In late February/early March, and what already seems like eons ago, we spent some time in Hawai’i. Amidst the craziness of getting the truck and RV back, doing work on the RV, making changes to the changes of plans, we opted to take a break from it all. We already made a commitment to go to a wedding and even though financially we shouldn’t have gone, mentally we needed the trip. Lounging on sandy beaches, splashing in the salty water, visiting with old friends; that was the medicine we needed to cure our anxiety. It worked. The whole time we were there we didn’t stress about the truck or any other issues we were having. It was nice to take a step back and just enjoy life.
We spent 2 weeks on O’ahu. Our friends Rochelle & Brent live there and graciously opened their home to us. We hadn’t seen them in a couple years and they had a new baby that we hadn’t met yet. Spending time with them, catching up, squeezing baby boy, kids playing together was all so fantastic.
Some days we hung at the house with them. Some days we walked to the beach that was a short distance from their house. Some days we ventured out on our own. We went to a farmers market and listened to a local band. We scoped out numerous beaches, all with unique flare their own. Jeff played paintball and went scuba diving for his 1st time ever. Rochelle and I went to a local chocolate making class and spent the afternoon lounging at the beach. One day we hiked up to Makapu’u Point and saw a couple whales breaching in the distance. We hiked in a marsh. Went to a Macadamia Nut Farm with my mom & her friend. We stuffed our faces at a food truck roundup down in Honolulu. We drove to almost every nook and cranny of the island that we could fit in to our time on the island.
We booked a rental apartment for a few days that was close to where the wedding was. The day before we left to drive there, both girls puked. One was sick all day and night. So instead of making the drive in the morning we had to wait until later that afternoon when she was feeling good enough for the drive. Our rental house was in the small town of Hau’ula. It was on the bottom floor of a family’s home. We were greeted with shell necklaces, lounged in the hammock under banana and papaya trees, participated in their birthday celebration and Lilly got to do some Capoeira with them.
The next day was the wedding; a lovely backyard wedding with the ocean as a backdrop. We sat on crisp, white sheets that were placed in a circle that surrounded the Brides as they said their vows. My mom was there as well as old family friends, new friends, the ocean breeze and lots of love. By the way, the little glass hummingbirds on the cake; Jeff made those! (wedding photos below by Kristen Hook Photography)
Let’s talk beaches. I mean, we’re talking about Hawai’i. It wouldn’t be a proper visit without frequenting the beaches. We tried to visit as many as we could. We drove the whole circumference of the island during our time there and that gave us time to explore most of the areas. The beaches on the windward side of the island were our favorite.
The azure waters and soft sand at Bellows Beach was fantastic. On the weekdays it was practically empty and was the perfect intro to the ocean for the kids without us having to dodge hundreds of other humans. Just us and the ocean. We had views of Mānana Island, the open ocean, and nothing else. It was great! Although, you aren’t allowed to visit unless you have access to the Air Force Station. Luckily, not far away is also…
With it’s bright blue water, calm sea and long stretch of sandy beach it felt like paradise. I mean seriously, look at that water! And although the town of Kailua seemed to have a steady stream of tourist buses from Honolulu, it still felt like a small-ish town with shopping, restaurants with reasonable prices and fairly empty beaches. We had no problem either of the two times finding our own space on the beach and in the water.
–Kahana Bay Beach
We originally drove past on a weekday and were mesmerized at the mountains that jutted up from the coast, high above the rode. They were covered in lush, green and met the ocean with a thin ribbon of sand. On a Sunday we visited the beach and practically had the entire place to ourselves! The beach is in the bend of the bay and is surrounded on 3 sides by the mountains. The water isn’t crystal clear like at some of the other beaches (a stream dumps into the area), but with the surrounding mountain views it didn’t matter. This place was paradise in its own way. The beach is backed with trees and we saw lots of baby chicks foraging. Across from the beach is Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park which we wanted to visit but didn’t get a chance to.
–Hau’ula Beach Park
It was a walking distance from our rental apartment and we could walk through this beach to where our friends’ wedding was. It was very rocky inside and out of the water so we didn’t swim there. But we had a lot of fun exploring the rocks. Just a little south of this beach the coast is lined with slivers of pristine looking beaches and waters. We just didn’t have time to explore them.
– Mālaekahana State Recreation Area
I’m not sure of the exact name of the beach here. We stopped on a whim as we were driving by. We were the only people there. You park in the lot and walk through a forest to the beach. There is an island off the coast nicknamed Goat Island that apparently you can swim or sometimes even walk to. But when we were there, I was hesitant to even walk on the beach. The waves weren’t high but the ocean was churning in every direction possible. I’ve never seen the ocean so wild and mesmerizing. We watched as the waters clashed against one another. It would be great to return at a different time of year to see this place as a serene and friendly beach.
I have no pictures because we were too busy gawking at the surfers. But there was a video posted on our Instagram. All along the north shore the beaches were being pummeled by waves and eager surfers were riding them as easily as I walk on land. The waves were so huge while we were there that the famous Eddie Aikau Surf Competition, which only happens when waves reach 30 to 40 feet, was held. We weren’t able to watch it in person, but taking a pit stop along Sunset Beach to watch amateur surfers was just as thrilling.
Small, rocky beach. Prime viewing for sea turtles. So much so, that people from Save the Sea Turtles International are posted up there all day to watch people, hand out educational information, and keep a protecting eye over the turtles. Because this beach too is on the north shore, the ocean was choppy at the time of year we visited. We didn’t see any turtles on land, but we saw a few of them gliding through the water.
–Ka’ena Point Trail Beach
I can’t find a name for this beach either. It’s off highway 930 (Farrington Hwy) that runs along the north coast from Haleiwa to past the Dillingham Airfield. The road literally ends at a parking lot for the trailhead to the Ka’ena Point. We had no idea what to expect, but wanted to drive as far as we could. We parked. We went down to the beach. And we were amazed! It was a beach with waves splashing up along the black, volcanic, jagged rocks. There were tidepools everywhere. But the most amazing thing was that the beach was covered in big chunks of gleaming white coral! If it hadn’t been nearing sunset, we would have stayed on that beach all day marveling in the coral that had washed ashore.
–Ko’Olina Beach Park
Normally, this resort style beach set up isn’t our cup of tea. It’s not very picturesque, not completely natural, backed by giant resorts, beaches filled with chairs and cabanas to rent, bars that are only for resort patrons. However, a lot of the beaches around the whole island had a few days of giant swells and that meant we couldn’t go swimming especially with two little kids in tow. We read about the Ko’Olina lagoons and decided to give these man-made lagoons a try. Even though the surf was crazy, the lagoons were calm. We were able to spend the day swimming, splashing and enjoying while outside those rock barriers, the ocean madly pounded against the rocks. We even got to see a monk seal lounging on the beach. Because it is on the west coast, it is prime viewing for watching the sun sink into the ocean. If we go back to O’ahu, I don’t foresee us going here but it’s nice to have the safer place as a back up plan.
Beaches aside, O’ahu is teeming with a plethora of activities to do and things to see. While Jeff was scuba diving I took the girls to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. It is 400 acres, located in Kaneohe on the windward side, has amazing mountain views, in a serene, quiet setting and was FREE! We saw maybe a dozen other people but most of the time it was just the girls and I and lots of trees and plants.
We had heard about Kualoa Ranch but didn’t want to fall into a tourist trap. It seemed very commercialized, packed with tour buses and had mixed reviews online. But when we drove by, our mouths dropped at the immense beauty that surrounded the ranch. We decided to take a tour on the ranch in spite of our trepidations. We were SO glad we did! We opted for the Jungle Tour. We drove through the forest and learned about ancient Hawaiians, saw Taro patches, an 800 year old fishing pond, breathtaking vistas of the coastline down below as we climbed up a secluded road. We did a short hike to a view point. Last, but not least, we got to see and drive through a portion of the set from Jurassic World and we totally geeked out over that. The kids especially had a blast driving fast down the bumpy, mountain road with the wind blowing through their hair. It was truly a delightful experience and we would go again!
No trip to O’ahu is complete without visiting Pearl Harbor. We reserved our tickets for the boat tour in advance a couple nights prior. However, if we had missed the chance at riding the boat, we could have still gotten to see the memorial from afar, visit a museum and learn as much history as possible about the events that occurred there. Before we boarded the boat, we watched a short film about Pearl Harbor. I never knew the full extent of what happened and hearing the stories and watching the movie was very moving. The USS Arizona Memorial was as equally moving. My tears slowly flowed as I thought about the lives that were lost. But what really got to me was the spot where any survivor can be cremated and their ashes laid to rest with the rest of their crewmates, at the bottom of the sea.
One of our last days on the island we visited a highly sacred historical site of Kukaniloko Birthing Stones. There was a calmness to the area that I can’t explain. We spent some time in quiet reflection. Lilly even laid some flowers on a stone as an offering. To what or whom, we don’t know. But she felt compelled to do it.
We spent our last night on island in Waikiki Beach. I can’t imagine coming to the island and that bustling metropolis is all that you see. Expensive shopping, masses of people, loud, shiny lights…it is not the true feel of the island as a whole. The morning of our flight I checked out and Jeff & the girls went down to catch a cab. I came down in the elevator, saw them where they weren’t supposed to be and we both looked at eachother perplexed because we had both gotten off the elevator on the wrong floor. The next thing we knew, Lilly had gone back into the elevator and the doors closed. Up up she went. And there we stood. I almost had a heart attack. Luckily 2 other women who saw that and happened to go up in a next door elevator ended up on the lobby floor with her and got a security guard to bring her down to us. It all happened so quickly and she was back to us just as quickly but it was scary. Especially to her. Then we got to the airport, only to realize that ALL of the snacks and food for the day that I had purchased the night before were left in the trunk of the cab. Ugh.
So many things to do and see that we couldn’t do it all and still relax. All the more reason to return for another visit. Something about the islands just calls us and calms us. Both times we have gone we feel at peace the moment we step out of the airport. Mahalo Hawai’i…until we meet again.