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HONOLULU Magazine’s Summer 2019 Bucket List: The 53 Best Things to Do on O‘ahu

We rounded up your must-do list for the season so you can plan the best summer ever.


Published:

The first official day of summer is June 21. Then, there are just 94 days until fall sets in. Don’t panic. But don’t waste any of that additional sunlight (on average, about two hours more than the winter). We’re on it. 

 


1. Go art-hunting in Kaimukī

Kaimuki

 

We want you to have the best summer ever, starting with a ton of newly painted electrical boxes in Kaimukī. Above, Gemma Hazen’s art can be found outside Mud Hen Water

 


2. Best of Honolulu Festival presented by American Savings Bank

Best of Honolulu Festival

PHOTO: TIEN ENGA

 

Bring the family to the Best of Honolulu Festival July 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Honolulu Hale civic grounds. Eat ‘ono food, shop local designers in the marketplace and bring the family to the keiki zone for face painting, balloon animals, rides, games and more.

For more information visit honolulumagazine.com/bestofhonolulu

 


3. Riding a bike over to Waiola Shave Ice for a rainbow cone with mochi and ice cream.

 


SEE ALSO: The Best Honolulu Shave Ice You’ve Probably Never Tried


 

4. Hit farmers markets islandwide for the best lychee. A North Shore Country Market vendor won (sticky) hands down last summer.

 

 


5. Try these six O‘ahu walking tours 

walking tours in waikiki

PHOTO: COURTESY OF NATIVE HAWAIIAN HOSPITALITY ASSOCIATION

 

Feel like a tourist in your own city by learning about O‘ahu’s historic neighborhoods. Read more

 


6. 24 hikes we like 

Wiliwilinui Ridge hike

PHOTO: SAVANNAH L. MURRAY

 

We’ve rounded up our top picks for the best hikes on our island. Read more

 


SEE ALSO: A Local’s Guide to Buying Reef-Safe Sunscreen


 

7. Our guide to Honolulu’s comic conventions 

Comic Con Honolulu

PHOTO: TIEN ENGA

 

Here’s a guide to help you sort through the events this year. Read more

 


8. The Ultimate Kaka‘ako Brewery and Beer Bar Crawl 

Honolulu Brewery Crawl

Photo: Katie Kenny

 

From breweries to bottle shops to hard to find brews and beyond, discover the best bars this Honolulu neighborhood has to offer with our new beer crawl guide. Read more

 


9. 8 Public Swimming Pools on O‘ahu 

best public pools in Hawaii

Photo: Martha Cheng

 

From Wahiawā to Kāne‘ohe, from the hidden to the new, we searched O‘ahu for the best public pool. Read more

 


10. North Shore Ocean Fest

Saturday, June 1 | 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

North Shore Ocean Fest

PHOTO: COURTESY OF NORTH SHORE OCEAN FEST

 

Head north for a day filled with art, food and music at the eighth annual Ocean Fest. Start with a morning 5K, but don’t take off after the race without exploring a life-sized inflatable humpback whale—inside and out—with NOAA experts. Listen to live poetry or learn to snorkel before replenishing those calories with tacos, burgers and garlic shrimp from food vendors. This event is plastic free, so make sure to fill your water bottle.​

Bayview Lawn at Turtle Bay Resort, Free, northshoreoceanfest.com

 


11. Ali Wong: The Milk & Money Tour

Sunday, June 12–Wednesday, June 15 | 7 p.m.

Stand up comedy

PHOTO: COURTESY OF BLAISDELL CENTER

 

Get ready to get down to the nitty-gritty of motherhood with this comedian and mother of two.​

Blaisdell Concert Hall, $49.50 and up, blaisdellcenter.com

 


12. Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i Book Sale

 


13. Buy Gabe Sachter-Smith’s bananas

Bananas

Photo: Martha Cheng

 

At the Saturday morning Kaka‘ako farmers market in the Counter Culture farm’s tent. Read more

 


14. Go neon sign-hunting at night

 


SEE ALSO: O‘ahu in 2010: The Neon Signs of Honoulu


 

15. shop a limited-edition summer collection

 


16. Upgrade your kicks collection

 


17. Love + Monsters Hawai‘i fashion show

Friday, June 7, 7 p.m., Hawai‘i State Art Museum, 250 S. Hotel St.

 


SEE ALSO: 6 Questions With the Woman Behind Local Brand Love + Monsters Hawai‘i


 

18. Pedal the Pearl Harbor bike path

 


19. Vintage Vibe Fundraiser

A benefit gala event for The Hawaiian Music Archives Foundation, marking the 40th anniversary of Territorial Airwaves, will be held June 14 in the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian hotel. Performers include: Kimo Alama Keaulana and Lei Hulu, Alan Akaka and the Islanders, Raiatea Helm, Nā Hoa and Ho‘okena.

For tickets and more info, go to territorialairwaves.com.

 


20. Hit the beach for 10 hours

Stand Up Paddle Board

Photo: Getty Images

 

The longest day of the year, the summer equinox, falls on a Friday this year. On June 21, expect 13 hours and 26 minutes from sunrise to sunset. Pack a few of our 50 essential Hawai‘i books and extra reef-safe sunscreen.

 


21. Join a sunset cruise

Yes, there’s a good chance you’ll be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists. And we’re not exactly talking about top-shelf pours. But jump on one of the booze cruise catamarans—there is something very carefree about sipping multiple drinks while lying on netting just a couple of feet above the ocean.

 


SEE ALSO: 7 Eco-Friendly Cups, Flasks and Bottles You Can Buy on O‘ahu


 

22. Try every frozen boozy drink you can find

Frozen booze

Flavors and availability change with the season, but we’ve sipped some of our  favorites at: Piggy Smalls and Encore Saloon (each have rotating slushy flavors); Downbeat Diner or The Counter (spike the milkshake of your choice); Bevy; Harry’s Hardware Emporium; The Street; Hukilau; and Morimoto Asia Waikīkī.

 


23. Lose your shadow

Here’s a bit of trivia. Hawai‘i is the only state located between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Why does this matter? It’s the only place in the U.S. where the sun shines directly above us. The phenomenon, locally called Lahaina Noon (a moniker from a Bishop Museum naming contest in 1990), creates a moment when shadows disappear. It only happens twice a year—once in May, once in July. O‘ahu’s last chance to experience the “cruel sun” this year will be July 14 at 12:38 p.m. in Hale‘iwa, July 16 at 12:38 p.m. in Honolulu and 12:37 p.m. in Kāne‘ohe.

 


24. Walk through historic homes

We’ve been waiting for years, three to be exact, for the return of Mālama Mānoa’s triennial Walking Tour. This year, we’re invited into historic homes on College Hill, a series of homes right across from the UH Mānoa campus. UH moved to the area in 1912, but many of the houses on the hill predate it. Mālama Mānoa says the lots were developed in 1899 to raise money for Punahou School. Seven homeowners will welcome visitors into their 80- to 100-year-old residences while the self-guided route takes you past 60 other architectural beauties. Here are a few tips from those in the know: Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off, since you will leave them at the door. One experienced tour taker suggests stashing shoes in a tote to sling over your shoulder because you’ll often enter and exit through different places. Bring water, an umbrella (it is Mānoa, after all) and sunscreen, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. $40. June 15, 8:30 a.m. to noon, route begins at Kamānele Park at University Avenue and Kā‘ala Street,

malamamanoawalk.eventbrite.com

 


25. Go Zip lining!

zip lining

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

Because zip lining in the rain is nowhere near as fun.

 


26. Visit Shangri La at night

The striking museum of Islamic art, culture and design is open to public tours during the day. But the intricate architecture and décor influenced by Doris Duke’s travels around the world take on an intriguing feel once the sun goes down. As this magazine was heading to the printer, no public events had yet been scheduled. But the new artists-in-residence, music duo The Reminders, may perform their soulful music some enchanted evening.

Go to shangrilahawaii.org for updates.

 


27. Tailgate at a polo game

tailgating at Honolulu Polo

Photo: David Croxford

 

Even if you’ve never seen a single chukker, there’s no shame in simply opening a bottle of wine on the sidelines at this game of kings. Tailgating is allowed at both the Honolulu Polo Club in Waimānalo and Hawai‘i Polo Club in Mokulē‘ia. On the North Shore, start early with a day pass to set up beachside and stick around for live music after the match. On the Windward Side, slide into the grandstand wearing your smartest hat. With season passes going for just $250 and $100 per person respectively (and kids free), you won’t go broke spending the summer in the country.

Matches are weekends through Labor Day in Mokulē‘ia, hawaii-polo.org; and through October in Waimānalo, honolulupolo.org

 


28. See a parade in Waikīkī

Pā‘ū riders and flower-decked floats will move down Kalākaua Avenue for the King Kamehameha Floral Parade on June 8; or sit curbside for taiko drumming, dancing and the floats of the Pan-Pacific Parade on June 9.

 


SEE ALSO: Meet the Aloha Festivals Floral Parade's Pā‘ū Rider


 

29. Learn to surf from a Waikīkī beachboy

Waikiki Beach Boys

Photos: SEAN MARRS

 

It’s OK to admit you’ve never paddled out before. The beachboys have been helping people catch their first wave since about 1901. Seek out a city-run concession for the best range of services (and prices) and be sure to opt in to the photography services offered at some of the stands. You’ll want that snapshot to back up your surf sesh stories.

 


SEE ALSO: Our Waikīkī: Meet the Hawai‘i Beachboys Keeping the Tradition Alive


 

30. Surf with your pet at Duke’s OceanFest

Surf with your pet

Hang four at the Going to the Dogs surFUR comPETition, Aug. 20 at Kūhiō Beach in Waikīkī. You can also grab a seat in the sand Aug. 17 and 18 to watch keiki rip up the south swell in the Menehune competition, and Aug. 21 and 22 for the always acrobatic tandem contest. 

dukesoceanfest.com

 


31. Sign up to go over the edge

rappelling

 

Every October, dozens of people rappel more than 400 feet down the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī Beach Resort to raise money for Special Olympics Hawai‘i. Early-bird sign-ups open this summer and with only about 100 spaces, spots disappear quickly. It’s $100 to register and you are asked to raise at least $1,000 for the charity. But it’s the only way to indulge your inner Spider-Man, legally at least, and help local athletes. 

sohawaii.org

 


32. GO SHRIMP TRUCK HOPPING ON THE NORTH SHORE

Bring hand wipes, breath mints, cans of local brews and get ready for the epic garlic-shrimp-plate battle.

 


33. Take a photo in front of the Hale‘iwa wings mural

wings

 

We won’t get into the whole North Shore shave ice debate (Aoki’s vs. Matsumoto’s has the potential to hit Montague/Capulet-esque status), but another shop has this Instagrammable pair of wings adorning its wall. Los Angeles artist Colette Miller—who lived here as a child—brushed the wings on Anahulu Shave Ice’s wall in 2015, one of about 100 interactive paintings she did across the world. Avoid the big surf gridlock of the winter and head north during small swell months to have someone snap your photo (selfies of the entire painting are impossible). While you’re there, check out the Hale‘iwa Arts Festival on July 13 and 14. Wings: 62-620 Kamehameha Highway, Hale‘iwa.

Hale‘iwa Arts Festival, Hale‘iwa Beach Park, haleiwaartsfestival.org

 


34. Visit all the botanical gardens

botanical gardens

From desertscapes to a family-friendly fishing spot with a Ko‘olau backdrop, Honolulu’s five botanical gardens offer vastly different landscapes to explore. All offer classes, ranging from shibori (indigo dyeing) to ti-leaf lei making. The best part: With the exception of Foster Botanical Garden, admission is free. Foster, Ho‘omaluhia, Koko Head, Lili‘uokalani and Wahiawā botanical gardens. 

honolulu.gov

 


35. See Foster Botanical Garden gleam

The gates off of Vineyard Boulevard usually close at 4 p.m. But one night a year, the garden glows after dark for Midsummer Night’s Gleam. Wander among more than 2,000 luminaries set up among the greenery, and make sure to bring the right gear for low-light photos. If you want to avoid the inevitable crowds, don’t arrive on time. Families show up before the garden opens to get a jump-start on dozens of free keiki activities. About an hour before closing, many younger kids are already off to bed, leaving more room to wander and a better shot at a nearby parking space.

Saturday, July 20, 4 to 9 p.m. Foster Botanical Garden, 180 N. Vineyard Blvd., honolulu.gov/parks

 


36. Pick up an ‘ukulele

Free lessons and lots of live music will be part of the celebration for one of our favorite stringed instruments at ‘Ukulele Festival Hawai‘i. July 21, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Kapi‘olani Park Bandstand, ukulelefestivalhawaii.org. Or, take advantage of the complimentary lessons offered at many hotels. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at noon newbies can pick up strumming tips at Royal Hawaiian Center. Note that these are among the most popular free classes there, so you need to sign up as early as 10 a.m.

royalhawaiiancenter.com

 


37. PACK POPCORN FOR AN outdoor movie

Here are a few outdoor big screens that pop up during the summer: Wet’n’Wild Hawai‘i’s Dive’n’Movie (two Saturdays in June and August, every Saturday in July, discounted admission after 5 p.m.); Waimea Valley’s Screen on the Green (free every Thursday from June 7 to July 25, except for July 4, at 7:15 p.m.); Movie on the Beach at Duke’s OceanFest (free on Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at Queen’s Beach); and Courtyard Cinema at Ward Village (free with RSVP on the second Thursday of every month, 6 p.m.).

 


38. Eat, dance and explore at an ethnic festival

bon dance

PHOTOS: TIEN ENGA

 

Five festivals will bring us kim chee, kalbi, andagi and noodle booths over the next three months. Pan-Pacific Festival Ho‘olaule‘a, June 7; Mō‘ili‘ili Summer Fest, July 6; Prince Lot Hula Festival, July 20 and July 21; Korean Festival, Aug. 11; and the Okinawan Festival, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Sorry, gyro fans, this year’s Greek Festival at Ala Moana Beach Park has been canceled because of park renovations.

 


SEE ALSO: Best of the Fests: O‘ahu’s 21 Annual Ethnic Festivals


 

39. Join a bon dance

Rookies, follow everyone else. If you get confused, don’t stop moving forward—it can mess up the rest of the line. And be ready to wait for andagi. Bon dances run June through September. Check out our ultimate guide to Hawaiʻi’s summer Bon Dance schedule.

 


40. Eat local oysters at Kualoa Ranch

You may need to spend a few hours watching YouTube videos to learn how to open it, but once you’re slurping an icy-cold, fresh Kualoa Ranch oyster off the half shell, regrets will be few. The ranch only sells its briny, kelpy and overall delicious oysters (12 for $15) to customers at its visitor center. Sales are Thursday through Sunday, but we suggest getting there before the weekend, before supplies run out, or you’ll be left just saying shucks. (We couldn’t resist.) And if you plan to pick up the ranch’s saltwater shrimp—why not—make sure to order 24 hours in advance.

Kualoa Ranch, 49-560 Kamehameha Highway, Kāne‘ohe, call to check on availability, (808) 237-7321, kualoa.com

 


41. Watch fourth of July fireworks (AND TAKE FRIDAY OFF)

fireworks

 

Shows will launch at Ala Moana Beach Park, in Kailua and near the USS Missouri. Since the national holiday is on Thursday this year, you can double up by sitting on the beach of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Lagoon the next day to catch the 8 p.m. Friday night fireworks in Waikīkī. 

Fireworks shows: alamoanacenter.com, kailuafireworks.net, ussmissouri.org

 


42. Watch the Warriors’ season opener

Warriors

The UH Mānoa football team is on a Roll-ovich. The Warriors closed last season with their best record in eight years (8-5) and a bowl appearance, earning head coach Nick Rolovich a two-year contract extension. UH will open the season at home Aug. 24 with a big-time win against the Wildcats of Arizona. Before that, on Aug. 14 you can kick-start the season downtown when Don Murphy hosts the Pigskin Pigout, a drink-and-eat fest on Nu‘uanu Avenue to raise money for the program. 

UH vs. Arizona, Aug. 24, Aloha Stadium, hawaiiathletics.com

 


43. And cheer on high school football

UH isn’t the only local team taking on some national heavyweights. Two of the top state prep football programs will face major Mainland powerhouses just six days later. The defending state champion Saint Louis Crusaders will kick off against Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman, Nevada’s champs for the past 10 years, at Aloha Stadium. Meanwhile, the Mililani High School Trojans will host Henderson, Nevada’s Liberty High School on their field.

Saturday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m. Aloha Stadium, and Mililani High School.

 


44. Watch Shakespeare in the park

A virtuous woman wronged, a proud man tricked into falling in love and inept watchmen take on misunderstandings, duels and, of course, a wedding in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The comedy is one of three of the bard’s plays at this year’s Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival and the only one performed outdoors. Bring a picnic blanket and snacks (and an English major if iambic pentameter is not your thing) for the sunset performance at Hawaiian Mission Houses.

Runs Thursday through Saturday from Aug. 1 to 17, 7:30 p.m., hawaiishakes.org

 


45. Pick and pickle a mango

mango

There are hundreds of types of mangoes, but the local favorites largely peak in June (Haden, Mapulehu) and July (Pirie, Rapoza). You know the rule: If it’s over the fence it’s fair game; reaching over a fence is not allowed. But if things are still green, it’s time to pickle. The most basic recipes call for one-part rice vinegar, two-parts sugar and ¼-part Hawaiian salt combined, boiled and poured over sliced green mango. Toss in some li hing if you like, then let sit for 24 hours.

Other local fruit in season during the summer include loquat, lime and liliko‘i. We have the ultimate guide to local fruit.

 


46. Or just eat many mango dishes

Food is always a big part of the free Mango Jam festival, which is set for June 21 and 22 at Honolulu Hale. We’re still waiting for this year’s list of dishes, but last year it included mango mochiko chicken, mango haupia and mango cheesecake lumpia.

mangojamhonolulu.com

 


47. Go on a hike

Don’t go hiking after sunset. That’s pretty much a rule. But summer lets you tackle those longer, challenging treks up the mountain by giving you a few more hours. One suggestion from Mike Algiers, a member of the Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club, is the Kealia trail just behind Dillingham Airfield. A series of switchbacks leads up the steep cliff, with Instagrammable ocean views all along the way. “For the more ambitious hikers, there is an option after reaching the top to continue walking up the dirt firebreak road,” Algiers says, “which takes you to the rim of Mākua Valley [with] the panoramic view of the valley and the south shore beaches and ocean below.” Or, take on the Kuli‘ou‘ou Trail in Kuli‘ou‘ou Valley, which leads to a vantage point of Waimānalo. Take water, snacks, a rain jacket, cell phone and map, and do not, the club says, go on trails that are off-limits. Find more information about trails at hawaiitrails.

hawaii.gov

 


48. Set your alarm to look up

meteor shower

There’s a reason the Perseid Meteor shower is one of the most popular. As many as 80 shooting stars streak across the sky every hour. The Bishop Museum says the almost-full moon will make spotting meteors tricky during the shower’s peak on Aug. 12 and 13, so wake up after the moon sets at 4:30 a.m. on either day for the best view. Or join the Hawaiian Astronomical Society’s free viewing party on Aug. 10 at Kāhala Community Park near Kāhala Elementary to get a good look (and some guidance) through telescopes. Remember, leave the flashlights at home.

hawastsoc.org

 


49. Cook something new

 

 


50. Find the magic bus

 

Party Like a Pro

Long waits, wrong gear and bad seats can all happen to newbies at summer concerts. We cut the line here, with tips from longtime organizers and avid fans of some of the more popular series.


51. Picnic on the Pier

pier party

PHOTO: COURTESY OF BATTLESHIP MISSOURI MEMORIAL

 

Where: On the pier of the USS Missouri, The Mighty Mo.

What: This outdoor event with live music, keiki crafts, sunset tours and food only happens during the summer. It’s also one of the rare summer series that allows alcohol.

When: Fridays, June 21 and Aug. 16, 5:30 to 8 p.m.; Thursday, July 4, 6 to 9 p.m.

Pro Tips:

  • Get there early. Parking at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is a 15-minute shuttle ride from the pier. Arrive about a half-hour before the gates open to get optimum spots. 

  • Buy a table or bring beach chairs. The pier is a cool setting, but with hard seating.

  • The Fourth of July picnic always sells out, so register as soon as possible.

  • Tour the Missouri before sunset. Seeing the exhibits is trickier after the sun sets.

 


52. Ke Kani O Ke Kai

 

Where: Waikīkī Aquarium

What: Some of Hawai‘i’s top musicians play on the lawn in Waikīkī. During intermission, walk through the aquarium for an after-dark look at the sea creatures.

When: Every other Thursday, June 13 through Aug. 8. 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Pro Tips:

  • Your chair will determine your spot. Want to sit closest to the stage? Come with just a blanket to sit in the first zone. Low-back lawn chairs go in the middle, with regular lawn-chairs in

  • the back.

  • Leave work early. The gates open at 5:30 p.m. but the aquarium director, Andrew Rossiter, says the line starts forming around 4.

  • Bring a light rain jacket. Showers do happen and it can get cool once the sun sets.

  • Park at the Waikīkī Shell (there are no concerts scheduled for the summer, see page 19) or the Diamond Head Tennis Courts. Friends of the Waikīkī Aquarium board member Charlie Loomis says the walk isn’t bad if you cut through Kapi‘olani Park.

 


53. Ho‘i Hou Mai I Waimea

 

Where: Waimea Valley

What: Kalani Pe‘a, Maunalua, Maila Gibson, Ben Vegas and other favorite local entertainers perform afternoon concerts on the lawn of the lush North Shore valley.

When: The last Saturday of June, July and August, 3 to 6:30 p.m.

Pro Tips:

  • Outside food is allowed, but not alcohol. And since it’s the afternoon, we’re fans of stopping by the concession stand to grab a seasonal flavor of OnoPops.

 

 

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