This past week, my family and I took a vacation to Hawaii, the first since our trip to Las Vegas in 2011. The timing was perfect because it was my parents’ 25th anniversary as well as my sister’s 21st birthday.
The break started with the Panic! At The Disco concert at Oracle. This show was much better than the one at Shoreline in my opinion. Since it was an indoor concert, the band had a lot more opportunities to show off in this controlled environment. We drove over with Jack, who also happened to be going. Although the parking lot was a mess after the show (we were sitting there for an hour), we made it home just before midnight to pack for Hawaii.
“Smile, you’re in Hawaii!” is the first thing I heard when we landed in Honolulu. And it’s hard to argue with that — it’s warm, beautiful, and according to the shuttle driver, the water is 75-80 degrees year round. This was truly paradise.
As soon as we picked up the rental car, we headed to the Pearl Harbor site to see the USS Arizona. We watched an informational video about the historic event, then go onto a boat to be taken out to the memorial. However, due to high winds that day, we weren’t let off the boat and just did a drive-by of the Arizona.
We heard that the Ala Moana Center is the largest shopping mall in Hawaii so that’s where we went after the Pearl Harbor site. And they weren’t joking! We definitely got lost there on multiple occasions (because of course we had to revisit the mall). After dinner, Angela and I headed to a lagoon by our hotel for the sunset, which was beautiful against the backdrop. Although it was already 7pm, the water was still warm enough to go into.
We couldn’t pass up the fact that Waikiki was only a five-minute drive from our hotel, so we hit the town and explored the Waikiki nightlife. It was Sunday night so many people were out. There were street performers on the sidewalks and tourists from all over the world lined up for hours to eat dinner on the strip.
We also checked out the International Market Place. According to my parents, this place changed drastically since they came for their honeymoon 25 years ago. Back then, all the shops were flea market-style. Today, they were normal stores inside a mall.
Nighttime view from our hotel
It was my sister’s birthday the next day, so we went out to the Mai Tai Bar in the Ala Moana Center at about 11pm — security let her in! There was a band on stage and everyone was wearing board shorts and flip flops because it was still 80 degrees out. We had mai tais and mojitos and enjoyed the vibe.
The second day in Hawaii began with a tour of Iolani Palace, where the king and queen resided in the late 1800s. It is now a National Historic Landmark in downtown Honolulu.
A block away, we saw the King Kamehameha statue. This monarch founded Hawaii, and apparently this statue is shown a lot in TV and movies (well, according to my dad). Afterward, we went to the top of Aloha Tower where the view was absolutely amazing. Just the color of the water is unbelievable.
Bottom of Aloha Tower
View from top of Aloha Tower
After lunch, it was off to the Dole Plantation, the only place outside Disneyland you can get a Dole Whip. After getting some delicious pineapple ice cream, we explored the plantation and got to see little baby pineapples growing.
There was also the Dole Maze, the biggest maze in the world! But we had much more to do so we didn’t venture into that territory. I had the best candy I’ve ever had in my life there: pineapple gummy rings. Honestly, I’m still craving them right now. This place was seriously pineapple overload — pineapple for life, especially on pizza.
We went to North Shore beach after the Dole Plantation. There were lots of surfers there. The waves were high and the sand was hot as hell. My mom got to try the Honos food truck where they sell world-famous shrimp.
That night, Angela and I were way too exhausted to go out for her birthday so we bought a bunch of alcohol and stayed in to celebrate instead. It was chill and relaxing and a great way to end the day.
On the third day, the Kim family got up super early to do the Diamond Head hike. The morning was overcast, so it wasn’t too bad of a hike up to the top, where the view was breathtaking. The whole thing took about an hour for us.
At the top, you could see all of Waikiki, from the beach to the resorts to the ant-like people buzzing around on the strip. The sun came out in full force once we coming back down so it wasn’t too bad. We had a great post-hike lunch at a pasta place on the way out of the Diamond Head area.
After the morning hike, we hit the beach! It was so nice to cool off in the water (although it wasn’t that cold) after sweating all AM. There were many people out suntanning and surfing, and I really couldn’t believe the water was so blue and warm.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a perfect vacation without mai tais and pineapple juice by the beach. This was definitely my parents’ choice of activity that afternoon. Yes, they’re old. Plus, it was nice to get out of the sizzling sun for a bit.
For dinner that night, we had a reservation at Top of Waikiki Restaurant, a rotating restaurant at the top of the business plaza. Apparently, this is a must-do for visitors, so we didn’t pass up the opportunity to see the sunset and the gorgeous 360 views of Honolulu and Waikiki.
It was also Angela’s belated birthday dinner celebration, so it was nice to have a family dinner at a nice place with great service. Although the dress code was strict, I could understand why.
The last full day in Hawaii. We had crammed so much activity into the first two days that we were getting tired out. This morning, we slept in a bit, then split up to do different morning activities. My parents went to Manoa Falls for another hike while Angela and I got lunch and drinks. (Hey, we had to cash in on all the free birthday drinks.) During the day, the bartenders were much better looking, just saying.
We met up again at around 1:30 to head to the Polynesian Cultural Center, where we would spend the rest of the day. My parents had gone during their honeymoon and they were curious to see how much has changed since then.
Honestly, this was the highlight of the trip for me. If you know me, you know how much of a sucker I am for these places. I thought it would be a small museum that takes you through the histories of each island, but no, I was pleasantly mistaken. There were shows, canoeing, a luau, basket-weaving, and more shows. We were fully immersed in the Polynesian culture. There was even an IMAX movie that takes you on a journey through Hawaii.
The best show was by far the Tonga show. It was hilarious and not what I was expecting at all. I thought the entertainment was great — funny yet insightful and informative. I also got to try my first fresh coconut water.
We ended the night with the Ha: Breath of Life, the island evening show. It was the perfect way to end the day — we got to see hundreds of performers from all across the Pacific bring their island’s dance and music to the stage. It was their culture’s take on the circle of life.
Exhausted, we booked it out of the parking lot after the show was over and drove an hour back to the hotel where I’m pretty sure everyone crashed.
Because our flight was at 1:30 pm, we didn’t get to do much on the last day. We got lunch together then headed to the airport early to return the car and check in. There were so many people returning home that afternoon — the Honolulu airport was packed.
The vacation was definitely one for the memories, and it was great to experience Hawaii for the first time. When we landed in Oakland, it was 57 degrees but felt like 30 as it was in the mid-80s the whole time in Honolulu. It was a much needed trip and I’m extremely sad to be going back to school on Monday. However, I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll visit Hawaii. Next time, I’ll be sure to go snorkeling.