Debating on which islands you want to venture. These are my opinions of each of the islands I have visit thus far.
Maui is the chill spot to be if you want a more relaxed city break. There are some great beaches where spotting turtles is a reality. The Road to Hana can be rough but once you get the hang of driving it, it’s not that bad. I highly recommend what we did and drive through the entire thing to the end and doing the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku falls before doing the reverse visiting of mile markers on the Road to Hana. Gypsy Guide definitely came in handy and brought us to spots we didn’t even know about. Plus, it taught of the history of how Hawaii came to be what it is. The hike in Haleakala was absolutely amazing. Going up to the elevation of 10,000 feet and watching the sunset was absolutely incredible. The traffic is light here but especially on the Road to Hana, if you don’t feel comfortable, pull aside and let the locals pass you (single lanes). Small town feel in many of the areas. Paia is real cute. We stayed in Kihei which is where many of the resort/accomodations are located but its also located near some great beaches.
Oahu is like the island version of Los Angeles. There is tons of traffic and the city grid isn’t that well laid out. It is for sure the most touristy of islands. Expect to be stuck in traffic. My favourite spot on this island is definitely North Shore and Haleiwa area. From my previous visit, I found that Oahu seemed too slow paced but after going to Maui and Kauai, Oahu seems to be the balance between the 3 and a nice place to come to.
Kauai is the wettest of the 3 islands we went to. In the centre of Kauai, it holds the Weeping Walls – 2nd wettest place in the world receding over 400inches of rain fall. It is more humid and the rain comes in an out more often than the other islands. Small time vibes but unlike Maui, single lane to maybe 2 land roads but the traffic can pick up. Each area of the island has very unique burroughes. We stayed in Kapa’a. Going north shore, it’s a littler more of the posh area with Princeville and Hanalei Bay. Going south, you hit up Koloa and Poipu and west side – Waimea.
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.
For once, we slept in and “we took it easy” (as Herbie would say). Started off our morning going to Kamehameha Bakery. They are famous for their – poi glazed donuts. I also got a poi haupia donut as well.
In this same plaza, if you really enjoy ube, Ubae is situated. I grabbed a ube crinkle cookie.
The plan for today was to explore the city and take a break from hiking and beaches and explore the city. I’m an avid fan of graffiti and have been following the whole Powwow movement that gathers artists in different cities to create giant art murals around cities. Similar to what Miami has with Wynwood. The place to go for this Powwow Hawaii movement is Lana Lane in Kaka’ako. The Lana Lane Studio is a good starting point which also houses some art exhibits as well. The murals are all different in terms of style and look but definitely brighten the areas and give it more flavour. The area is mainly industrial in terms of car distribution warehouses but it’s like a hidden gem. There are some really cute boutique shops nearby called SALT at Kaka’ako.
Kaka’ako is relatively near Ala Moana Mall. We decided to leave the mall to another day but stopped by Don Quijote. Don Quijote is a major chain in Japan that has a bit of everything and where you stock up on food and souvenirs and other little nicknacks. For lunch, I wanted to take my friends to a local spot called Rainbow Drive-in. Its the typical fast food that Hawaiians love – you can get mixed seafood plates, loco mocos, burgers etc. I got myself a mini loco moco bowl and a salad (because we weren’t really eating greens).
Our plans were very much in the air for the afternoon so we messaged Herbie to see what they were up to for the day and in Herbie style he told us he was “taking it easy”. They went to the zoo earlier in the day but also mentioned that a beach volleyball court is usually set up at Waikiki Beach. We slowly made our way to the beach (word to the wise, Kuhio St is a one way and you need to loop around again if you miss the parking. There is paid parking closest to the beach but there is a lot that is slightly further away which is closer to the zoo where locals park for free). It turns out the beach court is set up sporadically when they feel like it nearby the pier in the middle of the beach where people jump off to boogie board from. It turned out that that day they indeed did not set up a volleyball court. Luckily Herbie and Elvia showed up with Tristan and a volleyball to pepper with for a bit and we did “take it easy” with the Ku’s on Waikiki beach for the afternoon.
We stayed at Waikiki Beach and took in the free Hula show called Kuhio Beach Hula Show that occurs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather-permitting from 6:30pm to 7:30pm (6:00pm to 7:00pm Nov-Dec-Jan), free to the public at the Kūhiō Beach Hula mound on Kalākaua Ave near Uluniu Avenue across from the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī. It was very fitting and ended with the sun setting.
To end the night off, we stopped by the Mall and had dinner in the The Street food Hall. I got the largest bowl of greens I have had in such a long time from Indie Girl. I ordered the Kailua Sunrise bowl – $15.99USD (Baby kale, Quinoa, sunflower butter, roasted purple sweet potato, pomegranate dressing). The best part of this meal was most definitely the salted roasted sweet potato. It took me such a long time to eat it that I was entirely stuffed and the girls finished it off.
4AM wake up call on the 4th of July. The plan was to hike the Lanikai Pillbox but the parking area that I read was the place to park was actually blocked off by the security guard of the country club.
There were signs all over saying no parking so we decided to opt out of the climb up and went straight to Kailua beach to watch the sun rise. After the sun had risen, we got back into the car and stopped by McDonalds before making our way back to the beaches. Originally I wanted to goto Mokes and Bread for breakfast however it being the 4th of July, it wasn’t open. The roads around Kailua & Lanikai beach had signs everywhere saying no parking because of the parade but after looking at it more closely, we realized we could park up until 8AM. Since we had gotten there at 6AM, our day was still early that we parked near entrance 6 for Lanikai beach and stayed for about 30 minutes before continuing with the days itinerary. Down the Southeast coast of Oahu. Our next stop was Makapu’u Lighthouse trail. Super packed with cars everywhere and after 3 rounds of circling, we found a parking spot at the lookout point. We walked over and did the up trail for Makapu’u. I wore sandals/flip flops but shoes would be more comfortable. The path up is rather flat and is a paved trail going all the way up. The last time I was here, we did detour on the trail and at first, we walked towards the little white and red house and took the path to the actual lighthouse (well outside of the fenced government property) and also a few of my friends went down the side to the tide pools. The tide pools from what I recall was a trek to get down to so we opted out of that. I’ve heard great things about the tide pools but not worth it to climb down to eventually have to climb back up especially with my bum knee.
By the time we had finished the trail, it hadn’t even hit 10AM yet and it was turning into a scorcher. We continued down the road to Halona Blowhole and Beach. The blowhole was ok but the waves were so big that the blowhole didn’t compare. To get to the actual beach, you have to climb down some rocks but it’s worth it. The waves come in with a strong current but because of that, it creates the perfect opportunity for people to jump in off the side when the tide is high. Halona Beach was made famous by a 1950’s movie. It is also known as cockroach beach. You can go into the water but be warned that the current is strong because the waves come crashing in and pull out quickly so its not for the faint of heart to go deeper in than you need to and swim in the middle so you don’t get pushed into the rocks on the sides. There is a tunnel on this beach as well but it doesn’t quite lead to anywhere.
After a quick hour at the beach, we turned back down the road and stopped by Sandy’s Beach where they had food and drink trucks. Punchbowl Coffee truck was parked there and my attempt to see Eric from Terrace House was shattered as he wasn’t working. So far, no Terrace House sightings. I did pick up a Kobe style Milk tea $3.50 from Punchbowl truck.
Back on the road we went to our next destination and the final spot on my itinerary – Spitting Cave. The location on the map is correct and it takes you into a residential area (a posh area to say the least). It is on a dead end street and its seems like it led you to the wrong location similar to the Hollywood sign directions for LA. The directions are correct. You will see 2 poles with signs that seem quite inconspicuous and maybe some garbage in front of it but it is indeed the path down. It is a little alleyway that has reddish clay going down between houses. There is a makeshift rock stairway to get through and watch your step as it gets wet. This path leads you to the wonderful rock formation that houses the Spitting Cave. For those not faint of heart, you will find an arrow at the point where you are to jump off the cliff into the mouth of the spitting cave. You need to wait until the tide pulls in to jump and must climb the rock face to get back up. It is called Spitting cave because the formation has an inner cavern that collects the strong waves coming in and pushes it back out with the same amount of force that it spits it back out.
We did a slight detour to Hanauma Bay but with an entry fee of $7.50USD pp we decided to opt out and head back to Waikiki. I’ve been told this place is beautiful to see the national fish and also the view and snorkelling are great but not for us that day especially it being 4th of July and overcrowded. One last stop before heading home was Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas. I picked up the original and Li Hing Mui. $1.25USD ea (no filling). BUT PLEASE DO TRY THE FILLED ONES. The flavours are all great and each month there is a monthly feature. The shop might be small but it is mighty and flavour with its iconic sign outside leading you in with droves of people sitting outside eating their malasadas.
We rested back at the Airbnb before attempting to have Marukame Udon for late lunch/early dinner. Since it was an odd time (4PM) the line was short and we finally got to taste what everyone was raving about. There usually is a line up outside and the place is open from 7AM-10PM. I ordered the Nikutama Udon – Regular $6.25USD. You can also choose to add on tempura options and drinks as well for a few dollars. The line is long because they make the noodles fresh in house and you have to wait for them to cook while also waiting for the people to get their food, eat and leave. The actual restaurant seems to look like a food court style seating area. The turnover is rather quick though. For the quality and price, it is no wonder this place is always packed.
After dinner, we grabbed Matcha Cafe Maiko – I got the matcha soft serve with hojicha powder $5.50USD + $0.50USD for the powder. After our delicious meal, we walked around our area and did a bit of shopping. I wanted to check out a cute little coffeeshop/boutique called Olive & Oliver at the SurfJack Hotel. We stopped by other little cute shops before walking a bit to Waikiki Beach. Being 4th of July, we had messaged Herbie & Elvia to see what they were up to and arranged to meet to watch fireworks at the beach. The fireworks were ok but I think we also situated ourselves far away from the firing point. The beach was super crowded and we didn’t get that far in but we took in the fireworks. Connor was on my shoulders but didn’t seem too impressed with them and wanted down off my shoulder and immediately went into his stroller and went to sleep. If you do want to experience fireworks in Waikiki – 4th of July or every Friday, you need to goto the West side of the beaches closer to the Hilton.
We finished off the night back at the Mall and getting Magnolia Ice Cream. I got the single scoop of Macapuno Ube (with Coconut). It was a good idea at the time but a single scoop was just too much for me that night.
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.
I’m usually not one to travel in the summer due to the fact that for a short period in time, Toronto has great weather and also because I dedicate my summer travels to volleyball (9-Man). It also is prime time for work opportunities. I made an exception this time around as it all started with my friend Lulu trying to convince me to join her and Renee back in Feb/March to goto Hawaii with them. With this being said, it led to us booking a one-way ticket to Maui. With the one-way ticket purchased, it left me to planning a trip that we could do in a 2 weeks span and also island hopping. Once my itinerary was made, I was able to convince (not very hard to) my friend Tiffany to join us making us a group of 4. I have previously been to Hawaii back in 2014 to photograph my high school friends wedding and staying in Oahu for 13 days – it was amazing and I was mistaken for a Kama’aina surfer girl (a local).
Looking at my last few trips, you can probably tell that I am a very ambitious person and my itineraries are jam-packed. This one was no different. For 2 weeks, we made it so we would island hop – Maui to Oahu to Kauai. This itinerary was made 1.5 months before the trip was to happen and a month before, I injured my leg – side note: sprained my hamstring a month before and didn’t let it rest enough – knee irritation during trip.
For good quality poke anytime, anywhere – goto Foodland.
Download the Gypsy Guide – for your most in-depth car ride. It is an off line audio guide that tracks where you are and will tell you where to stop off to get the most of the islands. It is also very informative and fills you in with all the history that makes Hawaii what it is. We downloaded it for Maui especially for the Road to Hana and also for Kauai.
And of course, last bit of advice: Check airport car rental hours before booking your flights to ensure the offices are open when you land. Late late night flights are no good if you can’t actually leave the airport.
Some facts about Hawaii:
Hawaii is one of the only places in the world that I cannot really tell ethnicity apart. That is because it is a mishmash of many ethnicities and of course tanned complexions. The reason for such mix of ethnicities comes from back in the day when the concept for having an owner and workers started. Before that, people believed they could just survive off the land and live well that way. There was a shortage of workers to work plantations once they adopted the owner and workers system. Since there was a shortage, Hawaii took in workers from different parts of the world such as China, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Puerto Ricans, and Portuguese etc.
After each ethnic group started to immigrate to Hawaii for a better life, the locals started to feel like they were taking all the jobs and started to xenophobia them over and over as a new group came in. Sugar cane plantations were a huge source of income however in 1990, 150 years of plantation ended as the introduction of high fructose sugars started being put into food and the demand for real sugar dropped.
100% Kona Coffee is one of the highest qualities however the price that comes with it isn’t always ideal.
Hawaii has also banned non-coral friendly sunscreens.
Now onto my itinerary. To make the most of our time, I tried to align each day to explore certain areas of each island and tried to alternate hiking days with beach days. I think the biggest thing I am happy to have done was reversing the Road to Hana route – Drive all the way to the end of Road to Hana and explore in reverse for optimal time at Pipiwai Trails and less tourists.
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.