I’d heard a lot about Hawaii before I booked my flight, but I wasn’t expecting anything that different from beaches in mainland America. The Hawaiian islands surprised me though, and I fell in love! Here, I’m going to share why.
The first island we visited in Hawaii was Oahu. The flight to Honolulu was almost nine hours from Dallas, Texas. Unluckily for us, our plane was an older model so we didn’t get TV screens in the headrests in front. Luckily, on the other hand, I’d already loaded some movies onto my iPad to pass the time. But while movies might make you imagine landing to the welcome of Hawaiian ladies brandishing flower necklaces, it doesn’t quite happen like that in reality.
Hiring a car on Oahu
Renting a car when you visit Oahu is essential. There are buses and taxis on the island too, but it is much easier to have your own transportation. There are many car rental companies available at the airport, within walking or shuttle distance. We decided to get an iconic Mustang for our trip, which was amazing!
Choosing a hotel on Oahu
Choosing a hotel on Oahu was a bit of a struggle. They are very expensive in comparison to some other destinations – and we didn’t even visit during peak season! We chose the Hilton Hotel in Waikiki Beach, which offered the perfect location even though I didn’t get the sea view. The staff there were very friendly and helpful, the room was the perfect size and you got free coffee and refreshments during the day. The hotel also boasts a nice restaurant and small supermarket.
The parking, like the accommodation, was on the expensive side. We spent about 30$ per day. Don’t forget that every hotel charges you extra tax for each day. Factor this into your total room price when you book, because the price will be a little higher than you think.
Where to eat on Waikiki Beach
The first afternoon we were pretty tired because we only got three hours of sleep the night before. There was also the six-hour time difference to contend with, so we just went for lunch and dinner. You simply have to try Dukes Waikiki – it’s a brilliant restaurant right on the beach. The food was nothing short of fabulous! I had fish tacos for the first time and they were so good. They also had little band playing while the sun set, creating an incredible atmosphere. I honestly couldn’t have felt any happier at that moment – everything was so perfect!
Because I went to bed at 7pm the night before, I woke up at 5am the next day. Sometimes jet lag can actually do you a favour, and I was able to get up and go to the beach in time to see the sun rise. Unfortunately it was a little cloudy, but still it was still a beautiful and romantic start to the day on the almost empty beach, listening to the waves.
Day one in Honolulu: Breakfast, Hiking and Botanical Gardens
Honolulu has such a big choice of restaurants you’re bound to find a few places you love. And being an American state, it shares the typical American love for breakfast, so choosing a spot was tough! We decided to try Sweet E’s Cafe and it was really good. We had French toast and omelettes with ham and vegetables. They also have valet parking for 3$, which will be added to your bill.
After breakfast, we decided to go for a hike, which in hindsight wasn’t the best decision. We didn’t realise how tiring it would be! When I read about the route online, people said it’s pretty easy, but from my experience it’s an easy walk if you’re a regular hiker, and tougher if you’re not. Pillbox Trail is located near Lanikai Beach, one the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen. Make sure you don’t park in the golf club, though, although that’s where the GPS will navigate you to, but choose a nearby street instead.
The hike was a little bit difficult because of the rocky, sandy terrain, so you need to be very careful not to hurt yourself and wear comfortable shoes. When we reached the top, the views were breathtaking! The struggle to get there was forgotten and we were just so happy to be there and see the stunning views for ourselves. Make sure you pack plenty of water, because you won’t find much en route. The beach is right at the bottom of the trail when you get down. We went for a quick swim after the hike. It’s safe to say we loved Lanikai Beach. It reminded me of my last holiday when I was visiting Phi Phi Island in Thailand.
It was very hot so we decided to go back to the hotel, take a shower and check out the next place on our list – Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden. What we missed was checking the time, so we only got there one hour before they closed, at 4pm.
It’s a massive park with multiple stops, where at each you leave your car and walk to see plants from different places around the world. Unfortunately we only made it to one, but we drove around the park to take photos. Even from the car it was so beautiful. You really could feel like you’re in Jurassic Park (did you know Hawaii was the main location for the movie?). You’ll be surrounded by big, green mountains when you visit. In the evening we went for dinner at Yard House and then for drinks by Waikiki Beach.
Day two in Honolulu: Volcanoes, Surfing and Where to Eat
The next day we started with an amazing breakfast at Egg Head Café. After that, we decided to check out the Diamond Head hike which was a volcano crater. We parked near the school because we didn’t realise there was another car park much closer. Walking at the volcano was a great experience. Just be prepared for one section of the walk, which includes 175 steps! Just like yesterday’s hike, the view from the top was great. You can see vistas of the hotels and Waikiki beach itself.
We made our next stop at the famous Hanauma Bay. This is a cove that was once a volcanic crater and now is a clear water bay with lively reefs full of colorful fish. We weren’t planning on snorkeling, so we checked out the view from the top and then moved on to see the north coast.
While en route, we stopped at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, somewhere highly recommended for places to eat in Hawaii. Having seen thousands of five-star reviews, I had to see what all the hype was about. The shrimp were excellent, but the price and hour’s wait weren’t quite so great. There are many other trucks around and I imagine many are just as good, so I wish I’d gone elsewhere to skip the queues. We drove onwards to Sunset beach to see the sun dip down below the horizon, which was very pretty! You can also see a lot of surfers here, thanks to the north coast’s famed big waves.
Next stop Maui!
On our last day in Oahu, we didn’t have anything planned so we went for breakfast at the Arvo Cafe. It had been recommended on Instagram for avocado toast! We also took a stroll around the Kakaaku neighborhood to see the beautiful graffiti art. Next stop was the airport and our flight to Maui, the next Hawaiian island we planned to visit!
So many people say that you shouldn’t waste your time in Hawaii by visiting Oahu, because there are more beautiful places to see. I disagree. I think the island is stunning. Even the built-up city of Honolulu was a great place to see. You’ll forget you’re even in the USA until you see Taco Bell or McDonalds.
Oahu has a very tropical vibe, postcard-worthy views, blissful beaches and breathtaking sunsets. I wish I had more time there, because we definitely had more to discover. Pearl Harbor, the Koko Head Trail and a helicopter tour are all taking top spots on the itinerary for our next visit. Hopefully we will be back soon!