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!

DSCN3543

DSCN3544

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

DSCN3548

Yay! Coffee on the beach = perfection!

DSCN3550

DSCN3551

DSCN3555

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!

DSCN3558

DSCN3560

My pedicure matched my lei hehe

DSCN3565

Enjoying the warm Hawaiian sun…

DSCN3570

DSCF0029

DSCF0036

DSCF0056

DSCF0060

DSCF0065

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!

DSCN3576

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.

DSCN3581

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

DSCN4424

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

DSCN4426

DSCN4429

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!

DSCN4430

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

DSCN4438

DSCN4433

DSCN4419

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

DSCN4423

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!

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!

DSCN3419

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.”

DSCN3420

Here we go!

DSCN3421

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!

DSCN3426

DSCN3427

DSCN3431

DSCN3435

DSCN3439

DSCN3441

DSCN3443

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….

DSCN3444

DSCN3448

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.

DSCN3452

DSCN3453

DSCN3454

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

DSCN3457

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.

DSCN3463

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

DSCN3464

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

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

My mom discovered this state park in a Hawaii travel magazine, and decided we had to go. Not because of the spectacular views it is said to have, but because it is supposedly so windy at the lookout that you can lean into the wind and it will support your body weight. Sounded intriguing…

The Nu’uanu Lookout is a short drive from downtown Honolulu and was easy to find. Entrance fee is $3 per car, and was cash only, payable via envelopes in a deposit box on the honor system. So I guess if you were feeling like being a bad person you could go for free, but why not just pay the $3 and support the parks system? Much better karma.

After getting out of the car we were greeted by chickens. Lots of chickens. I found the site to be particularly funny, since I had never seen chickens in a tree before. Actually, I had never even seen chickens outside of a farm before.

DSCN3407

This chicken was exceptionally glorious. I liked the way it draped over the branch hehe.

DSCN3408

DSCN3410

No wind so far, but I did appreciate this cautionary sign:

DSCN3411

Views from the lookout:

DSCN3409

DSCN3414

DSCN3415

I am sad to report there was absolutely no wind while we were there, which was disappointing as it was our main reason for stopping here. However, the views really were quite nice, and we found out that this is a seriously important historical site from the time when King Kamehameha I fought to unify Hawaii under his rule, which you can read about here, as well as get additional information on visiting this state park.

Hiking Diamond Head

When looking at the skyline of Oahu, there is no sight more iconic than that of Diamond Head. Visible from the shores of Waikiki, the volcanic crater rises up among the skyscrapers, creating an image as quintessentially Hawaiian as luaus or SPAM. Upon further research, we learned there is a hiking trail leading to the top of Diamond Head, and so it became the first stop on our Oahu must-see list.

All ready to set out on our hike-

DSCN3373

The hike is 0.8 miles to the summit, so we didn’t feel the need to bring full daypacks with us. However, it is a strenuous (sort of…details later) ascent, and completely exposed, so water is a must! I would also recommend hats and sunscreen.

DSCN3376

DSCN3377

A good deal of the hike is made up of unpaved, steadily inclining trail, as pictured below:

DSCN3378

All 0.8 miles of the ascent provide breathtaking panoramic views of Oahu’s coastline.

DSCN3382

Ok, so here’s why the hike is classified as strenuous: as you approach the top there are stairs…lots of stairs. And a tunnel. And a ladder with a narrow opening you have to squeeze through. On top of Diamond Head there is an old military fort, and the remains of the fort were incorporated into the trail. While this certainly adds to the difficulty of the hike, it also makes it more interesting, combining a journey through history with a hike through nature.

Stairs…

DSCN3385

Tunnel…

DSCN3386

More stairs…

DSCN3388

DSCN3389

Even more stairs…

DSCN3390

DSCN3391

Ladder with narrow opening…

DSCN3392

Finally! The view from the summit area:

DSCN3394

DSCN3395

DSCN3399

DSCN3401

DSCN3402

The short distance of this hike makes it easy for people to underestimate possible dangers associated with it. It is nearly a mile, completely uphill, and in direct sunlight. During our time there, we saw a man get airlifted off of the summit due to medical problems brought on by heat and exhaustion. So hike smart! Always bring enough water, and know your own abilities. This trail is not for those with medical issues or who experience difficulty with climbing stairs.

Additional information can be found here.

The hike left us famished, so we stopped for a quick and easy lunch at what we soon discovered was the oldest Taco Bell in Hawaii. We don’t have Taco Bells that look like this in LA anymore, so I thought it was interesting…

DSCN3404

And it had cute Hawaii cups!

DSCN3405

On to the next adventure!

Honolulu!

For as long as I can remember, taking our family to Hawaii was my dad’s dream vacation. But let’s face it- Hawaii is a freaking expensive place to visit, especially for a middle class family of five. So years went by with this trip being nothing more than a dream…until this past December (2014). All of us children are grown up now, and were able to help make this trip a reality for our dad. And so bright and early one December morning, we left Los Angeles and flew to Honolulu!!

DSCN3302

DSCN3304

DSCN3314

We decided to take this trip in December because it was just after the peak season, so prices were lower. Here was our itinerary: spend two nights in Honolulu, and then board a cruise ship that would spend the next week taking us to Maui, Hawaii (the big island), and Kauai, and then have another half day on Oahu before taking a red eye flight home. Several cruise lines offer Hawaiian cruises, but Norwegian Cruise Line is the only one that takes you to more than one island like that. And seriously, for first-time visitors to Hawaii, I absolutely recommend taking this cruise! It gives you a nice sampler of the most popular islands and ports, so you can see very diverse areas of this beautiful state. And then, you can always go back sometime in the future to spend more time on whichever island you liked best! It might surprise you… I was certain I would like Maui best, but it turns out, I liked the Big Island better. Go figure.

On with the trip! Upon landing in Honolulu, we were greeted with leis (this isn’t free anymore…we had to pay extra for that), picked up the rental car, and headed to find food! Of course, I had to drag us to the Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu!!

DSCN3315

DSCN3317

And ordered the local burger.

DSCN3321

In fact, my whole family did.

DSCN3323

No joke- BEST BURGER OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!! And my whole family agreed. We spent the rest of the trip talking about these burgers, and months later, we are still talking about them. My sister and I even have framed photos of these burgers hanging up in our homes. We take our food seriously, haha.

DSCN3324

Lest anyone think Honolulu is the tropical paradise classic Elvis movies lead you to believe it is, let me be the first to break it to you: it isn’t. The whole area of Honolulu near Waikiki is as commercialized and developed as Los Angeles. Here is the magical view from our hotel:

DSCN3328

Nevertheless, Honolulu is still definitely worth experiencing. My dad, one of my sisters, and I (my other sister felt sick from the flight still, so our mom kept her company back in the room) set out to see the city on foot!

DSCN3332

Waikiki!! This was a private stretch of the beach… a little closer to the Waikiki of “Blue Hawaii” days.

DSCN3337

DSCN3343

Yay! We were lucky enough to be exploring on the night of a local farmer’s market and craft fair.

DSCN3351

And we found this delightful booth selling natural popsicles ❤

DSCN3352

They were soooo good!! They are made in Hawaii, but apparently can be purchased back in LA at stores like Whole Foods. If you can find them anywhere, buy some!!! They were crazy delicious.

DSCN3354

DSCN3355

Us southern Californians are babies when it comes to the temperature. I was glad to have a lightweight sweater cause I thought it was chilly from time to time, but most other people seemed fine in shorts and tank tops.

DSCN3356

I loved all the Hawaiian Christmas decor… festive lights in Palm trees!

DSCN3358

DSCN3365

With our first day in Honolulu coming to an end, we returned to the hotel to prepare for a very full day ahead of us!