Some Beach, Somewhere

Long overdue and much anticipated as I’m sure this post is (ha), I am finally carving out a few hours to pen a few details about my stay in Hawaii.

For those who may not know, in the month of February (brrrr!) I had a trip planned to visit my long-time friend Traci for a three-week tropical adventure (you might recognize this girl from my trip to Alaska). My stay began with one week on the island of Oahu—during which I worked and Traci finished her last week of a pharmacy school rotation—followed by two weeks in Maui. February never felt so good 🙂


Waikiki Beach

Honolulu was base camp for my first week. By my own definition, I consider Honolulu the Las Vegas of Hawaii—high-rise condos, traffic jams, and heavily trafficked by tourists. The centering of entertainment and shopping certainly had its benefits—plenty of socializing, free ukulele lessons, happy hours on the daily… and of course those lovely Hawaiian sunsets!

Pearl Harbor

One of my most anticipated stops was Pearl Harbor. During our time on the island, we made friends with a Navy submarinest who showed us around the Naval base and also accompanied us on the USS Bowfin and the memorial site of the USS Arizona. It was such a powerful experience listening to the retelling of events at the site of their occurrence. Seeing the oil drips surfacing from the now rusty wreckage below was powerfully emotional. Legend has it that the oil represents the tears of those entombed below. Another says the oil will continue to surface until the last survivor dies.


When I arrived at this tropical paradise, I had high hiking expectations. One of my first few days on the island, we caught a bus to Diamond Head Monument. We trekked to the top of the 1.6-mile trail on a breezy, sun-shiny day.

A few days later, we caught a sunset on our way up the Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail.

Then I broke my toe—but more on that later.

Dole Pineapple Plantation

With our days on Oahu waning, we thought it was finally time to venture north. We hopped into a car with Traci’s friend and her (as of the day prior) fiancé, and headed for the Dole Plantation. We each gobbled up a serving of the famed Dole Pineapple Whip before hopping the train tour around the property.

All aboard!

North Shore Zip Line

Next up was a true adventure—my first-ever zip-line excursion. The tour consisted of 8 lines of varying length. Unfortunately, I had a little incident partially through our tour, which resulted in a broken toe! This certainly was not a part of plan, and had me doing a lot of hobbling from that point forward. The tour was fun outside of that mishap, with the highlight being a final run upside down!

Sightseeing Oahu

With only a couple days left on Oahu, we made the most of our time sightseeing. North Shore, with its massive, crashing waves, Lanikai Beach featuring a calm bay and beach area with a view of twin islands (mokes), and Haleiwa Joe’s savory Hawaiian dishes topped off our Oahu experience.


After a week on Oahu, we were off to greener jungles. We caught a quick flight in the morning and were sightseeing (aka eating shaved ice, parked with a view of the ocean broken up by occasional napping spells) by the afternoon!

Road to Hana

If you’ve ever been to Maui, you’ve at least heard of the Road to Hana. I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews about the very long, very windy, broken-up road. Naturally, those characteristics drew me in. Per a recommendation from a local, we took the full route as opposed to the out-and-back option. It was absolutely amazing to see that part of the island. We marveled at the third-world feeling it gave us with its limited habitation, lack of amenities for those who were, shanty homes, narrow roadway, and never-ending ocean view. The trek featured hairpin turn after turn after turn… and endless one-way passages. We were happy when it was over and could proudly claim that ‘we survived the road to Hana.’

It’s hard to perceive the size without a point of reference!

Lava Tubes

As we made our journey down the road to Hana, we happened across a park allowing self-guided tours of underground lava tubes. Armed with flashlights and a desire for cooler air, we headed underground in search of all sorts of formations and life forms unique to the tubes.

Traci Surfs!

We didn’t waste any time in chasing Maui adventure. After my less-than-ideal surfing experience in Cali and newly broken toe, I chose to watch from ashore. It didn’t take her long to get the hang (loose) of things.


Attending a luau was one of the few experiences remaining on our Hawaii bucket list. We chose to attend the Royal Lahaina Luau. The event was situated right on the shoreline at sunset. Our tickets allowed us unlimited drinks and food, and plenty of dance and musical entertainment unique to the Polynesian culture. We also enjoyed lamenting about the lack of air conditioning on the island with our Canadian seatmates.

Lavender Farm

It’s not every day you get a chance to drive up a mountain for the lush, aromatic surroundings of a very purple place. Although I deal a lot with farming in my everyday work, it’s nothing quite like tranquil life on a lavender farm.

Boat AirBNB

Our entire stay on the Hawaiian Islands was booked through AirBNB. The listing we found offering us a few nights on the water at an affordable price was highly anticipated. Our host, Brent (a former resident of Hermosa, SD!), was our host for three nights on the water. The adventure began with a kayak ride to the boat in the bay, with all of our gear in tow. Once aboard, Brent gave us a quick run-down of the accommodations and rules. We spent the days lounging in the sun, diving off the boat, and chowing down PB&J sandwiches. We chose NOT to partake in the “morning tradition” of diving into the ocean in our birthday suits, however. Showers consisted of rinsing off the salt water with Tropica jugs filled with freshwater. Nights were spent sleeping under the stars with the motion of the ocean to rock us to sleep. The experience was book-ended with a choppy kayak ride back through the trade winds to shore. Staying aboard the catamaran was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience we won’t soon forget (especially that composting toilet! HA).

After our boat experience, we were looking forward to giving our sea legs some time to rest and recuperate, and a REAL shower (which we did first thing at an outdoor city beach park #classy).

Haleakala National Park

While we sliced our way through part of this national park when driving the road to Hana, we finally took a day to trek to the top of the volcano for which it is named. Situated at 10,023 feet, it’s a bit of a rarity to catch a day Haleakala not shrouded in clouds, but we timed things just right and had stunning, 360º views of the entire Island.

Molokini Snorkeling Tour

This was both Traci and my first snorkeling experience. We met early in the morning for a boat charter (with continental breakfast!) to our different dive locations. The sites were BEAUTIFUL and we were hooked on snorkeling from that moment forward. Sea life abounded as we motored about the area—sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and colorful fish galore! As wonderful as the diving was, our trip back to the marina into the trade winds was an unexpected roller coaster ride. While most of the boat retreated to the cabin area, Traci, I, and two other ladies clung to the rails at the front of the boat for the ride of our life! We were soaked from head to toe as the boat pitched and rolled its way back to shore, giggling the entire way. I’ve never laughed so hard with a group of strangers! While I have no idea what their names were, they certainly contributed to the thrill of the experience.

After falling in love with snorkeling on our tour, we ignored the poor shore conditions caused by bad trade winds and found a beach cove to do some snorkeling on our own. It was fun to try out my underwater photography skills (which need some work!). At this particular site, we saw a sea turtle, plenty of interesting fish, a water snake of some sort and an octopus!

Whew! What an adventure these days in Hawaii were! In good ‘ol South Dakota fashion, our return was plagued with a harrowing journey through a blizzard, but I’m happy to note my dad delivered us home safely.

MASSIVE waves on the north shore of Maui
Watching our last sunset before catching a red-eye home.

Outside of traveling to Hawaii, I’ve slipped a few other trips into the schedule, including a skiing/snowmobiling adventure in Montana, a road-trip to Colorado where I was lucky enough to visit several friends and family, and, most recently, a trip to Oklahoma to do the same!

When I set out on my travels a year ago this February, I knew I could bookend the experience with this Hawaii trip with my childhood best friend. After a year on the road, I have no regrets, and can honestly say I loved every mile of it! As for if I’m hanging up my keys for a while, I can confirm that will not be the case. Although life on the road has maybe made me more content to just be for the sake of being, I know it will keep me pining for the next opportunity to hit the road. Next up: a church mission trip to New Orleans in June.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this adventure Emily! Your writing and photos put me right there with you – the sights, smells, tastes and feelings. Looking forward to my next vicarious outing with you. ;~)

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