Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Life is a Beach - Back in Oahu

Waikiki Beach - SunsetAloha! It has been years since I first traveled to the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Twelve years to be exact. 

So when Mijo suggested we go to Hawaii to get away from the cold winter weather, I said yes right away. Life is a beach in Oahu!

Just to give you an overview, Hawaii is comprised of several islands and the popular ones are Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai and the big island Hawaii. Honolulu and Waikiki are located in the island of Oahu.

We went to Oahu twelve years ago and we fell in love with the island and the island's culture. We went back again this year and we loved it even more.
Waikiki - The Duke

The first time I was here, Mijo and I stayed most of the time in Honolulu and Waikiki beach area and we did some short trips to snorkel at Hanauma Bay, hike up Diamond Head, and paid Pearl Harbor a visit. We both enjoyed all of it.
Waikiki Beach - Surf boards

This time, we wanted to see the rest of Oahu. We stayed for eight days and visited lots of places including:
the historic city of Waihawa; scenic areas south of the island such as Hanauma Bay, Sandy Beach and Halona Blowhole, quaint areas like Punaluu on the east side of the island and Wailea and Haleiwa on the north; dipped on the waters of Kailua and Waimanalo beaches on the southeast corner of the island. I loved the contrast of the green hills, the rocky volcanic landscape and the blue water.

This trip gave me more things to love about Hawaii and the island of Oahu. If you ask me if I would live there, the answer is a Yes! 
Waikiki - Kuhio Beach Park

We stayed in Waikiki Beach because the area has lots of hotels and it is close to everything including the airport. We took day trips during the day and went back to Waikiki in the afternoon to enjoy the beach and catch the picturesque sunset.
Waikiki Beach - Sunset 

Our hotel is near Kuhio Beach Park. It is a nice walk from there to the end of Waikiki Beach. Just walking on the beach was already a relaxing experience. Waikiki Beach is surprisingly clean considering it is an urban beach. Surfers galore but I'll stay on my boogie board, thank you.
Waikiki Beach - Hotels trees Waikiki Beach - Afternoon

Waikiki has changed a lot from the last time I was here. There are now a lot more boutiques and designer stores on Kalakua Ave. I noticed that hotels have malls on the street level. Some hotels host outdoor hula classes by the mall. Sun bathe during the day and when you've had enough go shopping.
Waikiki - Surf boards Waikiki - Hula class 

Here are hula dancers in Ala Moana Mall's entertainment stage.
Waikiki - Ala Moana Center 

We've never been to the Iolani Palace so one morning we decided to go there and we took one of their tours. The tours is guided by volunteers who are knowledgeable about the palace's history. While we were being whisked from room to room inside the beautiful palace, I can't help but imagine how the royal family lived lavish lives. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Oahu.
Iolani Palace - Facade Iolani Palace - Tour 

 While walking along Kalakua Ave. in Waikiki, we chanced upon this store called Honolulu Cookie Company. They sell different kinds of cookies. Inside, they have small pieces of cookies as samples. My favorite is their lilikoi flavored cookies. I think lilikoi is passion fruit. I brought a box for my coworkers.
Waikiki - Honolulu Cookie Company bw Waikiki - Honolulu Cookie Company box Waikiki - Honolulu Cookie Company cookies Waikiki - Honolulu Cookie Company cookie box 

One morning, we decided to drive to the southern part of the island on highway 72 and stop by the different points of interests along the way up to Kailua Beach. Everywhere I saw lots of green hills next to rocky volcanic landscape and the blue water. It is so beautiful.

We've been to Hanauma Bay before. Because we liked it so much, we went back again to snorkel. I don't remember being required to watch a video before but they make you watch one now. The video is about Hanauma Bay, its geology and how to take care of the coral reefs around the bay. There is also a shuttle that drives people up and down the beach from near the parking lot for a small fee.
Hanauma Bay - Pan view Hanauma Bay - Top view Hanauma Bay - Fish Hanauma Bay - Coconuts Hanauma Bay - Beach Hanauma Bay - Aerial view 

We passed by a place near Hanauma Bay called Halona Point. This part of the island is so windy I could feel the skin of my face move. From the lookout, there is a view of the Halona Blowhole and a beach near it. Again, I am enamored on the contrasting landscapes.
Oahu - Halona Blowhole 

Near Halona Point is Sandy Beach. It is a beautiful while fine sand beach but the wind was hurricane force strong so the waves were really big. There was a red flag and there were warning signs everywhere the beach. It is a nice beach to check out.
Sandy Beach - Drive Sandy Beach - Beach Sandy Beach - Strong Waves 

Also on highway 72 is Waimanalo Beach. We finally reached the Southeast part of the island. This beach is calm and the wind is refreshing.  The beach is long that this was probably the longest stretch of beach I've been to in Oahu. There were hardly anyone swimming or walking on the beach.
Waimanalo Beach - Beach Waimanalo Beach - Relaxing 

 Moving along on highway 72, our destination was Kailua Beach. It is also white and fine sand beach and there were only a few people on the beach. This is probably my favorite spot in Oahu.  This is where we stayed for the rest of the afternoon.
Kailua Beach - Beach Kailua Beach - Relax 

Since we were already there, we stopped by Island Snow in Kailua town to sample their refreshing shaved ice. I love them!
Oahu - Island Snow shaved ice 

The following day, we were craving for some site seeing. We decided to check out the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden. The botanical garden is huge and spread out. You have to drive from one part of the garden to the next. They have local plants and plants from nearby countries like the Philippines. I learned that the area was built by the the US Army Corps of Engineers for flood protection. 
Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden - Entrance Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden - Pan view Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden -Pandan plant 

A few minutes drive from the botanical garden is a serene place called Byodo-in Temple. There is a small fee to get in but it is worth it. This place is a good quick stop.
Oahu - Byodo-In Temple Oahu - Byodo-In Temple Buddha Oahu - Byodo-In Temple Bell 

We also went to the Polynesian Cultural Center and that took the whole day. The Polynesian Cultural Center is in a place called Laie on the northeast past of the island, Mijo and I decided to checkout one of the windward towns.

 The drive going to Laie was very picturesque. The hills are all green and they rise high from the highway H3. The color green is everywhere. We saw lots of signs selling food along Kamehameha highway. Huli-huli chicken, locomoco, coconuts, etc. We stopped for a light lunch and an ice cold coconut in a town called Punaluu since I haven't had this in this trip.
Punaluu - Drive Punaluu - Ice cold coconut Punaluu - Ice cold coconut drink Punaluu - Fresh catch of the day 

 I've never been to a luau. Mijo and I finally went to the Polynesian  Cultural Center in this trip and I found it enriching and entertaining. I learned a lot about Hawaii and the other nearby islands such as Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Tahiti. Our tickets are considered "Ambasador" tickets and this entitled us for a personal tour guide who toured us around the complex. 
Polynesian Cultural Center - Entrance Polynesian Cultural Center - Map 
We witnessed a boat pageant featuring each island of the Pacific and a short cultural dance, chant or song from each island. It was very colorful. Afterward, we were whisked to different venues but with more cultural shows showcasing the cultures of the islands. It was very entertaining and I learned a lot.
Polynesian Cultural Center - Parade Polynesian Cultural Center - Roast pig 
There was also a buffet dinner in the main dining hall and another set of entertainment. Alcohol is not allowed in the premises. There was a live show called "Breath of Life" in the main auditorium after the dinner.
Polynesian Cultural Center - Performances Polynesian Cultural Center - Hakka 

We also visited the historic town of Waihawa and the Dole Plantation. This place is great if you have kids. While you are there, do not forget to sample the refreshing Dole Whip.
Oahu - Dole Plantation Oahu - Dole Plantation Train tour Oahu - Dole Plantation pineapple plantation Oahu - Dole Plantation Dole Whip 

 Driving back to Waikiki from the Dole Plantion, we came across this Green World Coffee Farm for a good cup of coffee. 
Oahu - Green World Coffee Farms display Oahu - Green World Coffee Farms coffee Oahu - Green World Coffee Farms cafe 

For our trip to the northern part of the island, we checked out the beach on Waimea Bay. Like the beaches on the southern part of the island, the waves here are big but without the strong winds. 
Waimea Bay - Beach 

We also went to Haleiwa to stop at Matsumoto to sample their famous shaved ice.
Oahu - Haleiwa Matsumoto Grocery Store Oahu - Haleiwa Matsumoto Shaved ice

We finally stopped at Sunset Beach to relax. The water is not swimmable because of the waves.
Sunset Beach - Strong current Sunset Beach - Beach 

Here are the food stuff we ate while in Oahu.

It was my first time flying Hawaiian Airlines. I liked it. This is a sample of their snacks during our SFO to Honolulu flight. 
Hawaiian Airlines - Snack 

There was a long line at a place called Egg N Things so we fell in line and checked out what's good in the restaurant. We ordered a Macadamia Nut pancake, loco moco and a Hawaiian style fried rice.
Oahu - Eggs n Things Macadamia Nut Pancake Oahu - Eggs n Things Loco Moco Oahu - Eggs n Things Fried Rice 

Have you heard of Croissada? It is a cross between croissants and malasadas. For me, it is a filled croissants and I loved them. They are sold at Pacific Beach Hotel's cafe.
Oahu - Aloha Center Cafe Croissadas 

   A local coffee chain Honolulu Coffee Company serves good drip coffee. I ordered this Kona blend coffee.
Oahu - Honolulu Coffee Company 

While at the historic town of Waihawa, Mijo and I went to Maui Mike's for a quick lunch. Their chicken lunch were very tasty!
Oahu - Wahiawa Maui Mikes chicken 

Remember the ice cold coconut earlier in Punaluu? After we finished sipping the coconut water, the store will crack open the coconut shell and slice the tender coconut meat. Yummy!
Punaluu - Ice cold coconut meat 

While in Sunset Beach, Mijo and I shared this garlic shrimp lunch and this chocolate haupia at Ted's Bakery.
Oahu - Sunset Beach Teds Bakery Garlic Shrimp Oahu - Sunset Beach Teds Bakery Chocolate Haupia 

Near Kuhio Beach park, Pacific Garlic Shrimp sells to go dinners and they are yummy!
Oahu - Waikiki Pacific Garlic Shrimp queue Oahu - Waikiki Pacific Garlic Shrimp

We truly enjoyed this trip and we both hope to discover more of Hawaii in the future.



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