Since last year, my 6 year old has been begging to go to Hawaii. Last year was impossible, and it seemed as if this one was gonna be too. But a last minute search on google.com/flights gave us hope; we found round trip tickets for about $700 for three of us. As far as hotel options we the very lucky because my FIL works for Marriot and we get amazing discounts! We booked 3 nights at Sheraton Waikiki https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hnlws-sheraton-waikiki/ for $650 including parking and resort fee. Unfortunately due to work we couldn't stay longer, so we had to squeeze in as much as possible during our stay. We had 2 half days and 2 full days. A lot of people said it wasn't enough but here I will show you that's doable. Oh! and you must rent car, prices through big companies are insane, so we went through turo.com and also found a great deal of $275 for 4 days.
Tips on making sure you got everything you need during COVID:
As you know, you must show proof of negative covid test done within 72 hours before traveling, or show proof of vaccination. If you aren't sure when to take that test use this calculator https://www.hawaii-aloha.com/calculator/ . You also have to create an account on https://safetravelshawaii.com this where you will put your flight info, upload test results or proof of vaccination and answer a health survey. Make sure you upload the results before your flights and answer the survey 24 hours before departure. Depending on your airline, you'll be able to get a special wristband at your departing airport to skip a line once you are in Hawaii. They will scan the QR code given once you complete everything on the safe travels website. Getting this wristband will save you a lot of time once in Hawaii. Also bring a pen with you because you'll have to fill out a form on the plane and turn it in before getting off.
DAY 1: MONDAY
We landed at about 1PM and it was pouring. I didn't have much planned for the day anyway so we just went with the flow. We had to get our rental car 5 mins from the airport so we called an UBER ($10) we got our car and stopped to get lunch on the way to our hotel. I found this spot through Tik Tok and had to try it. Queen Street Cafe https://www.yelp.com/biz/queen-st-cafe-and-grill-aiea we ordered the Firecracker chicken plate which comes with rice and Mac salad and it was enough for us 3 ($13) This meal was definitely on our TOP 3 for foods.
From here it was a 30 minute drive to Waikiki, we were all checked in by 3:30pm, put on our swimsuits and went to our hotel's beach for a quick splash and then to the pool, all while it was raining. Then we showered and got ready to drive around, we left the hotel at around 5 and it was already too late to drive anywhere too far so we stayed in Waikiki. We had a bit of a hard time finding somewhere to eat, mostly everything requires reservations months in advance, and we chose not to do that anyway, and a lot of spots are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We went to Ala Moana Center Food court and I got a Loco Moco which was okay. Overall not a lot of options that really called our attention. But we ended our night with some shave ice! most shave ice places close at 6 and we got lucky we found this amazing spot by our hotel that's open until 8:00pm https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/lahaina-shave-ice-honolulu-2?start=0 I don't remember what flavor we got but it was AMAZING! this was a small one and it was huge!
We decided to head back to our hotel and get some drinks and go to bed early so we could wake up extra early the next day.
Here I am enjoying a Mai Tai with a great view!
DAY 2: TUESDAY
We got up a 6am and left our hotel by 7am and headed straight to Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden. The garden doesn't open until 9am but you can access it by foot through a small gate. We mostly wanted to snap a few pics here and didn't really plan to hike or drive through as we had other spots we wanted to see. WARNING: there are signs on the road that say no camera or mobile photography. I had read about this not being allowed because of people blocking the road for cars so I genuinely thought the signs were there for when the park opens for cars. We didn't have an issue this time, but we went a second time and we got yelled at and told it could cost us a $75 fine. We apologized and left.
As you can see, we pretty much had the park to ourselves, it was raining on and off but nothing too crazy
After the garden, we headed to the Dole Plantation, all I wanted was to try to the pineapple and their soft serve. We weren't planning on doing any of the ticketed attractions. We got there at 9:15am, they open at 9:30 and it wasn't very crowded, however there was already a line for the train ride. We were the first in line to enter the shop, the first to order a soft serve and some fresh pineapple. We also got a few gifts and snacks while in there. We sat outside to enjoy our breakfast, yes, soft serve was our breakfast!
If you are an animal lover like me, you'll enjoy your time here. Lots of roosters and chickens, and we even got to see cat and her kittens.
Next, we headed to the North Shore, we made a stop or two at some beaches to check them out but it was really quick. We arrived at Sharks Cove a bit before 11AM and it was pretty packed, we didn't think we would find parking but got super lucky!
PRO TIP: bring your own snorkeling gear and life jackets, and also water shoes. This spot is very rocky inside and outside the water. Also a lot of people say its not kid friendly, we didn't have a problem, but be aware, it is rocky. Also try not to bring too much stuff down with you but also don't leave valuables in your car. There's no sand to lay a towel on so whatever you bring you'll most likely put on top of a rock.
Sharks Cove was our favorite spot to snorkel. The water was clear and there were tons of fish!
if its your first time like us, it'll take a few minutes to get the hang of it, we bumped and stepped onto a few rocks and it did hurt, but then realized the best thing to do is just float and you'll be just fine! We did some snorkeling for about an hour, and then went across to have lunch!
We are so glad we went across for lunch, otherwise we would've missed out on some good garlic shrimp and açaí bowls. You must try the North Shore Shrimp Truck https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/north-shore-shrimp-truck-haleiwa?start=30 big portions and super tasty shrimp! for dessert we got an açaí bowl and papaya bowl at The Sunrise Shack https://www.sunriseshackhawaii.com both were delicious and refreshing!
After lunch, we drove 5 mins to Sunset Beach. Another stunning beach, not very crowded, but the waves were a bit crazy for me, my husband and son had a blast here riding the waves though.
We hung out here for about 40 mins before moving on to the next beach. From here we drove 10 minutes to Turtle Beach. Turtle Beach is located inside a Turtle Bay Resort, Parking is Free and you can access the beach for free as well. This one was a lot more crowded, I'm sure mostly resort guests. It is a small beach, but the water is very calm and very clear, making perfect for kids. This beach is known for turtle sightings, we didn't see any but a seal attempted to come to shore and then it went away. Resort staff quickly block off an area and move people away from the water to allow the seal to come out and rest. If you didn't know this already, besides being common sense to not touch any wildlife, they take great care of their monk seals and turtles, they ask that you keep a distance, don't touch or disturb them. You will get fined!
after hanging out here for another 40 mins, we went to get some snacks nearby and caught the sunset at a beach across from the gas station.
At this point we were pretty exhausted, we were planning on waking up early again the next day, so we headed back to our hotel.
Once again, we had no idea what o get for dinner and we walked a few blocks around Waikiki until we found a Hawaiian restaurant called Kalo https://kalohawaiianfood.com
we weren't super hungry so we ordered the Hawaiian sampler to share and an order of garlic noodles. If you are looking to try different Hawaiian foods, the sampler is the best you can order! the Kalua pork was super tasty!
After this we headed back to our room and called it a night!
DAY 3: WEDNESDAY
Hanuama Bay came up on all my research of most do or must see things while in Oahu. Their online reservation system is almost impossible. They open it at 7am for the next two days and they literally sell out within the first 5 minutes. On Monday morning while on the plane, I got through their site, picked a date and time, filled out all my info and clicked check out to then see a message saying it was sold out. I didn't make it and was pretty bummed. Even though we loved sharks cove, I felt like I needed to see this place. They accept walk ins but you must get there early to get your ticket. They open at 6:45am and we got there at about 7:40am, I wasn't very hopeful as I heard was very crowded and people would stand in line at 6:00am.
We paid for parking ($3), and then went to the blue tent to get a time ticket. We got a 9:40am ticket (this isn't your ticket, this is a ticket to stand in line to watch the educational video, you will go to the ticket booth before watching the video and then purchase them. Each adult is $25, kids under 12 are free)
If you leave the parking lot, you have to pay again, but we had almost two hours before it was our time, so we went to find breakfast. We found a great spot 10 minutes from Hanauma called Moana Cafe https://www.moenacafe.com YOU MUST GET THE SHORT RIB LOCO MOCO WITH FRIED RICE!! depending on how hungry you are you could definitely split it between two. This was on the top 3 meals I had and could had every single day if it was closer to us.
In that same shopping center we found a Leonard's Truck and we got one of each flavor, my favorite was the Haupia and Li Hing (make sure you eat them while warm)
By the time we finished our breakfast it was time to back to Hanauma and wait for our turn. They called our time, we stood in line, then bought our tickets and watched the 10 minute video. There's a shuttle to take you down and its free; make sure you stand towards the back of the room where you'll watch the video so you can beat everyone to the shuttle!
The views down are beautiful, the water is crystal clear and no waves. We snorkeled here for about an hour and a half and even though it was nice and calm, we didn't see as many fishies as in sharks cove. This is a great place for beginners and kids but I wouldn't go back, I needed to check it off my list but I'd rather save time and money and see more stuff at sharks cove.
We left Hanauma Bay at almost 1PM and headed to Lanikai Beach. Parking here was pretty hard and they are vert strict with residential parking so be careful, we drove round for 15 mins before going into their parking lot and finding a spot. We hung out here for 40 minutes, got in the water and then went for lunch. A friend recommended Teddy's Bigger Burgers and it was actually pretty good, there was a location 5 minutes from the beach https://www.teddysbb.com we ordered the Volcano burger and Kilauea Burger and also a Nutella Shake, everything was yummy!
After lunch we went further north to Ka'a'awa Beach. This beach is not touristy at all, we were probably the only ones and this definitely looks like the local's backyard. This was by far one of the most beautiful beaches we visited!
We spent time here taking photos and just enjoying the view, then we went down the street to Kuala Regional park to watch the sunset and also enjoy the view.
It started raining while we were at the beach and it was on and off for a good while. It was time to head back to the hotel anyway, we were about an hour away!
We did the usual, we showered and went looking for dinner. We found Sam's Kitchen down the street and it had pretty good reviews but I was very disappointed. After eating amazing food at the north shore shrimp truck this didn't come close at all; the portions were small, the flavor was ok and we paid $14 for a tiny box, I didn't even take videos or pics. There was a line and I would def save time and money.
DAY 4: THURSDAY
This was our last day, I guess it was almost a full day because our flight wasn't until 10PM. We wanted to go back to the botanical garden to take nicer pictures, we arrived at 8am but unfortunately we got yelled at for taking photos on the road. Yes, the sings are everywhere but I thought they were for when the park opens. The ranger warned us about a $75 fine and waited for us to walk out the park. So we decided to go back to our hotel to pack our stuff and since we didn't feel as rushed and felt pretty accomplished, we chose to let our son enjoy the pool in the morning before checking out. We hung out for about an hour at the pool, then grabbed our stuff and headed out. We went to Queen St Cafe for a second round of firecracker chicken, we again shared the plate and then headed to Ko Olina Lagoon #4. We got extremely lucky with parking, and this lagoon wasn't very crowded. We did snorkeling here but only saw a handful of fish. From here we left at around 3:30PM and decided to go back to Sharks Cove one last time, we got there at around 5 because we made a stop at Waimea Valley. We didn't have time t do much but we took a few photos around the parking lot and then headed to snorkel. Sharks Cove wasn't as crowded at this time as it was in the morning. We found parking quick and to to snorkel for about 30 mins (totally worth it) and to finish our trip, we went across the street for round #2 of garlic shrimp!
It was around 6 by the time we left to head to the airport and return our rental car! We had to drop off the car at the same place we picked up and then get an UBER ($10) to the airport. The TSA lines were super quick and we were in the waiting area by 8:15PM.
So... I know there was probably more things to see, but considering our short time, I feel like we got to see a lot and enjoy a lot!
THINGS I REGRET:
*not eating more shave ice
*not trying the macadamia pancakes
*not having more mai tais
*not going to the Polynesian cultural center
THINGS I DON'T REGRET:
*booking a Luau
*making reservations for restaurants ( street food is better and cheaper, just research ahead of time what's around and hat time they close)
*spending more time at the hotel