Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hawaii: Travel Tips, Budget Ideas, and a Great Vacation

My husband and I went to Hawaii a few weeks ago for our belated 10th anniversary. We're scheming every possible to way to get back!!! It won't be for a few years... {darn bills}, but we WILL return.

Here are my "notes". Hopefully this will help someone else who's itching to get to Hawaii!!

The island we visited was O'ahu. Love it!  Hopefully in a few short years, I can give advice about every island in Hawaii.. I can dream...

If you know someone who works for the airlines, or have some sort of connection, ask for a standby/ buddy pass {if you dare}.  I've flown to Hawaii twice on stand by passes. I've also had to sleep in the airport, and on our trip home, this last time, we actually had to just buy the confirmed ticket because the flights were so chuck full.

Yes, this is me sleeping in the airport! I can't 
believe that I'm posting a picture of myself in this
manner, but there you go!
The reality of flying standby :).

If you are a "hang-loose" type of person, and don't absolutely HAVE to be there or home by a certain point, standby flights are a good option. I do warn, however, that they can be high stress, and you may have to sleep in the airport.

Sometimes {even if standby is an option}I recommend just watching for a cheap ticket. There are some GREAT sites where tickets can be purchased for the greatest of rates such as . Tickets to Honolulu can be as low as $172 (one way). This does take flexibility and patience to find one at this price, but it IS possible.

Check out THIS article for 23 of the Best Travel Sites to Save Money .

Places to stay:

There are seemingly zillions of options, and it all depends on what you want from your vacation. My advice is to stay on the North Shore... far away from the very touristy Honolulu and Waikiki!

 Many people rent out an apartment in their home for a much better rate than any hotel. However, if this trip is your honeymoon- you may want to steer away from that route :). Just sayin'.

Look for the deals, the very most inexpensive is around $80 per night, but more likely around $100-$125.
Here are a few places to start looking long the North Shore.

IF your travel plans are on the Big Island then here is the most killer deal for a house rental I've ever seen in my life!!!! I think we'll go there next time!

Things to do:
Ask around before you go. Most likely you have friends who have recently gone to Hawaii. Ask what their favorite places were. Hands down, the best places we went were recommended by friends. 

Life essentials are food and water, and in Hawaii the it is most essential to experience the best food ever, and the amazing beaches.

Our VERY Favorites
Essential Places to go in O'ahu

Lanakai Beach (free)
This is literally one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen in my entire life! A DEFINITE MUST SEE!

Hanauma Bay
The snorkeling here is so amazing and fun. Make sure to arrive early because crowds come quick!

Walking a mile out of the way at Sunset Beach (free)
One of the highlights of our trip because we ran into this adorable guy. I LOVE Sea Turtles. Sometimes walking on the beach to a less busy spot leads to seeing some cool stuff!

Watching surfers and sunsets in Haleiwa (free)
Haleiwa, on the North Shore, is known as the surf capital of the world.  So awesome to watch the surfers, or even learn yourself. Sunsets here are incredible! This town is one of my favorite places in the WORLD to eat, and just hang out in. Further down this list you'll read about the BEST places for food...

See the Mormon Temple (free)
This is a breathtakingly beautiful building, whether you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) or not. Because of the sacred nature of the temple, tours are not given inside the actual temple. However, tours are given at the adjacent visitors center. Gorgeous!

Polynesian Cultural Center
Next to the Temple is the Polynesian Culture Center. One of my VERY favorite places. So family friendly and FUN! I was totally blown away by the Breath of Life Dinner show. Spectacular.

After visiting, drive up the hill and look out Laie point...

Hawaiian Style Moped
Super fun to get on some mopeds and cruise around Honolulu! I did get a tiny bit nervous, but sooo exhilarating!

Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is definitely a must see.  I felt all kind of emotions while there, but I left inspired. Forgiveness and strength permeate the air.

My husband tried to get me to kiss him with the famous statue above, but I was way too chicken! Guess that's what 10 years of marriage does :).

Aloha Stadium Swap Meet ($1)
Obviously, there are souvenir shops EVERYWHERE you go, and they are WAY overpriced. Don't buy ANYTHING as a gift until you go to the Aloha stadium swap meet. Everything is less than half the price you'll see anywhere else!!! It's a lot of fun, and a ton of walking.

Diamond Head Hike
If you want a relatively easy hike, with a little bit of challenge {as seen in these staircases}, this is for you. It's quick, and a GREAT view of Hololulu and Waikiki....

Even some spirals!

Then the view...

SOOOOO goood!
Budget food by staying in a place with a small kitchen. Eat oatmeal, and pack lunches sometimes. Don't skimp though on the food. It's part of the beauty and experience of Hawaii!!!

Opal's Thai
This is the BEST Thai food I've EVER tasted in my entire life!! It's located in the town of Haliewa I talked about above.
Not only is it a great restaurant, it's an experience. Weirdish hours, and busy, but SO worth it.

My husband and I loved it so much we HAD to revisit before we headed to the airport.
The owner comes to each person and makes a Thai dish just for you. Seriously, awesome.

Ted's Bakery
I just get nostalgic thinking about Ted's bakery. We were so lucky to stay right across the street (although I'm still trying to diet it off!). EVERYTHING there is good. And, they serve everything. Oh, I miss this place!!

Matsumatos Shave Ice
Also, in the town of Haleiwa. The best and most famous shave ice ever. You'll definitely have to wait in a line, but it goes quick. YUM!

Food Trucks
One of my favorite things about Hawaii is all of the food trucks. SUCH good food. This one is Ray's Chicken. We loved watching those chickens being roasted right there in front of us.

Dole Plantation Whip Ice Cream
The Dole Plantation is definitely fun and worth it to visit. I learned all kinds of cool things. The MUST though, is the Dole Whip! Make sure to stop by, even if only for ice cream :).

Waimea Valley
BEAUTIFUL place... people are even swimming under the waterfall. My husband was silently cussing here because we didn't bring our swim suits.

Kualoa Ranch
Much fun and various experiences are had at Kualoa Ranch... horseback riding, a tour of the filming place of Jurassic Park, and more. Reminds me of a "suped" up boy scout camp. Fun!

Other great beaches:
Waimea Beach: powerful, yet playable waves
Watch out though, the waves knocked me on my rear end, and blew out my husband's ear drum! However, still fun!

Turtle Bay
Fun attractions- glad we did, but probably won't do again:

Makani Catamaran Sail
If you've never gone on a big sail ride, definitely do it once. Fun, just not an every day activity for me.

Secret Island 
(Part of Kualoa Ranch)

You might be wondering how we fit all this great stuff into our trip?! The answer is the

How it works: There are 35 attractions on the card, and you pay for however many days you want to us the card. You get into as many attractions as you want during those days.

For the most part, it is a great deal. However, many of the attractions are in the touristy part of the island, and I really recommend staying on the North Shore, away from the hustle and bustle. If you don't strategize right, then you'll end up driving to Honolulu almost every day. And, you'll be so busy trying to get your money's worth on the card, that you'll miss relaxing on the beach. Also,  a few things on the card are totally inexpensive, and you don't need to use the card for those IF you have a rental car (such as Diamond Head Hike,  Makapuu Lighthouse Hike, and Hanauma Bay).

**Those specific attractions may look like more $$ than they actually are when looking at THIS list, but that price includes their transportation and sometimes gear, they make sense if you don't have a rental car. If you do, I would not do those things with the pass. In fact, if you plan to get the Aloha Go Card, look at the prices on the actual websites of the attractions because not all on THIS LIST are NOT totally accurate if you have your own car.

 Definitely look at a map, prices and decide beforehand. Using the card on the more expensive attractions, or combining a few attractions (such as the riding mopeds and Pearl Harbor) is the best way to get most for your money.

Well, there's my advice. I love Hawaii... dearly. It's good for the soul. I'm amazed at the people, and how so many of them live in small and tiny homes like this... Yet, they are among the happiest people I've ever met.

Aloha! Mahalo!
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  1. Such a lovely sharing Nancy! I found this blog very helpful about my hawaii island tours. I am going there with my cousin and must follow your suggestion during our tour. I still need your guidance regarding my stay there. I am little confused to choose a place to stay there. Nancy! Guide me to choose any afford a hotel to stay there. I think you can suggest me better. So let me know which hotel will be best for us.

  2. Outstanding sharing dear i really like your trip and i know you have much time to enjoy the life which is good for you both and may be in next season i will make plan for the tour also toward the bus to new york from indianapolis..


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