AFD Trav Tips: Hawaii (O’ahu)

Sunset Shack Bench Set | Image by Alex Fulton Design

This will be my first travel blog!  I don’t really know why I haven’t done this sooner…but here is is. My wee slice of Hawaii.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel | image by Alex Fulton Design

To stay:
+ The Laylow (Kuhio Ave, Honolulu)
+ Royal Hawaiian (Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu)
+ Surfjack (Lewers St, Honolulu)

The Laylow Pool Area | Image by Alex Fulton Design

The Laylow Corner Suite | Image by Alex Fulton

The Laylow Restaurant and Breakfast Area | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Pool side eating at The Laylow Hotel | Image by Alex Fulton Design

We stayed at the Laylow which tots ticked all our requirements… Not too expensive, didn’t have to have beach views (to help cut costs), good vibe, good for a teenage heavy family, a pool, close to shops and surfing and mostly just cool.  This was all that and more.  Free jandals were a bonus.  Food was really very good and it was tempting to eat in as the selection was tip top with super service.  Great coffee, amazing pastries, good eggs, fresh food – you really couldn’t fault it!  The fit out was also super inspiring too.  Very clever, modern and laid-back Hawaiian vibes.

The pool at the Surfjack | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Foyer at the Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Mahina and Sun’s Restaurant at the Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club | Image by Alex Fulton Design

A good alternative with probably the same types of ticks would be the Surfjack.  It probably has the most instagrammed pool in Honolulu with the tiles designed to say ‘Wish you were here’.  It also has a very arty, funky, hipster 50’s vibe that makes it very insta-worthy. We had to see for ourselves and had a super yummy date-night there.  The food was nuts-good but I wouldn’t want to eat their every night as it was expensive and not really everyday food – good date night though.  The restaurant itself is called Mahina & Sun’s. Really excellent with a very unique interior fit out and nifty vibe.  Their use of wallpaper was very rad.  My fav’s were the birds of paradise in the toilets and the Shaka Sign in the main dinning area.  Make time to also visit the on-site shop called Olive + Oliver.  Curated as, it stocked really beautiful and un-touristy homewares, fashion and goodies.  They also have some amazing events on that are located around the pool – we just missed out on seeing Jack Johnson play and Kimi Werner (@kimi_swimmy) talk for Earth Day.  Just so cool.

Shaved Ice at the base of the Diamond Head Walk | Image by Alex Fulton Design

To Eat
+ Bills Hawaii (Bill Granger’s Restaurant Beachwalk Ave Honolulu)
+ Leonards Bakery (Kapahulu Ave East of Waikiki and food truck based at Waikele Outlets Carpark)
+ Rainbow Drive In (Kanaina Ave East of Waikiki)
+ Shimazu’s Shave Ice (Castle St – Giant!)
+ Liliha Bakery (Lunch and Dinner Auahi St Downtown)
+ Island Snow Shave Ice ( Kailua Road, Kailua)
+ Kamehame Bakery – purple on the inside donuts! (Kalani St – Purple Donuts)
+ Starfruit Stand (Olohio St Waialua)
+ North Shore Tacos (Kamehameha HWY)
+ The Cheesecake Factory (Royal Hawaiian Centre)
+ Fumi’s Shrimp Truck (Kamehameha HWY)
+ Sunset Shack (Kamehameha HWY)
+ Duke’s Waikiki (Kalakaua Ave)
+ Genki Sushi – think sushi delivered by trains! (Ala Moana Center)

Fresh and hot malasada’s from Leonards Bakery | Image by Alex Fulton Design

You will notice that my food choices are not on the ‘healthy’ end but very much on the ‘gosh that’s going to photograph well’ end.  My fav’s were a real mixture of yummy and decor so please no judging me ok?!

Taco-tastic from North Shore Taco’s | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Bills (as in the Australian chef Bill Granger) was a last night treat.  And it was.  Beautiful, lofty and modern fit out with a very neat menu.  We all enjoyed everything we ordered and a special mention does go to the desert hotcakes.  You know it’s his signature dish when they make a miniature keyring out of them! Don’t be fooled by the street level entrance – you will be transported to tropical restaurant paradise once you are up on the second floor.

Rainbow Drive in | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Bakery’s are big and the best one by far was Leonards.  Situated West of Waikiki we walked there from Waikiki Beach.  After ramming dozens of fresh-out-of-the-deep-fryer Manapua’s we ubered back.  This was not to be our only visit as we also managed to track down a second location food truck after a speed shop at the Waikele Outlets Stores. Bonus.  Pink accessories and packaging with it’s iconic blue lettering is a ‘grammars delight.

Shave Ice was not really on my list but the girls loved it.  Novelity factor was high.  Who knew they put condensed milk on them!  Not me!  It was also a revelation for my youngest daughter to realise that there was a emoji for shaved ice. Again who knew.  So educational this travel lark.  Our hotel (The Laylow) did free shaved ice every day at 2pm.

Those colours and that branding at Leonards Bakery | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Cheesecake Factory was very American and very well received by our American-curious teenagers.  The meals were nuts huge and everything you could imagine and more!  Great, family friendly and cheesecakey. Another institution is Dukes with it’s beach side dining and tiki dominated decor – it was certainly is slick and have processed a tourist or two.

Now that’s a Papaya Bowl from the Sunrise Shack | Image from Alex Fulton Design

To counteract all the donuts I really was keen to find some healthy options and the Sunset Shack out on the Kamehameha Hwy was the business.  Rice cakes stacked nuts and powders and shavings of all sorts of wonders, Papaya bowls that will blow your mind and coffee concoctions that would impressed any millennial (even an old one like me!)

Sunset aboard the Sunset cruise | Image by Alex Fulton Design

To Do:
+ KCC Farmers Market (Tuesday 4pm – 7pm and Saturday 7.30am – 11am)
+ Diamond Head Walk
+ Chinatown (1130 Bethel Street Downtown)
+ Barrio Vintage (Nuuanu Street)
+ Colourful Murals (442 Cooke St)
+ Moana Falls (Off Pali Highway)
+ Pali Highway lookout
+ Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden (Luluku Road)
+ Lani Kai Beach
+ Sunset Beach | Pipeline
+ Mermaid Caves (416 Keaulana Ave)
+ Atlantis Submarine Tour
+ Dole Plantation
+ Island Tour
+ Helicopter Tour

View of West coat from Novictor Helicopter | Image from Alex Fulton Design

We really did a real mix of adventuring.  To start with with we were all fresh off a pretty hectic first term so we all really needed chill.  Daily surfing and beaching got us back on track.  The beach at Waikiki is beautiful and full of tourists but really surprisingly ok.  The surf is even chill.  We hired boards daily and it felt like a wee luxury to paddle out, do a few waves and surf back in for some beaching.  Shopping and eating were other daily pastimes.  We did get our butt’s out and about though and finding stuff to do was easy.

Waikiki Beach – Tourists and good waves | Image by Alex Fulton Design

For a little more adventure we decided to brave the tourists and do the Diamond Head Walk.  It was relatively hard and we really did work up a good sweat getting to the top – it was soooo worth it. The paths are skinny but it’s very amusing hearing the conversations from the tourists.

Family surfing is good for the soul | by Alex Fulton Design

Both Jeff and I had been to Hawaii years before so it was lovely to talk the girls and see island love through their eyes.  I had recalled North Shore being pretty amazing and because of that we decided to do the hire a driver and see the island day tour.  Excellent.  Our driver was really accomodating with last minute “stop – I want to go there” calls and even gave us a few hot tips.  Quick swims, photo breaks and food pit stops were perfect and no parking issues!

Big Pineapples are cool. So are teenagers | Image by Alex Fulton Design

A cane pineapple is the best souvenir from The Dole Plantation | Image by Alex Fulton

As cheesy as it sounds, the Dole Plantation was worth a quickie – even if you just go in and get some Dole Whip.  OMG.  I also managed to find a cane pineapple bag.  Win win.

Diamond Head Beach House | Image by Alex Fulton Design

To Shop:
+ Bailey’s Antique and Aloha Shirts (East of Waikiki, Kapahulu Ave – just a few blocks down from Leonards Bakery)
+ Aloha Stadium Flea Market (Salt Lake Blvd – Wed, Sat and Sun 8am – 3pm)
+ Olive + Oliver (In the Surfjack)
+ Diamond Head Beach House (On Monsarrat Ave on way to Diamond Head Walk)
+ Betty x Joe (Kihapai St Kailua)
+ The International Market Place (Kalakaua Ave)
+ Ala Moana Centre
+ Aloha Superette (Uluniu St Kailua)
+ Waikele Outlet Stores (surprisingly ok)

Hawaiian shirts-a-rama at Bailey’s | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Happy Husband = happy family, so it was a little bit of a surprise for my husband to take him to Bailey’s.  My husband, Jeff is a HUGE Hawaiian shirt fan so this place was heaven on a stick.  We loved it too.  It seemed every shirt there had a story and the owner was close by to expand on anything that piqued our interest.  Tom Selleck, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Jones – all accounted for with their signature shirts.  Classic.  Prices varied from $20 to $2500!

Local goodies at Aloha Superette | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Betty x Joe Store with local artists and craftspeople | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Aloha from Sunrise Shack | Image by Alex Fulton Design

Mostly I was determined to find cool and cute design stores but with ‘said’ teenagers we did venture to find all those iconic ‘American’ brands which Honolulu most definitely had.  I did get my way and as part of the Island tour our driver was very accommodating with finding the off beat and different.  They were hard to find! But I found them for you.  My greatest finds were the Rainbow pottery drums from Aloha Superette AND my Kat + Roger mugs I found at Olive + Oliver. I had been spying these ceramics on insty so bonus.

Shaka’s from the air | Image from Alex Fulton Design

Hawaii really is a city and an island all rolled into one.  Perfect for two teenage girls and perfect for us as family.  We will be back!

Want all this good stuff in a nutshell? Or as they call it in the grown-up-land, a downloadable version. Get it HERE.

+ Just so you know I was not paid to say anything above – I just wanted to pass on some of my fav Hawaii places.

+ Also a special thanks to Jen Gotch from for passing on some hot tips for Hawaii. These girls know how to colour + travel + eat + ‘gram!



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