No matter how many times I visit Hawaii, there is always something new to experience.
After 2020, we were SO grateful to be back in Hawaii and enjoy the beautiful views of the island. This year our trip was a mix of a family and friends trip, as it was also a bit of a celebration/send-off trip for my youngest sister, Irene, who was accepted into Arcadia’s Physician Assistant’s Master Program and would be leaving for Delaware after Hawaii.
Having a larger group of friends, we wanted to fit in everyone’s must-do items in our itinerary–so we packed a lot into our trip. It was definitely one of my favorite–and most adventurous–Hawaii trips ever, but I was also exhausted at the end [and felt like I could sure use a nice relaxing trip to Hawaii LOL].
So whether you are looking for an AWESOME jam-packed Hawaii adventure, or you are looking to mostly relax on the beach and just enjoy some delicious food [that’s usually what I do haha]–my guide will have you covered!
PACKING FOR HAWAII:
Check out my post here for everything I packed for Hawaii!
GETTING TO HAWAII:
When Southwest opened up routes to Hawaii–that was a game changer! If you book at the right time, you can find roundtrip flights from California to Hawaii for $200. They are slowly expanding their routes to other states as well so definitely keep an eye out.
If you want to find out how I fly FREE with a companion [yes BOTH of us fly free!] to Hawaii [and everywhere else Southwest flies], you can read my post about the Southwest Companion Pass.
For reference, when we visited, a negative COVID test result had to be shown [had to be taken by an approved partner 72 hours before our flight departure] and a health form had to be completed. My whole family went to Kaiser [it was free and you must be a member] and we all received our tests results within two days. My sisters also did a back up test at Walgreens and received their results within two days. Be sure stay up to date with the current Hawaii travel requirements before you visit so you are prepared!
Renting a Car
Our family usually rents a car for a day or two while we are visiting so we can explore another part of the island. This year we rented a car for 4 days. You can find car rentals in downtown Waikiki, but they are often pretty expensive. At the time of visiting, there was a car rental shortage after all cars had been shipped to the mainland during COVID, and car prices were through the roof. We ended up using the Turo app to rent a car, and paid about $300 TOTAL dollars vs the $300 a DAY going rate at the rental companies. So definitely check out Turo! [For full disclosure our minivan was pretty dirty and we had to take a 20 minute Lyft to get there, so it’s not as convenient, but overall it definitely worked out to be a better deal!].
Morning: Moana Waikiki Snorkel Tour
Our family likes to start and end of our Hawaii trip with one of our favorite activities–a catamaran ride. This was our first time doing a morning/snorkel tour and it was simply MAGICAL. The Moana Waikiki catamaran [which is more like a yacht] is so spacious, and they take you out for a relaxing 2 hour sail and snorkel tour.
We saw so many DOLPHINS [!!] and sea life while snorkeling. I can’t recommend this activity enough! [We had so many people ask about this tour that they were kind enough to provide our followers with a discount code! Code HAPATIME gets you 15% off].
Noon: Lunch at Marukame Udon and then relax on the beach
One of our favorite restuarants, Marukame Udon is another one of our first stops. The line can get extremely long and there is limited seating, so it is often best to go off hours. Be sure to save room for all the side dishes and tempura selections!
Dinner: Head to Duke’s and enjoy the sunset views
Duke’s is one of the few restaurants right on the beach so there is often a 1-2 hour waitlist. You can also try the Hula Grill upstairs [just a slightly more ‘formal’ version of the downstairs Duke’s] which can have a little less of a wait time. Luckily, you can enjoy your wait time on the beach 🙂
After Dinner: Grocery shopping at Foodland
We always stay at a condo with a kitchen, so we like to stock up on groceries when we arrive. Our family isn’t a big breakfast family [and we are slow/late risers] so we like being able to cook breakfast or other snacks/meals if necessary. Go to Foodland [at Ala Moana mall] or Don Quijote [right across from Ala Moana mall] for groceries. You might just be surprised at all the delicious foods/dishes you will find there!
Morning run along Ala Moana
If there’s ever a time to go running, it’s when you have gorgeous views of the ocean! And with the time you gain [Hawaii is 3 hours behind PST] going for an early morning run isn’t so bad 🙂 You can also stop at Ala Moana mall to do a little shopping, grab a bite to eat at the food court, or stop by Barnes & Noble to pick out some reading material for your trip.
Brunch at Island Vintage Coffee
Island Vintage Coffee is a must-visit!! Their food and drinks are amazing, but I did find the coffee to be too sweet.
I highly recommend their poke bowls [one of the best I’ve ever tried], acai bowls and salads. You really can’t go wrong with any of their menu items!
Sunset Waikiki Catamaran [optional] or sunset and dinner on the beach
Our family actually did four [yes four!!lol] catamaran sails this year [we had to make up for last year!] so if you are over in Waikiki and are looking for a fun activity before dinner, you can always hop on a catamaran! Since we have a large group, we try to book beforehand, but you can probably catch an opening on one of the many catamaran companies that line the beach. Sunset sails tend to be the most popular so I would recommend booking at the very latest, earlier that day, for a sunset sail.
We did have trouble finding dinner spots that would take our large group, so we often went casual for dinner. If you don’t mind enjoying dinner to go, pick up some Yummy’s Korean BBQ at the Ala Moana Food Court [and maybe a few extra treats] and head across the street to Ala Moana to enjoy the sunset.
End the night with some drinks at The Laylow Waikiki Bar.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
This was the first [out of three] hikes we did, and my favorite. It was a moderate hike, with the MOST GORGEOUS 360 views!! I recommend trying to arrive early, so it’s both cooler and to miss a lot of the beach crowd. Parking for both the hike and beach is in the same neighborhood and it gets very busy.
After you finish your hike, head into town to grab lunch. Then make your way back to Lanikai beach [one of my favorite beaches!] to enjoy the rest of the day.
And if you are up for it, you can even kayak to the little islands!
Hike down to the Makapu’u Tidepools [*Difficult]
Grab some Musbui before heading out to the Makapuku Tidepools. We like to stop at one of the many locations of Musubi Cafe IYASUME in Waikiki. We grab a few to eat beforehand a few to take with us on our hike.
Warning: this is a dangerous hike and I do not recommend it for children or elderly. You have to hike down the side of very steep rocky mountain to get to the tidepools.
I recommend wearing good tennis shoes or water shoes to hike down. The tidepool rocks can also be very slippery and sharp, so if you have water shoes, they will definitely come in handy!
Spend the day relaxing in the tidepools and then enjoy your packed musubi before hiking back up.
Ono’s Shrimp Shack
On your drive back to Waikiki, stop by Ono’s shrimp shack to for a garlic shrimp and macaroni plate [other entree options are available].
Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
No day is complete without some famous Hawaiian shave ice! Stop by the famous Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha [also on the route back to Waikiki] for the most delicious shave ice combos!
Koko Head Hike [*Extremely Difficult]
Koko head is by far one of the most challenging things I’ve done. It is not only a DIFFICULT hike, it is also a very dangerous one. [You’ll definitely want to check out my Hawaii story highlight to see the stories from this hike!].
This hike is especially important that you start as early as possible to beat the heat. We wanted to arrive at 7:30AM but ended up starting our hike at 8AM. I was pretty slow at getting to the top and we spent about 30 minutes relaxing/enjoying the view before heading back down, and we were done around 10AM [so you could definitely do this hike in less than 2 hours if you wanted to]. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast/bring a snack for the hike!
If you want to treat yourself after [surviving lol] the hike, stop by Leonard’s malasadas food truck down the street for some tasty friend donuts. [Be sure to leave room for brunch though!].
Just a few minutes further down the street you will find the cutest cafe, Island Brew Coffeehouse. They serve local and organic coffees, breakfast and lunch entree and have lots of outdoor seating with views of the water. [We didn’t find out until later but our cousin actually works there! And depending on the day of the week you go, you might just find a long line filled with other fellow hikers–like we did haha].
Everything our group ordered was soo delicious. I ordered the basalito and my friends ordered the eggs benedict and both are highly recommended! And all the coffee we ordered was delicious.
Head back to Waikiki for a relaxing rest of your day!
Just like there are endless things to do in Waikiki, the North Shore is the same way. It’s hard to experience everything there is to offer in a short amount of time, but it is definitely worth checking going–even if it’s for a day!
We tried to go to Haleiwa State Beach, but after spending 30 minutes trying to find parking in the never-ending busy lot, we just kept driving until we found an open spot on the side of the road.
We ended up at Chun’s Reef, an absolutely beautiful beach just a few minutes drive from Haleiwa State Beach. There were lots of waves however, so I would not recommend for a beach to go swimming in! Also, stay away from the trees, because we found little speckles of poop [we think from the birds?] all over us at the end of the day haha.
The Sunrise Shack
On your way out of North Shore, you’ll definitely want to stop at The Sunrise Shack! Their acai bowls are to die for–and not to mention so beautifully made!! Just look at those colors!
Breakfast at Aloha Kitchen
It’s the last day so we like to squeeze in all our favorite things! Start the day early with some breakfast and coffee and Aloha Kitchen.
Stand up paddle boarding [SUP]
Right in front of the Fort DeRussey Beach Park on Waikiki, you will find a couple of rental stands. This is where we like to go SUP and spot some turtles! [Disclosure: I do not recommend bringing sunglasses or a phone/camera paddle boarding if you are new/not 100% sure you won’t fall in].
Lunch at Marukame
If you love Marukame as much as our family does, you’ll want to eat one last meal there [if you haven’t already been going every day haha]!
Moana Waikiki Sunset Catamaran
There’s no better way to end you trip than enjoying beautiful sunset and views of Waikiki on a catamaran. Just pure bliss.
Dinner and Drinks in Waikiki
Head back to the Waikiki strip to soak up the last evening walking the beach and enjoying dinner and drinks with some live music.
Until next time! Aloha!