This post is sponsored by Marriott but all opinions expressed within are my own. 

I’ve been fortunate to visit Oahu more times than I can count. I used to travel there on business when I worked as a college recruiter. I’ve flown there just for dinner one night when I was dating a flight attendant. And these days, Oahu has become a holiday tradition. After celebrating Christmas with family, my wife, son and I hop a plane to Honolulu and ring in the new year on our favorite island!

Because I’ve been so lucky to visit Honolulu so many times, I have a list of things I love to do and places I love to stay while I’m there. Here’s a list of my favorite things to do and eat and where to stay in Honolulu:

Where to eat in Honolulu

First things first: Good grub! There are lots of things I love to nosh on when I’m in Oahu so let’s start with breakfast. My favorite breakfast place on the island is Bogart’s. They make amazing acai bowls, which is what I always get. But they also have an extensive breakfast menu including Hawaiian-inspired dishes like taro pancakes and waffles with haupia sauce. TIP: Check out these five places to get acai bowls, recommended by locals.

For lunch, try Goma Tei. It’s in the Ala Moana Center, so it’s not the best location and doesn’t offer views of any kind. But this Japanese place is always busy and serves up delicious ramen noodle bowls.

For dinner, we always make sure we visit Duke’s (named after the surfer Duke Kahanamoku) at least once on any visit. This beachfront restaurant is a Waikiki institution. The food is great (you can order off the menu or hit the buffet) but the real draw is incredible views of the beach and ocean. Don’t leave without trying Duke’s signature dessert Hula Pie, which comes in a variety of seasonal flavors. If you skip dessert at the restaurant, then look for someplace to get shave ice, a Hawaii must! Here’s a guide to finding the best shave ice in Hawaii.

RELATED: 7 great restaurants where locals eat in Honolulu

What to do in Honolulu

You can’t beat Waikiki Beach for sun, sand and surf! It’s almost always packed and there’s lots to do, from taking a catamaran or outrigger ride to surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. And if you’d rather just lie on the beach and relax, it’s one of the great spots in Hawaii to do that. On a clear day, the view of Diamond Head is spectacular.

Speaking of which, hiking to the top of Diamond Head is another one of my favorite things to do in Oahu. My wife and I like to get up early and get to the top for sunrise. The walk all the way up is about 20 minutes if you don’t stop and the sweeping views from the top are an incredible reward for your hard work! This is how I love to spend a morning in Waikiki.

Another must-do? Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. It represents such a pivotal moment in US history and you can’t help but feel the importance and significance of it when you visit. The memorial was built in 1962 and was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis and honors the crew of the USS Arizona as well as the others (service men and women and civilians) who were killed in the attack.

RELATED: 5 best hotels to stay at in Hawaii

Where to stay in Honolulu

The beaches in Honolulu are lined with hotels to choose from but after visiting so many times, I’ve definitely got my favorites. The two oldest hotels in Honolulu are the Moana Surfrider, known as the First Lady of Waikiki and the Royal Hawaiian. Both are beautiful beachfront properties. The Moana Surfrider was the first hotel to open in Waikiki in 1901. Today, it’s still one of the most glamorous properties on the island, known for its porte cochere at the front entrance and balcony lined with wooden rocking chairs. The historic banyan tree is the star of the courtyard and the rooms combine the hotel’s original Victorian charms with modern amenities.

Next door is the Royal Hawaiian, which opened in 1927. It’s called the Pink Palace of the Pacific and walking along Waikiki Beach, you can’t miss this standout property, thanks to its pretty pink hue. From the history and the location to the gardens and the views, the Royal Hawaiian is one of my favorite Honolulu hotels. Here are 9 things to love about the Royal Hawaiian.

RELATED: 12 reasons to stay at the Moana Surfrider

Another recently discovered favorite Honolulu hotel is the Sheraton Waikiki. It’s a sprawling resort and with over 1,600 rooms, it’s the second largest hotel on the island. It’s always swarming with people so this isn’t exactly a quiet getaway but it’s great for families. They offer an on-site day care center for children under 12, a children’s pool and lots of great family-friendly dining options. But one of my favorite things about this hotel is the view from the Leahi Lounge, located on the hotel’s 30th floor. The views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach from up there are breathtaking and this might be the best place on the island to get this view!

The Ritz-Carlton Waikiki is another great luxury Honolulu hotel. It’s just off the busy stretch of Waikiki Beach and it’s not oceanfront but it’s just a short, 8-minute walk to the beach. The room interiors are calming and modern with hardwood floors and marble bathrooms. Best of all, since these are residence-style rooms, they’ve got kitchens stocked with dishware and in-room laundry, both of which are enormously helpful when you’re traveling with kids. MORE: 16 reasons to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki

What are your favorite Honolulu hotels? Leave a comment below and share your suggestions!


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9 Comments On "What to Do and Eat and Where to Stay in Honolulu"
  1. Dave Trinka|

    Thanks for the info. Incredibly dangerous to even talk about a previous excursion to Hawaii (all in the past of course) unless the flight attendant was your wife.

    Appreciate all comments on travel so much.


  2. Jaime|

    I just spent my honeymoon at Castle Waikiki Shore. I recommend this place too. Full studio/apartment-style rooms (kitchen, washer-dryer) with balcony and great views. Watched the 4th of July fireworks from there. Steps from the beach.
    No pools, spa, etc so no resort fee.
    Also had a Secure underground parking garage.

  3. Iris Park|

    We are kama’aina and live on the Big Island. When we visit O’ahu, we usually stay at the Ohana East but the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in the state is the Halekulani. They bring mini muffins, fresh pineapple, ice cream when you’re laying at the pool. The calm sandy beach is just steps away and the workers are friendly and helpful. The drinks, music and hula are musts at sunset.

  4. Linda Trecek|

    My favorite hotel is the Hilton Hawaiin Village. The layout, amenities, and location are great. Also the Ala Moana Hotel is very convenient and reasonably priced.

  5. Maris Somerville|

    I love your blog, John. The information you provide is authentic, and readers can be always be certain that your travel tips are reliable. I just recommended it on Grannybooster.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thank you!

  6. Bill n DC|

    Last October’s trip was our first and I wrestled with where to stay for 3 nights. I agree with your assessments.

    I could not get the suite at the Royal Hawaiian, so went with the Moana Surfrider a one bedroom, two balcony, ocean front suite on the 17th floor gave us great, comfortable space. Unfortunately we were there during the Unite Local 5 labor action (I support the Union’s call for a living wage from 1 job) The only food and beverage was the Club Lounge and sometimes the pool bar, We had access to the lunge which was crowded due to limited the options, but all in all it was okay. The Union started chanting at 7 am each morning which could be problematic. However we were jet lagged from DC so we woke up about that time and then went to Breakfast usually before crowds I did complain, of course, and I asked for a 50% reduction in the room rate. They counter with one free night, which I accepted – I mean it was a nice room and we ate okay breakfast and supper in the lounge. Most importantly I wanted to cost the hotel’s owners for not agreeing to living wages. We then decamped to the Fairmont Orchid Gold Floor on the big island were serenity rules :-)

  7. Bill n DC|

    Oops, Left out that I would stay there again 😊

  8. biz-traveler|

    I can’t seem to reply to the comment that contained:

    “Incredibly dangerous to even talk about a previous excursion to Hawaii (all in the past of course) unless the flight attendant was your wife.”

    As a long time reader/follower of Johnny Jet (Joey D if my memory is correct), the flight attendant wasn’t his now wife but an earlier girl friend. That said unless his wife hasn’t read his long history of blogging, she knows “everything”!

    If you are a new follower, go back to the earlier Johnny Jet stories. That’s when he was traveling on a shoe string and just getting started. By far, still my favorite material of his!

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