My absolute favorite memory of this year so far has been my (work)week-long trip to O’ahu back in February. With the help of my job, I was able to attend a design conference and make one of my dream destinations a reality! Since I haven’t posted about it before and only really shared stories of my travels on my older IG account, I wanted to blog about it here. With everything that’s going on, it’s nice to be able to revisit these memories and see everything all over again.
Five Days in O’ahu, HI
on solo traveling
I started solo traveling in 2015, but even when I traveled out on my own, there was always a comfort behind knowing that I at least knew someone if I ever panicked about being on my own. My first real solo travel experience with not knowing anyone was a 24-hr fluke where I got stranded in SFO, but this one was the first time I really went anywhere for longer than a day without knowing a single soul and being technically an ocean away from my family.
I think that there’s a whole mix of emotions that comes with traveling far away on your own, especially as a woman. It’s exciting, scary, a bit stressful, but there’s also this huge feeling of accomplishment and of feeling completely awestruck at knowing that you’re actually seeing a new part of the world with your own eyes; walking a new path that you hadn’t walked before, taking in new sights, smells, sounds. It’s terrifying and immensely gratifying.
Personally, I hate being at any airport for a long amount of time; the routine of it bugs me, as does sitting in my seat for hours. However, seeing the ocean, the beautiful sky and island for the first time… I didn’t want that view to ever go away. I wanted to take in absolutely every second that I was in the air glued to my window. Out of all of the thoughts swimming in my head, the loudest one was, “wow, I’m actually doing this. I’m actually here. It’s coming true.” I literally have waited my life to visit Hawai’i and finally was able to do it.
The moment I stepped out of the airplane, I fell in love. It sounds cliché, I know, but… everything about the island: the gardens inside of the airport, the ambiance, the people, everything. The moment I saw this completely different environment from what I always see, I didn’t want to think about ever leaving.
where i stayed
My conference was hosted at the A’lohilani Resort in Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. It’s a resort within a 2-3 minute walking distance to the beach. A typical night at this resort costs on average $385 USD per night. Each resort of this fashion has an exclusive hotel guest only section of the beach. This one, in particular, is more open than the Royal Hawaiian, for example, but it’s right next to the Duke statue and there’s a nightly Hawai’ian show that happens each night in the same area. Today’s Magnum P.I episode, “Farewell to Love” featured the A’lohilani (15 or so minutes prior to ending for reference) to see more about this gorgeous resort. The view, as shown in this picture, is rather gorgeous. It was a partial view of the ocean, so only like 20% of it from my balcony, but each sunset and sunrise was breathtaking. I thought Arizona and Sonoran Deserts had the most gorgeous sunsets, but Hawai’i probably wins at this point.
hawai’ian weather & what to pack
Hawai’i is famous for having the craziest sort of weather anywhere. You’ll have an absolutely sunny day in the morning, and then maybe a downpour before 10am even starts. The five days I was there, only 2 of those days were 100% sunny; The rest were a combination of heavy rain, light rain, cloudy skies, and unbearably sunny. I’m not sure if it’s the tourists or the locals that are completely unphased to this, but there’s almost no point in taking an umbrella with you. A windbreaker is typically enough or you can wait out the rain which can last anywhere from as little as 7 minutes all the way to 45 minutes at best. Depending on the area though, rain will be heavier to the point of causing floods and in some more scenic areas, trees could fall.
Despite all of this, my absolute favorite weather in O’ahu has to be rain. There are only four highways in Honolulu, of which H-3 is the scenic one; This one takes you all the way to Honolulu’s famous botanical garden, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, which is located in Kāne’ohe. The one day off I had from my conference, I requested to have a day to myself so I could explore the island. The first thing on my list was this garden and it was pouring. I was the last one out after getting a warning that flooding and a tree had fallen, so the farthest I got was the visitor’s center before needing to turn back. I couldn’t really see anything past it but the drive was well enough worth the trip, rain and all.
From Kāne’ohe, I traveled towards the Ko’olau Mountains to visit the famous Byodo-in Temple, a Buddhist temple with some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve seen from any Japanese garden. The drive was only about 25 minutes away and vastly different from the rain I had just experienced. Anyway, both of these locations are favorites among many Instagrammers, and they’re both worth checking out no matter the weather. While the botanical garden is free, the temple has a $5 USD entry fee.
What to wear: I found that the best thing for unpredictable weather is a light, waterproof windbreaker. The one I bought (found here via Amazon) was light enough that I was able to fold it into my phone purse, so that was a huge plus since I didn’t want to carry anything heavy!
Where to eat & Drink
I can thank the small amount of jet lag for this one – I woke up super early for my conference on the first day and was craving pancakes mainly due to the fact that apparently there are some really amazing breakfast places in Honolulu that specialize in pancakes. I ended up finding Creampot out of pure luck! It turns out that Creampot was the original creator of the pancake soufflés; they’re a family-owned café with affordable prices and creative foods that are as gorgeous as they are delicious (and I pretty much went there every morning for breakfast).
My second favorite thing while in O’ahu was the ramen. I can’t begin to count the insane amount of ramen shops all located within the Waikiki beach street. There’s even a Japanese Food Hall that’s located in the sub-level of one of the malls there that completely transports you to a new world. Both times I had ramen, I only got the vegetarian one. Again, affordable and delicious; you’d have a hard time choosing! This is what I looked forward to the most every day that my conference ended.
My favorite ramen spots were Ramen Nakamura (pictured here) and Baikokhen Ramen Waikiki which is in that underground food hall.
My next favorite and almost a must for any solo trip I take is to have at least one nice dinner. For this, I ended up going to Tanaka of Tokyo Central. This was technically my first time drinking after the fiasco that happened in Vegas, so my first real night treating myself!
While on my walk to Tanaka of Tokyo, I stumbled across this bar called Wang Chung’s and it instantly reminded me of Wang Chung’s “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, and I decided to just like in the video, have fun that night. Wang Chung’s is a super friendly and fun LGBTQ+ bar with karaoke and themed drinks. For February, the local drag queens teamed up with the bar owners to create their own drinks (which were yummy!)
After that, I walked over to Kelley O’Neils which was having a 90’s rock night and had a live band playing. I got there just in time to hear an old favorite from Third Eye Blind.
can’t miss: hale’iwa on the north shore
I’m forever kicking myself for not making enough time to visit this gem of a town that is Hale’iwa. Located on the North Shore, Hale’iwa is practically on the polar end of Honolulu and is also its opposite in practically every single way. Life legitimately seems to move a lot slower here. It’s not crazy busy and packed with tourists like Waikiki ism its buildings and architecture is still rather outdated with no actual skyscrapers in sight, and there are a lot of farms. If I ever have the chance to live in Hawai’i even for a little bit, I would without a shadow of a doubt live here. My favorite restaurant is literally a farm to table restaurant called Farm to Barn. Absolutely everything there is organic, the scenery is gorgeous, the people are friendly; it’s perfect and worth absolutely every bit of time it took to get there (I was stuck in traffic for almost an hour).
And that’s it! I’ll be posting all of my stories from my old account to this new one, so if you’d like to see more with actual video, head on over to my Instagram now! Also to see more pictures, head on over to my Pinterest board dedicated to O’ahu.