oh, hawaii. what a place. i've daydreamed about this island since i was a kid. i imagined its fragrance, robust with tropical flowers, i imagined myself surfing the crystal blue waters, and watching hula dancers at a luau, their hips shaking to the distinctive tunes of the islands. hawaii came into my awareness this year when i was sitting at the good hotel in antigua, guatemala in february. a guy i was dating at the time had just booked his trip to honolulu, and i was just about ready to insert myself into his travels, when he decided to stop seeing me a day after my birthday. i cried on my best friend's shoulder, and he mentioned that he also had a trip planned to the north shore of oahu this september. he would be going for a wedding, but aimed to explore much of oahu around the event. i decided that the universe had shone this opportunity my way for a good reason, and so we booked our tickets. it would be our first far-away trip together. summer flew by in one blink, and our travel day arrived. we flew direct from new york city--an eleven hour plane ride to the mystical island i had daydreamed about. we were greeted by a rainbow arching over the highway as we drove our convertible to waikiki, and watched the sunset on the beach, turning everything pink, as hawaiian performers shared traditional dancing and music with us from underneath an enormous tree overlooking the golden sea. this place quickly proved to be paradise. exactly like the one you read about in storybooks. there's an indescribable feeling that washes over you on this island. it's nostalgic, its comforting--despite geographically being smack dab in the middle of miles of pacific ocean in all directions-- its mystical, and awe-inspiring every minute of every second that you're breathing there. it's hard to explain, but you can feel this feeling deep in the marrow of your bones. its grounding, at least for me. what an incredible thing, and i truly can't wait to go back.
it's hard to encapsulate in a blog post, but below are a few notables from our trip:
first thing's first. eat as many local papayas and bananas as possible. i'm not joking. they are abundant, and they are delicious.
the surfjack. boutique hotel in waikiki. excellent hospitality, and feels majorly like a second home. we actually teared up when it was time to leave. ask for a room with a pool view.
arvo. this little gem of a place is an australian-style coffee house with tropical accents. get an avocado toast and a coffee for some yum to start your day.
here. an amazing spot for clothing you'll want to wear your entire stay and beyond. i wish i had come with an empty suitcase (and a ton of money) to just outfit myself in their cute linen sets and wide brimmed hats.
milo. on the same strip with arvo and here is milo. a surf shop with cool apparel, sunnies and more.
roberta oaks. boutique in chinatown with shirts and sundries.
paiko. tropical flower shop. i nearly fainted from all the colors and unique flora in this shop. i wished i lived there so i could take a bouquet home, or wear haka leis on the weekly.
lanikai beach. my favorite beach off the beaten path in kailua. this beach has mild waters that are easy to wade in (unlike many of the other surf-heavy beaches on the island).
haleiwa bowls. a north shore smoothie bowl shack tucked in amongst tropical foliage. get any bowl here and swoon from the many tropical fruit options and lots of fun add-ins!
kahuku farms. a stop on the way to the north shore, this farm sources their entire breakfast/lunch menu from their backyard. you can see rows of banana trees, and loads of veggies and fruits growing while you eat! come for the acai bowls.
leonard's bakery. a hawaii staple. i was skeptical since i don't eat a lot of gluten or sugar. alas, on our last day, we decided to stop on the way to breakfast and DAMN. these malasadas are worth every drop of hype. get the classic and IMPORTANT PSA: ALSO GET THE PUFF WITH MACADEMIA NUT. its not a drill, its the best thing you'll ever eat. they're fresh and hot with every order, and best enjoyed straight from the bag or at the beach a couple hours later.
'ai love nalo. a vegan spot that we obviously hit up right after stuffing our face with malasadas. we both opted for the "oh wow laulau", a traditional plate of local veggies served with poi. it felt like perfect health going down, and held us in a beautiful state of bliss for the day ahead.
ono seafood. didn't get to this, but came highest recommended for poke bowls, a staple of hawaii.
mahina and suns. chef ed kenney opened up this spot at the surfjack, serving up local, farm-fresh fare. everything is good, and i'd suggest both breakfast and dinner here. the avocado tacos and the he'e (octopus) salad are delicious, as is the butter mochi paired with black sesame ice cream for dessert.
hike. there are lots of hikes to do here, diamond head was one highly recommended, as was lighthouse. we did lighthouse and the views are breathtaking.
number 808. a cool shop in the north shore with vintage pieces and new men's and women's apparel. we spent a long time in here picking up almost every single item because everything is so cool and we wanted all of it.
oliver. a men's shop with vintage aloha shirts. such a cool shop to browse and to find one-of-a-kind finds.
sunrise shack. another incredible smoothie bowl spot. they also serve bullet coffees. the original shop is literally a shack on the side of the road in the north shore, open early for surfers, and closing early--for surfers (the owners both ride the waves!) my favorite was the blue dream bowl with blue algae and mango. yummm!
auntie umu's 'otai. a quick to miss roadside shack on the way to the north shore, where auntie umu serves fresh pineapple and papaya, and a thing called 'otai--a smoothie-like drink made with watermelon, pineapple, and coconut.
waimanalo bay. a beautifullll beach along Kalanianaʻole Highway. stunning clear waters and very little people. (i don't like crowds on vacation *flips hair*)
jenny's shrimp truck. shrimp trucks are a north shore thing, and it's best you try it. giovanni's is all the rage up here, but when i saw the crowds at 5:30 for this place i was like, nope (see note above). and headed up the road to jenny's. the lemon pepper is delicious.
the pig and the lady. a vietnamese restaurant in chinatown. holy hell, one of the best meals i've had ever. we sat at the dessert bar and watched the pastry chef dole out brown butter soft serve topped with crunchy mac nuts all night so we ordered the brown butter soft serve topped with crunchy mac nuts for dessert. a stand-out meal for certain.
beet box cafe. a healthy vegetarian spot on the north shore. delicious bowls like the zen and smoothies for breakfast, awesome pastries, and a really eco vibe. loved this place so much we went twice.
diamond head beach. the sand literally glitters like diamonds. hidden away from the road and off a cliff is diamond head. this beach is for the surfers, and we sat for an hour watching them ride waves.
surf + hula. a vintage shop in the up and coming neighborhood of kaimuki. super cool things from different eras of hawaii.
manoa falls. a beautiful hike to a waterfall with a botanical center at its base. after we did the hike we learned that its a haunted spot, so don't go at night to avoid run-ins with ghost tribes (!)
haleiwa. the main town in the north shore. lots of cute surf shops and coffee spots. also, shave ice. too much sugar for me, but another thing people rave about here.
waikiki beach. it was the quintessential honolulu for me, it felt like an old postcard from the 50's and i loved it. head there for sunset and watch kids and surfers frolic in the golden waves.
buho cantina. a great rooftop mexican spot. delicious food. if you're like us, order a side of tajin to sprinkle on your chips and guac.
most importantly, take time to wander the roads and get lost. ryan and i found our best discoveries and made our best memories this way.
<3 aloha, a hui hou