8 Tips To Vacation In Hawaii Like A Pro

I’ve been to Hawaii three times in the last 13 months… I’m practically an addict! I’ve learnt a fair few hints and tips during my trips that I wish I knew before and I thought I would share them with you to save you time and pain.

1. Book in advance
Tours sell out, accommodation sells out. Book in advance. I missed seeing the Na Pali Coast as alllll the boat tours had sold out. Most of the chopper tours too.In Maui and Kauai we paid a small fortune for accommodation at even a few weeks out. Book in advance and book direct where you can. Costco USA also have great vacation packages.If you can book via a USA website or agent you could save yourself a lot of money.Side note – Inter-island flights rarely sell out and are much cheaper if you use the USA web booking platform.

2. Flights don’t have to be painful
International overnight flights are the best! …If you can sleep on planes that is. I go to sleep in Brisbane and I wake up in Hawaii. If I’m lucky I will catch a meal service. I feel like I have made efficient use of my time whereas with a day flight I feel like I am wasting time.Inter-island flights and short and usually cheap. Explore another island for a night or a few days.Hot tip: last night I had to change my flight at short notice. I rang Australia Hawaiian Airlines who advised me a fare difference of $98 plus a change fee. I called the web helpline for Hawaiian Airlines in USA, they said $24 plus a $30 change fee. Instead I rocked up at the airport half an hour before check in for the flight I wanted and was able to change for free! It would usually be $30 but as the weather was crap, they were waiving the change fees – yew!Also, remember that with inter-island travel you will be stung for checking in bags. Try save the shopping until last to save on space and checked items.

3. Hire a car
If you’re just planning on hanging around in Waikiki (which I don’t advise – see the next point) then don’t worry about a car. An Uber to and from the airport will do you just fine.Plan your car to the island. A Jeep in Oahu is great (get four doors if there’s more than two of you, from personal experience I know this will drive you crazy otherwise) to get around the North Shore and West Coast. A convertible in Maui is fun for exploring the Road to Hana with uninterrupted views and in Kauai you might want to find something that has a roof to keep you dry – it rains a lot there.
Cars are a must on the outer islands unless you plan on not leaving your resort.

4. Get out of Waikiki
Waikiki is great for a few days. But it’s just a tourist junction. Get out and see the REAL Hawaii! Explore the West Coast, the North Shore and meet some locals. Hell, even downtown Honolulu will switch it up for you. Don’t be fooled that Waikiki represents Hawaii, it doesn’t. It can be a lot of fun and easy to hang around but you’ll thank me for getting out and about!Even better, get out to the other islands and explore the less touristy side of Hawaii.

5. What to buy
Shoppppiinnggggg! I hear you, USA, outlets, good times. In USA the best buys are shoes, clothes, make up and bags. Michael Kors and Kate Spade usually have amazing sales, particularly at the outlets where you can grab a bargain. This trip alone I nabbed a leather Michael Kors jacket for 75% off and a Kate Spade backpack for 60% off. Happy days!

MAC is cheaper and sometimes Sephora is too. I buy and stock up on all my makeup and skincare in USA (or Canada where it’s cheaper because of the exchange rate) and love having the beautiful ladies show me all the latest products. They will often give you a full-face makeover while showing you what’s good.
Shoes! Runners in particular are great. I bought Adidas Pure Boosts for $150USD and they’re usually $260 at home. I found Adidas Ultra Boosts for $100 at Nordstrom Rack which were an absolute steal. Nine West is cheap, Aldo is great.

Ross is a steal for souvenirs and little finds, or if you have a car, check out Walmart for even greater savings. Waileke Premium Outlets are where the real savings are at. If there’s one of you, get a shuttle there. Two of you, uber. Three of you or more, hire a car.

My favourite buy this trip was a blow up floaty pineapple ring from Ross for $12. I haven’t used it yet, but I will!! Ahhh…

Oh! Suitcases! Take a crappy one and leave it over there and replace it with another! Even better yet, take carry on and buy a new one and bring it back too! Most airlines give you two check pieces for international travel. I have bought a Samsonite huge suitcase from Ross and two carry-on’s for my Brother’s and another quality medium sized one for me.

6. Do a tour on any of the islands
I know what you’re thinking – so cliché. Well, perhaps, if you hop on the wrong one. However, with a little research you’ll find yourself a real taste of Hawaii. The best part about tours is the knowledge that is shared with you. You cannot learn that sh*t driving yourself around. You really miss out. The stories of the island and the culture and the people are truly important to understand to be able to gain a real feel for the Hawaiian culture.

I highly recommend The Road to Hana with Roberts Hawaii in Maui and if you’re looking for something in Oahu, the North Shore is a must. If you really want to see Hawaii (and it took me four trips to get there, so you’re welcome) do a helicopter tour. I was absolutely mind blown. Not only do you get that commentary, knowledge and stories from your pilot but you see Hawaii from an entirely different perspective. I went all out with doors off (BEST EVER) and a secret scenic landing (I was so grateful for this experience, I felt overwhelmed to be somewhere so special and magnificent where few people has been before) in a Magnum PI replica helicopter with Paradise Helicopters, however a short flight will give you a taster and I’m sure you will be back for more!

Check out Groupon too, you never know what discounts you can easily find.

7. What to eat and drink
Guys, surely you know by now I cannot fit this into a paragraph! Here’s a super top level guide of what to eat and drink around Hawaii:
Food: Poke (hell yeah, find the freshest you can); Loco Moco (local Hawaiian breakfast of meat patties, rice, eggs and gravy); Acai bowls (popular here now, sold in most places); anything with local meats and recipes. Fresh fish is a must have, Ono or Mahi Mahi are my favourites. Tacos! Food Trucks! The list goes on…

Drinks: You can’t go past a Mai Tai and the range of cocktails on the Happy Hour menu! Happy Hour in Hawaii is awesome for drinks and for food. Pina Coladas are great – always ask if they have a local spirit substitute. I had chilli vodka last night and it was beautiful in a fiery chocolate martini.Hawaiian sparkling – meh. It’s okay, try it if you want but if you don’t, you’re not missing out on much. Champagne can be expensive. So can wine. You’ll eventually get sick of the sugar in the cocktail and crave something else!

8. Learn a little of the language
This will get you far in any place and Hawaii is certainly not an exception. The Hawaiian people are a lovely bunch and they appreciate when you speak to them in their native tongue. The basics are Aloha (hello, goodbye but also much, much more); and Mahalo which means thank you. Super impressed? Mahalo nui loa.
If you’re from New Zealand, you will notice with words are very close to Maori and some are even the same such as Wahine and Tane for Women and Men.Using the local tongue will allow you to connect better with the locals and open up for more conversation.

Have I missed anything you’d like to know? Let me know and I’ll add it in.

You can read about my Road to Hana Tour Here
Learn where I always stay in Waikiki Here
Check out my incredible helicopter tour Here
My favourite place for Chinese in Honolulu Here
Want to store your luggage at the airport? Here’s how.

You Haven’t Seen Hawaii Until You’ve Seen It By Helicopter

I’m nowhere near exaggerating. If you haven’t seen Hawaii by helicopter, you truly haven’t seen Hawaii.

It took me four trips to Hawaii to decide to do a helicopter ride. Why? I have no idea. I love adventure and I wish I had booked a flight on my first trip!

I can’t even call it a flight. It was an experience. Seriously, I have put off writing this blog because I do not think I have the writing capability to truly express how incredible our flight was. Let alone chose pics. I have soooo many. How do I chose which ones to share when they’re all so awe-inspiring?! Apologies in advance for the huge amount of photos below..

We were welcomed by Daniel at Paradise Helicopters at Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu who went over the all-important safety briefing and got us checked in. We upgraded from our original Magnum PI replica helicopter flight with doors off (absolute must) and a scenic landing (more on that later).

We jumped in our awesome Magnum PI helicopter and met Josh, our rad pilot. This dude has been flying for years and in his own words said that while it will never make him rich, he loves coming to work everyday. Side note – I might just leave my job and become a Helicopter Pilot in Hawaii! Okay, that’s a little overboard, I can’t fly and I don’t have a visa, but it would be an incredible thing to do every day!

My adrenaline was pumping when we took off and turned back towards Oahu. I was beyond excited. I’ve been in a helicopter before but never with the doors off, it’s something else entirely. The wind rushes everywhere, you have a completely clear view out across the landscape and there’s the excitement of knowing that you’re bloody high up in the air and there’s nothing between you and outside!!

Add to that Josh’s soundtrack, perfectly crafted over the years to match every move that you take. From the Magnum PI soundtrack when you take off to Gilligan’s Island soundtrack when you fly over where it was filmed to a Hawaiian local tune about flying over the ocean, he’s got it down pat.

Oh I forgot to mention. Daniel will offer you a hoody for during the flight. Even if it is hot, take the damn hoody. It is fairly cool with the wind tickling you up in the air. You’ll thank me (and Daniel) later.

So we flew from Turtle Bay across the island towards Honolulu airport. If you think that scenery is amazing (think solar / wind farms, pineapple plantations, valleys, coastline and a pineapple maze) then you’ve got another thing coming! We landed at Honolulu Airport to be cleared for take-off (did I mention we flew right over Pearl Harbour and live Navy and Army Bases? Wow.) and fly low and far across the runway before zipping up into the air and turning so that the helicopter is nearly on its side, SO COOL!! The whole time Josh is jumping in with snippets of info and stories and as I’ve learnt, this is uber important to understanding the local culture and history.

We flew in low across the Waikiki shoreline. Spectacular, head up over Diamond Head and across Hanauma Bay and other Oahu sights. Then the special part. The scenic landing. As Kua Loa Ranch came into view my heart immediately sped up. This is one of my favourite places in the whole world. At the risk of sounding silly, the land has a really special feeling to it. It’s utterly breathtaking and magnificent and as the Hawaiian’s say, it has Tapu. Meaning it is sacred and special land. This is where Jurassic Park was filmed along with King Kong, Lost, 50 First Dates and scores of other titles you would recognise. The mountains are rugged, lush green and peaked sharply. This, is our secret scenic landing. I can barely describe how I felt flying in. It was almost overwhelming. Here we were in a freaking Helicopter, hovering among the clouds, coming in to land on a tiny flat spot of land on a mountain peak in the valley. One of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with a deep history and recent fame in Hollywood movies and we were landing in a spot where few had been before us. We had two minutes to sit and let this sink in as the helicopter motor cooled down.

We hopped out onto the small plain and stared in awe. I took time out to just sit and look out and admire the view and be grateful for having the opportunity to have such an experience. Then we took photos. LOADS of photos. And then loads more. Josh took a hilarious panorama which has us in it three times – too good. We sat up there a fair amount of time. Josh told us about some of the proposals he had seen and people we might recognise who has also shared this trip. All too soon (although it was prob 30-40 mins) it was time to go. I would have happily been left up there for hours. Or even days with a tent and some supplies! Ha!

At takeoff, Josh asked if we wanted the quiet or the exciting take-off. Exciting was the resounding answer – duhh! I actually screamed with excitement – I know this because there’s a video. It was one of the most exciting things I have done! Adrenaline was pumping again and we were soaring among the peaks, straight over to a glorious, gigantic, waterfall! This waterfall was insane, cascading down from the top of the peak right down into the gully and guess where we went? Yup, right down in there.

It was at this point that my phone died. I wasn’t upset about it, in fact, I highly recommend it. I spent the rest of the flight listening to Josh intently and being (possibly overly) excited about what we were looking at. There were reefs and sandbars, islands and mountains, cliffs and plantations.

I can’t say I wasn’t slightly disappointed when we landed, I didn’t want the tour to end. It is one of the best travel activities I have ever done, and I have traveled a lot!

*While this tour was discounted, this review is completely authentic and true. I am lost for words to describe what an incredible experience this was. Thanks Paradise Helicopters, you rock!

Heavenly Island Lifestyle Cafe – A Local Waikiki Gem

I’m a giant fan of Heavenly Island Lifestyle! It’s a funky, delicious and sustainable cafe located under the hip Shoreline Hotel. I first discovered Heavenly Island Lifestyle on my last trip to Hawaii and have been dreaming about it ever since!

Walking into Heavenly Island Lifestyle is like stepping into a eclectic Hawaiian beachfront cafe. There’s always something to look at. The interior design is funky and fun. I’d love to take home that pineapple skateboard.

Anyway, on to the food, the glorious food! I opted for the local Kahlua Pig eggs benedict. Oh my life! Comes with homemade hollandaise sauce with lilikoi butter, poached local eggs served with Okinawa purple potato & fresh local salad. The juices are refreshing and give you that green health kick you crave. I could eat the acai bowl every day. It’s perfect for the climate there and super tasty.

A local Waikiki gem, in every sense of the word! It’s a hit with locals and tourists alike and importantly, it sources the very best local ingredients, organic wherever possible. I love that you can look on the back of the menu on the map and see just where in Hawaii the beautiful food you’re about to devour has come from.

There’s often a line up, be sure to get in early or later or be prepared to wait – believe me, it’s worth it.

Heavenly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Honolulu Airport Stopover – Luggage Storage & Ubers

I did a bunch of research (googled) before I went to Waikiki, Hawaii and couldn’t find where I could hold my bags and the best way to get around during my stopover at Honolulu Airport. Don’t fret people, I sorted it out.

I wanted to do a tour to and from the airport, then I wouldn’t have to worry about my luggage. I couldn’t find one anywhere. I thought instead I’d uber in, but then I’d have my luggage and that wouldn’t work at the beach. I gave up and decided to stay at the airport. Other option was to hire a car of course but I couldn’t be bothered and knew the roads would be busy as it was the end of the holidays and Waikiki was full! But then I flew over that gorgeous island and there was no way that I was staying there!! Take me to the beach, baby!

What I learnt…
There is somewhere you can hold your luggage at the airport! It’s aptly called Baggage Storage and you can find it at baggage claim E. You can find baggage claim E right by the car park. You exit the main arrivals terminal, turn right outside and just follow it down. It’s well sign posted. Head on the first entrance and walk to the right, the stall is there on your right.

They have a variety of storage options, I paid $15 for my large suitcase which is the day rate. They even had it ready for me when I returned at 7.30pm which I had indicated may be my return time. Well worth the peace of mind knowing your luggage is safe and not having to lug it around the city. Plus you have to pay extra for it in a cab.

The other thing I learnt is that you can’t get an uber out of the airport. I tried and tried, there’s no info. A guy that works at the airport told me that you can’t get ubers there but you can walk to the post office (approx 10 mins) and order one to the city. I would do that next time for sure. Taxis are not only more expensive but there’s often approx a 30 min plus wait. And nobody likes standing around in the heat after a long flight.

The closest beach is A La Moana Park and it has shower and bathroom facilities there. Pack your towel in your hand luggage and happy days! The mall is just across the street, you can run over for a lunch fix of poke or a quick shop.

I did grab poke (and a Cinnabon) at A La Moana but I needed wifi to work and somewhere to charge my phone and laptop. I walked into Waikiki beach and found a bar right on the beach so I could work and watch the waves while drinking cocktails. It was lovely!

I had a quick dip right out from Waikiki and two turtles joined me! Some tacos at Surf n Turf and then it was back to the airport.

You can uber to the airport – it’s approx half the price of taxis and the rate is fixed which is great if there’s traffic. Hawaiian time and all that jazz!

Air Park Karaoke – Rockin’ Out

I am visiting Hawaii with a group of nine and a couple of us wanted to give karaoke a go while the other half were dubious.

We booked a private room at Air Park Karaoke across from Ala Moana to give it a whirl and man did we rock out!

It was a slow start, but after a few rainbow shots (amazing try them if you’re there!) we were singing our little hearts out. We had a VERY wide range of music choices in the room and sang everything from Linkin Park to Queen, Righteous Brothers to Eminem and Bruno Mars. Personally, I think my rendition of Chop Suey by System of a Down was the best but the others may debate that.

We had a bunch of fun together and everyone relaxed. Dan (my brother) had me in hysterics with his renditions of songs in different voices using both the microphones. Steph (my cousin) and I smashed out Unchained Melody, a song from our childhood and I think Laura (family friend) lost her voice rapping to Eminem!

The bar is on call, you just push the service button and Ta Daaa! A bar tender appears to shake you up a delicious cocktail. I was partial to Moscow Mules but I hear the Pink Delicious was yummy and sweet too. Oh and you can order in Japanese platters too.

Highly recommend for a fun night out together in Waikiki!


Coconut Hotel Waikiki Bliss

Ever had one of those travel experiences where you just couldn’t wait to be at your destination? You know the ones… flight delay, long flight, crying babies, crappy airport food. Well I had a fairly decent one. It started with a big night out in New York, a seven hour flight delay and then a ten hour flight. Then when I landed in Honolulu my ’15’ minute shuttle took over an hour. Instead of getting in at 4pm, I got in at 1am. Anyway now for the good stuff!

I arrived at Coconut Waikiki Hotel, greeted by the friendly and compassionate reception staff and got up to my room and nearly cried it was so great! The TV was on with welcoming Hawaii tunes and scenes, the bed was huge and plush with soooo many pillows! The room was expansive, with a full bathroom, another separate toilet and a kitchenette. Perfect.

I dive bombed that bed!! I have never been so happy to roll around and smother myself in pillows. I was exhausted and oh-so-happy! Anddd I fell straight to sleep.

I woke up the next day after a great sleep in my comfy bed and was able to walk straight out into the heart of Waikiki. The hotel is located far enough off the main strip that it is not loud but safely lit up and only a couple of blocks walk to the main restaurant and shopping areas. For me that’s ideal.

And the view… oh, the view. I watched the sun rise and a rain shower sweep across the island followed by that gorgeous warm glow as the sun came back out across the water from behind the clouds.

Hot Tip – if you book direct there’s no resort fees and 15% off! Oh and breakfast is inclusive. Pretty sweet deal!

I’ll definitely be back – I’ll let the pictures do the talking….

*While this hotel room was complimentary, my review is completely authentic and true.

Brisbane-based lifestyle and travel blog image featuring mountain and sea scenery

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