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April 27th 2022
Published: May 15th 2022
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Days leading up to the trip: It’s a long story

Oahu wasn’t my idea, you know. But hey, when the family from Japan called to meet them there, we were in. It was originally slated for March when Japan was in the thick of the Omicron surge and they made the decision to cancel at the last minute. We had the reschedulable flight so here we are, end of April, with the whole new itinerary.

I had originally planned to do half-half between Waikiki and Kaneohe as I found an Airbnb in Kaneohe; to get away from Waikiki and to explore the unexplored. Beginning of April, I got a text saying that the Airbnb listing is now ceased and desist being outside of the allowed zone. Really?! I was told that it would’ve still been honored but umm, no thanks. I spent literally an entire weekend figuring out the alternatives. Things were getting booked up by then and it was nothing short of a nightmare. Finally, I came across an Airbnb car rental with camping gear. The price was comparable to our lodging in Waikiki. I researched camping in Oahu and it seemed doable. I usually don’t book Airbnb anything with just 4 reviews and I was nervous until after the trip but I was just too tired to think anymore. And what if that option slipped away? Click. Booked.

I was pretty nervous flying for the first time since Covid, especially with an unvaccinated toddler. I packed wipes, rapid tests, and loads of masks; N94, KN94, KF94, and surgical. Did I miss anything? Things had been calming down and Hawaii lifted Covid requirements a month before the trip. So glad not to have to arrange time-sensitive tests, phew. But so did the mask mandates on flights a few days before our flight. This was uncalled for, ugh!

I also spent some time and thoughts on entertainment for Y: books, stickers, and a toy train. Since there is no railway (except at the plantation), I thought it’d be nice for him to have a train but it only reminded him of home 😅 Alright, on to the adventures.

Wednesday: Keep on moving

I felt like I’d been packing for a week but still managed to be stressed upon leaving the house. Still, I consider leaving at 6:15 am to be a win. It’s been a few years since I took public transportation here and the single ride ticket to the airport no longer existed. That was the beginning of a comedy of errors. We almost got on the wrong train and took the air tram for no reason because we were at the right terminal, grr. It was crowded at the gate. The Piggyback Rider was already a life-saver. A 5-hr flight went smooth as Y was super intrigued by everything that was going on; a little too overstimulated to be sleeping. He was running on fumes but in good spirit.

From HNL, I realized that the city bus would take 1-hr to Waikiki, no! But Y enjoyed being on the bus for the first time and if he didn’t mind, we didn’t mind. It was already 2 pm by the time we checked into the hotel. Since we were right in front of the International Marketplace, we made a quick pit stop at MoDo. When this popup came to San Jose, it was a 3-hr wait fiasco. Here, zero line, winning ✌️Today’s plan was to hit Foodland, Target, and Walmart in Ala Moana to get groceries. Ala Moana is a 20-minute bus ride and I thought I could order stuff ahead of time and pick up zip. Right. This was a bad bad plan without a car. We struggled from Foodland. We barely made it through Target in the same mall. So glad V made the right call of skipping Walmart. Walmart was the only place I could find milk-on-the-go but we had no choice. We had been up since 2 am Hawaii time and Y had no nap. He was in good spirit and we really appreciate that but 7 pm was the hard stop.

Thursday: Waikiki primers

Y woke up at 4 am! Jet lag, ugh! We ate, got ready, out the door by 6 am. Sun had just come up. No plan today except for a photoshoot at 10 am. We just wandered off towards Waikiki beach. There was already a sizable number of people surfing, strolling, and jogging. Y was showing his dislike for the beach already and he wouldn’t go remotely near it. See, Hawaii wasn’t my idea. After a quick pitstop at the hotel, we headed to Hilton Lagoon where the photoshoot was going to be. On the way by International Marketplace, the garbage truck caught Y’s attention. No surprise but this one was crazy entertaining even for us! The little pickup went in between the packed Waikiki buildings while the big guy waited on the main street. The little guy backed into the big guy so its arm fits the garbage bin holes. But the speed the little guy was backing in was unreal and precise! We were all very impressed.

We got to Hilton Hawaiian Village at 9 am. Snack and koi watching took us to 10 am and the family photo session began. Y was frantic anywhere near the water but the photographer was absolutely amazing with him. Enough stress for Y. Time to hop on the bus to Ono Seafood. Whoa, 2 bowls put a $40 dent! I don’t remember the price and the setup or even the options. Y didn’t want to try ahi but was happy with miso tako although he claimed that it got sour after a while. He drank lots and lots of water. The sun was strong. Next stop: Leonard’s! Y affirmed that his belly isn’t full because he is about to eat a donut 😂 There was a short line out the door. Looks like we hit the lunch rush because it had died out already by the time we got ours. Eating it right there while it’s warm is a must! Y enjoyed his and even convinced me to split my last bite with him 😂 Perhaps the full tummy helped to succeed at napping back at the hotel. We hit up Waikiki Old Country Market to pick up picnic dinner. It was this tiny tint neighborhood market with stuff jam-packed that you could barely walk around. They had exactly what we needed though. We could’ve just hit any beach for Y to play with his construction trucks but he also wanted to ride the bus. We went back to Hilton Lagoon. Sun was still strong at 4 pm. We managed to snug a palm tree shade but it moved fast. We were under a whole other tree in no time. Y was super happy to finally be able to play 😊 After a picnic dinner and sunset, we left at 7 pm in dark. Bedtime at 9 pm.

Friday: Camping on Oahu

A slight improvement waking up at 5 am. After a quick breakfast, we went out for a stroll at 6:45 am through the International Marketplace onto the street where we saw the garbage truck team yesterday. They were at it again this morning and that gave Y great entertainment. We walked through the surfboard storage alley onto the beach toward the police station, then back to the hotel. We gathered our luggage and took a bus to Discovery Bay where we were picking up a car at 8:30 am. Now with a car, stopping by Foodland and Walmart was easy-er. It’s still a mess going to Walmart and we were so glad we skipped it on Wednesday. A peculiar thing; Spam cans were locked up in individual boxes! Never seen that before and why Spam?! You’d have to pay me to eat it. By the time we finished running errands, it was already 10 am! Everything seemed to take double the time here with or without a car

We reached Adele’s Country Eatery in Kaneohe at 10:45 am. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden was a short 10-minute drive: a perfect place to eat with the view. I had heard about mosquitoes here and thought we were ready but one of them gave me a welcome bite right there, grr. Adele’s makes specialty pasta with very Hawaiian ingredients. We got Lechon (Pork Belly) Malunggay Pasta and Garlic Ulu Pasta With Portabello Mushroom. They were not shy with flavor, volume, and grease that they even put V over the top. Hiking with a full belly was tough but it helped to burn it off too. We managed to visit 3 sections between 12:30 and 2:30 pm. Endless lush greens. Other sections weren’t connected by trails so we drove all the way to the end. This was an amazing spot, probably the best view so far.

We spent 4-5 pm setting up our home for the next 3 nights. It took longer than usual to navigate the new gear and the gusty wind didn’t help. The campsite was amazing! It’s right by the narrow strand beach with the view of Mokoliʻi, aka Chinaman's Hat, and the rugged mountain in the backdrop. The campsite holds up to 10 people so the neighbors are far apart. Most parties seemed to be large groups with some serious aid station setup with 3-4 tents. Our setup looked a bit lonely. Finally, Y got to play with his sand toys. This place was so windy, the
The last spotThe last spotThe last spot

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
room temperature shower was a shock to my body, yeek. Y and V didn’t seem to mind though. A quick bite was all we needed after that lunch and we all got tucked in by 9 pm. But! It was so windy the tent was caving in and the cover was making a really loud flapping noise all night. On top of that, Y had tummy issues all through the night and none of us really slept. Eventually, the rooster started to mix with that flapping noise and the sun came up.

Saturday: Slow down mom n dad

Y still woke up before 7 am. Sun was up and the wind was still blowing. After a quick breakfast, we decided to stay around while giving Y’s tummy a chance to settle and we probably all had bags under our eyes. He had no problem playing in the sand, though, and he didn’t want to quit even after 3 hrs 🤯 Finally got ourselves in the car to get lunch at 11:20 am!

Waiahole Poi Factory parking was super tight but the order line was only 4 parties deep. Not bad. We got #3 (laulau, beef luau) &
Our lonely tentOur lonely tentOur lonely tent

Kualoa Beach Park
#4 (Kalua pig, squid luau) with poi. Y liked only Kalua pig 😅 and a little bit of poi. Y was passed out when we got to He’eia state park. He slept through the roosters barking right by the car…poor thing. He’eia Park itself looks large on the map but the visiting area was no bigger than a neighborhood park. The parking lot was occupied by cats, chickens, and chicks. It’s like a mini peninsula on higher ground. It had some nice views.

Kualoa Coconut Man looked like a random unassuming fruit stand on our way back to the campsite but it had great reviews and it was a hit! The coconut had a lot of yummy juice and meat, mmm. Kualoa Beach Park was still hustling and bustling with major parties when we got back at 4 pm. I got the shower out of the way while it was a tad warmer although the air was still windy and fresh. We ate, ran around the field, and turned in early at 8 pm.

Sunday: Kawela Bay

It was raining on and off on top of the same gusty wind. Our tent surprisingly withstood the rain and
The playgroundThe playgroundThe playground

Kualoa Beach Park
had no casualties inside 👍 We all slept better as V figured out the flapping noise. The rain was stopping while the sun was rising above the sea. By the time we finished eating, things were pretty much dry from the wind. 8:15 am departure to Kawela Bay this morning. I was set on visiting the Banyan Tree. Unlucky us, it was surrounded by a fence for pruning ☹ But it was still an awe-inspiring sight! Kawela Bay Beach Park is very hikable with trails weaving everywhere. We made it to the pillbox and hiked around until 10:30 am. Kuilima Farm Stand is located just across the street and looks super cute. Perhaps this should have alarmed us of being a tourist trap. It had 3 separate vendors and things were pretty pricey. I’d pick Kualoa Coconut Man over this any day. Lumpia didn’t disappoint, though. $1 gets you a large sweet banana lumpia, the farthest a buck can go on this island.

In Kahuku on the way back, there were food truck rows that stretched over several blocks. We got THE Giovanni’s shrimp scampi since we missed it last time in Haleiwa. The truck rolled in as we were and there was a couple already waiting. Shrimps were definitely good but swimming in the pool of oil. Watch out for that heartburn! We kept this one light because we also had ahi katsu at Kevin’s Fresh Fish in our sight. But they were closed, doh! Actually, a lot of things looked closed in town. We went back to the poi factory for THE ice cream and an order of chicken long rice.

We spent the afternoon back at the campsite and the prettiest sandbox ever. Can't get enough! There were a few interruptions by the sudden rain dump today. We moved the tent under the tree and behind the bathroom in preparation for more rain and wind. We wanted to get a pineapple from the Coconut Guy for the evening. It wouldn’t be right to leave this island without eating a pineapple, right? But at 4 pm, it had closed shop for the day ☹. We went further to a supermarket and got a pineapple there instead. The fruit prices at Foodland in Ala Moana were actually comparable. Here, papayas, bananas, and oranges are a way to go.

Other campers had been packing up since this
The most scenic sandbox!The most scenic sandbox!The most scenic sandbox!

Mokoliʻi, aka Chinaman's Hat, in the background!
morning. By Sunday evening, there were only 3 solo tents left. No more big party canopies as well since the day users had to pack up before the gate closed at 8 pm.

Monday: A bonus round in Ko Olina

It didn’t rain too much after all and the wind was calm in the morning. We got up at 6 am while the sun was starting to come out. It was the first time eating here without holding onto bowls and things. There were a lot of things to bring back to the car but this is where V is super-efficient. We were driving out at 8 am. After stopping by a grocery store before returning to the capital, we were already ready to snack. font-family: 'Helvetica',sans-serif; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman';
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Botanical Garden was a 10-minute drive and it would be nice to go back to the farthest spot which Y called the Zabajaba Jungle. 5-6 cars were already at the gate a few minutes before opening but the crowd was still thin. We had the luxury of hogging the bench while we snacked with the grand view.

Since we had
Sunrise at the campsiteSunrise at the campsiteSunrise at the campsite

Kualoa Beach Park
the car until 5 pm today, we had enough time to visit Ko Olina before returning to Waikiki. We arrived at Ko Olina at 10:45 am. The moment you get off the freeway, you're suddenly transported into the high-tech resort land. Right off the bat, there was an electronic board indicating available parking spots at each lagoon. I think there were only a few spots at each lot. Wow for the board and wow for the availability. I read that Lagoon 2 was the way to go because other ones are shared with the private resorts. The parking lot gate was closed. While we were pondering at the gate, a lady came and told us there is 1 spot open but that we’d have to call the attendant. The voice asked which lagoon and what color the car was, then said “are you the one with a blue shirt?” Their eyes were watching us!! The gate opened and we were good to go.

It was a bit before lunchtime but we were hungry already! We grabbed the picnic lunch and played on the sand by this beautiful lagoon. There were enough people but not too crazy at all. Y played to his heart’s content until 2 pm. Just out of curiosity, we checked out Lagoon 1. Yup, the lagoon was sectioned off into 3: farthest for Four Seasons with their umbrellas, middle for Disney with their umbrellas, and the rest was open to the public. Lagoon 2 FTW.

Ready to hit the road back to Waikiki. I pulled up Google maps and realized that it was going to take 40 minutes. It honestly doesn't seem like it does on the map! At 3 pm, we should have enough time, right? Pumped gas, checked in at the hotel, unloaded stuff, forgot to not unload the car seat, and put the car seat back in. When we finally safely returned the car, it was 4:55 pm, 5 minutes to spare, phew! Just when we were about to leave the lot, the car seat carrier strap snapped. There was no way to fix it and no way to lug that car seat around without the wheels. So sad to say goodbye 😢 but we were done with it and so glad it made it to this point.

Our lodging this time was now walking distance from Hawaiian Village. The beach was crowded like it was a holiday. We had picnic dinner and played on the sand with a rainbow in the background as it had been sprinkling on and off all day today. Y was ready to check out koi and go back to the hotel. Much-awaited hot shower and night-night at 8:30 pm. Y’s tummy seemed to have settled, bad rashes looked tamer, and no peculiar lengthy coughs during the night. Bad stretch seems to be behind him.

Tuesday: The last calls

Um, I heard the roosters cry in the middle of Waikiki. We went on a stroll at 7:45 am in search of the garbage trucks. No luck this time 🙁 Alright let’s go to Leonard’s! It was a long wait for our bus #13. We finally reached Leonard’s at 8:50 am when the line was wrapping around the corner, wow. Next stop: Vintage island shave ice because we can’t leave Hawaii without shave ice, right? It’s not the Matsumoto’s but it’s probably not doused in colored sugar water, maybe? The kiosk had just opened at 10 am. The tropical one with mango and pineapple was…eh pretty sugary. Ice is packed on top of ice cream and the whole mountain was swimming in the pool of mango and pineapple purée.

Kahanamoku Beach / Hawaiian Village was now our go-to and we spent more time until a little past lunchtime. We went back to the hotel for lunch and failed attempt at napping, then head out again at 2:30 pm. We browsed Mitsuwa for a potential meal for tomorrow’s long road home but $3 onigiri, really? We left with a pineapple and MoDo which Y was super excited and antsy about. This time we got lilikoi, strawberry, and chocolate. After another stop at the hotel, off we went for the last hurrah at the beach. The crowd was much thinner than yesterday. This time, we went a little deeper to Hilton Lagoon.

Suddenly magic happened! Y’s feet were in the water! Wait, what? He’s been staying as far from the water as possible. He went deeper and deeper until his pants and shirts were completely wet. Is this the same person?? Never count this guy out! None of us wanted it to end. It was too epic but the time had come. Y gathered his toys and passed them on to the next kids, good job. We ate picnic dinner there and Y totally owned his undie while piggybacking on my back 💪

Wednesday: The final call

The plan was to sneak in yet another Leonard’s run before heading to the airport. Maybe catch the garbage trucks in action on the way too. That all changed when Y asked to go to the lagoon! Lagoon or donut? Lagoon! Alright. Nobody was at the lagoon at 7 am and it was getting groomed. Literally, the sand grooming truck was making rounds. I didn’t know beach sand needed grooming. Y had another blast there. We were ready this time for him to get wet. We got to use the beach shower for once and walked by the koi pond and the back alley one last time. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up our Oahu adventures.

Back at the hotel, we cleaned up that pineapple from Mitsuwa. And it was so yummy!! Mitsuwa of all places. With that, we were ready to hit the long road home. Yeah, Oahu wasn't my idea but it was a great trip! Y liked every aspect of the trip: from the busy city to camping. We make a great team 💪

P.S. On getting reservation

There are many campsites that are operated by the City and County of Honolulu throughout the island. Some between Friday-Monday, others Friday-Wednesday. You have to commit to 3 or 5 days and they become available 2 Fridays prior at 5 pm. Some sites were reported as being sketchy. After much consideration, I picked Kualoa Beach Park. It didn’t seem sketch, not rainy/buggy like the botanical garden, situated to enable visits all along the east coast, and there were 2 areas: one for 3 days and the other for 5 days. I’ve watched the availabilities movement for a few weeks and noticed that all sites eventually went but the popularity really depends on the location. I logged in, ready to go at 8 pm PST on 4/15. 3, 2, 1, refresh! Boom. All sites in Kualoa A (3days) went pending. Fine, on to Kualoa B (5 days). I picked one of the available ocean spots. Pending. What?? Refresh, click on whatever! Finally snagged site 30 on the other side of the bathroom. I had some time to complete the process and I could chillax now. Sites were going right in front of my eyes until only the handicapped sites were left. Fierce competition! The most important thing is that I got a site and we were good to go, phew.

P.S.S. Piggyback Rider

We got the Piggyback Rider for this trip and it was a great decision! We wouldn’t have moved as much without it. It was useful at the airport, in the stores, on the trail…everywhere! We also must have triggered at least a few purchases because we were getting comments everywhere 😅

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Banyan Tree

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