Today we chat to Val, of The Wandering Wheatleys, about her hometown Honolulu in Hawaii! Together with her husband, they travel the world and run their blog writing worldwide city and country guides and tips for the first time visitor. They’ve been on the road since October 2016 but still call Honolulu home. 

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Where are you living?

Out of our suitcases at the moment! But prior to putting our stuff in a 5×7 storage unit, we lived in Portland, Oregon, and before that, we lived in Honolulu. Honolulu is on the island of Oahu in Hawaii (which I personally believe is pretty much the most idyllic place in the world that anyone could live).

Tell us about yourself?

I moved to Honolulu on a whim in 2011. I had a good job in Human Resources and owned 2 houses. But I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was leading a boring life, working at a job that I didn’t love and wasting a bunch of money on houses that I didn’t even really want. So I decided to do something about it. So I got rid of most of my belongings, sold my houses, packed 2 suitcases, and bought a one-way plane ticket. I had no place to live and no job.

I ended up finding an amazing job – at Duke’s Waikiki which is a popular bar right on the beach. I was a lunch server so I usually worked weekdays from 10-4pm. Then I’d get off and go surfing and watch the sunset from atop my surfboard in the middle of the ocean. On weekends I’d go on long hikes around the island or go camping on the North Shore or take a short flight to one of the other islands to explore.

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What to see in Honolulu - a Hawaii visitors guide by a local

What is your favourite thing about Honolulu?

My favourite thing about the island of Oahu is the variety of things that there are to do. On one small island, you have gorgeous beaches, towering mountains, epic hiking, waterfalls, delicious food, you name it! If the weather was bad in Honolulu I could just drive 30 minutes to another area of the island and find amazing sunny skies and perfect weather. If the waves were too big in the North Shore to surf I could head to Waikiki beach for smaller, more manageable waves.

And the food, oh how I miss the food. I used to get acai bowls packed with fresh fruit and homemade granola almost daily. You can get delicious Shoyu poke (raw tuna) at the supermarket – it’s so fresh and cheap! And some restaurants on Oahu are actually BYOB (bring your own booze) so you can bring in your own bottle of wine or 6-pack to enjoy with your meal!

What to see in honolulu, a visitors guide to Hawaii

What is your favourite thing to do in Honolulu with a day off?

Definitely, check out another island! The islands of Hawaii are pretty far from the US – the shortest flights from the West Coast are still about 5 hours to cross the ocean. But once you’re on one of the islands, the others are just a super short, and super cheap plane ride away. And they all offer unique activities and totally different experiences. On the Big Island, you can swim with manta rays or explore remote black or green sand beaches. On Maui, you can drive the amazing road to Hana or do some fire dancing on Little Beach. On Kauai, you can hike the 11-mile Kalalau Trail where you’ll have the most amazing waterfalls and beaches all to yourself.

What to see in Honolulu - a Hawaii visitors guide by a local

Credit to Channey Tang Ho

What in your opinion is the one thing you can’t miss when you visit Honolulu?

Do I have to pick just one? Don’t make me. Well if you’ve ever dreamed of going skydiving, Oahu is the place to do it! There are a few reputable spots on the North Shore and the views on the way down will be absolutely unforgettable.

What to see in honolulu, a visitors guide to Hawaii

You’ll HAVE to go for a hike. Or two. Or three. Diamond Head is a classic, of course, and for good reason. It’s not too challenging and offers stunning views of Honolulu from the viewpoints at the top. Koko Head Crater is a great hike if you’re looking for a serious workout – and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views at the top as well. The Lanikai Pillboxes hike is short but sweet and overlooks the most beautiful beach on the entire island – Lanikai. That’s another thing not-to-be-missed… spending an afternoon relaxing on Lanikai Beach!

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The Haiku Stairs (aka Stairway to Heaven) is illegal but some daredevils manage to be sneaky and do it anyway. Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t… I’ll never tell…

Any top tips where to go/ what to do on a rainy day?

To be 100% honest, we always struggled when it rained in Honolulu. Most of the time we frantically checked the weather on other parts of the island to see if we could drive somewhere else to avoid it. As with any other major cities, there are shopping malls and movie theatres. But the crown jewel of any visit to Hawaii is all of the spectacular beauty that awaits you… outdoors. Luckily the weather is pretty perfect in Hawaii year-round so even if you find yourself in the middle of a rainstorm you’re unlikely to be freezing cold.

What to see in honolulu, a visitors guide to Hawaii

Where is your go-to restaurant?

My go-to restaurant is called Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar. The original one is right near Diamond Head and they’ve opened another location on the North Shore. The one near Diamond Head is a fun, sort-of fancy-ish atmosphere (which is pretty rare for Hawaii – most people who live there pretty much live in flip flops and denim shorts). They have yummy cocktails and one dish that I especially love called the Seafood Trap. It’s a bunch of fresh seafood that’s been soaking in a yummy broth and they give you plenty of bread to soak up every last drop. It’s rich and creamy and out-of-this-world! Oh, and the Bo’s Big Nachos are insane as well.

Also, you can’t leave Oahu until you’ve had shave ice from Matsumoto’s. They are located on the North Shore and are famous for their fun logo that is displayed prominently on their merchandise, and their heaping servings of shave ice covered in condensed milk.

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And where do you suggest going for a drink in the evening?

Duke’s Waikiki of course! And no, not just because I used to work there, but because it really is the most popular bar in all of Waikiki. It’s a casual setting overlooking the beach. The servers are super friendly and attentive. The food is reasonably priced (at lunch and in the bar at least) and they offer big portions. And their Mai Tais are world renowned (okay, maybe I made that part up but they are pretty freaking delicious.) Plus they have live music most days and you’ll encounter both tourists and locals, that’s how you know it’s good!

Is there one thing not many people know about Hawaii? 

Bruno Mars is from Honolulu and visits often! I actually waited on him and his friends while I was a server at Dukes. Actually, a lot of celebrities make appearances in Hawaii. I’ve also met Macklemore and Ice Tea while working there. And we had to chase Bobby Brown down after he made off with some of our glassware!

Anything else you think we should know? 

ART + FLEA is a super fun craft market that is held once a month in Honolulu. They have food trucks and live music and art installations and darling locally made crafts for sale. Check their website to see if they’ll be hosting an event during your visit!


What to see in honolulu, a visitors guide to Hawaii

Credit to Michael Olsen

Wow, well I’m totally sold on Honolulu! I guess my bucket list just got EVEN longer! If you would like to read more about Hawaii, head over to see Val’s post about travel in Ohau.

If you enjoyed this Interview with a Local, you may enjoy these previous interviews! 

Jamaica  Tel Aviv  Dubai  Rio de Janeiro  Tenerife   Paris   Lisbon   Washington  San Diego

READ MORE  Want to read more about Hawaii? Then check out this detailed guide to Hawaiian islands.

Have you been to Honolulu or Hawaii? How was your experience? Do you have any top tips to add? As always I love hearing from you and I also massively appreciate any social shares!