Hi! We've been back from our trip for a little over a month now and we're still missing Hawaii. I'm still in disbelief that we were actually there. Four days on Waikiki and two on Maui and we can't wait to go back!
Day 1: we flew American Airlines from Atlanta through DFW and on to HLL and arrived around 3pm in Oahu. We first grabbed our rental car from Hertz. We paid $21/ day through Priceline's name your own price. We were supposed to get a compact but got upgraded to a 4 door sedan, which we liked. We used Siri to navigate around the island without a problem.
First, we headed over to Pearl Harbor. We didn't have tickets but we enjoyed looking around and reading the memorials. We Facetimed our kids while we were there before they headed to bed at the grandparent's place on the east coast. Our four year old liked to see the bomber planes and submarine. It was nice to share that experience with him. It wasn't too crowded at that time so we had a chance to take lots of pictures. After that we went to Chinatown. (Free parking on Sundays) Didn't realize it would be pretty much abandoned by that time, but we walked around and saw a few markets still opened, just not really what we expected. We shared a plate of beef egg fu young at the Noodle House. It was really yummy! Next we walked over to the Lililani Palace since it was pretty close. Not many people around but it was closed as well. We weren't planning to tour it though, so reading the memorial and taking pictures was good enough for us. We walked back to the car and headed up Tantalus Drive. Great place! We stopped and did part of the Manoa Falls trail but it was getting dark so we kept it short. It was awesome! I wish we had a chance to do the full trail. We drove back down the way we came and stopped at one lookout where some locals were hanging out grilling and drinking. We took some photos and chatted with them for a while. They were so friendly! They pointed out some fun things to do that I hadn't heard about which was really nice. We watched the sun set from that point and then headed to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.
We valet end our car ($35/day versus $30/day self park - WORTH IT). We checked in and headed to our room to drop off our luggage. Our room was in the Diamond Head tower. Our view wasn't special, but we booked our trip through a discount travel site so I wasn't expecting much. We got two free bottles of water each day and free Internet. It was a nice set up, big rooms, and each has a patio. If you had an oceanfront room it would be really cool. We then headed over onto the strip, first stopping at the International Marketplace. We bought a few souvenirs while we were there so that we didn't have to worry about them later. We also got a dole whip as a snack. We walked up and down Kalakawa Avenue until almost 11. We sat on the beach for a while and listened to the waves. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the ABC store and got some spam masubis and beers for our room. We had to get. Up early the next day for Diamond Head.
Day 2: Just like everyone said, we were wide awake at 4am, so we got dressed and headed to breakfast at Zippys. We both got the breakfast bento box with spam, Portuguese sausage, eggs with cheese, and a scoop of rice. We also shared a Lilikoi drink that we are OBSESSED with. It's so good! We've actually ordered (and almost finished) a 24-pack of it from Amazon. Our meal was good and cheap. Then we went over to Leonard's to get some malasadas to bring up Diamond Head with us. There was no line and the malasadas were piping hot. Next we headed to Diamond Head. We got there about 10 minutes after the gates opened and there was already tour groups on the mountain. The hike was nice, very scenic, but pretty crowded. We probably spent about 20 minutes total here. On the way up it was funny to watch the line of people who looked like an army of ants marching up the trail. Even that early it was starting to get hot. There was a food truck there selling drinks and snacks including shave ice. We had our malasadas though and could have eaten more. We took our. I've getting back to the hotel and changed. We were supposed to go on a snorkeling tour at 9:30 but got a call that it had to be rescheduled for the next day because of rough waters. We were a bit bummed, but it turned it to be a blessing in a disguise because it gave us more time for the North Shore.
We jumped in the car and headed towards Waimea Beach park first. On our way we stumbled across the Dole Plantation. We stopped for pictures and another Dole Whip (I know, obsessed). It is VERY touristy, but still neat. It broke up the drive nicely. We got to Waimea around 10am and there was plenty of parking. Even though the water was rough and there was signs posted about the swells there was people in the water and people jumping off the big rock. I was nervous but determined to jump myself. This trip was about having adventures and this was a must do. After a few more people jumped I gained my confidence and went up. It wasn't difficult and it was neat to look down into the water. I could see sea turtles swimming in the water, it was an incredible sight. Finally, I stood at the edge of the rock looking down and told myself as one wave passed under me that there was no turning back and I leapt! I did, for a second, think I might be jumping to my death, but as soon as I hit the water I was so happy I did it. The swell made it harder to get back to shore until I realized it was easier to ride the waves in. I only regret just doing it once. My husband jumped too and then we laid in the beach for a while. Around 11:30 we decided we'd better get to Giovanni's shrimp trunk soon before the lunch crowd so wee left. The parking lot was full by then.
We finally found Giovanni's right before a caravan of tour buses rolled in. We shared a shrimp scampi plate with rice and a side of macaroni salad. The shrimp swam in garlic butter sauce and it was the perfect portion for two people. Next we drove over to the Polynesian Culture Center to look for a nativity set that was requested from someone back home. No luck finding one but I was intrigued by the center. I wish that we had the time in our schedule to spend the day there. I definitely think it would have been awesome. After that we stopped at Lanei Point. Very pretty! We took some photos and headed towards Laniakea Beach.
If you are headed there be advised that there isn't much signage and its easy to miss. We parked and headed to the beach. This beach was really pretty. The water was gorgeous and the sand super white. W wanted to check out the sea turtles and thought that we'd missed them when one catapulted out if the water (rough waters that day.) We stayed and watched him for a while as he sunned on the sand. This honu was missing a fin from a shark bite. He pulled himself higher on the beach which was fun to watch. This spot is pretty and good for photos, especially of black lava rocks.
That evening we went to the Paradise Cove luau. I hate to say it, but I was really underwhelmed. I think it was mostly because we drove ourselves (for more flexibility in our schedule) so we didn't have the same comraderie as the tour groups who came in on the buses did. Since we weren't in a group we got sat in the by back corner and didn't even have a server at all. The food was okay, but dessert was lacking. The pineapple was terrible, not at all what you'd expect to be from Hawaii. It reminded me of buffet fruit from Chinese restaurants at home. I didn't like being herded around the grounds, so we mostly opted to admire the pretty flowers. The show was good though. Very entertaining. After dark I was really cold in my sundress and wanted to leave because of that. We got rained on a few times for just a short while. Not soaked, but it cooled off the air even more.
We went back to the hotel and I think exhaustion finally caught up with us. We watched a little tv before crashing around 11.
The next morning we had our rescheduled snorkel tour at 9:30. We grabbed breakfast at Big City Diner at the Ala Moana mall which was next to the boat dock. I ordered the breakfast bread pudding and my husband had the breakfast platter with pancakes, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and eggs. We both got a water and guava juice. The bread pudding hit the spot. It was super fluffy and gooey with the perfect sweetness. I would have licked the bowl if my belly could have held more.my husbands was good too. The pancakes had coconut syrup with them, yum.
We went on the Magic Island Catamaran snorkel tour. This was a lot of fun! We drove out to turtle cleaning spot and saw about 20 sea turtles up close. You can't touch them but they swam really close to people. I think the rough waters from the day before made the waters more cloudy that usual, but it wasn't bad. Diving down was fun for a better view but harder since the waters are saltier than most places. The boat had drinks for sale on board for $1 but you could bring drinks and snacks if you wanted. I enjoyed a nice refreshing beverage after a good swim. We also had a great view of Diamond Head from the water. After everyone returned to the boat we cruised in the water for a while. I loved it. My husband did not. He got sea sick. :(
After the snorkeling we stopped back at the hotel. We had a 1:30 surf lesson to get to but my husband didn't feel up to it after the sea sickness so he stayed back to rest while I went on. I booked our lessons with Waikiki Beach Services based off a recommendation here. They are very reasonably priced, especially considering they include complimentary photos. Mason was my instructor. He was really nice and informative. He helped coach me on my footing so I felt like I improved and was more confident. I didn't anticipate how torn up my feet and knees would get from the board though. I also landed hard in the water on some coral and cut my foot. I got some good photos too and was really glad I went to the lesson even though I thought about not doing it alone.
Afterwards I walked around the Royal Hawaiian shopping mall and other shops before meeting back at the hotel. I joined my husband for a nap. When we got up we went down to the beach and sat for a while relaxing. W didn't get much of that done while we were there but when we did it was awesome. Pro top: add more time for relaxing!
That evening we cashed in a groupon for a seafood feast at JJ's Bistro, a French/Vietnamese restaurant. It wasn't very good. The seafood was overcooked and disintegrated when it was peeled. The tiny scoop of mashed potatoes was laughable. The best thing about our meal was the $2 tea we ordered (which was actually just a Lipton tea bag.) it was raining pretty hard by the time we got back to the hotel so we watched tv in bed and got our bags ready for our trip to Maui the next day.
We went down to the hotel breakfast buffet and used our bogo coupon which made it $30 instead of $60. We must have bought the wrong package because lots of people had complimentary breakfast passes. :) I probably would skip hotel breakfast next time. It was okay. Included a omelet bar, but everything else was buffet style. They had bread pudding also so I helped myself to plenty of that. The fruit was sweet and fresh and the juice was good too. If I had free passes I would eat there every day, but I'd rather pay a little more/less and see more of Waikiki.
We stopped at the hotel pool and lamented not spending more time there. The hotel had free beach equipment rentals that we didn't take advantage of but we wished that we had. We then went to a outrigger canoe trip, also with Waikiki beach services. I'm glad we did that since my husband did not get to surf, and I definitely think its a quintessential tourist thing that should be done once, but we won't spend the money again to do it unless we bring our kids.
We had a late check out and just enough time to grab a few drinks and a snack at Dukes . I got a tropical itch and my husband got a beer. We shared a plate of calamari. We sat at the bar and still had a great time. We chatted with the bartenders and other visitors. Definitely a great experience. We stopped at a few other stores on our way back to the hotel and then checked out at noon. We had some time to kill before having to be at the airport. It happened to be the same day as the lei festival. We walked around the festival and park and watched some of the traditions. It was neat and very educational. Finally we had to get back to the airport.
Oahu was amazing. Definitely a dream vacation and I have to admit I left a little piece of my heart there. Can't wait to come back again. We did a lot in Maui as well, including Mamas Fish House, Road to Hana, and more but I will save that for the other forum.