Things to do Honolulu | Kaimuki

#1 Rated Destination: Things To Do In Honolulu include Kaimuki + More

There’s no doubt about it. Travel has re-emerged with a vengeance. And no place appears to be as in demand as Honolulu. That according to a study released this week by Hilton, “Nearly 80% of Americans plan to take a wish list trip in the coming months.”

Hilton also said that of those surveyed, nearly 60% want to book nicer accommodations and stay longer than usual. The online survey of 2,000 nationally representative American adults was conducted for Hilton in May 2021 by OnePoll. Unfortunately, we do not know how these adults were picked and if only destinations with Hilton hotels could be chosen.

At the top of the list, those surveyed selected Honolulu as their most desired destination, followed by New York and Las Vegas. “These locales are far-flung, yet they share common traits such as world-class food, eye-catching scenery, and a wide array of attractions,” according to Hilton. Fifty-five percent said they planned to spend more than in the past after not traveling during COVID.

There is an abundance of desirable things to do in Honolulu, that’s for sure. In fact, we have a list of some of those below. There’s nothing we enjoy more, however than visiting the local neighborhoods. And among those, our top pick remains Kaimuki. You may have unknowingly been near Kaimuki many times when you stopped at Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas. It’s also an easy drive from Diamond Head and the Kahala Mall.

We’re always looking for new things to do in Honolulu, yet Kaimuki remains one of our all-time favorites. So next time you visit, take a short drive to this neighborhood jewel. From Waikiki, follow Kapahulu under the H1, and continue up Waialae to 8th Avenue. That’s where the Kaimuki business district begins. We visited Kaimuki just last week and can report that it is still unique and sleepy, yet thriving.

“Kaimuki reminds me of the old Hawaii in my dreams with its plantation-style homes. It’s familiar, even legendary to locals and often overlooked by visitors.”

You’ll find a multifarious mix of older businesses and chic contemporary stores and eateries if you go. The surroundings retain a historical charm waiting to be discovered.

Looking up to the heights, you’ll see homes stretching as far as the eye can see. The legend is that Menehunes built their ti root ovens here in the hillsides giving Kaimuki its name.

“Before leaving my car, I turn left up Sierra Drive and make my way to the top. I soon understand why King Kamehameha used Kaimuki as his lookout to watch approaching enemies from the ocean. Another monarch, King Kalakaua, used Kaimuki for peaceful purposes with his ostrich farm.”

It’s a spectacular view over Waikiki, and we like the unique perspective of Diamond Head. Up here, you may even spot your Waikiki hotel in the distance. If you see rainbows over the Pacific, think of famed entertainer Israel Kamakawiwo`ole “IZ,” raised here in Kaimuki.

At the end of the road is Lanipo trailhead. It’s a strenuous 7-mile ridge hike rated one of Oahu’s best. You can split the hike in half and go as far as “two summits.” When a burning desire to shop and eat strikes, turn your car downhill.

Kaimuki is Best Explored on Foot

The storefronts don’t do justice to the unique finds inside. Within a five-block area, you can find coffee bars, purchase every type of Hawaiian fabric, have your shoes fixed, take a yoga class, make art, buy crack seed in jars, find every bead on the planet, watch a foreign film at the Movie Museum (reservations required), select some vegetables at an outdoor produce stand, look for imported clothing and design, find discounts at a second-hand store and discover any sheet of music you want. That’s just the tip of the Kaimuki experience.

And if you’re looking for a discount on manicures and pedicures, you’ve come to the right place. Our favorite remains Smiley Nails (closed Wednesday), where patrons received massages while getting their nails done on the cheap.

After a shopping workout, it’s time to eat.

Kaimuki’s name stands for something food-related, the Ti root oven. That’s not surprising, considering all the dining options available. You’ll find bakeries and coffee bars, noodle shops, to fine dining. The food and styles are as diverse as the owners and their patrons.

We decided on lunch at Kaimuki Superette and sampled a variety of options, including the octopus roll and a plate of assorted salads. Delicious. From there, we headed over to Breadshop, where you can now order online. Now in business for four years, it is as good as, if not better than ever. Their specialties include artisanal bread and pastries. With yummy dessert in hand, we headed to The Curb for divine nitro iced coffee (currently to-go only). We can report that these were all superb.

Next time we plan to try a completely different set of restaurants. There are so many choices that it will take many return visits before we run out.

Other places we’ve enjoyed grub in Kaimuki include Mud Hen Water, and for dessert, try Otto Cake.

A Sample of Landmark Businesses in Kaimuki

Queen Theater has sat at the top of Waialae Avenue for over 75 years. It’s been closed for the past quarter-century and is on the list of national historic theaters. There is an ongoing grassroots effort to restore it as one of the few freestanding theaters remaining in Honolulu.

Kaimuki Dry Goods is the ultimate source of Hawaiian fabric, has been in business for over 80 years, and is still thriving. We purchased a remnant for $6 on a prior visit and later reupholstered chairs in 30 minutes using a staple gun.

Crack Seed Store has glass jars filled with these Hawaii unique sweet-salty delights. Ask for a sample to try.

The independent book store, Da Shop, is another favorite of ours.

Kaimuki Tips

  • Bring coins for parking (essential) or see if you score something free on a side street.
  • Bus Riders can take route 303 from Waikiki.
  • Most stores are located between 8th and 13th Avenues.
  • Explore side streets for hidden finds.
  • The best shopping days are Monday through Saturday.
  • Kids will have fun at the neighborhood park.

Please share your Honolulu tips. 

Six other things we love to do in Honolulu include:

Waikiki Natatorium — Sans Souci Beach

Historic Ala Moana Beach Park at Waikiki

Updated Diamond Head Hike

Iolani Palace Features Hawaiian History For All

Honolulu Airport Reef Runway

Updated 6/19/21.

24 thoughts on “#1 Rated Destination: Things To Do In Honolulu include Kaimuki + More”

  1. Love this website! You saved us much trouble and angst with your information on COVID testing for travelers during the run-up to our trip to the Big Island and Kauai last month. Thanks for that! And, by the way, Brother IZ was born on Oahu, but grew up on Ni’i”hou. My back-door neighbor from Kauai played in a band with one of his brothers on Kauai. No matter, his music was the back drop of our years of visiting Hawaii and still is! Thanks again for your great information.

    1. Hi Karla.

      Thank you! Glad you were able to visit the BI and Kauai recently and we hope you have a great time.


  2. I still remember a great spot, off the beaten track in Kaimuki on Waialae, from the 1990’s, 3660 On the Rise, great spot and a respite from the crowded big names from The Black Orchid, John Dominus, Nick’s Fishmarket, Roy’s Hawaii Kai, Michel’s, Yanagi, Matteo’s and Hy’s. After 35 years of business and pleasure that brought us to the Islands, Oahu and Waikiki, remain our favorite, the energy, the International experience, with Covid have re-Scheduled 4 times since February 2020′ and are really looking forward to January ’22!

  3. So interesting! I lived in Waialae for 20+ years, left 33 years ago. But visit yearly now in Waikiki, and always visit W&M burgers on Waialae ave. (Usually take the bus from waikiki), and usually take cab to Side Street Inn in kapahulu for dinner (go early, always full). Try to go to McDonalds once for breakfast rice and eggs! And I am mostly vegetarian!

  4. The various Islands of Hawaii offer great expectations— and rightly so. HOWEVER, since the last year plus, it is NOT a visitor’s paradise !!! Look at the local governments and state government, it is no longer visitor friendly. (See car rental prices; various blocks to sightseeing; plus other impediments.) I think anybody that would want to visit the Islands in the near future is not playing with a full deck. A note, when my wife was alive, we would visit the four major island for a total of 3+ months per year. Unless something drastically changes in the near future, I will NEVER visit the Islands again !!!

  5. Thank you so much. Recently moved here from the Mainland, and want to be a local. We really appreciate the tips and directions

  6. Thanks for highlighting Kaimuki, recently moved after living there for over 60 years, born and raised. Most of the small mom and pop stores and eatery’s that made Kaimuki, Kaimuki have been closed for decades. My family lived next to Epiphany church / school, my siblings and I attended Epiphany transferred to St.Patrick’s/ Sacred Hearts, graduated from St. Louis High School. I’ll list the places we shopped and ate at as kids, hope it brings back some good memories. Aotani’s, Tanouye’s,National Dollar, Ben Franklin, Waialae Nui Farm Market,Zane’s Super Market, Paradise Market, 9th Ave. Bakery, Choice Bakery, Tropics Bakery, Stewart Drugs, Walrich, King’s Garden, Fuji’s Fishing Supply, Harry’s Music, Sakuda Shell Svc. Station, Hung Kung Restaurant, Viking Restaurant, Kaimuki Bowl, Sonny and Mike’s, Capitol’s AKA Caps, Kaimuki Pet Shop, Kaimuki Inn, and so much more that I’ve forgotten.Though there has been a slight resurgence lately, Kaimuki is no longer the family neighborhood it once was. With the building of H1 and young families relocating to new subdivisions in Hawaii Kai, Pearl City, Aiea, Kaimuki has become multi-generational households, with grandchildren and their parents returning to live with their grandparents and who never left. However, the neighborhood is still relatively quiet and mellow.But it’ll never be the Kaimuki of old.

  7. My husband and I followed your advice today. We started with the hike, around 11am, enjoyed strenuous amazing views, then parked at Koko Head Ave and Waialae Ave. I wish we had seen the post about the volcanic steam vents by Kiawe below!

    Stopped at Crack Seed Store. Because of covid restrictions, we couldn’t try any samples or linger. We bought a small amount of kumquat licorice (our favorite), dried mango (like from Costco), and sweet cherry (our least favorite). Last, to Otto Cake for good brownies and carrot cake with the very best cream cheese frosting ever! Does anyone have the recipe?


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