Hawaii has always had a special place in our hearts.
My husband and I actually met at BYU-Hawaii when we were students.
We later got married and moved back there for 2 more years.
It had always been our dream of taking our whole family there but 1 – 2 weeks seemed too little time to show them all our favorites spots.
We entertained the idea of staying a whole month. Gasp!
Seemed impossible but the more we played with the idea the more it seemed like we might be able to swing it.
This past summer, our family of 5 went to Hawaii.
For a whole month.
We were able to figure out some travel tricks that cut our costs down drastically.
The first hurdle we had to jump was seeing if the Mr. could even get work off for that amount of time. He had about 2 weeks of vacation time to use and his employer gave him the green flag to work remotely for the other two weeks. That meant he often got up at 3am Hawaii time in order to take East Coast business meetings but it was a small price to pay for living in paradise for a month.
Next trick, finding affordable accommodations. Hotels were out of the question…too pricey. Airbnb’s, although more affordable option, would also bust our budget for the amount of time we wanted to stay. Then a friend turned me on to the idea of house swapping and/or pet sitting. House swapping is where you find someone who would be willing to swap houses…you stay at my house, I stay at yours. There are several sites that help connect interested parties such as Love Home Swap, Home For Exchange, Guest to Guest or Home Exchange. After considering this idea we didn’t feel it was right for us so I didn’t look too far in to it but it’s a unique concept.
Another friend told me she was part of a Facebook group with people from her same religion where group members post house-sitting opportunities. She and her family went to NYC and stayed in a loft at no-cost in exchange for watching, walking and feeding the owner’s dog. I was all over this idea. The more I looked in to it, I found there are several similar groups all over the internet. Getting in to them often takes some investigative work and asking around but they’re out there. And when you do find an opportunity you have to be flexible with your travel dates. We weren’t able to find a match for the dates we wanted to travel so we put that option on the back-burner for a possible future trip.
In the end, we put the word out to some old college friends who still lived on the island. We ended up renting a 1 bedroom condominium unit from a friend who was planning on going to California for the summer. We paid about the same amount it would have cost us for a 2 week stay in a hotel. The condo was located just next to the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu. Win-win for both of us. This ended up being the perfect location. We were in walking distance to the hotel, beach, tennis courts, pools and restaurants. Plus having a kitchen at our disposal meant we could cook at home instead of eating out for every meal. We stocked up on good ‘ole Costco pre-made meals so we didn’t have to do much meal prep at all.
Our next question was how to get around. The island of Oahu is 112 miles around. The North Shore is considered the country and has only one main road around it. Car rentals are considerably more expensive than on the mainland and renting a car for a whole month would have been very expensive so we got creative. We discovered the Turo app which by-passes traditional car rental companies and allows anyone to rent out their own car. It’s like Airbnb for car rentals. We found this to be a huge money saver. The other great thing about Turo is you and the owner can agree upon a pick and drop off location. We literally walked out of the airport and jumped in to our waiting Turo car rental. No shuttle to take to a car rental agency and no waiting in long tourist lines.
Riding The Bus was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I can count on one hand how many times my kids have ridden a bus in their lives. You don’t realize what a luxury having a car is until you have to wait for a bus (especially the bus in Hawaii which was rarely on time). Not only that, it rains A LOT in Hawaii. Standing in the rain waiting for a bus that wasn’t ever on time was a good realization for how blessed we are. I make it sound like it was an inconvenience but it was actually a real treat. We didn’t get good cell phone reception on the North Shore so we were forced to sit out in nature in front of some of the most iconic surfing spots in the world and just be present. There was no rushing around like we do at home, just sitting and waiting with nothing but time on our hands to think, and see and experience paradise. The Bus was a real blessing and we visited just about every inch of the island with it as our mode of transport.
Here is a list of our favorite spots:
Surfing: In the summer, the waves are small and ideal for learning how to surf. My boys took lessons from an old college friend as well as from Ash at Hawaii Surf School. Ash is not only an amazing surfer but awesome instructor and much less expensive than what the resorts charge. The waves at Waikiki are perfect learning waves. We also loved surfing at Turtle Bay.
(Surf photos by: Mark Holladay).
Favorite Beaches: I dare say we visited almost every beach on the island but my boy’s favorite was Hukilau beach in Laie.
As I said, the waves are quite calm in the summer but my boys wanted action waves. Hukilau has phenomenal body surfing and boogie boarding all year round.
They also loved the Rock at Waimea…
For turtle viewing: Laniakea Beach is perfect to see turtles sunning themselves on the beach as well as coming and going.
Kailua Beach is as picturesque as they come and great for kite surfing or windsurfing.
Best snorkeling: Shark’s Cove, North Shore.
Hanauma Bay has long since been the go to snorkeling spot on Oahu but we didn’t think it was great. The water was cloudy, the beach was overcrowded, it took forever to park and hike down to the beach and we didn’t love that they now charge a fee to park and visit the beach.
Hiking: Oahu has several beautiful hikes which all of us loved (except maybe my 7 year old).
1-Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a paved, 2.5 round-trip mile walk to see the lighthouse. Breathtaking views.
2-Diamond Head is a must. You can get 360 degree views of Waikiki, downtown Honolulu and the beautiful, lush mountains.
3-Laie Falls has spectacular views and is 7 miles round trip.
Other spots to visit:
–Polynesian Cultural Center is a must. My boys loved the dancing, temporary tattoos, food, activities and Night Show.
–Valley of the Temples. has gorgeous memorial with zen gardens and meditation pavilions. Awesome pond where you can feed the Koi and birds will eat right out of your hand.
-Nuuanu Pali Lookout will give you a bird’s eye view of the island from the mountains. You can drive right to the lookout.
–Aloha Stadium Swapmeet is the place to go if you need souvenirs. You can pick up t-shirts, hats, jewelry and Aloha shirts for a song.
After a month-long food crawl I definitely came back home needing to hit the gym.
Eggs-n-Things. Their Coconut and Guava Syrup is TDF! I bought 4 bottles and had it all confiscated at the airport when I stupidly tried to take it in my purse instead of packing it in my suitcase. Still bitter.
Food trucks in Kahuku. Holy heck…the garlic shrimp from Giovanni’s truck is the stuff dreams are made of. Get there early otherwise you’ll be waiting in line for up to 45 minutes +.
Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa is world famous. Try it with ice cream at the bottom.
Hawaii for a month was one of the best things we’ve ever done as a family. For one, These boys were never in lack of entertainment. For these boys to explore the ocean, mountains and jungle’s was exactly what they needed. We turned off our screens and saw the world.
Vacationing together for 30 days proved challenging at times. Our 1 bedroom apartment was perfectly adequate but there was really no where to go to get away from each other. Not gonna lie, these boys did a fair amount of fighting and got on each other’s nerves. However, on the flip side, they also became much closer. They had no one to play with at the beach but each other.
Hawaii has a much slower pace and life is much more laid back than any of us were used to. That outlook changed my own perspective that maybe the things I’m fighting so hard for really aren’t as important as I thought. When we weren’t at the beach we spent a lot of time catching frogs, lizards and playing games at our apartment. Simple, yet bonding.
Visiting Hawaii for a month was so great because we weren’t in that frenzied rush to pack as much in as possible that you normally feel when you go on vacation. Instead, we could do a full action packed day then take the next day off for some down time and relaxation. Plus, we could really take our time at any one place to enjoy it instead of rushing through just to check that box to say we had been there. If you have to opportunity to visit the Hawaiian islands, GO, GO, GO!