Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Ever since we set foot on Maui and Kauai last year I've always known that Hawaii would hold a special place in my heart. I've been to many different islands, but there is a certain vibe and energy - the "aloha spirit" if you will, that just makes you feel so connected to the nature and humanity of Hawaii and it's people. The sun is shining, the air is fresh, the people humble and happy. Matthew and I kept saying while on the island "wow, it's so incredible the price people pay to live so simply." It was all very refreshing.
On That Note...
I was curious to see how the most notarized island of Hawaii (Oahu) was going to live up to those same standards. It took ALOT of convincing on my part to get Matthew to agree to Hawaii because he really wanted to go to Europe, but that's another story. I promised him lots of hiking on Oahu and he finally agreed, because Matthew loves to hike and Europe is FREEZING in February! Also, I did all my research and discovered the cheap and free adventures that Oahu had to offer (you can find that article in my "blog" section) - I was prepared to wow his mind and his wallet!
I admit, it isssss pretty rough driving on the H1 interstate. The cars are backed up for miles and nobody knows how to drive, am I right? We're from St. Petersburg, Florida so Matthew and I are conditioned to awful traffic. I really wouldn't say it was much worse than driving over the Howard Franklin Bridge at 5pm. You just need to leave at a decent time to avoid that mess. I was pleasantly surprised with how "not so awful" the traffic was compared to what we are already familiar with, but I will say - if you're from some back country town with 2 stoplights, you may regard the traffic as more than hellish. Based on the most recent estimates released by the US Census, the 2019 population of Hawaii is at an astounding 1.43 million. Yes, that's a lot of people and I imagine most of them have cars - but check out these VIEWS from the highway you get to admire as you are waiting in traffic!
What I liked about Oahu was that everyone local (that we encountered) was super helpful and nice. The store owners greet you with Aloha - everyone seems to know each other and eager to tell you something you may not know about the island. You'll feel so relaxed and may even be mistaken for a resident. I was really surprised by how remote the North Shore of the island was. Honestly, it was the part of the island we were most looking forward to, "real Hawaii" away from the buzzing city. For having over a million residents we didn't see any on our hike at Peacock Falts, except two people with their dogs (obviously locals). Hawaii also has a great art scene and it's easy to see where they get their inspiration. Definitely mosey into some of the art galleries on the island, such as " The Green Room" and "Wyland Galleries" whether you are in Waikiki or North Shore - I fell in love with local artist Heather Browns work and purchased some awesome prints while I was there!
A large Population on a Small Island = A Lot Of Crime
Don't just take it from me, do your research and come to your own conclusions. I did my research, I knew about the notorious break ins, robberies, and I've heard a fair share of stories from fellow travelers. You would think that by knowing this info before your trip, it would protect you from something awful happening - but it didn't for Matthew and I. Our car was broken into, the window was shattered and all our belongings were stolen. All our gifts from shopping that day, my Canon camera and expensive art. I know what you're thinking, wow you're stupid - but if you were having as much fun as we were on the opposite side of the island (North Shore) and just HAD to go to this super gorgeous and remote beach after a day of hiking to enjoy the sunset - you might let your guard down too. It just takes a few minutes for these types of robberies to happen. Well, after calling the cops and never getting our items back, the police officers were telling us that this happens ALL the time. These robbers do a "smash and grab" so they leave no fingerprints. They also proceeded to tell me that a lot of states (especially Arizona and California) send their homeless and "problem residents" on a one way ticket to Hawaii. I was shocked when I heard this and mentioned that we did not hear about this kind of stuff on Maui and Kauai and the officers simply replied "that's because it's THIS island."
Hindsights 20/20: The Shoulda Coulda Woulda's
Well, for starters don't leave ANY visible items in the car, put those in your trunk and in the glove box. Lock the doors and roll up the windows - you know the obvious stuff. Even if you are going into a store for 5 minutes, apply this rule everywhere on Oahu - Waikiki all the way to North Shore and especially at the beaches and before hiking. Robbers LOOK for rentals, they can spot them a mile away, and trust me, they're watching you pull all your beach gear out of your car at Lanikai Beach and heading toward the water with your "I love Hawaii" shirt and beach hat. They are watching you leave expensive stores. They lurk for tourists and they'll swipe your gear clear off the beach once you've gone into the water. Our situation was a little different - we parked at this remote beach for 20 mins to enjoy the last bit of sun at sunset and I think they just saw a car by itself with no one in sight and decided to clear it. It was really awesome that they just smashed the one window grabbed whatever they could reach and left because there were more "very important" items in the car that were untouched. Thank you glove box. Also, because of the known dangers of crime in Hawaii get the insurance option on the rental - just in case. The only thing slightly saving me is my full coverage with State Farm and that my American Express card that I used to purchase the rental covers damages such as this - as well as stolen items. I won't know for 30 - 45 days whether they are going to grant me any money toward the stolen items which exceeded $1500 but hoping to recoup something. Insure your expensive camera's as well before any major trip outside - camera's make you a target for thieves anywhere that you are.
I will however mention, that we did not let this ruin our trip and I even went and repurchased my stolen art items the next day.
Cheap, Popular, & not Overrated:
47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Arrive early and you won't be disappointed as you'll practically have the entire place to yourself. Located at the Valley Of The Temples cemetery, the Byodo-In temple is a perfect replica of the original located in Kyoto, Japan. With a $5 donation fee you can explore the grounds and pay your respects to the great Buddha, or don't - as everyone is welcome here. The grounds are beautiful and simply worth the visit. Read the incredible history of how the Japanese culture became a part of Hawaii. The grounds are so calming and beautiful with the mountainous back drop. Enjoy the koi fish, resident cats and black swans as you walk the grounds all living in harmony with one another.
1831 Ala Moana Blvd #201, Honolulu, HI 96815
The early bird special consists of immediate service and cheap parking. Take note, this place is not big and it gets very busy! We arrived around 7:30 a.m. I believe and we waited a little over 5 mins or so for a table. What I really loved about this restaurant is all the food is local and they give you a map of which islands the ingredients come from - which I thought was clever! The omelets are $14 but worth it as they come with a big English muffin and a really awesome green salad. I had the veggie green omelets and it had, kale, tomato, feta, and pesto. So delicious! Park in the garage to get to Goofy's then walk around. The parking garage was $8 for the first half hour than $4 for every other half hour - we spent a total of $12 for parking, but like I said, the earlier the better for this place!
Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens:
45-680 Luluku Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744
100% free and loving it! The sights are amazing and when we went, there was literally nobody there (it was a Wednesday lol) and we couldn't believe it. You feel like you are walking through Jurassic Park and it's a wonderful alternative to Kualoa Ranch, which can be very expensive depending on the tour you choose to do. Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens is an incredible nursery where you can see plants from different areas of the world, as well as native Hawaiian plants of course. I will say that I did not notice a single eucalyptus tree like the colorful ones we saw on Maui although I could've just missed them. The gardens are walk-able, but you can also drive to each of the separate gardens within the park and walk through the pathways. We found this place to be quite muddy (Hawaii weather is so unpredictable) but luckily there are many "foot washing stations" throughout the gardens. My favorite gardens were the Kahua Kuou Garden, and there's a sickkkkk view at the end of the gardens. I would show you - but yeah my camera was stolen! Ugh, it's the lost memories that really just bother me the most! But anyway, awesome place and so happy it was completely free.
685 Auahi St #113, Honolulu, HI 96813
This place quickly turned into our daily breakfast joint during our stay in Oahu. It's the perfect little quick breakfast spot and the breakfast sandwich is amazing! To have a sandwich and some coffee, you're looking at around $12 per person, not bad by Hawaii standards. The breakfast is filling and it's good, you have to give it a try if you are staying in Honolulu.
North Shore Town, Haleiwai
A cutesy little historic town not far from Waimea Beach (another must do, because those swells are incredible!) and it's also where the shrimp trucks are located. You'll definitely want to hit up Giovanni's Shrimp truck while you're there. They are rumored to have the best shrimp truck and we had it and can contest to that! If you LOVE garlic order the Scampi with a side of hot sauce. There also looked like a pretty amazing truck serving up crepes that looked more than delectable. My only disappointment to the food truck experience were the amount of FLIES buzzing around. While you're eating you will constantly be swatting flies, that was a bit annoying - but the shrimp, so good. Remember earlier when I told you about Hawaii's art scene, while in Haleiwai (pronounced Hallie-A-wah) go to the Wyland Gallery there and check out the local and professional artwork. While your on the North Side of the island check out Waimea Beach and the swells over there - we were lucky enough to catch some surfers out there!
Check out at Dukes then Walk to Arnolds Bar:
391 Saratoga Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815
The very touristy beach restaurant and bar sits on the sands of Waikiki. I can't say much about their food because we didn't try any but I can say that the drinks we're decent. Personally the lava flow didn't impress me much but it's a great atmosphere I won't lie. Now, for the latter bar I would say as a must visit. It's a cool little dive bar and it's where the locals go. Honestly, I don't know how Matthew found this place but I am glad that he did. Enjoy normal priced beers and liquor (around $4 for import and $8 shots) and live music every night from 6 -8pm. We thoroughly enjoyed it and had a great time.
I hope this article has helped you plan cheap fun for your Oahu adventure and at the very least I hope it has educated you on robbery prevention. Follow me on Facebook @ AgapeVoyage for more notes, tips and real life stories that get shared daily. Until then my friends -
Happy and SAFE travels Voyagers.