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Nov. 2-9 Trip Report - Windward side

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472 posts
110 reviews
68 helpful votes
Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

I’m sorry this is late, but writing it now gave me a chance to relive my trip. Thank you to everyone here for the advice and information. I struggled as I tried to create an itinerary, as I usually do when my husband and I travel. The consensus was that while it’s good to have some idea of what to see, Oahu doesn’t lend itself to a fixed schedule. So I planned very little in advance and, as a result, our first trip to Hawaii was great!

Our “home” for the week was in Kailua, so we rented a car from Enterprise (Costco gave us very good deal). I drove the entire time so my husband could relax. I missed out on some scenery, but I also feel like I got to experience Oahu in a different way than I would’ve as a passenger. I was surprised to find that driving was not bad, particularly because we avoided rush hour. Even in traffic, the other drivers were much nicer than they are in Chicago.

I wish I had run a few trips through Mapquest before leaving home, just to get an idea of the street names and exits. We did use a GPS, but it sometimes mangled names so I had no idea what I was looking for. I learned to review maps myself each night because my passenger insisted on using only the GPS. Don’t get me wrong, the GPS made the trip easier, but when you are taking a drive with a general destination, like “North Shore”, the GPS is not great.

We really enjoyed Kailua. Rather than giving a day-by-day account of what we did in Kailua town, here is a summary of where we went:

Kalama Beach & Kailua Beach - We were on the beach at least once a day. Sometimes we swam, sometimes we just walked. These beaches are beautiful! I liked watching the local dogs playing in the surf, and appreciated that the owners kept the beach clean. The dogs were very well behaved, too!

Cinnamon’s – We ate here for breakfast twice. I know reviewers rave about the pancakes but the many varieties of eggs benedict really were superior. I highly recommend the macadamia nut cinnamon roll if you don’t mind that it is served warm, swimming in glaze.

Agnes’s Portuguese Bakery – I finally tried malasadas! I picked up four one morning and only two made it to the breakfast table. I did get a cinnamon roll and another macadamia nut-coconut frosted pastry for my husband, so I did not feel bad about eating the extra malasadas at all. We went back again on our last day.

Uahi Grill – It’s a small place but wasn’t crowded on a week night. Their Thai red curry was fantastic. It was served over mahi mahi, which was ok, but I would gladly have eaten the curry alone. Dessert was an excellent chocolate caramel macadamia nut tart.

Ba-Le – While eating at Uahi Grill, my husband noticed a constant stream of people going next door. We found out why when we ate there one night. We aren’t familiar with Vietnamese food but thought this place was great. And it was a very good value. Note: They sell Furikake Puffs here (and also at the Thursday market and maybe at Whole Foods). I wish I had bought a bag early in the trip so I could eat them all week, then buy another bag to take home. They are a sweet-salty snack food, round corn and rice puffs that look like they should be breakfast cereal. And even thought they are sprinkled with dried seaweed, they don’t taste swampy at all. I could become addicted to these things in no time.

Tokoname – Very good sushi. We especially liked their spicy tuna rolls and miso soup. We planned to go back for tempura but never made it.

Thursday Night Farmers Market – I know it’s a market but for us it was like a food court. I had seafood chowder and my husband had some kind of meat grilled over guava wood. This is where I sampled the Furikake Puffs. I also bought passionfruit jam that is wonderfully tart, not cloyingly sweet like jam at home. Special thanks to the woman who stopped us and pointed out that the soul food vendor we were considering was handling both food and money at the same time, all without changing gloves. Everyone else seemed to have proper food handling methods.

Kalapawai Café – My seared ahi tuna was perfect. My husband was not as enthusiastic about the cuisine as I was, probably because he wanted to try Lemongrass Vietnamese and Thai. The problem was that it was Friday night and Lemongrass was packed. We had to wait a while before anyone acknowledged us at all, and then it was only to tell us there was at least a 45 minute wait for carry-out alone. So we walked down the street to Kalapawai and got seated in a couple of minutes. By the time we left they were very busy.

Lanikai Bath & Body – This is a good place buy the scents of Hawaii. I didn’t find the products elsewhere, but I admit that I didn’t check a lot of places. I bought body spray and shower gel to use on vacation, but I plan to order more when I run out so I can be reminded of my trip. Their soaps smell amazing too!

(My report continues in the comments)

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472 posts
110 reviews
68 helpful votes
1. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Sunday – We woke up at 4 a.m. This gave us plenty of time to have coffee and make it to the beach to watch the sun rise. I can’t imagine a better way to start the first day of vacation! We then spent the day walking around Kailua Town, shopping, and returning to the beach to swim. By 8 p.m. we were exhausted!

Monday – This was Pearl Harbor Day. We had tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial for 9:30 and arrived early enough to go through the exhibits. This was extremely helpful, especially because the film they show about the Memorial was not working. Next we toured the USS Missouri, then went to the Aviation Museum. Overall, it was a very moving experience, not just at the Memorial but throughout the day. I have a new appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military personnel, and for all the work they do. Thank you!

I thought we might go the National Cemetery of the Pacific next, but traffic was picking up so we went back to Kailua to walk on the beach. We picked up fried banana pies from McDonald’s on the way.

Tuesday – We were up early enough to drive to the Waikiki Trade Center and get discounted parking. Driving in Honolulu was not fun, but if you have driven in a city before, it is bearable. First, we walked to the Royal Hawaiian. This was my must-see place for the day, and I was not disappointed. I loved thinking about the history and all the people who have passed through there. Next, we walked down Kalakaua and wandered in and out of shops. We checked out International Marketplace and I could see that it was really winding down. When all the vendors were there, it must have been overwhelming! We saw the beach and Duke’s statue, of course!

Then we drove to Ala Moana Mall. First stop: Shirokiya for Kulu Kulu Cakes. But when I saw Brug German bakery, I skipped the cakes and got a fantastic onion roll with bacon and cheese. I could’ve bought much more but didn’t want to ruin my lunch. Later we went to the mall food court, which was an experience. I could not believe it was so busy on a weekday. Actually, I couldn’t believe the mall was so busy. And so big! For the first time, I could not get my bearings at all in a shopping mall!

By early afternoon, we were done. I know some people absolutely love Waikiki and Honolulu, but we were looking for a different sort of vacation, a very quiet one, so we were glad we stayed outside the city. On the way back to Kailua we stopped at Costco and got decent prices on a macadamia nut sampler box and coffee. It would not have been worth the time if a woman hadn’t let us go ahead of her in line. Very nice! We stopped at the Pali Lookout and got some great pictures.

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110 reviews
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2. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Wednesday - Over to Lanikai to hike Kaiwa Ridge! This is an unmaintained trail leading to WWII pillboxes. I’m used to hiking trails in parks or conservation areas, so this was a different experience. For one thing, it is steep! It’s a climb. The other issue is that, in some places, if you slip off the edge of the trail, it’s a long way down. The dirt is loose, with crumbly stones in some spots, so you need to take your time and watch your step. It was all worth it when we made it to the top! The views are breathtaking. We got some of the best photos of the trip here.

We went back to the rental to have lunch and to change into swimsuits. Our goal was to go back to Lanikai and find those beaches we saw from the ridge. It seemed like a simple plan but, in reality, it took many tries for us to find access to the beaches. Also, my husband and I were thinking of different beaches, so that added to the confusion. After a few fits and starts I pulled out Oahu Revealed and found out where to go. Neither of us were in a good mood at this point but we felt much better once we were on Lanikai Beach. The water was perfect for swimming – warm and calm.

Thursday – My goal was to see large waves crashing on the beach, so we set out for the North Shore. We were underwhelmed by our view Mokolii Island so after a quick stop we headed to Laie Point ahead of the tour buses. Now THIS was a good stop! I had seen only one picture of it in advance, so I was surprised by how beautiful this is. Massive crashing waves, rock bridge, clear blue sky, all at the end of a residential street.

Back on the road, I knew Kahuku was up ahead. I had only 2 “must try” foods on my list, and garlic shrimp was one of them. Someone’s trip report had mentioned Tita’s, so when I saw it up ahead, I casually said, “Maybe we should stop for lunch?” So we did. Of course, we both had the garlic shrimp and split a slab of bread. The meal was even better than I hoped it would be. (When we returned, I read in the reviews that sometimes the owner hands out free pineapple, bread, or cake. This did not happen to us, which was perfectly fine because the portion of shrimp was huge. I was more than happy to pay for my bread, too).

After lunch we were ready for the beaches! We stopped at Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, and Turtle Beach. Sunset Beach and Waimea gave me beautiful waves and surfers, Turtle Beach gave me sea turtles and MANY other tourists. We went on to Haleiwa but didn’t get out and walk around because it was raining so hard. Instead we stopped for coffee and banana pies at McDonald’s and waited for the rain to let up.

Friday – This time we went east to Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. We got some good photos and headed to my true destination, my other “must try:” Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha for shave ice. I had never had shave ice, so this was really fun for me. Uncle Clay came out and talked to us about ohana and the true meaning of aloha. It was really enjoyable to meet him, as well as a family from Nebraska who came in after us!

On the way back we stopped at Lanai Lookout just because it was there. It was so pretty! It made up for the fact that our next stop, the Halona Blowhole, was a complete disappointment. The last stop was Sandy Beach. The waves were so strong that I think the people swimming there were actually a little bit crazy. It was very much a “see and be seen” sort of beach….if you are young and fit and local. Great for wave and people watching, not great for swimming.

Saturday – Our flight left at 8:00 pm, so we spent the day in Honolulu. First, we went to the Bishop Museum. For me, this was helpful in understanding more about Oahu and the wide range of cultures represented there. It would’ve been nice to go there early in the trip, just to have that additional insight as we toured the island. Afterwards, I knew we weren’t far from the Tantalus lookout, so that is where we headed next. It was a surreal driving experience, like being a jungle in the middle of the city. HUGE TIP: When you see a lookout spot, pull over and check it out. Do not wait for a better opportunity because it could start raining and ruin your view of everything. I thought there was something better around the bend, or maybe the next bend, and then everything was ruined by rain and mist. Unfortunate, but it still was a unique driving experience, especially in the rain.

Leaving Tantalus, I saw we were close to the National Cemetery of the Pacific. We did our best to walk around there but the rain wouldn’t give us a break. Still, it was impressive. If we go back, that will be a priority stop.

We gave up fighting the rain and headed to the airport. Thanks to the weather, I didn’t feel quite so bad leaving, but when the TSA agent asked if I wanted to return next week, I said “Absolutely!”

Kapaa, Hawaii
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3. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Thanks for the great report, sounds like a wonderful time. Love the windward side too!!

Oahu, Hawaii
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4. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side


Mahalo for your report.

Milwaukie, Oregon
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5. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Thanks for the wonderful report. My favorite Oahu visits have involved stays on the windward side. Glad to read that Cinnamon's is still putting out those great breakfasts.

Seattle, Washington
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6. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

A very good read! Thx for taking the time!!

Saint Cloud...
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for Oahu
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7. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Nice trip report. Thanks.

I like the Makapuu Lighthouse & Kaiwa Ridge hikes.

Laie Point is great when the surf is up.

Level Contributor
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8. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Great trip report, mahalo for posting!

Denver, Colorado
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9. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Great report! I really enjoyed reading about the different trails.

Edited: 3:51 am, December 17, 2013
Chisago City...
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10. Re: Nov. 2-9 Trip Report – Windward side

Great trip report! Provided me with new ideas for our trip in January,