We think of Palm Trees, Hula Hula, flower necklaces, the Aloha Spirit, big waves – I mean huge waves – surfing and tropical cocktails, right!? Yes, that’s what you get when visiting Oahu in Hawaii. I could stop right here, you already got the picture…. but there is much more to it if you travel off the beaten track…yep, the following is not the usual travel guide for people who like staying in hotels. I’m not the “typical tourist” and you’ll read nothing about All-inclusive programs on this site! But if you’re interested in learning how to travel pricy Hawaii on a budget, keep on reading! And then there is a bit of travel action to this post too…so let me warn you, this one is not for the faint heart!
How my trip to Oahu turned into an almost life-threatening journey of no return!
DON’T COPY THIS, YOUR MOM WON’T APPRECIATE IT!
“Mom, this might be my last call EVER….!” I love drama and I sometimes add a little to it. But this time, I did not need to pimp my story. Fair enough, I could have been a bit more thoughtful with the opening line of my phone call to my mother at 9 pm German time. But her reply showed me that it was not even good enough: “I’m glad you called. What’s up?” Hm…this didn’t have the desired effect. I was about to face my last few hours of life and my Mom was as casual as my sneakers!
This time I added a bit more of drama to my voice, I had to make her understand that this was not a joke: “Mom, sit down, I am calling because there is a Tsunami coming my way and I am sitting in my little hut next to the ocean where I will probably gonna die tonight. So, let’s say goodbye!” This time it worked! I had her attention.
So, mum and dad were informed. Check! Now, all I had to do is set the alarm to 2:30 am in order to be awake half an hour before the wave was supposed to hit the East Coast of Oahu. Afterwards, it’s always easier, but that night I really did not sleep much. And when the expected wave was supposed to hit, I swear, I was sitting upright in my bed pressing the arm of my sleepy and not so impressed boyfriend.
I even put my running shoes next to the bed and stuffed a bottle of water, muesli bars, my passport, a blanket and a flashlight in my little backpack. I was ready to leave everything else behind… (ok, I would have taken my laptop and credit card too. And then perhaps a few more shirts and underwear, maybe my favourite dress…but that’s not the point. I was prepared to run, you know!).
Good news though, you can relax now! It was a false alarm! All we ever experienced that night was the rise of the water at the coast for an inch. But of course, I did not know that during the night and sat therefore upright in my bed for full 2 hours imagining birds fleeing inlands and checking every minute if the Tsunami Alert on Google and Twitter was updated. I also promised to never trust a rooster again, because he made me even sit up tighter: he started to “sing” at 3:30 am – hello! Really?!
Ok, so we made it through the night, perhaps you guessed this by now! And now we were ready to see a bit more of the relaxing side of this beautiful place…. puh! What a rocky start into a paradise-like vacation!!
Here is how you can travel Hawaii on a budget – PART 1: OAHU
The funny fact before I go into detail:
Did you know that you can actually be welcomed to the United States while still on Canadian ground? At Vancouver Airport it’s possible! It happened so fast that I did not even realize it until I was actually on “American Ground”. The friendly (!!) officer said: ‘Welcome to the United States, Miss!’ even though I hadn’t even left the airport. Hahaha, that was the most laid back US Customs I’ve ever been through!! (Remember, I have a bad experience record with Immigration officers: My last times were not so smooth).
And it gets even funnier: we did not even have a return ticket at that point! We were meant to do a booking right there at the airport while waiting to board the plane… I know I know, super last minute, but we could simply not decide on how long we wanted to stay in Hawaii and kept it open till last minute. All my preachings about how you’ll NEVER be able to enter the US without a return ticket suddenly got washed away by this friendly smiling (no kidding, smiling!!) officer at the airport.
We flew with Air Canada for CAD 243 (one way) and after a smooth 5 ½ hour flight we landed in busy Honolulu. At the airport we took a taxi to our Couchsurfing place in the Makiki Area. 25 minutes later and 27 US dollars lighter, we knocked on our host’s door who told us with Lyft it would have been a bit cheaper…too late for us, but perhaps for you it might be helpful…
After a warm welcome and a shower we rested in our private double bed room, which was meant to be for free (that’s the whole point of couchsurfing, right!). Our host changed the rules of Couchsurfing a bit and charged us 30 US a night. His place is so popular that he turned it into a little income source and admitted that he is too lazy to open an account with AirBnB. Well, people like us make him go on like this, I guess. But we could not find another couch and it was still WAY cheaper than staying in a hostel in Honolulu (average are around 60-80 bucks per night for a double bedroom)…
Thanks to the jet lag (Hawaii is 3 hours behind Vancouver), we woke up early and decided to hike the “Diamond Head” trail while it was still cool outside. You better leave really early in the morning because it gets very humid on the trail and people on the way back passed us in sweat drunken shirts… These views are worth the very short (35 minutes) but intense hike up the hill, we found!
With public transport you can get there in about 30 minutes from Honolulu centre. From our place in Makiki we took the bus #15 and then in Chinatown we changed to #9. It took us a bit over an hour to get to the entrance of the Diamond Head Monument State Park. Make sure you have exact change for the bus, there is no change given! We were lucky, our bus driver had a good day and waved us through because we didn’t have the exact amount of US 2,50 each – yay #Ilovefreebies
We spent the rest of our day exploring Honolulu and Waikiki Beach….for my taste Honolulu feels like a concrete jungle and has nothing to do with the paradise escape we were looking for…busy traffic, loads of shopping malls, Starbucks/McDonalds and high-end hotels everywhere! After one day this was enough and we escaped the busy area to go see the less populated areas of the island…
The next 5 days we spent on the North Shore of Oahu wwoofing on a farm… This was compared to our experiences in Canada really a downer! I won’t mention the farm here because I left a personal feedback with the owner of the farm. All I want to say is, whoever goes to Hawaii in order to participate in the wwoofing program needs to be careful, people there have a different opinion about the concept. Whoever thinks about going there PM me and I am happy to go into further detail…
Definitely worth visiting while you are on the beautiful North Coast of Oahu: Waimea Beach and Sunset Beach! The latter is obviously a great place to see some stunning sunsets but it’s also a nice beach for the day. And Waimea Bay is internationally known for its annual Surf tournament by Quiksilver. While the waves are not big enough, tourists and locals alike hang out at that beach…the brave ones jump off the 10 feet high rock… Here are some of our shots:
WAIMEA BAY, OAHU
SUNSET BEACH, OAHU:
After one week up in the Pupukea area we took the bus from the North Coast down to Honolulu again. But this time we went down the East Coast in order to see a different route. The bus took 3 hours/US 2.50 and we past by an impressive coastline and lush area. Back in Honolulu we rented a car for the rest of the afternoon and the following day. We left immediately the city after picking up our car and headed towards Waimanalo Beach at the South/East corner of Oahu.
We slept in the car that night with the plan to wake up as early as 5 am in order to climb the forbidden stairs…but our Stairway to Heaven trip turned into a not so successful adventure as it was rainy and slippery and we couldn’t get as far up as we wanted to. So out of safety reasons we turned around and that was smart also because it would have been impossible to see through the clouds that day…at least we tried!
- Kailua, Waimanalo, Sandy beach
- Diamond Head
- North Coast: Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay
- Pali lookout, Pillbox Hike
- Moke Islands near Lanikai, Makapu’u lighthouse/tide pools
TO BE CONTINUED >>> Stay tuned for the second part of my Hawaii series: Maui and why I decided to go on a guided tour! <<<