My friends had wanted to attempt the illegal way up to Stairway to Heaven with the people we met the previous day at Moanalua Valley Trail but ended up not going. The only person from the previous day on the trail still wanted to go had never been and we wanted the friend who was a local to take us. It also rained overnight and was raining in the morning when we awoke. In true Herbie fashion, we took it easy. We started off our morning at Liliha Bakery which is famous for their cream puffs. I ordered the lilikoi malasadas & coco cream puff.
There is a castle called the The Kaniakapupu Ruins off the side of the highway but apparently has been closed due to deterioration and vandalism – I am sure people still visit this site. We continued on to Nu’uanu Pali Lookout for a quick look. It was incredibly windy and the visit here did not last long. It is paid parking but Tiffany just stayed in the car as we took a peek and came back. On a dry and less windy day, this place technically has a few paths you can hike.
After turning around a few times, we found ourselves mall ratting for the day to get last minute souvenirs and we were on a mission to find the Hydroflask’s that have exclusive designs you can only get in Hawaii. We stayed at Ala Moana Mall for majority of the day after the lookout point. It is a half indoor half outdoor mall which also does performances on certain days. Similar to Yorkdale Mall back in Toronto, they have certain wings that carry high end brands and also lower end brands. The special feature with Ala Moana Mall is the food courts and the special hidden food court that is downstairs called Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. $1 beers all day everyday and loads of food options (mainly Japanese). They also have performances on weekends. It takes you to Japan in essence.
From the mall, we slowly made our way to the airport. It was bittersweet because although we were heading over to Kauai next, Tiffany was leaving us and heading to Calgary for work. Hawaiian Airlines flight was easy going but we were still worried about making the car rental hours once again. We did land a little earlier but I ended up just rushing and taking the shuttle over to Enterprise first and picking up the rental. A blue Elantra. We had booked an Airbnb at a vacation rental in Kapaa area. We checked in and went to bed as it was already midnight by the time we got in.
Stairway to Heaven – Haiku Trail – Moanalua Valley Park
This blog is great to help you find the right path to the Stairway to Heaven trail. I did read this early on in the planning on my trip (2 months prior) but I never referred to it again which was my mistake. Tripadvisor also has updated reviews.
If you have the time, download the Alltrails map app to your phone which will help you find the trails.
We decided to go the legal route up to Haiku – Stairway to Heaven via Moanalua Valley Park. You want to park at 1849 Ala Aolani St, Honolulu – Moanalua Valley Trail. There is a parking lot that opens at 7AM and closes at 7PM with water fountains, faucets and washrooms. If you think you will start before or end after 7AM or 7PM, you can park on the street in the neighbourhood. You start off by seeing a gate and signs – go through that gate and down the path you go. There are more signs and a foot brush station – indication you are going the right way. The path is flat and goes on for quite some time and you pass roughly 6 bridges. If it has rained the path will be muddy and there are markings to lead you through the forest to climb over a few trees to pass this huge muddy pool.
Once you get to the end of that flat part, the terrain slowly shifts and eventually you will see pink or organ ribbons attached to trees to help mark the trail. You will arrive at a group of signs where it looks like it is a fork in the road. This is before you start the actual trails to go up. If you are looking for the route up to Stairway to Heaven – LOOK FOR THE GREEN ARROW/MARKINGS. You will have to cross the river BUT only once. To the right of the cluster of signs, you will see a less maintained path with loads of palms – but if you turn that way, there is a little path not too far in that will be on the left that leads you to the river – if you can cross here, it will lead you to the path to Middle ridge (on the other side of the river, turn right. You will know if you are going the right way by seeing the curved tree branch that has Middle Ridge carved into it with a green spray painted H beside it. Then it is a elevated path going upwards. The path will get narrow and depending on weather, winds can pick up and and rain makes it slippery. There will be areas that it will be really narrow and there will be ropes to aid in your ascend.
If you do decide to cross the river straight past the signs, you need to veer right immediately once you have crossed the river bed and then you will see the Middle Ridge branch. REMEMBER TO FOLLOW THE GREEN Spray painted markers.
We made the mistake of not fully researching to know exactly where to go before we went which made for a unpleasant surprise. We crossed the river multiple times with another family and a couple. We did indeed follow the pink and orange ribbons but when we finally arrived at the top of the ridge, we thought we just had a pitstop before continuing. It turned out we climbed the ridge east of the Middle Ridge that led to Stairway to Heaven with no clear or safe way to get to the correct ridge from that height. To even make it to the top of that ridge, you will have ropes to help you up and down. It gets super muddy, slippery and windy up top. Don’t go if its’ rained a lot to watch out for flash floods where the paths through the rivers would be unseen.
What really sucked for us is that this took us awhile to climb/hike up and knowing the fact we didn’t actually get to see the stairways dampened out spirits as we had to descend the ridge with the ropes we just got up from. We did have to wait for the other family to make it up as the ridge is narrow and meant for a single person at a time. Especially with my injury, super hard to bomb it down and I literally was backtracking my steps going backwards down the ridge. We eventually made it back down to the start in which I mentioned the sign.
We bumped into another group who were just starting their hike. We (the couple, the new group and my friends) all tried looking for the right trail. At the sign, we decided to walk the trail that had palms but it looked very unmaintained as we started to walk further in. The couple had the all trails map and it also said we were veering off the trail. We turned back and finally noticed the little tape marker that said Middle ridge. Once again, from the main grouping of signs, you can either veer right before crossing the river and then the first left to cross the river is where you want to go then once you have cross the river, you will see the curved branch that says middle ridge on it. If you do decide to go straight past the sign and cross the river, you need to turn right immediately to see the curved branch. Our hike took roughly 6-7 hours to finish and at that point, we wanted to go the correct path up but at the same time, another 6-7 hour seemed daunting. We said goodbye to our new friends and left as we did have reservations for a luau that night. They did exchange numbers with one of the guys who planned on going the illegal route up the following morning.
I think also the fact that immediately once you see the middle ridge curved branch, the climb starts steep and muddy.
All dirty, we made a pitstop at Foodland on the way home to grab some food. We all took showers and then travelled to the west shore for our Luau at Paradise Cove. Free parking. It’s located in the same area as the West coast resorts but still quite lovely. We got lei’d with a shell lei (more so to decipher which group you were with). The luau was on was a decent sized property right on the beachfront with a wedding taking place a field over (music there overpowered at certain points). There is a beach access point from here for public and Paradise Cove use as it was in a resort area.
The seating / dinner tables are long family style tables and we were seated to the right of the stage far back. We reserved the basic package for $90USD. We met a wonderful mother & daughter who were meeting in Hawaii as it was their middle point. The daughter is stationed in Guam and the mother lives in California.
The site has many activities you can do before the dinner and show start. We of course lined up to get our temporary tattoos drawn on us then we lined up to get flower crowns and bracelets made. Remember, if you are wearing any flowers in your hair; wear it on your right side to signify you are single – left if you are married/taken and on both sides if you want to start something new ;).
The performances were pretty good but I feel for me, I was comparing it to my previous visit to the island and Polynesian Cultural Centre. The centre requires you to spend at least half the day to absorb everything and you get to visit the different “islands” and learn about each culture a bit more. They also have a river parade where each island is represents in their costumes and they dance on the floats.
We drove over to Kailua and Lanikai beach. The sand was so soft and white but the water was a little choppy. NOTE: It is easier to find parking at Kailua Beach surrounding area then walk over to Lanikai Beach. We walked over to Lanikai beach which has a few alleys/access points to get to the beach – Enter through the 3rd entrance / gate. The journey over to Lanikai beach just looks like normal residential making the beach seem like a hidden secret. The waters were calmer at Lanikai. Such a relaxing oasis. If we had the time we would’ve tried to go for a hike to the pillbox. We were hungryso we ventured back to our car and made our way to Agnes Portuguese bakery (46 Hoolai St) for malasadas. We then walked over to the next plaza and ate at L&L drive-in for Chinese/Hawaiian food. I got the Saimin Burger (fried ramen buns) and it was only $4.99USD. So oily because it was fried but so tasty after it cooled down.
After re-fueling, off we went to Makapu’u lookout but we really wanted to head to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse. We hiked up to get to the lighthouse which technically is in a restricted area. We climbed around the fence and walked where the white fence was. We walked all the way about 10 meters from the lighthouse which was also blocked off with barbed wire. There was a cliff where the fence ended and it was such a sight.Juan and Melissa climbed the cliffside and placed their blessings of flowers that was wrapped at their ceremony and put it up in a little corner where the wind wouldn’t take it away and stay forever peacefully (hopefully). They put it high enough that it would be hard for others to reach. They took the remaining flowers and threw them over the cliffs. The hawaiian saying is if you throw flowers into the ocean and they return to the shore it means that you will return back to Hawaii once again.
Also located at Makapu’u trails are tide pools which you must climb down to (there is no true path down but you figure it out as you go). I ended up driving home after a McDonald’s run. The drive back seemed so long but not too bad. We ended up just hanging in the living room together and talking, eating and sharing photos with one another.
Woke everyone around 545AM so that we could all take in the last sunrise of the trip. We walked over to the field where the basketball courts were and just took it all in. The sun started rising fast and it started to sink in that we were nearing the end. We all hopped into the 3 cars to head back to Waikiki. As we arrived at Aqua Bamboo, we unloaded and the shuttle for Juan & Melissa’s family arrive forthwith.
From there, 6 remained who were leaving later in the evening and Megan & Kim who were staying a day or two more. We decided to go back to Surf N Turf Tacos for lunch – I finally got the kalbi and spicy sesame poke tacos but they just didn’t compare to the grilled fish taco. The spicy sesame poke taco was pretty good though. We walked over to Lawson’s for mochi ice cream. I grabbed the guava, passionfruit, cantaloupe and li hing mango. We ended up just hanging by the beach for a little bit as we had about 3-4 hours to kill before our shuttle to the airport arrived. Ronnel, Jennifer and I decided to walk the beach one last time and it was such a great day for it. The waves were perfect but too bad we didn’t have time to surf. At 330PM Jennifer, Eric, Ryan and I went to Food Pantry and got our final steak plates and mochi ice cream. I finished off with pistachio, chocolate peanut butter and finally the azuki red bean bringing my total to 20 mochi’s eaten this trip. My true love of Hawaii. The airport shuttle arrived and we said aloha to 13 blissful days in Hawaii.
Recap the trip. I love the culture & lifestyle here with the integration of so many multicultural groups that it still phases me how I can’t tell ethnicities apart especially realizing that we were still in America. I kept getting mistaken for a local surfer girl because of the long hair (longest I’ve ever had which is almost to my butt) and how dark I’ve gotten. Hawaii is beautiful and relaxing but it is a little too laid-back for me to ever consider moving there. I need more city life, more hustle and bustle. I do however love the weather though and wish Toronto had it year round.
It was such a fun experience. We got a 10% discount because of our large group which included luau with buffet and a show – $99CDN. It was pretty much a large outdoor facility with majority of its staff coming from the local university. At certain islands, we were able to get temporary skin tattoos from Aotearoa (Ow-T-O-roa), Tonga and Tahiti.
We started at the Samoa pavilion and the Kap was an amazing MC. He showed us how to open a coconut and start a fire with its husk. You can tell when a coconut is ready by the colour – it needs to be brown – therefore a ripe coconut. We played the stick game at the Aotearoa island where you throw 4 sticks back and forth. We walked around and tried to catch all the shows. We saw the huge canoe pageant on the river where all the islands had their own float and did a few dances that represented each particular culture.
We then met up with the rest of the group for the luau buffet. It was really good. The mango smoothie in the pineapple is really tasty (if you decide to purchase). The food selection consisted of kalua pig, poke, steak, chicken, fish, taro, sweet potato and salad for the most part. It was such a good meal to have while watching a luau.
After the luau, we went to the show – Ha Mana. Sortof like a musical with incorporation of all 7 island styles of dance but also showing that the Ha (spirit) gets passed on within the ohana through centuries. It was such a good show but the highlight was definitely the aeoteroa haka dance and the fire baton spinning sections.
Awoken by roosters morning call. A nice walk on the beach and a little dip into the ocean. Off to north shore – Waimea Beach. It is a gorgeous beach with a jump rock that is about a 25FT drop. If you plan on jumping, wait until a wave comes in so that the water is deeper and make sure your swimwear is tightly fastened. Watch out for sea turtles before you jump and NEVER touch them because humans have bacteria. The tide pulls you back and forth but the water is pretty calm once you pass the first bit. Technically could just tread all the way out there. Not many waves here to surf but bring some flippers and snorkel! We were only there for an hour and half.
We rushed to find the original Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (66-472 Kamehameha Hwy)but the guy literally saw us and closed up shop. So we had dessert before dinner and hit up the famous Matsumoto shaved ice (66-087 Kamehameha Hwy). I don’t know what it is about it but damn it was delicious. I had the azuki bowl with shaved ice, ice cream, red beans and not sure what else but it was amazing. We went to the second location for Giovanni’s aloha shrimp truck (56-505 Kamehameha Hwy). I got the lemon and butter shrimp – I think my plate of shrimp from Mike’s Huli Huli was better and bigger to be honest. We all wrote on the truck as well! We returned back to the estate for a fun night in with the crew.
Final night in Waikiki. Melissa & family went to High tea and had to run errands and since they still had mopeds they took advantage of it. A group of us did a early morning beach session before we headed over to Ala Moana mall once again to shop.
We ventured around Ala Moana for a bit checking out some stores and of course stopping by Foodland for more poke. We went to Kicks HI again and finally hit up Don Quijote (801 Kaheka St). It’s a little different from the Don Quijote I’ve been to in Japan but it’s very similar. Don Quijote is a one stop shop for everything from souvenirs, fresh food to electronics and and even facial products. To make it even better – It’s 24 hours! For food products that you can find in the ABC stores, Walmart & Don Quijote as the places to go to purchase them for cheaper. They also had tons of green tea related candies and chocolates.
We ended up grabbing poke again at Foodland before heading back and stopping by Food Pantry – Hi Steaks for steak plates. We brought it all back and ate by the poolside. Afterwards, the girls went up to help Melissa with wedding preparations. What the made the night even better, the boys came back from a night moped ride with treats from Leonard’s Bakery – Malasadas!
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.