As summer fades, O‘ahu heats up with one-of-a-kind festivals and events, exciting attractions, and cutting-edge dining and shopping that exemplify the island’s creative energy. This East-meets-West Pacific paradise sparkles and shines, revealing different facets of contemporary and historic Hawai‘i. Discover up-and-coming Honolulu neighborhoods, Waikı¯kı¯’s resort vibe, laid-back surfer towns, golden beaches edged by sapphire waters, and brilliant emerald mountains and valleys. What’s more, autumn on O‘ahu means fewer crowds and wonderful travel offers. So book a flight, reserve your room, and get ready for your fall O‘ahu getaway today.
WHAT’S HAPPENING: FOOD AND FASHION ALOHA STYLE
Plan your fall travel around one of O‘ahu’s inspiring festivals that capture the essence and spirit of Hawai‘i. For starters, imagine sipping fabulous wine and tasting a master chef’s creation as the sun sets with Diamond Head in the background. Moments like these await during the 5th Annual Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival (hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com) on O‘ahu September 9 through 13. Co-founded by Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong—James Beard Award-winning chefs and O‘ahu restaurateurs—the festival showcases the natural bounty of Hawai‘i’s farms, ranches, and seas. Nearly 100 internationally renowned chefs (including L.A.’s Nancy Silverton of Mozza, Sang Yoon of Lukshon, and Sherry Yard of Helms Bakery) will prepare inventive dishes with island-sourced ingredients during this five-day culinary adventure also starring leaders in the wine, spirits, and food worlds.
Exciting events abound. Master mixologists and top chefs will team up at the Asian-inspired Chopstix & Cocktails. Corks & Forks will feature top-rated red wines from the Pacific Coast. And Battle of the Brunch Showdown II requires your vote and your palate. If you like yoga and sake, don’t miss new Après Yoga: After Savasana, There Is Sake.
Fashion, style, and shopping are always important on vacation and they all come together during the 2nd Annual Honolulu Fashion Week (honolulufashionweek.com) November 20 through 22. Honolulu Magazine is again teaming with island-born Lynne Hanzawa O’Neill, the mastermind behind many of New York Fashion Week’s shows, to showcase Hawai‘i’s hottest designers of street smart urban wear, contemporary tropical styles, and sizzling swimwear. Head to the Hawai‘i Convention Center to attend dazzling live fashion shows including Live Aloha (Hawai‘i designers), Get Out (Hawai‘i and international swimwear), and Runway to Runway (sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines and featuring designers from cities where they fly). Shop the lobby, which will be transformed into boutiques filled with original looks from local designers. You’ll discover intelligent, beautiful, and functional styles perfect for warm weather destinations.
IN AND AROUND WAIKı¯Kı¯ AND HONOLULU
O‘ahu offers such a rich and deep array of easily accessible town, beach, and country experiences. While you’re staying on Waikīkī Beach, you might begin the morning with a run in Kapi‘olani Park or a hike up Diamond Head and then enjoy breakfast by the beach.Later in the day, explore Honolulu’s Chinatown. This historic immigrant gateway, known for traditional Chinese markets, ethnic eateries, and authentic lei shops, is also a trendsetting dining, arts, and shopping district. Head to Fighting Eel (fightingeel.com) for breezy, trendy fashions. La Muse (lamusehawaii.com) has a highly curated collection of trinkets, luxe clothing, beautiful jewelry, and home goods. And Hound and Quail (houndandquail.com) offers mid-century vintage treasures from Hawai‘i, the mainland, and around the globe. Sample O‘ahu-made artisanal chocolates at Madre (madrechocolate.com) and contemporary Southeast Asian fare at The Pig and The Lady (thepigandthelady.com), which started as a farmers’ market stand. Chinatown’s monthly First Fridays Art Walk (firstfridayhawaii.com) is an opportunity to experience the island’s progressive art scene at galleries and artists’ studios, listen to live music, and stay late to dine and enjoy Chinatown’s bar scene and nightlife.
Just steps from Chinatown, Honolulu is bursting with cultural attractions that tell the story of Hawai‘i’s past. Bishop Museum (bishopmuseum.org) reveals how Polynesians paddled across the Pacific nearly 2,000 years ago to settle the Hawaiian archipelago, while ‘Iolani Palace (iolanipalace.org) recalls Hawai‘i’s time as a royal kingdom.
In the up-and-coming Kaka‘ako neighborhood, the weekly Kaka‘ako Farmers’ Market (farmloversmarkets.com) at Ward Warehouse showcases the abundance of O‘ahu’s farms and ranches. Over at Ward Village, Mori (artandflea.com), a gallery-like space, features a rotating list of designers and artists who make everything from jewelry to clothing and more. And at Paiko (paikohawaii.com), a botanical boutique and coffee bar named after a local beach, you’ll find amazing planters and related products. Kaka‘ako is home to the Eat the Street food truck rally the last Friday of every month, which brings together the best street food vendors in Hawai’i. On the third Saturday each month, Honolulu Night Market is a giant indoor/outdoor block party with a fashion show, shopping, skate ramp, live music, two bars, art, and great street food.
GET OUT OF TOWN: WINDWARD COAST AND NORTH SHORE TRAVELS
Beyond vibrant Honolulu and Waikīkī, most of O‘ahu is breathtaking mountains, valleys, beaches, and open lands. Rent a car and spend a few days exploring. Head over to southeast O‘ahu and the Windward Coast, where you can start with a morning snorkel session at pristine Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, set amidst a former volcanic crater, and then continue on to Hālona Blowhole where water spouts up to 30 feet in the air through an ancient lava tube. Next up, hike Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail, a two-mile round trip hike with incredible island and ocean vistas that ends at a point overlooking the lighthouse, built in 1909 on a cliff 600 feet above the Pacific. Farther up the road, Makapu‘u Point provides panoramic views of the Windward Coast, offshore islets, and even Moloka‘i. Relax over on Waimānalo Beach, known for clear, calm waters and powdery white sands.
Don’t miss O‘ahu’s fabled North Shore, where the world’s best surfers compete each November and December during the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing at Ali‘i Beach Park in Hale‘iwa, Banzai Pipeline, and Sunset Beach. You’ll want to slow down and savor the natural beauty of this amazing and dramatic coastline. Get a bird’s-eye view of the North Shore on the zipline at Keana Farms (climbworks.com). Learn how ancient Hawaiians lived off the land in Waimea Valley (waimeavalley.net) on a private guided hike with Hawaiian Hiking Company. Over in Hale’iwa, a quaint, laid-back surfer town, you’ll find wonderful boutiques, galleries, and cafés. And not far away, the historic Waialua Sugar Mill has locally handcrafted coffee, chocolate, and even surfboards. Quintessential North Shore food moments include the classic Hawaiian plate lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku, the famous chocolate haupia pie at Ted’s Bakery in Sunset Beach, and the shave ice at Matsumoto in Hale‘iwa.
‘ONO-LICIOUS (DELICIOUS) O‘AHU: NEW AND NOTEWORTHY EATERIES