Salt in the air, sand in my hair!

Hawaii has been high on my travel bucket list for years and last month I was fortunate enough to turn my travel dream into reality! I was in California for a few weeks and thought it would be cool to take some time out and finally fly to Hawaii…so I did. Here’s what I got up to.

Donkey Beach, Kauai Island
Choosing an Island

Waikiki, Oahu Island

With eight islands making up the island-state - six are open to visitors; they include Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii (often referred to as the Big Island) – it can take some time to figure which island to visit. It took me a fair share of time researching into islands mostly via Google and recommendations from people I know who have visited most of the islands. In the end though it really does depend on what you want to do on your visit. I decided on Oahu as there are so many more flights going to Honolulu from LAX, public transport is so good and there are things to do other than sit on a beach all day.

Package Deal
Waikiki Beach, Surfers Spot
For this trip I relied on a package deal and came across a great one via Aqua Resorts. As I was travelling from Los Angeles I could make the most of the American package deals rather than relaying on UK based companies.  Our deal included flights and a hotel in Waikiki and it took no time to sort. You can also include car hire in the package but Oahu is so easy to get around via public transport there isn’t a need for a car.

Sunset on Waikiki

Staying in Waikiki had its plus points and negatives. It’s the main hub so everything is within walking distance – restaurants, shops (which are all open until 11pm) and the famous Waikiki surfer’s beach. There are also plenty of buses going around Oahu so it’s super easy and cost effective to get around, although it can take a while. The only downside is Waikiki is busy as all the tourists go there and it can be quite pricey. If you are after a completely quiet holiday then I wouldn’t recommend this part of the Island. 

Although I am fine with driving in different countries I just didn’t fancy hiring a car (as I was driving around California, I wanted to switch off in Hawaii) and that’s why Oahu was perfect as this is the only island you can get around without the need to hire a car. 
N.B Parking is an issue in Waikiki so if you do hire a car it may be more of a hindrance than help unless it’s just day hire.

If like us you are looking for a quiet beach to get some zen time then I highly recommend you go to Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach in Oahu. The beautiful turquoise sea is great to take a dip in! Although it’s towards the north side of Oahu it’s pretty easy to get to from Waikiki, just hop on a bus and within an hour you will be there! 

Kailua Beach

Swinging around at Kailua Bay Beach Park

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

As you walk around Waikiki you will come across plenty of tour companies and as always you need to be careful to ensure they are a legit company. Many companies pop up, take your money and don’t deliver. Tours are a good way to get a quick overview of the whole of Oahu as they take you everywhere in one day. You can then see which spot you like and always go back there.

We used Aloha Hawaii Tours and they picked us outside our hotel in the morning and took us around the whole island. It was great as we saw everything from snorkelling in Turtle Bay, Secret Beach, Mokoli’I (Chinaman’s hat), Kane’ohe Bay (where Jurassic Park was filmed), Dole Plantation, the Macadamia nut farm and Manana Island, not to mention everything else in between. Although you could just hire a car for a day and drive around these places the good thing about a tour is you get to learn about the island and hear about things you wouldn’t otherwise know. You also get to meet some interesting people.  

Halona Blowhole

Moku Manu

Secret Beach.

Chinaman's Hat

Kualoa Ranch Hawaii i.e Jurassic Park Island!! 

Island Hopping

Wing mirror views near Coconut Marketplace, Kaui Island

Fresh coconut at Waipouli Beach

On our last day in Hawaii we decided to fly to Kaui island for the day. I booked the flights via Island Air and it took 40 minutes to get to Kaui from Honolulu airport. Once we arrived in the very island like airport we hired a car and drove around the east side of the island (you need a car to get around this Island). Unfortunately when we arrived there was bad rain so a lot of the island was closed but it was still cool to see! Kaui is exactly what you expect Hawaii to be like. It wasn’t commercialised and was super scenic - tropical style. We even managed to get fresh coconut from a local who was selling it from his truck and cut it there and then for us! Priceless moments.

Fern Grotto and Wailua River

I recommend you do the Fern Grotto and Wailua River tour as you get to see a Hawaiian ‘jungle’, all whilst going up the Wailua river in a boat - magical! The added bonus of doing this tour is while you are travelling across the Wailua river you are entertained with traditional Hawaiian dancing! It's so much fun. 

Wailua River

Waipouli Beach Resort

Overall I do recommend a visit to Hawaii, it's magical. We stayed there for 6 nights, which was plenty of time to see Oahu. If you are going out there then I would recommend going for a week longer and exploring all the other islands - taking a day or so out at each one! This is especially if you are travelling to Hawaii further a field from the World. If you are based in LA and are doing the 5 hour flight then it's fine to go to one Island for a week, which is what many Californian's tend to do. 


Santa Barbara

I've been California plenty of times, as it's my place namely LA and this time I got a chance to explore more of California - Santa Barbara, San Diego and Joshua Tree Park. 

Wing mirror views in Joshua Tree Park

As always car hire is a must and it's so easy to drive to these places from LA. I recommend Alamo and Strix as they are easily located to LAX and provide some pretty cool cars. I drove a Jeep for the first half of my trip, via Alamo, and then when I returned to LA from Hawaii I opted for a BMX X5 via Strix car rental. Dreamy. 
N.B. Once you have driven in California and Hawaii looking through your wing mirror anywhere else will suck. 

Santa Barbara
We drove to Santa Barbara for a day trip and it’s pretty easy to do, although if you have more time I would recommend staying for a night or so and then driving onwards to San Francisco. This would have been something we would have done but we had gone to California for a family wedding so most of our time was taken up with Indian wedding festivities (its made me love Indian weddings, they are so much fun when done properly and right..that's another story). When we had a free full day we would then drive to places further afield.

The drive to Santa Barbara from LA took about 2hrs 30 mins and since you will be driving up the Pacific Coast Highway it makes for an easy and very scenic route.

Sunset in downtown Santa Barbara

There are some beautiful beaches in Santa Barbara and if you stay around to catch the sunset (a must) then you are in for a treat. So far Santa Barbara has my favourite beaches in California (I've pretty much seen most of them, minus San Fran). 

Sunset on Miramar Beach

With so many beaches and places to explore I highly recommend Miramar Beach and Butterfly Beach. Watching the sunset on Miramar was spectacular. 

San Diego
Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs

Balboa Park

San Diego is again a place I would recommend you go for a few days, as there is so much to explore. I only had time to do a day trip but did get to see quite a few places such as Balboa Park (which you can spend the whole day at) and Sunset Cliffs.

Again it’s an easy drive from LA, taking about 2hours and 30 minutes and that’s with Thanksgiving holiday traffic!

Joshua Tree Park

After returning from Hawaii the last place we managed to see, before sadly having to return to the UK, was Joshua Tree Park and boy was it a great way to end the trip! It’s so beautiful and the views are out of this world. Again this is a place you can spend a few days at! The pass you have to purchase (for only $15) actually lasts for 7 days so if you can stay in the area for longer it’s recommended. Some of my American family tend to camp in Joshua Tree Park for a few days and I totally see why! 

Keys View

Keys View
Joshua Tree Park is desert nature at its best! I’ve seen quite a bit of the Californian desert having been to Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley (in my previous trips) and Joshua Tree Park is in its own league. There is a lot to explore once you enter the national park; I highly recommend you go to Keys View. Keys View is the highest point in the national park and you are in for a treat as you can see Coachella Valley and all the surrounding beautiful views. It’s breathtaking and pictures actually don’t do the views justice!

Again it is a must to stay for the sunset. The pink skyline across the Joshua Trees is magical and proves once again why you cannot beat a California sunset.

There’s some pretty cool places around Joshua Tree National Park that make you feel like you are in a traditional American cowboy esque town and it’s another reason I recommend staying out there for a few days!

View of Coachella Valley from Keys View. Peace. 

Well that’s my latest travel blogged, I hope you are feeling inspired to visit some of the above places for 2017! 

Meera Sharma

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