I had no intentions on traveling anywhere for my birthday this year! Initially, I wanted to do a cruise but plans fell through. When I saw a great deal to Hawaii I considered it, but completely ignored it. My friend called me about the same deal and said we needed to book immediately. How could I say no to that? I booked my flight for $353 ROUNDTRIP on American Airlines. This deal was found on www.Airfarespot.com on December 28th & without hesitation we booked! Those that waited weren’t so lucky because the flight went up to $800 by that same night and prices continued to rise afterwards.
Currency is USD (yup you’re in America). They also have regular American charger plugs, everyone speaks American & guess what- yes they have regular American food. You may have heard everything is expensive. From a millennial stand point-YES IT IS! I paid $5 for a non-refillable orange juice at IHOP and I’m still salty about that lol.
Where to stay: I booked a room at the Courtyard by Marriott on Waikiki Beach. Waikiki has the most populated beach in the area and you will see a ton of people complaining, “it’s over crowded”. I think I can speak on behalf of most millennials and say we actually don’t mind this! It’s not overcrowded like South Beach during spring break but there’s a fair amount of people hanging out and having fun. Of course there’s a ton of quieter beaches that you have to visit, but I guarantee you’ll make your way back to Waikiki Beach. On the beach in Waikiki, there’s an entire strip with plenty of shopping, restaurants and occasional shows for you to enjoy.
We stayed a block away from the beach in Waikiki, which is in Honolulu (the capital of Hawaii). Oahu and Waikiki are neighbors so you can explore both areas during your stay
From the airport: There’s a yellow shuttle bus company right at baggage claim that will take you to Waikiki Beach for $16 USD one way. Since I was with a group, we chose to do Uber and that came out to be $31 (keep in mind we had to get a large vehicle instead of a regular size). If it’s your first time using Uber, feel free to use my code for money off your first ride: anisab344ue
Throughout our stay, tour companies picked us up but when we weren’t touring, we used Uber or walked. There’s also less expensive public transportation available if you plan to stay in the area.
↠Don’t miss out on the fireworks on Waikiki beach from the Hilton Hawaiian Village-only held Friday night around 7:45pm↞
Koko Head Hike
Before you decide to go hiking anywhere, be sure to download the “All Trails” app. It tells you all the trails near you, the intensity, how long it takes, and my favorite part: the reviews.
The hike here was listed as moderate (in my opinion: HARD lol). It was a straightforward steep trail and very easy to navigate. Views from the top were amazing and if you’re lucky like us, you see a few whales in the ocean.
Note: There is a beach at the bottom of the mountain “Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park” and it cost $7.50/person to visit, so we left lol! This is when we drove to Lanikai’s beautiful beach.
Lanikai as we were told, means heavenly sea. And the description matches the beauty of this beach. Lanikai is located in Kailua and it is just a short scenic drive from Hanauma Bay and my favorite part-FREE! This beach is a lot less crowded than Waikiki which made the perfect scenery. My favorite part of visiting this beach was the sporadic moment when one of the locals invited us to hop in a canoe and visit a remote island across the water. Unfortunately the waters were too rough and we couldn’t go across but we went out far enough to make it a moment to remember. Talk to the locals, you never know what experience you can get.
Polynesian Cultural Center:
One of the most visited attractions and I totally see why.
They offer motor coach bus transportation ($25/person) or a smaller shuttle transportation ($35/person). Pick up times were 10 AM or 12 PM. Of course we chose 12pm because it takes 6 girls hoursssss to get ready.
We chose the Ali’i Luau Package, which was $119.95. We chose this package because we didn’t think we needed a tour guide after reading so many reviews that said don’t do it! Turns out, you really don’t need a tour guide unless your completely into learning every little detail of what’s going on. We initially started following a group that had a tour guide, and then we ditched them after they were moving too slow. A map is provided at the entrance, and it is very easy to follow (where to go and when). Seriously, save your money because you don’t need a tour guide! Everyone goes the same way anyway. You really do need all day to visit this place and see all that they have to offer. Let me break it down: each village has a show that lasts about 30 minutes, every show has something different to offer and they are all interesting. Some shows allow time for you to participate in activities right after; like twirl a fire baton (without the fire of course) or you can learn to play the ukulele or hula etc. It’s just so much to do. I also got to pick my very own pearl out of an oyster. I thought that was the most amazing experience ever! I put my pearl on a turtle Pandora charm, and they have so many options for you to choose from. I highly recommend everyone getting his or her own pearl. Note: If you don’t get a pearl from here, these shops are located everywhere (Pearl Harbor, Waikiki beach, Dole Pineapple Plantation) you can’t miss it! And let me tell you, these people know how to convince you to buy something!
Everyone gets lei’d at dinner entrance (the only souvenir I wanted lol). Dinner was buffet style and it was more than enough to go around. I read so many reviews saying, “the food is nasty, or they ran out”. Well I can speak on behalf of my crew and say they did not run out of food and the food was not that bad (we even ate the pork after looking it right in the face lol). You have to try the pig just to say you did it! If you’re looking for a luau with alcohol, I must say, this isn’t the place for you lol. They don’t serve alcohol! I don’t even remember seeing any carbonated drinks. While you’re eating, there are performances going on so there’s never a dull moment.
Right after dinner, everyone attends the HA: Breath of Life show. This theater looks like it was designed so that no matter where you sit, you’ll be able to see. Don’t listen to the snooty people that give 1 star because they can’t see anything! Performers dance in circles so that everyone has the opportunity to get visuals. We sat all the way on the side and we had no complaints. Only part I wasn’t a fan of was the fact that nothing was in English. I had no idea what they were saying, but I kind of pieced the story together through the performances. Other than that, the show was a great finale.
↠HINT: If you plan on booking, you can save 10% by booking 10 days in advance so of course I recommend booking early. They also allow a free return ticket if you visit again within 3 days. This comes in handy because you really do need a lot of time if you want to experience all they have to offer. Make sure to get the ticket before you exit! And if it’s your birthday, stop by guest services to get your complimentary birthday pin.
**If you’re not into all the activities of this Luau, I would recommend you check out Paradise Cove Luau or Germaine’s. These were other popular luau’s with great reviews that I considered visiting.**
Hawaii Turtle Tour
If you look on the website, we did the “Circle Island-Snorkeling Turtle Tour” which is $119. We found the same tour on Groupon for $55 then used a coupon code “SAVE20” for the total to come down to $44 #WINNING (this code may expire before you buy but you can search for current Groupon codes on Google before you book).
Let’s cut to the chase, we only saw a total of 5 turtles on this trip lol. Regardless, Mike and Brock were amazing tour guides and we certainly enjoyed our day with them. They even help take pictures for you (great for solo travelers lol). Pick up time started at 7:15 am and we had just a few stops to pick up other travelers.
Most stops were only 10 minutes long, but that’s all you need! Some places we just drove past and gazed out the window. These guys are pros; they know what they are doing. We had a chance to tour major parts of the island, including: Diamond Head slopes, Halona Blowhole, a white sand beach, Kahala (known as the Beverly Hills of Hawaii), a secret beach where they filmed Hawaii Five-O and other locations where they filmed major movies. Here are Some of my favorite parts in a little more detail:
*Macadamia Nut Farm: With 10 minutes to visit, you can grab complimentary coffee and bust your own nuts at the Tropical Farms. Watch my video at the end of this post to see how horrible I was at trying to crack my nuts!
*Stop for lunch at Tsues Farm “Turtle Town”. Lunch is not included; I paid a total of $31 for lunch and paddle boarding. Let me tell you, the garlic butter shrimp was delicious! You have to eat quickly so you can have plenty of time to paddle board. Most of the people in our group have never been on a paddleboard before but we all got the hang of it so fast. Although the water is only about 5 feet deep, nobody fell in! We saw 2 turtles hanging out on the side of the water, which was pretty cool.
*Snorkeling: 1 hour for snorkeling was reserved with the hottest guide you’ve ever met. We saw one turtle and tons of fish. Equipment is provided & be sure to bring dry clothes to continue the tour. For those that didn’t want to snorkel or spend time on the beach, they got to continue on the tour with a separate bus.
*The last stop was Dole Pineapple Plantation. We had 30 minutes to spend here. Unfortunately that is not enough time to actually go through the maze. I would recommend visiting on your own time if you really want to do that. They said the record for the maze was 1.5 hours, which probably means the average person takes hours to get out. Overall, this place is a giant pineapple souvenir shop and you can’t leave without a taste of the famous Dole whip.
Diamond Head Hike
The first question people usually ask when you visit Hawaii is “Did you visit Diamond Head and/or Pearl Harbor”? We had a little time Tuesday morning before heading to the airport, so we decided to wake up early and go hiking. We went around 8:45 AM (missed the sunrise) and the crowd wasn’t as bad as most reviews say. There is a “line” of people to follow as you hike the moderate trail so I wouldn’t plan to come here for a serious workout if I were you. 360 views at the top were breath taking!!!!!!! Beyond the steep staircase, this 1.6-mile hike wasn’t too bad and conquered it within less than an hour.
↠ During your stay, you will most likely stop at one of the 10,000 local “ABC” stores. SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS! You can turn in all your receipts and when you spend $100 collectively, you qualify for a free gift (coffee mug, bag or calendar). There’s a store on every corner and it’s guaranteed you will stop by because they sell everything you need: beverages, sunscreen, snacks, mugs, souvenirs, t-shirts etc. Who doesn’t want a free souvenir that mom would love lol.
Where to party: Along the strip, there are a few different spots to party at. We partied at Mooses and other local bars. There’s also a few other popular spots like Rumors & District Night club that you can check out.
Remember the date: December 7, 1941. Please note, this is a memorial site & you are to treat it as so. Pearl Harbor is free to attend and we arrived around 1:00pm and was able to get tickets on site with no problems. It is recommended that you get your tickets online early to guarantee your reservation time. We had a 3 hour wait and after 45 minutes of stalling we finally asked one of the employees if we can go in early lol (he said yes). Once your time is called, you will go into a theater and watch a short film on the history, then you will ride on a boat to the Arizona memorial (site of the actual boat that sank). I chose not to take photos at this location, sorry.
Keep in mind: they have a no bag policy! You cannot take any bags inside no matter the size. They have a bag area outside of security to hold your bags for $5 per bag.
A lot of people inquired about our swimsuits. I purchased mine from Bootyswim.com ($44.00)and it took 3 weeks to arrive. My girls each ordered theirs from Amazon Prime, just type in “ti leaf swimsuit”. There are a ton of options and they all average about $20-$25
We never made it to the Stair Way to Heaven (Haiku Stairs) simply because there was a lot of talk about it being illegal with a $1000 fine and people getting arrested. There are ways to take the longer “legal” route and you can find other blogs that will tell you how they did it, or how to find a local that will get you through the experience. I didn’t want to risk it and sit in jail on my birthday lol. Just kidding! I really did want to do it, but my friends weren’t having it.
Thanks for reading my blog! You can check out clips from my favorite experiences while in Hawaii HERE.
Are you ready to get leid?