Hawaii is a dream destination for basically every individual on this planet. And for good reason, of course.
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While we were living in Seattle we knew we had to take advantage of SeaTac airport’s direct flights. If we moved and ended up connecting through SeaTac we would kick ourselves. We were wanting to travel and explore as much as we were able to in this stage of our lives and when my husband gets a chance to take time off, we take it and run.
Our friends had recently been stationed in Oahu and were gracious enough to host us over Thanksgiving leave! We chose to travel around November 23-November 27 so we started keeping an eye on direct flights. You can set up Google flight alerts or search for alerts on your favorite comparison and search engine sites. We bought tickets a few months beforehand (another perk about traveling in September-November…it’s usually cheaper than peak travel months!) I watched prices for the next drop. Check your airline’s policies but we were able to get a credit from Alaskan Airline to use on a future flight. Score!
- Book your pet’s boarding now to avoid the holiday rush and make sure they’re up to date on all required vaccinations. Some kennels may also request sweaters or extras for weather.
- Book your parking reservations. If someone can’t drive you, look at other options before airport parking! It gets SO expensive SO quickly. We’ve had great experiences using Park n Jet Airport Parking and Jiffy Airport Parking.
- We were beyond lucky enough to stay in our friends home and have them drive us around. If you need to book a hotel or Airbnb do it now! Renting a car can also be pricey (as our friends found out in Maui) so figure out your needs or if walking/Uber/etc. would be a better option.
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We flew in on a redeye and as we arrived near the island we could see the lights lining the edge and airport. Stepping off the plane we were hit with warmth and bit of mugginess; welcome surprise from late fall in the Northwest! Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, also known as Honolulu International Airport, was an open air concourse before walking through the main area which was easy to navigate. We met our friends in baggage claim and were lei’d with beautiful locally made leis (that I dried and hung in our guest bedroom.)
Seattle is three hours ahead of Oahu so luckily we woke up early while on vacation. Looking out our window you could glimpse the ocean. It was Thanksgiving Day and my one request on things to do was a hike to see a waterfall. We drove across the island and I was blown away by the beautiful landscape next to a busy downtown area. We drove past coastal drop offs, the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club and tall peaks. I loved driving around with ‘locals’ who pronounced street names for us, told us stories of the areas and had been on the hikes before.
We parked in a neighborhood street and headed off on Maunawili Falls Trail. Something I wasn’t expecting was the consistent, daily rain showers that breezed over the area. It was like walking through a mister and was great for cooling off but the trail was extremely muddy. It’s a thick, red clay-style mud which wrecked our shoes so bring dark socks and shoes you don’t mind getting stained.
We wore our swimsuits under our clothes and carried a light backpack with towels and water. A small portable speaker also made the 3 mile hike enjoyable. You walk along a river in the base of the mountains and the only trail issue we had was walking through a river…so we got a little wet. Made it fun, though! The incline on the second half of the hike was fairly steep but the lookout points and stairs made it easier. Overall I would say this trail is moderate to just harder than moderate with all conditions considered.
Crossing a few more rivers we came up on a secret little corner of paradise. There were a few other small groups of people enjoying the cove but everyone we met on the trip was extremely friendly. The water was FREEZING but we numbed up as we waded and swam over to a rock ledge. You climb up on the left-hand side and use caution as you climb over the slippery wet rocks; there’s nothing here that is established, it’s all natural. There’s a wide rock ledge that leads to another small rock formation. If you climb up this there is an even more intimate small swimming hole to wade around in. A small waterfall fills it up and you’re surrounded by trees and rocks.
We scooted down to the first ledge and jumped off into the water. It’s about a 12 foot jump into the swimming hole.
There were a few boys who climbed even higher-about 40 feet-to jump down. You can tell where we are at and get an idea for how high up they climbed. No way would I do that but if you’re brave and crazy do it! Here’s a quick video of one of those jumps…
When we got back to our car, covered in mud and water, a resident drove by and offered us a hose to clean off. SO NICE! We drove back through town and stopped in for Thanksgiving goodies. It was fun to see the different food and produce in the store. Of course we had to pick up local, Hawaiian beer.
Drew’s jump off the waterfall:
Lexi told us to try the pineapple because it’s sweeter than on the mainland….ABSOLUTELY! Usually pineapple makes me throat scratchy, too but this was perfect. We ended Thanksgiving with the ultimate feast and enjoyed a night of board games and playing with their dogs.
We grabbed some sandwiches at the Waialua Bakery; we learned sprouts were a big part of many Hawaiian dishes and sandwiches.
You can easily walk around Haleiwa exploring tourist and surf shops including the North Shore Surf Shop. Laniakea Beach was short drive down the road and made for some beautiful views straight out of a movie.
The waves were too strong for swimming and there were several flags along with lifeguards who warn you not to go in.
There were only a few experienced surfers out in the ocean…and some sea turtles swimming in the surf.
On the far end of the beach we saw a sea turtle who came up on shore. There were several people from a local organization guarding the turtle making sure the ropes were placed around it to ensure it’s safety.
We drove down to see the infamous angel wings next to Anahulu’s Shave Ice. In Hawaii you can get shaved ice with condensed milk—SURPRISINGLY not that bad! There were several surf shops here, too, and you can see a small alcove where rowers and surf lessons were taking place.
On your way back home stop at the Green World Coffee Farm for a quick drink and snack. They have rows of coffee to smell, taste and view. I picked up a couple bags of “Coffee Cake” for presents.
TIP: You can buy them ground or as whole beans. If you buy them as beans you can fly home with them in your suitcase PLUS ship them without worry. You can grind shortly before drinking for freshness.
DAY THREE kicked off with a big breakfast and fresh, sweet guava juice at the Wailana Coffee House. This won’t stand out as the most modern restaurant but the best places never do. For very reasonable prices you can get TONS of really good food. We hurried over to Pearl Harbor to make our ticket time. They sell tickets for a certain time of day and limited amounts so check on this beforehand.
TIP: If you want to visit Pearl Harbor or the memorials nearby, buy your tickets in advance. We purchased them the day before at the Navy PX but you can look online or through other tourist locations.
The Pearl Harbor Visitors Center offers a small concourse to walk around on and, at your assigned time, a theater with a short film to explain the history of what you’re about to look at. They’ll empty the theater and file you over to the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument; this beautiful all-white monument is what you envisioned before visiting.The names etched into a wall, the continuous oil leak and the open-air monument are breathtaking.
You’ll need a taxi or ride across the bridge to get to Ford Island, home to Navy families. Have them drop you off at the gate of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. There were a few stands for drinks and refreshments near the dock but we were still too full from breakfast.
Walking up on the USS Missouri you understand how large of a ship this is and you’re able to walk around the exact spots where history happened, including the site of the official Japanese surrender in WWII.
If you walk across the island you’ll see the neighborhoods that current Naval families live in. Farther along you’ll see the more historic neighborhoods. The names on the properties show nameplates from officers living in the residence during Pearl Harbor and, just below them, the current resident. Standing in this neighborhood under palm trees and next to the water you really get a sense for what it looked like on the day of. It was surreal to be in the same place as such a historic event.
Lexi picked us up and drove us to the East side of Oahu and stopped off at several blowholes and rock formations.
You can visit the Halona Blowhole and a few other beautiful locations on this side of the island.
Coming back into Oahu we stopped for a cavity…I mean…snack….at Volcano Shakes. Make sure you share with one (or more) friends! You can walk around Waikiki beach in the daylight to view the statues and monuments then swing through the open air Ala Moana Center.
It was still warm for November but it could get chilly in the evenings so we picked up super-soft crew necks and tees at Local Motion. There were multiple weddings and photoshoots taking place in and around the mall which apparently happens every weekend.
We had dinner reservations for (my first Korean BBQ experience!) at Sura Hawaii. Good thing because the wait line never ended! You can grab some cold drinks at several local places; just start walkin’!
We were the only people on this far end of the beach so we could snorkel, swim and sun the food babies. Ride down the road a ways to the Mermaid Caves! You will not regret this! You’ll park in a lot and walk over the Nanankuli Beach Park.
If you’re hungry grab a quick pick-me-up of Poke at Poke Stop. Pack up real quick and head to the airport. We checked our luggage on the far side of the airport before heading over to stand in security. It was a very long line but they moved fairly quickly and we had plenty of time for our flight back home (BOOOOO). Keep in mind many people will need to claim items, check luggage and passports. Get there early.
Our flight home was with Hawaiin Airlines and
if WHEN we go back to Hawaii we will fly with them. It was a great airplane, fantastic service, a hot meal and gets you in the island spirit.
Thanks again to our friends, Josh and Lexi, for hosting an amazing trip!
Mahalo for reading and, as always, cheers!
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