Oahu travel guide: our family favorites

August 13, 2019

Aloha! Neil and I are in Maui this week celebrating our EIGHTH wedding anniversary. We have each only been to Maui once (separately) and it's been YEARS! But since we are totally Hawaii people and absolutely love Oahu, I figured it would be fun to share some faves from one of the other Hawaiian islands while we're here. We honeymooned on Oahu as newlyweds. We took a family trip to Oahu with the girls for our 5 year anniversary. And Neil and I went to Oahu ahead of our 6 year anniversary to attend his grandmother's funeral and celebrate her life (101 years!!).

We're all about living with Aloha and eating ALL the fresh pineapple! Today I thought it would be fun to reshare my guide to Oahu including my favorite places to eat, my favorite beaches, and what to do!

When To Go To Oahu

Is there really a bad time to go to Oahu? Historically speaking we have always gone to Hawaii in the summertime. The best weather in Hawaii is typically June, July and September. Those are the months Hawaii gets the least amount of rain and the water is the warmest. That being said, the Aloha State really only has two seasons and has pretty phenomenal weather year round!!

Summer is also a great time to go to Hawaii, because it's not peak season so it's a little bit cheaper than other times of the year.

Best Places To Stay in Oahu

We have only stayed in three places in Oahu: Turtle Bay, an Airbnb, and Disney Aulani Resort so I can only speak to these options.

TURTLE BAY RESORT – Turtle Bay is one of the most popular and most booked resorts on Oahu. It's on the North Shore close to Pipeline, tons of gorgeous beaches, and so many shrimp trucks! It's a beautiful resort with very nice amenities, but steeply overpriced in my opinion! If you have kids I would skip it and spend your money at Aulani, But if you don't have kids and love the local feel of the North Shore + room service and nice hotel sheets, book it!

AIRBNB – We spent the first half of our family trip in a vacation rental on the North Shore and really loved it. Most vacation rentals will feel like a vacation rental, slightly run-down but totally authentic like you're one of the locals. This is a great option if you're traveling with kids because it's cozier than a hotel, you typically have a kitchen, and a little more space. Our vacation rental was right ON the sand and we were obsessed! Lyla was still little at the time and we loved that we could put her down for a nap, still be on the sand and have a baby monitor work just a few feet in front of the house. If you've never used Airbnb before use this link to sign up and get up to $55 off your first trip!

DISNEY AULANI RESORT– Aulani is very expensive. VERY. But you 100% get what you pay for!! It is the ULTIMATE family getaway and I have never stayed at a nicer family resort. They have literally thought of EVERYTHING. It has subtle touches of Disney but it really feels like luxury Hawaii. It's pretty flawless in my opinion! My girls loved seeing the Disney characters throughout our stay and mama loved the Dole Whips on tap! There are pools and waterslides galore and a private saltwater snorkeling lagoon! The few days we spent there just wasn't enough so we need to go back so I can give you a more comprehensive overview.

Favorite Eats

GIOVANNI'S SHRIMP TRUCK – An Oahu classic! The North Shore is a prime shrimp truck paradise. I love the garlic shrimp, but be warned it's very garlicky! It's also the best shrimp you've ever tasted. Add a scoop of rice and scoop of Mac salad and you've got yourself a North Shore lunch!

TED'S BAKERY – Close to the Laie Temple and BYU Hawaii, Ted's is famous for their Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie. The pie is insanely delicious and I LOVE it, but if you want a killer breakfast, try their fried rice omelette — it's totally legit!! Everyone was stealing bites from me the morning we went there.

MATSUMOTO SHAVE ICE – We used to love a place called Aoki's down the street from Matsumoto that no longer exists so we braved the lines on our last trip and experienced the magic of Matsumoto's. TOTALLY worth the wait!! So dangerously inexpensive ($3-4) that you'll be back multiple times. Some of my favorite flavor combos: strawberry + white cake (tastes like a strawberry shortcake), coconut + peach + vanilla, pina-colada + vanilla. NEVER EVER skip the 50 cent sweetened condensed milk cap + $1 ice cream at the bottom upgrade!

BANZAI BOWL – We're spoiled because we have Banzai Bowl in Orange County where we live, but if you don't have one you MUST go get an acai bowl from Banzai Bowl! The Shark's Cove location is probably my favorite, but I like them all. Literally have not tried one I haven't been obsessed with.

Bonus picks from Team Mint Arrow

BOOTS AND KIMO'S: Hands down the MOST heavenly and delicious Macadamia Nut Pancakes you will ever eat in your life. Promise. The fried rice and banana pancakes are also pretty freaking epic.

RAINBOW DRIVE-IN: The ultimate in Hawaiian Plate Lunches. Super cheap and generous portions.

MONKEYPOD KITCHEN: You can't go wrong with the Poke Tacos, the Bulgogi Pork Tacos or the Coconut Pie. So yummy!

LEONARD'S BAKERY: The most delectable malasadas in the entire world! A bold statement, but 100% true. The Cinnamon Sugar and Haupia are my favorites.

BUBBIES: If you love mochi ice cream, Bubbies is an absolute MUST! They have so so many flavors and they're all delicious!

Favorite Oahu Beaches

SHARK'S COVE (North Shore) – Totally AMAZING beach for snorkeling and scuba diving, but it's not super toddler friendly. This is a rocky beach, not a sandy beach. There is tons of marine life here and a lot of fun spots to jump off rocks into the ocean.

WAIMEA BAY (North Shore) – One of the MOST famous surf spots in the entire world! Near Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Perfect place for swimming in the summer.

THREE TABLES (North Shore) – Beautiful snorkeling spot and way less rocky than Shark's Cove. Occasionally you can see sea turtles here.

POUNDERS or LA'IE BEACH PARK (North Shore) – Neil's favorite for bodysurfing

Bonus Picks From Team Mint Arrow

LANIKAI BEACH – The offshore reef = calm water making it perfect for swimming or relaxing on a giant pool float and getting your tan on. Plus the sand is powder soft. Parking is limited and the Koolau Mountains block the sun in the afternoon, so you want to hit this one early.

WAIMANALO – Drop dead gorgeous beach and rarely visited by tourists. Soft white sand and turquoise blue water for DAYS!

MAKAPUU BEACH PARK – Another super popular beach for bodysurfing and ridiculously picturesque.

What To Do in Oahu

LUAU AT THE POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER – If you haven't experienced this yet it's a MUST!! But just to be clear – you go for the show, not for the food. The food is just okay. The live show however is spectacular – hula dancing, singing, and a fire knife show at the end will literally take your breath away!

LAIE HAWAII TEMPLE – this LDS temple is truly one of my favorites in the world! They have a really fun visitor's center too where you can take a tour and learn more about how this temple was constructed and its history.

DOLE PLANTATION – We actually didn't go here because we were going to Aulani where they have all you can eat Dole Whips, but if you've never experienced the Dole Whip or you just really love pineapples you must go here!

VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES – Neil took me here the first time we went to Oahu and I was blown away by how breathtaking it was! You will feel like you're in Japan right when you drive up to this place. It's very peaceful and stunningly beautiful; one of our favorite places to stop when we're in Oahu.

Best Oahu Guidebook

OAHU REVEALED – Do not go to Hawaii without this. Do not skip this. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. But really, just get this book! I agree with 98% of everything they say here and you'll find all of the best local secrets for places to beach and the best foodie spots and all the most fun things to do.

Hawaii Beach Vacation Must-Haves

Our Hawaii highlight video

Here's a little taste of our family trip to Oahu!

Be sure to check out our Orange County local's guide here!

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Great review! Now I’m dying to go back to Hawaii!


We have been dying to go to aulani but are terrified of the plane ride with our 16 month old???! Tips??


Oh man, the plane ride was a little brutal to be honest!! Good snacks, and we never ever let our littles play with ipads EXCEPT on airplanes so that helped a little too! 🙂


We’re looking to go here what agency did you book through for your Aulani stay?

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