Just take a moment to enjoy the photo you see. Imagine listening to the waves, feeling the soft, warm sand at your feet, the sun is warm on your back, and the wind is calm as you take in the beauty of the crystal blue waters. Are you in a happy place now? because this place is my happy place.
This is Lanikai Beach on Oahu island in Hawaii. This beach will always be the most beautiful beach I have ever been to - and I have seen MANY beaches (Mexico - both sides, California, British Columbia, Florida, Cuba, The Bahamas and St.Lucia just to name a few). Nothing can compare to this beach that continues to hold a piece of my heart ever since I saw it in 2006.
Welcome to my blog about Hawaii!
In Canada, we don't get much sunlight between November straight through to April. During those times, we lack vitamin D and we crave for sunny days and warmer temperatures. These dark times can have negative effects on our mental health as we seek for more sunshine and more warm temperatures. So we get out of the gloom and get ready for sunny skies.
This year Kevin and I took our girls for their very first trip to Hawaii. Kevin and I were there before marriage and kids, but were on a different agenda. This time we got to see Hawaii and all it's glory through the eyes of our daughters and it was a magical trip we will never forget!
Now I won't go day by day as what I wrote in my diary of our Hawaiian adventure. So allow me to present to you our trip in a "nutshell".
The island of Oahu is a magical place to behold. It's stunning mountains to it's ever lasting blue water beaches, there is so much to see and do yet such little time to do it. For my family and I, we chose to find out as much about the island itself outside of the tourism and commercial giant it tends to be. Of course, Hollywood has created Hawaii to be a place of palm trees, hula dancers, surfers and ukuleles. Yet there's more to it than meets the eye. The island's very own natural beauty and native landscapes are always a part of what makes it so magical. During our trip, we made our way through the mountains to the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens. This location was right next to where Jurassic Park the movie was filmed. Everywhere Kevin and I roamed, it felt as though we were going to run into a dinosaur and the girls kept laughing at how nervous we were.
Seriously though, the only wild animal we saw were the roosters and hens that ran at random everywhere. My daughters and I are fond of chickens and their baby chicks, to see them roaming about at random was quite a highlight. Not only are they good at eating bugs and other pests, but they are experts at making sure they are in the road when you're trying to drive by.
As a tourist, it's easy to get overwhelmed with the activities that are available to you. Of course everything comes with a price. The number 1 thing we wanted to experience most was to see the entire island. This meant daily beach hopping. From Waikiki, to North Shore, to Lanikai to Hanama Bay. We saw it all! Staying on a beach can be uncomfortable when you don't have the right things to make your beach visits fun. So we went to Walmart, picked up a couple beach chairs, a mat, and a beach umbrella for under $40US and we are set to go!
Don't forget the reef safe sunscreen! Did you know, there are toxins in your sunscreen that have the potential to damage nearby aquatic life. So the next time you find yourself on a beach, please pay close attention to what you're putting on your skin. The water and it's precious eco systems will thank you!
Have you ever really looked into how a pineapple is grown?
The next time you see one, you might appreciate it that much more!
So we ventured out to the Dole Plantation on the northern part of the island. This place features tours about the land and it's original owner and how it has grown to become the worlds largest pineapple producer worldwide. Yes we did the train ride, walked the gardens and learned lots.
The island of Oahu and all it's volcanic history have provided a high content of iron it it's soil. This makes the soil there ideal for growing pineapple along with other amazing tropical plants.
Thanks to Mr. James Drummond Dole, he purchased a 61 acre lot from the locals and converted it to a pineapple farm.
Now here's the kicker, it takes over 3 years to grow TWO pineapples! It takes on average 18 months just to grow ONE pineapple. Then they have to turn the soil and let it regenerate before they can grow another pineapple in that same spot.
For decades, the locals supported Mr.Dole in selling and canning pineapple so it could be found all over the US. Now with a world wide supply chain, all pineapple production for canning has been moved to Thailand. Although, the Dole plantation still grows and harvests pineapple and sells it across the Hawaiian islands and occasionally to your local grocer. Check the label!
Of course our time there would not be complete without the tasty treat of the Dole Whip!
I have tried it in Florida at Disney World and I was so disappointed. It was icy and chunky and nowhere near smooth as it should have been.
Now I have tried it from the source and it is as heavenly as it looks. Not too sweet and not too creamy. Just the perfect balance of what this dessert should taste like.
We did try another version at the Diamond Head hike but it was nothing like the original. So if the Dole whip is what you're after, get it from the plantation where it originated!
Polynesian Cultural Centre and the Mormon Temple
Last time I came to Hawaii, I could not attend the Polynesian cultural centre because it was closed. So I made it adamant that we attend it this time. I'm glad we did as we discovered so much about how Hawaii and the south Pacific islands and their people. Plus the canoe rides we took with the girls was so fun. Generally when it comes to these kinds of events, I try to go with my eyes only and leave the phone behind. The buffet dinner as absolutely delish!
After dinner we took a tour to the Latter Day Saints temple and we met the missionaries there. Such an amazing group of people I have enjoyed speaking with and they lead by an example that left my oldest daughter in awe. I know I probably have you asking but, no we did not convert - we weren't even asked! I must say, it is such a beautiful community there is with the people of Latter Day Saints.
One more big ticket item included with our time at the Polynesian Cultural Centre was a show. This outdoor show was so wonderful and it's story was amazing. The only part I didn't like was that it left the most spectacular parts to the very end of the show. Overall it was lovely. Now I can say I've been there, done that and now we move on to the next best thing.
Next time I go to Hawaii and I want to see a real luau!! A Real Luau consists of a Lei of flowers that you get to wear, your dinner is then roasted in the ground - usually an entire pig is roasted, and Hawaiian dance that leaves you in awe.
Next time Tamara, next time!
Time to Relax and Unwind!
Among all the touring, the walking and the never ending site seeing, we had our days to relax and just play!
We rented the cabana at our pool and it was worth every penny!!
A private area that was for us only where we can be ourselves without anyone watching us - I loved it!!
This location was perfect!! We could see Waikiki beach and listen to the waves roll in and still be near the pool. Charlotte and I even jumped over to the beach and went for a swim and while we were there it began to rain. It felt so soft on our heads and it didn't bother us at all. Up in the cabana, I loved seeing all the sights and watching the people walk by. My Mom would have been in her glory here! Towards the end of the day, Emily came to me and started crying. She did NOT want to leave the island - EVER!! I can't blame her for feeling this way. This is why we love Hawaii. When we come here, we know we can relax and let go of what grips us. I explained to Emily that the magic of the island is what is in her heart and that we have to let go of that magic so we can come back and enjoy it just as much the next time we visit.
All good things come to an end...or do they?
It was Wednesday, March 23rd 2022 and the end of our trip was come fast and furious. Charlotte wasn't too impressed, Emily was still upset and I was not one to contend with. Our last full day was to be spent at the Ko-Olina Lagoon. Gotta soak up as much sun here because it won't last by the time I get back. We loaded up the car including our grumpy faces. When I get a text from Kevin.
"Don't panic, but can the kids miss another week of school?"
"As their Mother, I can make that happen and I will"
So the kids and I went to the Lagoon while Kevin went off to see what he could arrange. The girls wondered where Dad was going and I told them something came up with work - they didn't suspect a thing!
While I was sitting at the beach, I contacted the girl's teachers and told them about our extended stay. Let's just say the teachers were very jealous and so were their classmates! Meanwhile my friends/neighbours back home sent me a group text. They were all hanging around outside without me. So I face timed them back and it was so good to see their faces. Did it make me homesick? Not even the slightest - sorry, not sorry.
So Kevin returns and calls the girls in from the water. He announced to them that we are staying another week. You should have seen their faces!
So we stayed another week! What a relief it was not having to pack and prepare for our flights.
This meant more visits to the North shore where the waves were stunning! The girls got to experience shaved ice while Kev and I experience Tikki bars and Mai Tais! We visited our favourite beaches, and played to our hearts content. Please take note for your next trip to Hawaii. One week is not enough to fully relax and enjoy all Hawaii has to offer. Make sure you go for at least 10 days and you will relax and let yourself enjoy life.
One thing we got to experience while we were there was the lift of the mask mandate. Covid protocols were still in place at the time. It so happened while we were there that the mask mandate was lifted. On Saturday, March 26th at 12am the mandate was over and we heard people from all over cheering for joy.
The Hawaiian Monarchy and the native locals
If there's one thing you should do while you're in Hawaii. Please pay tribute to their native locals. From buying from a local business (non chain related), scoping out local farmers markets to visiting their Bishops Museum. Hollywood has played a crucial part into what Hawaii is. There's more to the island than volcanoes, palm trees, surfing and hula dancers - as I've said before. There's a lifestyle they embrace. To live simply in happiness and share your life with those you love, including the chickens that run randomly throughout the island.
Winding down our last week...
Kevin had to work remotely during our last week. This meant getting up at 4am and finishing the work day at 1pm - not too bad. For the girls and I, we got to drive around town in the Mustang! We checked out the Bishop's museum where we saw a life sized skeleton of a sperm whale that was erected during the construction of the museum and we were able to read into a greater understanding of how Hawaii came to be. It's a lot to absorb, but there's an even bigger meaning to it when you begin to understand Hawaii's history.
The island of Oahu is also known for it's beautiful mountain range and it's jungles. Going to the botanical gardens wasn't enough so we tried the Manoa falls. This was a beautiful hike! The forest kept us shaded from the sun and the rocks were fun to climb. Being there felt as though we were in the same jungle setting as the movie "Romancing the stone". Sadly the waterfall at the end was a very small trickle *sigh*.
Another popular spot is the Diamond head mountain for hiking. We did it, but it was not easy!! It rained
occasionally which made things nicer but the elevation changes were okay to navigate but they were challenging. There's a pill box lookout the kids got to go into and they thought it was so much fun. Coming down from the Diamond head was my favourite part of all!
One of our favourite things is to watch the sun set. So we set up a picnic spot on the beach at the Hilton Village, grabbed a bag of McDonald's for dinner and watching the sky turn from orange, to bright pink to purple. I'll never forget how stunning it was to watch!
Thus concludes our Hawaiian Odyssey!
Here are some questions I faced about Hawaii and I thought they
might be helpful to those who plan to travel to Hawaii:
Is it really expensive?
That depends on how fancy you want your trip to be. We have a credit card connected to our favourite airline that allows us to obtain yearly buddy passes so my husband and I were able to save money for our return airfare. For hotels, it doesn't have to be a 4 star hotel. 3 stars are just as good but keep your location to areas that will serve you best. We also stayed at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani resort. It's right on the main drag so it can be noisy but it is a stone throw from the beach and really close to amenities and it's average price was $250 per night. PLUS we went during the OFF season.
Sometimes it's the activities that can add up. The Polynesian Cultural Centre was $100US per person - not cheap when you're a family of four. But it feeds you so make sure you get your money's worth at the buffet!
We also did the Dole plantation and there's admission costs for that plus the Dole Whip treat and anything you want from the gift shop.
We also rented a car and we had to pay for gas. We watched the prices and booked ours during a promo so that saved us huge there. Gasoline prices were no different from back home, but to me the ability to travel the island and see the local towns and beaches was worth it!!
In the end, It All Adds Up!!
Set a budget and stay within it!!
What about eating (and drinking) there?
Remember, American portions are HUGE so share your entree with your travelling entourage. If you are staying on the main drag across from Waikiki beach or in that vicinity, the hotel restaurants and other commonly known restaurants are very pricey. $40US for pancakes and bacon is definite price gouge. We went to Target one day and purchased breakfast stuff along with snacks and drinks so we were covered there. Plus we found a farmers market where we purchased fresh fruit and it was sooooo delicious! I even tried Papaya (I can't stand it normally) and it actually tasted amazing. Try the Lychee fruit there, it was sooo sweet! Plus as I mentioned in the blog, we did picnics on the beach at night. You just hop over to a local fast food joint (our fave was McDonald's) it's cheap and it fed all four of us. Plus there's a local beach shack around the south end of Waikiki beach where they feature local catch of the day along with fresh shrimp and steak. $40 US fed all of us PLUS drinks!
Speaking of drinks - and I'm referring to alcoholic beverages, keeping that cost on the down-low can catch you off guard. Kevin and I took advantage of the Happy Hour specials at local restaurants. Plus we had a stash of our favourites in our hotel room. The best way to take your drink to a beach (alcohol is prohibited on local beaches) is to take a commuter mug or a "Starbucks" cup type vessel with you. Pack a large zip lock bag of hotel ice, stash well and off you go!
Before we left, my oldest daughter found tons of amazing places to try out to eat. Of course that is another cash grabbing wormhole. Just because you saw it on social media doesn't mean you have to eat there.
Here's a secret for eating out cheap.
If you are staying on the Waikiki beach area, there are SO MANY high end shops and restaurants there. So GET AWAY from the main drag and check out other local hot spots. You will soon find the prices are more friendly to your wallet!
If you like food trucks, they can be found anywhere and they feature local food and support local businesses!
Is it safe there?
Considering our hotel was across the street from a police station, we were very safe. No matter where we were in the island, we always felt safe. Of course there are beach bums that frequent the Waikiki beach and they leave you well alone. But street smarts is essential when travelling anywhere in general. One thing I was shocked to find is that people were walking everywhere in their bathing suits. I even saw people walking around barefoot going from the hotel to the beach. If you are going into a store or a restaurant, proper attire is required.
What do you do for fun that's inexpensive?
There are many places you can check out that are fun to be at.
The beaches are #1. Bored of one beach? Get out the map and check out other ones. Waves are different from one beach to the other. We went to Hanama bay and found people surfing there and that was fun to watch. Plus the waves are fun to play in.
The botanical gardens cost just a small donation and there's plenty of locations to go wandering and it's easy for those with little legs.
Monoa falls and Diamond Head are fun to hike, just to name a few but there are plenty more out there.
Just by driving around the entire island, we could find little fun places to stop along the way.
Ask the locals too, they know a few fun places to hang out as well!
What if it rains?
Hawaii's temperate climate is easy to deal with but you do have to prepare for it just in case.
If it's raining on one side of the island, it will be sunny on the other side. So hop the bus or get in the car and get out of the rain!
It's as easy as that.
If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line or two. I would love to hear from you!
I really enjoyed creating this FAQ section so I think I'll create a newborn studio FAQ in my next Blog.