To start our day right, we stopped by Ha Coffee Bar for breakfast. I got the Hacienda Acai bowl and picked up locally roasted coffee beans.
After breakfast, we drove to the west shore to take in the wonders of Waimea Canyon State Park. We made it to all the lookout points and past many trails that would be ideal if we had more time. We also drove through Koke’e Statepark which is attached to Waimea Canyon State Park. You can camp in these areas with loads of trails to take. Waimea Canynon State Park brings you up to an elevation of 3600FT.
Many hikes that I would have liked to do in Waimea/Koke’e Park:
We finished our drive up and unfortunately the last 2 lookouts were for the most part covered in cloud coverage so we couldn’t see the Na Pali Coast from there but we were able to see into the canyon.
We drove about 30 minutes back to Kekaha to catch our Na Pali Coast boat tour with Na Pali Experience. We booked the 2-7PM sunset boat tour of the Na Pali Coast for $179USD. We had Captain John lead us plus a family of 3 on this 5-hour adventure down the coast. For those who aren’t the best with motion on waters, bring medication for it. I did not and apparently couldn’t handle the motion. To be fair, we came from a 3600FT elevation and the pressure from the elevation change was already messing with my head.
Take everything that they recommend you take including a long sleeve or something to keep you warm during the ride in and out. When you are on the boat, it takes about 45 minutes from where you board at the Kikia’ola draft boat harbour past the military base before appearing around the right corner of the Na Pali coast. The cloud coverage was pretty much over our ride. We saw the spots where Mary J Blige and many others have filmed music videos and movies.
The skies might’ve been dark but the waters gave us appearances of dolphins and turtles. Our sea captain also navigated us into some caves like a pro. We had a little bit of time to also snorkel in the waters. Being in the water was my safe haven for this 5 hour tour – bobbing in the water with a life jacket felt like bliss for me and my body that was suffering motion sickness. We hopped back on the boat after about 30 minutes in the water to a nice treat of freshly cut fruit and other little snacks before heading back to land. The ride back was bumpy and cold – a dry long sleeve or wrapping a towel is a good choice.
We learned that Kauai is slowly deteriorating. The whole island is actually a pancake but because it is so lush and tropical and tons of water falls, the water needs to find or make ways to drain back into the ocean. With that being said, all the ridges that are seen on this island are places where water flows out.
It felt so great to be back on land. We started our drive back from Kekaha to Kapa’a with Gypsy Guide on. It led us to try the most famous Saimin spot on the island – Hamura Saimin. You seat yourself around the W shaped counter or the big table. I got the small saimin and a chicken skewer. They are also known for their Lilikoi Chiffon Pie.
I really wish I went through with booking the helicopter tour over the island but I guess I will have to come back and do it. These were the helicopter companies I looked into and are highly rated. Helicopter tour gives you a new perspective of the island that many miss and wouldn’t be able to see from the ground or waters especially a view of Waialeale – Weeping Walls. Kauai also has the 2nd wettest place in the world called Waialeale – The Weeping Walls. The wettest place in the world is in India.
On facebook Market – You can post that you are interested in doing the Waialeale – Weeping Walls hike and hopefully a local will respond to take you OR you can look for a guy named Mark Woogie Kracht on Facebook – apparently he is a local who has done that hike multiple times and offers to take people.
Princeville – Hanalei
We had breakfast at Java Kai. The bright teal just draws you in. I ordered The Beetnik $9USD (toasty bagel with cream cheese, housemade pesto, local beets, & sprouts) and a Golden Sunrise shake (turmeric, dates, coconut milk). The food and drink were incredibly delicious. The coffee shop is also attached to a cute boutique called Shipwreck Kauai.
Our first stop after breakfast was Kīlauea Lighthouse – $5 – It’s just a lighthouse really but the money goes towards a good cause. If you don’t care to help a good cause of preserving land and refuge for wildlife – SKIP THIS IF YOU DON’T CARE TO HELP OUT. There is a little information house on the property to the left side of the lighthouse. Before we continued our trip to the North shore, we stopped by a fruit stand. There are a bunch of fruit stands around the islands which are not manned with a person but its an honest system where you take what you want and put money into the box that you think is fair.
We made our way to Hanalei Bay Beach and found the beach courts. We asked the lifeguard to borrow their ball. We peppered for a few hours. We got food in Hanalei and took in the quaint little town. I grabbed a chicken katsu mini from L&L.
We tried to make our way to Queens Bath but there are only 8 parking spots in a very posh neighbourhood where you cannot park on the side of the road and only in the designated spots. It is recommended to get to Queen’s Bath really early to claim a parking spot because the closest legal parking is quite a walk away.
Defeated from not finding parking to see the Queen’s Bath, we drove from Hanalei/Princeville to Koloa/Poipu. It was such a beautiful drive through the tall tree tunnel to Koloa. Koloa is a small town that is only a few blocks but is where the workers for the plantations use to reside.
We continued on to the Spouting Horn to watch the power of water currents apply pressure into the caverns and have water burst out of the blowholes.
We continued down the coast heading east to Shipwreck Beach & jumping cliff. The waves at Shipwreck beach are strong and great to catch a quick wave. To the left of the main beach area, you will see the cliffs and possibly someone brave enough to jump off the rocks. We decided to climb up and explore that area. When you get to the top, there is a lot of space and different layers of rock formations. Many people fish from up there. We were only able to witness 1 person jump from the rock but it took him much courage and talking up to jump.
To Poipu Beach – the beach is very populated by tourists. The view was nice with a large parking lot but nothing special.
The sun started setting so we decided to head back towards home and find dinner. We settled with Coconuts – Fish Cafe where I ordered the Local Style Seared Ahi Plate. Walked across the parking lot to Tropical Dream Ice Cream for some Thai Tea Ice Cream.
After all the hiking we had done the previous days, our clothes and shoes weren’t looking the best so we decided to head to Kapa’a Laundromat – open 24/7 to do laundry before we started our travels back home. We met a traveller from Montreal and met some locals who told us the history of Kauai during our laundry adventure. This one gentleman in particular told us how Kauai was never conquered by King Kamehameha so they are their own island before USA. His family owned land on Kauai so he has a different passport to show his is a true native of Kauai. His best suggestion for us was to just meet a nice Hawaiian man and move to the island. Those are fine words or wisdom to live by.
Our second full day in Maui, we tackled Iao Valley (opens 7AM-6PM) for our first hike of the day. $5USD for parking. After we parked, a gentleman came up to us and started talking to us as he had just finished his hike for the morning. He mentioned to us about the trail at the top of the hill behind the hut closest to the needle. Fun fact, the needle is taller than the Eiffel Tower. There is a sign that says do not pass but that is where you continue past and start your way going up. The path was relatively dry (until you get higher up – also if it hasn’t been raining) and it is narrow in certain spots with low hanging branches and some prickly twigs. There are sections of elevation and some downhill. I’m unsure of how long it took us to climb but the hike is well worth it for that view. You definitely travel away from the needle but you travel inward towards a lookout point that is in the centre of the valley. There are other trails that you can take to get down but for us, we took the same way we came up from. Not sure if it was timing or not, but we only interacted with another group of 3-4 at the top and maybe one other group on our way up and down so it’s a hidden little gem for those who want to take on the hike.
After that view, there was no need for us to venture down to the river so we continued on into town. We found ourselves at a coffee shop called Wailuku Coffee Company. I love to support locally sourced and made product when I travel so this place was perfect. I follow Roxy Surfer and model Kelia Moniz who had recently posted about this all natural organic suncream which was locally made in Hawaii by Kuleana Sun Protection and this coffee shop was selling them – small tin $12USD and 2.5OZ for $20USD. I also picked up a bag of fresh local roasted coffee beans for my father. They also have a fun staff who has good taste in music.
Originally, I wanted to goto Sam Sato’s for lunch however it was closed that day, so we ended up going to McDonalds. Especially in the states, I love getting 20 McNuggets because it’s so much cheaper than buying it in Canada and also exclusive to the islands – taro pie. The pie is so good!
After lunch, we drove an hour to Haleakalā National Park. You will see the sign for the road that leads you up to Haleakala and just continue to take this road. There are no lights on this road and at certain points, it hits residential. We went from 2000 feet to 10000 feet and along with that the temperature dropped a significant 20 degrees the further we went up. Luckily we have the annual national park pass. The road up has markers for 1000 feet elevations and as you get higher, you literally are driving in the clouds and then above the clouds. The roads are not as narrow and bendy as the Road to Hana but surely it is still a trek up. There is a sign that marks the last gas station before starting the trek up. We first stopped at the visitor center where we asked the ranger what ideally we should hike as we arrived to that visitor site at 230PM. She recommended we drive up to the last trail before the summit and try to hike as much as we could before making our way to the summit for sunset. Sunset was called for 715PM. We parked at the last trail before the summit and the view is beautiful. The crater looks out of this world. We mistakenly took the path that led you up the hill to a lookout point and made our own path down to the right trail (do not do this – stick to the paths).
Up that high, with the sun beaming, it makes it incredibly hot but once that sun starts to hide behind clouds, the temperature dips. Make sure to layer and bring clothing to keep warm. Wind makes it even chillier, so remember even though you are in Hawaii with average of 30 degrees C + humidity, 10023ft high will significantly be colder.
We walked the trail down into the crater and with the angle of the trails, the momentum just easily takes you down the trail. We made it to a certain point that overlooks the crater which a trail that keeps dipping lower but we decided to turn back to find a good parking spot up at the top of the summit. The hike back up was more difficult. Definitely recommend walking in zigzags to alleviate pain on the legs and work other muscles. We made it back to our car and followed the path up to the top. There is an observatory area that overlooks the crater where you can stay warm and where many would watch the sunrise from, However, for us, the sun sets on the opposite side of where the observatory is located. Being 10023ft up, the winds are strong and the temperature drops. We found the perfect spot for sunset. Along the top ridge overlooking the island below, there are lava rocks that jolt out on an angle that looks like a cave – that is where we planted ourselves. You should also bring something to sit on or grab one of the larger rocks to create a seat as you watch the magic of the sun setting and the changing formation of clouds dance which form shapes and figures. We claimed our spot in our “caves” rather early (around 6PM) and watched as everything shifted.
Once 7PM hit, everything went fast and the wonderful colours that appeared were pretty indescribable and I’m not sure if the photos will do it justice. Once that sun fully dipped, we bolted back to the car and drove back down. Luckily the roads here are lined with those reflectors on the ground. My original plan was to stay for sunset and then star gaze but we were chilled to the bone. Our GPS took us the back root to get back to our Airbnb in Kihei. We arrived back to the main level of the island and the temperature shift changed drastically 20 degrees. We peeled off our layers and back into shorts and tank tops.
Finished off our night eating dinner at Paia Fish Market – South Kihei. I got the Ahi burger with fries and an Maui Brewing Pineapple Mana Wheat beer $18USD. You order inside but you seat yourself and they will bring the food to you.
Our final full day in Maui started with us waking up and packing our luggage. Our flight wasn’t until the evening at 11PM to Oahu. We decided today would be a beach day. We made our first stop to wowwowlemonade where I got myself a Da Kine Acai bowl (organic acas, banana, organic blueberry, strawberry and coconut milk topped with granola, banana, strawberry, cacao nibs, organic hemp, organic coconut shreds, local honey and raw cacao custard) – $10.50USD. The girls got Lemonades in their reusable glass containers.
After getting our morning fix, we drove south to Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve. The drive down takes you through the resort area and higher end hotels where it is truly manicured. When I say manicured, I mean the grass and palm trees are pristine. All I knew going in was that Ahihi-Kinau was recommended as one of the best places to snorkel and see turtles however I didn’t research to see if it was also a place to spend the day at the beach. The beach is a rock beach so not a comfortable place to spend the day laying out. Parking is free and there are volunteers that will gladly inform you of what and where to go and what to do and see as it is a reserve.
We didn’t bring our snorkelling gear with us but we did walk down to the black rock beach for a little bit. On the same road we drove down, we went to check out Makena Beach – Big beach – free parking. Makena Beach is one of the most photographed beaches on the island. When we arrived, the beach wasn’t packed but had lifeguards on duty. The waves there are intense – super intense. The waves crash closer to shore and the current pulls you back in. The waves also crash and somehow also goes sideways. The sand is soft and the views of the waves are very entertaining. After we situated, Lulu and myself walked right of the beach entry and walked to the mountainside and climbed up to see what else was there. We made our way to the coast and watched a few people fish and on the other side of the mountainside was a smaller beach which is known as Baby beach also known as the Nude beach. It’s been said that each month on the full moon there are drum circles on that beach.
Since we didn’t quite want to venture Baby beach, we walked back and continued to the other side of the beach closer to the Ahihi-Kinau. That side wasn’t as nice as It was just black lava rocks however it has a cute area with large branches and a funky little cave. NOTE: Don’t climb things if you don’t need to and aren’t even doing it for a photo. I climbed the rounded tree and decided to lie down but automatically body weight had me falling over so my arm and back just slightly scraped up.
We left the beach around noon and headed north to Sam Sato’s Inc for lunch. Sam Sato’s has been around for so many decades. Of course, there was a waiting list in which you need to put down your name and number of people. You end up sitting in their courtyard until they are ready. The actual establishment is very diner like and simple. The most popular dish was the dry saimin noodles that comes with soup broth on the side. Saimin are a fresh yet thicker version of shanghai noodles served with fresh onion and bbq pork. I got myself a large dry saimin noodle $8.25USD & a lima manju $0.80USD which is a little Chinese dense pastry.
Since we were in the area again, we drove to Hookipia beach to see if there were turtles as Herbie had mentioned he went around 230PM and there were a load of turtles settled on the beach. It was indeed the perfect time to goto Hookipia Beach. There is an area in the corner of the beach that is restricted for people where the turtle set themselves up on the beach and lay out. This time around, there were loads of them. We stayed here to swim. You can actually get closer to the turtles when you are in the water. You SHOULD NOT TOUCH the turtles however, when you are in the water, they will swim right pass you. There were a few that would start to swim back into the ocean and literally swat/hit you at they push by.
We stayed at this beach until 530PM. Lulu and Renee at a certain point went off to go workout at a local gym. When you are up at the top lookout parking lot, if you go further right down the path away from the beach, there is an opening to go down to lava rocks where it was intense winds.
We ended up going to Walmart to pick up snacks and then to Foodland for dinner. I grabbed the Ahi sashimi plate $18.75USD. After eating in the car, we drove back to the car rental and off to the airport we went. Hawaiian Airlines to Oahu at 11PM. Stomach started to feel off and painful like it had the past few days but this time, it hit me harder. I might’ve been tanned but i was pale that night. Still unsure if it was food poisoning prior to my trip or if my stomach was weak from all the raw seafood I had been eating prior and during the trip. Who knows.
We arrived in Oahu and went to go pick up our car rental from Enterprise but we couldn’t. NOTE: car rental places close by 1130PM-midnight. Enterprise was closed. Trouble. We met an awesome employee who recommended we goto National and see if we could rent a car from them since they were the only ones still open. They honoured our car rental and we got upgraded to an SUV and we named it Fernando. We rented an Airbnb in Waikiki and our host was very accommodating and waited for us to get in. Our Airbnb is rather close to everything and directly across from the International Marketplace but most importantly, very close to Marukame Udon.
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
Once we got settled in, we drove over to James Beach (60 N Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291) where we intended to have dinner but in the end, we went across the street to Plancha (2024 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA 90291) for tacos. James Beach has many reviews and is known for their fish tacos and made famous from the movie I Love you Man featuring Paul Rudd. At Plancha, I ordered the Tiger bowl ($6.95USD) which consisted of garlic tiger shrimp and the contents of a burrito.
After dinner, we decided to drive over to LACMA (5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036) to see the Urban Lights by artist Chris Burden. His installation is located at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance of the LACMA and consists of lamp posts that at one point in time have lit the streets of Southern California before being restored and installed in that one location. We spent a lot of time here just taking photos and just hanging out. It’s a great atmosphere to be in with friends.
After a late night, we drove over to Hermosa Beach for surf lessons. My friend JP created a website called GOJPGO that makes exploring LA so much more accessible with helpful tips and advice. My group wanted to go for surf lessons and JP had recommended us to go with his friend Kawika at Pier Surf (21 Pier Ave Hermosa beach, CA 90254) and we were not disappointed. 8 of us took part in the 2 hour surf lesson that Kawika along with Ryan another instructor took us to the beach and taught us the basics before hitting the waters. The waves were perfect for beginners and they explained to us that the waves are about 5-10 miles per hour and we want to reach that speed to catch a wave. It was a tiring but a very rewarding experience for sure and we definitely recommend them!
Right beside Pier Surf was Hooked where we ordered Poke bowls. You can customize your own bowl and I decided to go with a large ($12,50USD) with Kelp noodles, spicy tuna, sunomono cucumber & fish roe. If I were to go again, I would change my base to rice as the kelp noodles texture was strange and a little too tasteless for me. Otherwise, the poke was tasty with a little kick of heat to it. We ate and recovered from our surf lesson and just laid out on the beach for a few hours before a few of our friends headed to LAX to head home. I couldn’t leave the beach without getting myself a acai bowl. As the gang napped on the beach, I walked over to Paradise Bowls (1246 Hermosa Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254) and got myself a mini $6.95USD (the small is massive) Guava Pipeline acai bowl (blended acai, banana, mango, guava juice with strawberries, bananas, granola and honey as the topping) delicious.
After a little more time lounging on the beach, we packed up and drove back to our Airbnb area in Venice beach but not before stopping off at Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries and also my favourite – Unsulfurated Dried Mangoes – sad to say my other favourite – dark chocolate edamame beans have been discontinued!
After everyone showered, we drove over to Little Tokyo for dinner and dessert. Since we arrived late, we went for dessert first at Mikawaya (Japanese Village Plaza, 118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012) for Ice cream mochi. I fell in love with ice cream mochi 7 years ago from this place. The Ice cream mochi is fresh and comes in multiple flavours that rotate through. They are about $1.30USD ea but well worth it. I had the Pistachio, Guava, Toasted Almond & Raspberry (my favourite). Once we finished devouring these tasty pieces of heaven, we walked across the street from the plaza to the well known yellow awning ramen restaurant – Daikokuya (327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012). I fell in love with this ramen place 7 years ago and to this day, I still think this place makes the best ramen (and I’ve been to Japan before). It could be an overstatement but the line outside proceeds me and from memory, the broth, the atmosphere, the taste still lingers and just makes it my top notch choice for best ramen I’ve ever eaten. With a group of 9, we walked in to write our name down and waited outside as they slowly went down the list. Trust me, it is worth the wait. I ordered the Combo meal – Daikoku Ramen with beef bowl ($9.95 USD for the regular ramen) and that is more than enough food. The ramen on it’s own is filling enough and you can also customize it with their special broth (Kotteri flavor from the back fat extracts). The soft-boiled egg just adds to it.
With our trip to Trader Joe’s and going across the street to the dollar store, we gathered enough ingredients to make a big family style breakfast that consisted of coconut pancake mix from TJ’s, cookie butter ice cream, cookie butter, eggs, bacon, bananas, grapes, apples, cereal and beer. It was a great bonding experience and also a great use of the outdoor patio we had.
After breakfast, we all went to Venice Beach and of course one of the main attractions ( I could’ve just stayed there all day) was the Venice Beach Skatepark. Not only were the locals out in full force skating, a few did intricate tricks which were great to see front row centre. We also walked over and tested our ability at the free muscle beach which consists of a few bars and rings. You can also pay $10USD/day to use the actual outdoor Muscle Beach gym but looking at the equipment, everything was wrapped in saran wrap and not my cup of tea.
Our main group then said our goodbyes to Susan and Kevin and off we went to drive east of Los Angeles to Joshua Tree. We made a stop at Toys R Us that detoured us south before heading east. Since we didn’t go according to our original plans, we started our drive to Joshua Tree really late and we got stuck in traffic. We made one more stop at In-N-Out (well done fries and a animal style cheeseburger are the way to go). What is so mystifying and entrancing are the wind turbine fields. The drive does get a little windy as you drive through mountains. Once we arrived by the main Joshua Tree visitor centre (which was closed when we arrived) the sun was starting to set. We drove in and stopped off on the side of the road to climb some rocks and take photos of the trees. Our end goal since we didn’t really have a chance to hike especially with the remaining light was Key Views Road which is the highest point in the national park that overlooks the park and the city. We took in the remainder of the sunset and light before laying down on the ground and gazing up into the sky as it darkened and the stars glistened and covered the sky. Incredibly sad that I wasn’t able to spend the day there and hike. I also hear and have been recommended to check out Cholla Cactus Garden.
After taking in all the stars and the vastness that we were surrounded by, we made a run for it back to LA. Koreatown was our end point for dinner at Tangji Gamatang (3470 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020) for a family style meal with our group before calling it a night.
As a full group of 15, we visited Aloha Stadium (99-500 Salt Lake Blvd) bright and early for their swap meet. We caught a bus that apparently went the long way around (should’ve caught the 42 but caught the 20 instead). Took about an hour to get there. The swap meet takes over the exterior perimeter of the stadium with tents set up and vendors sell everything and anything. Similar to ladies market in Hong Kong and any other markets you have ever been to.
Picked up souvenirs and lots of trinkets as well as some locally made foods. I also was able to find a beautiful double infinity bone necklace from the auntie who was selling real authentic Hawaiian costumes.
Back to Ala Moana mall for lunch – I had this amazing acai bowl ($7.95USD) from Grylt. Acai bowls are similar to a yogurt parfait but replace the base with acai frozen yogurt and place granola, honey, banana, strawberries and blueberries on top. And of course, went to Foodland for poke and also to grab mochi ice cream from Beard Papa. My friends wanted to visit some local stores like Fitted and Kicks / HI (1530 Makaloa St) where I bought my first 5 panel hat – Publish Gold Motif ($40 USD) which is this nice dark blue with gold floral. Headed over Walmart and bought everything macadamia nut then we caught the bus home and met up with our friend Justina who just arrived after major delays.
For dinner, went made reservations at Sansei Seafood & Sushi Bar by the beach at the Marriott. I ate the cucumber and wakame salad and Sansei Special Roll ($2.95 & $9.95USD). Went to Lawson (2255 Kalakaua Ave) where they also have Bubbies Ice cream mochi. So far on this trip, I’ve had 14 mochi’s and I still haven’t tasted every flavour and have only doubled twice. We didn’t want our night to end so we walked the beach at night to the end with the huge rainbow mural on the Hilton Hotel.