Favorite things in Oahu * Oahu guide and ideas * Oahu couples ideas

17 March 2021

 It was the best trip! Thank you so much for the suggestions in my Instagram stories -- they were my main go to in planning everything. These are all just pictures off of my phone. Here we go!

Covid Testing for Hawaii

You'll need to create a Safe Travels Hawaii account and that is where you will upload the pdf of your Covid test. You'll need to test within 72 hours of your final flight leg to Hawaii. The most stressful part was scheduling the Covid testing! We just did it at Walgreens and it was eazy breezy. Make sure yours carries the PCR or ID NOW test (or whatever Hawaii is requiring at your time of travel) Call your local store and see when the testing times open up each day. More testing times were added at 5 p.m. each day for 72 hours ahead. We wanted to test on a Wednesday afternoon since we had a Saturday morning flight so we got on the computer right at 5 p.m. on Sunday to book our appointment for Wednesday. The appointments went super fast here in Utah (like 2 minutes!) but my sisters that live in other places got their appointments easily. Keep in mind that each time slot is for one person only.

For the test I just showed up in the drive through at Walgreens, I did the nose swab test to myself with them watching and had the results about 2 hours later! Very easy and convenient. Go Walgreens! They emailed a PDF of the test and that's what you upload to your Safe Travels account. We also had to take a questionnaire within 24 hours of flying to assure we were feeling fine and then we got a QR code that showed we were good to go with our info under it. 

The Honolulu airport wanted to see the QR code and the info under it when we got off our flight and the hotels just wanted to see the green lettering underneath it. Ok, enought with testing! Once you get to Hawaii there was nothing that we really wanted to do that we couldn't because of Covid restrictions. Well, except for Hanauma Bay but we just should have gotten there earlier (see below)

Here are the things we loved and would do again in a heartbeat! We had quite a bit of rain while we were there -- the North Shore and Maui were in national news for flooding but it wasn't bad where we were staying but it did affect some of our plans (read on!) Masks weren't an issue for us -- we don't mind wearing them in the inside public buildings and on the plane but if they really bother you I would probably wait to go. We didn't wear masks outside on the beaches, hiking, or in restaurants once we had our food.


We stayed at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club for the first part of the trip. We found the best deals on AirBnb and ended up paying $195/night which is crazy low for this dreamy place. I'm sure people were trying to sell their time as people are still hesitant to travel with Covid. It is on the southwest corner of Oahu and is next to Disney's Aulani and the Four Seasons. We would love to bring our kids back here and would recommend it to anyone.

LOVED: kitchens in the rooms/apartments to save money on food * fitness classes *it felt more peaceful and secluded * it has a private lagoon that felt completely safe swimming in * there were dolphins jumping out in the ocean one morning * has a trail for running and walking that goes from the public Ko Olina Beach Park all the way down to the Four Seasons * beautiful views and sunsets * great pools and hot tubs * free laundry * we only ate at Longboards restaurant on site but it was really good * the Island Country Market down the way has Dole Whips and gelato that were really good too.

DIDN'T LOVE: having to text to reserve beach chairs for only 2 hours during this Covid season. They sanitized them and you could move to different pools but sometimes you want to sit out for longer, right? * the line for the workout area -- they were trying to social distance and only have limited people in at a time but the walk along the beachfront was gorgeous, so go do that instead. * it is definitely a family resort so lots of kids and yelling and playing if that bothers you but we are super used to that :)

For the last part of the week we were at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort.  Since there was so much availability when we went we waited to book and got a great deal here on Last Minute Travel (a new travel service by Google?)  This is definitely more of a lively, party atmosphere but it was a fun change of scenery.

LOVED: ocean view room (worth the small upgrade for us) and watching all the surfers on Waikiki, being right on the beachfront (but you still had to pay for a chair and umbrella) and having those great ocean waves to play in,  Duke's restaurant (see below), being close to shopping downtown and exploring the west side of the island,  refrigerator in the room, bed was comfortable.

DIDN'T LOVE: Parking was $45/night, plus they charge $40 resort fee per night, they didn't have private hotel chairs/umbrellas on the beach. Traffic was bad on Friday night downtown going to the airport for our red eye home. Leave plenty of time so when you are 5 lbs over on your checked bag you can re-arrange. Speaking from experience do you think?? :)


My favorite part! We loved Leonard's Hot Malasadas -- the custard were our favorite. If you see the red and white truck, pull over for hot and fresh Portuguese donuts! 

If you're heading up to the North Shore stop at these places (in this order!)

* North Shore Goodies for the best coconut peanut butter to bring home! This was Kristin's recommendation and we totally missed it. By the time we realized where it was we were way up north. 

* Giovanni's Shrimp Truck! You better like garlic (I do!) Worth the wait in line but you do have to peel the shrimp.

* Matsumoto Shave Ice -- I loved the Tropical combo and you've got to get the sweetened condensed milk + the ice cream. Sooooo good.  It has lots of places to sit as well.

* Duke's Prime Rib Buffet on Thursdays -- this was definitely our splurge meal but it was SO good. Everything from the prime rib, fish, the poke, salads, ceviche, chicken, it was all divine and there is great live music in the background. You've got to finish off with the hula pie (or save it for later!) For sure make a reservation -- the wait it usually 2 hours and request an ocean view table! If you aren't staying on Waikiki it would be fun to come down for the afternoon, spend some time on the beach, go on a sunset Catamaran sail (this one leaves right in front of Duke's), and then finish off with dinner at Duke's.  Look at that storm coming in! 

Things to Do!

1. Get the convertible -- they offered us the upgrade for $100 for the week and it was worth every penny. It was definitely a highlight listening to all the beach classics and breathing that Hawaii ocean air. Just don't plan on ever doing your hair and keep pony tail holders handy.

2. Speaking of driving, you've gotta  put the top down and drive the Pali Highway (you'll feel like you're in Jurassic Park) and go up to the Pali Overlook. $7 parking but look at those breathtaking panaromic views!! And no hiking for this one but it is super windy up there.

3.  Paradise Cove Beach. If you are staying at the Ko Olina, definitely go just down the way (we went on our morning run) to this "secret beach." Very limited parking but it's a great little beach that you can spot a sea turtles or monk seals. We also had fun exploring and watching the big hermit crabs and colorful fish. People were snorkeling there too. You can explore out to the shoreline on the big rocks. (second picture)

4. Pearl Harbor is a must. Pay tribute to the 2,403 souls that perished in the attack. Educational and emotional and so well done. We thought the guided audio tour (with headphones on your own time) was worth the extra money. Currently you can make advanced reservations up to a week in advance.

5. Polynesian Cultural Center -- this was also a must for us and we were so glad it was open! The shows, the boat ride, background on the different islands, demonstration, luau, and hands on adventures were well worth the money. Masks are required when not eating.

6. Ka'ena Point Trail -- this is a great running/exploring trail that follows an old railroad track with gorgeous coastline views. It was cool and rainy the day we went but it would be hot on a warmer day and doesn't have shade so definitely bring water, a hat, and sunscreen. You can come from either side (we took the Farrington Highway side on our way up to the North Shore) and  you can go all the way out to the point to try to see some whales and birds nesting.

7. Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail 2.5 miles -- this is a great trail to do if it has been raining because it is paved. Do not let that fool you though! It is not easy and is can be very hot with no shade so definitely wear sunscreen, a hat, and bring lots of water.  I would go in the morning or later afternoon before sunset (watch the gate closing times though!) The views are incredible. Plan on 1-2 hours.

8. Diamond Head Crater Hike -- watch the days and hours on this one too! It was closed on Wednesdays and the last hike is at 4 p.m. when we were there. $10 per vehicle and a very popular hike so you may have to wait for a parking spot. We loved the history from rangers up at the summit and of course the views of Waikiki and the shoreline. It is also mostly paved and well groomed but watch your step and bring water! It is definitely a workout -- the stairs were killer but it will make you feel about your pina colada you get at the food truck at the bottom :) There are also restrooms and vending machines with water bottles at the bottom. Plan on 1-2 hours and this was the one hike the rangers will ask you to wear a mask. 

9.  Kailua and Lanikai Beach -- SOOOOO beautiful! We loved both of these and they are right next to each other so check them both out!  Here is Lanikai and you can see the Moke islands out there. Lanikai is very peaceful with not many waves so not the best for wave jumping or boogie boarding but so relaxing and lovely. Also supposed to be the best for watching sunrises!

Lanikai only has parking in residential areas so that can be tricky but there is plenty of public parking at Kailua Beach Park. We were planning on renting kayaks and going out to the Mokes but they didn't recommend it on the day we were there because storms were rolling in and there were flash flood watches. So we didn't but I so wish we had! I guess we'll have to come back!  If you want to kayak out to the Moke islands, you can get kayaks at Kaulua Beach Adventures and then use a dolley to get them down to Kailua Beach.  They have maps to show you where to go and what areas to avoid while kayaking. You can also pay for the guided kayak tours out there if you want to go that route. Since we didn't kayak we just rented some beach chairs and boogie boards to ride the waves. (This is not us in the picture, just trying to show how you get the kayaks down to the beach on the dolleys!) 

Kailua Beach was definitely a favorite! There are spots in the shade so that was super nice. 

10. If you want even better waves to play on, I would head to Waimanalo Bay Beach (actually, it's a state park) I couldn't believe the big, beautiful Ironwood trees and then this gorgeous beach. Someone was actually getting married just down the way from us -- what a setting! Be sure to enter Sherwood Beach into your Maps to come in on the prettiest side with the trees and lots of parking.

11. Snorkeling at Haunama Bay You have to go early and some days it is closed so be sure to research before you go!! The morning we were there it reached capacity (limited because of Covid) at 10 a.m. They also were not renting snorkel gear at Haunama Bay but you can get it early that morning beginning at 7:30 a.m. at Koko Beach Rentals near Walgreens on your way up to Haunama Bay. Since we didn't make the cutoff for Haunama (dang!!) they told us about a place called  Hidden Beach -- put in "Volpe's Secret Snorkeling Spot" and it will come up on your Google maps. It truly is hidden! You'll have to park on the side of the highway (there is plenty of room) and then look for the hedges by this carport and you'll see the hidden trail down to the beach! 

The best snorkeling there was off a reef directly out from the brown and white house if that helps at all. Lots of beautiful colored fish -- no one was there and it was so fun exploring down there! You'll also be able to see where the Obama's are building their house -- it is huge and modern and beautiful!

And some more things that were on our list but there just wasn't enough time! 

* Haunama Bay Snorkeling (see above)

*Maunawili Falls Trail -- because of the rain it was SUPER muddy and they advised not going because it was so slippery and deep.  It's on my bucket list though!

* Aloha Stadium Swap Meet & Marketplace Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays -- we were having fun exploring and didn't make it on Wednesday but they said they had pretty limited vendors with Covid on Wednesdays.

* Lanikai Pillbox Trail -- I love hikes with views, can you tell? :)

* Kono's Pork -- we were stuffed with other good things the day we were up at the North Shore this was recommended!

* North Shore Tacos -- again, too much food, too little time!  Another highly recommended spot

* Marukame Udon -- next time.

* A few more tips: DO NOT leave anything valuable in your car. They were warning us of this everywhere -- take your luggage to the hotel before going anyplace or have the hotel hold it for you if you need to check out before your flight. We have a handful of awful stories of breaking windows and smashing open trunks of friends that scared us enough not to leave anything. 

* Costco is a great stop to get Hawaiian clothing (we found great clearance shirts for $8), swimsuits, books for the beach, so many varieties of fish jerky, they have big packs of chocolate covered macadamia nuts and fun things to bring home.

And a few things not to forget when you're packing:
* Waterproof Phone Cases -- great for hiking, exploring along the beach, my husband took his snorkeling and it was totally dry!

* Reef Safe Sunscreen --  you'll want sunscreen that is not harmful to the reef environment. Re-apply often! We got burned on our beach days because we didn't keep putting it on after playing in the waves.

* Chapstick with SPF! Don't burn your lips!

* Hiking sandals that can go from water to ridge -- for rocky beaches and then right to those beautiful hikes

* Snorkeling Gear if you have room in your suitcase. We decided to rent ($20/day per set) but it would have been so nice to have in the car when we were at the Secret Beach and Shark's Cove as well.

Wow. That was a lot. Thanks for hanging in there. Have the best trip to Oahu!  I think the planning and anticipation is one of the best parts of vacation. Thanks again for stopping by and reading! 

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