A Hawaiian Adventure: 6 Nights in Ohau
DISCLAIMER: Before writing this post, and even during, I struggled working out what ‘type’ of article I was actually writing. Now I’m done I’m still not sure. It’s not a travel piece, or a ‘highlight of Hawaii’ piece, or a ‘top ten lists’ piece. Instead, it’s a fairly long description of our 6 night vacation for anyone who is interested in a) what we actually got up to, or b) going to Oahu themselves and seeing what can be achieved in 6 nights. You have been warned.
I literally couldn’t sleep at all the week before my first trip to Hawaii this month. I was just. so. excited! This trip was the result of one too many drinks on Halloween last year, and myself, the manfriend and two amazing friends L and D were looking forward to a week in the sun together. Work has been pretty crazy recently, so it was nice to take the day off and get the most relaxing mani-pedi with L. I spent my evening packing mine and manfriend’s clothes into one 18kg suitcase; a feat we only just managed. We were ready to go!
Day 1: Travelling
Honolulu is only a 6 hour flight from Bellingham, WA (just across the border from Vancouver) but the timing of the flight and the buses resulted in a very long day. We left Downtown Vancouver at 12pm on the Quick Shuttle ($25 each way), arrived at the airport at 2:15pm, and waited in the little coffee shop until check in opened at 4pm. Bellingham airport is so small that they can only check in passengers for one flight at a time due to the size of their luggage room! Once we were through security we could relax in the bar and fill up on a burger and yam fries before boarding our air Air Allegiant plane (flights were $159.99 each way!). When we arrived it was 10pm Hawaii time (12pm PST) and we jumped in our pre-booked Star Taxi to Waikiki, which was about 30 minutes and only $30. By the time we’d dropped our cases in our rented apartment there was just enough time to run to the local ABC Store for some snacks before heading to bed.
Day 2: Waikiki Beach
We woke up early to bright sunshine and the most amazing view of green mountains and tall skyscrapers from the lanai (balcony). Our first proper meal in Oahu was the plentiful and delicious breakfast buffet at Duke’s. YUM. After heading back to the apartment to get our beach gear and slather on sunscreen, we found a quiet spot on the far West side of the beach to set up camp. The beach wasn’t anywhere as busy or touristy as I expected it to be, and it was so relaxing to be able to read a book on the sand.
The relaxation lasted for a couple of hours before it was time to head out for some grocery shopping. My feet were already hurting from my flip-flops by this point (which I hadn’t worn in months!) so we decided to get a taxi to the nearest Safeway, about 10 minute away. We loaded up a shopping cart with bread, salad bits, fruit, yogurt, snacks and a frozen cocktail or two, and after a bit of a wait managed to drag it all back to the apartment. The prices weren’t as cheap as you’d expect in the continental US, but compared to Vancouver we were happy! After a quick shower we were ready for our first proper night out in Hawaii! Our first stop was the beach to watch the sunset over the ocean, which was a pretty awesome sight. Next up we were back at Duke’s, our breakfast spot, for some of the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted. I particularly recommend the strawberry daiquiris! We wanted to watch the free fireworks that I’d read about in the guidebook, and we heard they started at 7:30pm round the corner from Duke’s. As we heard the first bang we headed over to watch, but three minutes later the display had ended before we’d even arrived! So much for the free entertainment. Waikiki has a main ‘strip’ with all the bars and restaurants on it, and most of them were full by the time we were ready for dinner at 8pm. We settled on the Cheesecake Factory for it’s huge portions, and my mountain of a Cobb Salad and White Chocolate, Caramel & Macadamia Nut Cheesecake (well, I was in Hawaii!) was a great way to finish our first day.
Day 3: Snorkel Paradise
Today we were up early to walk to Thrifty to pick up our rental car. We booked through the very reasonable Waikiki Discount Car Rental and got a great deal, but when we arrived at the rental station the queue was a mile long! We waited almost an hour before we were handed our keys to our mid size SUV (free upgrade, woooo!) and by this time we’d missed our reservation slot to visit Pearl Harbour. We made a snap decision to drive out to Hanauma Bay, a flooded volcano crater now famous for amazing snorkelling opportunities. We paid $1 to enter the car park and $7.50 each to get down into the bay. We had to watch a pretty hilarious introductory video before we were allowed down, where we found out that turtles are federally protected and that touching them is a crime! The snorkelling was as good as the reviews suggested, and we saw turtles and fish during our swim among the (at times, creepy) coral reefs. As beautiful as the bay was, it was also incredibly windy, so we dried off and headed back out onto the road again for the afternoon.
We stopped off at some impressive viewpoints and looked out over some beautiful scenery for the next couple of hours. We made it out to a quirky little coffee store before turning round and driving back to Waikiki for sunset. We’d checked out some cocktail menus online before we left Vancouver and were excited to try the novelty creations at Tiki’s Grill & Bar. They did not disappoint, and the night was a blissful blur of smoking volcanoes, souvenir mugs and plastic coconuts. Result!
Day 4: Surfing in the USA
Booking our surf lesson on the North Shore of Oahu (not to be confused with the North Shore of Vancouver) was one of the moments when it finally sunk in that we were actually going to Hawaii. We got up at 9am and headed North West up the one road across the island to Haleiwa. We met Carly and Sergio from Island Style Surf school in the car park of the North Shore’s only supermarket and followed their surf board-laden pick up down the road to the beautiful Puaena Point. This beach is renowned for its safe, beginner-level ways and there were a number of other surf schools there when we arrived. We started with some on-shore practice and learned the basic process for standing up (hold the rails, back foot, front foot, stand up) before heading out onto the water. We took it in turns to paddle out to Sergio who helped position us to catch the best waves. When one came he pushed us forward at the right time shouting ‘paddle, stand up, stand up, stand UP’ after us. Sometimes this worked, though more often it didn’t. The best in the group (James) also experienced the most epic fall, which was amusing to see in high resolution photo form after the lesson. The two hours flew by and we were given a CD with some great photos. We dried off in time to see one of the previously mentioned federally protected turtles crawl right up onto the beach towards us. Quite the Kodak moment.
We got back in the car and headed East along the coastal road in search of some lunch. First stop was a roadside fruit market where we purchased fresh coconuts for $2. The very old, very small Hawaiian ladies wielding butcher’s knives first chopped off the top of our coconuts so we could drink the juice with a straw, before chopping and peeling the remaining flesh for us to eat there and then. Delicious! A few miles down the road we made a second pit stop for some of the most delicious shrimp I’ve ever tasted. Mine was garlic butter and absolutely to die for, while the rest of the group enjoyed hot and spicy shrimp and coconut shrimp, all with rave reviews. We were on a race against time to get back before it got dark, and we made it to Nu’uana Pali lookout just as the clouds rolled in and the wind blew up around the mountains. Very King Kong. We were all absolutely shattered by the time we pulled into our apartment, so we decided to have a night in with some delicious, home cooked tuna pasta. Yum.
Day 5: Out on the Water
We spent a lot of time on Groupon and Living Social in the run up to our trip, and one of the deals we purchased was for a 3.5 hour catamaran sailing/snorkel adventure. We headed down to the beach for check-in and posed for a cheesy group shot before finding our seats on the edge of the netting. The sun came out just as we arrived at our snorkel spot, where we saw hundreds of fish, an octopus (attached to our tour guide’s arm) and some turtles! My excitement soon turned to fear as a huge, federally protected turtle made a beeline for my face, and I actually started screaming under water. They’re pretty scary up close, OK? Once we were out of the water we had a very wet sail back to the shore, and traipsed back to the apartment soaked to the skin from being a little too close to the netting.
We dried off and headed out in the car to Diamond Head volcano crater, the island’s most popular hike. Luckily it was a pretty easy one, as the sun was getting hotter by the minute. We saw some incredible views of Honolulu and the rest of Oahu from the top, and got some great group photos.
We took the long way home and headed North East to the famous Lanikai Beach. We’d heard that it’s the best beach on the island, and we weren’t disappointed with the white sands and clear blue water. Next was a sunset picnic stop for some appies at Kailua Beach Park, just a couple of miles down the road. It wasn’t quite as beautiful, but we got some great sunset photos. We were home in time for dinner, and headed back out to Duke’s for some delicious fresh fish. Every entree came with a salad buffet side (all you can eat blue cheese…blue cheese!), and I was well and truly full by the time my mahi mahi arrived. It felt pretty good to be sitting by the beach eating fresh fish for dinner…Aloha Hawaii!
Day 6: Pearl Harbour
After missing our Pearl Harbour reservations because of the long line at Thrifty’s on Saturday, we were lucky to get a replacement slot on Tuesday morning. The wait for tickets is usually up to 3.5 hours for drop-ins, so there was no way we were turning up without something booked! We’d had to return the car the night before, so we jumped on the bus from right outside our building. An hour later we arrived in good time to get our headsets and start the audio portion of the tour, before lining up for the ferry out to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was a quick journey out across the bay, and we could see the markers indicating where the other ships on ‘Battleship Row’ had been berthed on December 7, 1941. I’d learned about the event at school, but I hadn’t quite realized how close I would be to the actual ship on the tour. Looking down into the depths of the hull, where 1,102 sailors and Marines who lost their lives still rest, was a humbling experience.
We could easily have spent all day exploring the various elements of the site, but jumped on a bus back to Waikiki to get in some beach time on our last afternoon. I made the most of every second spent swimming in the sea and reading on the shore, and topped off the day with a delicious rainbow coloured shave ice! Too soon it was time for one last night out, which we spent eating big, American burgers (Tom Selleck style) at Lulu’s.
Day 7: Travelling
Our flight back to Bellingham was an early one, so we found ourselves in a cab to the airport at 4:30am. Nothing was open at the airport except Starbucks, so I stocked up on bagels and oatmeal while the others downed coffee by the gallon. The flight home was pretty smooth, and I managed to get some sleep. We had a two hour wait for the bus at the other end, which we mostly spent eating airport food, and finally arrived back into Vancouver as it started to get dark. We were all exhausted and all had work the next day, so took an early night after promises of meeting up at the weekend to compare photos on Facebook.
Our trip was one of the best, if not the best, trips I’ve taken yet; it was the perfect mix of relaxation, beach time, exploring, sightseeing and fruity cocktails in pineapples. It was also the first adult vacation I’d done with friends and I was so, so sad for it to end. My holiday blues were so bad that within 5 days of being back I booked flights back again! This time, the man and I are heading to Maui in October for 10 days of island living. I’m already so excited to be back there that it’s hard to think of anything else, except how I can afford to retire there. That’ll keep me busy for the time being…