DAY 1 - Saturday 5/5/18
Our first stop in Hawaii was Oahu, the main, most tourist dense island. We decided to use the beginning of our trip to relax and spend time in some fancy accommodation, and then with some friends from Australia.
We were picked up by our friends that took us straight to China Town for some great, cheap Japanese food at a place called Marukame Udon. Apparently there is the same restaurant in Waikiki that people line up for hours to eat at, but the Chinatown restaurant is always quiet and has a lot more menu options. Initially, as we drove through the Chinatown area, I was struck by how many homeless people there were lining the streets. Before visiting, I didn’t realise that homelessness and substance abuse were such huge problems in Hawaii.
We had amazing luck and a little bit of luxury at the Hilton Embassy Suites, which we managed to get an insanely cheap deal on, thanks to our friends. We had a 2-bedroom suite, which we shared, and we enjoyed all the perks that the resort had to offer.
Each night there is a “manager’s reception” at the pool, which consists of 2-hours of free drinks and snacks. Now, I don’t usually drink alcohol at all, but because there were free cocktails on offer, I did try one. We enjoyed sitting by the pool for a couple of hours, then we went back to our room, where I promptly felt sick and fell asleep… a great reminder as to why I don’t drink!
DAY 2 - Sunday 6/5/18
On our second day, we enjoyed the HUGE buffet breakfast, then moved to a different hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn (also a lovely hotel, waaaay fancier than our usual hostel options). We spent our second day walking around the shoreline of Wakiki, buying a few things from the Ala Moana shopping centre, getting some dinner, then watching the sun set right on the water. There’s a point just outside Ala Moana that allows you to see the sunset over the mountains and ocean. It was a nice relaxing day, easing us into vacation mode.
DAY 3 - Monday 7/5/18
We got up fairly early, enjoyed our (slightly less fancy) buffet breakfast, then we tackled Diamond Head, the hike that takes you up to the top of the beautiful volcano that overlooks Waikiki Beach. Instead of catching a bus or taxi to the bottom of the mountain, we decided to walk from our hotel in Waikiki. The entire walk from Waikiki to the top of Diamond Head and back was about 14.5km/9.1miles, but it was really easy and mostly flat, apart from the incline of the hike itself. I think the whole walk took about 2.5 hours, including a break at the top where we ate some snacks and enjoyed the expansive views.
Diamond Head is a very well known hike, so I was excited to do it, even though I had been warned about the dense crowds if I didn’t start early in the morning. Although we took a bit longer than expected and left our hotel at about 11am, we were lucky that we did it on an overcast day. So while it wasn’t too cloudy to enjoy the views, it was a bit cooler and we didn’t have the sun beaming down on us the whole time.
I felt a bit ignorant once I started the hike, as I hadn’t realised that Diamond Head was an old army base during WWII and that there are a lot of man-made sections of the hike, including tunnels through the mountain, indoor spiral staircases up to the top viewpoint and long, steep flights of stairs. I expected it to be more of a natural hike, so I was surprised. It goes to show that my usual method of researching a destination’s history before arriving is a good idea!
As for the hike itself, I consider myself to be fairly fit, so I didn’t find the hike too challenging, though there are some parts of it that I saw people struggling with a lot. The hardest part for me was controlling my impatience, as I was stuck behind slow walkers and people with selfie sticks, and sometimes the path was too thin to be able to overtake. The actual Diamond Head hike only took about 20 minutes to get from the bottom to the top and is paved the whole way up, though it can be quite uneven in parts.
TIP: if you are struggling with the walk, I’d suggest taking a left when you reach the steep staircase. You will bypass the steepest stars and it will take you up a less challenging slope with less stairs. You’ll still arrive at the same destination at the top.
DAY 4 - Tuesday 8/5/18
Our friends that live in Honolulu were picking us up so that we could stay with them, so we took it easy and relaxed at our hotel and did some shopping before we went to their house for the next few days. We walked back down by the beach and dropped into the U.S Army Museum of Hawaii, which is free and has some interesting stuff in it (it’s not a must-see, but some of it was interesting). We also had a nice Vietnamese lunch at a food court on the second floor of the Royal Hawaiian Centre, that was very convenient for cheap eats in the heart of Waikiki.
After our friends picked us up, we hung out with them, cooked dinner and had a lazy night watching 50 First Dates because, you know, we’re in Hawaii!
DAY 5 - Wednesday 9/5/18
One of my friends had to sit an exam in the morning, so we hung around the college for half-an-hour until that was over. Turns out there was a huge Goodwill thrift store just down the road , so that suited me fine! Unfortunately I didn’t find anything nice, but that happens. I also had a yummy acai breakfast bowl to start off my day.
After the exam was over, we drove to the Kaiwi Shoreline Trail and did a nice paved hike there up to a gorgeous lookout that gives you views of the coastline and some small islands just off the shore. Below the lookout, there is a little white and red lighthouse that we went through the safety barricades to walk to, but sadly, if you want to cross the safety barricade right out the front of it, you would have to hang off the edge of the cliff, so we decided against it.
For lunch, I had my first poké experience - a relatively new food phenomenon that has just started hitting Australian shores. Traditionally, it is rice with raw fish (usually salmon or tuna), with sauce and a huge variety of extra toppings. Thank goodness, the place we went to had tofu poké, which was in a sweet-chilli style sauce and was delicious with seaweed and dried onion added to it. I guess another sign of my ignorance about Hawaii was that I didn’t realise how much of an influence Japanese culture has had on the development of modern Hawaiian culture. One of the biggest influences that I noticed is the food, with plenty of raw fish and rice dishes as a staple, as well as a large number of Japanese restaurants.
That night, we had another chilled out movie night, this time keeping the Hawaiian theme going with Forgetting Sarah Marshall - classic!
DAY 6 - Thursday 10/5/18
We spent some of our morning waiting for our friend to finish her final exam, then we headed for the Botanical Gardens, as my friend wanted to take pictures on the road there - a new insta famous spot on Oahu. Unfortunately, once we arrived, there was a security guard parked there that wouldn’t allow us to take photos, as well as huge signs up everywhere that reiterate the point and obscure the view. So instead we drove inside to the gardens, where you get a similar view of the mountains on a grassy plateau. We also walked around the botanical gardens and took some pictures by the lake, which was lovely too.
On the way back, we stopped for some traditional Hawaiian food at a roadside shack called the Waiahole Poi Factory. My fiends assured me that this is the best Hawaiian food that they’ve had, and the fact their sign was hand painted made me think it was probably going to be good (studies have not yet confirmed my theory, but during my travels, I’ve found places with hand painted signs usually have the most delicious, cheap and authentic food). This restaurant didn’t really have any vegetarian options, so I shared with Chris. He ordered a meal that had Kalua pork (Hawaiian pulled pork), and sides including a tomato salad with cubes of salmon, boiled rice, and haupia (a coconut milk based tofu-like dessert). I also ordered a Ho’io salad that had tomato, beans and onion and was quite simple, but yummy. Afterwards, we decided to indulge and get their speciality - the ‘sweet lady’ dessert made of kulolo with haupia ice cream (translation: coconut ice cream, and a warm pudding made with baked or steamed taro with grated coconut flesh/milk). After that, we headed back to my friend’s house, cooked dinner and relaxed.