How to eat your way through Honolulu in 24 hours

TL;DR. Some of the cheapest flight to Oz route via Hawaii, so if you find yourself there on a long layover, make sure to hit up Leonard’s, 7-11, Diamond Head Cove and for some of the island’s sweetest treats.

On my way back home from the US, my manager asked me to attend a 3PM meeting with our VP. The time was going to be challenging given trans-Pacific flight schedules, but since I had to re-book my ticket anyways, I thought I’d try to make it work. I managed to find a route that would give me 12  hours in Honolulu, which was enough time to take my meeting and see some of Waikiki while I was at it. The icing on the cake was that it also happened to be the most affordable way to fly on short notice. In fact, the cheapest flights to Oz often route via Honolulu.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Oahu, but mostly on the East coast, where Rob was living and working when we met. I was initially annoyed with the layover, but was quickly awash with a wave of nostalgia when the pilot announced that we were flying over Waimanlo, Kailua, and Hawaii Kai. There is something incredibly calming about that first glimpse of the island surrounded by cerulean blue water.

A sort of homecoming for me as we approach the runway to the airport

Go 808 Express – to/from Waikiki for just $25

While most things in Hawaii are priced at a premium, rental car rates are some of the lowest in the country. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of fueling and parking a car in the short time I was there, but also didn’t want to waste money on a cab. I contacted Go 808 Express before my flight took off and was relieved to receive a confirmation when I landed. My driver arrived 25 minutes late to a very peeved customer, but managed to redeem herself by offering to stop at Leonard’s for my malasadas.

Portuguese malasadas at Leonard’s–like a donut, but warm and fluffier in the center

As penance for her tardiness, my driver offered to stop by Leonard’s, so I could in and buy a few of their signature malasadas. I like to think of them as the Portuguese version of donuts without the hole and always served warm, though the second point is probably unique to  Leonard’s. I’ve never tried the filled versions, but ordered one of each of the plains: Sugar, Cinnamon, Li Hing. Ling Hing is a sour plum flavor common in Asian cultures, so I’d definitely recommend giving the namesake malasada a try. It’s  a unique fusion of Hawaiian and Portuguese that you won’t get back on the mainland!

I like the li hing and cinnamon malasadas best!

Checking into the Hyatt Place in Waikiki

The Hyatt Place is at the East end of Waikiki with its Partial Ocean View Rooms offering views of Diamond Head as well. The room was spacious, clean and modern, while the staff greeted me with that warm island charm. As a Diamond, I was upgraded to the top floor with the view that you can see in the picture below. All in all, a great value that’s just a stone’s throw to the beach and Waikiki’s shopping strip.

Q4 2013

Make sure to check Hyatt’s best rate guarantee for all bookings! I saved $40 on mine.

The institution that is 7-11 & its spam musubi

In some part of the world, 7-11 is more than just a convenience store and gas station. In Japan, it’s a central fixture in daily life, where you can go to post mail, ship luggage, get cash using a foreign ATM card, and pay for flights. Similarly, 7-11 is an institution in Hawaii for spam musubi and according to my boyfriend, the best li-hing Sour Patch on the island.

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret–I love Spam!

They basically take Sour Patch Kids and cover them in their own brand of Li Hing powder.

Healthy eats at Diamond Head Cove

Reading my mind, Rob suggested I walk to my favorite Waikiki eatery, Diamond Head Cove, for a healthy fish salad and seemingly healthy açaí bowl. Portions are generous at the quirky cafe and I can’t imagine a better meal on a humid Hawaiian afternoon. It’s a personal favorite of mine, but probably not the most iconic Hawaiian meal you could enjoy.

My favorite meal on the island: acai bowl and fish salad!

On my walk home that night, I passed by the Hilton Waikiki where Rob and I spent the last few hours of our first night together. High on bacon, maple syrup and blueberry pancakes, we rolled down the driveway of the Hilton, as evidenced by the photo below.


I was recovering from a massive food coma when I checked into my Air New Zealand flight to learn that it was delayed by two hours. Even though we still arrived on time, the airline gave everyone $15 vouchers to spend at the airport food court. I put mine towards a small pizza at CPK!

I’m hoping to have a more thorough post on Hawaii when I return from my weekend there in December. Stay tuned!



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