What do you imagine when you think of Hawaii? Palm trees, white powdery beaches, a surfers paradise? Well, it’s all of those things and more. We went to Oahu, one of the six islands that collectively make up the US state of Hawaii, and it certainly lived up to our expectations.
Oahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian islands, and about two thirds of the population live here. The state capital Honolulu is here as well as the famous military base in Pearl Harbour.
We had dreamed of going to Hawaii for so long but had thought that it wouldn’t happen as we could never afford it. So when my husband said that he really wanted to go and could I find out exactly how much it would cost, I set about researching flights and accommodation etc and making it happen! Our kids were aged 17, 15 and 3.
We initially thought that we would island hop and check out some of the other islands, but at the time of our visit the inter-island ferry had ceased operating and although it’s easy enough to fly between the islands, it would’ve been quite expensive for the five of us. But as we were only there for 17 days it worked out for the best that we stayed on Oahu as it meant that we really got to know our way around the island and explore it properly.
After searching for flights I found that by splitting the journey into two parts I could get the price down. We flew with British Airways to Los Angeles and then with Allegiant Air from Los Angeles to Honolulu (a five hour flight). I discovered that the cost of accommodation in Hawaii is quite high, especially for an apartment for a family of five. But eventually I found a great little apartment on airbnb in Kailua that slept four but the owners were happy for us to let our 4 year old sleep in our bed. They also let us borrow loads of snorkelling equipment and bodyboards so this saved us a lot too! We spent our first week at this apartment and then the following 10 days we stayed with some lovely hospitable friends who had lots of room for us. This was fantastic as we got to experience the island with locals and get all their inside knowledge!
Here are just a few highlights from our trip:
- Snorkelling in Hanauma Bay This was my very first time snorkelling, and what an introduction! It is so popular here because of the huge variety of species in the bay. In addition to the turtles, you will see Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (the state fish of Hawaii), milletseed butterfly fish, yellow tangs, trumpet fish, angel fish, and many more. You will have to watch an informational video before you’re allowed down to the beach which will tell you all about how the bay was formed and how to respect the coral reef.
- A close encounter with Green Sea Turtles Laniakea Beach on Oahu’s North Shore is a haven for green sea turtles. That’s how it got the nickname “Turtle Beach.” It’s quite common to find green sea turtles swimming in and around reefs in many places around Oahu, but at Turtle Beach, the animals come out of the water and bask in the sun. You can get up really close to them which is an amazing experience! You can also swim here but you are not allowed to touch or approach the turtles.
- Hanging out in Hale’iwa on the North Shore We spent so much time in this little surf town, it has such a relaxed vibe with lots of shops to wander around, loads of great places to eat, and plenty of places to hire surf or paddle boards. Our very favourite place was Breakers Restaurant & Bar. The lady who owned it was such a sweetie and when we lost our rental car keys she just couldn’t do enough to help us out. The food is great and they have huge TV screens so you can keep up with the Billabong surf competition and other sporting events. They have stacks of surfing memorabilia from all over the world and the atmosphere is really relaxed and welcoming. There are also loads of places to pick up a Shave Ice, which is a favourite Hawaiian way to cool down! Our favourite place was Matsumoto’s Shave Ice which was established in 1951 and has a huge choice of flavours.
- The Billabong Pipe Masters Surf Competition is a prestigious surf competition that happens annually on Oahu’s North Shore, held at the legendary Banzai Pipeline surf break. This is where you’ll find all the cool kids hanging out either watching or taking part in the competition, but it’s not for the feint-hearted! These waves are HUGE!!! If it’s happening while you’re there then you have to take a look.
- The Famous Yellow Shrimp Shack You can’t miss the bright yellow van parked up at Ching’s store, just past Kahana Bay Beach Park in Punalu’u, which is on the coast road between Honolulu and North Shore. Parking is limited but there is plenty of outdoor seating, and the shrimps are to die for!
- Manoa Falls is a 150-foot waterfall located in the Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu, Hawaii. It is classified as an easy hike and the entire trail is about 1.6 miles out and back. The water cascades down from the mountain into a small pool. Even though it looks inviting, it is not recommended to swim in it because of the risk of rock slides, and the water is risky because of leptospirosis contamination, but it is really beautiful and a lovely spot for taking pictures. It can be slippery if it is raining and it rains more often here than in Waikiki and along the coastline. The trail is in a rainforest, so even if it’s dry and sunny in Waikiki, it is often raining here.
- A taste of Hawaiian culture As we were staying with friends, we were privileged to tag along with them to a party with traditional Hawaiian hula dancing, live music and lots of local food. But if we hadn’t had that opportunity we would have gone to to the Polynesian Culture Centre to watch dancing and experience an authentic Luau. They represent the six island nations of Polynesia: Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, and Fiji and you can soak up the cultures of all of these islands. It is apparently the No. 1 tourist attraction on Oahu so is probably well worth a visit.
If you get the chance to go to Oahu I would highly recommend it, we had the time of our lives and we will return one day…..
After flying back to Los Angeles from our Hawaiian trip, we headed off on a 3 week Road Trip….up the Pacific Coast Highway, and then on to San Fransisco, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, The Grand Canyon and finishing with a day at Malibu Beach. But I’ll save that for another post……..
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