Beaches, orchids, fresh fish: Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Honolulu.
Morning Hike: Honolulu is a city of early risers, so join predawn joggers and bikers on the two-mile coastal path that skirts Diamond Head Crater, where you’ll pass sleepy-eyed surfers scoping out the water conditions below. For Oahu’s best sunrise, take the invigorating 45-minute hike to the summit.
Weekend Market: The starting bell rings at 7:30 a.m. sharp at the Saturday KCC Farmer’s Market (Kapiolani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Rd.; 808/848-2074), but if you’re akamai (“smart,” in Hawaiian), you’ve arrived early to preorder your tart apple bananas, purple Okinawan sweet potatoes, aged honey, and fresh-baked breads. Fuel up on aromatic Kona coffee and sliced papaya with a wedge of lime.
Lunch Break: The office crowd lines up at Yama’s Fish Market (2332 Young St.; 808/941-9994; lunch for two $20), a concrete-floored takeout joint specializing in Hawaiian plate lunches. On the menu: laulau (pork and chicken wrapped in ti-plant leaves), 14 types of poke (marinated raw fish), sweet-and-sour spareribs, and Yama’s creamy, coconut-based haupia dessert—one of the island’s best.
Garden State: Follow the winding road through Palolo Valley’s residential Kaimuki neighborhood to Kawamoto Orchids (2630 Waiomao Rd.; 808/732-5808; kawamotoorchids.com), a three-acre nursery where a gruff Les Kawamoto—the second-generation owner—will advise on which of the kaleidoscopic flowers have a fighting chance in your hometown. He will pack and ship your buds for you. For more immediate gratification, head to Lin’s (1017 Maunakea St.; 808/537-4112; linsleishop.com) and Cindy’s (1034 Maunakea St.; 808/536-6538; cindysleishoppe.com), two family-owned lei makers in Chinatown—their fragrant pikake and plumeria leis start at just $5.
Hawaiiana: If retro island ephemera is your thing, Tincan Mailman (1026 Nuuanu Ave.; 808/524-3009; tincanmailman.net) is a must. The shop pays homage to 1950’s-era kitsch with silk Aloha shirts, hand-tinted postcards, and mahogany and mother-of-pearl ukuleles.
Drinks: Once-gritty Chinatown is undergoing a mini renaissance, thanks to the likes of French-inspired Brasserie du Vin (1115 Bethel St.; 808/545-1115; drinks for two $16). The candlelit space, across from the historic Hawaii Theatre, offers more than 200 wines from around the world.
Small Bites: Finding Hale Vietnam (1140 12th Ave.; 808/735-7581; dinner for two $30), down a tiny side street in Kaimuki, is part of the fun. You’ll be rewarded with fresh rice noodle salad topped with grilled pork and crispy, tender-on-the-inside spring rolls (the secret ingredient: taro).
Seaside Jaunt: The macadamia nut pancakes at Boots & Kimos (151 Hekili St.; 808/263-7929; breakfast for two $20), smothered in a sugar and butter concoction with macadamia shavings, are reason enough to make the 15-minute drive along the lush Pali Highway to Kailua. But don’t miss Lanikai Beach Park, a few minutes east, where locals take their morning strolls on the mile-long white-sand beach.
Far East Flavors: The Honolulu outpost of Japan’s oldest department store is now locally owned, but Shirokiya (1450 Ala Moana Blvd.; 808/973-9111; shirokiya.com) still delivers all the products any Japanophile could crave, from rice cookers and red bean–filled manju buns to $200 bottles of sake.
Comfort Food: The house-made noodles at the always crowded Jimbo (1936 S. King St.; 808/947-2211; lunch for two $40), in the bustling center of town, have a cult following. Order the nabeyaki udon, served in an earthenware pot with a smoky bonito-based broth and topped with shrimp and eggplant tempura.
Made to Measure: Her use of vintage Japanese kimono and obi fabrics has earned Honolulu native Anne Namba (324 Kamani St.; 808/589-1135; annenamba.com) a name outside Hawaii. In 2009 she designed the Savonlinna Opera Festival’s Madama Butterfly costumes, and fans include Hillary Clinton and Aretha Franklin. Namba’s namesake shop sells her latest creations, from evening gowns to clutches and men’s shirts.
Sugar Rush: Though it’s not much to look at—a pocket-size operation with a single bench outside—the beloved Shimazu Store (330 N. School St.; 808/371-8899; dessert for two $6) is a fine place to beat the afternoon heat. Owner Kelvin Shimazu mixes 64 flavors of shave ice by hand. He’s earned a reputation for dreaming up new flavors (crème brûlée) while doing justice to old favorites (li hing; pickled mango).
Final Feast: Seasonal ingredients are front and center at Town (3435 Waialae Ave.; 808/735-5900; dinner for two $70), where the menu changes nightly. A few recent standouts: risotto with pepeiao (Hawaiian wood ear mushrooms) and a tender Big Island strip loin.