Honolulu is a study in vivid living. The Hawaiian state capital is a dynamic metropolis with cultural attractions, high-rises, and incredible bars and restaurants. It’s also home to picture-perfect beaches and parks where you can relax in nature. Beyond the big city, small towns and peaceful nature preserves inspire exploration across the island of Oahu. To learn some of the best ways to soak up the island’s bounty of urban and natural delights, we turned to Honolulu native Huy Vo. Huy is director of public relations at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach (383 Kalaimoku St. Tel: 808-922-8111. www.ritzcarlton.com/waikiki), and between his personal and professional pursuits, he’s got plenty of insights for travelers visiting brilliant Oahu.
Where are the coolest places to go for cocktails?
I get asked this question all the time, especially from visitors. Although Waikiki is a vibrant neighborhood with world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment, I always encourage our guests to venture outside and explore cool and hip neighborhoods like Downtown Honolulu and Kaka‘ako. Bar Leather Apron (745 Fort Street Mall. Tel: 808-524-0808. www.barleatherapron.com) is at the top of my list. It’s a small and intimate whiskey bar Downtown lead by award-winning mixologist Justin Park who is a three-time winner of the World’s Best mai tai competition. Although I mostly enjoy vodka, the bar’s old fashioned is a must. If you like Japanese green tea, they also serve an exceptional matcha old fashioned (Reservations are recommended.) Also located in Downtown is The Tchin Tchin! Bar (39 N. Hotel St. Tel: 808-528-1888. www.thetchintchinbar.com). It’s upstairs on Hotel Street in a cool space that has an open rooftop area with exposed brick and café lights that add to the ambiance. They offer a great craft cocktail menu, wine bar, and delectable bites. Manifest (32 N. Hotel St. Tel: 323-645-0763. www.manifesthawaii.com) is another favorite Downtown bar of mine that’s a coffee joint during weekdays, and lively club on weekend nights. Aside from the cocktails, I go for the hip-hop by live DJs on weekends.
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
Michel’s at the Colony Surf (2895 Kalakaua Ave. Tel: 808-923-6552. www.michelshawaii.com) is a lovely oceanfront restaurant located near the iconic Diamond Head landmark. It’s been around for over five decades and is truly a favorite with both locals and visitors, offering French cuisine, with live entertainment and the sounds of ocean waves. Hy’s Steak House (2440 Kūhiō Ave. Tel: 808-922-5555. www.hyswaikiki.com) has been around for more than 40 years and is perfect for a romantic dinner for its intimate, candlelit tables. I also have to mention Sushi Sho (383 Kalaimoku St. Tel: 808-729-9717) at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, because it’s truly a hidden gem that became popular through word of mouth. In Japan’s sushi world, Keiji Nakazawa is a renowned chef specializing in Edomae sushi, a style dating to the last days of the shoguns. For $300 per person, diners are presented with a life-changing sushi experience served omakase-style, where Chef Nakazawa selects 32 pieces served one at a time. There are just ten seats, and reservations are booked two months in advance (hotel guests often make their room and Sushi Sho reservations at the same time). Novice chefs flock to train under him, and gourmands rank it alongside Michelin-starred restaurants as a perennial favorite.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch in town?
Sunday brunch at Orchids (2199 Kalia Rd. Tel: 808-923-2311. www.halekulani.com) offers a spread of both cold and hot dishes and an astoundingly fresh seafood selection, all with tranquil ocean views on Waikiki Beach. Outside of Waikiki, Hoku’s (5000 Kahala Ave. Tel: 808-739-8760. www.hokuskahala.com) offers a popular brunch spread that has a line out the door every weekend. The restaurant’s ahi-poke musubi is one of my favorites. Both places require advanced reservations and enforce a dress code. For a more casual setting, Herringbone (2330 Kalakaua Ave. Tel: 808-797-2435. www.herringboneeats.com) at the newly renovated International Marketplace offers a mimosa brunch with live DJs on weekends.