Hawaii for beginners

We might plan to go to Hawaii next year summer for the first time and started looking into the different island and hotels/resorts. Obviously there are (too) many options and I was hoping to get some thoughts from the experts on the best island and/or location. What island and location would you choose if you want a good hotel/resort but also close enough to places where you have good restaurants reasonable close by (and good location to start exploring the island)

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How long will you be in Hawai’i?

Start with Honolulu. Its restaurants offer a huge amount of variety, and represent the special cuisines of the archipelago well. Once you get a feels for the local climate and “island time”, then feel free to island hop.

I agree with @J_L, start with Honolulu which has the best and most diverse food choices. Also been to Maui, Kauai and the big island. All were nice and relaxing with plenty to see and do, but I liked the big island best. We got Airbnb’s in Kauai and big island and did a lot of cooking at home but each place had good places to get plate lunch, poke, huli huli chicken, etc.

@beachchick/plumeria posted a lot on FTC and CH about Hawaii if you valued her opinion.

Good luck and have a nice trip

+2 Honolulu. Been there 3 times in the past ~5 years and the food scene is great. Here are the places on our list and there are some good threads on the Hawaii board.
Kona Coffee Purveyors for good coffee and pastries
Leonard’s for malasadas
Koko Head Cafe for great breakfast
Maguro Bros for poke and sashimi
Side Street Cafe but bring a crew. Good upscale bar type food with Asian twist. Can get crowded.
Helena’s met the hype. Obviously get the kalbi but everything here was great.

Diamond Head is a beautiful hike. Make sure you get the pineapple at the food truck at the bottom. It’s still the best pineapple we’ve ever eaten.

Only good brewery is Inu Island Ales but kinda out of the way. Great hazy, stouts and fruited sour smoothies.

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I 4th Honolulu. Have plenty of recs if you decide to go

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honolulu has the best food scene, but is also the most crowded.

Yeah, expect rush hour traffic to be very bit as painful as any major metro area…

Warrior: I liked The Mill in Maui and Sushi Sho in Honolulu. I found other restaurants on the four main islands passable at best. I recommend enjoying Hawaii for its natural beauty and relaxed culture and accepting that the food in LA is overwhelmingly better.

It all depends on what you’re looking for.
We went during the summer with our kids and chose Oahu and Waikiki as a base because there’s always something open at most times of the day. Kauai is a honeymooners island where many places open and close early…dinner choices are limited to resorts and fast food if you wait too late.
In a week, we were able to do a lot of things and traverse most of Oahu. It can take you up to an hour to get from one side of the island to another most times of day. @hungryhungryhippos has have amazing tips for first timers.
I was so spoiled by Hawaiian poké from grocery stores…so good, it makes you quit poké from the mainland permanently.
+1 on Maguro Brothers, Leonard’s and KoKo Head Cafe
Waiola Shaved Ice > Matsumoto’s (we went almost every day we were there)
Ray’s Kiawe Chicken is knock your socks off wonderful (and convenient after a morning of shark caging)
I had a good time briefly browsing the Costco by the airport before checking into our hotel (also booked via Costco Travel with car rental). We got a lot of basic food gifts to bring home for folks (macadamia nuts, coffee, etc.).
Due to staffing issues, I’d recommend making dining reservations as soon as you know you’re traveling. We were only able to make reservations for one restaurant and relied on takeout or meals on the go out entire trip.


Thanks everybody for the helpful input. At this point we are just reading a lot of books/articles to get a feeling for the different islands. And I agree with the comments that Hawaii isn’t all about food but also a lot around exploring nature etc. It is interesting to see that some sources bring some island (and cities) close to mass tourism places like Mallorca in Europe which we really would like to avoid but also not looking for the other extreme of being so remote in some resort that you are 2-3 hours away from any other places beside your resort.

If you’re looking for any type of food exploration along with your Hawaiian vacation the only island to offer really anything would be oahu. Every where else is all about things to do on the island and food taking a backseat.

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Some other fun stuff to do in Honolulu.

Not sure if you have kids but we took the kids to Kualoa Ranch where they filmed Jurassic Park and a bunch of other movies. The tour was great and they especially loved the ATV.

We went snorkeling off Waikiki Beach to look at some turtles and fish. The water was very clear and got close to turtles. Would have preferred if the water wasn’t as deep. We had to dive down 15-20 feet and there was no coral reef. We would look for a more shallow area for snorkeling the next time maybe near some coral reefs.

Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha > Waiola Shaved Ice