Hawaii: Part One, Oahu

Oh we're a thousand miles from comfort,
We have traveled land and sea.
But as long as you are with me,
There's no place I'd rather be.
//Clean Bandit

It's hard to put into words how EXCITED we were for our trip to Hawaii. When you have been planning and counting down to something for the better part of a year, you can't help but let the anticipation and excitement build to outrageous heights. We started our countdown at almost 300 days, so when it was actually down to the final 10...5...3...2...1 it almost didn't seem real. So much planning had gone into it on both our parts and we just could not wait to get there. We had meticulously planned an 11 day trip to the Aloha state in which we would spend three nights on the island of Oahu and the final seven nights on the garden Island of Kauai for a total of ten nights and eleven days. Our original thoughts and plans were to just go to Kauai but myself having been to Oahu before I just felt that if we were going to go all that way, Nick had to at least see and experience the craziness of Oahu for at least a few days. Oahu is "classic Hawaii", or the epitome of what Hawaii is portrayed as in movies, TV, and the like. It is the surfing mecca of the world and is also home to the bustling city of Honolulu, and in particular the famous Waikiki Beach area. So with that being said we ended up deciding to do both and spend the first few days on Oahu. Since it is such a long travel time we also definitely recommend for going longer than a week! I had checked my Dreamdays countdown app religiously for months...
Bright and early on November 20th, we were finally at 0 days and we woke up at my house and headed out the door to JFK airport to catch our 10am direct flight to Honolulu. I was less than looking forward to the 10 and a half hour flight as flying is one of my least favorite activities in the world, but just knowing that we would be getting it over with all at once helped a little bit and that once I stepped back on the ground it would be on Hawaiian soil. I thought the flight was literally never ending and was mid-anxiety/panic attack for the majority of the flight. I think I did about 457 crosswords, read 8 magazines cover to cover and finished half a book because I just knew if I let my mind wander for even a second it would be all over.  I had gotten medicine from my doctor but for some crazy reason decided not to take it. My insane rationale behind it was that what if I took the medicine and it didn't do anything, and then I would just be freaking out even more. Anxiety is so fun!!
Hallelujah, praise Jesus, we made it. The second the plane wheels touched the ground I could literally breathe a sigh of relief and ungrip my wet, sweaty palms from the arm rest. It was probably the biggest relief I had ever felt in my life, and I had felt so bad on the flight that I was literally thinking that I might have to just move to Hawaii and stay there for life because there would be no way you could get me back on that plane.... but I stuffed that to the back of my mind and promised myself I would try not to think about it for the entire vacation until the time came to leave. I had arranged for a little surprise for Nick at Honolulu airport so when we went down to the baggage claim we were greeted by a pretty Hawaiian woman and given beautiful hand made orchid leis. The lei is such a tradition, symbol, and ritual of Hawaii, so I felt it was the perfect way to start our trip and get into the Aloha spirit! The Hawaiians always say to "Embrace the beauty of Aloha," and I wanted to do just that as much as possible.

Unfortunately we got to Honolulu during rush hour since it was 5 hours behind in time zones, so our cab ride from the airport to the hotel was about double what it should have been in both time and cost, but what're ya gonna do! Honolulu, and in particular the Waikiki area, is a legitimate city and high visitor/tourist area, so crowds and traffic are just something you have to expect if you ever go.
We finally arrived to our beautiful hotel, the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, right on Waikiki beach in the heart of Honolulu. Sunset was at 5:47pm and we had just enough time to check in and get down to the beach to watch it, or so we thought.... We got up to the lobby to check in and, in classic Ashley/Nick luck, the entire MENS and WOMENS UNC basketball teams were checking in right in front of us... all 67 of them at once. And on top of that, the hotel had THAT DAY gotten a new operating system that was not working correctly and they had to have a trainee from the software company on hand helping out. All 6 employees (don't ask us why..) were working on the basketball team, leaving the rest of us regular people checking in standing in line, unattended, forever. Nick and I are both very non-confrontational, patient, and relatively relaxed people. We don't put up fights, we don't complain, we don't ask to see managers, we just bite our lips and let it chip away a little bit at our sanity. After 16 hours of traveling however, we were at our wits end, especially since sunset came and went while we were waiting in line to check in for over a half an hour. When we finally got to the receptionist, I stated that we had been waiting for over 30 minutes, and that it was ridiculous. Nick also asked why it took 6 people to check in the team and why the rest of the patrons were ignored. We got a short/snide/wise-ass answer from the young lass behind the desk that there were "only 5 employees" working that day and instead of punching her in the face and/or demanding free breakfast we just cringed and sat through the rest of the check in process like good little humans. Not sure what happened to the customer is always right....? I know some of you are probably flabbergasted but it's really just not in either of our natures to make a scene. FINALLY, we were on our way up to our ocean view room on the 6th floor to unload our stuff and get down to the beach as quickly as possible. We were tired from traveling, but knew we only had to stay up another 4 or 5 hours before we could get to bed, so we wanted to still make the most of Thursday evening and our first night in Hawaii! Just feeling the warm salty air and the cool breeze was AMAZING, seeing as just that morning we were in 30 degree frost bite air with puffy coats on. Here is our view from our balcony down onto the beach! I loved the pale blue water and the contrast of the colorful umbrellas. And talk about palm trees, I am obsessed with them. If we just had palm trees in New England, I don't even think I would mind winter as much. Something about them just puts me in the best mood, they are instant happiness to me! We just wanted to let everything go and get into relaxation mode as quickly as possible.



I set our leis out to dry and snapped a few pics of them while they were still in full bloom and vibrant color. We definitely wanted to keep them so I tried to preserve them as best I could for the remainder of the trip. 

Lei love!

Looking left off our balcony was also a nice city view of Waikiki. We had the best of both worlds, bustling city to the left and serene ocean to the right.

Ahhh, the beach! After a quick change into some beach-wear we headed down to the beach to take a walk and soak in the last little bit of daylight. The sun doesn't set as early as New England this time of year, but it still set fairly early and was mostly dark by 6:30pm. We had purchased a GoPro prior to the trip so we brought that down to the beach to try our first few shots with it. It's weird not having a screen or view finder to look at, so it took a little getting used to how to use it, but we loved it!
Finally, we are in Hawaii!! We were so excited and happy and grateful, we couldn't believe that we were really here! It was surely going to be the trip of a lifetime so we really kept that mentality throughout the whole vacation. We had planned and saved and it was all finally coming to life.
Diamond Head Crater can be seen in the background and is a famous staple of the Waikiki Beach landscape, you can't miss it! It was really neat to have city, beach, ocean, and mountains all in one view. Not something you get to see or experience everyday.


Everyone was just casually hanging out or walking along the beach. It is such a relaxed and slower paced vibe in Hawaii.

Sadly we had missed the sunset by about 15 minutes, but we still had the last rays of light shining over the horizon and making the sky glow.


After a nice and relaxing beach walk, we headed up to the room to get our things a little more situated and unpacked. I put on a casual beach dress and Nick had his board shorts and a Tee on, and we made a mixed drink in our room to unwind and have a little happy hour on our balcony before heading out to dinner. We planned to stay close that night and decided to eat at the very famous Duke's restaurant which, lucky for us, was located in our very hotel right on the beach! Duke is known as the "Father of surfing" and was one of the first pioneers of the sport. They idolize him in Hawaii, for good reason, so the fact that they had a restaurant devoted to him is no surprise. I think they are up to about 4 or 5 locations now, three in Hawaii and two in California.

We had a little wait for a table on the outdoor patio so we grabbed a drink at the bar and sat in the pool lounge chairs while we waited. Cheers to our first night in Hawaii!! I got a strawberry banana daiquiri and Nick tried a beer from a Hawaiian brewery.
We so happy!!
We got our table shortly after and had a great meal! I had a Steak Wedge Salad with bacon, avocado, pear, and walnuts that was really delicious. Nick got the calamari and it was different from calamari we get in New England, but in a good way! It was much bigger and a different shape, but it was so tender and yummy. It was a great first meal and the setting could not have been better, we were practically on the beach.
After dinner we headed into the bar area for another round, and the bartender ended up looking just like Nick's Dad! He even had the same mannerisms, it was so weird!
Once we finished at Dukes we were tired but didn't want the night to end just yet. We decided to set out on a nice long walk down the Waikiki strip. It is kind of like Las Vegas with tons of tourists from all over, and it really is alive at all hours of the night with people. There are tons of shops, bars and restaurants that just seemed to never close! Waikiki is also famous for it's large population of homeless people on the streets, as well as hookers, to put it bluntly! There was certainly some good people watching, that was for sure. Here we are posing with the giant Duke Statue in the public beach park. People come from all over to take pictures with him or pray by him, and many leave their leis hanging on the statue as a sign of love and respect. The walk was the perfect way to wind down and end our first night on Oahu.
Friday morning we woke up pretty well rested and headed out for a walk for coffee and breakfast. We stopped in at the hotel next door, the beautiful Moana Surfrider, to their Honolulu Coffee Kona shop to grab a couple of iced coffees for our stroll to breakfast. It is such a regal and palatial looking hotel, with a nightly rate to match.
Let's just say I don't think iced coffee is really their thing at Kona. It was coffee flavored water at best. At least we only got smalls.
We walked back past the public beach park where we had stopped for a picture with Duke the night before. There were so many people already out and about and on the beach.


We made our way all the way down the strip to Lulu's, a second floor open air restaurant right on the corner overlooking the pier. Our nicknames are also 'Lu', so it was perfect. (PS, those ABC Stores are like Dunkin Donuts' in New England, there is literally one every 50 feet!)

I had been testing Nick on his Island names and by the end of the week he had them all down pat! I will have to give him a quick retest soon to see if he retained it...;-)

We both had really yummy breakfasts at Lulu's and the view can't be beat! My eggs and bacon were especially good. Nick had an omelet and we both got the fruit cups as sides- hooray for toasted coconut!
Flowers for my hair! These orchid garnishes are actually edible, but are quite bland so I just kept them to put in my hair every time we got one.
After breakfast we were pretty full so we decided to continue our walk to burn some of it off. We crossed the street and headed over to the pier. It was only about 9am but was shaping up to be such a beautiful day!
Looking down towards Waikiki.


A nice lady offered to take a few pictures of us!

We passed by Duke again on the way back, and he looked even more cool during the day. There were also a few of these giant 'Banyan' trees with vines and branches that strung all the way down and rooted into the ground. They were really cool and the photo doesn't do it justice! I can imagine having one in your yard as a kid would be tons of fun to play on.
When we got back to the hotel we got right down to business, with a plan to spend the day in the Waikiki/Honolulu area. First up was to hike the Diamond Head Crater trail, which is the mountain you can see from Waikiki beach, and it is probably the most famous landmark of the area besides Pearl Harbor. It is actually a volcanic 'tuff cone' which is about 200,000 years old and has been *thankfully* inactive for about 150,000 years. We did the somewhat intense 1.5 mile hike up the side of the crater to the lookout spot on top that looks down over the entire Honolulu valley and Waikiki area.
Gorgeous views of the valley on the way up. We were pretty dumb and forgot to wear or bring sunscreen, so I was slightly afraid of getting scorched on our first day out in the hot Hawaiian sun, but it didn't end up being too bad as about half of the trail was shaded and it was earlier on in the day.

The GoPro really does a good job at getting the super wide angle views! We can't say enough about the camera, especially if you like to travel or do any kind of action sport. The photos speak for themselves.

Almost to the top!

Just when you think you're at the top, there's about a 120 step staircase going straight up. A definite calf and thigh burner!
View from the top! It was so pretty and you could see Oahu in all directions for miles.
There's Waikiki in the background!
We made it! It was so windy at the top and felt so good to have a nice breeze as it was really hot and we were sweating pretty badly.
Again, great shots by the GoPro!
Making the trek back down was rough on the knees but went by pretty fast! All in all it only took about an hour and a half from start to finish, so it's really a good activity that doesn't take up the entirety of a day if you are trying to do a lot in a little bit of time like we were. Another similar hike is the Koko Head trail which our friends had done on their visit a few months prior.
"Don't go into the night grass!" Anyone who is a fan of Jurassic Park like I am could easily see what looked like scenes from the movie everywhere you turned. I was just hoping that velocipators were not really going to jump out and eat me.


The Asian tourist population is HUGE in Hawaii, and particularly in Honolulu. Being about a 7 hour plan ride from Japan, it is really a top vacation destination for them and they easily outnumber Americans. A lot of signs and things were written in both English and Japanese.
Gorgeous views and vegetation from inside of the Diamond head crater. Crazy to think that Lava was once spewing out of this thing. (Check out the little bird flying by in the photo below!)


After getting back from the hike it was time to hit the beach! The water felt sooo good after the sweaty hike. Thanks to the ABC Store across from our hotel, we got these nifty rafts for just $2 each! We both blew them up ourselves and just as Nick blew his final breath and was about to put the stopper in his, he realized that it had a hole in it. Of course it did! Luckily we had the receipt so he was able to exchange it and somehow managed to fool them into getting the more expensive and padded neon float (I was so jealous) and he had them blow it up for him for an extra $.60. It was so nice just floating around in the warm water under the sun. I think we floated for over an hour just letting the waves and current take us down the beach. We were finally in full relaxation and vacation mode at that point.

I made Nick share his super deluxe Neon float because mine was sucking and not blown up enough. He was really happy about it.

We ended up putting them both together and laying across them like a bed, and that worked the best. The GoPro is awesome to take in the water because it floats and it fully waterproof. We were planning to go surfing later that day so we were just playing around with it in the water to test out the different settings and modes.
Waikiki from the water! And to think just an hour prior we were on the top of the crater in the background of this picture.

They had these big catamarans that would drive up onto the beach to take people and parties out to sea on. As they came into shore the water was usually pretty crowded so I would hear them blowing these loud horns, until they got close and I realized they were actually blowing out of Conch Shells! Really cool.
This photo pretty much sums up Waikiki!
Bringing our floats back to the room as we were getting ready to go surf for the afternoon.
We headed down the beach to one of the many surf rental stations and decided on one that was decently priced and had somewhat good looking boards. We both got 10' boards and Nick was smart enough to pick one that actually had a GoPro mount someone left on the nose! It made it SO easy to just attach the camera to the board and be hands free. That's how we got all of these cool photos and video from surfing. I do have a bunch of videos but I really have no experience with video editing so it might take me awhile to get them up and running but hopefully at some point I will have a little compilation video of our trip.



My Stud! Waiting for waves.... naturally the one time we try to go out surfing it was virtually flat. We did each manage to catch a couple but there was definitely more sit and wait than stand and surf going on. We still had a great time and it was so much fun to be out on the board paddling around trying to catch some waves. Neither of us had been surfing in quite awhile so it felt good to get back on the board and hone our skills a bit. I am a bit of a baby when it comes to the cold so wetsuits and surfing in New England really aren't my thing, especially since when the waves are the best at home there is usually snow on the ground.



Some realllllly attractive underwater photos of me, because I knew that's just what you wanted to complete your day. As you can see I clearly haven't mastered the casual-yet-sexy-and-effortless underwater swim shots yet. And these are the best of the best folks... I pray that the others stay far far away from the interweb.


Love this photo of Nick on his board just waiting for waves with the sun gleaming behind him.

There was a big rainbow over Waikiki at one point when we were out there but I am not sure we managed to get it on camera as it was kind of low and faint.
This perfectly placed water droplet on the lens looks like it is censoring out my business. I had bottoms on, I swear!


PARADISE!
I just love these next photos because we were just having SO much fun and it really shows. I will definitely treasure them always! Surfin' and smoochin', what good days are made of.





After a couple hours we called it quits on the surfing and returned our boards as the sun was starting to get lower and lower in the sky. We were certainly NOT going to miss sunset tonight! We ran up to the room to grab my big Nikon camera and some sandals and shorts and headed back down to the beach to watch it go down. Waikiki faces mostly West so you get an almost perfect view of the sun dipping below the horizon everyday. Must be nice!




It was such a beautiful warm night! Everyone was coming out to gather on the beach and watch it go down, but no one was really talking. It was interestingly quiet and everyone just had their eyes on the prize.

I messed around a lot with the exposure setting on my camera, so that's why some of these photos are light and bright and some are darker because I was going for different looks. I think they came out pretty cool and it was an amazing sunset, our FIRST sunset, in Hawaii!
For some reason I just love this old couple trying to dry off and get ready to leave but they just couldn't take their eyes off the horizon.


Out hotel from the beach! You can see Duke's restaurant right on the ground level, and above that was a Chuck's Steakhouse.

Our nifty GoPro we named Gus! He came everywhere with us and was the star of the trip. We cannot recommend it enough! We have the Hero 3+ and got it on Craigslist new in box for $250. We also got a few accessories that I will go over later as well.


Something about staring out into the ocean is so good for the soul. Wish it was something I could do everyday, but it makes the days where it is possible even more special. I love that ice-blue water, although it felt more like a bath on Waikiki!


There also happened to be a league of sailboats racing by just as the sun was going down, which made for some pretty cool shots.









I like to call these "happy accidents". They are blurry and technically miss-shot, but I love them!


The calming silence and stillness that filled the air just as the sun dipped the below the horizon.



And just like that... she's gone! See you tomorrow, sun.
Friday night we had planned to get fancy and go all-out for dinner and drinks. We both dressed up and the plan was to head out to a Sushi restaurant called Chiba-Ken that our friends Evan and Brenna recommended from their trip a couple months prior. We definitely owe them a big thanks because it was SO GOOD! Some of the best sushi we had ever had.


We decided to walk even though it was about a mile away, but we loved all of our walks and the people watching and window shopping along the way. The picture on the right is the only photo I took at sushi (Nick will love me for it), because we were too busy stuffing our faces. We started off with soups and edamame, and then Nick had a spicy salmon roll and a salmon avocado roll. I had a spicy tuna roll and a California roll. The spicy rolls were very spicy, but we liked them because they had an actual layer of spice in them, the fish wasn't chopped up or mixed into a mayonnaise-y sauce. It was all so fresh and delicious.
After dinner we walked probably two miles all the way down to the other end of the Waikiki strip and went back to Lulu's for their Friday night DJ and drinks. They had started to have Christmas d├ęcor out and it was nice to see all of the lights and wreaths hung throughout the city.
Not without passing some cool stores (88 tees) and hookers on the way, of course!
Our bartender at Lulu's was by far the best bartender we had all week. He was such a cool guy, so informative about the beers and drinks. He let us try whatever we want and if you didn't like it he took it right back. He gave good recommendations based on what we liked and was just so attentive and friendly. We tipped him as if he were a waiter because he really deserved it! He also took this fab picture for us. We stayed until almost closing and had a really fun time before heading back to get to bed before our big Saturday adventure.
Saturday morning was North Shore day! You absolutely can't go to Oahu without making a trip to the North Shore, and it is the main reason I wanted us to stay on Oahu for a few days before Kauai. It is a totally different world than Waikiki/Honolulu and is where the sport of surfing was born and perfected. It has some of the best waves in the world and the most famous surfers live and hang out there on the regular. Beach front property commands a hefty price tag, but if you can afford it it's definitely worth it to live the relaxed and super cool beach-vibe life of the North Shore. We rented a car for the day and "lucked out" by getting upgraded to a Chrysler 200. Woo-hoo...! We did make one quick pit stop on the way, however, at the Dole Pineapple plantation to get some 'pineapple whip' (ice cream).


Dole literally owns THOUSANDS of acres leading up the North Shore. I guess it's easy to get what you want back in the day when your brother is the Governor of the state. I can't even begin to imagine how much the land is worth today, probably more than their business!


Mmmm, we split a big pineapple whip, so so good! Tart and sweet.

After our ice cream we took a quick walk around the grounds to check it out.



When you entrust your boyfriend to take a stupid picture of you in a wooden cutout, this is what happens... lesson learned. That scoundrel!!
We saw these really cool trees that literally looked like they had been painted or colored in, but upon closer look it was actually the bark. It was so smooth and colorful. They are called Rainbow Eucalyptus! I want one in my backyard. (Mom, imagine making a basket out of this!)


Clearly at this point it was time to leave.... on to the North Shore!
 The first town you hit on the North shore is Haleiwa, and there was a few things I knew I wanted to do there before moving on. First off was to visit the Clark Little gallery. Clark is a recently popular photographer who has made a huge name for himself shooting water, waves and shore break. Literally throwing himself into giant waves to get amazing shots. It is really hard nowadays for photographers to make money off of prints, but he has been able to tap into a niche market and has really made a name for himself. His instagram account, @clarklittle has almost 1.5 MILLION followers, again almost unheard of for a photographer (be sure to follow if you aren't already!). He is truly an innovator and a pioneer, and is an idol to me. Vice did a little mini documentary on him recently that you can watch here if you want to get an idea of just how much he commits to his craft. Needless to say I was very excited to stop in and see the gallery and sign the guestbook. Sadly he wasn't there at the time but I bought his 2015 calendar as that's all my budget could afford these days! Maybe someday I'll be able to buy a big fat print to go above my mantle.


The next must-do in Haleiwa was to stop at the famous Macky's Shrimp truck. Shrimp trucks are hugely popular on the North Shore, but Macky's in particular is the most fiend, and has been featured on TV.



We went with the lemon pepper and decided to split it as we weren't too hungry after our breakfast and ice cream. It was so hot out but luckily we got a spot at a table with an umbrella. It was really good and the flavor was delicious! The rice was really good too, especially after it had soaked up some of the shrimp juices.
Chickens, Chickens, everywhere! They are literally all around at all times, whether you are in a store or restaurant or outside, it doesn't matter. Chickens will be there. We found that they were even MORE populated on Kauai, but more on that later!
Happy at Macky's with a sweet side of Pineapple!
Next up we took a little detour at the Waimea Valley rainforest. We didn't feel like paying to go on the trail but we still just made a pit stop to look around the lush grounds. The trail leads to a pretty waterfall so it is a nice activity if you have more time to spend! We had the whole North Shore to tour so we just made a quick stop and were back on our way. There were also tons of this cool Acacia tree that had a flat top and literally created a canopy over you. They are actually native to Africa but somehow a ton of them ended up being brought to Hawaii. We saw several on Oahu and even more on Kauai.
A gecko!

After that it was what we had been waiting for, and the main reason we decided to spend a few days on Oahu, Sunset Beach! This is THE beach of all beaches for surfing, and where you can expect to see and catch those perfect tubes. Surfers come from all over the world to this mecca. The soft sand and dangerous coral make a perfect combination for huge and powerful waves that can be VERY dangerous if you are not experienced. Just watching from shore and feeling the waves crash through the vibration of the sand was enough for us.


The waves were not overly huge that day, but this picture doesn't do their size any justice. These waves were still insanely heavy and big. Could easily swallow you whole if you didn't know what you were doing.

Just from this picture you can see the waves coming in at all different angles, creating huge and powerful currents and riptides. Even going in up to your ankles is difficult to walk and pulls you back pretty powerfully.
Perfect pipe!
All along this stretch of Sunset are some of the most sought-after beachfront properties in the world. Most are owned by pro-surfers and/or by companies who sponsor them. We were able to see the Billabong house, Quicksilver House, and the Volcom House all within a short stretch. Must be nice to be invited to stay at one of their gorgeous mansions to do nothing but surf and have a blast all day on their dime!
I only really know the top names in surfing, but I am sure we saw many pros and local legends that day who we had no idea we were looking at.


The sand on Sunset is even hard to walk on! It's very thick and wet and you sink in about 6 inches with each step. We probably only walked a half a mile but it felt like a crazy workout! I was down to my bikini by the time we finished.
We talked a lot about how different of a lifestyle it would be to grow up somewhere like that. These kids have no idea how lucky they have it! Granted, there are downsides to everywhere, but I certainly didn't see any while I was there. I can just picture the amount of adventure and debauchery we would have gotten into as kids living in the environment. Luckily I think most of the parents have a very relaxed and laid back mind set or else they'd be worried sick all day long!

I think he could live the surf life pretty well! He definitely fits in with the crowd.


Professional photogs just line the beach all day with their mega zoom lenses, waiting for the perfect shot and the perfect wave.
Even just paddling out here would probably be enough to tire me out!
I wish we could have stayed all day.... it was heaven!



Pretty sure these signs and flags are up all day, every day.


Some wide shots with the GoPro.



My favorite color palette!
We made it to surfers paradise! Halfway around the world, and it was worth it!


The GoPro is officially also the most epic Selfie taker yet! Nick was SO thrilled with all the selfies we got to take all week, he could hardly contain himself.
Just as we were heading out of Sunset to drive over to Pipeline I loved this view looking back down the path and through the trees.




Picture perfect in my book. I love the way it's framed!
Before the main road there is a smaller inner Street/sidewalk type of thing that leads to all of the beach front homes. I loved this door, if only I knew who lives there! We jumped in the car and headed about another mile down the road to the Banzai Pipeline part of Sunset Beach. We were so lucky in that it is winter in Hawaii right now, and November and December host some of the best waves all year and the biggest competitions. The surfing triple crown had been under way and the Reef Hawaii Pro had ended just the day before. We were there on the very first day of setup for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Vans World Cup. 
We got to see all of the setup taking place and see them putting up the stands and monitors and signs. The competition was set to begin the very next day and would span from November 24th to December 6th. The last leg of the Triple Crown is Pipe Masters which has actually just begun today!

SO cool! The best of the best would be here to surf in just a few hours, and I am sure the beach and parking would be extremely packed. I am glad we got to see it all being set up.
I love this photo!


In our glory....
Everywhere we went there were people selling fresh coconuts out of the back of their trucks. They would just machete off the top and stick a straw in it. We knew we wanted to get one at some point but we ended up waiting until Kauai. Still was cool to watch though.



Some shots of the scene with the GoPro.


Next up we headed to the eastern most point of the North Shore where the only resort on the North Shore insstationed, the infamous and beautiful Turtle Bay Resort, as seen in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It has a nice little inlet where wadda-ya-know, you can see turtles swimming while you snorkel. I was lucky enough to have stayed there for a few days last time I was in Hawaii but this time we just took a stroll through the grounds to check it all out and point out scenes from the movie.
Every room on both sides has an ocean view, one of the awesome things about the hotel.




It also has some nice waves and many surfers were out off shore riding them.

Checking the surf... looks pretty good to me!
It was about 3pm at that time, or 8pm at home, which meant it was the perfect time for a cocktail. We bellied up to the poolside oceanfront bar and ordered up a round. I got a delicious strawberry daiquiri, probably my most favorite one of the trip. We had a funny bartender who told us he was going to quit working once he made his millionth Mai-Tai. We couldn't tell if he was serious or joking...
After Turtle Bay we made the random spur-of-the-moment decision to drive home down the East Coast instead of going back the way we came. Albeit a longer drive, it would give us a chance to explore a part of the Island neither of us had ever seen before, and boy was I happy that we did. Just as we began heading south we passed through a little town and I saw the sign for Keana Farms Ziplining! This was opened by a friend of mine from High School and her husband! They opened their first successful zipline biz in Tennessee several years ago and had recently moved out to Oahu about a year ago to open up this second location. I had been in contact with her before we left and I didn't have service that day but little did we know they had invited us to go ziplining earlier that morning in a Facebook message as they had two spots open up last minute. We were so bummed we missed the opportunity as it looks like it is a ton of fun! Definitely something we will keep on the agenda for next time! I wanted to at least stop in front of the sign and take a picture to be able to send to them to show them that we stopped by (funny story, their names are also Ashley and Nick!). Congrats to them both on an amazing attraction! They have 100% positive feedback and are the #4 ranked activity on TripAdvisor for all of Oahu in just over a year.


It didn't take long before we were SO thankful we drove down the East coast. There were things we saw on Oahu that I didn't even know existed there! Huge cliffs and mountains, valleys and rivers, there were surprises and beauty around every corner. Tiny little quaint and quiet towns without any of the tourist invasion of Waikiki or the North Shore. It looked like the perfect place to live if you moved to Oahu! I mean, check out these photos... it looked like right out of a scene from Lost. I think I said PULL OVER about ten times within an hours drive.







We saw another beautiful vista and pulled off the road. We found a little path that led down to a bog and a rocky beach with this unreal view. The pictures are good, but they still don't even do it justice. We were speechless for most of it! Like I said, I had no idea that this type of thing existed on Oahu, I thought it was only on the other islands.

The sun peeping through the clouds and onto the mountains... picturesque!


And to find a spot like this on busy Oahu with no people on it... we felt so lucky!


It doesn't get much better. (until you get to Kauai, that is ;-))

Like I said, every turn we took it was more "ooh's" and "ahh's". We really took our time on the drive back and it was worth every second.

When we were almost back towards the South I pulled up the map to get an idea of what we were near. We were leaving Oahu the next day so there wasn't much time left to do too much else. I still had a couple things on my list that I really wanted see, in particular Lanikai Beach and the Makapu'u Tidepools. To my surprise, we ended up being right near both of those locations! I was so excited to be able to make pit stops and see them both. Lanikai Beach is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and always lands on the Top 10 List of sites like National Geographic and Travel Channel to name a few. The sand is pure white and the ocean color is the perfect sea foam green and icy blue. To top it off, there are small rocky island formations just off the coast that give it a really pretty and interesting horizon. The sun sets behind the beach so it tends to cast pretty pink and purples skies as well. We caught it just around sunset and it was, truly beautiful.
The houses along Lanikai also go to show that it is one of the nicest places on the Island. Huge oceanfront mansions which have included owners such as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Pfiefer, and Paul Mitchell.


Can't beat that. Just gorgeous.

The color of the ocean was different than the other beaches as well. It was more of a seafoam/icy blue.
Na Mokolua islands off the coast of Lanikai. A popular spot to kayak to as there are some cool inlets and places to cliff jump off of them.








Sunset behind Lanikai! Once the sun sets behind the mountains it gets dark pretty fast, so we didn't stay too much longer as we still had one more spot we wanted to see. If we had more time though we would definitely spend more of it at Lanikai.


I only took this picture to try and sneak a pic of the gourmet family photo in coordinated outfits that was going on to the left. Too funny, but the perfect spot for it!
GoPro selfies at Lanikai- SO beautiful!



Even though my eyes are closed I love this picture... and my man!


Goodbye Lanikai!! You certainly did not disappoint. Make sure it is on your list if you ever get to Oahu!



Last but not least it was a stop at the Makapu'u Tidepools. It is really popular to swim in them during the day as they get really warm! We had our clothes on and it was getting dark fast so we just checked it out and went in up to our knees. Another beautiful spot, we couldn't take a bad photo if we tried.



Ignore the random stuffed elephant on the rocks. Although looking back on it now it's funny because the Elephant is actually our "symbol" and since the beginning of our relationship we collect an elephant wherever we go! We have quite the collection now. I should have picked up on the sign while we were there, but it's neat that it just hit me now.


A lot of guys fish or cast net off these rocks as well. It must be a good spot!

Post-card worthy!

I loved these pretty Hawaiian succulents. I wish I could have brought some home but the agricultural police would have nabbed me at the airport.

We had an amazing day on the North Shore and driving down the eastern coast and really got to see and do everything we set out to accomplish. Our last night in Oahu we stayed closer to the hotel and ended up eating at the beautiful Moana Surfrider Hotel next door to ours that I showed a picture of earlier in the post. They have a really nice outdoor patio area with live music and a smaller menu. It was perfect for what we were looking for for our last night. We wanted something right on the beach and a little more casual. 
Grabbed drinks at the bar while waiting for the perfect table to open up...
The Beach Bar! My kind of restaurant name...

Our REALLY yummy meals! They are huge on their 'Poke' in Hawaii, which is Hawaiian style Ahi-Tuna. Nick had a really good Poke wrap with taro chips and I had the steak and frites in a really good sesame style sauce. Our waiter was also pretty awesome and we think he was some type of savant because he literally had ten tables at once, didn't write down a single thing and didn't get anything wrong.
In our family and between close friends, we have a little phrase we like to use where we say "You got GOT"... with emphasis on the second 'Got'. It kind of means like 'you've been had', 'you got burned', or 'jokes on you' but with more emphasis on the making fun of you for it part. We asked the waiter to split our $64.92 bill evenly, which would have worked out to exactly $32.46 each. We get our tabs back and here is the result. All I gotta say is, props to that waiter and Nick got GOTTTT!!!!!!! We could not stop laughing and it was a hilarious and perfect way to end the dinner, especially for me since I got to pay less!
A great last night on Oahu!
After dinner we took a night walk on the beach before heading back to the room to pack as we would need to leave around 11 the next day to catch our flight to Kauai. 
Our messy but spacious room! We loved the accommodations and despite the bitchy front desk staff, everything else went great!
Looking out to our balcony. We ended up walking our floats down to the beach and giving them to two lucky gal pals who were about to go for a swim, they were siked!
We walked along Waikiki beach one last time and soaked it all in! It was another gorgeous day on the Island, we had the best weather in Oahu and could not have asked for more. It really is the prefect climate and hardly ever goes beyond 70-90 degrees morning noon or night.

The three famous Waikiki beach hotels... the Royal Hawaiian in pink, then ours the Outrigger Waikiki, and lastly the gorgeous Moana Surfrider.
Where we ate dinner the night before.
We grabbed some lounge chairs by the pool and soaked up the last half hour outdoors before having to head to the airport on our hotel shuttle. Our flight to Kauai was at 1:50pm that day so they made us take the 10:45 shuttle to the airport.
Palms for days baby!



Goodbye hotel! We miss you already.

As I said the hotel made us take their 10:45 shuttle to the airport and we ended up being there WAY too early as it was just an inter-island flight and the airport is small to begin with. We had over an hour to kill so mimosas were in order at the bar and we made calls back home to let everyone know how it was going so far. It was nice to talk to our Mom's and it eased my mind before having to get on a plane again. This time though, I knew I could handle the 22 minute flight as opposed to the 10.5 hour flight a few days prior.
Goodbye Oahu! We loved you and we will miss you! Off to have the time of our lives on Kauai...
Whew! That was a lot! There are tons of laughs and little details in between that made our time on the island super special and one that we will never forget, but that was the 'gist' of our three nights on Oahu! Since Oahu and Kauai are so different it almost felt as though we had two totally separate vacations which was nice. We didn't think it could get much better after leaving Oahu, but boy were we wrong... It may take me a few days to get the first post from Kauai up but thanks so much for following along and I can't wait to give you all the fabulous details of Hawaii's Garden Island. Mahalo!

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