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It was 11pm, I had $12 in my bank account and I got an email with a sale on flights to Hawaii that would only last for 24 hours. What do I do? Sleep on it.
The next day I get paid and my boyfriend, Will, texts me saying “let’s go”. So I booked us tickets to Oahu for $350 roundtrip. My sister later found out and told me she wanted to go and I booked her a ticket too.
I didn’t know where we were going to stay, what exactly we would do but, we were going to HAWAII! And for a week!
With a few months to plan, I found us the perfect places to stay, super fun things to do, and a few dynamite places to eat. Want to know? I’ll tell you.
I hate how some people go to a beautiful location with a different culture and then stay at a hotel for the entire trip, barely leaving the property. I knew I wanted to live like a local in Oahu and get a feel for how life really is there so renting a house was a must. Something worth mentioning is a lot of homes don’t have air conditioning but don’t worry, it’s always breezy. Just sleep with the fans on or windows open and you’ll be fine.
If you’re booking a rental home, it’s important to try and find ones that are local owned. Some people buy up neighborhoods just to use them as rentals, taking away from the local economy and jobs.
The first Airbnb was in a killer spot in Honolulu. It was high up mountainside. Plus it was on a local’s property (he lived in the house behind it) and was super sweet and helpful. We only stayed here for a night and it was worth it. Definitely a great place to stay if you want to be close to the city but still in beautiful scenery.
The second Airbnb is where we spent the rest of our trip. It was on the east side of the island and in a quieter, slower area. The selling point for this house was that it was right across the street from the beach and had a beautiful mountain view in the back. It had the best of both parts of Oahu. Plus, there was a little grocery store and food truck right out front by the street, literally 20 steps away.
SHARK SWIM | If you go to Oahu, you need to swim with the sharks and I don’t mean in a cage. Yes, you can swim with them freely and no you will not get eaten. We went with Hawaii Adventure Diving and the experience alone was worth the 12 hour trip from Florida.
KUALOA RANCH | Another thing you must do is go to Kualoa Ranch. It is a working ranch (with cows and horses) but also a place where a ton of movies were filmed. Most commonly known is Jurassic Park, although only a tiny part from the movie was filmed there. Some others are Kong: Skull Island, Jumanji, and Lost.
NORTH SHORE | Surferrrrrs! This is the iconic place where the winter Pipeline takes place with waves getting to 12-20 feet! It’s also home to Volcom house and a few others which are pretty cool to see. The sand here goes on and on and the waves are tiny in the summer but still big for Florida standards.
SUNSET BEACH | We went here at sunset because when else would you go? It was pretty crowded but a very cool place to see surfers while watching the sunset.
ELECTRIC BEACH | If you want to see some coral reefs, go to Electric Beach! It’s on the west side and it’s right by a power plant so the water is a bit warmer than other beaches, something sea turtles prefer! We snorkeled here for a good 3 hours and it was my favorite part of the trip (other than the sharks). Although we didn’t get to swim with turtles or dolphins like other people have here, we did swim with a lot of fish and see some turtles from the cliff.
WAIMEA BAY | A fun beach to people watch and swim. This place was always crowded but it was cool to be where everyone else was for a day. This one is more family friendly and a great place for kids!
HIKING | The trails we did were Crouching Lion (where Will proposed to me!!!) and we attempted Lulumahu Falls but it started to get dark before we made it to the waterfall and decided to turn around to be safe.
POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER | We didn’t end up going to this place but we drove past it a ton. It’s like a theme park, Hawaiian style. They have a night SUP that I saw in a brochure that would have been very cool!
HALEIWA STORES | A great place to shop and walk around. We went here a few times, they have a little market store, tons of shops with designers and local goods, and restaurants.
SURF | The one thing I wanted to do that didn’t get to do was learn how to surf. We originally planned on just renting a board for like $20 for the day and teaching ourselves but didn’t get the chance. When I go back, I plan to maybe get a lesson and definite attempt surfing.
FOOD TRUCKS | My favorite place to eat was in Waikiki at a food truck that was in a little area with about 10 other food trucks. I forget the name but it was the one that had real pineapple bowls filled with teriyaki chicken and rice. We also ate at other random trucks, we really like the garlic shrimp!
BANZAI BOWLS | Wow, Banzai Bowls does acai bowls WELL. Like really well. These were the best acai bowls I’ve had and I ate here more than twice, let’s just say that. Maui Sunrise was my favorite and the portions are huge.
SEVEN BROTHERS | Want a good burger and a cool atmosphere? Go to Seven Brothers! I’m not usually a burger eater but this place was so delicious. They have vegan options too!
NORTH SHORE TACOS | If you’re craving Mexican, North Shore Tacos was pretty good and it had a cool vibe. I had the quesadilla and Will had the steak tacos and both were yummy.
HUKILAU CAFE | The best breakfast place! I got a breakfast sandwich it was probably the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. Hukilau Cafe is famous for being the breakfast destination in 50 First Dates, although this cafe isn’t actually where it was filmed, it just shares a name.
KOA PANCAKE HOUSE | Like the IHOP of Hawaii only 10x better. Koa Pancake House has some seriously good pancakes and unique syrup!
LEONARD’S BAKERY | One word: malasadas! You’ve go to try these! It’s like a dinner roll and donut in one and you can get different flavored fillings. If you have a sweet tooth, try Leonard’s Bakery!
Watch my video I put together of our trip below and you can see some of the places I mentioned in this post!
Oahu is the perfect place to be a beach bum, an explorer, or taste all the foods. It’s hard to beat the crazy beautiful scenery of the mountains running into the ocean. I definitely recommend renting a car so you can easily get to all the places you want to go. The east side up to the north is more like the country so things can be pretty far apart.
My next Hawaii post will be all about what to bring and how to pack it! I packed a week’s worth of clothes for both Will and I plus snorkel gear, toiletries, 3 hats, 2 sneakers, flip-flops, and camera gear all in one checked bag. Crazy, right?