Maunawili Falls Hike

Five bug bites, 3.5 hours, muddy shoes and shins, sweat dripping down my pits….that is how I would sum up this hike. This past weekend I decided to do this hike with a friend. I had done all the requisite research….or so I thought. Everyone says it’s muddy, bring bug spray, wear clothes/shoes you can get dirty, yada yada. So I felt like I was prepared. Boy was I wrong.

The hike ended up taking WAY longer than I had imagined. Granted I think I was going slower than most people, but I think it still was longer than I expected. The main thing is you can’t go super fast because the mud makes everything so slippery, unless you succumb to the fact that you’ll fall one way or another, or that your shoes will sink into mud at some point. But me, I was not going to let either of those things happen, so I went slow. My shoes and legs still got muddy (there’s no way around that), but I was able to get across the river without dipping my feet into the water. My hiking-mate….not so lucky.

But I, like many others on yelp, cannot stress enough that you will need BUG SPRAY. And I don’t mean one coat. I must have reapplied two or three times while on the trail. One bug even bit me through my yoga pants! So don’t just spray your skin, spray your clothes too. I’m sure I’ll probably get cancer later for inhaling all that deet, but I think I would’ve been insanely miserable if I got bit more than the five times.

I wouldn’t recommend bringing small kids unless you’re sure they are up for the long hike, and you’re prepared to battle some whining. There was a couple with their kids….probably around 5 years old…and well, let’s just say I did not wish I was them.

The day that we went was pretty overcast but it didn’t rain. It had been raining in the days before though. I think that’s the best because A. hiking in the rain on that trail would suck but B. you want the waterfall to be full and awesome to make the trip worthwhile. I wouldn’t worry too much about sunscreen since you’re in the woods the whole time…maybe one coat before you start.

We got kind of got lost driving to the trailhead. So if you’re going down Pali Hwy from town, you want to take the SECOND Auloa Road on the right. The road will quickly forks and you want to go left onto Maunawili Road. Take this road all the way to the very end (it will turn into a very narrow road) until it dead ends and forces you to turn right into the neighborhood. The trail begins at the gate on the left. Turn right and park in the neighborhood. Make sure you read the parking signs.

You’ll walk past the gate on paved road for maybe 200 or so feet, and then there will be signs on the road for no trespassing, and the trail heads into the woods on the right. The trail is pretty easy to follow for awhile and not too difficult. After 20 minutes or so it gets even muddier. It does get rockier which makes it easier. The trail mainly runs along the stream/river, so you should be able to hear the water the whole time. After about 40 minutes the trail will make you cross the river. On the other side you may get confused but take the trail behind the sign. After some more time you’ll reach some stairs that lead to a clearing with some nice views. Then it’s back into the woods where you’ll hit a fork with stairs leading down on the left and a trail continuing straight. Take the stairs leading down. At the bottom of the stairs there will be a trail that leads across the river and one that goes right. Cross the river here. The trail will again lead you back across the river. And just a little bit more and you’ll reach the waterfall.

Wear your swimsuit if you want to swim, just don’t drink the water. People also climb the rocks and jump off of them. There is also another waterfall if you climb up the rocks, but I didn’t do this.

When we reached the end there really weren’t too many people there. Nobody was actually swimming in the water at first. But from what I’ve heard from friends, it can get really crowded.

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East Oahu

Time to venture out of Waikiki, and yes you should! You can’t come to Oahu and not get out of Waikiki. As much as I love seeing overly sunbathed tourists day after day, Oahu has some of the best beaches in the world, and no Waikiki is not one of them in my opinion. If you have a rental car then I highly suggest venturing to east Oahu. If you don’t have a rental car, you can rent mopeds at Makai Moped Rentals (yelp reviews – 10% off if you mention yelp). Technically mopeds can go on any roads except for the interstate. Make sure you are comfortable with the moped before leaving the store.

Head out of Waikiki, heading east on interstate H-1. The interstate turns into Kalanianiole Hwy pretty quickly and you’ll be driving through residential neighborhoods. Thirty minutes into your drive you’ll past the Hawaii Kai neighborhood. Once passing the Foodland on the left, you’ll begin the best scenic drive the island has to offer. There are a few viewpoints to take pictures.

Here is a list, in order of appearance on the drive of things you can do in East Oahu:

Hanauma Bay – Once you pass the Foodland on the left, you’ll drive up a small hill. The entrance to Hanauma Bay will be on the right at the top of the hill. Hanauma Bay is famously known for its snorkeling due to the amount of coral reef that attract fish and sea turtles, and the easily swimmable calm shallow waters. It’s also a beautiful beach for sunbathing by the crystal blue waters. However, over the years Hanauma Bay has turned into a cesspool of tourists that have driven away many of the beautiful sea life that once called this place home. Don’t get me wrong, this place is worth a visit, but be forewarned that you will run into crowds, lines, waits, no parking signs, fees for entrance, fees for parking, fees for snorkel rentals, etc. So my advice is, get here early in the AM or go later in the PM for the best chances of finding parking (they will turn you away if the lot is full), make sure you can swim because there are more fish the farther you go out, and wear TONS of waterproof sunscreen on your back to avoid being lobster-like. If you can’t find parking, you’ll unfortunately have to head back down towards Foodland and find parking either in the shopping center or in the neighboring residential areas. Which sucks because you have to carry all your crap up that hill in the hot sun, and then once inside Hanauma Bay, you have to trek down the hill to the beach. The prices of paradise…

Koko Head Crater - The big volcano looking thing on the left as you drive through Hawaii Kai is actually Koko Head Crater. If you stop at the scenic viewpoint past Foodland on the left, you can actually see the staircase trail that leads straight up the side of the hill. I wouldn’t really recommend this hike unless you’re looking for a really good leg workout. The view from the top isn’t as impressive as other hikes.

Sandys Beach – After winding on the coast for about a mile, you’ll come upon a large stretch of beach right off the highway. This is one of the more dangerous beaches due to the rip tides and shorebreak. If you decide to swim or join the locals in some bodysurfing, be careful.

Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike – This is a really easy hike with spectacular views of East Oahu. The entire way is paved so it’s easy for the entire family. It can get really hot out here so I recommend bringing water and wearing sunscreen. There is very little shade.

Sea Life Park – Hawaii’s version of Sea World, but there’s really no comparison. Sea Life Park might be fun for the kids, but honestly it’s a sad attempt at being called an “attraction”. Yes you can see turtles, dolphins, penguins, and sea lions, but the facilities look so sad that you’ll wish they could all be freed to live in the ocean only feets away. They do offer dolphin encounters where you can swim with the dolphins.

Waimanalo Bay State Recreation Park – This is the last spot I will highlight. After Sea Life Park you’ll continue to drive along the coast passing some more residential areas. Once you pass the McDonald’s on the right, there will be a chain link fence. The entrance to this park is where the fence breaks. You can’t see the beach from the road but it’s in there. This beach is where I take people who want to bodysurf (boogie board). Most times the waves are gentle and break near the shore where the water is shallow, making it easier to catch a wave. But I also like coming here to get away from the crowded beaches.

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Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike

Today we decided to do the Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike. This hike is located on the southeast tip of Oahu. It’s about a round-trip 2-mile paved hike that leads you right above the Makapu’u Lighthouse. It’s a little steep at times, but definitely categorized as easy, and since it’s paved, it’s perfect for the whole family…..even the pets! (with a leash).

To get to the trailhead, drive east on H-1 and continue as it turns into Kalanianaole Hwy. Continue along Kalanianaole Hwy for awhile passing all the residential areas, the scenic coastal drive, Sandy’s Beach, and the Hawaii Kai golf course. When you see the Hawaii Kai golf course on your left, the highway will swerve right, and then it will swerve left. After that left, there will be a right turn lane into a small parking lot. This is the beginning of the trail.

We went around 1 pm and the sun was really bearing down on us. I highly suggest bringing lots of water and wearing lots of sunscreen. If you’re really afraid of the sun, sunglasses and a hat would be good too. Be forewarned that there really aren’t many shady spots on this hike. At certain points however, you’ll feel the wind gliding off the ocean, and man does it feel good!

There are some great views of Oahu’s southeast coast on this hike. Today there was not a single cloud in the sky, so you could see all the way to Molokai. About halfway up the hike there is a whale watching spot with free binoculars and a sign detailing humpback whale behavior. Makapuu point is a popular spot to see whales from the months of late-Dec to mid-April.

Although the lighthouse is closed to the public, the views at the end of this hike are spectacular. We leisurely strolled throughout the hike with plenty of stops, so it took about 3 hours roundtrip.

If you want to be adventurous, there is an unpaved hike down starting from the whale watching binoculars to sea level where you can relax in some tide pools. There’s fish and a mini blow hole that shoots water up like a whale’s blowhole. Don’t forget to wear your bathing suits if you choose this adventure as there are no bathrooms on this hike.

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International Marketplace

While in Waikiki, if you’re looking for that perfect souvenir T-shirt or Ukelele, visit International Marketplace on Kalakaua Avenue. Across from the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel, International Marketplace is an outdoor flea market-like area with various small stands and stores that mainly sell clothing, but there are stores that sell unique items such as ukeleles, handcrafted wooden tikis, and hawaiian jewelry.

Also, there’s a Hank’s Haute Dog “express” (they don’t sell the full menu) as seen on Triple D’s (Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) which is plastered all over the walls to remind you. I have tried this satellite restaurant and I was quite disappointed. The hot dogs were underwhelming but the fries and pineapple ice were standouts. Expect to pay at least $10.

There is also a place in the food court where you can get Dole Whip, pineapple frozen yogurt. If you don’t have time to visit the Dole Plantation in central Oahu, then this is a good place to try their famous Dole Whip. You won’t be disappointed. Picture of the storefront below.

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Surf lessons (Waikiki)

Waikiki is the best place to learn how to surf and you can do it all year round! I highly recommend taking a lesson because…surfing is HARD! And if you’re not in the best shape, just paddling out to the waves will get you huffing and puffing. So when you paddle out, you’ll be so happy that there is someone there holding your board for you and giving you a little push to catch a wave. I wouldn’t count on mastering the art of surfing during your first lesson, but it’s definitely worth trying. If after the lesson you’re still hungry for more, you can just rent the surfboard which usually isn’t too pricey by the hour.

Hawaiian Water Sports
Hawaiian Water Sports offers surf lessons closer to Diamond Head to avoid the crowded Waikiki waters.

DCX Surf School
Good reviews on yelp for surfing lessons.

Moku Surf Shop
Good place to rent boards by the day/week. They also have surf lessons. (yelp)

Most times people will tell you to visit the stands behind the Duke statue on Waikiki beach (see pictures). I mean I did that when I took my surf lesson and I thought it was a great experience. However, after some researching it seems like those stands are hit or miss. So if you have time do a little research yourself.

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Diamond Head State Monument Hike

Diamond Head Crater is one of the most recognized landmarks of Hawaii. Located just east of Waikiki on the southern shore of the island of Oahu, Diamond Head is home to the most popular hike on Oahu. I highly recommend this hike to first time visitors to the island. It’s close proximity to Waikiki makes it easily accessible for those without rental cars. You’ll need to walk a bit to get to the trailhead, but the views at the top will be worth it. Those with rental cars will need to pay $5 for parking & entrance. Pedestrians will need to pay $1/person for entrance.

I recommend doing this hike either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the hot sun. The trail opens at 6 AM and the last entrance is at 4:30 PM. Everyone must be down by 6 PM.

Before leaving the hotel make sure to lather up on sunscreen. Bring the sunglasses and hat. If the sun is out, you will want to wear very little because it will be HOT and sweaty. Sneakers would be good, but honestly this hike could be done in slippers just in case you forgot to pack sneakers. The only thing I would carry is bottled water and a camera. There is NOTHING on the top, no souvenir shop, no water fountain, no toilet, nowhere to even pop a squat, nothing.

At the beginning of the trailhead however there is a truck that sells refreshments. And there are public restrooms and water fountains.

I would categorize this hike as easy. I saw many kids, adults of all ages, and even a woman carrying a baby! There is really no danger on this hike. I would just say if it’s rainy or if the trail is wet from previous rainfall, it can be slightly slippery since most of the trail is rock. The trail itself winds up along the inside wall of the crater. By far the hardest parts of the hike are the stairs at the end. There is a section between the two staircases that is a dimly lit tunnel. It’s a bit claustrophobic, so just forewarning those that don’t like tight spaces.

I started this hike at 10:30 AM and it took me 30 minutes to reach the summit, at which point I was hot and sweaty for sure and glad I had brought my water bottle. I would estimate 1.5-2 hours roundtrip from the trailhead, which takes into consideration stopping for pictures and time on the summit. If you are walking from Waikiki, I would add on another hour.

Have fun and be safe.

Hawaii State Parks Website

Video Details:
0:25 Hike starts as a concrete sidewalk
0:27 After about 5 minutes the trail becomes rocky with a handrail
0:48 This is at the scenic viewpoint stop before the stairs begin
1:12 First set of stairs before tunnel
1:24 Tunnel opening
1:27 Bottom of second set of stairs
1:32 Spiral staircase
1:48 Pillbox at the top of the spiral staircase
2:04 Views of Waikiki and east Oahu

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ABC Stores

You can’t take 100 steps in Waikiki without passing by an ABC Store. Locally owned and operated, ABC Stores are small convenience stores that sell anything from souvenir t-shirts, macadamia nuts, alcohol, snacks, sunscreen, water, towels, and boogie boards….and other things that you may need while vacationing. You may think they target tourists by jacking up their prices, but I don’t find their prices to be that unreasonable. Most likely you’ll stop by an ABC Store on your trip. Although store hours vary by location, most are open from 6:30 AM to 1:30 AM everyday.

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Two Days in Waikiki

If you’re only spending a few days on Oahu and don’t have a car, there’s still plenty to do in Waikiki. Here is what I would do if I only had two days in Waikiki.

DAY 1:

Try out some Spam at McDonald’s or Iyasume Musubi. See post on Spam.

Work off the Spam with a surf lesson. See post on surfing lessons.

Grub on the Loco Moco at Rainbow Drive In.

Walk/Shop along Kalakaua Avenue. Shop your heart out for the perfect souvenir T-Shirt at International Marketplace (post). For international visitors, there is a duty free mall with tons of name brand stuff. And as you walk along Kalakaua, you’ll pass by store after store to fulfill your shopping desires.

Go light for dinner with some sushi at Sansei. Order by 6 pm and you’ll get 25% off your sushi. There’s also Morio’s Sushi and Kaiwa for other good sushi options.

DAY 2:

Hike Diamond Head (post). Make sure to bring plenty water and sunscreen. Better yet, wear a hat.

If it’s Saturday, go visit the Kapiolani Community College Farmer’s Market. There are tons of local vendors selling fresh veggies and fruits, and lots of food to eat.

If it’s not Saturday, head down to the Diamond Head Market & Grill for lunch. I love their Chinese Chicken Salad and Portobello Burger. Go inside as well to check out the selection of desserts made fresh. Their lemon crunch cake is to die for. They also have Okinawan sweet potato and haupia pie, which is you can only find in Hawaii.

Relax the afternoon away as you lay on the soft sand of Waikiki Beach, listening to the waves one after another.

Watch the sunset into the ocean whilst sipping a fruity cocktail at one of the hotel bars on Waikiki Beach. Try The Edge of Waikiki or RumFire in the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, or the Beach Bar at the Moana Surfrider Hotel. If you need some more substantial grub to go along with your mai tai, try Duke’s Waikiki in the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel.

Kick it up a notch with a dinner at one of Waikiki’s classier joints such as Roy’s, Morimoto’s, Michel’s at the Colony Surf, La Mer (Halekulani Hotel), Nobu’s, or Wolfgang’s. You can’t get much better seafood than right on Waikiki unless you go to Japan.

Or go more local with some Hawaiian food at Ono Hawaiian Food on Kapahulu Avenue. It’ll be a wait but definitely worth the experience. Or some classic local grub at bar/restaurant Side Street Inn, also on Kapahulu Avenue.

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Nowhere else in the world is this glutinous meat by-product considered a delicacy. Well, maybe not a delicacy. But Hawaii is by far the largest consumer of Spam. So whether you’re a first-timer or grew up on the stuff (like me!), why not try it in the state that keeps Spam in business.

McDonald’s serves Spam in their breakfast platters along with rice and portuguese sausage.

2476 Kalakaua Avenue (Corner of Kalakaua & Liliuokalani)
5:30 AM – 12:00 AM (until 12:30 AM on FRI & SAT)

But the more unique way to try Spam would be in musubi form. What is a musubi you ask? Basically a musubi is a block of rice, topped with usually meat, all wrapped in seaweed. You can find spam musubi’s at the following spots:

Iyasume Musubi & Deli
2410 Koa Avenue (behind Hyatt Regency Hotel)
6:00 AM – 4:00 PM

ABC Store
Everywhere in Waikiki
Most open 6:30 AM – 1:30 AM

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Waikiki Beach

People from all over the world collide on this beach. If you’re vacationing on Oahu, there’s a 99% chance you’re staying in Waikiki and you probably ran as quickly as possible once you checked-in to your hotel to the glistening blue waters off Waikiki Beach. This is my favorite beach to people watch…well, since, there are just always a ton of people. But don’t forget to shalack that sunscreen on even if it’s overcast. Skincare is essential! Since this is the epicenter of all things tourist, I will start my adventures here…

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