May 5, 2019

#CAOLTravels: Oahu Guide

Hey fam! Another travel recap for the books. This one is extra special because it's Hawaii! I had been dreaming of traveling to Hawaii for a while - since college, actually. To be completely honest, it wasn't a top "bucket list destination" for me until college. My friend Valentina aka @sunflowervalentine had gone and came back with the most magical anecdotes about her travels. She said it was like no other place she had visited before and ever since I've wanted to experience it for myself. Not to mention the dozens of movies that have been filmed there, making it even more enticing. And now having gone myself I have to agree...it truly is a place like no other.

If you're coming from New York or East Coast in general, I highly recommend a short layover somewhere along the way. 11 hours non-stop seems like a great idea until around hour 6 when you're losing your mind up there. Not a great time but we made it! Backing it up just a bit, my high school best friends and I always travel together once a year. It's a bit of a tradition we have going on. This year I insisted in making our destination Hawaii and so we finally made it happen.

We decided to stay in Honolulu and rent a car to move around. I had read that it's sort of hard to secure a Jeep - since it's sort of the most on-demand wheels around Hawaii - however this either isn't true or we got really lucky. We rented a "Jeep or similar vehicle" from one of the airport rental companies (I believe we used Advantage) and got lucky with a brand spanking new, red and shiny Jeep. Pictures below! If you absolutely want to ride a Jeep and are traveling during high season, there are certain companies that can help you secure one. Their rates are higher than what  you can secure yourself by booking directly with the rental companies, however. Just something to think about!

We stayed at the Royal Hawaiian - also known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific - per my request (more like demand haha) since I had seen this property all over Instagram and, essentially, was influenced to visit. The hotel is exactly as pictured...every pink corner is a 'gram opportunity waiting to happen. We were greeted with Leis and the warmest staff. Our first few days we stayed at the Historic Wing then later we upgraded to the Malani Tower were we enjoyed a stunning view of Waikiki Beach and complimentary breakfast/happy hour light bites and beverages every day. A dream! The pool is smaller than expected but was never ever packed. You're also steps away from the crystal clear waters of Waikiki so don't think anyone was interested in the pool anyway ha!

Ok so getting into the nitty gritty, some of my favorite, can't miss activities in Oahu were:
  • Kualoa Ranch and Secret Island - this is the famous site of many movies, like Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates. It's just as dreamy as captured on film and in movies. I loved that there's so much to do in this place - we went swimming in the "secret island" and ATV'ing around the mountains. We also took multiple tours and learned about its history and sacred grounds. 10/10 recommend visiting and spending some significant time here!
  • Lanikai Beach  - this was by far my favorite beach, tho we didn't stay for a while! Ashlee of @ashleeroseheartly and I met on my last full day to shoot around and hang. Her and her husband took me here for a few pictures and I was in awe. It's sort of a calmer, less crowded beach with crystal clear blue waters. The views are not bad either!
  • Pillbox Hike Trail - this is consider one of the "easier" trails of the island but trust me when I tell you, it's work. I recommend going really early in the morning to catch the sunrise, but also not die of heat exhaustion. Also, come prepared with proper hiking footwear. I wore my vans and nearly ate it on multiple occasions!
  • Hoomaluhai Botanical Gardens - this is a place where I wish I had spent more time! We went super quickly before our secret island tour and just had enough time to walk in and out. Admission is free so I 100% recommend checking it out. PS: if you're trying to grab the infamous entrance pic, make sure you do it before/after hours. The security guards there do not play.
  • Catamaran ride around Oahu - some might consider this "cheesy" but it was the only instance where we saw dolphins and turtles while in Hawaii! We bought the Oahu Go Card and picked this as one of our activities. Also, driving around the coast of Oahu is hands down one of my favorite memories of the trip - the views are incredible! The on-board Mai Tai's ain't bad either... ;)
  • Waikiki surf lesson with the Moniz family - so we did this first thing on our first day in Hawaii and boy was this a great way to kick off our trip. We were super jet-lagged and probably delusional that morning (6 hour difference really did a number on us) but we pushed through and I'm so glad we did. Our instructor (which I believe was one of the Moniz' son) was super helpful and made this experience so easy to dive-into! Trust me, after my snowboarding accidents I was petrified to get up on the board. But after a few times, I finally surfed! 
  • Driving through the North Shore - driving out to the North Shore is a must in Oahu! While we loved our hotel, Honolulu can be overcrowded and quite hectic all of the time. It almost felt like a Miami of sorts. But as soon as you start driving north and see the natural beauty of Oahu, you're reminded that you are, indeed, in paradise! We stopped by Laniakea beach to spot turtles (none came out) and Waimea Bay where we spent a large chunk of our afternoon. Also, Sunrise Shack is a must for bowls!
  • Driving around Kailua - after our shoot in Lanikai Beach, Ashlee, Charlie and I drove around Kailua to shoot some more and stopped by a coffee shop to hang. I love how residential this neighborhood felt, without taking away from the innate Oahu charm. Totally recommend for spending some downtime!
  • Luau - you can't go to Hawaii for the first time and not Luau! We did the Ka Moana Luau and loved it. The food was *okay* but the show and energy made it up for it. Also, learned so much about Polynesian culture!
Now for some not so recommended spots, personally I could've done without the Dole Plantation and Laniakea Beach, aka Turtle beach. Nothing against the turtles, they just never came out! We think we came at the wrong time, but we also heard i's really tricky to catch the lil (big) guys outside of the water. As far as the Dole Plantation, it felt very Disney-esque for me. Plus, we each ordered a Dole Whip and let's just say I'm set for pineapple soft serves for this lifetime....

Speaking of food, I must say I wasn't blown away by many of the meals we had. We learned that 80-90% of the food in Hawaii is actually imported from the mainland, which could be part of the reason. But aside from that, everything tasted sort of meh. Also, expect to pay NYC prices everywhere you go, especially in Honolulu! The only two remarkable meals, aside from the Royal Hawaiian breakfast which was BOMB, were:

  • Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
  • Sunrise Shack's Acaii Bowl 
As far as overall expenses go, below is a breakdown of my week-long trip totals for you guys to get a better idea of what a similar trip to Hawaii will cost you:
  • Flight + hotel: $1,300
  • Oahu Go Card: $200
  • Kualoa ATV excursion: $184
  • Surfing: $85
  • Car + Gas: $110
  • Overall food + beverage expenses: $300
 Hope you guys enjoy my visual diary! If you have any questions or are looking to visit Oahu, hit me up on my DMs!

xo,
Chels

Hoomaluhai Botanical Gardens 

  Royal Hawaiian Honolulu

Pillbox Hike Trail

Kualoa Ranch + ATV


 Kailua 


 East Oahu

Lanikai Beach 

Kualoa Secret Island

North Shore Oahu
 Photos by: Charlie Tighe and my wonderful fraaands!

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