Back in August, I got a phone call from my grandparents that they wanted to take me to Hawaii as my college graduation trip. A two week vacation in Hawaii? How could I say no to that?! My cousin, Jon, was going to be graduating from the University of Hawaii Manoa so it was going to be the much needed family time and rest that was deserved. I can’t believe the time has come and gone to go on this trip. Before sharing all the delicious food I ate, and all the views, I wanted to thank my grandparents for taking me on this trip with them. I am so grateful to have loved ones in my life that taught me to prioritize travel.
Disclaimer: The time of this trip was 65% dedicated to relaxing. I am such a busy-body and want to do everything and anything I can do in the most amount of time, but during this trip I had to find comfort in just sitting and relaxing. This isn’t a total adventure guide, but we did get to do some really cool stuff.
I was very fortunate that my grandparents are Marriott timeshare owners in Ko’Olina. Think of Ko’Olina as the Key Biscayne of the island with mostly resorts. It is a community with all the big name resorts; Disney, Marriott, and the Four Seasons, and the home of four man made lagoons. The community is surrounded by a large golf course, filled with shops and restaurants. A little something for everyone.
Let’s start with all the eats + drinks.
A great spot in Honolulu where we met with my cousin and his fiance for dinner. It’s a farm to kitchen restaurant located in Honolulu. When you are there you must have their jalapeno mashed potatoes, LIFE CHANGER. I got the I NEED A DOLLAH (ain’t that right) tequila cocktail, and after that it became I NEED A NAP. I got the duck tacos, and it was absolutely delicious. A fun and upbeat restaurant, and great for large parties.
Island Vintage Coffee:
A coffee shop? For Cafecito in Chicago? Groundbreaking.
You know I needed to find the island’s best coffee. Hawaii grows their own coffee beans. Driving through the cites, I saw many coffee farms, so the coffee is legit. There are a few of these coffee shops around the island, luckily I had access to one in Ko’Olina. I would run to the coffee shop for my morning breakfast and coffee. This place was already packed by 7 AM. A ray of food and coffee options, I went with the Island Latte–which is sweetened with coconut milk and hazelnut and the Cacao Moana Bowl, which was more delicious than pictured.
Another joint located in Ko’Olina, great for after a day on the beach and when you have no energy to cook at home. Come with a group of people who enjoy pizza because the pies are huge. Pizza Corner is New York style pizza that comes in one size…18’’. It is a great spot to go after a long day and as a plus it is BYOB.
Down To Earth:
Leave it to me to find the Plum Market of the island. Not only did they have my favorite brands like Siete, Simple Mills, and a kombucha aisle for days, but they also had a great smoothie and food bar. I picked up some goodies that made me feel closer to home and picked up a bomb smoothie.
Marukame Udon made all my noodle dreams come true. These noodles were THICK, and I honestly have been dreaming of them ever since. Don’t be intimidated by the line outside the restaurant, it moves very quickly. I haven’t even gotten to the best part…the TEMPURA BAR. Yes, a self serving tempura bar, with anything and everything you can think of fried. THIS is what truly dreams are made of.
After you enjoy Marukame, end over next door to Cafe Maiko for matcha dessert. This cute small store front is a matcha concentrated cafe. Anyway you want your matcha, they have it. Lattes, shaved ices, frappes, soft serve, this is a matcha heaven. I personally went with a matcha and vanilla swirl, with matcha powder. The matcha is so fresh and rich, I was bouncing off the walls afterwards. This is a great pit stop before a day at the beach!
Sunrise Shack is a Team CHAARG favorite, so I knew I had to check it out. The original shack is located in the North Shore, and is made up of all my Instagram dreams. I was in the Waikiki area, so I knew I had to visit the location in the Outrigger Hotel. The decor of the place is everything I want in my future backyard. Bright yellow colors, beachy and laid back theme, such a cute spot! The menu is loaded with smoothies, superfoods, and bulletproof coffee. I was so full from the day, but I knew I had to get something. I asked for a light smoothie, and they recommended the Tropical Smoothie. The fruit was one of the freshest fruit I’ve ever had in a smoothie, and the cute turtle paper straw. If you are in Waikiki, run don’t walk.
Tsukuneya Robata Grill
Our last meal of the trip was Japanese food tapas style. I only have two words to describe this dining experience…FRIED CHEESE. This place is great for large parties. Small portions of japanese appetizers, sushi, and tsukenya; which are small pieces of chicken on sticks with different sauces.
>>THINGS TO DO:
Halewia is a small beach town located on the North Shore. It is the home of the famous shave ice spot, Matsumoto. The line was too long, so we didn’t go there, but we did stop for shave ice across the street at Aoki’s. The shave ice was flavorful and the decor was so cute. The rest of the town is filled with street art, restaurants, shops, and food trucks. A great spot to hangout in after a day at the beach.
All I can say about this Japanese temple is that it is absolutely breathtaking. The drive through the mountains feels like you are driving through Jurassic Park. I will let all the pictures do the talking, but this place is so peaceful and magical. A must see while in O’ahu. The admissions is $4 and is cash only.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
The flea market at the Aloha Stadium consist of over 400 tents filled with local art, souvenirs and fresh fruit. This is the perfect place to pick up your friends and family souvenirs because they are a fraction of the price. I definitely recommend picking up fresh coconut and drinking the water out of it, the only way one should drink coconut water. I met a sweet man selling his wife’s art made out of fresh plants. Check them out on Etsy. The flea market is open every Wednesday and Sunday.
Hiking Diamond Head was my favorite thing we did on the trip. I love a good hike, and this view was absolutely breathtaking. The hike took about an hour round trip, and was a moderate hike. Definitely not challenging, but something my grandparents wouldn’t be able to do. Take the risks, and jump the fences for the best look out of Waikiki Beach. At the entrance they have Dole food trucks with Dole Whip, and fresh smoothie bowls, and bites to fuel you before your hike.
These are a few spots that I went snorkeling in:
The lagoons in Ko’Olina–I mostly went to the one outside our resort, but if you go to the public beach behind Paradise Cove there is a great spot. This is the spot where you can see turtles on that side of the island. I recommend going when there are not a ton people and the tide is high. There are a lot of rocks though, which makes snorkeling tough.
Waikiki Beach: This is another great snorkeling spot, I would be advised that the waves are stronger in the summertime, as they move from the North Shore. Again, snorkel at your own risk when the waves are rocky.
Hanauma Bay State Park: I went to Hanauma Bay when I went to Hawaii in 2014, and a great snorkeling spot with very clear water. Before you go in, you must complete watching an ocean conservation video. You can take a tram ride up and down the hill for less than $2 each way. This is a big tourist spot, so either get there very early in the morning or closer to sunset. Parking is tight, so getting there early helps.
Coming back to 60 degrees and rainy Chicago weather definitely makes me miss Hawaii. Until we meet again,
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