Aloha from Oahu! It's been a month since our trip to Hawaii and I can't stop thinking and talking about it. I don't think I've done that with any other city/country we've visited. Something about our experience lead us to dream of moving there one day. We planned for one week and I wish we had stayed there longer, maybe 1 more week. There was so much that we did but also some things that we didn't/couldn't do or see. I'll touch on that in a little bit. But, it was the most perfect vacation for our family.
We had an early flight from Los Angeles and by the time we arrived in Waikiki Beach it was brunch time. Our flight timing couldn't been more perfect. And, I was happy the kids had an easy time on the flight. Mason was very excited to fly. He kept himself entertained with his iPad and Nintendo 3DS. And, Katherine was very popular on the plane ride to Hawaii. One of the the flight attendants would come grab her from me and take her to the front and back of the plane by the rest of the crew members. They had a blast with her. We could hear her voice all the way from our seats. It was adorable. We arrived to the Honolulu Airport, took a shuttle to Avis car rental, picked up a Fiat, loaded the car with all our bags, which barely fit and headed to our hotel. In regards to packing, I have to mention we had done a pretty good job with it. For the first time ever, we had not over packed and almost wore and used everything. We turned in our bags to the hotel, valeted the car and walked around Waikiki beach to get to know the area while we wait for our room check-in time.
We stayed in Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort in Waikiki Beach and there was nothing but great and positive feedback from our stay there. It was the perfect hotel and location especially for a family with kids. The hotel is south of Oahu and right on the beach. We had breakfast downstairs at the hotel almost everyday because it was so convenient and pretty. Waking up to the breathtaking view was just priceless. Our room was so awesome with a balcony and ocean view. The service was amazing all around the hotel. And, our valet guy turned out to be Bruno Mars' uncle which we found out on our last day.
The first day of our stay we wanted to keep close to the hotel while we unwound. We decided to hang around downstairs at Waikiki Beach then walk around the vicinity of the hotel. We chilled on the first day and second half of the next day until we got used to the time difference. That's another reason why we needed more days. By the time our minds and bodies got used to the time difference, it took about 48 hours to get back to our normal selves. But, we managed to check off the important to-do's on our list. And, whatever we couldn't get to, we promised ourselves we will be back for them. HAHA.
On our second day, we got in our Fiat after breakfast and drove to the East side of Oahu. Drove all the way up to Lanakai Beach, known as the "heavenly sea." This small ½ mile strip of beach is consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world. This turned out to be our favorite spot on the island. It was away from the main tourist attraction with softer sand, clean, calm water, and just so heavenly, as the name depicts. We spent half the day there until we got hungry and drove back down until we hit a small hole in the wall kind of taco place that happened to be the best place in town. It was called Ono Steaks and Shrimp Shack in Waimanalo. We were so hungry and the garlic shrimp taco with mangoes were SO SO GOOD that it was way too late for photos. LOL. We tried so hard to go back there during the rest of our stay but could not fit it into our schedule as it always ended up being out of the way.
Our plan after Lanakai Beach was to head to Kualoa Beach, where Jurassic Work and Park were filmed. Then, on the way down from Lanakai Beach, we were going to stop at Hanauma Bay but the kids were so exhausted so we drove to the hotel to relax a bit then go walking around Waikiki to grab some shaved ice. The kids were in a happy place so that's all that mattered.
Day three, had an early breakfast at the hotel then drove towards central Oahu to the Dole Plantation. We had a great time there and Mason was so happy to run through and solve the secret mysteries game at the Pineapple Maze, which is supposed to be the world's largest maze. After the maze, we took the Pineapple Express where we listened and learned the story of how the founder, James Dole, started his world famous Dole empire as we traveled through the amazing fields of colorful tropical fruits.
Of course, after we had finished with the Dole Plantation, we were starving and tired so we head south near Waikiki and grabbed lunch from the food trucks that we stumbled upon. And, of course, we had to try the garlic shrimp tacos from this spot as well. It was really yummy but still didn't compare to the one from Ono. We stayed local in Waikiki that evening and took a stroll around the shopping areas.
On the fourth day, we headed towards North Shore with a few stops here and there. First, we stopped at the Mermaid Caves in Nanakuli Beach, hoping to get to see the mermaid cave tunnels. But, sadly, the waves were so strong that it almost took us in that Mason to this day calls it the "bad beach". Poor thing. He was so excited to see the mermaid caves but after the waves experience he just wanted to leave and go to the nicer beach. We probably stayed there for less than an hour then drove up North. Our second stop was Turtle Beach in Haleiwa, where we hoped to see some sea turtles especially after our previous experience. We were expecting to see sea turtles on the loose as some reviewers had mentioned in our readings but we were still lucky to see two sea turtles. They were roped off and under supervision but it was still nice to see them up close. Then, we ran across the street where the famous North Shore food trucks like Giovanni's Shrimp Truck and other well known trucks park. We decided to try a plate of shrimp and rice special instead of tacos. It was pretty good. Not sure why but we just wanted anything with shrimp the entire stay there.
On our fifth day, we had booked the evening for a luau on the West side of Oahu at Paradise Cove in Kapolei and so we didn't want to wear out the kids too much by driving around and making too many stops. So, we stayed local at the hotel beach. The kids of course did not mind at all that we were at the beach and not driving. That's all they both wanted, to be in the water the entire time. Later that day, we got ready and headed out for the luau about an hour away from Waikiki. There were lots of activities before the actual luau show. We made bracelets for the kids in their "Hawaiian" names, got Mason some Hawaiian instruments from the shop there, and had a shark painted on his arm. When it was time for the show, they had everyone grab food first then take their seats for the show to begin. It was a nice experience that we all enjoyed. The last 10 minutes before the show ended, it rained on us. That was our one and only tropical rain during our stay. By the time we got to the hotel, it was already to for bed.
On our sixth (and last full day) day we visited Pearl Harbor and spent half the day there. It was definitely a very humbling experience never to be forgotten. Mason and I experienced the USS Bowfin Submarine tour which the baby and hubby could not get into since babies are not allowed on due to narrow stairs, etc. But, I'm glad Mason got to experience as I was telling him the history as best as I could for his level of understanding. He seemed very into it. Then, we were on our way to the boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial which we got the tickets from the ticketing window there. The experience was very moving and heartbreaking and definitely one of the highlights of our trip. The memorial is preserved beautifully in honor of all our fallen men and women.
So, due to running out of time and taking longer and much needed breaks in between to cater the kids' needs, we could not make it to the following spots: Diamond Head (which we were told it's not a place for strollers so didn't want to take a chance), Hanauma Bay, Downtown Honolulu, Kualua Beach, Lolani Palace, Manoa Falls, Dolphin Quest, Chinatown, and a few famous dessert spots in the North Shore for shaved ice and acai bowls. Well, that gives us a reason to go back there some day (hopefully soon). In the end, we had a great relaxing vacation and I'm glad we took our time to do and see everything.
Funny story though, it was my first Hawaiian trip after so many years of my husband begging me to go and I hesitated for some reason. My husband went to Kauai on a business trip one year and after he returned he begged for us to go to Hawaii, any of the islands, not just Kauai, But, I always thought that it was going to be a boring, lazy kind of trip. Just laying around the beach having nothing to do but eat, drink and sun tan. Well, I'm more of the "explore the history and sight-see" kind of person. Well, he convinced me that I will have one of the best times of my life in Hawaii, and so I took a chance and accepted his idea. WHOA! Little did I know and heavily underestimated the experience. I left Oahu crying and wanting to stay there. It truly was the best, a heavenly place that refreshes your spirit. The island of Oahu will always have a special place in my heart. Until we meet again. Aloha!
Below is a video of our trip. I have been enjoying making videos lately. I think they capture the special moments so much better. It's so fun looking back on videos a few years down the road. Thanks for following along!