Hawaii, how do I even begin to describe you?
It’s always been a dream of mine to visit and it definitely exceeded my expectations by a long shot. If anyone’s ever watched Lost, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. There just seems to be a magnetism to these islands; the ‘Spirit of Aloha’ is a real thing and you feel it the moment you touch down in Honolulu. It is a microcosm of old and new. When you drive along the coast line and see the fruit shacks and shrimp vans lining the shore, you almost feel as if you’ve been transported to a time where surf culture was still in its infancy.
There’s honestly no place quite like it, everything from the mountains to the colour of the sea is just so unique to Hawaii. The whole island is shrouded in lush greenness due to the unique, tropical climate. It’s not unusual for there to be a heavy downpour one minute, then bright blue skies breaking through the next. The sun warms everything in it’s path so quickly that it’s easy to forget it ever rained. We tried to squeeze as much into our trip as possible but only really scratched the surface during the two weeks we spent there. I feel as though there is still so much to see, but I’ll give you a run-down on a few things that we checked out.
What better way to check out the island than a helicopter tour? This was a bit of a splurge for us, but we were under the mindset that this was a once in a lifetime trip and wanted to make the most of it. The island of Oahu is actually quite small, so our tour took us from Pearl Harbour right to the the North shore where we could see those beautiful pineapple fields below. On the way up we also flew through the mountains where Jurassic Park was filmed, which was amazing! Our pilot was the king of dad jokes and had compiled a little playlist that was in sync with each point of interest we went through. As we were going over Waikiki beach he played the ‘Hawaii 5-0’ theme tune, it was only a small thing really but it made the whole trip so memorable.
If you’ve never been before, it’s a wonderful way to see the island and I would definitely recommend it. You’d expect the helicopter base to be somewhere far out in the countryside too, but it was actually quite close to the Waikiki area. Which is great because if you stayed in Kailua like we did, you can make the most of it by grabbing a bite to eat, doing some shopping, or polishing up your surf skills while you’re there.
This view of Lanikai beach was something I had been dreaming about. Even on an overcast day, the sea is still a beautiful, glowing turquoise, it’s well worth the hike. The ‘Pillbox hike’ is about an hours drive away from Honolulu, but a stone’s throw away from the neighbourhood that our Airbnb was in. It’s a very peaceful area with beautiful beaches, countryside and brunch spots. Some foods worth trying include the Macadamia pancakes from Boots & Kimos and Guava Chiffon pancakes from Cinnamon’s restaurant. There’s also Whole Foods and Target which isn’t a big deal if you already live in America, but as Brits we loved going there for the industrial-sized bags of popcorn and the salad bar. The salad bar at Whole Foods is just on a whole other level.
There is also Kailua Farmer’s Market every Sunday, 8:30am – Noon – This is where we discovered Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade and picked up some souvenir Mason, drinking jars. We also stocked up on these whilst we were at Target, they’re so hard to find in the UK! Olive & Oliver is also worth checking out if you want to bring some cute souvenirs back for friends! All in all we found that this little area had everything we needed during out stay. There’s an Enterprise if you want to rent a car and drive up to the North Shore (they were so friendly and helpful), there’s a Starbucks if you have a bit of work to do and it’s all pretty flat – so it’s easy to cycle/get around on.
With that warm, turquoise water gently lapping the shore, what’s not to love about Lanikai beach? You can’t beat that feeling of cycling down into the neighbourhood, leaving your bike in the shade and seeing those beautiful Mokula islands nestled in the calm waters. A view best spent with a plate lunch, some fresh fruit, good company and lots of sun cream!
You are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful beaches in Hawaii, they are everywhere! There’s Kailua Beach just around the corner, Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay, Waimanalo Beach Park and Waimea Bay and so many more.
Now, there are quite a few things to see and do at Kualoa Ranch. It’s for one of those days where you’ve had your fill of the beach and you feel like moving around and doing something a bit more active. When you arrive, it may feel quite familiar and that’s because it was used as the set of Jurassic Park. There are still remnants of the film around the site today! They were also filming Jumanji whilst we were there – which you may also recognise various scenery from, I’ve not seen it myself but it’s definitely on my list!
It’s a fairly big area, but they have vehicles within the grounds to transport you to where you need to be. It’s all very organised. We decided to go there for zip-lining and it was amazing! As you’re zip travelling to each location the views are incredibly scenic. You get the perfect mix of those beautiful, textured mountains synonymous with Hawaii and turquoise oceans calmly flowing in the background.
If you’re looking to learn more about the culture of, not just Hawaii, but other island nations within the Pacific vicinity, then the Polynesian Cultural Center is definitely worth a visit. There are island villages dotted along the grounds each representing different Polynesian islands. There you can speak to locals from these regions, listen to music and learn more about their cultures. There is also a boat show along the river with dancers representing each nation, but the one show that shouldn’t be missed is ‘Ha: Breath of life’ in the main Pacific Theatre. It’s filled with amazing dancing, extraordinary visuals and a beautiful story.
I don’t want to reveal too much of what happens because I think you should enjoy it in person! Once you’ve soaked in a bit of the cultural side, you’ve probably built up a bit of appetite walking around all day which is perfect as you’ll then be able to sit down and enjoy a full luau experience. At the luau you’ll be greeted with a beautiful, fuscia lei – because secretly that’s number one on the priority list when in Hawaii right? You’ll then get the chance to sample some traditional Hawaiian fare and enjoy a night of island hospitality. A perfect end to a perfect day.
If there’s ever a place you’ve always dreamed about visiting, work out a way to make it happen. Even if it takes months or years to save, the memories you will take away will last a lifetime. Even though it was a while ago now, I still think about my time there constantly. I always wrote off Hawaii as impossible because it just seemed like it was worlds away, but if you really want something you will find a way to get there, and that applies to pretty much anything in life.
The Airbnb we stayed at during our time there was amazing, our host went above and beyond on our visit. I’d definitely stay at the same place if I ever got the chance to visit again. If anyone’s interested in using the same Airbnb, send me a private message and I’ll pass forward the details on to you. Currently, I also have an Airbnb referral code that gives you £25 off your first visit, so feel free to make use of this if you have an exciting trip in the pipelines.