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Oahu Vacation Planning – Nov 2015

Hello everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts, but it’s been a busy summer. Now that the weather went from hot to frigid in just under a week, I realize winter is closer than ever and it’s time to jet off to warm and sunny locales. In 2 weeks time, we’ll be in Hawaii again! It’s our second trip this year to the Aloha state, which is making up for last year where we did not go to Hawaii at all. Our destination this time: Oahu!  It’s been 2 years since we’ve last visited Oahu and a couple of months ago we jumped on some mileage discounts from United Airlines to book a week-long trip for our 7th anniversary using miles! Read more about what I love about Honolulu, Oahu here.

Although Oahu has some lovely resorts and hotels, I feel like staying in a condo gives us more of a “live like a local” feel which is how we like to vacation when we are on Oahu. We enjoy having a full kitchen even though I don’t necessarily cook on vacation, but it’s so we can make simple breakfasts, brew Hawaiian coffee we buy (especially nice in Kona), and cut up all the fresh fruit we get at farmer’s markets. In addition, we’ll be eating A LOT so leftovers are bound to happen and it’ll be nice to be able to plate and heat food up in a full kitchen.

Fresh papayas and limes from various farms on the island make a great breakfast or snack!

We like to have a car on all islands, although many don’t think you need to have one on Oahu, since there are public bus options and parking is scarce in downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. I do like the freedom of having a car though so that’s why we look for condos that come with a free parking space. This also saves you anywhere from 20-30 dollars a night! I also think that many of the resorts around Waikiki are small – small rooms, small pools, and resorts are packed together tightly so you kind of feel cramped. If I were to pay top dollar for a resort, I’d want it to be large and sprawling, hence we usually save our luxury resort stays for other islands. (See our review of the Andaz Maui at Wailea). There are other much larger resorts on Oahu such as the famed Turtle Bay on the North Shore, and the beautiful Aulani in Ko’Olina (West), but they are far from the hustle and bustle of the city which is the vibe we like when we visit Oahu so we tend to stay in Waikiki to be in the middle of the action. For this trip, we are not doing a split stay, but are spending an entire week in this lovely 1-BR condo at the Pacific Monarch in Waikiki. This modern condo is less than half the price of the Royal Hawaiian, and comes with a full parking spot and all the comforts of home. Introducing the Nalu Lani:

Look at this nifty little condo we found on! Pic from VRBO.

It looks like an Ikea ad! Pic from VRBO.

This unit is on a high floor in the Waikiki Banyan complex on the zoo end of Waikiki. It overlooks most of Waikiki and has a partial ocean view. I really like that end of Waikiki because it’s a short walk to a protected beach, making it easy and safe for swimming. It’s close enough to shops, restaurants, and the ubiquitous ABC stores! It’s actually quite close to the Hyatt Place we stayed at a few years ago with my family so we’re quite familiar with that area. A very short drive away is the Honolulu Zoo (technically you can walk there), Diamond Head Crater, Diamond Head Bakery (for delicious blueberry scones), Bogart’s (for brunch), and the Kapiolani Community mental health update College (KCC) where every Saturday is an amazing farmer’s market complete with delicious local delicacies!

The best blueberry scones at Diamond Head Bakery

Delicious Vietnamese crepe can be found at the Pig and the Lady booth at the KCC Farmer’s Market every Saturday.

We always make a drive up to the North Shore making a stop at the Dole Plantation either on the way up or down. I know it’s touristy and all, but it really is quite fun to browse through their gift shop, sample fresh Dole pineapple, and get an order of Dole whip…

Dole whip…just like in Disney!

One thing I’m really looking forward to doing on this trip is a photography tour of Oahu. I booked this through Oahu Photography Tours. It’s a 6 hour sunrise walking tour/hike through some picturesque spots of Oahu. I’m really looking forward to this as it’s been a while since I’ve flexed my photography muscles on my DSLR. I’m looking to improve my landscape photography and the best part is that everyone gets a tripod which I think is key in taking great low light pictures, and I’ve never really bothered to bring one anywhere during my travels!

Time to break out the DSLR again! This picture was taken with a 10-22mm lens on a Canon Rebel at the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s stunning during sunset, but would have been even better if I had a tripod to capture the detail on the trees more.

We’re excited to try some new restaurants too. I’ve heard so much about MW restaurant, which is elevated local favorites with a modern flair. Husband and wife team Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka have worked for some of the top names in the inudstry, most notably Alan Wong’s, Per Se, and The French Laundry. It’s been really popular among the foodie-Instagramming crowd so be sure to stay tuned for my own Instagram pics there!

The ahi poke topped with ikura and uni. This is MY kind of dish! (pic from Honolulu Magazine)

I have a soft spot for brunch, and Top Chef alum Leanne Wong’s Kokohead Cafe sits at the top of my list! Everything sounds so delicious, I want to try it all!

This looks like a very special loco moco! pic from Kokohead Cafe’s website.

We’re also looking forward to some places we haven’t been to in a while, like Tenkaippin Ramen. Their kotteri broth is thick and rich with collagen, which not only makes the broth stick to the noodles like glue, but is also extremely good for hair and skin!

Kotteri ramen from Tenkaippin

And it won’t be a trip to Hawaii without our daily poke bowls. Fresh ahi tuna seasoned with shoyu, sesame oil, green onion. Simple is best for me, while Steve likes the creamy spicy-mayo based ones.

Poke bowls from Ono Seafoods…the best on Oahu I think.

It’s been a while since I’ve sunk my teeth into some good Hawaiian food. Young’s Fishmarket has some of the best on the island.

Hawaiian delicacies froun Young’s. Top left – squid luau, middle is the pork and butterfish lau lau, top right – chicken long rice, bottom right – tuna poke

I really didn’t plan that much since it is a fairly short trip – we were just going to go with the flow. Steve may take a surfing lesson and we may finally do some stand up paddle boarding. I realize the more we go back to Hawaii the less I can plan because I don’t feel the need to see and do everything in one trip anymore. But one thing’s for sure – I can’t wait to be back on the beach!

Lanikai Beach on the Windward side of Oahu

See ya real soon Oahu!

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