Hawaii has been on my wish list of destinations for many years. My granddad always dreamed of travelling there but never did unfortunately, and so although I had been saving it for some theoretical honeymoon I decided to go for it now rather than miss out.
And so it was that I had a really lovely chilled and still incredibly productive month’s stay in Honolulu. My hard work alongside a ten-day period of pretty hard rain (I know you don’t believe me) meant that I didn’t even go up to the North Shore, let alone travel to the other islands as I had intended. Plus, even self-sufficient old me couldn’t quite bring myself to go on a sunset cruise by myself… so I will definitely come back for a romantic trip some time!
So here are the 5 highlights of my month in Honolulu!
1. Staying in airbnb*
The only thing I planned before coming to Honolulu, and even this just a couple of weeks before arriving, was my airbnb accommodation. A recommendation from a friend (THANK YOU EMILY!), the house was on a hill with a stunning view of Honolulu, a short bus ride from all the tourist action but with plenty of restaurants and things going on in the area… oh, and a hot tub. This was the first time, though, that airbnb was more than just a place to stay and I actually spent time with the hosts. Now this may be partly because Louise and Kahi are friends of a friend but I suspect it was mainly because they are just incredibly lovely airbnb hosts and wonderful human beings. From enjoying eating, or just watching, Louise’s gourmet cooking every night to being invited along to Thanksgiving dinner, from painting Kahi’s buoys for display at a surfing competition to feeding the chickens, staying here really added to the experience of being in Hawaii. Oh and did I mention the hot tub?
2. Learning to play the ukulele
My bucket list specifies that I learn to play “Somewhere over the rainbow” on the ukulele and on arriving in Hawaii I suddenly realised this was the perfect opportunity to do so. A quick Google brought up Roy Sakuma Ukulele Studios, who just so happened to have classes right around the corner. I had four lessons and picked up the chords pretty quickly, although hearing Roy and the other teachers play was enough to make me realise how many hours of practice I’ll have to do to sound anything like that. Well, it’s no Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (hurrah I can finally spell his name without checking!) but I did learn to play this most famous of ukulele songs as well as a bit of Jason Mraz, some Beatles, Disney and even a couple of Christmas songs. I’ve left Honolulu with my ukulele in tow and so I hope to continue learning back home.
Here’s me on my final night, just before I took my Lyft to the airport, playing the first song that I (sort of!) learned by heart…
Ah food. Isn’t that the highlight of any stay anywhere? Ahi was definitely the star of the show for me. It’s “just” tuna but bears no resemblance to what I’ve ever eaten before, from the fresh ahi that I was treated to thanks to a fisher friend of Louise’s early on in my stay to a glorious Hawaiian spread including different kinds of poke (a little like ceviche, yellow-fin tuna with spring onions, seaweed, sea salt and soy sauce) on one of my last nights in town. Thanksgiving was another joy for me, already to be invited into someone else’s family at such a special time but then to be treated to the most delicious turkey, ham, and huge array of side dishes and desserts. I also did my best to have the local specialities, including shave ice – basically SNOW with delicious sugary syrup on top, in my case lychee, coconut and pina colada plus condensed milk on top (and you can add ice cream underneath too if you want to go mad) and SPAM sushi – yes, you read that right. Spam came onto the scene during the Second World War when it was difficult to get fresh meat and it’s stuck around as a local favourite. Oh and I had purple sweet potato (that one was accidental!).
Just like in San Francisco, running has been a great way to explore the area. As I moved on from recovery after my half-marathon and started to build up my distance again, my longer runs took me through different neighbourhoods, around Diamond Head (a volcanic cone), down by the ocean, and even through Waikiki on a Saturday night. There were plenty of hills to maintain that part of my training from San Francisco too. And recovery in the hot tub after a run was always a great incentive, especially after my many runs in the rain…!
5. Being in Hawaii
Yes, just the fact of being in Hawaii was a pretty amazing feeling in itself. It felt far from everything – just look at a map and you’ll see that Hawaii is smack bang in the middle of the Pacific (hence why Pearl Harbor was such a strategic point). And all of my friends back in Europe were asleep most of the time that I was awake! Other more tangible benefits of being in Hawaii? Swimming in the ocean, breathing in the air, watching the sun set down by the beach. Although I didn’t go to the other less inhabited islands, a climb up Koko Head on one of my first days on Oahu and then a hike up Diamond Head Crater on my last day were definitely highlights, with stunning views of different parts of the island and, always, the ocean. Oh, and the geckos! I loved the geckos…
*Airbnb: Louise and Kahi have two rooms available in the main house (I stayed in the Garden Room) plus a studio below. They even have a house that they’re renting out longer term if you want to stay for longer!