Diamond Head Hike – Waikiki Must Do

I’ve been to Hawaii four times now and I can’t believe I’ve never done the Diamond Head hike! Not only is it relatively easy, the views are abolutely stunning.

We took an uber there, paid our $1 entrance fee each and began the hike. On first look it does seem slightly threatening and I did wonder if I would struggle getting up there but then I saw the variety of people that had already done the walk and were meandering back down. I figured if they can all do it (kids, elderly etc) then I definitely could!

It only took us about thirty minutes to get to the top. I was surprised to find we had to go through a tunnel and also up a set of stairs to get to the summit. The walk can be busy and there’s not much of a chance of going too much faster than the person in front of you.

Once you’re up, the panorama, 360 degree views are absolutely spectacular. From coastline to city, you get it all. We took the classic ‘we made it’ pics and started to head back down. We made it down in fifteen minutes but we were running!

I highly recommend heading here on a trip to Waikiki and

Tips for hiking Diamond Head:

  • Bring water – or buy it at the bottom before you go up – you’ll need it
  • Wear comfy walking shoes & light clothing
  • Bring cash
  • If it’s Summer, go early – avoid the heat & the crowds
  • Check the weather – it’s not always sunny in Waikiki

Diamond Head is a National Park and open daily 6 am to 6 pm, every day of the year including holidays.

Last entrance to hike the trail is at 4:30 pm. The gates are locked at 6:00 pm daily and all visitors must be out of the park by this time.

$5.00 per car or $1 per person for pedestrians. CASH ONLY.

A Day Trip To Caribbean Hot Spot – St Barths

When it’s only a 45 minute ferry to St Barths from St Martin it would be rude not to take the journey across and check the infamous island out. I had been pretty excited to get to St Barths. I’ve read about it in trashy magazines for years and seen pictures of the idyllic paradise. Unfortunately our trip wasn’t quite so exciting and didn’t live up to that hype.

We caught the ferry ($110USD) from Simpson Bay (near our hotel) with the Edge ferry line. We checked in at 8am and then had to wait an hour in the heat (approx 30 degrees Celsius already) until we boarded at 9am. Little did we know a storm was going through and we were in for some very rough seas. The 45 minute trip took an extra half an hour trying to manoeuvre the huge waves. People were being sick all around. The crew really had their hands full.

Thankfully I had enjoyed scrambled eggs and some ginger ale before the trip and while I did feel a little average I was fine. The whole boat was rocking, we had to shut all the windows to stop the waves coming in and people had to be escorted (physically held up) by the staff to get out the back to relieve themselves of their brekfasts.

Anyway, we made it! Yay! Island! Ahhhh… no. Our dreams of an idyllic paradise were soon dashed.

Apparently it was the end of the season (thanks for the heads up y’all) so most of the shops and restaurants were shut and the streets were barren. There was nobody around. We walked about the island, had a gelato and ran undercover for a quick passing rain storm.

We negotiated an island tour for an hour with a drop off at a beach and pick up just before our ferry for $80USD (70€ – they mainly use euro there and everything is in French) with one of the many men bartering to take the tourists around, Claude.

Claude showed us around half the island and explained that the island is very safe and clean. They take great pride in a well kept island and somewhere that guests can relax completely.

We had a lunch at little cafe where the menu was in French and euro (luckily I can still read a little) and I ordered a fish cheeseburger. The mahi mahi was fresh and the burger was nice, if a little heavy. Service was very slow though and the table water was a surprise at 5€ (water is not drinkable on St Barths). We gave up waiting for the waiters to bring our bill and then again to collect so got up and paid and left.

The beach where we spent our afternoon was absolutely lovely. Clear, calm and warm turquoise water. We swam for a bit and then napped on the shore. It was very relaxing and some of the only down time we had on the trip.

Claude picked us back up, dropped us at the ferry and it was time to head back. Thankfully it was a much smoother ride this time, I slept most of the way and spent the rest of the time on the back deck.

I’m sure St Barths is great fun during high season when there’s lots of restaurants open, people about and yachts in, but in low season (especially the day before everything closes) I don’t think it’s worth the trip.

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!

What Food & Drink You Must Try In New Zealand

That’s right, what food and drink, not where! If I was sharing restaurants, we would be here a VERY long time. If you’re visiting New Zealand and want to try some typical Kiwi foods that are unique to Aotearoa, give these a try!

  • Charlie’s Feijoa Fizz
    I just found this bad boy today, it’s delicious and fresh without being overpoweringly Feijoa-y or too sweet. Try Feijoa anything really, it’s a native New Zealand fruit, both sweet and sour.
  • L&P
    The classic fizzy drink from New Zealand, Lemon and Paeroa is a taste sensation. Created in none other than its namesake, Paeroa and now manufactured by Coca-Cola.
  • Fish & Chips
    Best enjoyed on the beach, New Zealand are well known for their fish and chips, beautifully fresh and usually wrapped in newspaper!
  • Double cheese Sizzlers
    Don’t judge me. I know what you’re thinking. They’re not even totally meat! But damn are they delicious! These super processed sausages have cheese oozing out of them and are especially delicious. They’re enjoyed at BBQ’s all over New Zealand and are great for breakfast too! I blame these for majority of my weight gain on every visit to NZ.
  • Venison and Kiwi Lamb
    Kiwi venison and lamb are succulent and more flavoursome than other countries. Don’t believe me? Try them and then let me know. That’s why Kiwi lamb drives such extreme prices overseas.
    – My dad piped in at this point to let us all know that people are switching back to hogget as it has more flavour… thanks Dad!
  • New Zealand Wine
    I feel like this is so obvious it should even make this list. I love a good Haha red wine, Ata Rangi Pinot Noir and apparently the Kiwi Sav Blanc’s are amazing. I cannot attest to this, I’m not a fan of white wine. If you’re heading to Martinborough to taste test, check out my blog on where you should visit!
  • Confectionery from the Dairy
    What’s a Dairy you ask? It’s the local cornerstone. They have ice creams and essentials and usually magazines and crap you might want when you can’t be bothered going to the supermarket or feel like a treat. Anyway, the food: Squiggles biscuits, Twisties (yes they are different and more delicious than the Australian ones), Rashuns, Buzz Bars & Chocolate Fish.
  • Tui Beer
    Now well known for their wicked advertising campaigns, check THIS out, Tui beer is still one of the most consumed beers in New Zealand. It’s a refreshing lager, perfect for a sunny day!
  • The Original Kiwi Dip
    This is a funny one but very well known and at almost every New Zealand get-together. You buy a Maggi onion dip mix and mix it with reduced cream (comes in a can), you can add a squeeze of lemon or some vinegar to stop it browning and give it a little snap. It’s delicious with chips, celery or carrots…. mmm I might make some now, actually.
  • Bacon & Egg Pie
    Any great Kiwi bakery willhave their take on the bacon and egg pie. These can either have whole egg or scrambled egg with bacon (and sometime, cheese, onion, tomato) in a flaky puff pastry case. Not to be confused with a quiche, these are great for breakfast when you’re short on time. I was shocked recently when buying a bacon and egg pie in Australia and I took a big bite only to find that was filled with mince meat too!! Why??? So unnecessary.

Of course there’s Hangi’s (harder to come across, a local might be able to help you out or maybe at a market or tourist attraction), fantastic steaks, epic seafood, pinky’s (little pink lollies), Kapiti cheese, pavlova with Kiwifruit and a wheelbarrow full of other items but that’s a great start.

Did I miss anything? Comment and let me know what!

Best NZ Day Trips: Martinborough Vineyards

Why is it one of the best NZ day trips? Well first of all, there’s wine. Do I really need to keep going?

Okay fine, so there’s also great views, excellent food and a whole heap of fun to be had exploring! If you’re looking for a fun day trip around the lower north island of New Zealand than this should be a high contender.

We hired bikes from Green Jersey Cycle Tours (random name, don’t you think?) and the ten of us jumped on approx 11am. The vineyards are just a few minutes bike ride away and you pass one approx every four minutes or so as you cycle the outskirts of the Martinborough township.

We started at Schubert (an excellent place to start) before heading to Ata Rangi, Tirohana Estate (couldn’t fit us in), Poppies Martinborough, Margrain Vineyard for platters and then back to Poppies for platters. Tastings are approx $5 for five wines and generally if you buy a bottle you don’t pay.

My favourite wines were Schubert and Poppies. Schubert was very professional, lovely wines and great explanation of the varietals. Poppies was bursting with energy, Shayne (winemaker’s husband) provided unique and fun insights into each wine and most importantly the wine was delicious. I enjoyed the Pinot Noir and the Rose as well as most of the others. They had already sold out of a few of the varietals, it’s a popular place! Their platters are infamous so we made our way back there after lunch for a platter and I couldn’t resist the truffle cheese too! I’m a sucker for truffle anything. And a sucker for cheese. And wine… you get the point!

Margrain Vineyard venue was lovely with beautiful grounds. They were busy during the tastings and rushed through. I would suggest going when they’re quiet and doing the five wines tasting.

The bikes Green Jersey Cycle  were so much fun! They’re cute with little baskets at the front to store your goods, and they even had a free wine pick up service! Anddd you could choose which colour bike you’d like. I loved riding around with my friends, it was such a beautiful day too. Plus you don’t have to worry about driving or getting to each vineyard. The locals are obviously used to the bikes and keep a wide berth on the road.

If there’s a large group of you and you have your heart set on a certain winery or somewhere for lunch, I do recommend making a booking. We struggled to find somewhere that could fit the ten of us for lunch and were sure to make some tasting bookings. Otherwise just show up!

Get a group of friends together, hire some bikes (full day is $40), and get to some tastings!

 

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