When people talk about paradise, they’re probably referring to something that looks a lot like Oahu. A place with miles of white sand beach, glassy blue waves, and an ever present tropical breeze. (It’s also worth mentioning that here at Team CS, no version of paradise is without poke bowls.) We spent a week exploring both Honolulu and the North Shore — and making plenty of friends along the way — to put together our ultimate guide to the island. Scroll down for only the best hotels, restaurants, shops, and things to do in Oahu! Paradise found.
The North Shore vs. Honolulu. While you can fairly easily visit both areas in one trip, it’s good to know the differences between Honolulu and the North Shore. Honolulu is a bustling city with lots of traffic, slick shopping centers, and plenty of tourist-y attractions like hotels with luau entertainment. The North Shore is a sleepier, more rural area with calm, peaceful views and little to no nightlife. Splitting our time between Honolulu and the North Shore made for a perfectly well-rounded trip for our team!
Kaka’ako. This is by far the hippest neighborhood in Honolulu, and where you’ll find many of the below recommended shops and restaurants. Look for large scale graffiti art and plenty of walkable shopping.
Your wave seasons. Summer is good in Oahu for those who want a clear, flat ocean and sunny weather. Winter is best for those who want to scope massive waves (and all the surf contests!)
The word “Ono”. (pronounced oh-no) Pidgin for good, delicious and yummy all in one word. Example: “That poke bowl was so ono.”
The Surfjack for old school motel vibes.
The Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu for a classic 5 star experience (complete with sunset luau)
Hawaii Hideaways all over the island for intimate homes on the beach
Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore for killer views and quiet luxury
Mud Hen Water for a fresh take on Hawaiian with plenty of local flavor
Haleiwa Bowls for the yummiest acai bowls on the island
The Pig & The Lady for reinvented Vietnamese classics (and LOTS of noodles)
Ali Limo poke bowls, poke bowls, POKE BOWLS!
Koko Head Café for an island style brunch
Bill’s for sunny seafood in a beautifully designed space
Kaimuki Superette for delicious sandwiches, salads, and breakfast
Coffee Gallery for expresso and all kinds of blended coffee options
Arvo Coffee for the perfect pairing of espresso and milk
House Without a Key for sunset views and luau entertainment (note: no shorts or flip-flops allowed after 6 p.m.!)
Café Duck Butt for nightly karaoke and watermelon soju
Here. for modern minimalist clothing and objects
Number 808 for impossibly cool tees, vintage jeans, and hipster decor
Paiko for plants, gifts, and a build-your-own bouquet experience using gorgeous Hawaiian flowers
Hungry Ear Records for the largest collection of vinyl in the state
Guava Shop for cute swimwear, Moroccan imports and more
Tini Manini for adorable handmade Hawaiian clothing and gifts to take back for your little ones
Take a surf lesson with Uncle Bryan’s Sunset Suratt Surf Academy.
Go horseback riding on Kualoa Ranch.
Take a shibori workshop with Indigo Blue.
Learn to make traditional leis with PoeHaku.
Book a helicopter ride with Paradise Helicopters.
Hike Manoa Falls to see a 150 foot tall waterfall.