Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Trip to Hawaii | What We Did in Oahu

Last month, I took a vacation with my boyfriend to Oahu, Hawaii. This was our first time visiting and we both had a pretty darn good time. Prior to this, all my big vacations had been with my parents so this time, we actually had to plan out everything on our own and man, trip-planning is exhausting! There seemed to be a ton of things to do in Oahu so I did a lot of research ahead of time to make the most out of our trip. Anyways, I am writing this post to share my experience with you and to also provide some references and tips for those that ever do plan on visiting Oahu as I didn't find a ton of informative sources. To read on, click.......

Where We Stayed:
The majority of tourists visiting Oahu stays in Waikiki, aka the tourist central. We stayed at the Vive Hotel, which we chose because of its high ratings and reasonable pricing. The hotel is incredibly chic and unique and the services offered for free were incredible (wi-fi, breakfast, beach gear, courtesy room, baggage hold, etc). The hotel is just minutes away from Waikiki Beach, shopping, and food.

How We Got Around:
Some of the tourist attractions in Oahu are within walking and convenient transiting distances from Waikiki so we only rented a car for half of our trip. The car rental cost is generally cheaper if you pick up and drop off your vehicle at the airport locations. Because we were under 25, the rental fee is quite high and the parking near Waikiki is expensive. However, places like the North Shore is almost impossible to get to with only public transit, especially if you have a tight itinerary, so renting a car for part of the trip is definitely more favorable.
The bus system in Waikiki is accessible but not always reliable. The bus schedule is kind of erratic and depending where you want to go, the buses can come quite infrequently. The fare is $2.50 per person, and if you are planning to bus for most of your trip, definitely get a 4-day pass.

The Shopping:
I think a lot of people listed Ala Moana Center as a must-visit for shopping. The mall is huge with pretty much all the stores you would ever want. However, if you aren't driving or are too lazy to transit, I really don't think visiting this mall is necessary because the Waikiki area has everything! All the stores you find at the mall you will find in Waikiki. There are tons of high-end designer stores (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, you name it) everywhere but there are also lots of affordable stores like Forever 21 and H&M. If you do want to bulk-buy things like Macadamia Nuts and Kona Coffee, it's definitely cheaper to go to Costco (that is if you are renting a car, since Costco's bit far from Waikiki, and you definitely don't want to lug your cargo on the bus with you).

The Food:
The food in Hawaii is amazing and therefore I am doing a single post (coming tomorrow) dedicated to what we nommed. 

Dole Plantation:
Located in the center of Oahu, this is a very popular tourist destination for families and pineapple lovers. The plantation offers walking and train tours that give you all the history behind the Dole brand and interesting facts about pineapple-farming. There is even a huge pineapple maze for those that want a little adventure. Make sure to try out some world-famous dole whip in the gift shop before heading out.
Dole Plantation
Kayaking at Kailua:
I quite enjoy water sports so I insisted that we go kayaking on the east coast of Oahu near Kailua. We rented a double kayak from a rental place (Kailua Beach Adventures) very close to the beach and visited Lanikai Beach and Flat Island.
Kayaking was incredibly tiring as the waves were super crazy during our trip (late April). The double kayak was surprisingly heavy (even wheeling it from the shop to the beach was a dreadful trip) and we had trouble with just launching from the shore due to the wind and waves. The Flat Island was quite lovely, it's a tiny bird sanctuary 20 minutes away from the beach. It's the perfect place for taking a short break from Kayaking. Lanikai beach is also very beautiful, but the waves were quite strong that day for swimming.
View from Flat Island near Kailua
Bird Sanctuary on Flat Island 
North Shore Beaches:
If you are more into relaxing on the beach versus swimming in the ocean, I definitely suggest renting a car and visiting the North Shore. The sand on the North Shore is noticeably different from the other regions. Instead of slightly pebbly and abrasive white sands, the North Shore sand was golden, filled with tiny worn-down shell particles. Just beautiful!
We visited Sunset Beach and Waimea Beach. I like Waimea beach a lot better because the waves were slightly tamer so it was still possible to go in the water and hang around.
Waimea Beach Park 
Sand at Waimea Beach
Manoa Falls:
If you enjoy an easy hike with a nice scenery, you'd definitely enjoy Manoa Falls. The trail is shaded with lush greens and at the end of the hike there is a gorgeous waterfall, perfect for snapping a selfie. The hike up and down takes about 45 minutes. We bussed from Waikiki, the transit was pretty smooth but there is a transfer and the bus that goes to the Falls comes only once every half an hour.
Manoa Falls
Diamond Head:
Fairly close to Waikiki, this 60-minute hike takes you to the top of a dormant volcano that overlooks Waikiki. The view at the top is gorgeous, but the scenery along the hike was super arid and brown, mostly dried grass and plants. Nevertheless, this is definitely a must-visit if you are going to Honolulu. Do note that the park closes at 6pm, with the last hike starting at 4:30pm.
Entrance costs $1 per person. The place can be bussed to from Waikiki but we drove. There are limited free parking spots outside the gates. There is also paid parking right at the foot of the hike.
View from Diamond Head
View from Diamond Head
Hanauma Bay:
If you want to get up close and personal with beautiful saltwater fish, then you have to visit Hanauma Bay. Replete with corals and every kind of colorful fish imaginable, Hanauma Bay is absolutely gorgeous. Entrance is $7.50 per adult and snorkeling gears are available for rental (at $20, quite expensive if I may add). When you swim just a few feet from shore, you will be able to see all kinds of fish underwater. Hello Dory!
When we went, the waves were kind of strong, which made snorkeling a bit challenging. So if you are going to snorkel, make sure you are confident about your swimming skills. Also be very aware of the corals, they are sharp! Lastly, do keep in mind that the bay is closed on Tuesdays.
Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay
So there you have it, all the things we did in Hawaii. The weather there was absolutely beautiful. It was super hot but there was always a constant breeze. The weather forecast actually reported rain but rain in Hawaii equates to 10-minute long light drizzle with the sun still out. I got sunburnt twice (shame on me) so my advice is to apply sunscreen, re-apply and repeat. Anyhow, stay tuned for what I nommed in Hawaii!

Are you planning any summer vacations? Let me know in the comments below if you are, I'd love to hear about your plans! 
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