My family and I were planning a trip to Maui last summer when the volcano erupted on The Big Island, and since Maui is the next closest island, they were getting a lot of the toxic air. So, we opted for an Oahu vacation instead. I had been to Oahu three times previously, staying in Waikiki twice, and three years ago when we went to Aulani.
The first time I went to Oahu, I was in college. I worked for Hilton and my friends and I got to stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki for free. It was a nice perk, but I’m pretty sure they don’t do that for their employees anymore. The second time was on my Honeymoon. We stayed on Kauai, but hopped over to Oahu for a couple days since my ex-husband had never been to Pearl Harbor. The third time we strictly stayed at Aulani in Ko’Olina.
Since the North Shore was the one place I hadn’t spent a lot of time, I suggested that’s where we stay. I also had another request – I wanted to make sure my daughter, and the rest of my family who had never been, got to visit Pearl Harbor. I had already been on two of my previous visits, but since it’s such an important part of U.S. history, as you can tell, I think everyone should experience it.
Where We Stayed:
There were six of us on this trip, so we opted to rent a house instead of staying in a hotel. We VRBO’d it and got a super cute house in La’ie. A quick walk down the street was the La’ie Point State Wayside which had beautiful views. We also had a quick walk to the beach, which felt private, because there were usually only a couple other people there each time we went.
What We Did:
We hung out at the beach near the house in the morning and then went on an adventure in the afternoon, which usually included going to a different beach.
Aulani – Since we are a Disney loving family, my daughter and I wanted to show the rest of the group Aulani. We hung out on the beach, drank fancy drinks at the bar and ate dinner at Ama Ama. The last time we were here, I knew my marriage was over. It was the beginning of the end. We had a waitress who was very kind to Ella and I that week. I think she sensed something was up. Ironically, she served us these drinks. Full circle…
Dole Plantation – Ella and I had been here on our previous trip, but the rest of the gang wanted to go. Once is definitely enough, and twice was too much. This time, we took in the Pineapple Garden Maze. It’s the world’s largest maze. We were so smart we solved it really quickly. Shhh, don’t tell Ella.
Haleiwa – We went shopping and ate lunch here before heading to another beach. Cute beach town with plenty of shops.
Kualoa Ranch – Some movies and TV shows are filmed on Oahu and this ranch is where a lot of it happens. You should book your tour ahead of time; we didn’t because we didn’t know it existed until we landed. We were still able to get on a quick tour where we saw sets from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Jurassic World, Kong: Skull Island, and a super-secret new Ben Affleck movie. Our tour guide also took us on a quick hike where we saw stunning views of the North and the South shores.
Pearl Harbor – You know when you’re on a family vacation and eventually, everyone is tired and worn out and things just hit the fan? That was this day. It was day five on our trip.
By the way, the Arizona Memorial was closed because it was damaged. Which was announced right after we booked our trip, specifically wanting to visit it. This is as close as we got.
While we were waiting for our tour time, a pigeon attacked Ella because she kept throwing nuts at it and ignoring the “Don’t Feed the Birds” sign. According to her, he was hungry. Yes, he was. He literally hopped in her lap, climbed up her arm and onto her shoulder trying to get more nuts. The five adults laughed and said “What did you expect?” while she had a full meltdown. But, for some reason that bird seemed to be a turning point in the morning, and it temporarily lightened everyone’s mood.
Book your tour ahead of time. The Arizona Memorial should be fixed now because the part they were waiting for arrived the day before we left.
Polynesian Cultural Center – The house was about a ten minute drive from here. We took in a Luau and some Polynesian culture. Make reservations for the Luau in advance.
Pua’ena Point Beach – From Shark’s Cove, we walked to this beach where we thrashed around in the waves and got sand in places we can’t talk about.
Snorkling in Shark’s Cove – My niece and my daughter went snorkeling. They said it was really rocky, so you have to wear something to protect your feet, but they saw some cool fish.
Turtle Bay – We hung out at the beach at the Turtle Bay Resort and had snacks at Roy’s.
Waikiki Beach – After Pearl Harbor we went to the beach for the day. Much different than our little private beach, this one was crowded. Ella met a little friend who was from The Big Island but was staying with family on Oahu because of the volcano. There are pros and cons to crowded beaches.
Where We Ate:
Ama Ama – We ate here on our visit to Aulani. It was super yummy. I have no clue what I ate but they gave this to Ella for dessert.
Lei Lei’s Bar and Grill – This restaurant is part of the Turtle Bay Resort. We sat outside while looking at the perfectly manicured golf course. I don’t remember what I ate here either. I should keep notes.
Matsumoto Shave Ice – This was in Haleiwa and the line was out the door. It’s a very popular place, and rightfully so. How come ice tastes so good?
North Shore Tacos – We stopped here on the way to the house when we arrived and it was pretty delicious. We also ate here on our way back to the airport when we were leaving. My burrito was so good the first time, I had it again the second time. That I remember.
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers – Also in Haleiwa, we ate lunch here before embarking on our snorkeling and beach adventures. Ummm, when I was looking for the link, I found this, so yeah. Thankfully it wasn’t at the location where we ate.
The North Shore was beautiful, but a week up there was a lot. Had we planned it better, we decided we would’ve stayed four days there and two days in Waikiki. Maybe next time! Or maybe I’ll finally make it to Maui…
Aloha and Mahalo!