Oahu by including some notes on things we did, in case anyone is planning a trip there (or could be persuaded to!). This was our second visit and it was a lot easier finding our way around and deciding what to do with ourselves. It may seem like such a touristy place, and my dad actually had little interest in going (except to be with family), but after our trip he was surprised to find himself wanting to go back.
We stayed in Ko Olina (a small community along the west coast), off a tree-lined street at the Aulani resort. Although run by Disney, it's the opposite of a noisy, theme-park experience and is incredibly beautiful. The building and grounds are all inspired by Hawaiian culture, but not in an overtly tourist way. The resort forms a U-shape facing the ocean, and tucked inside are gardens, pathways, pools, and hot tubs...including an infinity one overlooking the ocean. It was amazing!
Waimea Valley (above) is one of the places I wish we'd made more time for. It's a paved nature walk with botanical gardens about a mile long leading up to a waterfall. They also have a nice cafe at the entrance with local farm food (we shared their cheeseburger, house salad, and sweet potato fries!).
Bellows Air Force Station, a training site along the ocean with campgrounds and recreational facilities. Facing one way, you see palm trees and mountains, and on the other side it's all white sand beach and blue water. It's quiet enough that little ghost crabs scuttle around when you're lying still on the sand. Another (vastly different) beach was Makaha Beach, where we took our lunch one day and watched the surfers...you can see them up above waiting to catch a wave!
And then we posed for some peculiar photos while walking around Kualoa Ranch (#dorksforlife). If there's one tourist stop you make, this is worth it! It's a family owned ranch along the mountains and valleys on the northeastern side, known for their film-site tours, but I love the relatively quiet, personal feel there...not to mention incredible views everywhere you look.
Pali Lookout. And finally, we stayed in downtown Waikiki the last part of our trip (and spent most of our time away from the busy hotel), but took a walk along the water one morning and enjoyed the nearby Duke Kahanamoku lagoon.
Thanks for sticking around to the end if you made it! I'll share one more next week.