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Is it really already March?  Wait, and I’m hearing some schools start Spring Break next week…say whaaaaaat?!?  OK, It’s been over a month since settling back in on the mainland and I definitely feel it’s time to say “Aloha!” to Hawaii again.  In previous posts I’ve covered my favorite part of the trip (Hanauma Bay) and where to stay (The Pink Palace) but I wanted to complete a more comprehensive post regarding Oahu, much like my guest blogger Kate provided.  My issue is that every time I go to write about our Hawaiian holiday, each little facet of the trip turns into a thousand-word recollection.  Oahu provided such vivid memories and rich experiences and thus, it’s left me LOTS to write about!  Our little winter escape held a new adventure day-after-day and I can’t wait to go back and experience more!

The Island      As friends & family check-in to ask how the trip went, I find my answer always boils down to the notion that Oahu truly has it all.  When conversing with folks who LOVE Hawaii and travel there annually, I’m used to hearing the specifics of what each island is known for…i.e., you go to the Big Island for this but to Maui for that; if you want to go whale watching you need this location, but the best beaches are here, the best snorkeling is there, and the lush gardens lie elsewhere still.  This was my very first trip to Hawaii, so all of it was new, fresh, and altogether wonderful to me.  As I’m learning more about the Hawaiian Islands individually, I see what I’ve heard is true — each island has its own nickname, reputation, and notable features.  That being said, I found that Oahu has everything I could ask for in a genuine Hawaiian vacation.  Snorkeling, hiking, beaches, surfing, Hawaiian culture, world-class dining, better-than-Beverly-Hills shopping…it’s ALL there.

Beaches      We spent most of time on Waikiki Beach, as that is where our hotel was located and where most of the action goes down.  Although the hotel staff was quite welcoming upon check-in, I didn’t feel like I’d truly arrived in paradise until that first glimpse of Waikiki Beach.  It’s quite beautiful with its glistening teal blue water, Diamond Head in the background, and sunsets that command adoration.  Ah, how easy it is to vibe-out with the iconic Hawaiian beach scenes happening on Waikiki:  the friendly & helpful “Waikiki Beach Boys,” the live Hawaiian music pouring out of a neighboring hotel, the shouts of Outrigger Canoe teams passing by, the surfer dudes checking out the girls in bikinis…  No fancy excursions necessary — it was cool to just sit, do nothing, and soak up some sun on legendary Waikiki Beach.  Now I know why the locals seem so chill — that easygoin’ Hawaiian attitude is contagious!  One of my most relaxing afternoons was spent with my cousin, lying on our beach towels in the sand & catching up over Mai Tais.  As for water activities, I particularly enjoyed Stand-up Paddleboarding — it’s a thing I’ve taken up at home and it was neat to experience one of my new favorite activities in a different environment.Me on Waikiki Beach!

Of course, watching the surf along the North Shore MUST be addressed!  We were there in January, so the waves were dangerously high and quite a spectacle to see crash so close to shore.  We made the hour-ish drive up North one morning and it was worth it to witness the mighty power of the sea and the tallest waves I’ve ever encountered.  The surfers were out pretty far, but at our stop at Waimea Bay, I got to gawk up-close at some of the gnarliest bodyboarding in the world.  The epic waves at shorebreak blew my mind with their force…boogieboarders had to be expert-level (and carry a death-wish) to attempt those crashing lips and powerful pockets.IMG_8302

We saw so many wipe-outs and a couple guys actually lose their boards, needing verbal coaching by the lifeguards on loudspeaker to navigate back ashore.  Appropriately, only those surfers with years of experience and all the proper gear were allowed to touch the water that day.  I actually got called-out by a lifeguard for standing too close to the waterline.  Apparently, these waves have been known to swell unexpectedly, fiercely crashing down and pulling unsuspecting beachcombers out to sea.  Scary, but exhilarating to watch from the sand!  We swung by the Pipeline, Shark’s Cove, and Laniakea Beach as well.  Laniakea Beach is also known as “Turtle Beach” because you can get super-close to endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles basking on the beach — great photo-op!IMG_8200

To Do     The stop at Waimea Bay led us to stumble upon lush Waimea Valley — an unexpected detour but worthy of the time and $15 pp admission.  This nature preserve and botanical garden is like something out of prehistoric times.  –It’s such a raw & lovely landscape, that’s the best way I can think of now to describe it.  The area is an “ahupua’a” (Hawaiian Land Division that extends from the mountains to the sea) and it’s a breathtaking experience to walk along the along the sunlit trails’ changing environment:  waterfall…to stream…to ocean.  It’s home to endangered plants & animals, too — you’ll definitely get to chronicle flora & fauna you’ve never seen before.  The best part of the park is reaching Waimea Falls, a 45-ft. waterfall at the end of our 2-mi hike through the rainforest.  Being used the chilly Barton Springs here in Austin, I jumped right in and swam straight through the chilly water to the base of the waterfall. It was awesome!IMG_0533…To be continued.  Week in Waikiki, part two, coming soon!

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