Over the next ten days, we saw every inch of that island, logging 500 miles on our rental car. We hiked. We explored. We swam. We experienced. We ate. We relaxed. We enjoyed every single second. Here are some of my favorites:
|The girls watching the waves at Ko Olina|
|Splashing in the water before dawn at Lanikai Beach|
|Sunrise at Lanikai Beach|
|Swimming at the beach at Ko Olina|
|Taking a pit-stop in the gardens at Dole Plantation|
|The waves at Bonzai Pipeline|
|About to swim at Waimea Valley Park|
|View from Diamond Head Crater|
|Island view at Diamond Head Crater|
|Taking part of the audio tour at the USS Arizona Monument|
|Dizzle learning about the continuing oil leakage at the USS Arizona Monument|
|Doodle racing up Diamond Head Crater|
|Us and a view of Waikiki and Honolulu from the top of Diamond Head|
|The girls feeding the Koi at our hotel|
|Dilly loving Hawaii|
|Sunset from the lobby of the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club|
|Canoe tour at the Polynesian Cultural Center|
|Watching the Canoe Pageant at the PCC|
|Family photo at the Hawaii Temple|
|Relaxing while the girls play at the beach at Ko Olina|
Honestly, I'm not sure that any sort of recap of our vacation could do it or the Island of Oahu justice. Frankly, it was heavenly (traffic aside). I didn't want to come home. Not because I didn't want vacation to end, but rather because the thought of living among that beauty and with that weather was just heavenly. I was constantly in awe and that's a pretty amazing way to feel.
But, I will say, if you are ever headed to Oahu, there are some things that you do not want to miss.
- Sunrise at Lanikai Beach - On the eastern side of the island is well known as one of the best spots to see the sunrise and I fully agree. We ventured to this secluded beach on the first morning of our trip (before we were adjusted to the time difference). It was quiet and breathtaking. The girls were able to splash in the water before dawn, something that made me feel like we were all alone on the island. It's something I'll never forget.
- Diamond Head State Monument and Park - This volcanic crater has a .8 mile hike to some of the best views on the island. The hike isn't a stroll in the park, but the effort is so worth it.
- Waimea Valley Park - This botanical garden with over 5,000 species of tropical plants is not to be missed. But the highlight of this park is the .75 mile hike (on a paved path) to Waihi Falls, where you are able to swim below the falls. Bring waterproof shoes, the pond floor is rocky.
- Bonzai Pipeline - Even on a mild day, the waves at this historic break are something to behold. Doodle said her favorite part of the trip was watching people surf here.
- Matsumoto's - THE place to get shaved ice. Founded in 1910, this North Shore institution almost always has a line out the door. One tip, do not skip the condensed milk.
- Dole Plantation - Learn about all things pineapple at this location just south of the North Shore. Activities include the World's Largest Garden Maze (so much fun), train tour and botanical garden tour.
- Kono's - This breakfast and lunch spot on the North Shore offered some of the best (and least expensive) food we ate on the island. We loved their plate lunches and burritos.
- Polynesian Cultural Center - If you are going to spend your money on one "experience", this is the one to do it on. The PCC is made up of recreated Polynesian villages that showcase the history and lifestyles of seven Pacific Island cultures. There are demonstrations and activities throughout the day and a luau and evening show to end the night. We loved this place.
- Pearl Harbor - Talk about walking into a history book. While we only visited the USS Arizona Memorial (The USS Bowfin and Missouri are also at this site), I learned more about the attack on Pearl Harbor and WWII as a whole, than I ever did in any history class. The monument was moving and incredibly somber. I can't imagine how you could visit and not be affected. Tickets for the monument are free, but are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. Keep in mind that the audio tour (which I highly recommend) will run you $7.50 per person.
- The Beaches at Ko Olina - This is the best place for families, especially those with small children. The beaches at Ko Olina are made up of four protected lagoons along a two mile stretch of shoreline. There are minimal waves (and crowds) at these beaches, making for a relaxing day at the beach.