discover new and wonderful places. This list includes a few of my favorites on Oahu, including Waikiki, Kailua and North Shore.
List (and more pictures) after the break!
My favorite things to do/eat/see in Hawaii:
- Fatty's Chinese Kitchen/Fast Food. I'm not sure what the actual name of this place is. We just call it Fatty's, but it is always our first stop when we get off the plane and the one place we return to over and over and over again while we are there. When we went to Hawaii for a week back in 2008 my mother went to Fatty's 6 times in 7 days. No joke. Fatty's is a Chinese noodle bar in International Marketplace that has been in that location for 30+ years. It's far from fancy - just a hole in the wall with woks and a counter with stools to sit and eat your noodles. Not everything on the menu is phenomenal, but their wonton mien, Sichuan shrimp, Singapore noodles, and beef chow fun with choi sum are all fantastic.
- Matsumoto Shave Ice (pictured above). I don't know about you, but shaved ice was always one of my favorite treats in the summertime. And Matsumoto does it way better than most places. Not only do they offer an insane number of flavors for your shaved ice, they will also serve your shaved ice with ice cream, beans (real Asians like my mom and not halfies like me actually like beans in their desserts) or condensed milk. All of that probably sounds a little odd, but I think this little shaved ice shop is well worth renting a car and trekking up to Hale'iwa on the North Shore. Did I mention they also have totally cute t-shirts?
- Macky's (pictured above). Macky's was a new discovery for us this trip. In years past we always visited a different shrimp truck, but I think that Macky's shrimp far surpassed our old truck. We also tried out Giovanni's Shrimp Truck this visit and I thought Macky's was better than both places. We tried the spicy shrimp and the coconut shrimp. Both were really good. Don't be turned off by the fact that you're eating shrimp out of a truck in a random parking lot near a 7-11. Actually, if you're smart you will go to the 7-11, pick up a few Sapporos and swing by the random sink in the middle of the parking lot to wash your hands before (and after) chowing down on some really fantastic food.
- Hanuama Bay. Sadly we didn't make it to Hanuama Bay this trip, but it is unbelievably beautiful and has great snorkeling. I would highly recommend it. As a cautionary note to those who plan to go, get there early because the parking lot will fill up. The only other beach on the island that I think is nicer is Sunset Beach (pictured above - and I am specifically referring to the beach itself), but you don't want to go swimming or snorkeling up there in the winter because it's on one of the big North Shore surfing pipelines. During the summer supposedly it's quieter, but it still lacks the coral formations and marine life of Hanuama Bay.
- Marukame Udon (pictured below). Since there is a substantial Japanese presence in Hawaii (in terms of residents, tourists and overall culture) you expect the Japanese food to be pretty freaking good. And it is. But this place is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in all of Oahu. The udon here is just fantastic - homemade, with a nice springy texture to it. And you have to try their sweet potato tempura and shrimp tempura. Yum.
- Ala Moana mall food court (aka Makai Market Food Court) I know it's weird to throw in a shout out to a food court, but when that food court offers dim sum, decent Thai, and Korean BBQ I am totally on board. There are a ton of different vendors (mostly Asian, although there are a smattering of Hawaiian, Italian and other restaurants) and most of them are aren't bad at all. And with everything being so expensive in Oahu, it's a nice change. If they had food courts like that in NYC I would eat there all the time.
- Catamaran cruise. Every time we travel to Oahu we go sailing on a catamaran from Waikiki Beach - usually the Outrigger Catamaran (which recently changed its name to Waikiki Rigger). When the winds are right the boat really flies through the water. Get prepared because you will get wet, but you will have fun doing it. One of the best things about the cruise is that on a good day you see dolphins, fish and sea turtles.