For Spring break this year, I decided to treat myself to my first solo trip since I came back from my South America trip in 2016. It was a long needed alone time for me, but I wanted to make sure it was simple and required a small amount of organization. I knew I had enough travel points to book a flight to Hawaii, but I was looking for a place where I wouldn’t need to worry about transportation (renting a car in Hawaii can get quite expensive) and where I knew I could walk around and have access to the beach, some hiking, diving and more adventures if I wanted to. After discussing with a friend, I decided to head to Oahu, as I already visited Maui a few years ago (see my posts on Maui here and here).
I booked my hostel in Waikiki, one block away from the beach. The hostel was great and had a good selection of small dorms, good activities offered with the hostel and a massive roof-top patio where I cooked most of my dinners. The hostel offered a driver’s service for tours every day – at first, I thought it was more of an organized tour, however, I quickly realized that we were paying for a driver to take us to a spot, explain to us what we could do from there, and then coming back to pick us up at the end of the day.
I had also decided to do my Open Water PADI Diving course during my trip, which meant that I would have 3 of my days taken for diving, rest and prepping for the next dive. I had already done the online training and written exam, so I only needed to do the actual dives and skills. I chose to register with the Waikiki Dive Center, which offered pick up from my hostel everyday and had very flexible schedule for the course as well. I really enjoyed my instructor on my first two days (thanks Liz!), but didn’t connect as well with the instructor I had on my last day. Overall though, I had a great experience and I am looking forward to try my first real dive as a certified diver (which will most likely happen here, on Vancouver Island… brrrr)!
For those who don’t really know me, you have to know that doing my diving course was actually a big deal for me. I actually have a weird fear of the undersides of boats, which I can’t really explain, but ended up discovering that this fear has a name: submechanophobia. Seems like this is actually a thing, and well, I spent a few days prior to my trip watching videos and looking at photos of boats and shipwrecks just to make sure I didn’t have a full on panic attack once I start diving near our boat. Well – I rocked it and have now mastered my fear, thank you very much! Although… you won’t see me dive near a shipwreck any time soon. That’s just another level!
I really enjoyed staying in Waikiki. It felt a lot busier than I was thinking at first, but turns out it didn’t really bother me. Our hostel was far enough from the city center that we could walk to one of the quieter areas of the beach, but still walk within 15min to the main shopping and restaurant areas. There were also some fireworks visible from the beach on Friday nights, and some Luau shows almost every night on the beach for free.
Be mindful of your budget though – it was almost impossible to have a full meal for less than 15US$. This island is very expensive, and even buying food from the supermarket wasn’t cheap. Thing is, there is only one supermarket in Waikiki itself, and they bump up the prices from about 13% (so I was told). If you have a vehicle or time to kill, you can bus to Honolulu and do your groceries there to save a bit of money. I didn’t have the will for it, though.
I have a confession to make. One of my favourite things to do in Waikiki was to walk around and check out the Hawaiian cookies stores. Because… they have free samples. And I mean, there is about 1 cookie store each 1-2 blocks along the beach road, which I find absolutely hilarious because you can basically have a full on dessert by sampling cookies. Loved it. Went multiple evenings in a row. I know, I know. Other than that, my favourite spot for lunch/snack was the Hawaiian Crown little store, where you can have fresh smoothies but most importantly gigantic Acai bowls with fresh fruits and chocolate sprinkles on top. Loved it.
I ended up renting a car with 3 other ladies from my hostel to drive up to the North Shore one day. We had done quite a bit of beach time already, so the drive was a nice change as we just discovered the area at our own pace. We also stopped at the pineapple plantation (Dole), which I would recommend visiting. We booked the vehicle with the app Turo, which I had never heard of, but turned out to be similar to an airbnb for car rental. Easy to do, reliable and we even had our car delivered and picked up directly from our hostel! You can choose different insurance package as well.
A trip to Oahu wouldn’t be fully complete without also taking the time to visit Diamond Head Crater and hike up to the famous viewpoint, looking back on Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. Make sure that you respect the opening hours – we thought we could hike for sunset, but turns out they completely close the gates at 6PM, which means you just can’t be up there anytime close to dark. The hike itself isn’t difficult and most visitors can do it – you just want to take your time, as it is mainly uphill with sets of stairs. Towards the end, you will cross a tunnel leading to two distinct paths leading to the bunkers at the top of the ridge. You can do it all as a loop, without having to take the same path twice, which was nice. A bit overcrowded for my taste, so once again, visit early in the morning!
My next few posts will add more details to some of the hikes and spots I visited on Oahu outside of Waikiki!