Happy first Friday the 13th of 2017 everyone! This is my third and final post covering my Oahu itinerary. Sorry for the delay! Work has recently been keeping me busy with so many new projects and assignments. I could make it my New Year’s resolution to be better about this, but life is just too unpredictable, especially if you have a child like Bentley. Bentley is really what keeps me going, because who’s gonna pay for all his dog toys and treats?
Day 7: Diamond Head Trail hike and some more exploring of Honolulu
On the agenda:
- Diamond Head Trail early morning
- Explore Honolulu (more snacks and went back to the swap meet)
- Dinner at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
Quite honestly, I was most excited for this hike. This hike promised the most beautiful view at the top of the crater. However, as the past few days, this morning was dark and rainy, but we were optimistic. If it was a better day, we could have walked from our hotel to the hike, but since it was rainy, we decided to drive to Diamond Head. We found free parking at a lot that was just outside the tunnel that lead to the parking lot of the trail. The parking lot would charge you $5 per car, but we ended up getting charged $1 per person. Thank god someone carried cash with them!
We showed up at 7am, and it was already wicked crowded. So my advice is that you show up at 6am when it opens if you hate dealing with crowds! However, I assume that this trail will always be busy, because it is the closest hike to Waikiki, where all the visitors of the island stay at usually.
The hike started off extremely easy with its paved paths. We thought it was going to be paved the whole way! But after 5 minutes into the walk, the trail became more bumpy, rocky, and natural. This hike on a sunny day would extremely easy. However, since it was raining, there were puddles and slippery rocks, so wear your sneakers!
Halfway up the path, we stopped and enjoyed the view. Actually, we thought it was halfway, but we probably had a quarter of the way more to go. Anyway, despite the fact that you could not see much just yet, the view at that level was still beautiful. When we were done taking in the view, we trudged on. Then we saw an insane amount of stair steps before us. Was the hike over yet? Why has it not ended? Thankfully, this was the final test of your mental endurance.
Once we caught our breaths for surviving the toughest stair-master work out ever, we looked out onto the horizons. The sun peaked out and the rain had stopped. On one side, we saw the rays peering through the clouds and shining over Waikiki brightly. The city was alive, and the shores were littered with people. While on the other side, there was an abundance of green forests and vegetation that the Hawaiians work so hard to preserve. The peaks and valleys were dotted with simple homes and yet so quiet and peaceful. Words cannot explain the view from up here. You just have to see it for yourself!
Day 8: Moped rides along the southeastern coast of Oahu
On the agenda:
- Pick up mopeds at Hawaiian Style Rentals and Sales to drive along the coast
- Stop by beaches along the way to rest and explore
- Back to Marukame Udon for dinner because we loved it so much
I will be honest. When I learned that mopeds were on the agenda (via GoCard), I got extremely nervous. I have never been on anything but a simple bike. The thought of a motorized vehicle that did not provide a shield around you like a car terrified me. Thankfully, the instructor was very patient and helpful. He provided us a map of suggested roads, color coded to show the level of difficulty. Initially, with the GoCard, we had 3 hours to explore. Then the instructor told us that if we were late, there would be a small late fee. This flat fee covered the window of a few minutes late to showing up at 5pm (we were there at 9am). Knowing this, we decided to take the mopeds until 5pm.
Before we could venture off on our own, we did a couple laps around the block. It felt freeing and incredible! Strangely, riding this moped was very natural to me. Once the instructor deemed that we were ready, we zoomed off. We decided to take the path that hugged the southeast coast of Oahu and stop whenever something interesting catches our eyes. Our first checkpoint was a gas station to pick up snacks. It was always my dream to get spam musubis at a gas station. It made me feel like I was a local.
Then we went back on the roads. Traffic could be a little daunting but doable. Mopeds zip through the streets all the time, and the drivers are aware of it. As we drove through the neighborhoods, we noticed that the streets had the most beautiful homes. Very modern and ginormous! We made believed that we were driving by celebrities and pretended that these will one day be our homes. Here’s hoping!
Our next stop was a public beach called Kawaikui Beach Park. The shores were a bit rocky, and we didn’t swim in it since no one else was (admittedly, I’m not a strong swimmer, so I wasn’t about to take my chances). But it was still as beautiful and peaceful as the next beach. We probably stayed there for about an hour, before going back on the roads. Initially, our plan was to go to Lanikai since it was on the trail. However, we realized that at the rate that we were riding, that was not possible. Instead, this beach was our furthest point. The next stop was on the way back to Waikiki. This was the Waialae Beach Park. Here, we stayed probably for a couple hours and swam. The water was so warm and inviting that I never left to lay on the shores.
Eventually, we all got a little – A LOT – hungry but not hangry…yet. It was probably around 3pm at this point with nothing but spam musubis in our tummies. After careful deliberation, we all agreed that Marukame was the champion. Nothing in Honolulu could compete with those freshly made noodles! I am getting very hungry just thinking about it.
Day 9: The last full day on Oahu
On the agenda:
- Snorkeling and bumming at Hanauma Bay
- Grabbing more snacks that we never got around to during the trip
- Final walk around Waikiki
- Final dinner in paradise at the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk
Our last full day in Oahu was quite the adventure. We left our hotel before the sun was even up to arrive at the gates to Hanauma Bay by 5:30-5:45ish, since they open at 6am. We read that if you were there before 7am, admission was free! I do recommend going this early though, not because it’s free, but because you get to enjoy this beach before the crowd flocks in. We got to see the sun rise on the shores and appreciate the quietness of bay. Also, since no one was there yet, the ocean was all for you. At one point, we were the only people snorkeling! But more on Hanauma Bay in this post.
We lounged and swam until about almost noon. That may seem too early to leave but that was a solid 5 hours of beach time! Also, we all got very hungry and our snacks were not cutting it. We wanted to keep eating everything before we left this perfect oasis forever. Okay, not forever, but it will seem like forever.
The following snack destinations were not on our agenda. These were spots that all the locals suggested to us while we were on the trip. We shamelessly asked every stranger we had a conversation with where should we eat? What place can you not live without? What place best represents Hawaiian food?
Our first stop was at Ono Seafood. Locals claim that this place has the FRESHEST and BEST poke. When we arrived, we noticed that it was a run down building with the smallest parking lot. We drove by it all the time and never noticed. Jackpot. A potential hidden gem. My favorite was the spicy tuna, and I usually don’t like that, because people always overdress it with spicy mayo. I am not sure what was in their spicy mayo sauce, but it was money.
Our next stop was Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha. At first, I was a little hesitant. What could compare to the legendary Matsumoto’s? But thankfully, I tried it, because in my opinion, this was the BEST shaved ice I have every had. In case you’re wondering why they don’t have condensed milk as a topping option, they do. They call it the “dream sauce.” Why I like this more than Matsumoto’s was because their ice did not melt as fast and that their syrups are not artificial. They are made with real fruits and flavors!
Our final food stop was Ono Hawaiian Foods. Sadly, they do not have a website, so this Yelp page will have to do. We were EXTREMELY full at this point. We did not lay out a real plan of attack honestly after we left the beach that morning. But nothing, not even our tummies, was going to hold us back from maximizing the experiences of this trip. This restaurant was definitely a hole in the wall. Our favorites. The owner noticed that we had no idea what we were doing and helped us. He suggested as different options and pointed out what was popular. He then taught us how to eat like a local. For example, you should dip the fresh onions in a Hawaiian hot sauce and salt. It sounds weird, but trust me. It was delicious.
I don’t think you could go wrong with anything on the menu, but my favorites were the chicken long rice (basically Hawaiian chicken noodle soup) and the chicken watercress (chicken soup with watercress). Those soups reminded me so much of home. I love how Hawaiian food has a lot of Asian influences. This restaurant is definitely the place to eat traditional home cooked meals that your mom would probably make if she was Hawaiian. It was comfort Hawaiian food at its best.
Overall, Oahu was the best vacation I have ever been on. I loved the peacefulness of the atmosphere, the kindness of the locals, and the amazing food that it had to offer. After being there for over a week, I felt like I adopted the Hawaiian way of life. The locals are so proud of their culture and family means more to them than anything else in the world. No really. They take the term ohana very seriously. Ultimately, I would love to go back! I would do it all over again, but the next time, I would probably rent out an apartment instead of a hotel, so I could truly live like a Hawaiian.
The next question is should I go back to Oahu (where I can revisit my favorite places) or go to a different island? This is probably one of the hardest decisions of my life, but regardless of the answer, I will be happy, because I am going back to the best place on earth!
Thanks for reading – I mean mahalo 🙂