If you do happen to follow me on Instagram (I hope you do!) you'll have noticed that I ventured all the way to Hawaii at the end of January. Finally I can say publicly that the trip was actually a work-heavy venture. I traveled with Loren and our friend Sara Kate to Oahu to shoot Loren's Spring/Summer look book. We spent a week on Oahu, and while I'd been there once before as a teenager, doing the non-resort version was far more fun. Maybe there are more picturesque islands in Hawaii, but perhaps no island offers the breadth of activity and varying landscapes quite like Oahu. From bustling Honolulu to valleys of jungle to the calm power of the North Shore's legendary waves, we pretty much did it all. Or at the very least, tried...
For two days prior to the shoot itself, we drove around for hours and hours, hopping in and out of the car to find the best locations. Some ended up being a bit too far of a trek to execute with a model on the clock, but I'm glad we could see them anyway. And after all that, I'll say this: hotels are great if you literally plan to do nothing. But in my opinion, to get a true feel for the island, try renting a house, a car, and do your own thing. There's not much to be intimidated by. For the most part, we found everyone to be friendly and ready to give you their picks for the best local thing. Most if not all non-hotel beaches are public with free parking, and you'd have a hard time getting lost (hello, it's an island.)
In the interest of sharing the wealth, here are some favorite discoveries (and suggestions) collected along the way. We certainly didn't get to everything, but if you're on the lookout, I hope this helps.
Places to Eat
Side note: Yes, there is a Cheesecake Factory and any number of global chain restaurants. But for the love of God, the local food scene is so great, don't you dare even think about doing anything else.
The most tasty meal we had on the trip. Loren had the ramen and talked about it the rest of the week. I had some crazy chicken sandwich that I had dreams about. Basically, go.
Can you get more touristy than Leonard's? Probably not, but their malasadas (fluffy fried dough rolled in flavored sugar and/or injected with cream) are totally fresh and delicious and come in really cute pink boxes, so...
Supposedly (wink) Sara Kate went in there for a "prop," but we ended up sharing the rose-flavored ice cream before lunch. So delicious!
Places We Didn't Eat
Where to Shop
A bright and cheerful boutique with
A mod surf lodge with cute branded product.
The Hovey sisters gone tropical. Think taxidermy mixed with 1960s home goods (but merchandised in a completely charming way, of course.)
A darling boutique with the designer's own line of men's and women's Hawaiian gear with modern, tailored silhouettes and updated patterns.
Although the man who runs it is a—for lack of more delicate term—total dick, the wall-to-wall selection of vintage Hawaiian ephemera is too much fun to poke around.
Top of the List for Next Time
We saved it until our last morning and it turned out it wasn't as simple as stopping by. Instead, you have to book a tour through the Honolulu Museum of Art only Wednesday through Saturday. Big bummer. Guess I'll have to go back...
Things To See & Do
Pronounced "Haliva," this is the biggest town
The best place to spot sea turtles in action.
For observing ONLY (unless you happen to be a pro big wave surfer. I'd be shocked if any of my readers are pro big wave surfers.)
If you want to see the likes of Kelly Slater in action, this is a hot spot. Our local friends recommended parking up the hill so you can really see the surfing in action from overhead. Use caution if you decide to explore the beach, as these are some of the most powerful and unpredictable waves on the island.
So beautiful, like walking around inside someone's tropical dream. There are spots inside the gardens that are great for kids (like indigenous Polynesian huts and craft demonstrations) but for the most part, this place is beautiful and walkable, culminating in the famous Waimea falls.
What To Drive
It was mostly a prop (the biggest prop ever), but you can rent this restored vintage VW van on AirBNB. It's a camper, so there's a small stove, fold out bed and roof fit for rolling around the island at will.
Places to Eat
Shaved ice is an art form in Hawaii,
Do what you've always been taught not to do: pull over on the side of the road, talk to strangers, and eat the food they are selling. This delicious buttery, spicy, garlic-y peel-and-eat shrimp and sticky rice was tasty on another level. I wish I could recreate it, but you can't fake that aloha spirit.
Same idea, different shrimp guy. I say try them