Last year I went on a semi-spontaneous trip to Santa Barbara and San Francisco before I started my job.
This year, I took the time between jobs to go a bit farther west: all the way to Hawaii. I felt slightly embarrassed telling people I was going to Hawaii as it’s not a particularly cultural or unique vacation spot. But my friend was interviewing at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu so I decided to tag along.
I had been dreading my middle-seat, ten-hour plane ride from Atlanta to Honolulu. On my left sat a technologically challenged German woman who was very quick to pull out her credit card for snacks and meals. I kept waiting for her to take me under her wing and adopt me for ten hours (i.e., buy me the Hawaiian snack platter or Pringles at the very least). That never happened even though I taught her how to play movies on her screen. She never actually caught on, so every 2 to 3 hours she’d tap me and I’d start another movie for her.
To my right sat an elderly native Hawaiian man (I glimpsed at his ID card). We too developed an unspoken relationship where, after catching me eyeing his mentos, he’d tip the package towards me every time he took one so we could both enjoy strawberry mentos. He also learned my beverage of choice so every time the stewardess came by he’d say, “I’ll have a coke and she’ll have water, no ice.”
Most of the plane was above 75 years old and I was convinced for a second that a man across the aisle was about to have a heart attack when he started clutching his left arm.
Besides watching some movies, eating my snacks that Molly had prepared for me, and reading it was uneventful. Thankfully, everyone’s heart kept beating along for the entire ride across the Pacific.
Lodging: Given that it was a spontaneous trip I missed out on the whole giddy anticipation phase, which they say is supposed to be the happiest part of a vacation. I also missed out on the planning phase. So the day before we left we just booked the cheapest room off of AirBnB. It had 4.5 stars!
When we arrived we found the door open. Apparently she hosts so many guests that it’d be too much of a hassle to give everyone a key. That was the initial cause for concern. Then we ventured through the empty house to our room and I started to curse myself for getting the cheapest room. “Penny wise, pound foolish” etc.
I will spare you the pictures, but there was a huge cockroach belly side up on the floor near a can of Raid, tiny bugs scattered throughout, a broken window with a gecko creeping in, and blood on the sheets with various types of body hair. For a second I considered not being “high maintenance” and toughing it out, but then I decided I’d like to actually enjoy Hawaii even if it would come at a cost.
Turns out we got the best of both worlds because AirBnB has excellent customer service! First they told us to spend $50 at any nearby cafe while we waited, then they ended up giving us two free nights in hotels (each had to be less than $250 a night, which we managed with just fine). One boasted ocean views:
And mountain views from the back balcony. I grew to really love our first AirBnB host. After those first two nights, we got a discount off of a nice AirBnB place. The kind of place that actually changes the sheets and towels. This is why I wasn’t too worried about not planning the vacation. Just show up on the island and things will work themselves out. Generally. (Yet, it did make me appreciate even more traveling with mom, who arranges everything and pours over guide books so things always do work out.) So anyways, yes Hawaii is a wonderful little island with perfect weather. I loved that people actually wear tropical flowers in their hair, Hawaiian print shirts and leis. And that there really are tons of stereotypical surfer boys with sun bleached hair. I like when places live up to their stereotype.
Of course you could say Hawaii is wasted on me because I am too cautious to participate in many of the Hawaiian activities. I’m too scared for parasailing, surfing, jumping off large rocks into the sea, helicopter rides, diving, shark cages, or even snorkeling. However, I was still able to enjoy Hawaii immensely by driving around to various beaches, eating and a few trips to Pearl Harbor.
Driving: The tiny, adorable car we rented. Hawaii is one of the only places I don’t mind driving in because you’re zooming along the coast with spectacular views, the windows open and “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” on the radio. You’re not sitting in traffic getting a headache.
1. Leonard’s Bakery was one of the few places I planned in advance. The malasadas are just warm puffs of dough covered in sugar. Tasty but nothing crazy.
2. Giovannis Shrimp Truck. In the north shore there’s quite a few shrimp trucks. We went to the most popular so there were long, NYC-style lines outside this grungy food truck. I’m scared of shrimp, but I did enjoy the rice and some pineapple.
I tried conveyor belt sushi for the first time, which is such a fun concept. They should serve more food on conveyor belts.
Dessert was the one thing that you ordered off the menu and it was the first time I truly enjoyed an Asian dessert. Don’t know how authentic it was though, as it was peanut butter and banana between white bread and then deep fried. Now that I think about it though maybe it was a nod to Elvis and his love of the island.
Finally, some more fresh (raw) seafood and the most delicious guava cheesecake: Every single morning I had an acai bowl, which is a delightfully refreshing sorbet made from an acai berry topped with granola and fruit. As you can see some places were cheap with the blue berries or coconut shavings, but all were enjoyable.
This is a quick public service announcement to never order a bagel outside of New York City. Makes you appreciate just how good bagels really are in NYC.
I felt like I was living in a screen saver for most of the trip as we hopped from beach to beach. The water is perfectly warm, with clean white sand and clear water.
Given that one of my patients got a spinal cord injury while surfing in Hawaii I already wasn’t so keen on surfing. Then we went to one of the most dangerous and unrelaxing beaches in Hawaii. I just stood there nervously watching little kids (who of course loved it) get tossed around by the waves. Otherwise we stuck to calmer waters.
Tourists at sunset are quite amusing. Of course I felt like doing the same thing as this guy.
We ended up going to Pearl Harbor about 4 times because we kept missing times for different exhibits or boats. I was embarrassed about how little I had known about Pearl Harbor. I don’t think I was even aware that the Japanese surrendered on the USS Missouri. Reading about history is extra enjoyable when this is your setting—not a dark museum. Apparently visiting historical military ships is a thing with me now as this is the second one I’ve been to since November. While you don’t pay for the Pearl Harbor memorial, you do have to pay to see the USS Missouri. But you get a cute elderly tour guide who makes it much more interesting and told plenty of stories. Thoughts on this statue? I’ve always liked the picture and then someone commented that it was sexual harassment because she did not consent to this kiss. Yes, I wasn’t there and don’t know the feeling of a world war ending, but I can imagine you are so elated that you’d feel like kissing everything and anything. My favorite part of the ship was the sleeping quarters and kitchen. They only serve very American food on Pearl Harbor: A hot dog or nachos.
Though the Navy was able to fix most of the bombed and sunken battleships, they didn’t resurrect the USS Arizona. They built this sunny, little memorial right over the ship, which is in shallow waters. At one end there is an opening in the floor where you can look down at the coral and fish swimming throughout the ship. Rather eerily, oil is still leaking out of the ship (2-9 quarts a day). At the far end of the memorial there is of course the names of everyone who died on the ship. But in the front, on the bench, are the names of those who survived the attack and were buried with their ship just a few years ago. There was a little exhibit about the divers whose job it is to take the urns into the ship and how meaningful it is for them. Thankfully there are braver people than me in this world.
These are the perfect shoes. I wore them in the ocean (they’re called Salt Water Sandals), in restaurants, a reception dinner, and even on a hike. Plus they always seem to look brand new. Real point is that my trusty red sandals took me safety up and down this mountain and I never slipped once. It’s called “Pillbox Hike” because every so often you find a pillbox (World War II bunkers) covered in graffiti that offered some shade and rest.
Unfortunately I didn’t wear my glasses but other hikers said they could see whales. Still, it was an amazing view.
Whenever I’m abroad I’m conscious about being an American and not appearing too American. In Hawaii I kept catching myself in that mindset and would have to remind myself, “Oh wait this is America. I’m one of them! I can be as obnoxious as I want!” Still though, it does feel really far from America.
This is the Honolulu airport. You pass through security and get to different terminals by going through these walkways. It’s quite nice to wait for a flight in the fresh air and greenery.
It’s nice to go away, but I’m always happy to come home as well. Especially when Laura makes a delicious salad and homemade pizza for your first dinner home!