hawaii?!? yes, please! part 1 - oahu

aloha, friends! well, i don't know about you, but once warmer temperatures start making their way into my life one thing that pops into my mind is...vacation! okay, really i think of vacation year round, but by spring i am constantly talking about vacation possibilities to my poor husband. if you follow me on instagram you know that i am obsessed with hawaii and hope to live there one day, if even for a year or two. i thought it might be fun to share a few of my hawaii favorites with all of you. i'm not a hawaii expert, but i do know what i like, and i often get asked for tips, so here ya go!

i absolutely love oahu, not so much honolulu, but the entire island itself. honolulu is a great if you love large cities, shopping, and all that comes with city living (traffic included), but it is a great home base with plenty of fabulous hotels to choose from. i feel like it's all still part of the experience and the beaches are great. ;) my family is the kind that likes to explore the entire island, and oh what an island it is! it is possible to drive around the entire island, and do some exploring, in one day...so major bonus! here are some areas worthy or exploration:

- chinaman's hat or mokoli'i - an incredible, scenic area. the drive alone will have you ooohing and aaahing. the beach here is full of coral, so beware. if you plan to get into the water here at all, you will need beach shoes.

- kualoa ranch - here is where many films and television shows are filmed. hello, jurassic park and lost! when you visit, you'll instantly see why - it's paradise. we did the movie tour and it was worth the price! mind you, we do love movies and television so i'm sure that plays a huge part in choosing this attraction. the drive here is breathtakingly beautiful, and chinaman's hat is basically across the street.

- north shore tacos - this hole in the wall is near the polynesian cultural center. after reading mixed reviews on the food at the pcc, we opted to eat here instead, since we already planned a luau elsewhere. it did not disappoint. their golden sauce (aka in house hot sauce) is the stuff spicy dreams are made of, if you like spicy. i doused my tacos with that liquid magic.

- mike's huli truck - this is a famous food truck near kualoa ranch (kaneohe location), and it lives up to its hype. the chicken plate...to die for.

- polynesian cultural center - i think this a fun one, especially for first-timers. it's a beautiful center with many shows and insight into the polynesian islands/culture.

- north shore - one of my favorite areas of oahu. a fun area to shop as well and be sure to get shave ice here.

- matsumotos shave ice - see above, thank me later.

- one ocean diving - if you've ever dreamed of swimming with sharks, i highly recommend going with one ocean diving. it is cageless, about three miles offshore, and in water around 200 feet deep. you will use snorkel gear and literally be surrounded by sharks in their natural state. we were able to spend about an hour and a half in the water with the sharks. read about this amazing conservationist/marine biologist research team.

- snorkeling - my husband is obsessed with snorkeling. i love it too, although i'm not as committed as he is (ha), and there are so many amazing spots to snorkel and see beautiful marine life, sea turtles included.

- stand up paddle boarding - always a fun and relaxing activity for me and my family.

- surfing - i highly recommend lessons from alysha surf school in waikiki. al was the best! he is patient, kind, well priced, and amazing to work with. i can't recommend him enough.

- manoa falls trail - seriously, don't miss this short hike. you will be surrounded by many ecosystems in one hike. be prepared with hiking/tennis shoes, and if you don't like to get wet/drenched - take a poncho. i loved being rained on, personally.

- diamond head trail - this is another great hike, but very different from manoa. it's a drier, more desert-like area, but still very beautiful. this one can get hot, so wear sunscreen.

- liljestrand house tour - since i love home design, i have to mention liljestrand. it's seriously an amazing mid-century hawaiian style home that you will have you wising you could move into it instantly. the location is a hidden dream in the tantalus hills.

- hula pie from dukes - this dessert will change your life. it's huge, so feel free to share one slice with your family! the food and ambiance here are great as a well!

- dole plantation - it's free (the maze is extra) and beautiful. be sure to have a dole whip!

- pearl harbor - this one is a must. the staff/volunteers are informative and it's an amazing experience that will have you feeling extra grateful for our military.

- halona blowhole - again, a beautiful drive and quick stop. blowholes fascinate and terrify me. they are truly beautiful, but as always - respect and revere nature. be watchful and cautious.

- hanauma bay - a great place to snorkel, but they do charge and fee, and once the parking lot is full, they will turn you away. there are other places to snorkel that are free and great as well - sharks cove and turtle bay were great too.

- rainbow drive-in - another hole in the wall that even the locals love. the food is amazing! my girls and i love the fried 1/2 chicken plate and my husband loves the loco moco plate. you can definitely share plates because the portions are huge.

- lanikai beach/mokes - this beach is ranked one of the most beautiful in the world, and it was easy to see why. my husband and i paddle boarded to the mokes, no easy feat, mind you, and found out we needed a permit to do so. whoops!

- various fruit stands, outdoor "shops" in people's yards, and food trucks...all a must and a great way to support the locals.

i encourage you - explore, explore, explore! eat, eat, eat! ha ha! i am a foodie, so i live to eat. embrace the hawaiian people and culture - they are amazing! as always, respect the land and sea - animals too.

money saving tips:

- my family almost always splits a plate between 2/3 of us - plus we save calories here too. remember, snacks and desserts are to come afterwards, so why not? ;)

- shop around for snorkel, surf, paddle board, or any kind of gear. you will be surprised on the price variances. ask questions prior to going to a rental place, some places want ridiculous deposits, don't fall into that trap.

- find free activities - such as hiking, lounging by the beach, etc.


- a jeep/convertible - the canopy of the trees overhead once you get out and explore will make you glad you splurged here!

two hotels i recommend:

- hilton hawaiian village - this one is especially fun for families.

- the royal hawaiian - aka the pink palace and a stunning resort. both hotels are on waikiki beach and within walking distance to shops and restaurants.

i could go on, but you might get tired of reading. ;) i do plan to do another blogpost but on maui soon, so stay tuned!

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