It’s commonly understood that the best way to explore a new place is to go straight to the locals. Each week in the Urbanist, we take that wisdom one step further by seeking out not just locals but local experts — those who are especially well versed in their cities’ newest and most noteworthy scenes — to give us insider tips. This week, we asked Matt Kato, surf instructor at Ohana Surf Project, for his recommendations in Hawaii’s capital.
“Honolulu can definitely be romanticized, but it is a city. Those of us that live here lead fairly regular lives, but we do it in a beautiful place with comfortable weather. May, September, and October are the best times to visit. Just before summer and just after summer. The beaches in Waikiki have the most activity. Waikiki is pretty much a city vibe, especially the three-mile block near the ocean. There are streets that run parallel to the beach. You have Kalakaua Avenue, which is the closest street to the beach, then Kūhiō is right behind. Anywhere in Waikiki is pretty much a block away from the ocean. If you’re trying to get away from the hotels and resorts, you can go to North Shore or Mokuleia Beach. If you want to see the large waves on the North Shore, then visit during the winter. Mokuleia is on the northwest part of the island. It’s more secluded with super-beautiful beaches. But Lanikai Beach in Kailua on the east side is one of the all-time nicest beaches in Oahu.”
His Other Musts
“You can obviously get Hawaiian snacks from chain grocery stories, but Don Quijote is better. Don Quijote (801 Kaheka St.; 808-973-4800) is an Asian grocery store just outside Waikiki. It’s a great place to find local snacks at a good price; it’s way cheaper than anything you’d find at the ABC Stores that are everywhere in Waikiki. Popular snacks to take home are chocolate macadamia nuts and li hing mui. They also have a locally made section with T-shirts, souvenirs, hula-girl bottle openers, and other little knickknacks. In Chinatown, some of the blocks are lined with leis, like flower shop, flower shop, flower shop. It’s like the old-school Asian aunties who sit in their shops stringing up flowers. If you want a good Hawaiian lei that smells amazing, they have really good flower shops in Chinatown. There are a ton on Maunakea and Beretania streets.”