Visiting Oahu, Hawaii in Winter

oahu views from the punchbowl
view of diamondhead from the punchbowl
honolulu skylive views

Honolulu views from the Punchbowl

good morning from marriott ko olina
waking up in Oahu

why yes we did wake up like this…..

morning coffee at marriott ko olina resort
north shore oahu beach days
monk seal napping on the north shore
beach chickens
Hawaiian chicken

new friends on the beach

matsumoto shave ice best shave ice on the island

voted best shave ice on Oahu

ka'ena point state park
ka'ena point state park
ka'ena point state park

Ka’ena Point State Park 

nothing beats a Hawaiian sunset
hawaiian sunset
hawaiian sunset
hawaiian sunset
hawaiian sunset
hawaiian sunset
very happy in hawaii

the sunsets in Hawaii are unreal

Nico's Pier 38 lunch views

lunch views from Nico’s Pier 38

North Shore Oahu Hawaii
Warning No Swimming North Shore Oahu Hawaii
North Shore Surfers Oahu Hawaii
North Shore Surfers Oahu
North Shore Oahu Hawaii
North Shore Beach Days
Surfboard Gate North Shore Oahu

I love the North Shore.

I have been fortunate enough to visit Hawaii several times. All of the trips have been during the coldest, dreariest months on the east coast and it is such a welcome relief from the grey days. You may have noticed by now, that I struggle to post in real time, and that’s OK. #WinterIsComing again this year, and this will still be relevant then. Plus – it’s never actually winter in Hawaii so go whenever you want. Now that’s settled, on with our trip.

We stayed at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Resort, and we could not love this place more. It was the third time I have stayed here and the views, the room, the pool, everything is great. The rooms are all condos so you have room to spread out and can cook in the room if you want. We made breakfast in most days, and also used the grills a few nights for dinner. We were also perfectly happy with all of the food and drinks that we had at the resorts restaurants and bars.

Ko Olina is a resort area on the southwest end of the island of Oahu. There is also a Disney Resort here and a Four Seasons. Each of the resorts are self contained on their own private a bay, meaning that you don’t necessarily encounter the guests from any of the other resorts unless you want to. But, being that there are so many resorts in the area, restaurants and shops have popped up nearby, so you have more to choose from. The only  restaurant in Ko Olina that we tried on this trip was Monkey Pod, and it was fantastic. We loved the outdoor area and listening to the music. I particularly like the Ko Olina area because it is not busy. It is about a 30 minute drive from Waikiki Beach which is where people often think of when they visit Oahu. While Waikiki is beautiful as well, it can be quite crowded in the tourist areas.

For the most part, we just relaxed and toured around the island. We ate our weight in poke, we drank drinks with little umbrellas in them, we watched the sunset everyday. You know, the good stuff. I don’t have an earth shattering guide to the island but just a few fun things that we did and loved.

We spent two of the days on the beach at the North Shore. During the winter months the waves here are unbelievable and just watching the surfers all day while I relax in the sunshine is enough for me. We had shave iced one day and acai bowls one day, because whats a trip to Hawaii without those? We also pulled over on a random beach on the way to check out a monk seal that was sunning herself.

We hiked Diamond Head for the first time. The views from the top are beautiful, and well worth the hike up. More on this later.

We toured Pearl Harbor as well. I have been before and like the last time it was such a somber experience to think about what happened there. It was kind of a bummer not to be able to get out of the boat and go onto the memorial platform, as I had this opportunity on a previous trip, but still worth experiencing history first hand the way that you are able to here.

As for restaurants… We had a delicious lunch at Uncle Bobo’s after we randomly came across it driving around the island. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at Duke’s on Waikiki Beach. The Hula Pie at Duke’s is worth every. single. calorie. We loved the lunch we had at Nico’s Pier 38. They have a huge variety of things, and it was fun to sit outside and watch the ships be unloaded. We had a fun lunch at Lulu’s on Waikiki beach. The view and vibe here was the best  part. Finally, we discovered Paul John’s Lumpia which is a Filipino restaurant in a neighborhood in Kapolei. The food here was good and it was really nice to try something different, as this is not something we would usually find at home.

We spent last our last afternoon at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Before, you’re all like, who spends their afternoon in a cemetery… it is located in what is called Punchbowl Crater. It sits high above Honolulu, the views here are stunning, and their is of course a lot of history to take in as well. It was the perfect stop to spend some time taking in the views before heading to the airport.

I also have two cousins who live on Oahu. (How lucky are they?) One is a teacher and one is in the Marine’s stationed at Kaneohe Bay. It was really fun to get to see both of them on the trip.

As a completely random side note, if you’re going to Hawaii from the east coat of the US (like us) I prefer my connection to be in Dallas or Phoenix. I have found that although the travel time is essentially the same, when you connect on the west coast (usually LAX) the flight isn’t quite as long so you end up on a somewhat smaller plane that isn’t as comfortable. And it is still a long flight from LAX. We typically fly American so that could have something to do with it too. And for anyone still wondering if the tortuously long flight will be worth it. YES. It will.

Have you been to Hawaii before? What island was your favorite? What time of year did you go? What were some favorite things you did?

Hawaiian Sunset

Visiting Hilton Head Island in the Fall

Okay, gather round closely, because I’m going to say something controversial here. Are you ready for it?

We went to Hilton Head Island, and we didn’t love it.

It was fall, so it was off season, which may have affected our experience. But y’all I don’t know what all the hype is about.

We stayed at the Marriott SurfWatch property, which really couldn’t have been nicer. We had a really nice room with a view of the ocean. The rooms are actually more like condos, with a full kitchen and living room area. I think they would be great with a family. The resort had really nice pools and a beautiful beach area. Even in the fall we found that the water was still warm enough for the outdoor pool. There was a beach bar with good drinks and decent food. The resort is also conveniently located to grocery stores and other things on the island. I think our mistake was leaving the resort property. We like to go out adventuring and check out the local restaurants when we visit somewhere new, and this is where things went downhill.

We headed out to see the famous Hilton Head lighthouse. The lighthouse is in the Sea Pines Resort community. We didn’t realize we couldn’t just drive right up, the community is gated, and they charge an $8 dollar (cash only) fee for a day pass. They advertise this as a luxury gated golf resort, and while there were some gorgeous homes it was mostly condos that were built in the mid 80’s and nothing special.

We finally made our way to the lighthouse and found a bunch of kitschy t-shirt shops all selling the same thing in the area. For an additional $4.25 per person you can climb the 90 foot lighthouse and take in the view (and another t-shirt shop at the top). We opted not to do this, instead walking around and checking out the scene. We drove around the resort area and checked out several different shopping spots and restaurants hoping to find something less cheesy, but no such luck. We did make our way onto the beach here, and it is beautiful. The beach is wide with plenty of room for running and playing, so that’s a pro!

We ended up having lunch at Fishcamp on Broad Creek after leaving the Sea Pines area and doing some driving around the island. This was probably our best find of the trip. The atmosphere was great, we sat outside, the weather was perfect and the food was good.

Based on the recommendations of several people we made a dinner reservation at Il Carpaccio. I’m not going to go into to much detail about this place, because some people clearly love it, but we left. After they served our bottle of wine and salad. We paid for it and wasted a full bottle of wine. I have never ever left a restaurant after placing my order. EVER.

We found ourselves in the parking lot of the restaurant starving and with no plan for dinner. OKKO, a hibachi restaurant was close and seemed like a safe choice, so we went for it. The food was standard hibachi, good but nothing special. The family at the table with us were locals and they told us about the Purple Cow Bakery next door, so we picked up a slice of cake on the way back to the hotel. We figured we had earned it. It was really good cake, which we obviously ate for breakfast the next day.

After returning to the hotel, we discovered what was probably the best part of the trip. The island has what appears to be very strict lighting codes, so when you’re out at night it is super dark. When we ventured out onto the beach at night, we realized this made for the BEST stargazing. We sat out on the beach for a long time enjoying the fact that we could see so many stars.

The next day we ventured out looking for some other things going on on the island, and mostly found more t-shirt shops. We decided to abandon looking for the fun spots on the island and head back to our resort to just hangout. We rented bikes from the resort and rode down the beach and had a great time. We spent the afternoon at Sea Salts, the resorts beach bar, watching college football and eating. We had planned to venture out for dinner again, but after striking out so many times, we decided to order Carraba’s take-out, because it was right at the entrance to the resort, and at least there would be no surprises.

While the beaches at Hilton Head were beautiful this really just wasn’t our scene. We loved the resort, and had we gone in with a different mindset of just hanging at the resort and relaxing instead of trying to explore somewhere new, this may have been an entirely different experience.

Here’s the thing… I think if you planned to golf all day there may be a lot for you here. If you have a family and you plan to stay in and cook, there were plenty of nice resorts with big pools and beach access and you would never have to leave. Sometimes hanging at a nice resort and stargazing is just what you need, so it definitely isn’t all bad.

However, there really is not much in the restaurant scene, which is probably one of our top things about going on vacation. Hilton Head is VERY commercial with all the chain restaurants you can imagine and a huge outlet mall with ALL the stores. Obviously, this sounds perfect to many people, or it wouldn’t be such a popular spot. So to each their own I guess.

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Have you been to Hilton Head? What did you think? I’d love to know!

Things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

 

What to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica and Guanacaste Province

llanos de cortes waterfall

Chase Waterfalls

We scheduled a day trip through Guanacaste Traveler. We can’t say enough nice things about our driver Jhonny and he really made our trip, but we did not have an English speaking guide as promised. We drove close to two hours to the area near Arenal Volcano, stopping at Llanos de Cortes waterfall to check out the view. If this had been our only stop we probably would have gone in swimming, but thinking of being soaking wet in the car for the next hour or more did not seem fun so we opted for just taking a few pictures. After checking out the waterfall Jhonny was nice enough to stop and buy us fresh coconuts from a roadside stand. It was my first time trying fresh coconut water and it was so good! There are many other beautiful waterfalls in the Guanacaste Province worth visiting as well.

Buena vista tour guanacaste

Buena vista tour hanging bridges

Buena vista tour hanging bridges

looking down at the ground from the Buena vista hanging bridges

Buena vista toru volcanic springs

horseback riding on the Buena vista tour

Buena Vista Tour

This is an all in one tour where you have the option to check out quite a few adventures and it included a local lunch. When we arrived for the Buena Vista tour a guide led us down 15 hanging bridges. We opted for the bridges over ziplining because we chickened out, but I think the bridges may have been just as scary if not more. We were high in the trees and the bridges shook and jumped with every move. We did see some monkeys and other animals so that was really neat. With the tour we also had a horseback ride, a water slide through the forest, and swimming in a volcanic spring. I loved the water slide it was about 500 meters downhill and really sent you flying! It was a busy and full day, but we loved having the chance to experience so many things in one place. That being said we were really close to the Arenal Volcano and I would love to explore the area here more if we are lucky enough to go back.

lunch at panga's beach club tamarindo

lunch at panga's beach club tamarindo

lunch at panga's beach club tamarindo

watching the sunset from matapalo tamarindo beach

tamarindo beach sunset

tamarindo beach costa rica sunset

Explore Tamarindo

We ventured into Tamarindo twice during our stay and we really enjoyed exploring the town. We ate a few really great restaurants in town. I still dream of the meal that we had at Panga’s Beach Club. The food, the view, the monkeys in the trees above. This meal was just so great! We loved the meal that we had at Patagonia Argentinian Grill. We didn’t have reservations, but were able to snag a couple great seats at the bar. One evening we watched the sunset and had cocktails and appetizers from Matapalo. We saw what was maybe the most beautiful sunset of the trip from this restaurant. Seriously the sunsets in CR were unreal, watching the sun drop right into the Pacific without a cloud in sight was so amazing. And the shrimp and mango ceviche we ordered was some of the best I have ever eaten. There is great surfing in Tamarindo as well. We also found quite a few boutiques that we enjoyed shopping at. We explored the town both during the day and in the evening. While the sunset here was AMAZING we liked the town a little better during the day simply because of the number of people approaching us trying to sell us things we didn’t want as the day went on.

Costa Rica you sure were beautiful! The Pura Vida way of life is beyond amazing! We can’t wait to return! Any tips or suggestions for a return trip? Leave them in the comments. If you missed the first part of our trip, find it here.