In Oahu, we stayed at Turtle Bay Resort in the North Shore (which is where Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed!). Like in the movie, the views from the hotel were pretty stunning. We landed late Thursday night and ended up with a room overlooking both the ocean and the restaurant roof almost directly below, so we switched for the rest of the trip to a room on the sixth floor with an amazing golden sunset view. Here’s a shot from the balcony…

The hotel grounds feature five miles of beach, rocky coastlines, walking trails, and a golf course. I loved how everything was so spread out, and you had tons of privacy and nature that’s lacking in most comparable Waikiki hotels.

On our first day, we rented paddle boards and brought them to a fairly secluded beach. Unfortunately, a big swell had just come through, the wind was fierce and paddling was a major struggle. I’ve had enough practice that I’m pretty good at keeping balance, but I called it quits early. Hey, I wanted to surf, not fight to stay upright! We did spot a few turtles in the water, which totally redeemed the lackluster surfing.

We found some better boards and waves the next day in Haleiwa. This town is about 20 west of Turtle Bay, and we made the trek there every day for food and to hang out on the beach. In the mornings, the boy would surf while I laid on the beach and read/relaxed. It was heavenly!

Although I could sit on the beach all day and be happy, we ventured out and explored the island. We drove down the coast and ended up on Mount Tantalus and Round Top Drive, a nine mile winding loop of lush trees. I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think I might have seen a baby boar!

The views from up top were absolutely stunning. We could see all of Honolulu and Waikiki below. Also impressive was the strength of the winds! We were literally trying to keep from toppling over.

The end of the drive left us right by Waikiki, where we walked the beach at sunset, ate an amazing dinner at Nobu and downed half our body weight in ice cream from Bubbies.

On our final full day, we set our alarms for the first time and went to Hanauma Bay to snorkel. This beautiful protected cove is extremely popular with tourists and the only beach we saw in Oahu where you had to pay to park and enter. We got there pretty early and already there were lots of people. However, most people were concentrated in one area; we walked all the way down to the end and the beach was almost entirely empty. Here I am post-snorkeling with the bay below me.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. My parents actually snorkeled here on their honeymoon and told me to get there at the crack of dawn if we didn’t want to deal with hoards of people. I thought it would be overcrowded and somewhat lackluster but IT. WAS. AMAZING. There were brightly colored tropical fish everywhere; we stayed for hours and I could have stayed for hours more.

After leaving Hanauma Bay, we headed to Chinaman’s Hat, a small island located about 1/3 mile off the coast. We had driven past two days before and decided to rent kayaks to get to the island. Our guide book mentions swimming but we weren’t sure how challenging that might be and decided not to risk it. Because we stayed so long snorkeling, most of the kayak places were shutting down before we’d be able to return, but luckily we found some really nice guys who offered to come back and open up shop whenever we were done.

So we drove to Kualoa, took down the kayak, carried it to the ocean and started paddling only to find that it’s low tide and so shallow. Luckily the boat wasn’t scraping the bottom, and even though we could have walked the distance, I later read that hammerhead sharks are often seen around Chinaman’s Hat, so it was absolutely a blessing in disguise that we didn’t choose to swim/wade the distance. Not that we saw any sharks but still…

When we got to the island, there were a few people leaving and once they left, we were the only ones there. Our goal was to hike to the top and we almost made it. I don’t have any issues hiking. But then the hike turned into a rock climb, which was scary but doable. I only started freaking out when the trail changed to an extreme incline with no anchor points. I was trying to grab hold of the shrubbery around me, only to rip it straight out of the ground.

After I got to the next patch of level ground, I decided I could go no further. The boy went on, almost to the top, but things got even steeper and we decided to head back down. On the way up, I was spread like a tree frog, belly down on the ground. On the way down, I was positioned on my back, legs spread like I was giving birth, and feeling like I was about to pitch forward into the ocean. Yeah, much scarier. The boy was calm compared to my hysterical whimpers and he talked me down, step by step.

And that was our final adventure of the day! We returned the kayaks, drove back up the coast, and ate a huge dinner: fish, mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables for me; ribs and mashed potatoes with a side of more mashed potatoes for him. Overall, this day was my favorite; laying on the beach was blissful, but my best stories definitely came from getting down and dirty. Maybe one day, I will have visited every island and I can compare the beaches, activities and food on all of them! I can dream, right? Until then, goodbye Hawaii, I hope we meet again!