This post is a few months overdue which isn’t surprising for the frequency with which I get posts up (this blog is a hobby for now after all). I did start planning it out after we got back from our trip then life happened., the holidays happened..and here we are. I’m almost happy it took me this long because now I get to go through all my photos from the trip and relive the memories through all the photos we took.
View from Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
I treasure the ability to take vacations and explore the world. My bucket list is 100 countries long and I value travel as an extremely important part of anyone’s life experience. We are lucky to have a great group of friends to travel with and when it was suggested that we all meet in Hawaii for a group trip, my boyfriend and I cashed in a stock pile of credit card points for flights and braced ourselves for the long flight to paradise…aka Oahu! I was nervous to take a full week off of work, but every minute cutoff from endless incoming emails and away from the stress of NYC is always worth it in hindsight. I took a zillion photos; I met a turtle, a shark, and a sea lion; I swam with sharks. I broke the trip up into a day by day itinerary below, and I hope it comes in useful to anyone thinking of a trip to The Aloha State.
View from USS Arizona Memorial
Day One: We woke up early at the Hilton Waikiki Beach and jumped in a cab to Leonard’s Bakery for Malasadas and coffee. Malasadas are Portugese donuts rolled in sugar and they come with multiple filling flavors so naturally we tried them all. We then made our way out to Pearl Harbor for their boat tour to the USS Arizona. The site is a beautiful memorial to a tragedy of wartime history and a must visit in Hawaii. Incredibly, the ship is still leaking oil into the bay and may continue to do so for another 500 years (small stop for history trivia!). We stopped for happy hour at Restaurant 604 to wait for the last of our friends to arrive in Oahu. Once they arrived, we drove out to our first AirBNB in Kailua, a town on the east coast of the island. The night was spent playing board games and drink beers, which is how most of our nights would end on the island.
Day Two: Still on New York time, we easily woke up early enough to walk the short distance to Kailua Beach Park to take in the gorgeous sunrise. The roosters on the island are quick to play the alarm clocks on the island so sunrises became a daily sight for the group. The weather was perfect to hike up the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. At the right time of year, this would be a perfect spot for whale watching but we settled for the breathtaking views. We ate brunch at Boots & Kimo’s before trying our first (of many!) shaved ices at The Local Hawaii. To be honest, this was not our favorite, but for fans of interesting flavor combinations, it could be worth a try.
Stop along the Lulumahu Waterfall Hike
Day Three: Another day, another hike. This day, we ventured out to what I know know is an unsanctioned hike (!) to the Lulumahu Waterfall. 100% worth the “trespassing.” The waterfall is absolutely gorgeous and the hike was just challenging enough to feel somewhat adventurous. We rewarded ourselves with giant sandwiches and spent the rest of the day at the beach. Today’s shaved ice choice topped them all: Island Ice, known for being a favorite of the Obamas. Oh, how I wish they had one of these in NYC. I’d eat it every day.
Waiola Shaved Ice (I ordered Obama’s “favorite” – essentially a rainbow of flavors)
Day Four: Another unforgettable sunrise before checking out of our Kailua beach house and driving towards the North Shore for the remainder of our stay on Oahu. We stopped along the way for a few baked Manapua Buns from Royal Kitchen. The drive included a scenic pull off to see the “Spitting Caves” and of course we needed more shaved ice. This time at Waiola. After checking into our amazing rental, we set ourselves up at Three Tables Beach.
Day Five: Sharks! Our whole group signed up for an early morning shark dive, one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. We took a boat out to sea, watched as the crew threw a large metal cage into shark infested water, and jumped in. The fear subsided, but it was a thrill to be in the water swimming close to these amazing creatures. A shark dive is a can’t miss experience in Oahu. By 11am, we had already snorkeled with sharks, eaten a breakfast of mahi mahi and eggs at Cafe Haleiwa, and were off to Matsumoto’s for…of course, more shaved ice. We stopped at Sharks Cove for more snorkeling (no actual sharks in this water) and to watch a surfer competition before venturing to Ted’s Bakery for garlic shrimp and pie (an unlikely but amazing combination that we repeated as many times as possible on this trip).
Our Turtle Friend!
Day Six: We cooked breakfast at the house and perched at Turtle Beach to try and spot a few sea turtles. Not long after we arrived, a big guy swam out of the water and waddled himself up onto shore. Such a peaceful and powerful sight. We found more garlic shrimp at Romy’s (a local suggestion) and drove to the cliff dive from Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Laie Point) so the boys could each take a turn leaping from the edge. We watched the sunset from a beach aptly named “Sunset Beach” and finished out our night at the Tiki Bar that our AirBNB conveniently came with.
Day Seven: A drive out to Hanauma Bay proved worth the admission fee to snorkel with incredible trumpet fish and various other sea life. Go early, this place gets crowded. We used the rest of out last day for one final round of food highlights (Cafe Haleiwa! Ted’s!) and our final beach day of the trip. A Hawaiian Monk Seal made a welcome appearance for a snooze on the beach and we rounded out our full experience of animal encounters on the island. The night ended at Turtle Bay Resort, drinking their famous Mai Tais and enjoying the breeze off the North Shore.
Day Eight: I woke up early for some final meditation on the beach (a visual I still try to manifest when feeling stressed!) while the sun rose one last time for us in Hawaii. We ate one last mahi mahi meal at Cafe Haleawi (at this point we were locals), and drove back towards Honolulu to wait out our flights with some Bloody Mary’s on top of the local mall.
Hawaii was simply magical.
I lifted the below idea from Cupcakes and Cashmere and I just love the ritual of summing up vacations into a few highlights.
Vacation in a word: Relaxation
Best meal: Garlic Shrimp + Pie @ Ted’s
Best thing we did: Shark Dive!
Go-to drink: Mai Tai
Best thing I packed: Sunscreen 50+
Best thing I brought back: A shaved ice magnet (we have started a geeky fridge collection)
Scent associated with the trip: Maui Babe Coconut Lotion
Best trip discovery: Codenames. Amazing group game