About two weeks ago I was recovering from some mild jet lag upon returning to Texas after spending 7 days and 6 nights on the beautiful island of Oahu.  I know I haven't blogged in forever, but I think this is the best way to describe my trip in detail and post all my pictures to look back on and share with others.

Where to start... to keep things as simple as possible - I met one of the purest souls I have ever encountered a little over two years ago through a mutual friend.  Her name is Jessica and you can get to know her over at her own personal, lifestyle blog, Jessica Who?.  Over the past couple of years, we have gotten to know each other mostly via social media.  Before I met her in Texas, she had lived in Hawaii for three years and recently moved back to Texas where she is originally from.  In January of this year, an incredible opportunity to move back to the islands fell into her lap, and she couldn't say no so she moved back and has made a wonderful little life for herself in the neighborhood of Kaimuki in Honolulu.  She's been encouraging all of her friends from the mainland to come visit as soon as they could make it work, so that's exactly what I did.  I booked my plane ticket in July, and, before I knew it, December 2 was here, and I was on my way across the Pacific Ocean to one of the most gorgeous places in the world!

I have to begin with the flight from Phoenix to Honolulu because I was sitting next to the oldest surviving veteran from Pearl Harbor - Mr. James Downing.  He was such a nice man, and it was a true honor to be sitting right next to him as he returned to such a memorable place.  I arrived in Honolulu just after 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.  Jessica picked me up from the airport and greeted me with a lovely, fresh purple orchid lei, which is a customary "welcome" in Hawaii.  We stopped by her house briefly before heading straight to a sunset cruise.  Her roommate, Meaghan, works for Hawaii Nautical, one of the major boat tour companies on the island, so she worked on the catamaran that took us out, Mai Tais in hand, along the coast just off of Waikiki Beach.  The views were ridiculous and there are truly no words to describe the sunset.  Anything I could say would just sound silly and not do the experience the rightful justice it deserves.  Just take a look at the pictures below - that's really all I can tell you.  Sorry if they look fake or Photoshopped - I can assure you they are not.  That is literally what my eyes were seeing.  It's crazy, I know.  After the two-hour cruise, we hung around on the boat a little longer before heading back to her house with some HUGE slices of Boston Pizza.  

On Thursday, Jess and her roommates had to work so I was on my own for most of the day.  This was absolutely fine with me because I was looking for a little alone time anyway.  At the start of my journey, I stopped for an iced coffee at a local coffee chain - Island Vintage, known for their 100% Kona coffee.  After fueling up, I wandered down around Waikiki Strip, where literally every store you can think of lives - everything from Urban Outfitters and Chanel to Macy's and local souvenir shops.  When I was bored of shopping, I simply walked across the street and I found myself at Waikiki Beach full of glorious people-watching and literally sparkling waves of water splashing up to the shore.  I walked along the beach quite a ways before meeting Jess for dinner at Tiki's Grill & Bar where we enjoyed shrimp, scallops, tuna tataki and, of course, plenty of Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiis.  

I started off Friday with a solo mission to find a good brunch spot.  I walked down to the little "downtown" area of Kaimuki and found, per Jessica's recommendation, Koko Head Cafe.  This place, known for their brunch, was opened in 2013 by Chef Lee Anne Wong who came in 4th place on the first season of Top Chef.  She is known for her dumplings so naturally that's what I decided to try, and I'm so glad I did.  The dumplings of the day were lightly fried and stuffed with beef and pork, topped with kimchi slaw and drizzled with a Sriracha sauce.  The meal was even more perfect with a glass of fresh pineapple juice.  So delicious!  Next, I decided I hadn't gotten my fill of pineapple for the day so I searched for a place to grab a smoothie and found Hawaiian Crown Plantation Cafe where I enjoyed a large pineapple smoothie surrounded by fresh, whole pineapples and locally-grown macadamia nuts. Then, I'd had enough of eating for the time being so I walked back to Jess's house and met Meaghan who kindly offered to take me hiking with her at Diamond Head.  Now, this is supposedly the easiest hike on the island, but it honestly wore me out.  It was much more difficult than I was expecting.  I guess I'm used to basic hiking trails of Texas state parks or something.  Regardless of how tired I was once we reached the top of the historical crater, the feeling of making it was super rewarding and the views were sensational.  *Side note: Meaghan hikes Diamond Head 1-2 times a week and she typically RUNS up and back down.  I am officially 100% out of shape.  Upon returning home, I took a post-hike shower and then went down to Waikiki with Jess for the weekly fireworks show put on by the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort.  We walked through the Hale Koa Hotel to get back to the Barefoot Bar where we indulged in a couple of cocktails before the show.  After the fireworks, we met Jess's friend Jenn for sushi at Chiba-ken where we had chicken katsu, spider roll, beef short ribs and sake bombs!  On the way home, we decided we needed something sweet so we stopped at a grocery store for Bubbie's Mochi Ice Cream.  

Saturday was a day full of local food and beautiful photo ops.  Jess's other roommate, Malia, was our chauffeur for the day, and our first stop was Leonard's Bakery for some malasadas.  Malasadas are Hawaiian donuts rolled in sugar and sometimes filled.  I got one filled with haupia - a creamy coconut pudding. So delicious!  Next on the food tour was Libby's for manapuas, which are the Hawaiian version of Chinese steamed pork buns or Char siu bao.  In addition to manapuas, we also got a box full of half moon dumplings and spring rolls.  After thorough nourishment, we headed over to Aloha Stadium for the Swap Meet Market, which was basically like a flea market that had a ton of booths selling souvenir type items for much cheaper than souvenir shops around the island.  Our first lookout of the day was over Waimanalo Beach, followed by Makapu'u Point and the Halona Blowhole Lookout.  I got to take lots of stunning pictures that seriously look like postcards or paintings.  After all the glamor shots, we rushed back to Kaimuki to catch an Uber to our 3:00 p.m. booze cruise off of Waikiki Beach.  The booze cruise was a total trip, complete with a group of about six girls celebrating a 21st birthday.  Lots of booze, booties and even a nip slip are standout memories from the 2-hour event.  What sounds better than a greasy cheeseburger after several mai tais and a couple vodka cranberries? Nothing, my friend.  Nothing sounds better so we trudged down Waikiki strip to Teddy's to get our burger fix.  What do you do after you down a greasy cheeseburger and onion rings? -- Take a 3 hour nap!  Which is what we did before waking up, throwing some pretty on and hitting the town.  (How Southern did that sound? hehe)  It felt so weird because we were leaving their house at nearly midnight island time which would be 4:00 a.m. central time, and the bars stay open until 4:00 a.m. there which would be 8:00 a.m. here.  I was pretty well adjusted to the time difference by this point; it was just a funny thing to think about.

On Sunday, Jess and I had tickets for a movie site tour out at Kualoa Ranch.  The tour was super cool and the sites were incredible.  We got to see where parts of different movies were filmed including Pearl Harbor, Mighty Joe Young, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Windtalkers, Godzilla and more.  When the tour was over, we drove up along the coast to North Shore, where most of the surfing and competitions take place.  Along the way, we stopped at Giovanni's Shrimp Truck and enjoyed an ice cold coconut!  Just like Texas is known for its taco trucks, Hawaii is known for its shrimp trucks.  I knew this was a must-do for my trip, and I'm so glad we got the chance to stop at Giovanni's!  My mom's one request for my trip was to go by North Shore Coffee Roasters and get her some coffee.  We found out they are only wholesale and don't have an actual shop, but we did find a boutique that sold their coffee so all is well, and Mom got her coffee.  The world can keep rotating, haha.  That evening, in lieu of going out for dinner, Malia made us a delicious dinner of homemade meatballs and pasta, and we just enjoyed a quiet night in.

Monday morning, Meaghan and I went to brunch at Sweet E's Cafe where I ordered an enormous Hawaiian omelet complete with spam and fried rice.  Mmmmm.  After brunch, Meaghan took me up to the Pali Lookout for some more awesome views of the island and then to Lanikai Beach in Kailua, which is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  In fact, Lanikai means "heavenly sea."  We built an adorable sand "snow"man which was later destroyed by some kids and then rebuilt even better by a couple sitting a little ways down from us.  We were a little bitter because they used all of our supplies to make it and people were practically tripping over each other to get pictures of it!  But, all was well.  We had a great afternoon of beach lounging and people-watching before heading back to the house.  I did a little more shopping in Waikiki before meeting Jess and Malia for the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade that night.  The parade was really neat.  They had several veterans participating and marching bands from all over the country performing.  It was a serene, historic way to spend my last real day.

Most of Tuesday was spent laying around, packing and attempting to fit everything I brought plus everything I accumulated into my suitcase.  When Jess got off work, she picked me up and we went to Diamond Head Health Bar for acai bowls, and then I got to meet her friend Kat, who was awesome!  I convinced Kat to join us for my "last supper" at Uncle Bo's Pupu Bar & Grill where we feasted on several pupus including greasy noodles, kalua pig nachos, dynamite shrimp, boca rota and shaken chicken.  It was the perfect end to my Hawaiian vacation before Jess and Kat dropped me at the airport and I made the journey back to home sweet Texas.

Thanks again to Jessica, Meaghan, Malia, Kat, Jenn and Chantelle for making my trip absolutely wonderful and totally unforgettable!  I seriously can't wait to come back.

Over Arizona

Over Arizona

Over the Pacific Ocean

Sunset Cruise

My Welcome Lei

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise

Lights of Waikiki from the boat

View from the house

Waikiki Strip

Waikiki Strip

Moana Westin Resort

Waikiki Beach

Diamond Head

$6 Lunch


Dumplings at Koko Head Cafe

Stairs at the top of Diamond Head

Diamond Head

Hale Koa Hotel

Fireworks at Hilton Hawaiian Village

Chiba-Ken Sushi

Malasada with Haupia filling



Jess, Me & Malia


Hatch from LOST

Banana trees

Lanikai Beach, Kailua

Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade

Miso ramen

My home for the week :)

A delish local beer

Acai bowl

Saw a rainbow on my last day!

Last Supper & New Friends