By Kate Harris and Keith Tharp
Having the privilege to spend time every year in Hawaii often has us feeling humbled, as for many it’s a destination only achieved through a honeymoon. Our advantage though is in the ability to make suggestions and share our love for the island with other couples. Being vegan and living our values as we travel brings another element which isn’t easy to find in travel blogs. Hawaii is a state with an incredibly rich culture, appreciation for the aina (land) and respect for others. The aloha spirit is one you will likely carry with you long after your visit.
However tourism can often come into conflict with the culture and strength of the community, as many resorts source employees from abroad, profits not staying on the islands, and traditions watered down with commercialism. Homelessness has been on the rise as a result of tourism, and beaches are being inundated with plastic pollution. Our mission when traveling is to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Here are some suggestions to help you do the same while celebrating your new marriage!
Our travel style is pretty casual. We prefer to immerse ourselves in a culture and support local, so veer away from resorts. Having family on island gives us the bonus of not requiring any lodging. They don’t offer home stays though, so we can give our suggestions on where we’d recommend.
Air BnB is a tricky beast on Oahu. In 2019 a law was passed curtailing this type of rental. Homelessness has become an ever increasing problem as housing stock gets transitioned into temporary rentals and affordable long-term options dwindle. The law combats this by only allowing a certain number of people to get legal certificates to operate house sharing facilities. As this is implemented, many non legal listings are being shut down. So if you book on a home share site, ask to see their certificate so you don’t run the risk of showing up and having no place to stay. Other great options are condo rentals. These are rooms built specifically for tourism and often come with many additional amenities.
Diamond Head Beach Hotel is a group of privately owned condos available for rent, perfectly located between Waikiki and Diamond Head. Enjoy the bustle of Honolulu’s tourist district in a more peaceful setting, with beach and mountain views and proximity to great dining options and ridge hikes.
Turtle Bay Resort is one of our favorites to recommend as they were started by locals back in 1972. While it’s since been sold, the resort maintains an authentic vibe and community landmark. Offering rooms, suites and cottages, it’s located on a peninsula at the edge of the North Shore with beaches, surfing spots, a golf course, hiking trails, and many more activities. Sip a cocktail or have snacks by the pool while watching the waves. Sign up for a session at the spa. Or drive further down the coast to surf beaches and towns. It’s definitely a special honeymoon worthy experience.
Locally owned Kalani Hawaii offers North Shore living in a modern boutique style, with options from dorms to suites and cottages. Walk to Sunset Beach, snorkel, surf and soak in the Aloha spirit.
D&D’s B&B in Kailua is a licensed cottage rental offering close proximity to downtown Kailua and Kailua Beach. Enjoy homelike comforts and all Kailua has to offer, from vegan eats to shops, spa, beaches, hiking and water sports.
Become one with the animals of the sea. Learn to go underwater with fellow vegan, Derek, as he instructs you through an experience of interaction rather than observation at Honolulu Freedivers. There is no SCUBA gear, so breathing and mental techniques are an active part of the experience.
Hiking Hawaii Cafe in Honolulu is more than just a great place for breakfast and lunch! They offer guided hiking and sightseeing tours. Operated and owned locally with a love for the land at their core.
Mahina Hawaii leads eco tours from a more local perspective. Sharing hikes, surfing, SUP, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming in waterfalls, cliff jumping you will be taken to the lesser-known spots which are local favorites. You’ll definitely create some social media envy with these tours, and may also tear up your return ticket.
Tour Kahumana Organic Farm in Waianae, then enjoy a vegan meal in their cafe. The proceeds help support the mission of their non-profit to provide services to homeless, people with developmental disabilities and youth. Bonus, this side of the island gets amazing sunsets!
Visit Aloha Animal Sanctuary, Hawaii’s first! They have regular visitor days, and other events. Or connect if you have a service to offer while on island!
Treat yourselves to a Lomilomi, a traditional Hawaiian massage, at Honu You in Kailua. They use organic and vegan products. Then hop over to Lanikai Beach for some more relaxation.
Pop into Honolulu and visit the Good Vibes Center. From yoga to documentary screenings and a vegan popup on Sundays, anything that brings people together for positive energy!
Saving the best for last here! Vegan options are abundant on Oahu. Breaking it down by location, here are some must visit spots!
Leahi Health for a fresh breakfast or lunch counter service option.
Tane Vegan Izakaya for amazing vegan sushi. Best to make a reservation well in advance.
Vegan Hills for lunch and dinner is 100% plant based just outside downtown.
Juicy Brew has two 100% vegan locations in Honolulu offering daily selections.
Salt and Pepper Cafe has a dedicated dinner style vegan menu for breakfast and lunch.
Island Brew Coffeehouse for breakfast, lunch and coffee with a water view; a great post hike spot (we recommend Koko Head Crater!)
Ai Love Nalo for an out of the way all vegan treat! Parking can be tricky, so arrive early for a lunch adventure. Then hit up Waimanalo Beach.
VedgeCo for food staples if you plan to cook for yourself. It’s like a vegan Costco!
The Beet Box Cafe is a must for plant based eats (they also serve eggs.)
Mother Bake Shop opened 2020 and is entirely vegan.
Banan for a sweet treat where you can have frozen bananas in ways you never imagined (locations in town as well.)
Down to Earth is a wonderful natural foods market with an amazing vegetarian deli, and made to order options (multiple locations.)
Lanikai Juice Company can fulfill your acai bowl dreams (take it to go and eat on the beach!) (Multiple locations.)
Morning Brew is the coffee shop of choice, with the bonus of vegan eats.
Taqueria El Gallo Rosa will satisfy your Taco Tues soul with their vegan taco options.
Kahuku Land Farms is a fruit stand along the road near Turtle Bay which offers a true island experience.
Hale’iwa Bowls will hit your smoothie bowl needs.
The Coffee Gallery is an artisanal hand roasted coffee shop with oodles of non dairy milk options and vegan bites (from smoothies to quinoa bowl and baked good), plus some art and shopping.
Rajanee Thai Haleiwa is a homey open-air Thai lunch and dinner spot with vibrant and delicious plates offering vegan options.
The Beet Box Cafe, while not in their original location, this is where it all began. It remains the most popular vegetarian spot.
Celestial Natural Foods is the local health food store where we’re pretty sure shoes may be optional. The Cosmic Kitchen is in the rear providing vegan eats, and lots of provisions for snacking or cooking line the shelves.
North Shore Goodies is an easy to miss shop, but you’ll be sorry if you do. Their coconut peanut butter combinations are heavenly, and make great vegan gifts!
For a comprehensive island dining guide with tips, check out the Vegetarian Society’s list.
Photos by Kate and Keith Photography
Kate & Keith are wedding and event photographers creating a work/life balance around sustainability and the outdoors. Both vegan, they are committed towards zero-waste initiatives and founded a non-profit (Sustainable Seacoast) in their home area to aid restaurants and events in eliminating single use plastics. Their passports show Southern Maine as home but are often found at family bases in New Jersey, Oahu, and Mount Desert Island, Maine. Loving to travel, they drive their Lobster Van (Promaster conversion) across the country for weddings, stashing their tiny Lagotto Romagnolo (dog) between camera bags and a Nutribullet, and using Happy Cow to explore vegan eateries along the way. They can easily be bribed with coconut milk cappuccinos. Read Kate and Keith’s articles