This Christmas instead of spending money on a real tree and gifts, we built a tree out of pallets and bought plane tickets to Hawaii!
We flew into Honolulu and stayed in Hawaii Kai for 13 days with our friend Sam. Thirteen days seems like a long time, but a lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to explore all of Hawaii’s glory. We crammed in as much as we could during our short stay.
Oahu is the most populated Island in Hawaii. It is littered with tourist thanks to the main airport hub being located in Honolulu. I’m talking “tourist-with-a-selfie-stick-taking-selfies-in-their-Sunday-best-while-standing-on-the-sidewalk” tourist.
Hawaii has an abundance of photo worthy opportunities. Standing on a sidewalk in down town Waikiki is not one of them.
Here are 10 of my favorite things we did on the island that weren’t over populated by tourist and their selfie sticks. Some of them legal, some of them not so much, but all of them worth exploring!
You can see all the places I write about in this short video we made.
1. Dead Mans Cat Walk Hike
You will be trespassing this entire hike, but its totally worth it. The breathtaking view will forever be engraved in your memory. Luckily we didn’t get in trouble with any guards or cops. There was a man in a truck at the top of mountain that we think was a guard, but he just watched us do yoga and skate tricks on the Cat Walk.
The hike was about 30/45 minutes, and steep. The road was paved the entire way, which made it relatively easy. Keep an eye out for Jackson Chameleons! We found one crossing the road. After playing with him for a little bit we set him free into the grass.
Here is a great blog post with step-by-step directions.
UPDATE: The Catwalk was torn down shortly after we went on this hike. I would still recommend this hike for the incredible view.
2. Upper Makua Cave
This was my favorite adventure of our entire trip. We pulled over because we saw a sign for Lower Makua Cave. Sam remember hearing something about a hike to an upper cave with an amazing view. After a quick google search we started our trek up the mountain. We were greeted by a “Warning Very Explosive Area” sign. Despite its best efforts, we decided life is too short to let signs stop you from living. We crossed over into the “explosive” area, and good news, we didn’t explode! Make sure you wear pants on this hike. The vegetation is wild and will cut up your legs if you hike it in shorts.
We hung out up here for about an hour listening to good music, and enjoying the surreal view. A lot of people take yoga photos up here. I was in such awe at the beauty of my surroundings that I forgot about yoga until I was back on flat land.
Here is the link to the blog we used for step-by-step directions to the top
3. Rent A Harley
Okay, Obviously I know everyone won’t be able to do this one. If you’re staying in Waikiki, I’m begging you rent a car, or a scooter, or something, at least one day and drive around the island. Head up to the North Shore, eat some shaved ice with condensed milk drizzled on it, and check out Turtle Beach. Cruise through the beautiful country back roads of Hawaii and soak up the scenery. Mountains to your left, ocean to your right, and pure happiness in the middle. We rented our Harley in Waikiki from Chase Hawaii Rentals. Our Harley was a piece of crap, but we got it half price because we rented it on Christmas day. Driving around the entire island on a Harley Davidson breathing in the Hawaiian fresh air is the perfect way to spend a day.
4. Alan Davis
Finding cliffs to jump off of is one of my favorite things in the world. Alan Davis has a wooden board set up like a diving board coming out of a rock wall. It’s a quick 15/20 minute walk from where you park to a secluded beach area. Once you get to the beach area you climb up the hill on the left side and walk the trail to the jumping board. It’s a short, fun jump into crystal clear ocean water. I was surprised how mellow the ocean was once I actually jumped in, because on the other side of the rock barrier the waves were huge. Where you jump in is almost as calm and peaceful as a lake. It is paradise.
After a few cannon balls, dives and front flips off the board we soaked up some rays on the rocks and relaxed.
We did more filming here than taking photos. If you watch our Hawaii Video here you can get a better idea for what Alan Davis looks like.
5. Hanauma Bay Bridge Hike/ Rock Bridge
We were completely unprepared for this hike. We started off doing the easy hike over-looking Hanauma Bay. We were trespassing this entire hike, but you know what they say, “The best adventures are the ones you can get arrested for taking” LOL.
The first part of the hike is “easy” in the sense that it is a paved, uphill hike. It is incredibly steep, and you will feel the burn as you climb to the top. Since I was told that it was a paved hike I was wearing sandals and shorts. This ended up being a big mistake once we got to the top and decided we wanted to hike down to the rock bridge. The hike to the rock bridge is rough, unpaved, dirty, uneven…off the beaten path to put it nicely. It is all down hill so coming back is terrible. Hikers coming uphill were passing us and using store bought hiking sticks to climb up. They were older so I thought maybe they were being dramatic…THEY WEREN’T.
When we got down to the bridge it was high tide and the waves were crashing hard on the bridge. Time your hike with low tide if you can. There is potential for some epic pictures on the bridge. The hike back is 98% uphill, and mostly rocks and tiny dirt paths. The landscape is gorgeous but it’s a hard hike. Especially if you are in sandals. I would definitely do this hike again, but in hiking shoes, and with a large supply of water.
6. China Wall / Spitting Cave
China Wall is the perfect place to catch a sunset. We went here a few different times during our trip. Rock meets ocean and ocean meets sun at China Wall. This place reminded me a lot of Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. We saw a few kids jumping off the wall into the ocean! Of course none of us had our suits at that time, and the other nights we were out there it was too windy. A lot of surfers go out there to surf, which is super rad to watch.
Down from the wall is Spitting Cave. Spitting cave is one of those places where you can sit alone and get in touch with nature. Watching the cave suck in the ocean water and spit it back out is mesmerizing. I could sit there all day and watch all the different ways the cave spits back out the ocean. As gross as that sounds it truly is hypnotizing to watch. I have a video of the cave spitting on my phone that I have watched 100 times since Ive been home from Hawaii. If you watch our video you can understand the allure of these two landmarks a little better.
7. Swim with a Sea Turtle
One place you may be able to swim with a sea turtle is snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. Unfortunately, when we went snorkeling there we didn’t see any turtles. Hanauma Bay is crowded with tourist, but not touristy, if that makes any sense. If you don’t have time rent a kayak, or go to Turtle Beach then definitely go snorkeling there.
During the winter months the swell is too big and the turtles stay away from Turtle Beach. We didn’t meet any turtles there but we did meet a cool roaming rooster that wanted to be fed. I was begining to give up on my “swim with a Sea Turtle” dream when our last day on the island rolled around.
On the last day we rented kayaks and paddled out to the Mokes. Will and Sam were snorkeling probably 100 yards away from the island. Sam came in, handed me the snorkel gear, and told me he and Will spotted a turtle! Now, I’m not the best swimmer… and I SUCK at snorkeling, but I decided I would die happy if I got to swim with a turtle in Hawaii. I jumped in the ocean and tried to find Will. The current was a little rough but I found him and the turtle. Yes, it is as magical as it sounds! He was eating algae off the rocks on the bottom of the ocean floor. We took a few time-lapse photos with the GoPro and left him to eat his dinner. On the swim back in I really thought I was going to drowned, but I made it safely back to the sand.
Would I almost drowned to swim next to a sea turtle again? Totally dude.
8. West Side Tide Pools
Walking around exploring the west side after hiking Upper Makua Cave we found a bunch of tide pools. We picked one and jumped in it to watch the sunset. Little tropical fish swam around our feet waiting for the tide to come in and take them back to sea. Eventually the waves started crashing close to our tide pool and we decided that it would be a good idea to get out of our “hot tub.” On the walk back to the car we saw whales jumping off in the distance into the sunset…pure magic. Oh, and did I mention this was all on our first day on the island? Hawaii does not disappoint.
9. Eat a Loco Moco
Okay guys, if you do anything when you visit Hawaii PLEASE eat a Loco Moco. This is a traditional Hawaiian breakfast dish and it is de-freaking-licious! It sounds weird and I was iffy about ordering it at first. What is it you ask? 2 over easy eggs, a hamburger patty and rice, smothered in brown gravy. At first I was like “Whaaaattf??” But I’m so happy that I ordered it because, wow, just wow. I spent the rest of my time on the island ordering Loco Mocos from different restaurants.
And the winner for Best Loco Moco on Oahu isssssssss: Mokes Bread and Breakfast in Kailua. Their gravy blew all the other competition away.
10. Explore Local Coffee Houses
Exploring coffee houses is a favorite hobby of ours. Starbucks is great, but they just can’t offer you the authentic local vibe of your surroundings. We tried out quite a few different coffee shops. They were all cute in their own way. There were 2 that stuck out the most, and got repeat visits.
Hawaiian Island Cafe in Waimanalo – We stopped here for the first time on our way to an ATV tour at Kualoa Ranch. Everything about the atmosphere of this cafe is aloha! The decor is laid back, the staff lives life aloha, and the coffee and food is phenomenal. I give it 5 stars.
The other coffee house we really liked was right down the street from us in Hawaii Kai.
Island Brew Coffee House – The decor is adorable and the coffee is delicious. The view isn’t horrible either. It’s located water front in a marina.
Unfortunately I snapchatted all my photos from the coffee houses and forgot to save them to my phone. You will just have to check them out on your own!
A Few Touristy Things I Suggest
- North Shore
Get up to the North Shore, eat shaved ice with condensed milk on it, and find this freaking beautiful tree to take a photo with.
2. Pillbox Hike in Lanikai
This hike is so much fun. Its a perfect sunrise hike! And check out that view of The Mokes!
3. Kayak to The Mokes
We rented our Kayaks from Two Good Kayaks in Kailua for a reasonable price. Make an entire day adventure out of this. There is a lot to explore on the island and in the water on the way out to the island.
4. Sandy Beach
Or any beach besides Waikiki Beach. We built a sand man here and took some Christmas photos. There was also an awesome Boba Tea Truck parked here! (The green boba tea is delicious!)
5. Lava Tube
Find the Lave tube tunnel to the ocean… If thats not the coolest concept ever, I don’t know what is.
Ditching Christmas and exploring Hawaii instead is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as a couple. Mountains, jungle, ocean, adventure and the most down to earth locals living life Aloha…what more could you want? Im not sure what escapade we will take that will top Hawaii. I’m excited to find out! Thank you so much to Sam, Wes and Caroline for welcoming us into your home and showing us the magical parts of Hawaii!
For the full Oahu experience check out our Video!