Please listen to the song while you read this. It gives it an additional joy.
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – White Sandy Beach . I wrote this for our work interface and was waiting for them to post it before I post it here on my Blog. Sorry it took so long! I’ve been dying to talk about it!
Let’s start off by saying how much I love Hawaii. Everything they say about it is true; it truly is Paradise. From the Aloha Spirit, the rich history, vibrant culture, delicious food, and the amazing outdoors—whether it’s the beaches, the mountains, the hidden waterfalls, or just walking down the block. This was not my first time going to the Islands, nor will it be my last. Every time I go, there is always something new to be discovered. It is definitely one of my favorite places in the world.
Every year I plan on going to Hawaii, I don’t always get there because another place comes up, such as somewhere in Europe. This time, my old college roommate decided she wanted to start traveling with me, but she does not have her passport (yet). Hawaii was the perfect place for someone to start travelling (for anyone really, experienced traveler or not). It was still part of the US, same currency, similar laws, same language, and just far enough to get used to long flights. In addition, it had several things that were on her “Life List” (similar to a bucket list); swimming with turtles, standing under a waterfall, going to a black sand beach, and snorkeling were among her list.
There are so many things to do in Hawaii that it was hard to narrow it down. We made sure we looked at some of the events that were happening at the time we were going to be there, as well as we drove around the island to see some of the beaches and amazing views, and to just learn our surroundings and where we were. I do recommend renting a car. There are so many places to go outside of Waikiki that you may not get to see or experience without one. (And there are way better beaches than just Waikiki Beach!). The speed limits are slow, they drive on the shoulder in the morning (legal), there is a HOV (Carpool lane), and they are really good about people merging. Oahu does have an amazing public transportation system, “The Bus”, that you could use if you don’t want to rent a car, and you see the bus stops everywhere on the island. You can also do excursions that include transfers—and some of the hotels may have a shuttle bus to areas as well, but you don’t always get to see and do things that you may want to. You lose some of your freedom to explore. It will take you much longer to get around, and Hawaii does live on Island Time (slow, relaxed pace).
The most important thing on this trip was the Memorial Floating Lantern Ceremony, and it was the main reasons we did Hawaii over Memorial Day weekend. I had made a promise to my brother a long time ago that we would go to this. However, he died prior to us being able to fulfill this promise, but I finally got to go to the ceremony. We met up with a friend from high school who was staying with friends that now lived on the Island who found us an excellent location. It was the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen. Waikiki Beach was packed, but there was still room for more people. There were speakers, singers, and musicians that echoed throughout the park. We couldn’t see the screen from where we were, but you could hear it clearly, and we had a beautiful line of sight for when they had the lanterns floating. They usually collect and reuse the lanterns after the ceremony, however, the current was a bit strong and broke rope that kept the lanterns in the area, and they spread out further to the sea. Pictures and videos honestly do not do it justice. This is something I think should be on everyone’s “Life List”.
Photo: Memorial Floating Lantern Ceremony in Waikiki Beach
One fun thing to do on the Island is hiking. Whether you are a pro or a new hiker, Hawaii has something for you. We only did two hikes in Oahu due to how many things we wanted to see and do. We did the Pillbox hike (two former military observation bunkers), which has you overlooking Kailua and the Mokes at Lanikai Beach. It was a lot of fun meeting people while hiking. Everyone was so nice, and they would take pictures for you and talk about other hikes and places to go. One even gave us more information of where we were, pointing places beneath us out.
Photo: Us four gals on the second Pillbox with a panoramic view of Kailua
The other hike we did was Manoa Falls, which is a beautiful bamboo forest that leads up to a waterfall. It was raining when we began, so it was muddy, there were puddles, and some of the steps were slippery.
Photo: Manoa Falls Trail leading up to the Waterfall.
Beaches. Crystal-blue see-through water, the softness of the sand, the warmth of the ocean; sometimes you just have to go to all of them! Some of my favorites are Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach—which have the Mokes in front (both in Kailua); Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli’i) in Kualoa; Ko Olina Lagoons in Ko Olina; Electric Beach (about 5 minutes north of Ko Olina, and the Sand Bar which is in the middle of Kaneohe Bay (easiest to get to by boat); and Waikiki Beach. Each beach has a different culture to it. Kailua and Lanikai are both very calm beaches with white sand.
Ko Olina Lagoons are man-made lagoons with rock formations that cut it off from the rough waters past them. The Sand Bar or Kaneohe Bay’s Sunken Island, is very shallow, calm, with ultra-clear water. One of our friends rented a boat from the Marine Corps Base. While some cannot do that, there are other places to rent boats and kayaks to get there. We put lounge chairs and floaties in the water. While we did see Portuguese Man-Of-War [looks very similar to jelly fish, but have blue tails], we did also see turtles swimming nearby.
Electric Beach is an amazing place to go snorkeling—this is where a lot of the tours go for diving and snorkeling to see turtles. There is a strong current here and it is pretty rocky as well. I would recommend wearing a life jacket if you are not a strong swimmer, we did not even realize how far we drifted out when we came up to talk to each other for a minute, as well as swimming with flippers is really exhausting (but think of all the calories you’re burning). There were millions of beautiful fish of all sizes, types, and colors, (a very large Needle Nose fish that was swimming towards the surface definitely startled me), but we got to swim with turtles—three in fact. Two of them surfaced, one for a short amount of time, took a deep breath, and swam back to the bottom of the ocean. The smaller one of the two that surfaced took five breaths and came up right in front of me, to the point where I had to move so I didn’t touch it. The turtle was definitely comfortable with people due to the fact he came right between our group and took so many breaths. It was definitely one of the coolest things I have ever experienced.
Now, the ocean has a million beautiful things in it. However, things can happen. My friend got stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War; luckily it was just one, and I sliced my knee on coral (standing with flippers as the strong tide comes in is not my forte). My knee was bleeding pretty badly, which I didn’t realize until I got out of the water. Nothing killed us, (there were no sharks,) just a short lived discomfort.
Photo: Head above the waves and greeted by a rainbow; snorkeling on Electric Beach.
One of the best parts of traveling is trying all of the different types of food and going to several different restaurants. My friend and I have our favorite, “South Shore Grill” on Monsarrat Avenue near Diamond Head in Honolulu. It was THE BEST! Our favorite was the Famous 2 Taco Plate. There were a couple of options you could get for what type of meat you wanted (fish, chicken, shrimp, steak). I would recommend the fish tacos, which had a cajun seasoning on it, wrapped in corn tortillas, with this delightful mouth-watering garlic slaw added on top. The “plate” adds hapa rice, tuna macaroni salad, and more slaw—trust me, you want all that you can get of this stuff! Of course they have several other items on the menu that I’m sure are just as good.
My father always told me,” you want to eat where the locals eat, that’s how you know it’s good.” There were all types of people going to this place. The atmosphere was beautiful, there was a chalkboard area you could write/draw on, amazing photographs on the walls that were just beautiful. It’s a family run business, and you can see the children helping out. We had been there 4-5 times in one week, and didn’t have anything negative to say except that we were so full we couldn’t eat anymore.
Another restaurant is L&L Hawaiian BBQ. There are many of these scattered around the island. You’ll see them everywhere as you drive. Don’t forget to stop! I had the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Plate which included two scoops of rice, a macaroni salad, cabbage, and a ton of Hawaiian BBQ Chicken. My friend got a meal with shrimp, fish, and steak with the rice, macaroni salad, and cabbage.
Photo: SSG/L&L/Lanikai Juice/Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonad which you can get in mason jars!
Two other favorites are Lanikai Juice, where I had an Açai Bowl—the Açai Colada which had coconut, pineapple, banana, and granola, the base was pineapple, coconut milk, organic sambazon açai, and honey. Very filling, but it was light and refreshing, and after hiking that is exactly what I wanted. They also have other things there to eat, as well as juices and smoothies, which are just as delicious!
Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade. There are a couple of stores and stands, but we frequented the one in Wahiawa. The ladies working were a lot of fun and gave us awesome recommendations for things to try. For example, I wanted something sweet, with coconut and/or pineapple, while my friend did not want something sweet. I’d recommend Lava Flow Lemonade and Lilikoi Strawberry Lemonade.
We decided to fly to Maui for the day on an Island Air flight ($130 RT), rent a car, and do the Road to Hana—which is a narrow curvy road that takes you to the historic town of Hana, while passing Hidden Waterfalls, bamboo forests, “Garden of Eden”, and the most famous Black Sand Beach. My tip on this is motion sickness medication and more than one driver if possible. I have never gotten motion sickness before, but half way through the drive back I was getting pretty dizzy. We did enjoy a hike to Twin Falls, which is a waterfall that you will have to cross rivers to get to (tennis shoes and I’d get water shoes, because the one to get to the falls was pretty rocky). We had Acai Bowls and smoothies from a stand, locally grown vegetable pizza and drinks at a side restaurant, and were even at a complete stop for thirty minutes while road construction was going on.
The main thing we wanted to do was go to the Black Sand Beach aka Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach. It was part of the Life List. As we got to the parking lot for it you were just marveled at the sight/ It was absolutely beautiful! There were ancient Hawaiian burial grounds, and there was a path way (which was a little far, but the views on the way to the beach were pretty incredible). We couldn’t have been any more excited! The water was a beautiful deep blue. The beach was small and it was pretty crowded. Here is another place were the water shoes would be helpful. The sand was hot, and some parts were sharp—which didn’t stop anyone. The current here was also really strong, and the waves were high, but the water was warm and when you looked around while you were in the ocean you would just marvel at the sights. You could see the ancient lava caves and the archways, as well as all the green on the cliffs. Getting back on to the beach from the ocean was not easy. Since the waves were strong, you were easily clobbered by the waves. My favorite part of this beach was when my friends got out of the water and just sat on the beach. Every once in a while a large wave would roll in, and you saw all the people’s legs go up and over their head as the waves took them out up on the shore. It was hilarious seeing adults rolling around on the shore. I was taken out once on my way in, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle, you just need to know which way is up.
It was a slow-paced, calm day, enjoying the sun and the beautiful scenery around us, blasting music, and enjoying each other’s company. After we completed our journey to Hana, we decided we would go to Maui Brewing Company to eat and drink before flying back to Oahu. (Which we ended up running through the airport barefoot to make the flight. Somehow we made it, just as they were about to close the gate! Whew! That was too close.)
Photo: Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach
It was truly an amazing trip. We did not get to do everything on this trip, but we know we’ll be back in no time! I wonder what adventures await us!
Here is an added bonus! You get to see the video of us swimming with Turtles!