Feb 27, 2016

8 Things to do in Hawaii

This warm weather here in San Diego has me majorly missing Hawaii. I’m daydreaming about the food, the shopping, the adventure, the beauty, and especially the water.

Not too shabby of a view from the outside of our hotel. 

If you're heading to the island soon, or just want to plan your next trip in advance, here are my must do recommendations while you’re in Oahu. Enjoy and happy planning!

You can see the boats at the edge of the water. It's so fun to see them docked right on the sand.

1. Booze Cruise

C swore up and down that Maitai’s Catamaran was the best, so we went for it. It docked right outside of Dukes on the beach, you go barefoot and climb right in the boat from the sand. I loved that there wasn’t a dock, it felt so tropical and fancy.

There are several different types of cruises you can do, we chose the standard “tradewind sails” and it was perfect. You pay for the drinks on the boat in addition to your ticket onto the cruise, but they were only $5...and let me tell you those mai tais’ were delish.We did the math on how many possible drinks we could consume in order to make the all-you-can-drink cruise worth it. For our pace of drinking, it wouldn’t have been possible to drink as much as the ticket price was for the unlimited drink option cruise, so this is why we chose the basic cruise, FYI.

During the cruise, you sail about 5 miles off the coast and have beautiful views of Diamond Head. You might possibly be able to see whales or dolphins, we missed the whale because we were too busy chatting it up with our new BFF’s we made on the boat. The view of the island from the boat is incredible. You just can’t get that perspective any other way.

L&S tip: If you get seasick, proceed with caution. The whole cruise is about 2 hours long and on the way back in I was starting to get a little nauseous from the choppy waters or maybe too many mai tai's??

2. Shop

The Ala Moana Mall and Downtown Waikiki shopping is on another level. Talk about world class shopping. I’ve shopped in Paris, NYC, LA and most major cities and this mall literally has something for everyone, from high end designers to Forever 21. You could be shopping for days, it’s THAT good. The Ala Moana mall is on the far end of Waikiki towards the airport, if you are leaving downtown. We had to check ourselves because we didn't want to spend days shopping at a mall on our honeymoon.

L&S tip: If you like to walk you could possibly walk from your hotel in downtown depending on where you’re staying, if not, just jump in a cab.

Shopping in Downtown Waikiki-  Before you think to yourself, but what about the Ala Moana Mall, let me just say that shopping in downtown waikiki is possibly even better because you can hit up a bunch of little touristy type shops as opposed to just strictly big brands etc. Plus, at any given moment, you might find yourself in the middle of a hula lesson! But don’t worry, if you’re staying in Waikiki, you’ll inevitably find yourself in the midst of the shops. I wouldn’t recommend stressing too much, because you will easily find yourself there is staying in downtown Waikiki. Shopping in downtown felt way more relaxing than at the Ala Moana mall. So, food for thought.

L&S tips: Bring an extra bag for the flight back if you plan on doing some major shopping, you’ll be glad you did.

This is the only picture we got at our luau because it was so dark and started to rain...and yes I did wear a hawaiian print dress...Aloha!

3. Luau

A luau is a must do activity, especially if it’s your first time. Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s lame or too touristy, I promise you will appreciate the experience! Even if you are surrounded by people in hawaiian shirts.

There are many Luau’s to choose from and everyone on the island has an opinion on the best Luau. So best advice, decide on what is important to you in a luau and go from there. We consistently were told that Germain's was the best, but ended up choosing the Diamond Head Luau because it was closer to our hotel and is held at the Waikiki Aquarium which is a fun pre-show activity.

We were greeted with leis, pictures with the dancers and cocktails. The only complaint, was that the cocktails were a little shy on the alcohol. But, everything else was great.

After we walked through the aquarium, we head out to the main lawn where there were several activities to choose from. I learned how to make a lei, which was far easier than I thought it would be, and C learned how to make a head crown of leaves which was fun to watch him do.

During the show, you learn so much about polynesian culture and the different types of dancing. It made me want to learn how to hula asap. I loved it.

The food was delicious, the pulled pork...we couldn't get enough! We are adventurous eaters, so C was happy to see that there was traditional poi on the menu because I’ve never had it. (Poi tastes somewhat like potato, but not...try it!)  The menu overall at a luau is good for all types of palates. If you’re a picky eater, you don’t have to try out the poi or anything you’re not familiar with and you won’t go hungry. The portions were large and we couldn’t even finish our plate of food..

The price of a luau is not cheap, however you are getting around 3-4 hours of entertainment, a full meal, (fingers crossed) cocktails, pictures and possibly fun activities. If you’re looking to see the imu, (the pig cooked in the ground) go to Germaine's Luau. That was something I was hoping to get from our luau that we didn't. We also heard great things about the luau at the polynesian cultural center, but they don’t serve cocktails which was a deal breaker for us.

L&S tip: Pricing is about $150 a person at any given Luau experience so make sure you shop around before you get commit.

4. Pearl Harbor

I really can't stress enough how important it is to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. It's such a big part of American history and seems silly to not spend an hour or two checking it out for yourself. 

There is absolutely no cost to visit the memorial. Don't get scammed into buying tickets for a tour, because you will basically be paying just for transportation. If paying for the tour bus doesn't bother you by all means book on, but I think it's important to know before you commit to spending $ while traveling. However, there are some separate tours that do have a cost, so make sure you know which ones you are interested in exploring.

Parking is also free, which is an extra bonus and it's not far from downtown, probably 15-20 minutes if there is no traffic.

The memorial is so beautiful, I was in awe of how it made me feel and just how beautifully done it was. When you arrive, you'll go and watch a small documentary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, then you board a boat out to the memorial itself. I had no idea what to expect, all I knew was that it was a white rectangular structure on the water. The actual memorial is on top of the sunken USS Arizona just above the bow of the sunken ship.

I always love seeing military in uniform, so pulling up to this was an extra special treat.

L&S tip: Don't bring a purse, or just leave it in the trunk of your car or at the hotel if possible. You will have to leave it at a coat/purse check station which is $3. Not a big deal, but I would have just left it in the car had I known. One less line to stand in :)

This was our little teeny tiny car that we rented. It was perfect for the two of us and was great at squeezing into small parking spots.

5. DRIVE The Island

One of my favorite days was when we drove around the island and stopped whenever we saw something interesting. This was by far one of the funnest days because we got to see and do so much at our own pace. Nothing is better than being independent while traveling.

C drove us around to the south point of the island starting on H1 which then turns into HWY 72. We saw several natural attractions like the Halona blowhole, which is molten lava rock tubes that blow water up through the tubes like a whale blowing water out of it’s blowhole. It’s pretty cool to see, water shooting 30 feet into the air.

We also saw, Makapuu beach, famous for it’s body surfing waves and Sandy’s Beach. There are several turn off points along this drive for taking in the scenery and taking photos. I also recommend driving through the pali highway. Pali highway is essentially a mountain drive through the rainforest. It’s just so beautiful and my photos don’t do it justice!

Views driving through the Pali Highway. These pictures don't do it justice because it was dusk and I was taking these while C drove. Nonetheless, breathtaking.

L&S tip: Try and rent a car as small as possible, this will MAJORLY help you when looking for parking.

A cute little market we drive by. They had the cutest candles and trinkets and some really delicious coffee. But most importantly, how cute is this market? 

6. Kailua and Lanikai

As we continued our day of driving and exploring, we continued into the town of Kailua. I think this was one of my favorite spots because it wasn’t touristy. It was more country and laid back. You will see people in their day to day routines, which I always enjoy when traveling. It was also a bit more humid, because we were closer to the rainforest. So of course you see that change in the terrain.

I was so excited to see Lanikai Beach because of the insanely teal blue waters and white sandy beaches. It’s ranked as one of the best beaches in the world, so of course I wanted to see it! The sand is incredibly soft, which makes it somewhat difficult to stand in the water. But the waves are gentle and calm. Lanikai is also an international destination for photo shoots because it’s well, the prettiest beach in the world basically.

Parking is really tricky around Lanikai beach because it’s not a county beach and parking fines are not only a bummer, but are hundreds of dollars. We had to circle around the area to find parking. Be patient, because it’s sooo worth it once you’re on the beach.

You feel so tiny when hiking through the trail. I always get extremely happy when I come across giant trees!

7. Hiking Manoa Falls

This was not far from Downtown Waikiki. It seemed that we just drove straight back into the valley and there we were there within 15 minutes, in the rainforest and ready for a hike. You have to pay for parking, but it’s less than $10 and completely worth it.

The hike itself is mild. It’s less than a mile long and you only hike up 800 ft so it’s easy for everyone. I’ve read that Manoa Falls is one of the easier waterfalls to see on the island and I have to say, the hike itself if even more beautiful than the waterfall itself.

First off, you see sooo much green ivy growing on EVERYTHING, including up giant trees. I felt like we were hiking through the old forest in Lord of the Rings, it was seriously magical. And just when you think you’re going to die from the beauty, you then find yourself hiking through a bamboo forest.I would plan on spending around 2-3 hours for this hike if you want to take lots of pictures and enjoy it thoroughly.

L&S tip: Wear actual hiking boots so you don’t slip on a rock, etc. I wore Nike’s and I slipped and fell and slid...no joke.

8. Snorkel in Hanauma Bay

I saved the best for last. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay was the best experience we had. It’s was a fun way to experience Oahu and learn more about the formation of the island and marine life thanks to a nifty ten minute educational class/movie you are required to take watch before going snorkeling.

Every Tuesday the park is closed to help the reef recover from the ample amount of visitors and thanks in part to tourists who DGAF about the reef dying. You’ll learn more about this in said video, it’s very important.

On another note, parking is a nightmare. You might have luck if you try and get there as soon as the park opens (7am), but we ended up having to park in a close by shopping center and take a cab to get in because we couldn't park the car. You can also look into tours, the one that is highlighted on the state park site is actually a great deal and provides transportation from your hotel and snorkel gear. The fee to snorkel was only $7.50 per person.

This was right outside of the entrance to the park. The view was just too good to pass up for  photo opp.

Aside from the fun of snorkeling with schools of beautiful fish, you will get to see the bay from the top of the mountain and hike down. They also have shuttles that take you up and down for $1. We hiked down and it was so beautiful to see the coral reef from another vantage point.

Don't mind my crazy hair. Which should be another blog post, how to maintain looking like a beauty while in humid tropical weather?....

I would bring a waterproof camera to snap underwater photos. I regret not having a one with us.

L&S tip:  Make sure you practice breathing with your gear on before you jump into the water and pretend that you’re Ariel, it could save you from taking in lots of water.

I hope you enjoyed these travel tips, there are more to come.

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© Life + Splendor Maira Gall.