Oahu & Aulani Trip Report, Summer 2019

leafyeon

blue skies & sunshine, guaranteed
Joined
Jun 9, 2019
Hi All,

Before my trip (my first trip to Oahu and Aulani!), I read as many trip reports of Aulani as I could to prepare me for my trip! I really appreciated everyone's writeups, so I thought I'd return the favor now that I'm home! It also allows me to savor my own memories of the trip -- we had an excellent time!

It was a just a short eight-day trip, but we did a split stay - half in Honolulu, and half in Aulani to save some money and explore more of the island. It was just my longtime boyfriend and I on this trip, but I'll refer to him as DH for convenience!

Hope you enjoy reading! Feel free to ask any questions!
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Day One - Mid-Day Arrival at Honolulu Airport

We flew a nonstop direct flight from JFK in New York City to Honolulu Airport, on Hawaiian Airlines. 11 hours is no joke in economy class! We fly regularly on long international flights, ranging from 12-20+ hours, but international plane configurations certainly seemed a little more generous than Hawaiian Air's economy class. If I'd do it again, I would likely have paid for the premium economy for a little extra legroom. Thankfully, the 2-4-2 configuration makes it great for travellers of two, like us.

We somehow slept through the meal service at the beginning of the flight, so we were awfully hungry, but thankfully I had packed some peanut butter sandwiches and other snacks to tide us over. We had also bought two big bottles of water (each) in the airport before the flight!

I watched Moana on the plane; it was a nice introduction to Hawaii. We thought for sure Lilo & Stitch would also have been available, but it wasn't. That would've been a better introduction to Hawaii (as far as Disney movies go!)

We arrived safely in Honolulu, picked up our bags (DH got a coffee from Starbucks), and called Charley's Taxi, whom we had made a reservation with for airport pickup. We were a little confused as to where the driver told us to wait (it was a dedicated smoking section), but the driver picked us up shortly thereafter and drove us to our Airbnb near Waikiki Beach. We are not interested in the whole Waikiki scene (nightlife/etc.), but we got a good deal on a nice Airbnb with free parking (we picked up the rental car the next day), so it was nice and convenient. I believe the flat fare was $29 from Honolulu Airport to the Waikiki Beach, plus $1 tax and a discretionary tip.

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View of Honolulu and Diamond Head from our Airbnb Balcony

We settled into our Airbnb, and by then it was around 4:30 p.m. We went for a walk to check out Waikiki Beach, and to find a snack, and then eventually go for dinner.

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Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach and the surrouding area was hustling and bustling, as expected. Very posh streets. We checked out a Japanese food market/emporium or something similar in the basement of one of the buildings, but everything seemed unnecessarily busy with not very exciting food. I wound up getting a warm spam musubi from an ABC Store as a snack to tide me over before dinner -- most ABC Stores have them cold, but there are ABCs with musubis in warmers. It was mediocre; I wouldn't waste your time. I had heard good things and wanted to try out Musubi Cafe, but DH had misread the map and thought it was much further than it was (we found out later that it was right behind our Airbnb!)

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Sunset from Waikiki Beach

I had looked up some recommended dinner spots in the area, and we picked the Japanese restaurant Yoshitsune. We were a little worried that it might not be good when we learned it was in a hotel (Park Shore Waikiki), but were pleasantly surprised! (DH is a total foodie - we live in Manhattan and he has eaten at almost all of the Michelin-starred restarants in NYC. Japanese cuisine is our overall favorite. I grew up visiting Japan regularly, and as an adult still visit it every other year, so I would hope that I am familiar with good/authentic Japanese food!) The food was above average, and we were delighted. Service was efficient and polite as well.

After a lovely dinner, we stopped at the ABC Store around the corner to get some necessities (mainly water and fruit), and called an Uber very easily back to our Airbnb. That was it for our day!

Stay tuned for Day 2... a wonderful day at the North Shore!
 

AussieDisneyfans

Mouseketeer
Joined
Aug 23, 2017
Following along, looking forward to reading more from your trip and thanks for sharing!! My daughter and I are heading to Waikiki and Aulani in December, so reading everything and taking lots of notes.
 
  • leafyeon

    blue skies & sunshine, guaranteed
    Joined
    Jun 9, 2019
    Thanks so much to all who liked the first post and/or are following along! :) Feel free to leave any questions or comments!

    Day 2 - North Shore Day!

    We got up bright and early, and walked to pick up the rental car from the Avis at the Sheraton Hotel in Waikiki. We were not staying at the hotel, but chose to pick up from this location as we thought it would be far less crowded than waiting in a long line at the airport when we arrived. Our guess paid off - there was no line at all, and the staff members were friendly and efficient. They didn't try to upsell us anything notwithstanding that we had used a generous discount and chosen the cheapest car option.

    We headed to get breakfast from Haleiwa Bowls on the North Shore as we were planning to spend most of our day there. What a treat! This was hands-down the best acai bowl we had ever eaten (and I proceeded to eat many more during the trip but nothing compared to Haleiwa Bowls!). Parking was easy and it was uncrowded early in the morning (around 8 a.m.)

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    I got the Blue Majik bowl (banana, pineapple, and blue spirulina, with granola, fruit, bee pollen and Hawaiian honey!) while DH got a classic large acai bowl with coconut flakes, banana, granola, and Hawaiian honey. What a wonderful welcome to Hawaii!

    We then headed to Waimea Falls Park, which is a sort of botanical garden that has a waterfall at one end of it where people like to go swimming. We did not find the park/garden all that interesting, but we did see some cool birds and lots of interesting plants. (They give you a bird-spotting guide so you can learn about the different kinds of birds you might be seeing. I liked learning about which kinds of birds were indigenous to Hawaii and which kinds migrate regularly). The waterfall at the end of it was quite popular, but we chose not to go swimming.

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    Some folks enjoying swimming at the waterfall in Waimea Falls Park

    There were supposed to be some cultural events there, but the times weren't listed. For instance, when we walked over to the "games" section to learn about traditional Hawaiian games, there was no one there and no instructions or anything. (Perhaps it was too early still? It was around 9-10 a.m. at this time). DH looked up the instructions for Hawaiian chess and we played each other with the pieces that appeared to be made out of Hawaiian kukui nuts. So we made our own fun!

    There was a small booth near the end of the garden walk with some very nice Hawaiian natives who were weaving various items out of coconut leaves. They offered to give us all free woven headbands. I didn't take any, but some other visitors did, and I thought that was a nice little addition.

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    A nice mountain view from Waimea Falls Park

    All in all, however, given the $16 per person admission fee, we didn't feel like Waimea Falls Park was worth it. There's so much nature and beauty to be found for free in Hawaii that there's no need to pay for it!

    We ventured to Sunset Beach. Wow, was it beautiful. This was one of our two top beach experiences during the trip. We had a blast and it was just truly so gorgeous, we were in awe. The beach wasn't crowded, parking was easy, the sand was soft, and it was a picture-perfect moment.

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    At every beach we went to during our trip (even a super secluded one), there were always bathrooms or little outdoor tap areas to help rinse sand off, so we really appreciated that!

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    After some fun in the sun, we headed to lunch at the Beet Box Cafe near Haleiwa Old Town. The food was decent, but nothing to write home about. I believe they try to source local and organic ingredients as much as they can - great spot for vegans with lots of vegan options. (Carnivores may like it better elsewhere!)

    We strolled around Haleiwa Old Town for a bit, checking out the smaller shops. Nothing too exciting but overall enjoyable -- it's like walking around a quiet little neighborhood and just seeing what's what.

    Time for Matsumoto's! Matsumoto's is a famous shave ice dessert place on the North Shore. It has been around for a very long time, and is very popular, so we came ready for a long wait. Indeed it was a 20-minute wait!

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    The merchandise was so cute (I nearly gave into a purchase of a cute shave-ice cone plush, but I resisted!) but we didn't find the shave ice amazing. I didn't even wind up finishing mine! (We found a GREAT shave ice place the following day. Stay tuned!)

    But the area has a lot of parking - it's like an outdoor mall, so it was nice to take a walk to see some other shops while we enjoyed the shave ice.

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    (The white stuff on top is sweet condensed milk!)

    Time for another beach! I had read that Laniakea Beach and Haleiwa Alii Beach Park were the places to go for sighting turtles, so we kept our fingers crossed. We headed to Haleiwa Alii Beach Park as it was more easily accessible. Alas, no turtles. The water wasn't as beautiful as Sunset Beach, plus it was getting cloudy, so we didn't stay for long. The sand wasn't as enjoyable either, but it was uncrowded and lots of kids were having a great time having a ton of ocean to themselves.

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    We drove back to Honolulu but stopped by Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery on the way home for malasadas. Malasadas are a popular Hawaiian fried treat - it's kind of like a doughnut but is fluffier and lighter. The "famous" Malasada place is Leonard's with their signature pink boxes (we tried them later on during the trip). But we wanted to check out Pipeline Bakery because I heard that they might actually be better than Leonard's.

    Curiously, I had read an article before arriving which stated that Pipeline was founded by former employees of Leonard's who believed they could improve the product. As one might expect, Leonard's then sued Pipeline in Court. (Not sure of the verdict). We got the chance to try Leonard's on Day 4, so I will save it for that post to tell you which one we liked better!

    Without giving anything away, Pipeline Bakery was great. It was popular (a constant flow of customers on a random weekday afternoon) but there was never a long queue and there were some nice seating spots. Unlike Leonard's that sells both plain and filled malasadas, Pipeline only sells plain malasadas. They make them all to order, of course, so DH enjoyed two of them warm and fresh on the spot. I ate one, and kept an extra one for the next day and still found it delicious.

    We went back to our Airbnb apartment in the Waikiki area, got cleaned up from our time at the beach, and then headed out again for dinner in Honolulu. We wanted to go to to Helena's Hawaiian Food, but drove by and it was packed with little/no parking, so instead we headed to Highway Inn.

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    A nice sunset glow in the city of Honolulu

    The place had some good reviews, and it has been around for a long time, but we didn't really enjoy the food very much. It is Hawaiian food indeed - all the right types of foods listed on the menu - but all of the flavors seemed very "Americanized." Just like American Chinese food, this felt like American Hawaiian food! I would not recommend the place unless you have less adventurous eaters in your group.

    We went home, delighted from a fun day out, with happy memories of Sunset Beach and delicious malasadas.

    Stay tuned for our Day 3 adventures!

    (Sorry that I haven't taken too many photos! I try not to photograph every single food item/etc.; these are just photos I happened to take to remember the moments!)
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    All in all, however, given the $16 per person admission fee, we didn't feel like Waimea Falls Park was worth it. There's so much nature and beauty to be found for free in Hawaii that there's no need to pay for it!
    I could not agree more on Waimea Valley! We had the same thoughts and experience. It's very pretty, but its essentially a $16pp nature walk. It's not even a hike because its a paved walking path. And for the swimming, I've read that it's cold, deep, and full of bacteria. Definitely a one and done for us!
     

    alohamom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 31, 2003
    All in all, however, given the $16 per person admission fee, we didn't feel like Waimea Falls Park was worth it. There's so much nature and beauty to be found for free in Hawaii that there's no need to pay for it!
    That was how we felt about Waimea Falls Park too. The paved path makes it great for people with mobility issues or a stroller who want to (sort of) hike though.

    We ventured to Sunset Beach. Wow, was it beautiful. This was one of our two top beach experiences during the trip
    Gosh, I love Sunset Beach too. Just so lovely and you are so right about the sand.
     
  • leafyeon

    blue skies & sunshine, guaranteed
    Joined
    Jun 9, 2019
    @alohamom @nkereina I'm glad we aren't the only ones who felt that way about Waimea Falls Park! But you are correct; it is probably quite enjoyable for those who aren't as able to hike or want something gentler. There is also a lot of space for kids to run around and just enjoy themselves, as they would in any big park. I wonder if you can take a picnic or something in; it would be great to spend a lazy afternoon picnicking and having fun in the park!
     

    leafyeon

    blue skies & sunshine, guaranteed
    Joined
    Jun 9, 2019
    Thanks again to all for following along! :)

    Apparently I didn't take very many photos on Day 3, so I apologize in advance as it's very long and text-heavy!

    Day 3 - From Tantalus to the Islands of Polynesia!

    We woke up bright and early the next morning and set off for the KCC Farmer's Market. I love farmer's markets and I was excited for what we read to be a can't-miss spot with hundreds of stalls with lots of local food to try. The advice we read online was to arrive early to avoid the crowds and obtain good parking.

    Unfortunately, a couple of roads were closed so we were trying to find alternate routes... and then we were stopped at a junction while a whole bunch of runners and walkers crossed the perpendicular road! This wasn't a marathon, but instead looked like a charity fun run of some sort. We wound up being stopped there (with lots of other cars) for about thirty minutes. Not a great start to the day! Lots of people got out of their cars to talk to the policemen who were manning the run routes, and were frustrated that we were stopped for so long on at a busy junction.

    (I just Googled what it was.. turns out it must have been the Oahu Heart Walk, which brings together 5,000 people each year to raise money to fund cardiovascular research and education. I can't really complain because it's a great cause!)

    When we got to the KCC Farmer's Market, it was already in full swing. Massive crowds! Parking was difficult, and there were just too many people to enjoy ourselves. We picked up some food, but then decided it was far too chaotic for us to stay there much longer, so we wound up eating our food in the car. DH got a lobster roll which he found a little stale, as well as some sort of sweetened coffee ice blended drink. I had gotten an acai bowl from a very popular stall, but found it also mediocre - it had too much acai blend and very few toppings, so I was quickly left with about a bowl of just acai blend.

    (We did pick up some spam musubis and other musubis to go, though, which we ate later on in the day. These turned out to be my favorite musubis that we ate during the trip! It was from just a small and unassuming food stall; they were all neatly hand-packaged so they must have been freshly homemade. While these were my favorite, DH's favorite were the musubis we got from Musubi Cafe a few days later.)

    Our morning was off to a poor start, but it quickly turned around when we got to our next destination -- Tantalus Lookout! This is a scenic lookout point which shows off Honolulu and Diamond Head.

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    The drive up was so beautiful we were already in awe before we reached the actual lookout point! There was a spot on the drive up where the edge of the road was a sort of extended platform. DH said "Maybe we can pull over to take photos." I wasn't sure we were allowed to - there was a construction van on the platform just up ahead, but DH said he would just stay in the car while I quickly snapped a photo. I stepped out and let out a big laugh... because the construction workers had just stepped out of their van to stop and take a photo too! DH and I love that memory; what a fun story!

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    Gorgeous, isn't it? Amazing to get such incredible views, and DH was happy because driving up was much less strenous than going on a long hike for good views! This is a great way for people to get an excellent Hawaii landscape view if they aren't able to enjoy hikes. The drive up had been a bit twisty and windy but not too difficult, and for most of the route you can enjoy the strong scent of eucalyptus! (DH thought it was onions until we Googled it!)

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    It is definitely a can't-miss spot! Parking was ample and it was uncrowded when we went around 10 a.m. on a summer Saturday. I bet even a night view here is fantastic. The photos don't do it justice!

    We had planned to spend most of our day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, but it was still early as the PCC didn't open until noon. DH was hungry again (he had not enjoyed his breakfast), so I suggested we go for some shave ice. I had a list of well-rated shave ice places from my research, so we just went to the closest one, Aloha Shave Ice.

    Aloha Shave Ice is a fairly big shop but quite local - nothing fancy. But its unassuming location and storefront is just hiding a secret gem.. excellent shave ice!! The 200+ 5-star reviews on Yelp are accurate, folks! All of their shave ice flavors are homemade and you could taste the difference. Definitely the best shave ice we had during the week.. we kept trying to find times/opportunities to go back.

    We headed off to the Polynesian Cultural Center to spend our afternoon there. (On the way, we stopped at a Zippy's because I had to use the bathroom. I bought a piece of fried chicken so I wouldn't feel bad about using the bathroom, and it was pretty good! Zippy's is a sort of Hawaiian version of McDonald's, I believe -- it's where the locals go for fast food).


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    Just a random photo of our drive to the PCC.. I love how the beach is literally right there!

    A lot of folks go to the Polynesian Cultural Center (the PCC) for the day and also do the night luau/show. We just wanted General Admission tickets, however, because we were going to be doing the full luau experience later on in the week near Aulani. I was mad at myself for not pre-purchasing the tickets online (you get a 15% discount if you buy the tickets 10+ days in advance), but when we rented our car from Avis, they had given us a map in a leaflet/book that came with some discount coupons. And there it was in the discount leaflet - an offer for 50% off general admission tickets at the PCC! I was so pleased! Each adult ticket is $65, so we wound up paying only $65 for two of us, which is an incredible deal. All we needed to show were our Avis car rental contract and our car keys.

    On the way into the the PCC, I found a sweetshop selling Dole Whips (there are a lot of outdoor food vendors and some small shops), so I couldn't help but stop by to pick one up. (Seriously, all we do is eat. This is more of a food report than a trip report. Plus, I had forgotten to tell you all that DH had eaten a small bag of Maui Onion potato chips before breakfast the day before. Those were excellent; I totally helped him polish those off -- we'd never eaten such tasty potato chips! But back to the PCC Dole Whip..) This Dole Whip was creamier and less pineapple-y than Disney Dole Whips, so I didn't enjoy it as much because it was not as refreshing. I had a proper Disney Dole Whip a few days later at Aulani, though, which was just as good as ever!)

    We really enjoyed our day at the PCC - we stayed there for as long as we could (the island villages shut at 6pm, so you really only have from 12-6pm to enjoy it all). Before going, we thought it might be hokey, but it was thoroughly educational and enjoyable. Some reviewers liken it to a theme park, but it is definitely way more educational than Disney -- though equally as fun! You get to go to the different island villages, each of which are showing off a different Polynesian culture: Samoa, Fiji, Aotearoa, Hawaii, Tonga, and Tahiti. Each island has a whole bunch of different activities showcased by locals from that particular island - they will tell you about their culture in different ways and also let you experience local games, music, crafts, and it is overall a very interactive experience! Perfect for families, friends of any age, or even solo travellers.

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    DH loved this little fish toy he learned how to weave at the PCC. It even has a "reel" and the fish moves up and down the reel!

    We got to learn about what the Polynesian islands have in common, but also how they are each different and unique. We got to make maui hooks, try out a whole bunch of different Polynesian games and sports, try some local food, learn how to throw traditionally-crafted fishing nets, learn how to weave coconut leaves, learn how to hula, and more. All the activities was included in the admission price (i.e. we didn't come across any upcharged premium activities you had to pay extra to enjoy!) There were also a whole bunch of cultural demonstrations - the natives from the different islands would tell you about their history and culture, do a local dance, show how food was traditionally cooked/made, make some traditional music, tell us about their traditions, and more. It all felt very genuine, and the presentations were not at all dull or long-winded, so it would be good even for kids! There were also some museum-like exhibits you could just explore at your own pace, with displays on the walls and little explanations nearby.

    The schedule that comes along with the PCC map of all the villages shows the different timing of the many presentations/demonstrations at the different islands, which makes it all seem very confusing (as if you'd need to plan out every minute there in order to not miss stuff). But DH and I just went in pretty much a full circle for the day, only backtracking to the previous island once, and we were literally never bored or waiting around. It feels like we attended a bunch of presentations (I think I remember maybe six or seven) without planning - if we happened to be there and a presentation was about to start, we'd go! Most of the presentations are casual, so you can easily walk in without disturbing anyone even if you enter in late or halfway, so that made it really easy and flexible for us as well. The activities are essentially nonstop, so you can just walk around and enjoy them at any time.

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    If you are a Moana fan, or who have kids who are Moana fans, definitely stop by the Iosepa exhibit. It isn't an island village, but instead is a separate section about the voyaging history of Hawaii! There is a massive operational canoe on display, just like the one Moana sailed. The presenter there told us about wayfinding and the historical voyaging expeditions of his ancestors. Interestingly enough, they now offer classes at some Hawaiian universities on navigating and wayfinding, and apparently a group of students recently spent 6 months travelling the oceans on just this type of canoe, just like Moana! (More about wayfinding to come later when we attended a great "Explore the Stars" activity at Aulani!)

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    We thoroughly enjoyed our time. We had heard good reviews, but the PCC is affiliated with the nearby BYU (a Mormon university), and a lot of the employees there are students at BYU. We were a little wary of being evangelized, but nothing of that sort at all happened. The 50% discount we got from Avis made our trip really worthwhile considering the price we paid, but knowing that the admission fee goes to help pay for these hardworking students' education, I would definitely pay full price (and I will definitely be attending again!)

    It was still light out, so we decided to head to a nearby beach, Punalu'u Beach Park. The guidebook had said this was "Often secluded," and it truly meant it! It wasn't picture-perfect beautiful, but it was still quite enjoyable. Where else can you have a beach essentially all to yourself? We sat in the sand, played in the water, took photos where we didn't have to worry about anyone else being in the photos, and enjoyed the sunset.

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    ("Often secluded" indeed!)

    For dinner, we wanted to head to Papa Ole's Kitchen in the nearby area; it had great reviews online and seemed like a local place for local eats. Unfortunately, we drove up and found it unexpectedly closed for the day (there was a handwritten apology note on the door, saying they'd be back the following day -- maybe they went to help out with the charity fun run!) We found that Seven Brothers was nearby, which is a trendy burger place (I like how the name is like Five Guys!) so we drove there instead. We stepped in to peek at the menu but weren't really feeling it. A few stores down, however, was an L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, which is a popular Hawaiian casual chain. We ate there instead - I had a great loco moco - it was cheap and delicious!

    We drove back to our Airbnb, tired and happy from a wonderful day!

    Stay tuned for Day 4.. an excellent hike, an amazing beach, and the big Leonards vs. Pipeline malasada face-off!
     
  • leafyeon

    blue skies & sunshine, guaranteed
    Joined
    Jun 9, 2019
    Hey all, sorry for the delay! DH and I were travelling over Labor Day weekend for his sister's wedding, and then I head off to WDW this weekend for my first time at Galaxy's Edge, so it's been a mess of packing and organizing! But I should be able to take care of 2-3 more installments this week, including our start at Aulani! Thank you so much to all your patience and support! :) :D

    Here we go with Day 4! I am so excited to tell you guys all about it because we had such a wonderful day!

    Day 4: This is Why Hawaii is Paradise!

    I woke DH up from bed (a regular occurrence) and told him to get excited for our morning hike. DH is much more of an "indoorsy" person, so it's always a bit of a challenge to get him to try new things! I asked him what he wanted to have for breakfast, and he said "Zippy's," so I was happy to go along to appease him as he was willing enough to go on the hike.

    As mentioned in my previous installment, Zippy's is sort of like the Hawaiian McDonalds. It's fast food with a nice varied menu - rice bowls, beef curry, noodles, fried chicken, and more. Most Zippy's locations also have a Napoleon's bakery inside it. There are lots of Zippy's all over Oahu, so we just found a random one on the way to our hike. Turns out it was a huge Zippy's! It even had a special table-service restaurant section in addition to the regular quick-service Zippy's and Napoleon's Bakery. As we just wanted a quick breakfast, we just ate from the regular Zippy's section.

    DH ordered a mixed meat and rice plate, and I ordered saimin, which is sort of like a Hawaiian variant of Japanese ramen. For fast food, it was pretty good! I also admired the pastry case at Napoleon's for a bit before picking up a pineapple cake slice. It looked promising - light and fluffy, and would be a nice treat after the hike.

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    We set off to the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail. Like most parts of Hawaii, the drive to the destination is already so gorgeous, and you always think "how could it get any more beautiful?" But it does!

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    Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail is a fully paved, gentle hike with gorgeous views along the way. It's perfect for beginners, and it was not crowded at all at the time we went (9am - 10am on a Sunday). We saw kids on the trail (some being pushed in strollers), but then also came across a bodybuilder who was carrying large weighted sacks up the trail (likely for training). The guidebook told me that it was 2.5 miles round-trip, but this felt slightly longer due to the incline.

    All along the way, I kept stopping to take photos. The views kept getting better and better! And at the very top, you are awarded with some picture-perfect, true Hawaiian beauty!

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    You may wonder why I haven't included a photo of the lighthouse. Despite being part of the trail's name, the lighthouse really isn't the most exciting part (in fact, it's not very exciting at all) but the views from the hike are truly stunning. It wasn't even crowded or busy at the top - we had it all to ourselves for a bit and it was great to take photos! If you are looking for a great proposal spot in Hawaii, I'd say do it here.. ask some friendly tourists around to help you snap some photos of the moment!

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    When I was reading some reviews, I was told to avoid this hike when it was hot as it was on the drier side of Oahu, and to bring lots of water. Well, it's only 2.5-3 miles round trip, so you certainly don't need to pack a huge bottle or anything. We also didn't find it overly hot; most of the path had a nice ocean breeze flowing through. DH and I kept ourselves occupied on the hike up and down by playing silly games, like picking a category and then each naming items in the category until one person couldn't think of any more (and would lose).

    When we finished the hike, we headed to Sandy Beach. Along with Sunset Beach, this was the other top beach experience that we had during the trip. The guidebook had informed me that it was a place where the locals went to bodysurf, and we were not disappointed! The waves were massive! These were definitely the biggest waves I'd ever seen in person. We had an absolutely wonderful time watching the locals bodysurf, playing in the massive waves (which are really strong even when you're quite far ashore!).

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    Who needs Typhoon Lagoon when you have Sandy Beach?

    The beach was filled with activity on this Sunday morning, but we wouldn't call it crowded or even busy. There was plenty of space on the gorgeous sand! One strange part is that our GPS first led us to a nearby lookout point. We figured there would be a walkway to the beach, but there wasn't! We got back in our car and drove down to the beach area (easily visible from the lookout point). The strange part is that there were a lot more people at the lookout point than actually on the beach -- maybe their GPS led them astray too!

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    I could have stayed at this beach all day; it was endless fun and the waves somehow just got bigger and bigger. (Of course, I wouldn't recommend venturing out too far unless you're used to such big waves). But the fun part is that even if you're safely well ashore you can have a great time with the really bold, big waves because they come so far in!

    I even managed to catch some memorable snapshots of locals bodysurfing!

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    DH and I also enjoyed the pineapple cake slice that I had gotten from Napoleon's earlier. It was soft and fluffy, as expected - not quite as airy as I hoped but I'm sure I was so enthralled by the beach that I wasn't too focused on the cake slice. I did find it a little sweet for my tastes, but DH thought it was fine.

    After some time at Sandy Beach, however, DH was hungry and a little overheated, so we decided to head for a late lunch. We drove to the nearby Masa and Joyce's Okazuya. This was easily a 10/10 dining experience for both of us!


    Okazuyas are small local Japanese-style delis. They often make all of the food right there, every day, and they let you customize your meal pretty much however you want. Masa & Joyce's had a great selection of sushis - their spicy tuna hand-roll was perfection - as well as cooked food. In addition to various hand-rolls we got to share, I ordered a kalua pork plate, which came with rice, lomi lomi salmon, chicken long rice, and I got an additional omelette slice as well. DH got a loco moco and some coconut pudding for dessert. My kalua pork plate was delicious - I don't usually eat/enjoy pork, but this was so beautifully soft and tender without being fatty. DH enjoyed his loco moco a lot -- I had enjoyed mine from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue the night before a little better, but he enjoyed this one better, so it all worked out!

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    This okazuya looks so unassuming, but it was truly a treat -- an affordable, wonderful way to experience home-style local Hawaiian fare. It wasn't crowded at all, but had a constant flow of customers stopping in, and all of the food was really fresh! Once they've finished a dish for the day, that's probably it, so it's likely best to not come too late in the day! (Most okazuyas are only open for breakfast and lunch).

    After lunch, we wanted to head to another beach (of course), so we set off to Kailua Beach. The guidebook had described this as a "classic Hawaiian beach," with soft superfine sand and blue water, so of course we were eager to check it out. Unfortunately, it was packed, with bumper-to-bumper traffic before we even got near the parking lot. There was no way we were going to find a parking spot, so DH just suggested that I head out to the beach, snap some photos, and then meet him at the end of the parking lot (it would take some time for him to get through the traffic anyway!)

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    So I ran out and just took a quick look at the beach. It was beautiful, but all those crowds were definitely not worth it, especially when we had already enjoyed so much fun on less crowded beaches. We briefly considered going back to Sandy Beach again, but just decided to head back to Honolulu instead. The sand was indeed superfine, but because it was so soft and fine, it was rather difficult to get off my legs, even though I had only stepped on the beach for less than five minutes!

    I had read about the beautiful Pali Highway (the H-3) before the trip, and had read that it was the most scenic drive in Oahu when driving from Kailua to Honolulu. I had also read that parts of the highway were recently closed due to emergency repair work from some heavy rains, so I crossed my fingers and off we went on that route back to Honolulu. Unfortunately, it was still closed, so we had to find an alternative way back to Honolulu. I just Googled it, however, and it looks like the highway just reopened two days ago! If any one of you has ever had the chance to drive it, I'd love to hear about your experience!

    Now what you've all been waiting for.. the big malasada face-off! We headed to the famous Leonard's Bakery. (On Day 2, we had eaten at Pipeline Bakeshop, which had been sued for stealing the malasada recipe from Leonard's!) There was a line out the door, but we probably only waited around 10 minutes. Leonard's had plain malasadas, cinnamon malasadas and also a ton of filled malasadas with different flavors: Li Hing (plum), custard, chocolate, coconut, macadamia nut, guava, and the flavor of the month (it was banana when we went).

    On Day 2, after eating at the Pipeline Bakeshop, I had told DH: "you know how this could be even better? If it had a really nice filling." DH agreed. So, naturally, when we got to Leonard's, we were only interested in getting the ones with the filling - we got one cinnamon (no filling), and then one of each filling flavor (except no macadamia nut, and no banana, and instead two guavas). We later discovered that the bakery shopowners had tossed in an extra cinnamon one for us for free!

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    (Sorry, I can't figure out how to rotate the image!)

    The big malasada winner? For us, it was definitely Pipeline Bakeshop. Despite being originally excited about the prospect of having fillings in the malasadas, we found them to be very artificial-tasting. In America, when you eat a jelly doughnut, the doughnut is typically warm, but the jelly inside is nice and cool and refreshing... not so with malasadas. The filling gets all warm, and if you've ever eaten warm artificially-flavored guava filling, you probably won't want to eat it again. Even the chocolate one wasn't all that good, and it's hard to mess up chocolate! The non-filled, cinnamon one was also a little less fluffy at Leonard's than compared to Pipeline, and all of the Leonard's malasadas were covered in a huge amount of sugar. In my book, if you have to coat your desserts with a whole bunch of sugar to make it taste good, it doesn't say much about how good it is to begin with.

    Overall, we found Leonard's malasadas less finessed than the ones at Pipeline. I now know why the locals say that Pipeline improved upon Leonard's recipe! We also kept some for the next day (at both shops). The Pipeline one still tasted pretty good the next morning, whereas the malasadas from Leonard's the next morning were completely soggy and not at all enjoyable to eat. So if you're buying in advance to stock some up before you head to Aulani, definitely go with Pipeline!

    Of course, this is only our opinion -- we'd love to hear your views on it! Having your own malasada face-off is a great reason to try out both bakeries while on vacation! ;)

    We headed home after stuffing ourselves with malasadas to get ready for... you guessed it, more food! One thing DH had wanted to try on this trip was fancy Japanese sushi. We had heard that some of the nicer places used some interesting local fish that we wouldn't be able to have in Japan or back home in NYC, so we were eager to try it! We had narrowed it down to three choices: Sasabune, Sushi ii, and Sushi Izakaya Gaku. Sasabune looked wonderful, but we wound up making a reservation for Sushi ii because it fit our itinerary best.

    We were prepared to leave with a big dent in our wallet, and ordered the omakase (the sushi chef's choice - he decides your entire meal for you, and once he has completed his eight or twelve courses, you then pay additional for any additional pieces you want). The meal was unfortunately not too great for several reasons.

    First, the chef told us that there had been a holiday in Japan the previous week, so their regular shipments had not come in and so the fish was all from an older shipment. (He told us that if we had come in the week after, there would have been even slimmer pickings!) The chef said that they did not usually use local fish because they can't maintain the right temperature for it in storage, or something like that.

    Second, I am allergic to shellfish, so I can't enjoy lobster, crab, shrimp, or uni. Like most places, the restaurant was willing to accommodate my allergy as there is always plenty of fin fish I can eat at Japanese restaurants. The sushi chef, however, was making DH's shellfish sushis and then making my regular sushis right after, without washing his hands in between (we could see him making the sushis behind the sushi bar). You guessed it.. cross contamination! Amongst other reactions, I got very flushed and my upper lips started to swell up when we were only around four sushi pieces in, so I quickly had to take some emergency medicine. That sullied the rest of my meal, of course, but I wasn't feeling well enough to make a fuss with the waiter or the chef. DH quickly finished the rest of his meal (I ate a few more pieces, very gingerly, but DH wound up eating most of my sushi) so we could head home. There were one or two nice pieces of sushi during the meal, but we both thought that it wasn't really very good. (Or maybe we were just biased after what happened to me!)

    We didn't have the greatest evening, but after a gorgeous hike to Makapuu and the most memorable and enjoyable experience at Sandy Beach earlier on in the day, we went to bed still very happy!

    Stay tuned for Day 5 - the day we headed to Aulani! :)
     

    leafyeon

    blue skies & sunshine, guaranteed
    Joined
    Jun 9, 2019
    I just realized there's a 10-photo limit per post, so I had to choose my highlights for the last post! I did, however, want to share these cute stickers I got from Leonard's and Pipeline! I love even really small, independent stores in Hawaii often have their own merchandise.

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    Who wins in the big sticker face-off? I think they're both adorable!
     

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