It’s time to recap our recent jaunt to paradise! Because I take (multiple) pictures of everything, I’m breaking it down into five easy-to-digest posts. Not only will I bombard you with photos, but also will share with you all the nitty gritty. Bloggers were a big part of our travel planning, so my hope is that someday one of you or someone new will come to these posts for inspiration. Plus, it’s a good way for me to cull through my travel journal and bring you the highlights. Here we go!
Fair Warning: Put up your feet; this is the longest of the five posts (I hope).
# Day 0.5
We left Utah in the afternoon, allowing us to sleep in and finish packing and kissing our dog before we had to leave for the airport. “It already looks like Maui; why are we even leaving?” Well, kinda.
Flights = smooth. Arrived in Hawaii around 6pm, picked up our car and headed to our place on Waikiki Beach. All smiles from here on out.
# Day 1
Jet lag is a beast that can only be conquered by rolling with it. Cue us waking up at 5am, just in time to watch the sun rise. Our friend told us to use our time confusion to our advantage and hike Diamond Head Crater early before it’s hot and before we’re too tired to consider it later in the trip.
So that’s what we did.
Even though we started the hike around 7:30am, there were still plenty of people joining us.
The hike itself was not hard, but the path was rocky and the stairs plentiful.
There was also a dark tunnel portion that had me feeling a little trapped and short of breath. But…all terrors aside…it was totally and absolutely worth it when you get to the top.
The hike took us an hour round-trip—tops—but we were still looking for replenishment after. Judging by my Google Map, Hawaii’s famous stop for Malasadas was on our way back to our condo. It was an easy decision.
Welcome to Leonard’s Bakery.
Malasadas are Portuguese doughnuts made with a yeast dough and typically rolled in sugar. Leonard’s are the best on the island and we were totally smitten as soon as we walked in. The smell was heavenly. All doughnuts are made to order and served piping hot.
We ordered six: 2 regulars (sugar only), 1 cinnamon sugar, 1 Li Hing, 1 custard-filled, 1 coconut-filled.
We ate one each right away while they were warm. Unbelievably good, especially the ring of sugar left around your lips when you’ve finished. It’s a sure sign of a good meal.
Li Hing was labeled as the “local favorite,” so I went with that. It’s a sweet-and-salty powder made from plums that Hawaiians put on everything. I could not get enough of this stuff. I think I’ll order some online and make my own doughnuts.
After returning home for showers we headed back out for more fun and deliciousness. First stop: The Dole Plantation.
I joked on Instagram that this place was like Oz…the most vibrant color everywhere you looked. And I wasn’t lying.
Everything was lush and blooming and all over the place. I loved these pink pineapples the most.
Of course you can’t come to the Dole Plantation without getting a Dole Whip or Dole Float. You haven’t tasted pineapple until you’ve been to Hawaii.
Joe’s friend from his drum corps days, JJ, lives in Hawaii and is Chef de Cuisine at Oahu’s premier steak house. I’ll write more about JJ in the next post, but here’s a quick read on his incredible rise to culinary fame.
JJ joined us at Dole and then took us around his favorite spots on the North Shore.
The North Shore is gorgeous, filled with fantastic beaches with shallow waters for perfect snorkeling.
We even walked out to some of those pools.
He also took us up to North Shore’s famous resort, Turtle Bay, to walk out on their lava rocks.
We saw lots of crabs—both dead and alive—and JJ even found a shallow pool filled with sea salt. The real deal.
We said goodbye (for now) to JJ at the resort and stopped at Laniakea Beach, which is known for its turtles. Judging by the amount of cars on the side of the road and people clustered on the beach, I knew we were going to see something. Sure enough, about 20 huge sea turtles were swimming in shallow waters.
Mostly you saw their backs when the waves died down…
…and if you were lucky you’d see a head pop up for the briefest of seconds…
…and if you were really lucky one would wash up near you and start eating the algae.
Insert all of the exclamation points!!!!!!
Though he quickly got back in the water, Joe and I agree that seeing him so closely was one of the highlights of the entire trip.
We drove through the old village of Haleiwa on our way back to Honolulu.
It’s the home of another Hawaiian favorite: Matsumoto’s Shave Ice.
Clearly we weren’t the only ones with this idea…
After being in the sun all day, there is no place you’d rather hand over your Benjamins than to a business that only sells ice and sugar. Okay, maybe not Benjamins, but Washingtons.
Oh the happiness of these campers.
Joe’s three flavors were Vanilla, Strawberry Cream and Coconut Cream, while I went for the traditional “Rainbow” of Strawberry, Lemon and Pineapple.
It was perfection. This was the first of many shave-ice stops.
# Day 2
We packed most of our adventures into our time on Oahu so that our time on Maui would be as relaxed as its locals. Day two was no exception.
We hit the ground running by heading north to Kualoa Ranch.
The ranch’s fame comes from the array of TV shows and films that have called its rolling hills home, like Jurassic Park, Lost, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, Windtalkers, Godzilla, Mighty Joe Young – the list goes on and on.
We made earlier reservations for a one-hour ATV ride. (Spots fill up!) We had never been on ATVs before, but it was SO. MUCH. FUN. I didn’t want to get off…so if you’re looking into this, get the two-hour tour.
The first stop was to a Jurassic Park site where part of the tree remains that acted as shelter during the first movie’s stampede. You can watch the scene here.
Our guide knew what was up and pulled this dinosaur out of her pocket to take our pic. Ha!
I can think of no other place quite as picturesque as this.
We also stopped at Hurley’s Golf Course from Lost.
Visiting a Lost location felt like coming full circle to us: we watched the show religiously while we were dating; watched the series finale on our honeymoon and here we are five years later! We love us some Lost.
From the course we could also see a few Godzilla footprints.
Overall, this was one of my favorite hours of the trip. Highly recommend the Ranch to anyone who loves movies, TV or places that are drop-dead gorgeous.
Near the ranch (like, very near) is the Byodo-In Temple.
It was incredible—so peaceful and serene.
With its ornate architecture and black swans, it’s a popular stop, but well worth it. Before entering the temple, ring the sacred bell.
It is believed that its unique tones clear the mind of negativity, imparts deep peace and brings happiness, blessings and a long life.
Then, slip off your shoes and step in to see this magnificent Buddha.
Another Lost connection: This was the site of Sun’s father’s house.
Definitely a worthwhile stop for any hurried traveler.
We spent the afternoon at Kailua Beach Park, famous for its clear waters. I’d say so!
The things we wear to protect our skin!
We spent that night walking around Waikiki Beach and tasting the “flavor of aloha” at Lappert’s Ice Cream.
I had Kauai Pie: Kona Coffee ice cream with coconut flakes, dark chocolate fudge, macadamia nuts and vanilla cake crunch. Joe got Heavenly Hana (Dark Chocolate ice cream with marshmallow swirl, chocolate covered roasted almonds, white chocolate macadamia nuts and sea salt) and NeNe Tracks (Vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered honey roasted almonds, cashews and peanuts, mini peanut butter cups, dark chocolate fudge and salted caramel).
Stay tuned for Parts 2-5!