For me, planning our honeymoon was almost as much fun as planning the wedding itself. Shortly after getting engaged we decided Hawaii was our dream destination and began planning a 10 day trip to the islands of Oahu and Maui. There are pros and cons to each island so it's important to do your research to see what best fits your needs and wants. We decided on Oahu for the first leg of our trip because it was more cost efficient to fly into and hotel prices were a bit cheaper. We stayed in Waikiki which is one of the nation's largest cities so it can be quite overwhelming in terms of crowds and traffic. If you're in search of the lush jungles and waterfalls I wouldn't suggest staying on this part of the island. But it does offer access to a variety of restaurants and entertainment within walking distance.
Below is how we spent the first leg of our journey on the island of Oahu. **Disclaimer: my husband and I are not the best beach people - we crave adventure instead. He tends to joke when I create an itinerary asking if he'll have time to sleep on the trip. Most our my trips are packed full but feel free to pick and choose what suits you.
Day 1: Travel
We flew from Chicago to Oahu with a six hour layover in Seattle. Normally, this wouldn't be an ideal travel day but it worked in our favor giving us just enough time to leave the airport and explore Pike Place Market.
The market was so much fun to stroll around. Since we were boarding a plane we didn't do much shopping but we still got to admire the beautiful flowers (and seriously so cheap..I'm talking $10 for a full bouquet) We also saw the famous fish throwers and stuck our gum to the iconic gum wall. The gum wall is easy to miss as it's down an alley off the side of the main market. We also had enough time to grab a beer at Old Stove Brewery before heading back to the airport.
Day 2: Pearl Harbor and Paradise Cove
With the time change you're likely to wake up at the crack of dawn. We certainly did and decided to walk down toward the beach and find a place to eat breakfast. We stopped at Eggs N' Things which had the best crab cake eggs Benedict. The place is small and tends to fill up quick so go early to ensure no wait.
We had plans to visit Pearl Harbor later in the day which was my husband's one request for this island. You can book tickets for the USS Arizona up to two weeks in advance from recreation.gov which saves time and avoids waiting in line to get free tickets which sell out quick. We also bought tickets to tour the Missouri and the Bowfin submarine from the visitor's center. It was an amazing piece of history to take in and the guided tours were very informational. We spent a total of 4 or 5 hours here before heading to our luau.
Attending a luau was a must do for me on this trip (only in small part because of the flower leis). There are a lot of options on all of the islands for this experience. After doing plenty of research, we decided on Paradise Cove Luau and I'm so glad we did. Plan to arrive in plenty of time before the show to explore the grounds and participate in the many activites they offer. I got to make my own lei bracelet and we watched the ceremonial pulling of the fish nets and the underground oven cooking. The food was delicious and is served buffet style. I couldn't get enough of the kalua pork. The entertainment was captivating but I wouldn't advise trying to squeeze both of these activities in the same day. The jet lag started to catch up with us toward the end of the show.
Day 3: North Shore
This was one of my favorite days of the whole trip! Seriously don't miss driving out to the North Shore. This was our first glimpse at the true island life. Our first stop was in Halewia town. We arrived late morning and were able to park on the street with no problem. We walked around to a few of the shops in town and stopped for our first shave ice experience at Matsumoto's. The lines can get out the door later in the afternoon so go early. I'm also a sucker for a good wall mural so I went on the hunt for the angel wing painting located right outside Anahulu Shave Ice.
Our next stop was Wow Wow Lemonade (seriously life changing!) We stopped two more times when we were on Maui. From there we walked to the famous Giovanni's Shrimp Truck for lunch. Order the garlic shrimp..trust me. Don't worry it's located in a small lot with a number of other food trucks if you're not a shrimp fan.
We continued driving along the North Shore. Our next stop was Laniakea Beach (also known as Turtle Beach) because I just HAD to see a sea turtle. This beach didn't disappoint. There is a little parking area you can pull off the road and walk down the hill to the beach. I had read morning was the best time to spot turtles but we arrived early afternoon and saw at least 10.
Waimea Valley was next on the list. This is a botanical garden with a waterfall which you can swim in. The day we went the water level was too low so we weren't able to swim. But we did walk around the gardens for an hour or so. It's a bit pricey ($16 a person) but offers some great cultural education and a look at island plant life.
Waimea Bay Beach is located down the road from the garden and we stopped here for a little relaxation. This beach is also home to the famous black rock which you can jump off. We both took turns taking a leap into the ocean! When we started to get hungry for dinner we continued north toward Shark's Cove and stopped at another food truck lot. To end our day we drove the long way around the island back toward our hotel. While it took a little longer the views were breathtaking.
Day 4: Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach
We started our morning hiking Diamond Head (before it got too hot). If you drive you'll pay $5 per car to park near the start of the trail. It's a relatively easy hike but is an uphill climb a majority of the way with a lot of stairs as you get closer to the summit. The views when you make it to the top are hard to beat.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing on Waikiki beach before heading back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner at Duke's. There was a long wait but luckily we had made a reservation in advance and were able to be seated right away with great views of the ocean. After dinner we walked along the beach and stopped by a free cultural show on Kuhio Beach which happens every Thursday night around sunset. To end our night we stopped by RumFire, the Sheraton's beachside lounge, for drinks.
Day 5: Manoa Falls
We were flying to Maui later in the afternoon but wanted to make the most of our last day on Oahu. On a whim we decided to hike Manoa Falls which is located only a few minutes outside of the city. It was a pleasant surprise offering beautiful rainforest views and a 150-foot waterfall at the end. Parts of the trail can get a bit rocky and uneven and depending on how much it rains, muddy so make sure you wear the right shoes.
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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