There is Such a Thing as a Bad Day in Hawaii

On our last day in Hawaii, we had a few hours to spend before catching our red eye flight back to LA, so we decided to venture out of the Waikiki/Honolulu area and check out the other side of the island.

Honestly, everything about this day turned out to be a complete disaster. With my parents trying to navigate us using a map, and my sister and I navigating with GPS, we ended up getting so lost and turned around that we spent most of our last day in Hawaii inside a car.

Moral of the story: choose one form of navigation and stick with it.

Eventually, we did make it to a beach though. It took us twice as long as it should’ve to get there, but we found Kailua Beach Park, on the windward coast of Oahu. This is more of a locals beach, and looked completely desolate compared to Waikiki.

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It was a pretty beach, but worth driving all day to get there? Definitely not. We only stayed a few minutes and then left, unimpressed and in bad moods (getting lost in an unknown place will do that to you). From there, we continued around the southern edge of the island and headed for Hanauma Bay, which is where I had wanted to go from the beginning.

We got there fairly late in the day, after they stopped charging admission to get inside because it was almost closed. Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve and costs around $8 per person to get in, but the snorkeling here is supposed to be really awesome. Not that I would know though, because we got there too late to do it. However my sister had snorkeled there before, and said it was just alright. Too many people, she said, causing poor visibility. It’s still on my list of things to do next time I’m in Oahu though.

So we were only able to walk around the grounds for a few minutes, but even with only being allowed partial access, the bay still looked beautiful. It provided a moment of peace and serenity in the midst of a travel day from Hell.

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By the end of the day, my sisters and I made the unanimous decision to pretend this day never happened. After leaving Hanauma Bay, we got lost trying to find a place for dinner, and then lost again on the way to the airport. It just goes to show that even the most seasoned travelers aren’t immune to encountering problems abroad.

Lessons I gained from this day: don’t simultaneously use maps and GPS, have a game plan laid out before you start driving, and if you have time constraints, don’t choose a destination that is far away.

Hanauma Bay…I will return for you!!

Remembering Pearl Harbor

While not glamorous like Waikiki, or awe-inspiring like North Shore, I feel it is the duty of every American visiting Oahu to spend a few hours at Pearl Harbor in honor of those who lost their lives there that fateful day in December of 1941. The unexpected air raid on the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor was a major turning point in WWII, and forever changed the course of United States history. Seeing the sunken USS Arizona is a very somber experience, and there are no words to explain the feeling you get from seeing the site where over 1000 American crewmen died and are still trapped inside this watery grave.

So, I will not attempt to describe the experience, but rather, I will tell you useful tips that will help your visit go smoothly.

First, reserve your tickets in advance online. There are a limited number of first come, first serve tickets available every day at the memorial, but it is an extremely popular tourist destination, and hoping to get lucky is too much of a gamble and adds unnecessary stress to your relaxing Hawaiian vacation. Tickets, as well as additional information, can be obtained here.

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Second, the signs in the parking lot telling you to leave your bags in your car aren’t lying. They do not allow bags of any size, not even purses, into the memorial. You can only take wallets and small camera cases in with you. If you do not feel safe leaving your bag in your car, they do offer bag storage on site for $5 a bag. Yikes. We didn’t think they would actually make us leave our purses behind, but they did. That was an unpleasant discovery and dumb waste of money.

We were running late and had to rush to make it to our tour on time. The tour starts with an informational video, which I recommend actually paying attention to, because it helps you better appreciate what happened here. After the video, you board a boat which takes you out to the memorial.

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Third, you only get 15 minutes at the memorial, and they definitely stay on schedule. This was the only thing I really didn’t like about the visit. It was hard to be able to fully reflect upon what you are experiencing and pay your respects to these fallen heroes when you are being herded through like cattle. So make sure you see whatever is most important to you first, because chances are, you won’t get to see it all due to time constraints and big crowds.

Once again, I cannot even begin to explain how it feels seeing this in person, knowing there are hundreds of people still inside this ship…

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Memorial wall for those who died that day at Pearl Harbor in the service of our country.

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Fourth, please keep in mind you are visiting not only a memorial, but also a grave site, so dress and behave respectfully. For how many people were there, it was surprisingly quiet. I think everyone understood the solemnity of what they were looking at. Photography is allowed, and almost everyone was taking pictures, but maybe refrain from the selfie. You don’t want to have a picture of you smiling next to the site of one of the greatest tragedies in the history of America.

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Fifth, there are a couple museums that, in addition to the memorial, make up the Pearl Harbor National Monument. These museums are definitely worth checking out. They provide additional perspective on what life was like during that era, and go into greater detail of what happened in the days leading up to, the day of, and the days after the attack. We walked through the museums after our tour, and honestly, I’m not sure if it matters what you do first, the tour or the museum. But definitely do both.

An aerial photograph of Pearl Harbor in 1941

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A model of what the Arizona looks like beneath the surface of the water.

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And so, I will wrap up by saying I most definitely recommend visiting Pearl Harbor, not because it is a “must-see tourist destination,” but because it is a huge part of who we are as a country, and because these American soldiers died so we can have all the freedoms we have today. And they deserve our respect, gratitude, and appreciation.

Waikiki!

No trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to one of the most famous beaches in the world: Waikiki!

Hotels right on the beach are crazy expensive, but luckily there are plenty of more affordable options a few blocks inland, all within walking distance of the legendary beach. On the walk to the beach there are many shops and restaurants, where you can buy anything from cheap souvenirs to designer duds. We made a pit stop at Island Vintage Coffee, which served the most tasty coffee beverages, as well as lots of delicious and natural food offerings. We grabbed some stuff to go, and headed to the beach!

My coconut mocha latte…yummy!

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One of the entrances to the beach off of Kalakaua Ave (the main drag of Waikiki):

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Yay! Coffee on the beach = perfection!

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We bought this delicious papaya filled with Greek yogurt and fruit at Island Vintage Coffee… it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had!

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My pedicure matched my lei hehe

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Enjoying the warm Hawaiian sun…

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Even in December, the water was still warm enough to enjoy swimming in, especially since the sun was so hot. Definitely not “bath water” warm though.

After the beach, we did some shopping!

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I know I can shop at these places back in LA anytime I want, but there is something fun about doing it on vacation. And now the purchases double as souvenirs.

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Our second day spent at Waikiki started off with a journey to find spam musubi for lunch…

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This place was easy to find and had awesome reviews. And the reviews were right…this spam musubi was delicious!!!

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When visiting Hawaii, you kinda just have to try some sort of food with SPAM in it. Personally, I love SPAM, and don’t care what it is made of. That stuff is tasty! Especially when made into spam musubi.

Such a beautiful sight… and at less than $2 per spam musubi, we bought a whole bag full of them!

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And then took it to the beach for a little picnic.

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Another one of the iconic images of Waikiki- a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the man known as “the father of modern surfing”.

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Waikiki is a beautiful beach. However, it is also a very crowded and commercialized beach, crawling with tourists. For a more serene and relaxing experience, perhaps consider trying a different beach. Waikiki is best visited basically for bragging rights, and being able to say you have been to Waikiki. But still definitely a must-see on Oahu, so don’t head home before setting foot on the famed shores of Waikiki!

The North Shore

I will be the first to admit it: I have a thing for surfers. I could sit and watch them glide over the waves all day and then some! So obviously I was beyond excited to pay a visit to Oahu’s famed North Shore, one of the biggest surfing destinations in the world. And even better, we were there in the winter which is the prime time to visit. This is when the waves are the biggest, with waves reaching between 20-50 feet high!! I couldn’t wait to see the gigantic, thundering waves, and even more importantly, I wanted to see a surfer surf a pipeline (for those not familiar with surfing lingo, that is when the top of the wave crests over the surfer, forming a sort of wave tunnel in which the surfer surfs).

Once you get farther away from Honolulu, the drive to the North Shore is rather scenic, with lots of places to park your car to snap photos of the coast. Here are some of the pretty views we passed on the drive from Honolulu to the North Shore:

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Along the way, we also passed several cute towns that looked like they would be fun to explore, but we started our journey late in the day and wanted to reach North Shore in time for sunset, so we couldn’t stop. For travelers heading on this journey, I would recommend allotting more time for the trip so you can check out the cool places you will see on the way.

The three main surfing spots on the North Shore are Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, and the Banzai Pipeline. We ended up at Waimea Bay, cause it was the easiest to find.

The North Shore!…. where are the big waves??

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Turns out, the giant formidable waves I had hoped for are not a guaranteed, daily occurrence. Storm systems were not in our favor the week we were there, so the waves were smaller. Boo. Mother Nature can be so fickle. However, even with that being the case, the waves were still bigger than any I have ever seen off the coast of southern CA. The pictures absolutely do not do the waves justice. Hearing the waves break sounded like thunder, and seeing the power of the ocean was incredible and left me awestruck.

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And the sunset… amazing.

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SURFERS!!

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For the record, I did indeed fulfill my goal of seeing a surfer in a pipeline. Successful visit to the North Shore? Heck yes!!

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Shaka!

Dole Pineapple Plantation

In addition to checking out all the pretty natural sights of Oahu, we also wanted to see the touristy stuff because, well, that stuff is fun. And also funny. And The Dole Pineapple Plantation did not disappoint!

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Admission to the plantation is free, and visitors can explore a small portion of the grounds, eat at the restaurant, or shop in the extensive gift shop that sells anything related to pineapples. For a fee, there are additional activities visitors can enjoy, such as tours, a maze, and a ride on the “Pineapple Express.”

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Here we go!

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This train ride is absolutely hilarious. It takes you on a tour of the plantation and you can see all the different fruit trees, which is interesting of course, but the real selling point of this ride is the ridiculously funny soundtrack playing throughout the tour. Not funny in the on-purpose way, but in the trying-to-be-serious-but-failed kind of way. Definitely a fun tour!

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We made it back to the station! Again, it was a super fun tour! And I can never resist posing in one of these cut outs….

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No stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation is complete without getting a tasty pineapple dessert! My family adores Dole Whips, having eaten them for years at the Tiki Room in Disneyland. That is the only place we’d ever been able to get those, so it was pretty exciting to be able to get one at the source! So so so so good. I got a Dole Float, where they put the Dole Whip (which is pineapple soft serve ice cream) in pineapple juice. Yummy!! And it was served in this delightful souvenir cup.

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And they had a giant Dole Whip photo op?? Yes!!!!

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Shopping time!! There were so many fun pineapple souvenirs to look at, and fun pineapple snacks to sample. A lot of time was spent in this shop.

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I ended up with this fun Dole shirt. Cause sometimes it’s fun to just be a super tourist!

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Additional information regarding visiting the Dole Pineapple Plantation can be found here.