June 20, 2018

What to do in Oahu (North Shore)!

We've been back from Oahu for a couple weeks now & feel like we've somewhat come back to normal earth life now (Unfortunate, I know). We. LOVE. It. There!!! We plan to move there sometime in the next few years. It was that good, just absolute heaven. We were lucky enough to be there for 3 weeks, so we got some good time in to experience the Hawaiian local life there! I had a couple requests to share some of our favorite things there that other people should do when they go, so here it is! 

***Where to stay: 
North Shore!! Just my personal opinion, but if you want the Hawaii experience, you gotta stay up on the North Shore. It's nice because for being such a popular touristy area, they have done SO well at "keeping it country" as they say. There are no big hotels, shopping centers, malls, etc. It's all just little beach towns, small ma & pa restaurants, and homes. The road to get everywhere is single lane. You see wild roosters everywhere. It's just beachy, rural, and dreamy. I suggest Airbnb (always) to look into places to stay. You can stay anywhere from Hauula (being cheaper) to Haleiwa (more expensive) and go to all the North Shore beaches and things to do in the area. (Note: I would share where we stayed so you could stay there too, but we did a house swap with a family we know, so it's not a rental, but we LOVE airbnb and have used it lots!)
If you are wanting more of the resort type stay, Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club is really awesome, pretty, and nice. It's kind of down in it's own little corner of the island on the opposite side of North Shore. I haven't stayed there, but I have lots of family that love it. 
Don't mind my random insertion of pictures I love from the trip!

***BEST FOOD: 
Hukilau Cafe - Breakfast!!! They have the best breakfast!! Those pancakes are SO dang good. I dream of them. I seriously had to restrain my craving to go there every morning. 
Matsumotos - the BEST snow cones. If there's a line (there probably will be), WAIT IN IT!! It goes fast, and there's a reason for it. DON'T go anywhere else! Their flavors are homemade and it is just so dang good. It's a good thing we didn't stay closer to Haleiwa or we would have had "shave ice" for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My favorite flavors were guava & melon. Just go there, and then send me one.

Ted's Bakery - Okay this is a must if you're visiting in the area. Everyone loves Ted's Bakery - their baked goods are so yummy. The best is their Chocolate Haupa (Coconut) Pie, it's so good, not too coconutty, and even my husband who doesn't like sweets wanted to keep going to get more. What was surprising, though, was when we discovered that they have normal food too. And just not even normal food - the BEST food! Seriously we were on a quest to find the best shrimp, and we found it at Ted's! Okay so this is a trick only the locals know - order a plate & it comes with a piece of pie! But they don't have that on the menu and they won't tell you that haha, you just have to get a piece of pie & take it to the counter with you! Now you can get the two best things and kill two birds with one stone - the garlic shrimp and the chocolate haupa pie. You're welcome! 

Ice cream - Scoop of Paradise in Haleiwa. Homemade ice cream & waffle cones. Don't bother asking which ones are good like I did - they're just all good. Haha

Kua 'Aina- possibly the best hamburger you will ever have in your life. They put a whole half (whole half? Haha an entire half?) avocado on the avocado one & it's so dang good. A little pricey, but so is everything else.
Konos - Okay this is a place I wish we went and people kept telling us how good it is, but we unfortunately never made it there! But apparently it's really yummy and the burritos are bomb.

Seven Brothers - When we were here with my family six years ago, my grandpa literally took us to Seven Brothers every night for dinner. I'm serious. Everything they have is dang good. When we went here this time, we tried the Ahi & coconut macadamia nut shrimp and it was two thumbs up.
Don't you just wanna eat him up?! Man!
Kahuku Farms - This is a good find! They grow their own acai and it took seven years for them to be able to finally harvest it! But now they have acai bowls from their own home grown acai! Something you just gotta get while you're in Hawaii. 

Korean BBQ- we asked a few of the locals where their favorite place to eat is, and they would always say the Korean BBQ place in Hauula! We didn't end up going there, but they say it's really good, so it might be worth a shot!

Best place to get shrimp:
NOT the shrimp trucks! Don't do it!! It's tempting... but it's soo overpriced & still shelled & just not very good. Go to Ted's!!
Ted's Bakery - locals say this is the best place to get shrimp!
Seven Brothers - they claim their coconut macadamia nut shrimp is life changing. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's life changing necessarily, but it is good. Haha 

***ENTERTAINMENT:
Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) - 
Okay this is a MUST!! It is what it sounds like, you learn about the Polynesian culture, but it's so much more than that. There's dancing, there's shows that are SO funny, there's hands on activities, good food, and more. It just is something you can't fully explain, you just have to go there and do it and see for yourself and you'll be glad you did!! 
It's expensive. It will probably be one of the "big" things you do. But it's worth it! Think about it - it's an all day activity that's so fun for the whole family, dinner is included, and a show is included. I would say from the options, the villages are a must (guided tour is nice, but if you're looking to save a little you could cut that out and tour them on your own), you gotta do the luau that includes a dinner show, and then the HA Breath of life show is awesome. To get the best deal, I would do the Ali'i Luau package. And you can save 10% if you book 10 or more days in advance.  Click here to go to their website to see all the package options.
Another tip is if you happen to know someone that works there, or try to meet someone that does, they can get you a 20% discount I believe. But if you have a big group, it's risky because you have to buy them once you get there, and if it's sold out then you're out of luck! We did that because the bishop of the ward we went to worked there and told us he could get us in for cheaper, and it was kind of stressful & last minute, but we did save. Either way, I feel like you can't go to Hawaii and not do this, it's just a part of the Hawaiian experience that totally teaches you and helps you appreciate their culture! Are you sold yet?? Haha

Pineapple Plantation -  
This is just a fun little activity. Not super necessary, just if you're looking for something to do. It is a little overpriced in my opinion, but you can just go there and do the free things. There's a 20 min train ride that you can pay for where you go through all the pineapple fields and stuff - it's okay. Not like the funnest thing ever, but it's cool. They also have a maze (like a corn maze, but a pineapple maze?) that we didn't do, but it could be fun. Or it could be really hot and lame, i'm not sure. Haha. They have all the pineapple souvenirs you could ever dream of, and the best part is the Dole Whips! This was my first time trying one, and they really are all they're cracked up to be. So good! I would say on a scale of 1-10 this is like a 6. Don't book anything online - just wait till you see if you want to go and buy whatever when you get there. They don't sell out or anything. Click here to go to their website.
Macadamia Nut Farm Tour -
We found this place just driving by and me telling my hubs that we should stop here and check it out! It's kinda fun. They have lots of yummy samples, lots of chickens, haha and a tour you can go on! We missed the tour, but from Yelp it sounds like it's kinda fun. If you don't do the tour, you can just do what we did and pull over when you're passing by, check it out, and grab some yummy local nuts from their store! Click here to see the yelp reviews on it.

Pearl Harbor - This is a cool place to come visit, but it's kind of one of those things you only need to do once. It would probably be boring for kids, but it is cool if you like history! And that's my favorite movie, so it's cool to see once. 
Laie LDS Temple - Whether you're LDS or not, this temple is sooo beautiful and the grounds are so pretty! It's fun just to walk around and feel of the peacefulness. You can even go inside the lobby and see the awesome friezes, they'll tell you about them and tell you about the temple! My favorite message is that families can be together forever, because all I want in life is to be with these guys forever and ever! Nobody can hate that right!? For more info about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)/Mormons, go here!

BEACHES-
Best beach for Kids: 
Lanikai Beach (not to be confused with Laniakea Beach) - warm! Hardly any waves!

Three Tables Beach - good little beach with pretty small waves
Turtle Bay - resort that has a public beach with a great place for kids to play in the waves!
Waimea Bay (in the summer) - great little bay with hardly any waves (in the summer - apparently they are huge in the winter!)
Waikiki (down south) - really pretty, good snorkeling! 

Best beach for playing in waves/boogie boarding:
Hukilau Beach - good fun waves & a good beach to hang out at!
***Best snorkeling:
Haunama Bay - okay you gotta see pictures of this place. If you're a snorkeler, you need to go here and check it out. And if you're not a snorkeler, you need to go here and have it be your first time at the best snorkeling place ever! It's a protected bay with sooo many fish. It's shallow for a long time and no waves. You do have to pay to get inside ($7.50/person) and it's closed every Tuesday. (Oh and take snacks - they have a snack bar but it's at the top of the hill & it's expensive.)
Three Tables Beach - this was my favorite spot to snorkel! It was close to where we stayed on the North Shore, free, and SUCH good snorkeling!!! There are so many dang beautiful fish in that area! I just couldn't even get enough of it. We spent a lot of time here.
Waikiki Beach - a good beach, great for kids, with good snorkeling!

Best place to see & swim with sea turtles: 
Laniakea Beach - this is so fun! There are always turtles there. Sometimes on the sand. There are always volunteers there to answer questions and make sure the turtles are protected. And just know you have to stay at least 10 feet away from them, even in the water. But you can go swim by them, it's so fun! This was my mother in laws first time snorkeling, and she loved it! 
Best place to watch surfing (or go surfing):
Pipeline (in the winter) - world famous beach with lots of pro surfers & competitions here. The waves are really big in the winter and not very big (still look pretty big to me haha) in the summer. 
Pretty much any of the North shore beaches, you'll see surfers. 
Other fun beaches: 
Keiki beach - a HUGE beach with so much sand and hardly any people! The waves break on the shore, like a lot of places, so it's not super great for playing in the water, but it is so dang pretty!! It's just a ginormous beach and it was such a great place to watch the sunset. And we saw people doing a bonfire here that looked like it would be soo fun.
Sunset beach: Great place to... you guessed it... watch the sunset. And play in the water. 
Rocky Point Beach/Gas Chambers - one of our favorite little places to hang out by just the local people that lived nearby. My husband had fun surfing and snorkeling here. (And we may or may not have seen someone famous that lives nearby).

***BEST HIKES: 
Waimea Falls - okay if you are anything like my husband that loves anything nature, or anything like my brother in law who is obsessed with photography, or anything like me and just love a nice, easy, paved, path in nature that leads to a waterfall, you should go here. It is kind of pricey (like $16/person), which almost deterred us, but we decided to just do it and were really glad we did! There's a waterfall at the end, so wear your swim suits under your clothes (and you can totally just wear flip flops) and you can swim in it at the end! It's a little chilly, but totally doable. We swam to the waterfall and my brother in law took some awesome pictures of us. They make you wear life jackets, which they give you at the waterfall for free. It's a beautiful walk with sooo many awesome plants along the way, a lot of which are endangered. It's awesome! 
Maunawili Falls - we didn't do this one, but my cousin that lives there said this one is awesome!

Hauula Loop - we did this one twice. The first time we took my mother in law, who did it just fine, and both times we had our baby strapped to one of us the whole way and we did just fine. It's a good hike that is a good challenge, but totally doable. It took us maybe 2 1/2 - 3 hours each time, taking our time. There's also beautiful views at the top of the mountains & the ocean!
Sunset Pillbox Hike - I haven't done this one either but my cousin has with her kids, and it looks really pretty! 

Pali Lookout - also didn't get to this one, but it's always on the lists of hikes to do. I think it's pretty easy and has beautiful views at the top! It might not even be that much of a hike, I'm not sure, but look into it haha.

Where to buy groceries:
Kahuku farms has the best priced produce, cheaper than the little fruit stands.
Costco (BEST place to buy food for sure. If you're planning on eating where you're staying, you should stop here at the beginning of your stay for sure. The prices were very reasonable and pretty similar to how they are here in Southern California. Everywhere else the food is insane.)
Target - another good place to buy produce and other small things you need. But honestly I would just stick to Costco. haha
Up on North Shore, the only option is Foodland, and it's crazy expensive. If you just need a few things, it's not worth driving to Costco, but just know it's really expensive if you need to go buy a lot of things here. I paid $4.50 for 3 potatoes. And almost $3 for one onion. haha

TIPS:
-Just know all food is expensive here. So I would bring snacks if you can fit them (or just buy them at Costco once you get there). There's a running joke now about me bringing mashed potatoes, because I brought some mashed potato packets from home- they're from Costco and they're good okay? Of course security had to search my carry on bag in the airport and I had packed so many snacks. The lady was going through EVERYTHING - pulling out gallon ziplock bags of granola bars, trail mix, fruit leather, etc. I was seriously laughing so hard because she just kept pulling more and more snacks out, and then she got to the mashed potato packets, (Trent embarrassingly rolling his eyes pretending like he doesn't know me) and she was like "WHERE are you going?!" The lady behind us was in a hurry and did NOT think it was that funny, but I couldn't stop laughing.
But those snacks came in handy every single day on our hikes, out on the beaches, etc. so I don't even feel bad about holding that lady up in security, haha.
Also, we had to pay for our checked bags, so we only checked one bag, and had 2 carry-on's, and then my husband had a backpack, and I had our diaper bag, and I'm proud to say I somehow fit enough diapers and wipes that lasted us the whole 3 weeks we were there. (Barely... I had like 3 of each left when we got back!) I'll do another post sometime in the next 5 years (insert laughing emoji... I hate that I can't put emojis in here cause I keep thinking of some I want to add & feel like the 2018 Natalie can't accurately convey what I'm saying without emojis) about traveling with a baby, so I'll link that here once I write about my tips for what to bring & how to travel with a baby! But to put it short, definitely bring a carrier (ergo baby) and we did bring our stroller, which is free, but we didn't use it very much, so I probably wouldn't bring it if I were doing it again. And BRING BABY FOOD!!! Baby food was more expensive here, like everything, and I was so glad that I had packed almost enough pouches, bars, formula, and Veggie Straws for my little guy for the whole time we were there. Again, sorry airport security people :)
-If you plan on snorkeling, bring your own gear. Buying it once you get there is a little more expensive. 
-Same with sunscreen, it's cheaper here. DO NOT forget the sunscreen. And do not forget to PUT ON the sunscreen! Everywhere! Even if it's cloudy. Just believe me... haha
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments! Thanks for reading, and Aloha!