Hawaii - The spirit of "Aloha"
January 1, 1970
by Catherine Pham
You know what, solo travelling definitely is something every girl should do before they turn 30. At 24, I am determined and brave enough to travel from Sydney to Hawaii, America – the world’s paradise – on my own.
Day 1: Around Honolulu & Oahu
I reached the land of Hawaii at 6AM on the same day I left Sydney, so I’ve got 44 hours for July 17th. Don’t expect to find many stores (phone stores, convenience stores etc) in Honolulu International Airport Arrival, because it is indeed pretty small. Be prepared! There isn’t wifi in the airport, so you’d better search how to go to your hotel/hostel beforehand, in case you go by bus. If your accommodation is in Waikiki, take bus 19 (roughly 45 mins). And watch out, in Hawaii, on the bus, you need the exact change for the ticket, since the drivers won’t give you the change back. You should get some change for the first time in the one and only Starbuck shop around the corner.
The great thing about the bus in Hawaii is that all the bus stop names and famous destinations nearby will be informed on top of the bus, so it is easy to follow, you won’t miss it even when you don’t have a tracking application (which is a must when you use the bus in Sydney). Another cool thing is you can save a lot of money using the bus if you plan the trip wisely: With a $2.5 ticket, you can use it twice if you commute within the mentioned time in the ticket (2-3 hours). What a bargain!
I booked a dorm room in “Seaside Hawaiian Hostel” with other 5 girls I haven’t met yet. The good thing about the dorm is that you can meet people from all over the world, the bad thing is that once you get to know them, they will leave on the next day. The price was affordable for backpackers or students who are on a tight budget ($35/night including tax). The location was perfect, right in the middle of Waikiki, within walking distance to Waikiki beach. The staffs were friendly, the hostel offered free coffee in the morning, which was quite a big bonus for me because I didn’t waste money on coffee outside.
If you purchase an International Travel Money Card (Commonwealth Bank), remember that you shouldn’t put pin number even when the machine tells you to. A travel card is enough, you don’t need to bring a lot of cash, as every shop accepts cards. I purchased a US sim card from Hoku Wireless, which was close to my hostel.
Once you’re in Hawaii, don’t forget to try Spam Sushi and Bento (you can find them everywhere, even in a convenience store), but to be honest, I didn’t like both, even though I love sushi generally.
There is a thing called Go-Oahu Card in Hawaii, which is a discount card. I will explain more in my next article, discussing all the deals offered in Hawaii.
On the first day, I caught the bus to Magic Island, which was in proximity to Ala Moana Beach Park and Ala Moana Shopping Center. Google Map, Internet and TheBus were my best friends when I was in Hawaii. After Magic Island, I went to Iolani Palace – one of the iconic symbols of Hawaii. I suppose it’s like Opera House in Sydney. If you go to Hawaii yet don’t see Iolani Palace and King Kamehameha, local people probably will roll their eyes on you.
Day 2: Hawaii Five-0 Filming Locations Tour
Being a big fan of Hawaii Five-0, which was filmed in Hawaii, I wanted to visit all the filming locations first. I booked a Hawaii Five-0 Tour with Yen Phan (https://www.vayable.com/experiences/1582-hawaii-5-0-tour). Booking her 4-hour tour was the best decision of my vacation there. I will publish another article about my experience if you’re interested in discovering more about the show.
For dinner, I tried raw fish (poke) – signature Hawaiian dish, one of my favorites. For the night, I tried some $3 Mai Tai and Blue Hawaiian during special hour in a pub right next to Seaside Hawaiian Hostel. Such a sweet deal! Amazeballs! I don’t think you can find anything like that (cheap) in Sydney.
Day 3: Moana Falls Trail & Pearl Harbor
I started the day with a hiking tour to Moana Falls Trail. The tour was called “Rainforest, Waterfall Movie Sites Hike”, but actually you wouldn’t recognise any scenes from any show/movie here. Such a pity! I felt cheated! The fact that it wasn’t a guided tour and cost $26 suggests that it wasn’t worth it. The waterfall view was okay though, so my recommendation would be you should get there by bus. Don’t book any tour because they don’t actually charge any entrance fee.
The second activity I did during the day was Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, I was so excited the night before, I forgot to reserve the online ticket, so I couldn’t book the tour I wanted in advance – “USS Arizona Memorial Narrated Tour”. I ended up visiting “Battleship Missouri Memorial”. Being on that ship really hit home, because I was a fan of both Hawaii Five-0 and The Last Ship – American series about US Navy.
I went to Moana Surfrider, where a lot of free yoga sessions were arranged frequently, in which you can do yoga right next to Waikiki beach while watching the amazing sunset view. They even offer free wine tasting and it was fabulous. Totally free!
Day 4: Kualoa Ranch Movie Sites Tour
I booked a Movie Sites Tour at The Kualoa Ranch. I had to transfer to another bus in Ala Moana Center, I missed the second bus because I was stupid enough to get off one bus stop earlier than I was supposed to. Normally, popular buses in Oahu are up to 20 minutes apart, but the bus I needed to take was almost 1 hour apart. Unpredicted things happen when you travel alone, but that’s what makes the trip become memorable.
I tried calling Kualoa Ranch, and reached them at the 4th call. The operator told me not to worry, she would put a note on the list that I’m on my way, I will show up. Eventually, I still missed the tour, but the staff put me in the next tour without extra charge. Wow. Such a relief!!!! It amazes and surprises me how Hawaiian staff can be so relaxed and sympathetic.
The first impression was that Kualoa Ranch was really green and blue. The bus driver showed us around Kualoa Ranch and introduced about all the shows/movies that have been filmed there, including Battleship, First 50 dates, Lost, Hawaii Five-0, Jurassic World etc. It was so cool for a movie fan like me to see the scenes from your favorite movie/series in real life.
After that, I caught a bus to Turtle Bay Resort to join a free 1-hour yoga session under the blue sky, next to the beach, and tasted some samples of different vodka and had poke again. Free yoga, free sunset view with free wine – what’s better than that? I bought a “Aloha – a state of mind” T-shirt, an awesome Hawaiian slogan, as a gift for me.
Day 5: Waimanalo Beach & Lanikai Beach
My friend drove me to the east side of Oahu, visiting Waimanalo Beach and Lanikai beach. FYI, Waimanalo Beach was voted as Number 1 Beach in Hawaii last year (2015), not Waikiki Beach. I had always thought that Waikiki Beach was the most beautiful beach in Hawaii. It was Lanikai Beach that wowed me with its views in which two islands were standing. The special thing about these two beaches was the crystal clear, green colour water. The water looked exactly like a mirror with 3 shades of colors. You can just randomly take a picture and it looks like you’ve done some photoshop to your photos. It’s awesome! If Waikiki is too crowded for your liking, maybe Waimanalo or Lanikai Beach will suit you better.
5-day vacation was really a highlight of my 24-year life! I experienced much more than I expected! Best decision ever!