My friend Doug Nordman of The Military Guide is a wealth of information. As a retired military submariner, he could have chosen anywhere to live, but the amazing surf of Hawaii has kept him in this paradise for many years. Doug offers some great tips about where to surf and plenty of other suggestions for things to do and eat on dry land in this episode.
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Hawaii is usually near the top of American’s dream places to visit. Although Hawaii is part of the US, it is several hours away by plane from the West Coast. And, when you arrived, Hawaii time is 3 hours behind California. So, be sure to set your clocks.
Oahu is known as “The Gathering Place” because it is the most populous of the Hawaiian islands. By size, it is the 3rd largest island. The weather is near perfect all year long, with temperatures in the 75* to 85* range almost every day.
We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out the Official Travel Site of Oahu, Hawaii, the local visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.
Best things to do in Oahu
Here are some of the best things to do in Oahu according to our local expert, Doug Nordman. And I’ve added some additional options based on my research and the places I’ve visited.
- Chun’s Reef – Doug’s favorite place to surf. It has a nice predictable break where you can catch the same wave over and over again. He’s in heaven when the waves are 12 to 14 feet.
- Diamond Head – good hike up to former WW1 and WW2 military “pillbox” with great views.
- Dole Plantation – you can visit the old plantation from when Hawaii was the largest producer of pineapples. You can try Dole Whip, explore the maze, ride the train, and buy some goodies in the gift shop. It’s along the road to North Shore.
- Hawaiian Railway – the only historic railroad on the island of Oahu and the only operating railroad museum in the state.
- Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau – stop by to receive coupons for local attractions and personalized recommendations for your vacation.
- Laniakea Beach – Doug says that you can reliably see sea turtles in the surf and sand at this beach. The turtles are Federally protected so do not touch or interfere with them.
- Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail – fun hike out to the point and lighthouse.
- North Shore – the waves are the biggest in the winter. Big surf competitions are held here in the winter with waves reaching 30 to 40 feet high. Waves are much smaller in the summer.
- Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center – so much to do here, you could spend several days exploring all of the museums and tours. Boat tour to USS Arizona Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum, USS Bowfin submarine, USS Missouri. The USS Arizona landing is closed for repairs, but you can still take the tour with the boat floating past it.
- Waikīkī Beach – a beach that is very popular with tourists. Lots of brand-name hotels here.
Here’s a short list of the current events happening in Oahu, Hawaii that you can buy tickets for.
Looking for other things to do? Here are the top 10 sightseeing tickets and packages for Oahu.
Or, you can buy one of the Lonely Planet books, which are another excellent resource. Their current promo offers 3 books for the price of two.
Best places to eat in Oahu
There’s always something tasty to eat when you visit Hawaii. Whether it is fresh Pineapple from the Dole Plantation, a “pupu platter” (aka hor ‘d oeuvres), or something savory like Loco Moco, you’re in for a culinary experience. Here are Doug’s recommendations for the best places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii.
- Cafe Haleiwa – is owned by two brothers. One of the brothers created the “bonzer” surf fin. All of the breakfast choices are delicious and they have fun surf-related names.
- Costco Wholesale – the pizza can’t be beaten for price, consistency, and taste. Usually, Doug makes pizza at home, but when he orders pizza, he usually grabs one from Costco.
- Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Doug says seafood is the best thing to eat on the island because it is so fresh. He loves to eat the shrimp here after a day of surfing at North Shore.
- Green World Coffee Farm – one of Doug’s favorite places on the island. Doug no longer drinks, so his favorite “happy hour” is having a fresh cup of coffee and sitting on the lanai watching the world go by.
- Impossible Pizza – this one-man pizza truck moves around, so tracking down this tasty pizza can be tough. They’re only open 3 days a week and don’t do social media. You’ll find it parked somewhere between Sunset Beach and Waimea. Ask a local where to find it or call them if you want to grab a slice.
- Leonard’s Bakery – this bakery has some of the best malasadas (the island’s version of doughnut holes). Every place offers them a little bit different with flavors and coatings. Malasadas are a special treat for Doug’s daughter whenever she comes home for a visit.
- Matsumoto Shave Ice – a lot of places offer shaved ice on the island, but none are as popular as Matsumoto’s.
- Zippy’s Wahiawa – this is a local chain restaurant. One of the popular dishes is called a “plate lunch” – otherwise known as “a working man’s lunch” because it can be 2,000 calories. It consists of your choice of meat, 2 big scoops of rice, and veggies, kimchi, or coleslaw.
Best places to stay in Oahu
When you come to visit Music City, here are the best places to stay in Oahu.
- Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa – this hotel is really spectacular. When I visited Oahu with Timothy a couple of years ago, we stayed near the Aulani. We walked over to check it out and it was top-notch, just like you would expect.
- Best Western The Plaza Hotel – this Best Western category 7 hotel is 32,000 points a night.
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort – this Hilton Honors category 7 resort is 30,000 to 60,000 points per night.
- Holiday Inn Express Waikiki – this IHG Rewards hotel is a category 7 and 40,000 points per night.
- Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa – this World of Hyatt category 5 resort is 20,000 points per night.
- Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club – when Timothy and visited Hawaii the first time, we stayed at this timeshare property. The pools are great, but the lagoon and its sunset are spectacular. It is a Marriott Rewards category 6 property that is 40,000 to 60,000 points per night.
- Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Waikiki – With Wyndham Rewards, any hotel is available for a fixed 15,000 per night.
AirBnB is also a great option. Use our referral link to get $40 off your first AirBnB stay.
For other hotel options and prices for the best places to stay in Oahu, use Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, Travelocity, or TripAdvisor.
If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.
Getting around Oahu
The local airport is Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (aka Honolulu Airport – HNL). It is the primary airport for all international traffic and most of the mainland US flights to Hawaii.
It is on the southern end of the island and is only 6 miles from Downtown Honolulu.
Doug recommends renting a car in order to see everything that the island of Oahu has to offer. If you need to rent a car, click here for the best offers from Avis, Budget, or Hertz.
Uber and Lyft are excellent ways to get around once you’ve parked for the day. Parking can be quite expensive around Waikiki, but it cheap and plentiful near North Shore and other surf spots.
If you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.
The Final Countdown
1) If a traveler could only have one meal in Oahu – Doug’s recommendation is to order anything from Cafe Haleiwa’s breakfast menu. Fill up your belly to get your energy for an awesome day of surfing.
2) Favorite memory of Oahu – most of Doug’s favorite memories are all about surfing. Chun’s Reef is his favorite spot to surf. When the waves are hitting 12 to 14 feet, he’s in heaven.
3) Happiest Happy Hour in Oahu – Doug’s alcohol days are over, so his drink of choice is locally brewed coffee. He likes to grab a cup of coffee at Green World Coffee and sit on the lanai, relax, and enjoy the afternoon.
4) Best place for pepperoni pizza in Oahu – normally, Doug will make homemade pizza with his wife. Since he doesn’t want hundreds of visitors from the show waiting on his doorstep, he said that you can’t go wrong with Costco. It’s a good quality pizza that is consistent and available for a good price.
I enjoy Costco pizza too, but I couldn’t let that be the recommendation when you travel to Oahu, so I did a little research and found a place I’d like to try. It’s called Impossible Pizza, and it’s a one-man pizza truck that parks in different spots along the beach 3 days a week. I’ve heard the pizzas are so big that they barely fit in the box.
Who is Doug Nordman?
Doug Nordman is retired from the Navy, after spending many years in submarines. While serving in the military, he became interested in personal finance and financial independence. By being frugal and investing the money he and his wife saved when he retired from the military in June 2002 Doug was able to stay retired, rather than need to join the civilian workforce.
Doug started The Military Guide as a way to share this knowledge with other military veterans and active-duty soldiers.
Here are a couple of articles that he’s written:
- CampFI And Camp Mustache Are Worth Your Time (And Money)
- How Much Is The COLA On My Military Pension?!?
- Get Help With Your Tax Returns!
As you can see, Doug’s writing is a valuable resource for anyone interested in personal finance, but some articles are specific to active duty military and those who have retired or left active duty for civilian life. Doug’s book “The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement” and his blog articles have lessons that apply whether or not you are in the military.
You can connect with Doug Nordman at the website and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Places we talked about on the podcast
Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Doug Nordman about Oahu, Hawaii. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.
- Red dots = best places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii.
- Green dots = best things to do in Oahu, Hawaii.
- Yellow dots = best places to stay in Oahu, Hawaii.
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Stay tuned for our next episode
Join us in the next episode when Bill Nowicki of the Marietta Stories Podcast shares why locals give directions based on The Big Chicken in Marietta, Georgia. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.
What’s your favorite part of Oahu, Hawaii? Let us know in the comment section below or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!
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Hawaii is an incredibly popular tourist destination. To learn more about the islands, please listen to our other podcast episodes for the state:
- Kona Coffee, Sea Turtles & Volcanoes National Park in Kona, Hawaii
- Gorgeous Sunrises From the Lanikai Pillboxes in Kailua, Hawaii
- Kim Julen is on the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii