The flight between Tahiti and Hawaii was smooth and quick. It took five hours to link both islands and, as we left around midnight, we landed in Hawaii early morning on Sunday, just after 5am.
Hawaii is composed of multiple island. The main one, Oahu, is where the international airport is located and where I will be spending the next six days. From the airport, following the advise of my friend Bella, I took the bus #20 to go to downtown Honolulu then Waikiki beach. After spending a month in Tahiti, I got used to small distances, so the ride between the airport and Waikiki seemed very long. The bus doesn’t give you change and, as I just withdraw a fair bit of cash, I only had $20 notes, way too much for a $2.5 fare. I asked the guy behind me if he could make some change and he nicely gave me $3! That was my first experience with a local so it was a very pleasant one but I also felt a bit embarrassed because I had plenty of money but couldn’t afford a bus ticket.
In the bus I then spoke to Joe, he was in his fifties from San Diego and had been in Hawaii for a year now. He left everything back home and was living on the streets, you couldn’t tell by the way he looked or talked. He was super nice, told me few things about Honolulu and gave me some tips on where to find a hostel. He also told me how homelessness is a major issues here in Honolulu and he was right. One of the first things that stroked me when getting in the main city, was the amount of homeless, there were everywhere. Even when we got to Waikiki, there were families and single people living in the streets, with different level of poverty, right by those very expensive hotels and shops. The two sides of the American dream living in one spot. It is very sad to see. Joe told me the homeless in the US who could afford the trip would come to Hawaii; after all it is better to live poor in paradise then a the cold urban environment in a big city (I’d do exactly the same).
By 7am I was in Waikiki beach, it rained slightly but stopped almost immediately. I got to Lemon road, recommended by Joe, and checked-in at the Waikiki beachside hostel. In my room I met Enrico, a swiss traveler who has been travelling to Hawaii few times now. We got along pretty well and he asked me if I wanted to go to Sandy beach, which is located on the East coast. I accepted it and we agreed on living by 11.30am. I went next-door to grab some breakfast and then checked out the famous Waikiki beach, while Enrico went surfing for a couple of hours.
My first impression of Waikiki beach was average. Coming from Australia, I am used to see amazing beaches and after a month in Tahiti, that vision continued on. Waikiki beach itself isn’t impressive. The stretch of sand is fairly long, broken down in sections with Lifeguards stations on each on them. There are a lot of tourists, as you can expect. It is a great spot to swim as it is shallow, it is only white sand and there are no waves breaking on the shore, only small ones breaking about a hundred meters out. Despite very small waves conditions, the water is always crowded with surfers, mainly longboarders and beginners, but also some locals. Most of the tourists in Waikiki are Japanese, I guess it is one of their favourite destinations to go to.
The beachfront is full of stands hiring surf, longboards and stand-up paddle board. On the other side of the road, there are only hotels with shops of all sorts on ground level. One strange thing here are the ABC stores, there is one every fifteen meters. I have never seen something so ridiculous. Those stores sell everything: food, drinks (liquor too) and souvenirs mainly but you can virtually find everything there. Why is there so many of them, I have absolutely no idea (if you know, let me know).
Anyways, after going up and down Kalakaua avenue back and forth, I went back to the hostels. I then met with Enrico again, we packed our stuff and went to the bus station. It wasn’t long before our bus arrived. On the way to Sandy’s, a gang of bikers passed us. It was impressive to see, some fifty of them, a gang that I didn’t recognise from their colours. It is even more impressive especially since helmets are not compulsory here in Hawaii so many bike riders don’t wear them.
We eventually got to Sandy beach and stopped there. The sun was high in the sky so it was very hot. The beach was full of young people, all good looking (like in one of those american TV shows). The thing that impress you the most in Sandy’s is the shore-break. The waves close down right by the shore and they get pretty big before breaking. So much that swimming of bodysurfing those waves is a real danger. The lifeguards even announced Sandy beach was the nation number one beach for neck breaking injury! Something that make you think twice before entering the water… The body boarders have the time of their life though and it was very entertaining to watch. So we spent a couple of hours watching the surf, chilling and getting toasted by the sun. For lunch, we stopped at a food truck near the beach that was selling meals with shrimp for so cheap.
We had a great lunch on the beach and pretty much more of the same (activities) in the afternoon. Enrico even went for a swim while I was staying back on the beach. We went home around 4pm after a good long day at the beach. In the evening Enrico showed me a nice place for dinner: Chili’s. It has a strong american vibe that I enjoyed a lot. The food was great and at a reasonable price. I’d be keen to come back there again. Back to the hostel after that and early night for me.
Monday I decided to stay in Waikiki as I wasn’t too sure where to go next. In the morning Enrico wanted to buy some souvenirs at the Ala Moana shopping centre. I am not a shopping person but heard lots of things of this mall, plus I needed to buy a new SD card for my GoPro as well as some accessories so I decided to join him. The mall is big and in open air, it reminds me of the one in Robina (Queensland, Australia) a little. But there are not that many shops around for such a famous mall. We went to few surf shops, Enrico bought some shirts and I got my GoPro stuff. After an hour or so, we left the mall.
In the afternoon Enrico was flying to Big Island, I got organised and decided to do the Moana falls for the rest of the day. I had lunch and then took the #20 bus to Ala Moana mall and transferred to bus #55 to go to the falls. Last stop, the bus drop me off and I start walking. The falls are really well indicated compared to the ones in Tahiti, it was easy to find my way there. As I walked the rain started to come down slowly, within seconds it was pouring. There was signs of ‘flash flood area’ along the way so that wasn’t reassuring. I covered the important stuff I had with me and decided to walk with a bunch of people. Ten minutes later the rain stopped, it wasn’t too bad. The issue was the path was now all wet and muddy. I kept going and after only half an hour walk I reached the fall. It is a 46m high fall with a little drip of water running and a pond at the bottom, nothing mind blowing. I stayed there few minutes and headed back.
I caught the bus and stopped at Ala Moana mall, I wanted to get a new pairs of snickers since mine had a big hole on the right shoe since the Mt Temehani hike in Ra’iatea, Tahiti. Plus they were old now and starting to fall apart. I got a nice brand new pair of snickers/trail shoes at Skechers (so cheap compared to Australia) and went back home. I dropped my bag in my room and went to get some food. When I got back and cleaned my back, I realised my GoPro was missing… You can imagine I wasn’t really delighted. After searching frenetically for few minutes, I tried to remember where I could have left it or where someone could have stolen it. Then I remembered that I left my backpack unattended for few minutes in the shop while I was trying few pairs of shoes. It must have happened there. I wasn’t really happy with myself but managed to get over it quickly; luckily I saved all the important files on my hard drive and also put the brand new SD card in it. I decided to wait until the morning to go to the police.
Tuesday morning, first thing first was to file a report for the stolen camera. I called right away my insurer to see if I was covered but due to the time delay with Australia I didn’t get an answer. I was planning to go to the North Shore as I don’t like Waikiki much. Not having the camera was annoying and knowing the percentage of chance of recovering it is extremely small, I didn’t think twice and bought a new one (I really hope the insurance will work…). I made my way to Ala Moana mall and took the bus #55 that goes all the way to Haleiwa. It was early afternoon when I got in. The bus here is very cheap, $2.50 for an adult, doesn’t matter how many stops you make; definitely the most economic way of travelling. The downturn is the time. By car it takes around 40 mins to link Waikiki to Haleiwa, but by bus it took me over two and an half hour, as it doesn’t take the most direct route.
I arrived at ‘Backpackers’ in Pupukea beach, on the north shore late afternoon. I had time to check-in, drop my backpack in the room, meet one of my roommate, Cristian, and grab a late lunch at the local supermarket. Then I decided to go straight to Pipeline (extremely famous surf spot located 1.1 miles from the shop). I hitch-hiked and got there on time to enjoy a nice surf session. I had the biggest smile just being able to be here. Like Teahupoo, I have seen many videos, docos and photos taken from this place, being on this beach was such a great feeling. I walked up towards the rocks where the surf was bigger, sat down and enjoyed watching the surf while eating my sushi and listening to good music. I think I spent a good hour before the sun start going down. Watching the sunset was also amazing, it is really hard to describe, such a simple thing making you so happy, that’s what life is all about.
As the sunset finished, I started to walk back towards Pipeline when I saw Jack Johnson playing with his kids. At first I thought I might be confusing him for someone else but no it was him, living his normal life with his family. I walked back to the backpackers smiling and singing along. I finally enjoy Hawaii, because so far Waikiki didn’t leave me a great impression. But the north shore is totally different, country side feeling, more like Byron Bay for those who have been there
Back at the hostel, I socialised with the other travellers and quickly had a good vibe with everyone. Tomorrow the plan is simple, everyone wakes up for a 6.30am departure for the morning session. I think I am going to like it here 🙂