Never have I ever
Needed a sweeter summer.
And that’s exactly what we got.
I told jake that the second I walked out of that last final, I wanted to be strapped into a seat on an airplane headed somewhere far away. Away from the rainy, cold Nebraska May, away from my overturned office and stacks of notecards I could build a small fort with. Knowing now that my true summer vacation would be spent in Officer Training, it was only so much more motivating to make this time count. That wish was partially granted, in that less than 24h after walking out those doors with a complete transcript, I was on a plane with my hubs and best bud, at cruising altitude headed to paradise.
I have no doubt that unexpected and unplanned trips are my best trips, so our destination choice came only from my pal seeing an ad for Hawaii online, a few days of hyping each other up on the decision, then locking in flights and an airbnb to seal the deal. To be forward, jake was down for beach time and beers in hand, and as long as we made that happen more often than not, he had no qualms with an entire vacation being planned by two socially starved dental school buds seeking out all the eats, hikes, and instagrammy spots our hearts desired. Maybe your cup of tea wouldn’t be to make your best friend endure a weeks vacation with you and your husband, or the opposite, but of all the travel buddies I’ve made I’d choose these two again and again for adventures. It was a blast.
I am a deal scout before I am a dental student, so that time of deciding on taking this vacation was spent overwhelmingly by procrastinating studying and donating my time to finding cheap flights and a cozy place to stay. We were able to lock in flights at half the cost of a typical trip to paradise, and an airbnb in the center of all that we wanted to see. Never mind that one airbnb mistake, who’s cancellation cost us the price of a day’s worth of expensive fun, but all I can say is – make sure you map out the location you’re staying, vs the areas you want to play, as island interstates are few and far between.
We chose the Hawaiian Islands after seeing that dreamy ad, but we chose Oahu mainly out of recommendation from our Hawaiian classmates. We were told it was the most populated and the most modern, and quite frankly we knew we would love any of the islands we chose. Oahu didn’t disappoint, maybe the only disappointing part was leaving, but we will get to that.
The flight was a little longer than I had mentally prepared for, but we left the Midwest at 11am, and landed in Oahu at 2pm Hawaiian time. This was my first real experience with time travel.
Even after a 9h flight with no movies and a broken headphone jack, I was still so excited to walk off the plane into paradise, and enjoy the day that never ended. We grabbed the car, checked in to the Airbnb, caught sushi before happy hour ended, and proceeded to eat more sushi because it was that good, drove to the beach, and found Paradise Ciders where we sampled all of the paradise fruit cider blends until the doors closed, only to take a little home for beach fuel.
We were up at the crack of dawn, quite literally, due to the time change playing with our heads. It took everything we had to sleep in past 6am any of the days we were there, but it proved to be beneficial for morning activities and for getting to the beach before it was too packed to lay a towel down.
We wandered down to Wakiki and fueled up on the tastiest coffee I have yet to taste, and even jake decided he liked hawaiian lattes in the experience. Again, this turned into a daily routine to wake up early and venture out for hawaiian lattes from Honolulu Coffee to start our day.
Within the hour we were packed and on our way to catch some rays on the north shore with beach roundies, books, and floppy hats in hand. We lathered up on sunscreen and plopped down on a beach where we caught rays, caught up on life, and watched jake wander up and down the beach with intermittent attempts to swim in the waves that crashed over his head.
Only foul take away from the day was sunburned backs of knees, where the sunscreen apparently didn’t reach, even though an entire bottle of screen was expended in that single outing.
We ventured back across the island where we attempted to gind Giovannis Shrimp Truck, but were met by a few hundred other people scouting the same dinner spots, so settled for a neighboring shrimp truck, delicious all the same. I grabbed pineapple shrimp, Sam grabbed coconut shrimp, and jake was too slow for the picture.
In order to wait out the rush hour traffic, we took a train-ride tour of the Dole pineapple plantation, feasted on Dole whip, and explored the gift shop, before returning to Waikiki to catch the sunset. An actual perfect day.
We set out, after coffee, for the Manoa Falls trail. It took less than an hour to climb the relatively easy trail, ending at a beautiful thin-streamed waterfall over a granite backdrop. There were signs all around warning swimmers of leptospirosis, but some still swam at their own risk. We chose to admire from the boulders below the falls and take it in as long as the following tourists would let us.
The trail was easy to find, and easy to hike, unlike many of the tour agencies posted online. There were groups there with paid guides that told stories along the way about trials and hawaii, but we enjoyed our free (minus parking fee) climb all the same.
Following the hike, we decided beach time was in order, so we made the drive up the west coastline to Waianae, stopping along the way at Taniokas for poke bowls and drinks. We sprawled out to relax on a beach that only a handful of other people occupied, and devoured our well earned lunches.
Beach glass laid scattered up and down the shoreline, and we spent time rotating between gathering keepsakes and watching the beach bags, before we mustered up enough courage to find the “secret” mermaid cave just down the shoreline.
Finding it wasn’t as hard as we had thought. We could hear the echoes of people down in the cave from a distance, but took our time walking along the lava bluffs, looking at all the memorials and plaques in the rocks.
When we made it to the cave, I was not having it. The water was actively rushing in and out of the cave, and we watched the people inside being washed about. Even so, a few minuets later we were all inside. It was beautiful to say the least, but certainly dangerous. Had we gone in low tide, the water would not have been as far into the cave, yet the longer we stayed the higher the waves rose, until we climbed back out the opening in the ceiling as fast as we had made our jump inside.
Jake just thought we were sissys for getting SO terrified every time a wave came in the cave.
We caught the sunset and headed back to honolulu for takeout from Sushi Bay and an early night.
We headed to Diamond Head, and made our trek up the crater to the top. Yelp told us it was a 45 min hike, I assure you it took us much longer! It wasn’t extreme, but it was strenuous, with switchbacks and stairs, but the view was certainly worth it. At the top you could see a panoramic view of the ocean and city, and it was breathtaking. We took pictures and hung out on top until we were starving, and made our way back down the trail in search of cold water and snacks.
On the top of our list of recommended places, sat Bogarts Cafe. We stopped for lunch and mimosas, and loved every second of it! So delicious!
Afterward we ventured up the east side of the island, stopping at all the lookouts along the way and taking in all the views.
Not far from the lookouts, we came upon the sign for the Makapu’u lighthouse, and made a spontaneous decision to stop for another Yelp-verified quick hike… again leading us astray on time. Again, we were told that the hike was relatively flat and quick to climb, but after over an hour of hiking the steep inclines we made it to the beautiful view at the top. The trail to the actual lighthouse had slid off the cliff, but the view was amazing from the end of the trail. We could see the beaches in the distance calling our names, and decided they would be our last stop of the day.
I had wanted to snorkel, but after passing all of the recommended spots, and they each being closed, I was on the lookout for anywhere that would rent or sell us some gear. We stopped in Kailua at a surf shop that rented gear. We walked out of Kailua Beach Adventure owning our own snorkels and goggles on the way to a reef they had recommended to us.
The reefs were located on Lanikai beach, and they were full of fish. Some, a little too friendly, but most of the fist calmly went about their day as I floated above and watched. It was my first time snorkeling and so much fun! Jake and sam also came and went from the beach to the water, but I spent enough time on the reef that the snorkel goggle indent on my face lasted for the rest of the day!
Click to see my very amateur snorkeling video!
Another beach sunset, and another quest for food. We had tacos and jumbo margs in celebration of Sam’s birthday, and headed home exhausted!
On our final full day we woke up early and headed to Pearl Harbor.
The memorial site was under construction, so we were given free admission to the area. We toured the museum, as well as ventured out on the boat to tour the shipyard and hear of the devastating events that occurred there. The memorial was beautiful. We were shown pictures and drone shots of what it guarded, and it was haunting. I cannot bring myself to imagine being present on that day. It was very worth it to visit the site and pay our respects to the harbor.
After our trip to Pearl Harbor, we met up with a friend in our dental school class, home visiting family for the break. He showed us the way to Cinnamons, for the best pancakes Iv’e yet to have, and coffee before a hike. At Cinnamons, I got the Guava Chiffon pancakes and I wish I could have them here at home every day! Phone picture so merited here.
After breakfast we headed to the trailhead for Maumawili falls, which we never would have found without Westin. It was hidden off of a residential street in the most discreet spot. It was lightly raining, so the trail was slick and muddy, but we kept going nonetheless. The trail was also somewhat difficult, in that it was not flat or straight whatsoever. The entire trail was cut through exposed root systems and rocks. You crossed the river a couple of times as well. When we reached the end, the waterfall was so beautiful you never regretted a second of the hike.
A few people were there when we arrived, and within minutes we were watching as they swam and climbed to the top of the waterfall before jumping back in the black pool below. We followed suit, and jumped in as well. It was so much fun!
Next time, I would come prepared to hike beyond the waterfall, as we heard there are larger falls further up the mountain. Certainly a beautiful hike, and worth all the climbs… and falls!
Westin showed us the way back to town and we scouted out a farmers market in the rain. We sampled Ube mochi and sugar cane drinks, and stared at avocados the size of our heads until it was time to feed the rest of the pack.
We then made our way to Highway Inn, where we each had traditional hawiian food, and it really was unlike anything I had ever tried before. My meal was chicken Lau Lau, a meat dish wrapped in luau leaf, along with purple sweet potatoes, lomi salmon, and haupia (a coconut jello-like dessert). It was so good! I couldn’t recommend it more, and I’m definitely glad we were able to experience authentic Hawaiian food.
We then were taken to the most beautiful spot on the island. A quick drive outside of Honolulu, he showed us a road that switchbacked up the mountain and gave us a view of the city at night,. From the lookout we could see all of the city, all lit up and beautiful. If this were where I lived, I could go up there every night, just to hang out with friends and enjoy the calm ambiance. We were told it’s nicknamed makeout point, hah!
We headed back after a long day of fun, and started packing bags, sparing time for fun the next day.
On our final day, we scheduled flights late so we had more time to play. We loaded the car with all our bags and souvenirs, and set out for one final hours of exploration. We checked out the murals around the city, scouted the final souvenirs on our checklist, went to the overlook one last time, had one last hawaiian latte, and had ourself the final treat on our must-have list – Banan.
I can’t say how happy I was for this! One of our classmates had recommended we try this before we left, so we had to find it! It was nestled in a walkway on the way to one of the Waikiki beaches. Everything on the menu was made of bananas. I had the Chunkadelic, Sam had the Original, Jake had a stomach ache from all the treats… whoops!
Found a good last photo op in the search as well!
And just like that, the trip was over. We boarded an overnight flight and hit the skies. We literally had ourselves a little adventure.
I came back to Nebraska with a full belly, a rogue sleep schedule, and a few thousand pictures and memories that are completely irreplaceable.
10/10 would recommend an Oahu vacation, an open schedule, an overweight suitcase, and your favorite people around you.