Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Aloha Oahu: Manoa Falls, Pali Lookout, Kailua Beach, & Diamond Head


Want to start from the beginning of the "Aloha Oahu" series? Make sure you've read Waikiki & Luau.


Did you catch that title? Monday, February 16th, was one of my favorite days on the island of Oahu because we saw and did so much without feeling rushed whatsoever. The key to all of this is the fact that we rented a car for the day and explored the island on our own; had we booked guided excursions it would have easily taken us two whole days to see everything we did on Monday (bonus: it was way cheaper than paying for guided tours - and did the pregnant lady already mention that we went at our own pace?).

Manoa Falls
Initially we set out to start at Diamond Head, but we had failed to read the entire pamphlet our concierge desk had given us - so we totally missed the memo that morning is the busiest time of day to go and parking is extremely limited. We found a nice, free parking lot at a community college at the very bottom of the drive up to the crater, but being pregnant I wasn't all too interested in adding even more of a hike when we could just as easily swing by on our way back to the hotel that afternoon. We then set out for our next destination: Manoa Falls!

Manoa Falls is basically a short rainforest hike (just under a mile) with a trail that ends at the base of a waterfall. The views were gorgeous and I wouldn't have felt our trip to Hawaii was complete without an experience such as this one. Michael had hiked this same trail when he first visited Oahu back in 2011 and knew how easy it was, so I felt totally confident hiking it at 24.5 weeks pregnant. We learned, however, that there was a landslide shortly after Michael visited and they've been working on enhancing the trail over the past 4 years, so the level of difficulty was perhaps a tiny bit harder than he remembered. Still, I did it without difficulty so its "easy-to-moderate" ranking is pretty accurate. Those of you that would like a more rigorous journey would probably be interested to know that there is also an advanced hiker's trail near the waterfall.

This leisurely hike with breathtaking views was definitely a wonderful way to start the day.

A forest of bamboo! This baby boy has already been to some awesome places.

Nu'uanu Pali Lookout
Leaving Manoa Falls we headed northeast to spend the early part of the afternoon at one of the most notoriously beautiful beaches on Oahu. Literally on the way was another destination on our list: the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout

The Pali Lookout is a must-see clifftop pit-stop that offers panoramic views of essentially the entire windward (eastern) side of the island. The weather was perfect and the view was amazing.

Kailua Beach
From the lookout we continued our path to the windward coast. Initially we planned to visit Lanikai Beach, but on the way we drove past Kailua Beach and Michael realized that he had actually gone to Kailua on his 2011 trip instead. They're incredibly close to one another and looked basically the same, so we doubled back to Kailua where we had seen a nearby restaurant. After lunch it was pure Pacific Ocean bliss as we relaxed in the sunshine and swam in crystal clear waters. We even took a cue from older couples and went on a little stroll down the beach, hand-in-hand, as our feet were gently kissed by the tide.

This photo's exposure is completely unedited; what you see is exactly what we saw in real life. Incredible.

Diamond Head
As the afternoon drew to a close we headed back towards the city, revisiting Diamond Head along the way. The park had cleared out significantly and we snagged a great parking space, only to realize that the main attraction is a 1.5-2 hour hike to the edge of the crater's rim. I'm sure the views are beautiful, but we would barely have had enough time to complete it (final hikes of the day are allowed to set out at 4:30pm) and our leisurely morning hike and everything else we'd done left me feeling far too pregnant to bother trying. Michael and I were in agreement that simply going to Diamond Head was enough because, after all, by entering the park you literally drive into the center of the crater. How many people can say they've stood in the middle of a volcanic tuff cone?!

After walking around for a bit and snapping a few photos, we headed back to Honolulu to return our rental car and get ready for what was essentially my sister-in-law's wedding rehearsal dinner (except without the rehearsal part - because destination weddings on the beach generally have an easy-to-follow format you can pick up immediately prior to the ceremony). 

What looks like a mountain range behind us is one edge of the crater.
Looking at a crater from the inside out.

Because people arrived on different days, Monday night's dinner was the first chance for everyone attending the wedding to gather together. It was fun to start getting to know the parents of the groom a bit more and being reunited with all the family present helped prep me for the next day's main event: my sister-in-law's wedding! Stay tuned for all the details and, of course, lots and lots of photographs. :)

"I want to stay in Hawaii a little while. I'm kind of liking it over there."
-Josh Holloway


Want to read more about our time on Oahu? Next up: our visit to Pearl Harbor!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing! This makes me want to go to Hawaii even more!