DAY 1(EVENING) THURS 05.17.2018
If you didn't just click over here from the Maui page, we spent 4 1/2 days there first and caught an early evening flight over to Oahu. We got picked up at the airport by our rental car company (Lucky Owl) and brought us to our little red Corolla. After coming from Maui, we were taken back by the fact that we were smack in the middle of a major city. Everywhere we had gone in Maui had the island feel to it so we weren't expecting to be sitting in rush-hour traffic. We planned a few things for the evening before settling in for the night.
Helena's Hawaiian Food
Helena's Hawaiian Food: I found this place online and it was very highly reviewed. Why wouldn't you want Hawaiian food when you're in Hawaii? The area and the restaurant were very busy. We decided to order to go and head over to Magic Island to eat over there. We ordered "Menu A (Kalua Pig & Lomi Salmon)" and "Menu B (Kalua Pig & Shortribs)." On the side, we got one rice and one poi. We didn't know what the heck poi was by we felt we needed to try it (I wouldn't do it again). The shortribs were my favorite. The salmon was a little disappointing cause it was diced with tomatoes and we didn't even realize there was salmon in it at first. I probably wouldn't go back but I'm glad we tried it.
Helena's at Magic Island
Magic Island: I was hoping we'd get here for a nice sunset but it was very overcast and there was no color in the sky. We ended up hanging out here for a while and Leslie was very patient with me while I got this photo...
Honolulu (from Magic Island)
This is a really cool spot to hang out and it's right by the beach as well. It's a great spot for picnics or to go running or just to relax and enjoy the scenery. There's plenty of free parking but it can get busy!
Waikiki: Just a couple miles away is Waikiki, which I believe is a part of Honolulu. The vibe I got is that it's a fantastic place to go for nightlife. You'll find resorts, hotels, beaches, restaurants, shopping and all that night-lifey stuff. We walked around for a little bit before heading to the Airbnb (we came back another night).
DAY 2 FRI 05.18.2018
Despite the flight from Maui to Hawaii the day before, it was a relatively light day so we were rested and ready for another early start and an action packed day! Here were our plans...
Breakfast @ Moena Cafe
Koko Head Hike
Halona Blowhole Lookout / Halona Cove
Waimanalo Beach Park
Dinner @ Maui Mike's Chicken
Hanauma Bay: This is a must visit spot if in Oahu! And DO NOT come without snorkel gear. I don't care what the rental might cost you...you will regret it. We got lucky and the Airbnb we stayed at the previous night had 2 snorkel masks we could use! This is a fee area. Entry is $7.50 per person and $1 for parking. *TIP: If you arrive before 7am, parking and admission is FREE! And you won't have to worry about finding parking because it can get very busy :)
Koko Head Hike: Per alltrails.com, this hike is 1.8 mi out & back. It's a very steep climb that only gets steeper as you go. Despite being steep, it's pretty short and took us around 25-30 minutes to get up. Definitely bring water...and you're camera because there are views at the top!
Lanai Lookout: We planned the day so that everything would be convenient. This was right on the way we were headed so we pulled in the lot. If you climbed Koko Head (or are going to), you will get a more scenic view of this spot from the summit.
Halona Blowhole Lookout: At this viewpoint, it seemed like was okay to jump over the fence and explore the rocky coastal line like many were when we were there. Otherwise, it is a cool viewpoint that reminded me of the California coast that we had just left. Also, facing the ocean, if you head to the far right there is a cove called Halona Cove that looked like a very fun place to swim in! We saw a mini "eruption" of the blowhole. If you're looking for it, it was kind of toward the center of the viewing area.
The Blowhole Not Blowing
Sandy Beach: This is a nice, pretty big beach. Big waves, soft sand. Definitely a good beach for relaxation or playing in the water.
Makapu'u Lookout: This lookout has a parking area and provides an amazing view of Makapu'u Beach with the mountain range behind it. The beach below looked like another amazing beach to spend time at (unfortunately we didn't make it to this one). Definitely stop here for this view.
Waimanalo Beach Park: This is yet another beautiful beach that Oahu has to offer. With it's soft white sand, this is the beach we chose to spend most of our time at for the day...we swam here for a while! The water was perfect. The waves weren't too big...it was just right. I did not bring my camera, therefore, no pictures!
Pillbox Hike: This hike is 3.2mi out & back to the Pillbox, however, the trail keeps going! It is an amazing hike and was even better than we expected going in. There is a fair amount of street parking in the area but do not park illegally. You will get ticketed or towed. The hike is pretty steep, offers amazing views. I think it was steepest in the beginning. I recommend going at least 1/4 mile past the second pillbox for the view of the mountains. For us, this was a perfect hike to do on the same day as Koko Head, as both hikes are challenging but not too long.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Maui Mike's: We were pretty beat for the day...and very HUNGRY! Maui Mike's was a little order-at-the-counter place with really good chicken. The menu is simple and I liked that (you can see it on their website). Leslie and I both got the half chicken and I got an extra side (corn and beans). It was very good and I would recommend it if you're looking for good food but something that's not. fancy.
Pali Lookout: Last stop for the night. This was pretty close to the Airbnb and I was hoping we'd catch a cool sunset here (we didn't). It turns out this is a paid parking area ($3), which surprised me, however, you only have to pay between 8a-5p. It's a very short walk to the scenic lookout. It was very cold and windy when we were there! I believe this is also the start for the Pali Notches hike, however, there is a sign where the trail begins stating the hike is closed!
That was more than enough for a day. We were beat. After that we just came back to the airbnb with plans on getting up early for a sunrise hike the next day so we just crashed!
DAY 3 SAT 05.19.2018
We had another pretty huge day planned as we were headed to explore the entire North Shore of Oahu. We did run into one dissapointment as well. Here were the plans...
Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail (for sunrise)
Breakfast @ Moke's Bread & Breakfast
Crouching Lion Hike
Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park
Lunch @ Fumi's Shrimp
Sunset Beach Park
Waimea Bay Beach
Dinner @ Stadium Vietnamese
Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail: Per recommendation from our Airbnb host, we got up before sunrise (which seems to be a popular thing to do in Oahu), leaving the Airbnb at 5am! We got to the trailhead and the lot was already about half full (but we timed it perfectly). There are plenty of places to watch the sunrise but we were lucky to find a hidden pillbox to sit on, by ourselves! I would recommend arriving about 30 minutes before sunrise.
Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail
Makapu'u Beach: This looked like one of the nicer beaches on the island but we skipped it cause it just wasn't the time of day we were ready for the beach! If you missed it, check out the view from the Makapu'u Lookout from yesterday's plans above.
Moke's Bread & Breakfast: This was a very nice restaurant for breakfast. I ordered the loco moco and Leslie got the sunrise special 1. We both enjoyed our food! I had to try the Loco Moco somewhere!
Moke's Bread & Breakfast
Crouching Lion Hike: We're super bummed we skipped this. The trailhead is not difficult to find. The coordinates are [21.558462, -157.865840], which is just after "Do Not Pass Sign" that was on our left. There is a parking area designed for the little beach park just after the trailhead. When we got there, we were scared off by the "trail closed" sign. After the fact, everyone we talked to said it's fine to go past those signs and that it is not enforced. I suppose, as tourists, it scared us off but enter at your own risk!
Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park: Since we skipped the Crouching Lion hike, we looked for another hiking area nearby and came across this. It is not a bad hike but we do wish we did the Crouching Lion hike instead. It's a nice nature trail but doesn't really offer any scenic view. There is one spot along the hike that looks like it would be a similar view the Crouching Lion hike would offer, except from a much lower point and blocked by trees. Since we were sad about not seeing the view we missed, I sent the drone up in the air to see what we were missing (see pic below). Overall, I don't think I'd recommend this spot to a tourist with limited time on the island.
Ahupua'a 'O Kahana State Park
Fumi's Shrimp: If you're on the North Shore during lunchtime, get some shrimp. I have heard Giovanni's was the best shrimp shack but we ended up going to Fumi's. I would highly recommend it. It was delicious and Leslie said it was one of her favorite meals on the trip. I can't say if one shrimp truck is better than any other (there are plenty).
Garlic Butter Shrimp
Sunset Beach Park: Another great beach. I'm running out of different descriptions for beaches. It's a beautiful beach with sand and water and you can swim in it. Oh yeah...it also has this tree.
Sunset Beach Park
Waimea Bay Beach: This is a pretty popular spot. Apparently there's a cliff you can jump off into the ocean. It was super busy. We circled the lot like 11 times and couldn't get parking. People do park on the street and I think we could have done that but we just moved onto the next stop.
Laniakea Beach: I'm not a Hawaii expert but I'm going to say you'll be pretty likely to see sea turtles here. There's lots of parking (and it gets busy) across the street. As soon as we came over to the beach, we could see some turtles swimming in the water. When you head over to the corner where the cliffs are, there were lots of sea turtles in the water. Juuuust before we were going to leave, 2 of them came out of the water and up onto shore. It was exactly what you want to see when you come here. I hope you have as much luck as we did.
Dole Plantation: I usually just plan as much outdoorsy stuff as possible. I actually didn't originally plan on us coming here but I am so glad we did - this place is awesome. *TIP: Do NOT come here without getting the pineapple whip (it's like pineapple soft serve but better - just try it). "I didn't want it to end" - Leslie. It's on the way back from the North Shore so don't miss out. There's also a lot more than just the whip.
p.s. the actual pineapples are outrageously expensive.
Stadium Vietnamese: As you have seen, we had a really busy day. We stopped at the Airbnb for a short while before figuring out where to go fo dinner. We actually planned on going to the Stadium Comellia buffet since we were so hungry and I love good buffets. We got there and we couldn't stay cause they had a graduation party. Right across the parking lot was Stadium Vietnamese so we settled for this place, which was actually quite delicious. We split the rare beef pho and each ordered an entree as well. I got the beef short rib on rice and Leslie got the BBQ chicken and spring roll on rice noodles. It was definitely a good decision to come over here instead (and more affordable too).
That was it!! It was a lot. We stayed at an Airbnb and found a little lizard in our room but only saw it once. Day 4 is a big one...
DAY 4 SUN 05.20.2018
This was one of the most memorable days of the entire trip and that is because we got to the top of the Stairway to Heaven! This is probably one of the most controversial decisions for tourists because of the guards at the bottom and the fines that can be handed out. After this hike, it was mostly a hang out day...
Walk around Waikiki
Cream N Roll (Ice Cream)
Haiku Stairs: If you're hearing about this hike for the first time from my blog, it is an amazing hike! I'm not going to get too into the controversy, but basically, from my research online, it looks like if you try to ascend up the stairs, you can get a $1,000 fine or possibly even jail time. There is a back way to get there (you don't ascend the stairs) that will get you to the top and also provides you with an incredible hike and stunning views. That is what we did. So, this post is about the back way. We did meet 2 guys at the top who came up the stairs and said they walked right past the guard after telling him "we're going up those stairs" and he said "I'm not going to stop you." The choice is yours...
The back way is amazing and legal. The trailhead is at [21.374080, -157.880454] and there is a small parking lot. It was full when we got there but there are places on the street leading up to it that it is legal to park at (residential area). There are bathrooms at the trailhead. The first 2 miles of the hike are relatively flat and you will cross over little streams (they are not deep). After about 2 miles, you will be in a very wooded spot and there will be a creek. Cross this creek and there will be a split in the trail. GO RIGHT at the split. The trail will start to ascend and become very steep and difficult. And can also be very muddy and slippery. There are spots with ropes to help you get up. I'd suggest giving them a tug to make sure they are stable because I hear they are put there by hikers and not by people who are upkeeping the trail. It is a challenge but it's totally worth it if you're cut out for it. The views are some of the most incredible that we've ever seen. I believe the whole thing took us about 6 hours.
Stairway to Heaven
Waikiki Brewing: After a long day-hike we were ready to not partake in anymore outdoor activities and enjoy some food in the city. It was about 4pm and I was ready for a beer. This place is right in the city and they have a patio as well. It was nice to sit and relax for a bit. This was the only brewery we went to in Hawaii. I would have liked to have gone to Kona but it wasn't where we wanted it to be. We both got the Hef.
Marukame Udon: We could have eaten at the brewery but we had our eye on this place. Online, this is the most-reviewed and highly-reviewed place in Waikiki. It lived up to the expectations. When you first go in, you order your soup. Then, while still in line, you can grab anything you want. They have a bunch of food laid out buffet-style with the price per each item and you just take what you want. I went with the Kake Udon, fried chicken, fried vegetables, and fried sushi (lots of fried options). Leslie got the Curry Udon and a couple side orders as well. The whole dinner was under $20. Super fun, super delicious, and super affordable. p.s. the Curry Udon was better than the Kake Udon.