Let’s face it – this week was rough. Not only was it the first week back at work after the holidays, but it rained Every.Single.Day. Hard. We’re not used to such cold and rain in America’s Finest City, as evidenced by the parking lot that was the freeway. Such experiences made me wish for a tropical vacation to somewhere warm that involves hot, shirtless surfer boys and strong Mai Tais. Basically, I wanted to go back to Hawaii. My family lived on Maui when I was younger, and my Aloha Spirit has always been strong. A couple of my closest friends moved to Oahu last year, so I went to visit a few months ago and had THE BEST TIME EVER. And since San Diego has direct flights to Honolulu, I can’t think of a better place to plan your next vacation…
Here are some of the best sights & bites from my trip:
- The Byodo-In Temple in Kahaluu is a non-practicing Buddhist temple tucked away in the valley of the Ko’olau Mountains. The Hawaii State Landmark is a smaller replica of its namesake temple in Uji, Japan. Admire the huge golden Buddha, ring the brass bell, and take in the serenity of the reflection pond.
- The Dole Plantation in Wahiawa is touristy, but I still wanted to check out the plantation gardens and (world’s largest) maze. See how pineapples are grown and just how many varieties there are. Don’t leave without getting a Dole Whip — the popular pineapple ice cream swirl cone.
- The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in Aiea is Hawaii’s largest open-air flea market, and a great place to buy souvenirs and Hawaiian products at an affordable price. Since the swap meet wraps around the entire stadium, it’s unlikely that you’ll make it to all 400+ vendors. I bought a coconut to drink while walking around – so refreshing! Don’t forget to bring cash.
- The Pillbox Hiking Trail in Lanikai was my favorite hike because of the different lookouts that had amazing panoramic views. The “pillboxes” are actually former military bunkers that you can crawl on top of. If you do the complete hike, it’s about a four-mile loop that ends in a residential neighborhood. Be aware that the second half of the trail was pretty overgrown and steep… I fell on my butt twice.
- The Maita’i Catamaran Sunset Cruise is a two-hour sunset cruise along Waikiki Beach that provides great views of Diamond Head and Honolulu. Unlimited Mai Tai drinks are included, so come thirsty! #imonaboat
- Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii Kai is located in a marina and serves liquid aloha. The restaurant offers a ton of the breweries’ suds on draft, as well as a tasty menu to choose from. My favorites are the Hula Hefeweizen and Lemongrass Luau beers, and the imu pork sandwich with green papaya slaw.
- Tamura’s is a liquor store with various locations on the island, but includes a market with some of the best darn poke bowls you’ll ever have. The sashimi-grade ahi tuna is prepared daily for freshness. My favorite is the spicy ahi bowl topped with furikake and scallions – a great value for the price.
- Kono’s in Haleiwa is a popular dive among the locals, and cooks its kalua pig for more than 15 hours daily. Try the Haleiwa burrito with kalua pork, potatoes, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and salsa. Go bananas with the chunky monkey milkshake.
- Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu is known for its Portuguese doughnuts called malasadas. They’re served piping hot and have more of a bread-like density than regular doughnuts, without the hole in the middle. Plan to wait in line, since Leonard’s is a local institution that’s been around for more than 60 years.
- Lanikai Juice serves fresh smoothies, juices and acai bowls in several locations around the island. You’ll need a healthy detox after eating island food for a few days! I opted for the acai colada bowl with granola, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, coconut milk, honey and shredded coconut.