This trip report is a little delayed, I have been crazy busy since we returned, so it’s a good thing we had a vacation right!
We arrived on Oahu on a Thursday, mid day. After getting luggage and rental car squared away, we visited the lei stands near the airport. It was fun for my teenage girls to pick out their own lei. We put them in the fridge later in the day and were able to wear them a few more times. They were very reasonably priced, and there was a great selection. I had considered the lei greeting, and am glad we went this route. We ended up with much nicer lei’s for far less money. We then traveled to the North Shore, where we checked into our condo at Turtle Bay. My husband met a friend who was in town for business, and they left to play the Fazio course at Turtle Bay. He said the course was great, and part of it ran along the oceanside. While he was out golfing, the kids and I went down to the beach at the resort. I am glad this was the first beach we went to, because compared to all the other amazing beaches we visited on the island, this was only so, so. The kids played in the water and we ate at Ole, one of the resort restaurants, right there on the beach. The view was nice, and the Poke was one of the best things I ate on the trip. In the evening, we traveled into Haleiwa, and ate at a tasty Mexican place called Luibuenos. On the way back to the condo, we stopped at the local market to get some groceries, yes they were more expensive than on the mainland, but we really did save money by not eating out every meal. We headed back to the condo and hit the sack.
Friday we were up bright and early, or more accurately, dark and early. We were still adjusting to the time change. We made breakfast at the condo, then gathered our beach gear (provided by the condo) and went to Sunset Beach. What a beautiful huge beach! We spent about 4 hours there. The kids spent a lot of time on the boogie boards. We then ventured into Haleiwa again for some lunch. I had shrimp from one of the shrimp trucks, it was alright, but not a good as expected, and the rest of the family ate at a burger joint, which I think was called Kua Aina?? Not positive. They all loved it. While we were there, I asked a local if she knew any photographers ( I had planned on getting family pictures but hadn’t found a photographer with a price I liked) and she was very helpful. We walked around Haleiwa a little, and went to Matsumotos shave ice, just to be real tourists. Next, we drove to the Polynesian Cultural Center to pick up our Go Oahu passes, only to find out we had to go to the PCC booth in Waikiki to get them!! Ahh, snag! Oh well, we took a little (2 hour) drive to get the passes, and were able to see the beautiful east side of the island for the first time. I could drive that route any day! Bright green mountains shooting up into the sky, and water that is ice blue, what a beautiful drive! By the time we got back we were all tuckered out, so we made a simple dinner and hit the hay.
Once again, we woke up very early, but it was ok because there was a church conference being broadcast at 6am Hawaii time that we wanted to see. Later on we went to Pipeline Beach to scout photo locations and just enjoy the beach. This beach was also absolutely beautiful! We spent a couple hours playing in the waves and laying in the sun. As we got hungry, we decided to eat at the famous Ted’s Bakery, which was close by. The food was ok, but the coconut-chocolate pie was to die for!! It was then time to get ready for our family picture. We were very pleased with the photographer, and despite the fact that family pictures on a vacation can be a little crazy, I am so glad we made the effort. My oldest daughter will be leaving on a mission for 1and 1/2 years, so I am really glad we did it. The weather cooperated, and the pictures turned out great! We decided that we deserved a treat, so we found a fun shave ice place in Kahuku, that honestly I liked a lot better than Matsumotos. There is also a burger place in the same building that looked delicious. They were both connected to a corner store, with a little patio. After our shave ice we grabbed a pizza and a redbox and headed back to the condo for a movie night.
We spent the morning again watching our church conference, as it only happens twice a year, and we took a drive to the Hawaii Temple in Liae, since it was the Sabbath (we try and always set Sunday’s apart for spiritual things) It was breathtakingly beautiful, and the grounds were so peaceful. We had a nice dinner, which we made at the condo, then my husband and I took a walk down to the shore to watch the sunset. You get a great view of the sunset from Turtle Bay. It was nice to have some alone time, and it was very romantic.
DAY 1 ON OUR GO OAHU CARD
We ate breakfast at the condo, then set out for our “Secret Beach” tour with Kualoa Ranch. When we arrived we were bussed to another location, then had a quick boat ride to the beach. There were paddle boards, hammocks, rope swings that we all played on. We also played some fun family games of volleyball and ping pong, and relaxed on the beach, and in the hammocks of course. We spent a little over 3 hours there, super family time! On the way home when we were stopped at Taco Bell in Liae (yes, Taco Bell, we have three teenagers) we ran into the lady who referred us to the photographer, what are the chances! It was nice to meet her cute family and chat, as well as thank her for the great referral. After getting ready, we went to the Polynesian Cultural center for the rest of the day and into the night. We got there just in time to see the Canoe Pageant. We spent time at each village learning about the cultures, and playing native games. We watched them cook, and tasted the foods. We got “tattoos” from each village and even had hula and ukelele lessons. In the evening we went to the buffet and the HA breath of life show, which was very well done. My husband and I used our “bonus” for this, but we payed for the kids since they wanted to use their Go Oahu “ bonus” for the dolphin swim later on in the week.
Breakfast at the condo, clean up, and ready to ck out. After packing up we went to find Dharma-ville, cause we are LOST junkies, and find it we did. You can walk around if you check in at the office ( it’s actually a YMCA camp) but it was cool for us Lost lovers to see. We then went to a nearby beach, which was the crash site and beach camp in LOST. We saw some sea turtles there. On our way to Waikiki, we stopped off in the center of the island at a place Called Maui Mikes, that everyone raves about. It was small and packed, but very tasty! Once in Waikiki, we got settled into the condo (which was more like a hotel with a gift shop, front desk, spa, restaurants, valet and all. It even had a great ocean view. We booked both of our condos on VRBO). We then left for our family surfing lesson. I had pre-booked this, and it was not part of the Go Oahu card.I got a great deal on Yelp. Most surf lessons I had looked into were around $100 per person, I got this for $40-45pp. The company was called Big Wave Dave, and despite varying reviews, they were outstanding! There were 3 instructors for just the 6 or us. We had an on land lesson first, then in the water they were very helpful, and WE ALL GOT UP! It was such a blast, we were all surfing together! They had someone take pictures and video (which we bought for an additional cost). They got some really great shots. The surfing was one of the highlights of the trip for sure!
We topped the evening off with a trip to the Waikiki Hard Rock Cafe for dinner.
We walked to a local bakery for breakfast, then walked to the International Market to shop for some souvenirs. We spent the rest of the day at the beach below our hotel, the same beach as the Hilton Grand Waikiki, which was right next to our hotel/condo. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach and playing in the ocean, then got cleaned up and walked across the street to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. After that, we came back to the condo and watched the Hilton Luau, which we could see from our balcony. Then just read and relaxed.
DAY 2 OF OUR GO OAHU CARDS
We ate breakfast at the condo, then set off to Kualoa Ranch for our Movie Sites Tour. We arrived around 10:30, and the tour was about and hour and a half long. The Ranch is stunning, no wonder so many movies and tv show have been filmed there! Jurrasic park, King Kong, Journey 2, LOST, Hawaii five O, and a bunch more. This was a lot of fun and worthwhile. Next we traveled to The Sea Life Park in Wiamanolo, for the kids’ dolphin swim. They really enjoyed it, and it was a special experience. Of course they took photos for extra, that again we just had to buy because they were too cute! After that, we went to eat at a place I had read about and seen on tv called Sweet Home Wiamanolo. It was Hawaiian BBQ, but done very fresh. They grow all their own vegetables and herbs and are very eco aware. It was delish! We decided then to go find Laniakai Beach, which we had heard a lot about. It was a little tricky to find, but with the help of some locals we made it. The sand was like powered sugar and the water, that beautiful ice blue of the east side, but nice and warm. We were all having a wonderful time until my 15 yr old daughter got stung by a Man O War. It wasn’t that big of a deal but it kinda put and end to the fun. The lifeguard said he could tell right away by her body language she had been stung. He put some vinegar on it, and within an hour or two wasn’t hurting so bad. We went back to the condo and cleaned ourselves up, then went for a late dinner of banana pancakes with coconut syrup, at a diner one of the dolphin trainers had recommended. Wailana Coffee House, and it happened to be right by our condo! So Yummy!
DAY 3 OF OUR GO OAHU CARDS
We ate breakfast at the condo, then were picked up for our Hanauma Bay snorkeling tour. It included transportation to and from, as well as equipment. There is normally a fee to get in weather you are with a tour or not because it is a wild life preserve. $8-10 ish I think, but their machines were down so we didn’t have to pay. We had made our 8 yr old practice at home before so he would’t be freaked out. He did pretty good. The water wasn’t the clearest I have snorkeled in, but we saw some cool fish and one of my girls saw a sea turtle. After a few hours at Hanauma Bay, got dropped back at the condo and got cleaned up. We went for some sushi, then to our Catamaran excursion. This was super fun, and the kids loved it... we all loved it! It was nice being out in the ocean with the wind in our hair. we layed on the front and watched the water, we even saw sea turtles. The excursion was about 2 hours total, which included snacks and drinks. We had made prior arrangements for a Pearl Harbor Tour another day, but this was during the government shutdown We decided since we were using the Go Oahu Cards that day we might as well take advantage, and at least visit the USS Missouri which was free with the card. I am so glad we did! The Pearl Harbor Memorial was one of the things my husband really wanted to see, and see it we did! Well , at least as close as you can get to it without being at it. From the dock at the USS Missouri, there is a great view of the memorial and we also got to see the Missouri, which was cool. We then drove around China town, stopped and got yet another shave ice at a real hole in the wall.It was interesting seeing that area and talking to the shop owner, who told us about a cool area of urban art ( my husband is really into urban art too!). So we went and found that, and walked around saw some really cool urban art. That night for our final night in Hawaii, we met up with a family friend, and ate at Duke’s (not the pricey inside, but the patio restaurant, right on the beach). It was the perfect last night of our trip, with the sounds of the waves and the tiki torches. The food was great and the prices very reasonable. We stayed long just talking, and my youngest fell asleep on big sisters lap.
DAY 10 AND GOODBYE OAHU
We woke, packed, put the luggage in the car and walked over to Wailana Coffee house for some farewell banana pancakes. We then hit the International Market one more time so my daughter could get some sandals she wanted to take home to her friends. We drove to the airport and said goodbye to one of the best vacations ever. I decided I prefer the North shore beaches and the beautiful east side of the Island to Waikiki, but I am still glad we went there. We had some great experiences in Waikiki as well, and the restaurants and shopping were fun. We have taken our kids to Europe, but there is just something special and bonding with a Hawaii family vacation. Maybe it’s the aloha spirit or all the fun activities available, who knows? But this one was extra special!
*note on the Go Oahu cards* We purchased them on Costco online for a discounted price. They only offer the 3, day not the 5 or 7, but honestly with the proper planning, the three day was plenty for us. I think with buying them from Costco and using them for the activities, I figured we saved around $1,500!! I’d say that was a good deal! But you must plan ahead and book things in advance to take good advantage of the benefits.
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This trip report is a little delayed, I have been crazy busy since we returned, so it’s a good thing we had a vacation right!