Okay friends, I know you’re all just dying to hear about my Hawaiian vacation! (and yes, that was sarcasm for those of you that might have thought I was serious.) But hey, I’m dying to share it, so let’s begin!
The reason behind this trip was for our friends Hemant and Cathie’s wedding. We were so excited and happy for them, but we were especially happy that their wedding was in Hawaii. It “forced” us to plan a vacation to a place we have both been wanting to go. Years ago (as in high school) I went to Kauai and Maui, but I had never been to Oahu. Kevin has never been to Hawaii at all. We were both extremely excited, but for some reason, probably because I’ve heard that Oahu isn’t as great as some of the other islands, I suppose you could say I had lowered expectations. Because of that, I was completely (and pleasantly) surprised by how much I absolutely loved it there. Kevin and I pretty much drove around the whole island, and each part was unique and gorgeous, and the natural beauty literally took your breath away. Basically 90% of movies or TV shows that are filmed in Hawaii are filmed in Oahu, so obviously the place is stunning. The lush green mountain ranges to the awe-inspiring coastlines to the shrimp trucks on the side of the road… I loved it all.
Sleep Best Places to Stay in Oahu
Our friends that live in Hawaii suggested that we stay in Kailua as opposed to Waikiki and I am soooooo glad that we listened to them. Waikiki and Honolulu are great, but they are completely different from the rest of the island. Kailua is this small residential area where mostly locals live. It’s where Obama stays when he visits. It’s where Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly lived while filming LOST. It’s reputed to have the best beaches on the island. There are no hotels in the area, but there are plenty of house rentals, and they are cheap! Kevin and I stayed at this studio through Airbnb and we couldn’t get over how cheap it was. It was a mere two-minute walk to the beach, a 15 minute walk to town, and it had a deck with views of the mountains. The unit itself was a little outdated, but for the price, we were more than satisfied. (Also, the owner of the house is also the founder of the old band Spyro Gyra, a fact that means absolutely nothing to me, but made Kevin very excited).
From my (limited) experience, most of the hotels on the island are huge resorts. Waikiki is full of them. We didn’t stay there, but some of our friends stayed at the Trump Hotel in Waikiki and loved it. The wedding itself was held on the west side of the island at Ko Olina Resorts, and it was stunning. I’ve also heard amazing things about Turtle Bay Resort on the north side of the island. If big resorts are your thing, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of those. There are also some awesome boutique hotels in the area, like Hotel Renew and Aqua Lotus, which tend to be more my style.
Eat Where to Eat in Oahu
If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love food. Kevin and I plan full vacations around where we will be eating, so I was very very very excited to spend my days eating fresh seafood and drinking fancy cocktails. But… and I really hate to say this… I was not that impressed with the food. I’m sure there are some amazing places to eat, we just didn’t eat at any of them. We ate at all the places recommended to us, and trust me, I did A LOT of research prior to going (yelp is my bff), but nothing was that great. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that we live in San Francisco. We are used to a really high standard when it comes to eating out, and the food we ate in Oahu just paled in comparison.
However, it wasn’t all a total bust. The Grove in Kailua was very good, and the shrimp trucks in the north shore provided us with the best shrimp of our life. I’m serious. I’ve never had shrimp that good. Ever. It’s worth a trip to the North Shore for the shrimp trucks alone. We ate at Hono’s, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them.
Drink Bars in Oahu
I only went to a handful of bars so I’m no expert, but the bar I saw Daniel Dae Kim (aka JIN!!!) at was the REAL a Gastropub in Honolulu, and hey, if it’s good enough for Jin, it’s good enough for me! Also, they had candied bacon which they served in little cups. I mean… bacon candy. They win. After the wedding, I had an absolute blast at Ohana Karaoke in Kailua, where I befriended another wedding guest that looked EXACTLY like Kristen Stewart (and who I am pretty sure now thinks I am a lesbian due to me telling her over and over and over again how pretty she was, and saying “it’s like I’m hanging out with Bella!” numerous times), and sang awkward spice girls karaoke with. “I tell ya what I want, what I really really want…” I’m sure what the bar wanted was for us to shut up, but oh well. Jessica, Oahu local, also told me to check out barefoot bar in Waikiki, but unfortunately my husband and I never made it over there. We also had some drinks at Buzz’s Lanikai, which was great but less beachy than we had expected. However, the best “bar” we went to was the Sandbar in Kaneohe bay, which leads me into…
Do Things to Do in Oahu
Hands down one of the most fun things we did was spend an afternoon at the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar. Basically, you get an a boat and drive about two miles into the ocean, where suddenly, a sandbar appears, and you hang out, in water, eating and drinking in the sun, in the middle of the ocean, all day long. It was suuuuuuuper windy when we went and because of that a little cold, but we still had a blast. This was organized for us through our friends, but if you google “kaneohe bay sandbar tour” you can find a lot of tours/activities that can get you there. Also, bring a sweatshirt. I did not bring a sweatshirt to Hawaii, so I ended up buying one at the salvation army on the way there for $6.99. It smelled like old people but it did its job, and I ended up wearing it more than I thought I would throughout the weekend.
Due to packing restraints (well, let’s be honest, and general laziness), Kevin and I didn’t pack any hiking shoes. So… we didn’t go on any hikes. However, lots of other people did, and we wish we did, so learn from our mistakes and bring some hiking shoes. There are so many beautiful hikes in the area… Diamond Head…. Lanikai Pillboxes… Waimea Falls… Moanalua Falls… the list goes on and on. Since we couldn’t hike but still wanted to see some great views, we drove to the Nu uanu Pali Lookout and it was incredible. Totally worth a half hour of your day.
But let me tell you, it was WINDY. Very very windy.
Also, beware of flying bees.
I did not particularly care for that information.
As I mentioned above, the North Shore is worth going to for the shrimp trucks alone, but it’s also where the hugest waves are. We only saw some 15 foot waves, but based on when you go, the waves can get up to 40 feet high! Craziness! On our way there, we stopped at Byodo-in Temple which was stunning. It’s a replica of a 900 year old temple in Japan, and was built in 1968 in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. As mentioned in my other post, it’s also where a lot of scenes between Jin and Sun in LOST were shot. But that aside, it’s gorgeous and worth checking out.
Our last day was a little overcast and windy, so instead of lounging on the beach (and thus fighting sand in our face), we went to Kualoa Ranch. It’s a private property so you have to buy a pass or tour to enter it, but it’s worth it. It’s gorgeous. All those jungle valley scenes you see in LOST? They were shot there. So, needless to say, it excited me.
One thing we didn’t do was stop by Laniakea Beach in the North Shore and see the giant turtles. I learned about this after we had already gone to the North Shore, so it just didn’t happen for us. But if we go back, I’ll definitely want to stop by.
Lastly, I know a lot of people out there consider a luau a must-do when visiting Hawaii. Kevin and I are not a lot of people, so this wasn’t a priority to us, but I heard that the Luau at Paradise Cove in Ko Olina is one of the best.
Getting Around Oahu Car Rental
If you want to do any sort of exploring at all, you need to rent a car. Kevin and I were told by friends that we didn’t need to rent a car because we could walk to the beach and town, and take taxis when we needed to. That ended up not being the case. Unless you are staying in Waikiki with no plans of going anywhere else, you need a car. Because we didn’t plan ahead, we ended up renting a car once we got there for an exorbitant price, but it was so worth it. We would have felt so trapped without one. So plan ahead, and rent a car. Taxis are available but they are not the most reliant, and they are super expensive, and hard to come by at night. We waited for almost an hour for a taxi that never came, and ended up getting a ride back to our house with some strangers that, once in the car, we realized were absolutely hammered. Fortunately, we made it home safe and sound, but, that said, DO NOT LET DRUNK PEOPLE DRIVE YOU HOME. We were lucky. If you are going out and drinking, leave the car at home, suck it up and organize a taxi in advance. Eco cab in Honolulu is reliable, you just have to plan ahead.
And because this post wouldn’t be complete without at least one picture of the wedding, which is, after all, why we went to Hawaii in the first place, enjoy this eye candy of the beautiful bride and groom.
Congrats Hemant and Cathie! We were so honored to be part of this day.
Have you ever been to Oahu? Let me know if you have recommendations!