To be honest, Hawaii was never on the top of my list of places to visit. I always thought it was overrated. However, I very recently discovered that I was wrong. I had a great time doing as the locals do and have decided to compile a list of my favorite places for those of you who are planning your next vacation.

CHINA WALLS
After passing through a residential area, you discover this tiny treasure tucked away in Hawaii Kai. It’s called Koko Kai Mini Beach Park (China Walls). Once you find parking along Hanapepe Loop, be ready to – safely – cliff jump into the Pacific Ocean.

KOKO HEAD CRATER TRAIL
This is a steep climb to the top of Koko Head Crater with over 1,000 stair steps —but felt more like 10,000 steps. I highly recommend hiking Koko Heard early in the morning before the sun is too harsh.

The trail consists of abandoned railroad ties that run along the crater’s west side to the top. Fun fact: the military used them during World War II to transport supplies to a lookout post at the summit.

The spectacular view is so worth the hike. Give yourself some time to sit, relax and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Don’t forget water!

SANDY BEACH PARK
Oh Sandy, I love how secluded this beach is located on the Oahu south shore. It’s not as crowded as the downtown Honolulu beaches and there are also food trucks on site, which is a huge pro. This is the perfect place to come to after a long hike at Koko.

Any bodysurfers out there? The powerful currents and steep shore breaks makes this one of the best beaches in Oahu for experienced body boarders and bodysurfers. Sandys is also known as “the beach with broken necks,” so swimmers be careful.

MAKAPU‘U POINT LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL
Compared to Koko Head, Makapu’u Point is a breeze. This trail is paved with cement which helps minimize the risk of falling. There are many scenic views along the hike, including a lighthouse. Towards the top of the hike, there is a trail that you can take down to visit the tide pools. If you’re lucky, there’s also whale-watching potential!

HANAUMA BAY
Formed within a volcanic cone, Hanauma Bay offers a pristine marine ecosystem. It is the perfect spot for snorkeling!
What to Bring:
• $7.50 (park entrance fee)
• Towel
• Swimsuit
• Snorkeling gear, we rented it here: Island Divers

NORTH SHORE
If I could only choose one spot to visit again, it would be North Shore. This was everything you think of when you think of Hawaii. From the Pipeline House to the crystal blue water, I could never get enough.

DOLE PLANTATION
On the way back from North Shore, we stopped at the Dole Plantation, because you can’t go to Hawaii and not visit the historic pineapple plantation, right? This is a pineapple lover’s paradise.

DIAMOND HEAD
With breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Diamond Head is a must. The trail takes you to the edge of a 300,000 year-old crater. The hike isn’t that long in terms of distance, but parts of the trail are over uneven rock, and the 99 steps near the end of the hike are quite steep. If you plan on hiking, try to get there early, as parking fills up quickly.

Time: about 1.5 hours to complete
Entrance Fee: $5.00 per car or $1 per person
Neat Fact: The U.S. military used Diamond Head as a post for preventing attacks against Honolulu.

HUNGRY? HERE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE FOOD SPOTS:
The Sunrise Shack | This was my favorite spot. The vibes, the music, the people, the food … it was all amazing. We hung out here a couple hours and even made new friends. I recommend the avocado toast, acai bowl and bullet coffee.

Health Bar | A cute atmosphere to grab an acai bowl with the sweetest workers.

Island Brew Coffeehouse | I absolutely loved being able to walk to Island Brew Coffeehouse in the mornings. They have a variety of premium coffees and local, organic breakfast and lunch options, plus a waterfront patio. The iced chai tea with condensed milk was amazing. Also, how cute is the inside!?

Banan | Different than the typical acai, this almost reminded me of a frozen yogurt texture. And the portions are huge! I got a medium but a small would have been enough. So many yummy toppings to choose from as well.

Haleiwa Bowls | After a fun day at North Shore, Haleiwa Bowls is the perfect pit stop to eat some acai bowls. I am still drooling over this! I will be back here for sure.

Heavenly | The perfect brunch spot in Waikiki. The French toast was literally heavenly that we went back again later that week!

Fresh Catch | Another recommendation by a local friend and it was so good! Fresh Catch serves local-style poke, seafood, plate lunches, stews & soups. I got poke and it was delicious.

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Website: Katjohana.com

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