The last few days had been spent living in a small bubble called Waikiki and before picking up our Chrysler 200 Convertible rental car, we had no idea what there even was to see at the rest of the island. The only things we had already done was the compulsory hiking trip up Diamond Head and a day visit to Ala Moana Beach Park/”Magic Island“, with much more to see of the island. When getting in our rental car at 4pm and setting the goal to Sunset Beach, we did not know what we had ahead of us. Luckily for us, we had a GPS that, impressively enough, was speaking out all that we needed to know about the places we drove past, making it easy to stop at the places that sounded interesting to us. From being a hundred percent random, it turned out to be a great driving route for a 24 hour road trip that I would easily reccomend copying if you ever have the chance:
At 4PM we were already were tired of staying at the beach in Waikiki, we decided to pick up our car early and drive non stop up to the North Shore. We skipped the famous Dole Pineapple Plantation, so if you are planning on visiting the plantation and it’s so claimed World’s biggest maze, you should consider driving from Waikiki a couple of hours earlier
At 5.30PM we arrived at Sunset Beach, just in time to see the sun set at the beach in the North Shore with the biggest waves. Some professional surfers and body boarders also gave us quite a show, riding waves several meters high just before the sun went down
At 7PM the sun had set, so we crossed the road to find the only backpacker accomodation in North Shore, simply called Backpackers. The reception usually closed at seven, so we were lucky and happy to get half of a two bedroom cabin, which we shared with a nice Argentinian couple that we stayed up and talked with until the outside had gotten quiet and everyone were in bed, ready for riding the waves early the next morning
At 10AM the next day we started driving, and just after five minutes on the road we had reach our first stop Waimea Park, kind of a botanical garden where you could walk through tropical trees divided up by countries, most of it looking like it was taking out of the movie Jurressic Park. At the end of the park we got to the famous Waimea Waterfall, which frankly was just a piss of water running down a small mountain.
At 11AM we were back into the car again, and started driving along the North Eastern shore of Oahu, seeing some beautiful beaches, an old sugar cane mill and the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is the biggest paid attraction in Hawaii.
At noon we stopped at Kualoa Regional Park to see some beautiful mountains, laying right by a beach with small islands right outside of it. A great place to go kayaking from the looks of it, and a good place for us to eat our lunch pack.
At 1PM we made a short stop at the the Japanese temple, surrounded by churches with nice cut grass and flowers. We did not stay longer here than some time to take a couple of photos before we got into the car again to drive further South down the East Coast of the Island.
At 1.30PM we got off at the Makapu’u viewpoint and did a short walk to the top to get the best view. There is also a parking lot at the bottom where you can get a good look out on the big ocean.
At 2.30PM We arrived at the Halona Blowhole, just to see a very small hole in the ground blowing a littlebit of water out every time a wave came crushing in. It was much more impressing watching a family of wales swim close to the shore, and blowing bigger amounts of water into the air.
At 4APM we returned the car at the rental office and called a cab to take us to the airport for a 28 dollar flat rate, which was way cheaper than the 52dollars that the car rental company would have asked for if we had returned it at the airport instead of the downtown location. We felt like we had gotten the most out of our time with the rental car and did not regret for a second that we took a day to drive around the island. It would have been even more perfect if we would have had two full days in order to stop at some more places that we passed along the way.
Waikiki is the most touristy city, in the most touristy island in Hawaii and is located directly by the beach just half an hour from Honlulu International Airport. The city is not that big, and Waikiki beach can easily be walked several times in a day. All these things describing a place that I normally would get sick off, restless from and eager to get away from, but for some reason Waikiki still manages to hit it off as a really laid back place and after spending five days here at the beach, could easily hang around on for another few days. The fact that the beaches are crowded and that international conglomerates have heavily penetrated the beach city market with chain restaurants and brand stores does not bother me at all. It makes it quite convenient, as all their offers are not shouted at me by pushy beach sellers and people handing out flyers. It is all just there, in a neatly organised city that it is comfortable to live in.
We spent our first night at Polynesian Hostel, located right in the middle of everything. It was our choice of accomodation since all accomodation in Waikiki is pretty expensive for backpackers, and since the other hostel right by was not open for after midnight check-ins. Since the rooms were really simple, being just a double bed, with a shared bathroom in the hallway we chose to switch to Hostelling International Waikiki the next morning. Both these hostels could not have had a better location with just one block of walking to the beach, to the restaurant area and the shopping area. They also had a daily schedule of free activities, like yukulele and hula dancing lessons, lay making classes and various cultural shows.
What we spent most of our time on was simply laying on the beach and surfing. The water is shallow far out from the beach, so even though the waves were pretty small, they stayed for long, making them fun to play in. We did have a littlebit of a swell when we were here and it is usually more waves in the winter, so I don’t quite understand how the surf board rentals manage to go all year round though.
One of the days we also took a taxi up to the strating point of the Diamond Head hike trail, not far from the Waikiki beach. Even though locals had told us that it was a steep and really tough hike that would be a full day trip, we managed to get to the top, take some pictures and get back down in just over an hour! Being well ahead of our time budget we jumped into a taxi again to see the 27th annual Great Hawaiian Rubber Duckie Race, where 20 000 rubber duckies were realeased into a narrow canal, racing for the entertainment for some and for the charity causes for others.
We also got to spent some time at Ala Moana Beach Park, more commonly known as Magic Island. Being just a walk away from Waikiki Beach, it was quite different. It seemed like a place where more of the locals were hanging out and relaxing at a more quiet beach and having barbeques that we also got invited over to. Instead of having a chartered beach holiday experience that I feared, I have found a place that I have gotten pretty fond of and that I easily would come back to if I was ever given the chance.
Majuro turned out to be everything we wanted it to be: a laid back place with good food and great beaches. The perfect place to relax. As the fifth least visited country on earth, we also had the beaches completely to ourself and felt very welcome, being about the only tourists there.
Our accomodation for a stay was the house of the first president of Marshall Islands, which now belonged to Joe and Kate, some friendly people we had contacted through couchsurfing. They also cooked us a traditional Pacific dinner one of the evenings. Tuna with coconut, tomato and onion. All fish meals here are fantastic.
There are two big beaches, Rita and Laura, laying of each side of the atoll with about a two hours in between them. Driving between them, or anywhere in Majuro is also nice, seeing the water on each side of the road. The Majuro atoll is like a broken circle, where you can see across to the other side at all time. Not having been on an atoll before, it was just fascinating to see how simple it was with transport: buses (vans) went from Rita to Laura every hour and taxis ran in between. Taxi prices were 1$ per person for shorter ride, and they were shared with others standing along the road. A bit surprising on our first ride, where a random guy just jumped into our taxi from the airport, but quite smart, since there is just one road on the atoll and no street adresses so that everyone have to go the same way.
On our third day we went to Robert Reimers Hotel to order a boat taxi to one of the outer islands. For 30$ per person he took us to Eneko Islands, just half an hour with speed boat where we were all by ourself, except for the two local families living on the other side of the island. In addition to its beautiful nature and welcoming culture, the fact that we were all by ourself was the best part of the Marshall Islands. And for all those traveling there in the future I hope that there is still only expensive monopoly flights serving the destination so that you can get the same experience that we had when visiting the Marshall Islands.
Micronesia, which we hoped to become the highlight of our around the world trip has become a bit of a dissapointment for us. Not because there was little to do here, but because the things that we wanted to do required us to go outside of our hotel room, which was hard when it was raining heavily outside. It rained three out of the four days here. So much that staying indoor was the only option.
Luckily PCR hotel where we stayed had free internet and a really good japanese run restaurant. We literally speaking all our meals there, and found the lunch there particularily good with either 9USD sashimi buffet or the 6USD lunch of the day including soup, salad, maincourse and ice tea. Between 2PM and 5.30PM the restaurant had siesta, just like all the other restaurants on the island. We usually ate sashimi until we dropped for lunch, so for us it was really not a problem, but if you are used to early dinners then it might be smart to buy some snacks for the hours in between.
Our last full day in Micronesia, we also went on a 8 hour long boat trip to the with Pohnpei Surf Club where we got to snorkel and watch the pros go surfing around the Palikir Pass. An experience that should not be passed if you are visiting Pohnpei and like surfing.
If it wasn’t for the heavy rain we also would have rented a car and visited the Ruins of Nan Madol, villages and the big waterfalls mapped out on this page. I would normally say that sights missed are sights saved for next time I visit, but since Micronesia is pretty much as far as you can get from home and since the monopoly flights to the country are really expensive, I think I have blown my chances of seeing the best things that this tiny country has to offer. If you are thinking about going, my best advise would be to book at least a week so that you can be sure to not have the stay wasted on bad weather.