Oahu Travel Review

Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Airline: Delta
Accommodations: Friends in Kahuku
Length of Stay: 4 Days, 4 Nights
Favorite Restaurant: Moena Cafe by Koko Head Crater
Favorite Activity: Morning Sunrises and Hiking Nokoa Trail

As usual, for my wife’s birthday we planned a trip. This time we decided to go visit some friends who are serving at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii.

Turns out, we had accrued enough miles thanks to our American Express Platinum Delta card that our flights were covered and since we were staying with friends, our lodging was covered as well! Just a car rental and food on the island was all this cost us.

Our plans were to simply go hiking every day, visit some beaches to relax, and spend time with our friends after they were off work.

Here’s how it all went down.

Tuesday

We flew to Oahu on Tuesday and arrived in Laie about 830 PM. Since it was dark, we didn’t get much of a view of the scenery as we drove.

We met our friends at the Laie Temple and then headed to their place in Kahuku.

Fresh lei for Trisha and edible lei for myself!

Wednesday

Because of the three-hour time difference from home, it was really easy to get up early! It was nice to spend some quiet hours to meditate and read, but my favorite part of the entire trip was heading to the beach each morning to see the sunrise.

We’d make the short drive to Maleakahana Beach (also known as Castle Beach) and plop down on the sand with our journals and spent time meditating and journaling as the sun rose over the ocean.

We attempted to go to Papa Ole’s for breakfast, but turns out it is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we decided to just skip breakfast and head for our first hike of the day.

Trisha found a cool waterfall hike called Maunawili Falls. So we drove down to where it said the trailhead was at, but unfortunately found the trail closed and signage all over stating that hiker’s vehicles will be towed and hiker’s fined for hiking the trail. We learned later that they are simply moving the trail to better accommodate hikers, and that change will be complete later this year. Strike two!

Since we were down this way and headed for Pearl Harbor in the afternoon, we opted to head down to Koko Head and hike the tramway. This was a bear of a hike. Incredibly steep, making going up hard, but coming down just as difficult — especially with the amount of people ascending and descending at the same time! The views from the top were stunning, though!

When we finished the hike, we were both famished and ready to eat, so we picked a café that looked good that was just a couple of minutes away and headed there. Turns out it was our favorite restaurant we hit all trip! Moena Café did not disappoint, and it wasn’t just because we were starving, but it was just a classy, hipster café with incredible food.

The avocado toast on a bed of arugala with some goat cheese was just phenomenal. So good, I’m going to start making it at home. And the açaí bowl that Trisha ordered was so much more fresh than any other I’ve tried before.

While we were waiting for a table, we saw that there was a film crew doing a shoot at the salon next door. We weren’t able to get any details, but shortly after we sat down they finished up their shoot and were out of there in minutes! It was an efficient crew!

Pearl Harbor was our next destination. Because we were tired from our hike, we opted for a simple self-guided tour of the exhibits and then stood in line to catch the ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial. It is sobering to think of how the sailors and island locals felt during those two hours of the attack, not to mention the fear they must have felt wondering if another attack was imminent. I was also impressed by how the rangers and Navy personnel were very clear with all the guests about the sacredness of the memorial site. It felt like a sacred and hallowed place.

Since our friends were letting us stay gratis, we felt we should at least do some of their shopping for them, since they live an hour away from a decent grocery store. We stopped at Sam’s Club and Walmart in Pearl City before heading back north toward Haleiwa. We grabbed some shave ice from Matsumoto and a chicken basket from Teddy’s and enjoyed the rest of the drive along the north shore.

By the time we arrived back in Kahuku, we were exhausted from all the walking and were so sticky from sweat! It was nice to get back to the house to relax and visit with Sid and Geraldine.

Thursday

We caught the sunrise this morning again and loved every minute of it!

Since we missed Papa Ole’s the day before, we opted to stop here for breakfast. They were highly recommended for their macademia nut pancakes, so Trisha got a stack of those and I got an omlette. I wasn’t blown away like I was yesterday, but the pancakes were really good.

Today was the day we got tickets to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), which opened at 1 PM, so we opted to do a single hike in the morning.

We chose to try to Nakoa Trail up Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park, and we were not disappointed! It was the kind of hike I imagine all hikes are on tropical islands — through thick humidity and foliage, a decent amount of mud, and crazy cool views to the ocean. You can read my review of the hike here for more details. Our favorite part was the adventurous swim across the river at the end!

Because of the added adventure that hike provided, we made it back to Kahuku a bit later than expected and needed to shower, so we wound up getting to the PCC a little later than anticipated. We still made the first scheduled events, though, so we didn’t miss anything.

For those who are not familiar, the Polynesian Cultural Center, or PCC, is a theme-park-esque site where they have built various “islands” of the Pacific and showcase that island’s unique culture. You can travel from Tonga to see their drum masters, to Fiji to learn about how they navigated the expansive oceans, to New Zealand to learn about how they honor their ancestors. We tried cooked breadfruit and learned how to make fire with wild hibiscus in Samoa, and also were able to witness how they climb coconut trees and dance with their fire knives. Overall, a superb experience and one that makes me appreciate how little we as Americans have in terms of unique culture, unfortunately.

My favorite part of the PCC was visiting the Samoa show, where they demonstrate the tree climbing and fire knives. To prep for all that, a Samoan named Kap who sells his art at the PCC gave a whole comedy bit, and he’s hilarious. If you visit, be sure not to miss him!

The PCC also offers a dinner, which can be a full on Lu’au, or just a simple buffet. We opted for the buffet to get more options for what to eat (at our friends’ suggestion). But we were still able to walk around to the back of the Lu’au when they were uncovering the imu which was cool. The dinner was a typical buffet with way too much food, but in total the food was good. Still not Moena Café, but I wasn’t expecting that from a buffet anyway.

Finally, at the end of the day we attended the show, HĀ: Breath of Life. It’s a story of a young polynesian who learns life lessons from each island’s culture. It’s a fun, high-energy show and I recommend it!

Friday

We caught the sunrise yet again and this time our friends were able to join us! There is something magic in watching the sun rise and set — something energizing and clarifying for me.

After a birthday serenade from our friends on the ukulele, we headed to hike Crouching Lion overlooking Kahana Bay. This turned out to be a really quick and entertaining hike. It was barely over a half mile round trip, but we ran into a couple from Boston (originally from India) who had never been hiking outside the Boston area before. They seemed a bit shell shocked at what they were doing, but they made it just fine and did great!

The trickiest part of the hike was dealing with the loose dirt on the extra steep parts, but we were able to navigate those slowly so didn’t have any problems.

After the hiking, we spent the afternoon beach hopping, just swimming and relaxing on the beach. We hit Clissold’s Beach (also called Bikini Beach) for a quick cool down swim and while we were there saw a turtle swimming around just a few yards from us.

After our cool down, we headed to the north shore and Sunset Beach to watch some big wave surfers while we enjoyed some good açaí from Banzai Bowls. Eventually we got too hot just sitting on the beach, so hopped our way up the coast to Turtle Bay for some snorkeling, and it was better than I expected! We saw a bunch of cool fish out in the bay that I had never seen before.

For dinner, Trisha enjoyed a macadamia nut encrusted catch of the day from Pounders Restaurant, while I opted for a Swiss mushroom burger that had jalapeños on it as well — delicious.

After dinner, it was fun to hang out at the house and play cards before we headed for bed.

Saturday

Again, an amazing sunrise at the beach! 😀

For our last day in paradise, we spent the morning at the Laie Temple and visitors center. The stories of the sacrifices the people made to live the Gospel are always inspiring, and the ones told in support of the temple and their local churchhouse are no different. The Laei Temple also has some friezes on it that depict the major dispensations of the Gospel on the Earth, covering the Old and New Testamens, the Book of Mormon, as well as the latter-day dispensation. Super cool to learn about!

After our time at the temple, we headed for Maleakahana Beach to do some boogie boarding. Since it was Saturday, the beach was packed! I was amazed that with all 20+ surfers out in the water that no one collided with one another. It was super fun to watch a lot of young kids out surfing. They clearly weren’t as good as the big wave surfers from Sunset Beach, but they were way better than me!

We ate dinner at the local food trucks in Kahuku and then headed back to the house to pack and finish off the trip with some games.

We took the red-eye out of Honolulu to Los Angeles, so it was great that we were able to use some Delta certificates to upgrade to first class! Made the 6-hour flight much nicer to actually be able to sleep!


Overall, this was another successful birthday trip that we will remember for a very long time! A huge shoutout to our good friends Sid and Geraldine for helping to make this happen and making it a special time for Trisha!

View of the ocean from the Pioneer Cemetery behind the Laie Temple with our friends, Sid and Geraldine.

Jonathan Haws

I am a devoted family man and enjoy going on adventures with my wife and four children. My deepest desire is to be the best husband, father, and friend I can be by inspiring a love for life, a connection with nature, and a willingness to let God prevail.

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