Oahu Like A Local
One of the best vacations for women, get the total Oahu vibe of this most visited Hawaiian Island just as the locals do. These top Oahu activities are beloved by the locals and now you get to enjoy them too. After two years of living ‘on island,’ snorkeling at North Shore, shopping at farmer’s markets, getting hammered at Buzz’s and partying in Chinatown, I’m giving you the local scoop.
Shhh…don’t tell the tourists.
#1 Saturday Farmer’s Market at the Kapiolani Community College
7:30 – 11:00 am every Saturday
Kapiolani Community College
4303 Diamond Head Rd
(Parking Lot C)
Oahu’s most lavish farmer’s market, KCC’s Farmer’s Market will astound you with local bounty. Offerings include Nalo Greens from Nalo Farms in nearby Waimanalo, organic grass-fed beef from the North Shore Cattle Company or tiny Okinawan purple sweet potatoes from a local farmer. Also, look for lavender from Maui, Kona coffee from the Big Island, and shrimp from Kauai plus plenty of fresh cut tropical floral bouquets. And, as you shop, you’ll get into the island mood as Hawaiian musicians serenade shoppers.
And don’t eat breakfast before you come – tempting scones, farm fresh egg omelets and local pineapples await. And the market focuses on a different restaurant each week, serving up island-style specialties.
The Saturday Farmers’ Market is co-sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College.
KCC Farmer’s Market Tips:
- Make like a local and stow a cooler in your car trunk so your bounty will make it home safely.
- Although there’s lots of shade, be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen.
- Sip from a fresh coconut to fight dehydration.
- Bring your camera to capture the experience.
#3 Snorkel at Shark’s Cove
Pupukea Beach Park
1201 59-727 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, HI 96712
For a snorkeling adventure in Oahu’s crystal coves, skip the crowds and grumpy fish at Hanuama Bay and head to the North Shore to Shark’s Cove at the Pupukea Beach Park.
Don’t let Shark’s moniker get to you. Shark’s Cove rightly earned Scuba Diving Magazine’s rating as one of the “Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World.” I’ve floated among butterfish, turtle, eel, parrotfish, jacks, mullet, needlefish and the odd crustacean. You’ll experience an abundance of Hawaii sea life amid the black lava rock walls, coral ledges and caves of the cove.
South of the cove are the Pupukea tide pools, excellent for wading and communing with more aquatic life. This huge pool ranges in depth from 8’ to 15’ deep and can have strong currents. It gets especially interesting when the waves crash and waterfall through the lava rock barrier, often swamping waders and snorkelers. That’s why many locals won’t snorkel Shark’s in the winter and neither should anyone else. Another reason why island keiki, or kids, are always admonished to “Never turn your back to the ocean.”
Snorkeling at Shark’s Tips:
- Rent equipment from Snorkel Bob’s for the day or week. Or bring your own and skip the public snorkel heebie-jeebies.
- Forget your defogging? Do as the locals do and pluck some naupaka leaves growing near the showers bythe public restrooms. Rub the leaves in your hands and spread the mess, completely coating your inside lens. Swish your mask with water and you’re good to go.
- Get early in order to find parking nearby.
- Wear beach shoes since your approach into the tide pool has jagged rocks.
#2 Buzz’s Original Steakhouse, Kailua
413 Kawailoa Rd. (bet. Kawailoa & Popoia Rds.)
Kailua, HI 96734
Dining shaka-style! For an old Hawaii atmosphere, go directly to Buzz’s at sunset, just across the street from Kailua Beach Park in Kailua on the Windward Side. Watch the local catamaran racing teams stow their canoes in the boathouses across the street while sipping a Mai Tai on the porch. Or go at lunchtime and grab a kiawe charcoal broiled burger during a day at Kailua Beach.
Usually cramped and crowded, this thatched-roofed restaurant and bar’s funky, tiki vibe encourages going troppo. After all, a tree grows through the middle of the restaurant. A local landmark, Kailua residents mingle for drinks and pu-pus (appetizers) after work, dining on steaks at the koa and bamboo bar. There’s a salad bar and plenty of steak and seafood on the menu. Locals say that Buzz’s is a time-warp throwback to the Oahu of thirty years ago. And in this way, it’s still true – Buzz’s requires collared shirts for men in the evening and they only recently started accepting credit cards.
Buzz’s Steakhouse Tips:
- Buzz’s suffers from its wild popularity so call for reservations
- Go early or late to snag a table on the porch
#4 Go to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
Open Wed. & Sat., 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, Sundays 6:30 am – 3 pm
Directions: From Waikiki & Honolulu: Take H-1 freeway West, exit 1E – the Stadium exit.
Even if you avoid your local swap meet like a white trash virus, you’ll want to shop this local-style shopping destination. Island residents love to pick up their ‘Please Remove Your Slippers. Mahalo’ signs here.
For the one-dollar admission fee, you’ll save around 50% on the same souvenirs sold at the ABC Store, Hilo Hattie’s or the International Market. Buy your gifts and island gear here. Just plan to pay cash most of the time. And haggling is de rigueur.
You’ll find deals on Aloha shirts, Hawaiian music, muumuus, wooden kitchen accessories, beachwear, island bedding, floral hair decorations, sarongs, ukuleles, local scented soaps, puka shell necklaces and other items of that ilk. Do not expect quality here.
Do explore the food aisles and try Asian-Hawaiian-style snacks such as li hing candies, dried fruits, dried seafood, mango bread, coconut mochi, and hot malasadas, a Portuguese-style donut.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet Tips:
- It can be hot, hot, hot with very little shade so wear a hat and sunscreen and carry water.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll be circumnavigating the entire Aloha Stadium.
- Expect most of this stuff to be made in China or the Philippines amid local treasures.
#5 Art After Dark – First Friday Art Walk in Chinatown
5PM – 9PM, First Friday of every month
Nu’uanu and Hotel
Honolulu, HI 96813
I love Honolulu’s old Chinatown, funky and antique. At Art After Dark, every first Friday of the month, you can party with the locals at this raucous Chinatown block party, touring the local art galleries, museums and studios, all open to the public. Do as the local crowd does and hop from art gallery to art gallery, sipping on wine and pu-pus (appetizers). Bands are playing in the streets, the bars are open and the food stands serve exotic and local fare.
Get there early to park and then sip a Singapore Sling at Indigo Restaurant (1121 Nuuanu Avenue), which serves Eurasian cuisine. I love the back patio’s fin de siècle air of decay, as if in a Somerset Maugham novel. Or grab very authentic Chinese food, minus the MSG and cornstarch, at the Little Village Noodle House (1113 Smith St.). They don’t speak much English but the reasonable cuisine is worth the communication gap.
Tour the local art scene – I especially like the Pegge Hopper Gallery (1164 Nuuanu Avenue) for her famous paintings of feminine Island women. I also like the Bethel Street Gallery (1140 Bethel Street) for the quality display of fine Hawaiian and Mainland artists.
Chinatown Art Walk Tips:
- Start early, as it gets crowded.
- Park at Marks Garage (22 South Pauahi Street, entrance on Chaplain Lane); they often have $5 parking specials on Art After Dark.
- Not family nor child friendly. Not stroller or wheelchair accessible.
- Pick up a free gallery walking map at participating sites.
Got some more Oahu activities we’ve got to include? Let us know!