Aloha Oahu! After spending three and a half weeks in snowy destinations with freezing temperatures over the Christmas break, we figured Hawaii would be the perfect place to end our annual month-long adventure, and thaw out before heading back to real life.
As much as we love winter holidays and snow, we’re also huge beach fiends and can’t resist palm trees, sunbathing, and swimming in the ocean.
The crazy part is that we hadn’t even booked the Hawaiian portion of our trip before we left Australia. Even though it was the longest leg time-wise. Even though it’s a popular destination during the winter months. Even though we were really excited about going there.
We just weren’t really sure where we wanted to spend our time in Hawaii. Do we stay in Oahu for the full 10 days? Or do we mix things up and visit some of the other islands, such as Kauai, Maui, or Molokai? We talked to different people during the course of the Canadian leg of our trip, and received plenty of mixed answers, which didn’t help our decision-making!
In the end, we decided to spend our whole time on Oahu, but split between Honolulu and the North Shore. This ended up working out perfectly, as we got to see a lot of the island, but also had plenty of time to relax; rather than flying back and forth between islands every other day.
So, what’s so great about Oahu?
Oahu is stunningly beautiful; covered with gorgeous volcanic craters, pristine beaches, amazing surf conditions, and wildlife galore. The locals are friendly, and the weather is mild to hot, with the monthly high averaging above 25 degrees C year-round. It is also a popular destination for movies and televisions shows, which was one of the many reasons why it was high on our list.
Honolulu > Ilikai Suites
We wanted to be close to Waikiki, but not in amongst the hustle and bustle; so we chose the Ilikai suites. Situated near the Kahanamoku Beach, we were only a short walk away from popular Waikiki Beach, and had breathtaking views of Diamond Head and the Hilton Lagoon, and the ocean stretched out as far as the eye could see.
Our suite was huge! I think we were upgraded, as we received a full kitchen, king bed, large ocean-facing balcony, and a lounge area. The great thing about Ilikai is that each floor of the hotel has a laundry room, which meant we were able to wash and dry our clothes with ease. A simple amenity, but one that we so appreciate, especially when living out of a suitcase.
We loved walking past the lagoon, and along the Fort DeRussy Boardwalk each day; and on Friday nights, the Hilton Hotel puts on a spectacular fireworks display, which we were able to view and enjoy from our balcony.
Ilikai is also home to boutique shopping, a mini market, two restaurants, a cafe, a swimming pool, and beach access.
North Shore > Turtle Bay Resort
We really went all out on the North Shore, staying at the luxurious Turtle Bay Resort. Our room overlooked the large pool area and the ocean—the sunsets were spectacular!
Turtle Bay Resort is well-equipped with restaurants, a gym, day spa, tennis courts, horse stables, plenty of activities and tours, and equipment hire. We enjoyed wandering along the walking trail to the infamous Banyan Tree each day, and taking in the sights and sounds.
On our last morning at Turtle Bay Resort, we were lucky enough to see a mama turtle and her baby frolicking in the waves at the beach. It was truly a wonderful sight!
What’s for eating?
Because we had a full kitchen in our suite, we mostly made our own meals, or grabbed pre-prepared food from the local ABC Stores; but we did eat out a couple of times…
Hard Rock Cafe: I’ve already mentioned our love of this place multiple times, so it’s really no surprise that we wanted to check the Honolulu restaurant off our growing list, too! There always seems to be a queue for this place, so I definitely recommend getting there early, or booking in advance.
Cheeseburger in Paradise: If you like burgers, then this is the place for you! Their burgers are soo good, so filling, and the ingredients are fresh and tasty. Also, really well priced. Would definitely eat here again.
Tropics Bar and Grill: Delicious food, amazing views (practically on the beach), and live music. What more could you ask for?!
Yogurtland: I love froyo. I love everything about it. I like the yoghurt itself, I like all the different toppings, and I like eating it! So, naturally, I loved this place.
There were less restaurant options available on the North Shore, but we were quite happy to nip to the local supermarket and organise our own meals, even though we didn’t have the facilities to cook for ourselves. Our first night in Turtle Bay we ordered room service, which was an expensive, if not super convenient experience.
Kula Grille: We only tried one restaurant at Turtle Bay Resort, the Kula Grille. My partner opted for the buffet, while I enjoyed a burger. I seem to have eaten a lot of burgers in Hawaii! Unfortunately this one wasn’t my favourite.
North Shore Shrimp Truck: I was super keen to try some shrimp while in Hawaii, because it’s the done thing! So when we stumbled across a bunch of food trucks in Shark Cove, my eyes went straight for North Shore Shrimp Truck. I ordered the lemon butter shrimp, which came with rice and a side salad. Oh wow, they were so good. And the dining area was really cute. Highly recommend.
Diamond Head: Call us crazy, but we decided to walk all the way from our hotel, up to the Diamond Head summit; and then all the way back again. We got up early in the morning, and didn’t get back until after lunchtime! Most people take public transport to the base of the Summit Trail, and then make their way up, but we really took it to the next level. You guys, this track is no joke. It is fairly steep, it is long (around two hours to go up and back down), and even in the middle of winter, it is hot! But boy is it worth it. The views alone are amazing, and we really felt like we had achieved something great. At the base of the Summit Trail is a kiosk, vending machines, public toilets, and a food truck which sells the cheapest (and most delicious) shave ice we found on the island. To get to the Summit Trail, you have to go through a pay booth. If you have a car, it is $5, but if you’re walking, it’s $1 each. Water bottles and sunscreen are necessary for this one.
Stand up Paddle Boarding: There are so many places to hire paddle boards in Honolulu, and all vary in price. The cheapest one we found was around $25 each for an hour, but some were charging $40! My tip is to pick a beach you’ll feel most comfortable paddling in, as waves, other paddle-boarders, and even swimmers can have an impact on your time and experience. Unfortunately for me, I suffered a bit of heat stroke and vertigo and ended up having to quit early to sit in the shade. Not ideal.
Manoa Falls: The walk up to Manoa Falls is pretty straight forward, so long as there aren’t too many other people going up or down at the same time. When we hiked up, it was stinking hot, making it more challenging, but the Falls themselves were worth it! You do have to pay to use the carpark, and I recommend insect repellent.
Waimea Bay: Home to some of the best surf on the island, Waimea Bay had some great waves while we were there, and it was so fascinating watching the surfers making the most of it.
Waimea Valley: Right next to Waimea Bay is a valley full of botanical gardens, historical sights, towering treetops, jagged cliff-faces, and of course, Waimea Falls. So beautiful, tranquil, and worth the $16 admission.
Valley of the Temples: Wow. The Valley of the Temples has to be one of the most beautiful and magestical places I have ever seen. It’s a cemetery for different faiths including Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, and Shinto; and features jaw dropping memorials, temples, and statues. We came here to see the Byodo-In Temple (you’ll see why in my next post), but I was just blown away by the landscape and the views. Also, I probably had a little too much fun feeding all the Koi fish.
Dole Plantation: We decided to check out the pineapple plantation, although it received mixed reviews online. If you’re hoping to see an actual pineapple plantation, don’t bother with this place; just have a look at all the fields across the road. But, in saying that, the Dole plantation grounds are beautiful and interesting, and the dole whip ice cream (although pricey) is really delicious. We didn’t think it was worth paying to see the maze or go on the train tour, but families would probably enjoy these activities.
Surf Spots (Pipeline, Waimea, Sunset, etc): Of course, the North Shore is made famous due to its many and varied surf spots along the coast. We checked out most of them, watched the surfers in their element, and hoped to spot some famous faces among the crowd. Unfortunately, the waves weren’t as big or as great as they can be, but it was still pretty cool to be there, especially seeing all the different photographers and cameras waiting to get the perfect shot.
Kualoa Ranch: This place is truly breath-taking! Words can’t even describe the mountains and valleys that make up this ranch, but boy are they a sight to see! You might recognise parts of this famous ranch, as it has been used on many film sets and tv shows over the years, including: Jurrasic Park (although contrary to popular belief there was only a very short segment filmed here), Jurrasic World, 50 First Dates, Hawaii Five-O, Godzilla, and Lost.
Initially I was keen to take one of the Movie Tours around the ranch, but unfortunately they were all booked out. So, we jumped on an ATV tour instead. I’ll share more about this hair-raising experience in my next post!
We absolutely loved our time in Oahu, and were really pleased that we decided to stay on this island for the full 10 days we were in Hawaii. In fact, I loved it so much, I’m already mentally planning my next visit!
Have you been to Oahu before? What experiences did we miss that we should try?
What about the other islands — which ones should be top of our list for next time?