Travel Diary: Oahu, HI / by Sarah Park

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Oahu, HI

Fall in love with the magic of the islands.

It’s impossible to deny the beauty and magic of Hawaii, I would consider it as the most precious gem of the United States. I’ve been fascinated by the culture, lush scenery, and beautiful beaches ever since my family took our first trip there when I was in 5th grade. I remember discovering my first bite of papaya (righteously served with a side of lime), I opted to stay by the pool and chow down several orders of papaya halves while my family went out to explore the rest of Wakiki. This is a decision I have not regretted, ever.

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Needless to say, my return trip to Oahu was long over due. I was so ecstatic to make it happen with my husband as our “mini” honeymoon (since we were planning a proper trip later in the year). We spent four short days at The Laylow and rented a fancy convertible to drive all around the island. Despite the weather being cloudy with intermitten showers, we took the risk of driving around with the top down and luckily missed all the rainy moments.

I don’t know how to describe my affinity to the idea of “island life.” I just can’t help but feel good and all my worries seem to dissolve away; I guess you could consider this as being in full vacation mode. Whatever it is, I thoroughly enjoyed every fleeting moment soaking in all the beauty of this very special place.

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We planned one big activity for each day and made sure to hit up all the foodie spots around the area. We hiked the Koko Head Trail on a cloudy day, which was perfect because otherwise I might have died with the sun beaming down on me. The view and feelings of satisfaction when you reach the top just can’t be described into words. Pushing aside the dread of having to climb back down a million steep steps, I took as much as time possible to enjoy the breeze and the view.

Lucky for us, we met a local woman who showed us a secret path around one of the scariest points where the wooden steps lift several feet off the ground below. It would have been especially disastrous having to step carefully onto those logs with wobbly legs on the way down. After the hike, we treated ourselves to a breakfast platter at McDonald’s because I was in the mood for some good old spam, eggs, and rice with a side of taro pie.

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The first day was spent closer to our hotel, we walked along the streets to check out what kind of shops and restaurants were near by. When dinner time came, we waited over an hour for a seat at Tonkatsu Tamafuji, a very Japanese approach to eating tonkatsu. We ground up our own sesame seeds to make the dipping sauce and got to watch the kitchen staff prepare our meal.

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One of my favorite things we did during our trip was the visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, we spent a good, solid five hours there. It’s a 40-something acre compound supported by BYU built to educate visitors about the different polynesian cultures. They offer different levels of tickets from just admissions to a dinner luau with a performance. I’m a total sucker for these types of immersive experiences and made me definitely want to visit all of the islands to learn more about their culture. It’s already on my bucket list and I highly recommend visiting the PCC if you’re in Oahu! It’s close to the North Shore, so you can plan to go here in the morning and stop by the beaches afterwards.

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We spent the rest of the day, driving top down in our rental car, just enjoying the view. There were beautiful ridges along the mountains covered in lush, green forests. We made a stop by Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck before taking a plunge at Lanakai Beach. As it was my first time back in so long, I had to hit up all the popular, touristy spots to try the food for myself :)

We also had a chance to stop by Pearl Habor, the day before our last day, but unfortunately wasn’t able to see the tour we wanted. There’s a free section where all visitors are welcomed to walk through for a summary of the war but each vessel has it’s own tour schedule and prices. When we got there in the evening, all of the tickets were sold out execpt the USS Bowfin submarine so we decided to go and learn about that. It was heartbreaking but also fascinating to learn about our history.

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The last thing we ate was Hawaiian BBQ at Rainbow Drive-In, where we were served a generous portion of beef ribs, mac salad, and rice. The four days in this tropical paradise flew by and I was so sad to leave. Lucky for us, Hawaii is just a 5-hour plane ride away, I am already looking forward to planning our next trip in Maui and Kauai!

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