Friday, February 17, 2017

Roadtripping The North Shore

Thanks to so many of you for stopping by this week to read my Hawaii recaps.  It's been so much fun to share the adventures of our trip.  If you missed any of them, here are the links to: Ko Olina resort area, Pearl Harbor & the USS Arizona, and Waikiki Beach.  Today, my last recap will be all about one of my favorite days (that turned into two with a follow-up to golf at Turtle Bay) along the North Shore.  I would first like to thank Carolann for so many of these suggestions.  When we originally thought about visiting Oahu, we made plans to see Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, a couple golf courses, and maybe some waves on the North Shore.  She sent me the most amazing, comprehensive list of where to eat, drink, hike, sightsee, and so much more.  The blogging community is awesome, and if you are ever traveling, I highly suggest consulting a fellow blogger!
The day after we took our trip to Waikiki, we decided to set off on another morning adventure, this time to the North Shore.  After riding up the Kamehameha Highway, we stopped in the little town of Wahiawa to fill up at Surfers Coffee Bar before our first hike of the day.  I had a delicious macadamia nut latte and acai bowl.  What I absolutely loved about this place is that all of the people working there are volunteers; the bar is non-profit with proceeds going to local and global charities.
After our delicious breakfast, we headed another 20 minutes to the Northwest corner of the island: Ka‘ena Point Trail.  What used to be a railroad track is now a great, scenic hike to the remote Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve.  For this hike, we parked at the end of the road on the Mokule‘ia side and ventured along the sand dunes and limestone reefs.
We loved it so much that on the last full day of our trip, we drove the half hour up the western coast of Oahu from Ko Olina to hike Ka‘ena from the Wai‘anae side.  We loved that heading towards the same point from both sides were drastically different trails.  On the Wai‘anae side were higher cliffs and blowholes along the much narrower path.
Both sides of this hike can be very hot and sunny, so don't forget to bring water and wear sunscreen if you go!
After a couple of hours spent hiking, we decided to backtrack to Dole Plantation to grab a snack before continuing along the Kamehameha Highway.  We didn't do any of the tours while we were there but instead just walked around the grounds.  They have a great little area where you can see tons of different varieties of pineapples growing, learn about the history of the plantation and the Dole company, and even feed the ducks and fish.  Inside their gift shop,  you can buy anything under the sun that's pineapple, macadamia nut, or coffee-flavored.  We went shopping crazy, and watched a fun demonstration and sample all about the correct way to cut a pineapple.  We finished our trip to Dole (obviously) with a DoleWhip and a Dole float, and I didn't think it was possible, but they tasted even better than at Disney!
Sidenote: oh my gosh, the wild kitties!! There were a few adorable fluffers at Dole and tons at Seven Brothers later in the day!  I wanted to bring them all home ;) but they were definitely loving their tropical lives!
Leaving the plantation, we took a left and headed back up the Kamehameha Highway.  I could not wait to see the waves!  I have seriously dreamed about this my whole life, and I was so excited to learn that there is so much to do along the North Shore.  Welcoming you to the area is Haleiwa, the cutest little tourist town.  We even made a trip back there the following day to grab the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice on our way to play Turtle Bay.
Along the way around the northern tip of the island, we made stops at Papailoa Beach to see the beautiful shoreline, Laniakea Beach to look for sea turtles (which we did see swimming!!), Waimea Falls, and the world famous Banzai Pipeline.  Around this point, it was getting overcast and misty, but the weather brought in some amazing waves!  We were mesmerized by the skill of those surfers.
Watching them was obviously super draining (lol), so we kept driving to Kahuku for a late lunch.  There are tons of shrimp trucks up and down the road.  We settled on Seven Brothers at the Mill.  This was another place we went back to on our golf day at Turtle Bay because the coconut macadamia nut shrimp was some of the best shrimp I've ever had.  It was served on a bed of rice with this deliciously sweet sauce and a side salad.  We also split a Paniolo (Cowboy) burger that had barbecue sauce, onion rings, grilled pineapple, and bacon on it.  And what is a meal without dessert?  We checked out Carolann's favorite shave ice place, Angel's, just down the road in Laie, and it was our favorite shave ice of the trip.
Seriously, could we have done more in one day?  We just kept driving, finding more things to do, and at this point, figured why not just drive the whole island?  I know this post is a bit of a photo overload, but there's so much to share!  Obviously eating all that food meant that we had to go for another hike.  On the way down the windward side of the island, we made one stop near Kualoa Ranch, where Jurassic Park was filmed!
By late afternoon, we were at the the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.  We had gone from hiking at the Northwestern point of the island to the Southeasten point in one day.  This steep, paved path was a vastly different hike than our first one of the day, which was much less inclined but much more rocky.  The lighthouse at the top of the one mile trail was closed, but it was still more than worth the walk.  There are informational and historical markers all the way up, and before you know it, you've gained 500 feet in elevation.  The very first photo in this point was one of my favorite views from all of Oahu, looking North from lower of two lookout points at the summit.
As you can see: best day ever.  We absolutely loved the North Shore and Windward side of Oahu!  Thanks again for following along with my Hawaii posts - I'm looking  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Exploring Waikīkī & Southeast Oahu

As I mentioned in my resort post, we stayed in the residential area of Ko Olina when we traveled to Oahu.  On the first day of our trip, we visited Pearl Harbor, and day 2, we spent the morning at Waikīkī beach before golfing in the afternoon.

First thing in the morning, we left Ko Olina and drove east, through Honolulu, along the harbor and piers.  Waikīkī 100% feels like a city with narrow streets, cars honking, and tall buildings.  Luckily, there are a ton of parking garages, but just note that they can be pricey.  We were there for only a few hours and paid close to $40 just to park.  Locals, if you know any secrets, I'd love to hear them!  We found a garage near Kahanamoku Beach at the top of the touristy beach area and walked right out to the water to check out the views.  There are tons of right-of-ways to get out onto the beach.
We loved strolling along the beach, dodging waves, across the boardwalks and over to the official start of Waikīkī beach at the beautiful Royal Hawaiian Resort.  You've probably seen this historic pink hotel before on postcards.  It was just as magical as I pictured!  We kept walking over to the Duke Kahanamoku statue and across the street to grab some breakfast.  We found Kai Coffee inside this great outdoor mall.  They I got a Kai latte, which is their signature macadamia nut latte with macadamia nut whipped cream and a chocolate-covered macadamia nut on top.  This was the first macadamia nut-flavored food I'd ever tried in my life, and it was delicious.  I basically lived on a strict diet of macadamia nut and coconut lattes for the rest of the week.   Mike chose one of their single origin coffees.  Because they're each made-to-order, you can even choose the brewing method: pour-over, aeropress, French press, or slow drip.  They also have a variety of delicious scones and pastries.  It was the perfect pick-me-up for our busy walking morning.
After our coffee stop, we kept walking South along the beach.  There were tons of surfers, outrigger canoes, and sailboats in the harbor.  We ventured out onto one of the walls to check out all the fish.  So many colors!  
We turned back around the Waikīkī Aquarium and walked on the streets back to our Jeep.  We really loved Waikīkī as a day trip but were glad we chose a calmer and more secluded area to stay.  If you're looking for a place with a lot of night life and excitement, Waikīkī would definitely be the place for you.
Before we headed back to Ko Olina, we kept driving east along the Kalanianaole Highway, to check out a few different hikes for later in the week.  DiamondheadKoko Head Crater Stairs, Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, and Lanikai Pillbox Hike are all in this area.  We stopped at a the scenic overlooks as we drove around Hanauma Bay and up to H3, through the amazingly scenic mountain tunnels.
This road was our favorite of the trip.  I wish I could have snapped a shot of the beautiful misty rainbow we saw right after this tunnel.  This morning was beautiful, and I'll be sharing more on Friday about our adventure back out this way to the windward coast.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona

Happy Monday and welcome to the week of Hawaii recaps.  Each of my three posts this week will focus around different day trips we took from our resort at Ko Olina, and today starts with our time at Pearl Harbor.  One of the main reasons we decided on Oahu is that both Mike and I wanted to see and pay our respects to Pearl Harbor.  The question we probably get most after telling people we went to Oahu is how Pearl Harbor was.  The instinct is just to say "great" or "fantastic," but that just seems so insensitive.  While we did enjoy getting to see this historic place, we both struggle with how to describe the whole experience: somber, moving, emotional, calming, humbling, and really a must-see.
When most people think of going to visit Pearl Harbor, they think of the USS Arizona Memorial.  The 75-minute experience, which includes a 25-minute video, Navy-operated boat ride out to the memorial, and time at the memorial, are free, but tickets are only available online up to two months before your requested date online.  Like many, Mike and I weren't sure of our plans that far in advance, so we chose to wait in line to get one of 1,300 walk-in tickets that sell out everyday.  We got there right when the site opened at 7:00am, on our first full day of the trip, so that we'd still be jet-lagged and likely to wake up early.  At that time, we were already about 150-200 people deep in line and got an 8:30am tour time.  You are not able to choose your tour time, and they are all given out in sequential time, meaning that if you arrive at 9am, (if the tickets aren't all sold out yet), you could have a 3 or 4pm ticket.  There is a small museum on-site as well as many beautiful views around the area, and we took advantage of both of those before our time slot.
The 25-minute video gave a depiction of life in Hawaii prior to the war as well as an overview of everything that happened on December 7, 1941.  It was definitely a sobering experience before we loaded onto the boat to take the five minute ride over to the the memorial.  While the Arizona is under the control of the National Park Service, she is still owned by the U.S. Navy, who operates the boat service to the memorial.  The wreck of the ship marks the resting place for 1,102 sailors and Marines who lost their lives on the ship that day and is still an active U.S. cemetery for any survivor of the attack to have his urn buried.  Walking onto the memorial, there is an entryway, followed by the assembly room with seven windows on each side to commemorate the attack on December seventh.  On one side, you can see the base of one of the gun turrets, just above the surface of the water, and on the other are the "black tears," where the ship's oil still leaks out, even seventy years later.  At the far end of the memorial is the shrine where each name of those buried with the ship are listed and leis are placed to honor the fallen.  We spent about a half hour at the memorial before heading back to shore.
In addition to the USS Arizona Memorial, there are three partner sites located at Pearl Harbor: the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.  Each of these has a small fee associated with it to help with the preservation of each site.  We took the shuttle over to Ford Island, a private military-owned island, to visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial, which faces the USS Arizona Memorial.  We toured the decks of the ship and even stood in the exact spot where Japan surrendered to end World War II in the Pacific.  The bow of the Missouri now faces the Arizona as if to watch over her.
We are so glad that we were able to see all of these historical sites for ourselves on the first day of our trip.  We learned a lot about the military history of Hawaii and the geography of the area.  If you travel to Hawaii, the wait to visit Pearl Harbor is well worth it.

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