8 days in Tokyo Fun-tinerary

We spent about  7 nights in Tokyo and 1 day in Hakone.  It might be too many days to spend in 1 place for a lot of the people but we likxe to explore one place fully without feeling rushed.  Our next stop is going to be 2 weeks on the other parts of Japan: Kyoto, Osaka, etc!IMG_3867.jpg

We tried to organize each day most efficiently by location so we don’t have to waste time with commuting back and forth.  

Lodging:  In retrospect, we would have liked to stay in Shinjuku because we ended up visiting the area at least 3-4 times!

Things we didn’t get to do:

  • Owl restaurant
  • Spending a night at Haokone Ryokan  or hiking there

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Tuesday, November 8

  • Woke up at 7am.
  • Shibuya Crossing:
    • Starbucks: observe the craziness from the 2nd floor of starbucks.
      • Address: 2-15-1 Shibuya, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture
  • Hachiko: Just a quick glance of the doggie statue and took a picture.
  • Meiji Shrine:
  • 11AM Fuunji:  Bomb Ramen!  Gotta get there 10 minutes before they open (11am), because there will be a line later!IMG_3527
  • Yasuda Sushi
    • Great experience here! Reserve  in advance, so you can sit at the sushi bar.  Sitting at the table is not as fun!  Every piece of sushi was phenomenal, especially the rice, which was extraordinary and each piece of fish was delicious-like no sushi I have ever tasted before. Chef Yasuda was had some hilarious stories.  2016-11-08 17.52.56.jpgEnter a caption

Wednesday, November 9

Shinjuku

Breakfast

Lunch:

  • On the way back, stop by: Top 10 Depachik
  • Pm:
    • Daiso 100JPY store
    • Shinjuku pretty Christmas lights (location: Odakyu: 1-1-3 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku 160-8001 Tokyo Prefecture )
    • Yasukuni Street: long street that cuts across central Tokyo (including Isetan’s Men’s). In East Shinjuku the street is lined with neon-lit buildings filled with Karaoke and Izakaya. It’s the most photogenic street in Shinjuku.  (we didn’t do this)
    • Golden Gai for izakaya bars located in a small alley. 

Harajuku

Thursday, November 10

  • Disneyland (50 minutes from Shibuya) (opens at 8 am)
  • 2016-11-10 10.03.06We packed lunch with bento boxes from Isetan Department store.    They checked our backpacks very superficially and we had no problem bringing the food in.  Food prices in Disneyland are relatively cheap though compared to America one.  Churros were $3 and waffles were only $4.  
  • We forgot our souvenirs last night at a bar in Golden Gai, so we ended up going back to grab it.  We ended up stopping by Toraji restaurant since it was on the way.  
  • Toraji: Korean bbq restaurant with very good quality Wagyu meat.  Imagine GyuKaku but with fancier meat.  We shared a 6000yen dinner set between 2 of us and we were both pretty full.   
      • Tori-No-Ichi at Ootori Jinja Shrine: It was like a Night market/Rake night at Shinjuku
  • A little tip on foreign transaction fees:  If you use your card without foreign transaction fees, they are still using the conversion rates similar to what a  post-office  would when you exchange cash.  But the benefit of using credit cards is that at least you get points and convenient to carry!  

Friday, November 11

    • 2)  Ginza Akebono Mochi Shop: (20 min walk north west of Tsukiji market: take the subway!!).   Fancy mochi place located just across the street from A1 exit of Ginza station.  Mochi ranges from 3-400 JPY.  We didn’t end up getting any though.  But next door, there is this
      • Manneken Belgian mini waffles place that we tried.  It was the best waffles I’ve ever had.  Get the purple one which is a sweet potato flavor. MNnekan wakes soon bomb!!!!!
    • 1) Pablo mini Cheese tart with different flavors: https://www.yelp.com/biz/pablo-mini-秋葉原店-千代田区: close by the JR train Akihabara station on our way to the electronic stores.    They also have one in Shinjuku too.
    • Ueno park
      • We can see how this park can look gorgeous during cherry blossom times.  They do have christmas lights on the trees though.  It should be beautiful at night.
    • 2) Ameyoko (Downtown/Taito) is a flea market where you can buy cheap kit kats located just South of Ueno park.
      • Beware: every pharmacy store has different prices for kit kats.  The lowest price for  kit kats for 200 yens each.  Strawberry ones are not that good.
    • At night:
      • Izakaya
      • We ended up going to Teppan donnojodo instead.  .

Saturday (Udon ⇒ Weddings at Senso-ji temple ⇒ Asahi headquarters)

  • Tsurutontan Udon (11am-)
    • Tsurutontan, 〒106-0032 Tōkyō-to, Minato-ku, 六本木3-14-12 六本木3丁目ビル2F
    • Huge bowls, so it will definitely fill you up.  The duck has a nice broth but the meat was really tough/overcooked.  The curry broth felt a bit diluted.
    • 2016-11-12 11.20.24
  • Asakusa
    • Nakamise Dori Shopping area can be found on the road starting from Asakusa subway station and ending at Senso-ji temple.  Save room in your tummy because there are a ton of dessert places here.  They also have more skewers, crabs, etc as you get closer to the temple though.
      • (11am-11pm)
    • Senso-ji temple 6am to 5pm Free (Asakusa) (northwest of Asahi Beer)
      • Pineapple bread Located west of the temple itself.  Get 3 for 500JPY.  So yummy when fresh.  You can even request ice cream and make it an ice cream sandwich for 450 JPY.
    • SkyTower Mall: (13 minutes east walking from Asahi head quarters)
      • I am glad I stumbled upon this place.  Very modern mall with stores like pokemon, souvenir shops, food courts, etc.
      • Go up all the way to the top called Garden Dome, where you can see the Tokyo tower.  There are also some benches where you can lay down and relax.
      • World beer museum located on 7th floor of SkyTower: this was a tourist trap with overpriced beers, Tokyo Sky tree town-Solamachi Store.
    • Weather was perfect so we went up to Asahi Beer HQ to see the sunset.  Beers are about 6-900 JPY and Well drinks are about 500-600 JPY.  The negative part about this is that smoking is allowed here.  Get the seating facing west, so you can have ventilation coming in.
    • Dinner:
      • Asakusa Okonomiyaki ($)
        • Great for your first experience making your own Japanese style  pancakes on a grill, while sitting cross legged on Tatami mat.
    • Asakusa is also known for Izakaya and Yakitori restaurants but we didn’t get a chance to check them out in this area.

Sunday (Harajuku with Sam’s friend)

  • Nezu Museum: $10.  Tranqulity with views.  
    • You can get a free stroll outside the museum with a pathway with skinny bamboo trees.However, you have to pay ~ 1000yen to get into the museum.
  • Takeshita Dori:
    • Ice cream Crepes
    • Socks shopping.  2016-11-13 15.02.23
  • Observe weddings in the morning at Meiji Temple.  There were multiple weddings when we went around 3 pm.  These were the quickest wedding ceremony I have ever seen.  Everyone looked pretty serious instead of looking “happy”.  There were a lot of cute kids in kimonos taking family pictures.   Apparently, the kids are supposed to wear kimonos and take pictures at the age of 5 and 7.  
  • Omotesando : located Near apple store.  The street itself is very scenic.  There are a bunch of high end stores like Gucci and Emprio Armani.  
  • Ikebukuro district:  
    • Has a ton of arcade games
  • We went to Waru Waru Izakaya for dinner, which was pretty decent. 

 

Monday: HAKONE:  I do wish we spent a night here at one of the Japanese bed and breakfast places.

Option 1: Romance car (45 minutes from Shinjuku)

  • Onsen
  • Open air museum ($16) (Probably would have been cool but we didn’t do this)
  • Hike (didn’t because we kinda got there late and it was raining)
  • Get a Hakone free pass at Shinjuku Station.  The info centre/desk is called “Odakyu sightseeing….” located on a floor higher up.  Cost: 5140 JPY per person.  So this include 1) your round trip ride via regular slower train to Hakone, 2) attraction rides such as: cable car rides and etc in Hakone, 3) small 5-10% discounts at places such as Onsen, museums etc if you elect to do them.  This is good for 2 days.  There is a 3 day option too if you are spending longer time there.  
  • This ride allows you to access regular train which is slower and the seats are not as nice.  You can upgrade your ride to Romance car (90 minutes one way) for 890JPY more each way.  So the total cost round trip would be 5140 + 890 + 890 = 6920 per person if you elect to ride with Romance ride.  
  • Tip: might wanna reserve the seat online for romance car.  They sell out quick!

 

  • What can you do in Hakone?  
    • It  has street foods near the train station.  
    • The main attraction: onsens/hot springs.  
    • But if you wanna do hiking, you would have to do one of those cable attractions ( a train ride away, which is included in your hakone free tour package.  
  • Hakone Yuryo Onsen
    • Free shuttle bus from train station
      • It comes every 15 minutes between 9 am to 8pm.  
      • This bus makes 2-3 stops along the way.  
      • It will take about 3-5 minutes from the train stop to Yuryo Onsen.  
    • Private onsen does include the towel but the public ones don’t.  
    • Can rent private room from ( ** definitely get the private!)
      • Type 1: 3900 yen
      • Type II: 4900 yen
      • Type III: 5900 yen
    • Massage: 30 minutes for 3400 yen
    • You can make reservation by email: hakoneyuryo@odakyu-hotel.co.jp or call Tel:0460-85-8411IMG_3993
  • We got to Hakone too late to maximize the trip.  This is how I would have done Hakone in retrospect:  
    • Odakyu Express Train from Shinjuku to Odawara (85 min) 9am – 10:30am
    • Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora (35+ min) 10:30-11:10am
    • Hakone Tozan Cablecar to Sounzan (10 min) 11:10-11:20am
    • Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani (10min) 11:20-11:30am
    • Visit the Great Boiling Valley (1.5hr at most; extra time in case of missed trains) 11:30am-1pm
    • Hakone Ropeway to Togendai (20min) 1-1:20pm
    • Cruise at Lake Ashi to Hakone-machi (30 min) 1:20-1:50pm
    • Walk or continue cruise to Moto-Hakone (25 min) 1:50-2:15pm
    • Visit Hakone Shrine (may skip this if required) 2:15-3pm
    • Hakone Yuryo /massage
    • Shuttle Bus to Hakone-Yumoto (35 min/2) 6-6:15pm
    • Odakyu Express Train from Hakone-Yumoto (or Odawara) to Shinjuku (85+ min) 6:15-7:45pm
    • You can obviously skip the parts you don’t want to do and restructure the list.  

Some of the other onsen options.

  • Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (NO NEED TO GET NAKED)
    • 7 different flavored spas (coffee, green tea, collagen, sake, wine)
    • Fish bath extra ($1?)
    • Water park / kids will be around (have slides)
    • Some reviews did question the cleanliness
  • Sengokuhara Shinanoki Ichinoyu
    • Private onsen with open air
    • Can have view of Mt. Fuji
  • Owakudani Valley: Buy their famous black eggs which are made from hot steam from the volcanic sulfur pools (each egg is supposed to prolong your life 7 years). This crater is created from Mt. Hakone erupting 3000 years ago. Trip Advisor link
  • Old Tokaido Road: Hiking trail around
    •  

 

Monday

 

Basic phrases

Transportation passes

 

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Day 2 and 3: Highway 1 Trip

Lime Kiln National Park (11:30 am)

We wouldn’t have found this cool secret spot if it wasn’t for the fire in Big Sur.  Very cozy atmosphere with short shady trails!

Location: about 14 miles south of Julia Pfeiffer park.

No street parking here and parking will cost $10.

The entrance can be very hidden if you are heading south (although there are signs).  Expect to make a very sharp left turn (almost a U-turn).  However, it’s relatively easy to find if you are heading north (on your right before the bridge).

This is a great option for camping too (3 camping areas; 1 with an ocean view!)

ocean.jpg

There are 3 trails (Lime Kiln, Waterfall, and Hare Creek).  They are very short  (1.5 hours total to cover all 3 trails).

bridge

Beginning of the hike

Very shady, secluded hike.  Lots of squirrels.  Redwood trees.  Great choice for a hike even during the afternoon since it’s covered by tall redwood trees.

Elephant seals at San Simeons (2:30pm)

This is a quick stop 30 miles south of Lime Kiln Park.  There is a huge parking lot (free) here on your right if you are heading south.  It’s hard to miss.  Park your car and walk along the coast and enjoy the views of sea lions frolicking in their natural habitat.  It was super windy so bring a light jacket.

Moonstone Beach at Cambria (7 miles south of San Simeons)

Very secluded.  It’s a nice little walk about a mile round trip along the beach.  Free parking.

Ruddells’ BBQ at Cayucos. (4pm)

A hole in the wall with yummy fish tacos and sammiches.  We got albacore and salmon tacos, $6 each.  3-4 tacos should be enough for 2 people but we chose to leave a little room for the famous chicken pies 2 blocks east: A Deli and Pieman Pies for some bomb chicken pot pie ($7).

If you like cookies (and really who doesn’t), there is a famous Brown Butter Cookies shop across the street.  Their honey cookies are a must try.   

Stayed at Los Osos Airbnb ($78 including fees)

IMG_5618
Our awesome hosts provided with some breakfast and food to feed their goats (left bowl)

Kay accidentally took a bite from the goat food bowl because he thought it was an apple for us!

goat

Montana De Oro: 10 minutes drive

We are so glad we stayed in Los Osos because we would have missed this gorgeous hike if we didn’t! Here is the park brochure/map.  You can pretty much drive around the whole place and pick out whichever to hike.  We chose to hike the bluffs.  Parking: if you look at the map on the brochure, park at the “P” located northeast of “Bluff Trail”.

The entire trail offers an absolutely gorgeous beautiful view.  It’s gorgeous from every angle.  We saw some of these unique-looking sharp crystally rocks that we have never seen before.  The Bluff Trail is rather an easy hike that can take you about 3 hours if you do roundtrip for 4 miles.  However, you can walk as much or as little as you wish and turn back.  There’s no shade any where, so I think super early morning for sunrise or late evening for a sunset hike would be the best.  There are benches all over the trail, facing a gorgeous ocean view.  Great to have a picnic too.

Feed the Ostriches in Solvang.

It’s something that is great to visit at least once in your life. When they tell you to use both hands, you hold on for dear life to those pans! These birds are hungry and they will take you by surprise if you’re caught off guard.

You pay $6 per person to get in and get 1 bowl of food per two people to feed the ostriches. Ostriches are such funny looking creatures!

IMG_2442.jpg

Nojoqui Falls near Solvang (77 miles drive from Los Osos)

Very short hike: round trip in just 25 minutes.  After being spoiled by amazing weather in Big Sur, this was relatively a hot, dry hike, and the waterfall was dried out.  It was very shady though.  If you are looking for a diversion around Solvang this is a really nice spot.  It’s mostly up hill so if you walk slow expect a slightly longer walk.  I can see how this could be a hidden gem with the waterfall flowing.

img_2451

Things we wanted to do but didn’t get a chance

  • Esalen hot springs: 1am-3am Hot springs; $30/person only with RSVP  (check their schedule)  

Highway 1 Roadtrip (Day 1)

We took a wonderful 3 day, 2 night road trip down Highway 1 starting from San Jose, CA and ending up in Los Angeles, CA. We had a lot of fun planning and are excited to share the sights and wonders of our journey!

General tips

  • There is limited cell reception along the coast, so plan ahead and keep track of how many miles/minutes it is from one place to the next. (printing this blog post would be a great idea if you are gonna follow our plan!)
  • Check for fires before you go! Unfortunately, during our trip, there was a large fire occurring which left all hiking / parks east of Highway 1 closed.
  • We broke up our driving each day into small parts, and took breaks at beautiful vista viewpoints
  • Bring a selfie stick.

Trip Outline

Day 1

  1. Point Lobos State Reserve
  2. Rocky Point Restaurant
  3. Ripplewood Resort check-in
  4. McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Day 2

  1. Lime Kiln State Park
  2. Elephant Seals in San Simeon
  3. Moonstone Beach
  4. Early Dinner at Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos
  5. Check in Airbnb at Los Osos
  6. Montana De Oro Sunset

Day 3

  1. Ostrichland in Solvang
  2. Nojoqui Park hike
  3. Lunch at Los Agaves in Santa Barbara

Brunch at Loulou’s  

If you love the feel and vibe of small mom and pop diners, this is a must stop. Located on the Monterey Boardwalk, this diner plays great music in the background as you enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean.

Point Lobos Reserve: 85 miles south of San Jose & just south of Carmel. Be sure to get a map of the park.

IMG_2878.JPG.jpeg  IMG_2881.JPG.jpeg

Tip: Wear long pants because there is a lot of poison oak on the paths and bring a light jacket due to the chilly breeze.

Entry fee into the park is $10 per car.  There are multiple parking lots, and you can drive around the whole reserve. There are lots of trails around, so park depending on how you want to navigate the reserve.  If you are planning to hike the whole place or don’t mind walking a little further, there is street parking available near the entrance area (free).

Here is the map of the trails.  The North shore trail is probably the most scenic trail along the coast. It took us like a little less than 2 hours to explore the trails at the North and Northeast sections.

Rocky Point Restaurant9 miles / 14 minutes south of Point Lobos

This restaurant has spectacular ocean views, and it’s a great place for a wedding too!

I would recommend sitting outside, but ask for a table in the sun since it can get a bit cold due to the wind.

After your meal, explore the grounds! They have lounge seats with a perfect view of the coast, an exciting trail, and you can even hike onto a cliff!

Ripplewood Resort: 14 miles / 20 minutes south of Rocky Point Restaurant

The Ripplewood convenience store where you check-in is located right after the Chevron gas station on the left.  If you see Fernwood Resort, then you went 1/2 mile too far South!

IMG_5559.jpg
The road is located to the left of the picture, about 300-400 feet away.  

We stayed in Cabin 12A which was cozy, comfortable, and clean. There is one parking spot right in front. Unfortunately, it’s very close to Highway 1 so you can still hear cars from the cabin. The lights outside the cabin are also quite bright at night, so it wasn’t the experience we were looking for. They do have other cabins close to Big Sur River, so perhaps we will check those out next time.

WIFI: available near the check in area.  Fairly fast.

McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: 12 miles / 21 minutes south of Ripplewood Resort

IMG_2873.JPG
Drop-gorgeous iconic view of Big Sur

You can park on the side of the street, walk through the tunnel and wa-la! It’s a short hike walking around this view. There is also another short hike you can take on the other side.

Continue to Day 2 and 3….

 

Mount Wilson Hike

Roundtrip:  about 6.5 hours if we didn’t get lost.  Allot an entire day to this hike though as you probably won’t be able to do much after depending on what kinda shape you are in.

Parking: Free with adventure pass but $5 otherwise.

Chantry Flat parking lot trailhead: 2201-2299 Forest Route 2N40, Sierra Madre, CA 91011 http://www.yelp.com/biz/mt-wilson-trail-sierra-madre?utm_source=ishare

Things to bring:

Wear layers including a rain proof jacket/windbreaker, maybe long sports pants (it could get really cold, especially on the day we went at least)
A hat
Trekking poles (these were life saver)

A backpack with
1) a lot of snacks, sunscreen, at least 1 L of water.
2) a sandwich or some sort of savory lunch to eat when you reach the peak.
3) Maybe a pair of gloves if it’s a cold day.

There are multiple ways to get to Mount Wilson but here is how we did it.  We started from the parking lot  The trail is actually 14 miles round trip but we actually took the wrong turns and ended up doing 20 miles 😦

mapPark, and walk on concrete road for about 10 minutes until you see a bridge.  Then you will see a sign.  Again, there are multiple ways to get there.  We made a left after crossing the bridge, so we took the Chantry Flat route.   (on the map, it’s lower winter creek trail ==> Hoegees camp ==>  upper winter creek trail toward Mt Wilson2016-05-24 16.32.14

2016-05-24 16.32.00

You will walk for a couple of miles until you see a campsite called Hoggee Camp.  You gotta be careful here and look around for sign for Mt Wilson.  OTHERWISE, you can end up taking the route back to the parking lot! (The mistake we made).

 

2016-05-24 14.43.00
After about 2 miles of hiking up a bunch of loop-backs, you will see this bench.  2016-05-24 14.42.56
Then Continue to follow “mount wilson” (2nd line) until you see….

 

2016-05-24 14.27.02Follow the direction toward “Altadena”.

2016-05-24 14.11.50
In about a mile or so, you will see this fire road.  However, look for a small trail with a man made stack of rocks like a “rock arrow” at the entrance.  The reason: concrete pavement is a longer route while the narrow trail is a short cut. 

2016-05-24 14.11.38Manmade stack of rocks on bottom left.  Follow this trail up.  (probably 30ish minutes until you reach the top)

After about a mile of hiking uphill, the trail will end up right into the parking lot.  They do have nice bathrooms up here and water refill stations and benches to have picnics.

2016-05-24 13.00.36Parking lot

2016-05-24 13.39.372016-05-24 13.15.37super exhausted

The return trip is much easier if you have the trekking pole you will just breeze through.

 

Mom & Pop Know Best

Hole-in-the-wall joints are all the rage now, and Sunny Side Kitchen in San Diego, CA fits the description perfectly! It’s a great stop on your way to Potato Chip Rock, or to reward yourself after the hike!

The exterior is rather unassuming, but once you step inside, you’re transported into a bright homey café, complete with mom, pop, and son in the kitchen!

We ordered a meatloaf panini and bacon avocado panini ($9 each). Meatloaf panini was super yummy. They have homemade bite-size cookies, one free with yelp check-in. You also get a free cookie when you order lunch items. The magic cookies are my favorite – included butterscotch and white chocolate chips, nuts, and cranberries. Absolutely delicious!

 

 

Tips for Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)

Parking – Be quiet when you park in the neighborhood, lots of residents have dogs / roosters who will make noise when they hear you. (Click this link to get detailed directions on parking and how to find Haiku Stairs)

Guard – is hired by the community, and can’t really do anything besides call the authorities. They will tell you that you are trespassing, that there is a fine, and that they are going to call the cops. Just tell the guard you understand and keep going towards the stairs. The guard pretended to talk to someone, saying “4 coming up, 4 coming up”. They didn’t call the cops on us. On our way back after the hike, the guard recorded us but I doubt they can use that for anything.

guard picture

Weather -make sure to check the weather.  If it’s raining, not only will the view be ruined, but it’s not safe because the stairs will be very slippery!  Ideally, there should be no clouds or fog too. Unfortunately, when we went, we encountered “vog”, what my friend called volcano fog from nearby islands.

Bring

  1. Headlamps – If you go early in the morning, it’s dark and you’ll want both hands on the railway
  2. Bug spray – If you’re loved by mosquitos, make sure you protect yourself!
  3. Gloves – It’s misty up in the mountains, so the railways get wet and slippery
  4. Miscellaneous – Hat, sunscreen, water, snacks, shoes you don’t mind getting muddy, a poncho to sit on if you’re going to wait for the sunrise, and of course, a camera / phone to document the gorgeous views.
  5. Jacket : It’s cold up in the mountains, so this is nice to have!
  6. Download Alltrails app to help guide you, along with our other guide

Be safe, and have a lot of fun! This was our favorite hike, and we’re so glad we did it! If you want more information, check out our other post with detailed directions on how to go to Haiku Stairs.

How to get to Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)

 

Intro

Approximate time: 5-6 hours  

For quick tips and things to bring…  

Figuring out the time to go:
The reason folks recommend going super early is to avoid the guard.  I don’t think that getting there at 2am is necessary.  It seems the guard gets there at least by 2 am in the morning in front of the haiku entrance.  So there is no point in trying to beat the guard.  I would recommend arriving to park your car at 3:30 am and if you encounter the guard, just politely acknowledge and keep moving on.  She didn’t call the cops, although she threatened to.

Map

Step by step guide

1.  You can pretty much park anywhere on the streets but this is where we found ample of parking:46-24 Kuneki Pl, Kaneohe, HI 96744.   Needless to say, don’t block people’s drive ways or park in front of fire hydrants!   Be very quiet and don’t use flash lights in the neighborhood or you will risk the consequences of waking up the neighbors.

2.  Walk toward the entrance (5 minutes): https://goo.gl/maps/7omCxkwANx22  (red ping on the image).

3.  You gotta find a way around to climb around the gate from the right side (again, the red ping on the map image).

4.  After passing the gate, start walking, then you will find a split on the road, make a left here.

5.  Make a right at the next fork (left goes towards the school).  You may use your flashlight now.

  • Tip: if you encounter a 3rd split on the road, then you have gone too far.

6.  About 10 minutes more of walking, look on the left side for an opening into the woods.  It’ll be a short walk after the KAPU sign. It will be a man-made pathway/trail that cut through big trees. Walk through the dirt path and you’ll eventually get to a fence with the bottom half open, so just duck under it and continue. After 5 minutes you should see a second concrete road.

7.  Go left on the concrete road and walk down until you arrive at the security guard, she was in a car (<5 minutes).  I got this picture of the guard from yelp.  Once you see the guard’s car (it could be a different car) or port-a-potty, take a right and you will see a trail of step leading to the gate to the stairs.

guard picture

8.  The gate to the stairs.  There will be an opening around the right to get across the gate.  Voila, stairway to HEAVEN!

haiku fence

9.  3, 922 of steps from here, which should take you between 60 to 120 minutes, depending on the pace.  There will be 2 flat areas, where you can rest.

night view

  • Tips
    • The first person to go should keep a look out and clear the spider webs.  Maybe use a stick to clear the path ahead.  There could be really huge spiders on the stairs!
    • Respect the neighborhood and be quiet on the way back out too.
    • More tips

At the top, if you have extra time before the sun comes out, there is a little shack where you can rest.

top shack 3

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Amazing view during descent

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Please note that this is an illegal hike and you may be trespassing properties.  This blog post is by no means to encourage people to break laws and disobey authorities.  But if people are going to break laws anyways, this post will help understand how to get to the stairways in a quiet and safe manner without wandering aimlessly around the neighborhood and disturbing the community. Please be respectful of the residents here.  This is just a guide to help you guys out, and we are not responsible for any injuries or problems.

How to do Oahu, HI in a week

Planning a trip can be stressful.  We hope to create a blog that will save you time, money, and stress. Kay and I visited Oahu for 7 days, 6 nights. We had an idea of what we would do when we got there, but our plans were flexible and changed. We ended up planning what we would do the night before, which can be hectic. So, to save you the trouble and decrease stress, here’s a list of what we ended up doing, and in order of what we loved best! In parentheses are locations of the sites, so that you can order them by which part of Oahu you’ll be visiting. Comment below if you have any questions, and if you go to any of these, let us know how you like them!  Also, our trip is ideal for those with a budget because it was filled with mostly free outdoor adventures 😄 As a recently graduated grad student and a current grad student, we know frugality can go a long way!

Transportation
Renting a car is a necessity here.   We drove a lot and luckily gas was relatively cheap.  We heard taxis can be super expensive ($30 just to go to airport for 15 minutes drive, to give you an idea).  If you need a cab, use Uber or Lyft.  We got a good deal from http://www.carrentals.com and found Advantage car rental: $175 for 6 nights including taxes, located at the HNL airport.
Most of the restaurants in Oahu have their own small parking lots and we didn’t have a problem getting a spot during our trip.

Lodging
To give you an overview: Oahu is the name of the whole island.  Honolulu is the capital city of Hawaii located in Oahu.  Waikiki is one of the millions of beaches located in Honolulu city.  It is also the location where 90% + of the tourists stay.  Here, you will find a lot of the popular restaurants, including night life and cool hikes such as Diamond Head, Tantalus drive.  You can also take sunset cruises that are a few blocks walk away from your hotel.  Of course, it is also the priciest lodging due to its popular location.  We stayed at Sheraton Princess in Waikiki for the first 5 nights and then our last night at Airbnb.   If we had to do it over again, we would only stay at Waikiki for 2-3 nights, then spend the other nights at other parts of the island: (for ex: 1-2 nights at North Shore, and 1 night at Kailua).  Our hotel included free parking (other hotels charge for $25/24 hours), beach chair/towel rentals, and live music & hula dancing nightly.  So before you book a room, ask for what the parking cost will be.  I heard some hotels charge upwards of $40/night.  If you are staying at a hotel, we recommend renting out hotel beach chairs in the morning if you’re planning to go to the beach that day and return it that night.

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View from our corner room

 

TIP
I would get a big tourist map and mark all the places (hikes, restaurants, attractions) you want to check out during your vacation.  That way, you have a visual of what can be done around the same area and save the gas and time driving back and forth.  Not to mention, there can be a ton of traffic driving in and out of Waikiki.  Even a 3-4 mile drive around the city took us 20ish minutes.  Once you are outside the city, traffic tends to be much better.

Our favorite excursions

  1. Sunset catamaran cruise (Waikiki) – we found a Groupon deal for 2 for $60 (20% off with some promotion they were having). It was really nice because the night we went, there were only 5 of us passengers, and 3 crew members – so we pretty much had the whole catamaran to ourselves! We got to see some whales, and the sunset on the way back setting over Diamond Head was gorgeous. Very romantic. Drinks were $5 (got some Mai Tais). I’ve heard they also have other catamarans that are more for meeting people and drinking, whatever floats your boat (pun intended)!
  2. Kayaking to Moku Nui Island (Kailua / Lanikai) – we went to Windward WaterSports and they hooked it up! You’ll need a car in order to get from Windward WaterSports to the beach. The guy explained to us how to get in/out of the kayak properly, how to row, how the wind and currents were for the day, and how to get to the island, making sure to avoid the reef! We got a double kayak, and it comes with seats with backrest so you’re resting comfortably as you paddle. They can rent you dry bag (highly recommended) and snorkel gear for $5 extra (you probably won’t have enough time to snorkel though). Once you’re out in your kayak, you do have to time the waves correctly when you’re kayaking to Moku Nui, as there are some waves out there! Quick tip: Make sure you’re perpendicular to the wave when you’re going into or behind it, because if not, you’ll capsize (as we did)! No worries if you capsize though, you have life vests on. A friendly surfer actually helped us flip the kayak over and get us back into the kayak. Mahalo! It was such a thrill to get through the waves – almost like surfing but in a kayak. Check out below to see what to do on Moku Nui Island!

     

  3. We are aware of the “Go Oahu” cards but since we weren’t planning on going to Polynesian Cultural Center, we didn’t get it. It takes most of the day to check out PCC, and we wanted to spend our time being outdoors!
  4. Mopeds: since we rented a car, we decided not to ride the mopeds.  One friend who works at the ER told us that mopeds were bad idea after seeing so many patients coming in with moped related accidents.  But if you decide to try it anyways, take caution and be safe!

Top Hikes / Places with amazing views

  1. Stairway to Heaven aka Haiku Stairs – This was MY FAVORITE HIKE EVER!!! Note: You do need to be a bit of a daredevil / adventurous for this one, since it is illegal! There are 3,922 very steep steps to the top, and if you’re deathly afraid of heights, this is not for you! They were built during WWII for communications by the Navy. Although it’s scary at times with mangled stair flights and wobbly/shaky steps, the view is so worth it. We will have detailed directions of how to find the stairs in another post!
    • Rating: 5/5 stars
    • Difficulty: Hard
    • Mileage: 4.8 miles RT, very steep
    • Time:
      • Ascent: It takes about 45 minutes to get from the entrance to the hike.  Then about 1.5 to 2 hours going all the way up to the top.  
      • Descent: 1.5 to 2 hours to the entrance then 30 minutes to get back to your car.
    • Note: The stairs are 18 inches wide, so they’re pretty narrow.
  2. Koko Crater Railway Trail – an old wooden railroad track that leads right up the top of Koko Mountain.
    • Rating:4.5/5
    • Difficulty: Hard
      • There was a portion of steps (15-20 steps) where there are gaps between the rails.  No shame if you need to go on hands and knees 😛
    • Mileage: 1000 steps or about 3 miles RT?
    • Time:  45 minutes up and 45 minutes down. 
  3. Diamond Head Lookout Trail – This was a crowded hike, start early. Lots of switchbacks, but paved. $2 to walk in, $5 per car if you drive in. There’s a truck selling fruit at the beginning. The view up top allows you to see all the way from Koko Head to Wai’anae
    • Rating: 4/5
    • Difficulty: Easy-Mod
    • Mileage: 1.5 miles RT, plus 99 steps if you turn right after the tunnel. If you turn left after the tunnel, you can take the loop trail to the left which is milder and avoids those steps.
    • Time: ~1.5 hours round trip.  
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  4. Kuliouou Ridge Trail – Very forest-y and nature-y (I just made up some words it’s late). Also lots of switchbacks.
    • Difficulty: Mod
    • Mileage: 4.4 miles RT
    • Time: About 3 hours round trip.
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  5. Drive to Tantalus Lookout (not a hike, although there is a hike on your way up to the lookout called ʻUalakaʻa Trail)
    • About 15 minutes drive from Waikiki IMG_9070

 

Souvenirs and basic groceries

  1. Don Quijote – This is like a Japanese Wal-Mart that is worth checking out if you are around the area.  Located 2 blocks down YogurStory if you’re going there for their Ube Pancakes (we talk about this down below!). Lots of cheap souvenirs here.
  2. Longs Drugs – Seems super random, right? But we found a lot of cheap Hawaiian snacks!
  3. Walmart – Come here to grab yourself a Lei necklace, some beer, and macadamia nuts (our favorite is with onion & garlic for that great fresh breath afterwards)!
  4. ABC stores – located all over Waikiki, almost every block 😄

 

Beaches

  1. Moku Nui Island – Rent a Kayak from Kailua, then drive 10 minutes to Lanakai: depart with Kayak for about 30 minutes to Moku Nui Island.  Thumbs up!
    • Once on the island, the beach is nice to lay out and watch / listen to the waves. There’s a trail on the right side of the island that will take you to a great tide pool (pictured below). The trail to get there is over sharp rocks, so be sure to wear shoes/sandals, and be careful. Once you get to the tide pool, make sure and watch the waves. They were big the day we went and during large waves, the whole area was flooded as the wave hit the rocks and came up. Exhilarating to watch but I wouldn’t want to be hit by the force of that water.
    • If you go to the left of the island, there’s a trail there that leads to a place where lots of people cliff jump. We didn’t try it, but make sure to read up on when to jump before you go.
    • After the kayak, it’s worth it to drive along the eastern part of the island.  There’s a bunch of scenic view points on the way, including Makapu’u Lookout.
  2. Ala Moana Beach Park –  Locals’ beach in Waikiki with free curb parking. Lots of locals come to play beach volleyball, run, and just enjoy the sun.
    1. Tip: Go to Ala Moana mall and check out some happy hour at the Mai Tai bar or Japanese food at Shirokiya after the Ala Moana beach.
      1. Parking: Free parking structure with plenty of spots.
      2. hours: the mall close at 9pm.
  3. North Shore
    • Papa’iloa Beach – secluded, with lots of shade. It’s the backyard of many residents: so jealous! We spotted a turtle tanning in the sun and photobombed his nap!
    • Laniakea Beach – aka turtle beach. You park across the street. There’s a lot of tourists at this beach, but when we went closer to sunset, there was hardly anyone (but no turtles, either!)
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    • Waimea Bay Beach Park – Pretty popular and crowded beach. When we went, it was a no swim day, so we lucked out. We laid out and took a nap / got some reading done.
  4. Waikiki Beach: very crowded beach but it’s worth spending an hour or so if you are around the area, just to be able to say you did it.  If you are staying in Waikiki, Ala Moana is a more secluded beach with plenty of parking.

 

Breakfast

  1. Liliha Bakery (Waikiki) – They’re open 24 hours! You line up to get seated. It’s a bar seating that’s first come, first serve. We got the loco moco dish: $9ish, and cocopuffs ($1.50).  So bomb.  The loco moco comes with a butter roll and a guava jam.
  2. Cinnamon’s Restaurant (Kailua) – We tried to go to Boots and Kimo Kitchen for their famous macadamia nut pancakes but they were packed! So we went to Cinnamon’s instead, with no line. Got the mahi-mahi eggs benedict and Portuguese sweet bread french toast with guava sauce.  Thumbs up!
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  3. Kono’s (North Shore) – This was a great breakfast place with a  yummy and good-sized Kahlua pork breakfast burrito. The biscuit sampler sliders were meh – biscuits were yummy but the sliders had bacon, spam, and Kailua pork, and just weren’t very special.
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Lunch / Dinner

  1. Marukame Udon (Waikiki) – If I had to choose only ONE place to go to, it would be here! Their noodles were freshly prepared (you can see a guy making it behind the window!).  These noodles were perfectly cooked, and the broth/sauce too – so yum! We had the curry udon and the cold ontama udon. For sides, we had fried chicken, croquette, and fish cake. Next time, we would get the shrimp tempura instead of fish cake tempura. Go during non-peak hours, otherwise, you’ll be waiting in line. When we tried to go the first time, it was around 7PM at night and the line was all the way out to the next street! I’ve heard that the line goes fast, but we’re just not one to wait for food haha. We came again at 3PM in the afternoon and there was no line at all!
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      Marukame Udon: $16 ish total.
  2. Shirokiya (Waikiki – Ala Moana Shopping Center)
    • This place is amazing, offering myriads of Japanese Bento boxes or you can also order from their food court.  They have cheap beer ($3-4) during “happy hour”, which is pretty much 5:30pm to 9pm. We had their curry udon, and wow wow wow — can they please come to Long Beach?!
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  3. Yama’s Fish Market – (Waikiki)
    • Mom and Pop store; they sell poke by weight. They let us sample the poke too. Seaweed salad was one of the best I’ve ever had. This place also has amazing Huapia desserts (MUST get the sweet potato huapia – tastes just like ube! We bought one, and then went back in to buy another after we destroyed the first! & our local source tells us their cookies are also delicious.)
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  4. Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Waikiki) – Cheap spam musubi with bacon, egg, and cheese. Check-in on yelp for a deal!  They also have yummy looking Japanese dishes but we didn’t get to try.
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      On the Catamaran double fisting
  5. Diamond Head Market & Grill (Waikiki) – Mixed plate contained salad, rice (brown or white), teriyaki chicken, bbq pork, and a hamburger patty with gravy. Kay and I shared one mixed plate, 1 blueberry cream cheese scone and we were pretty satisfied! The meat was tender and yummy.
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Desserts

  1. Leonard’s Bakery (Waikiki) – must get the malasadas! They’re donuts but they’re so light and fluffy; I don’t know what kind of dough they use to make these! We really liked the original malasadas.
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      $1 each for malasadas and about $1.50 for the ones with fillings.
  2. Diamond Head Market & Grill (Waikiki) – Known for their blueberry cream cheese scones; make sure to come early as not to miss them. They’re $4 but well worth it because they’re huge!
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      Deeeelicious! $4.
  3. Liliha Bakery (Waikiki) – In addition to eating a meal here, we also visited the bakery side and got some goods: Chocolate Cocopuffs were delicious! (the lilikoi malasadas were okay – too much filling inside, and too sweet for our tastes)
  4. Island Vintage Coffee – There are multiple locations around the island. We had a delicious acai bowl here!  $9.95
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      Strawberries, bananas, and blueberries – oh my!
  5. Pau Hana Market (Waikiki) – This is where a bunch of food trucks hang out. They have a courtyard with benches where you can eat. We went to Hau Nani Shave Ice and got the lychee shaved ice with strawberry.
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  6. FrostCity (Waikiki) – We hung out with our local friend at night. Many shops close early on Oahu, but FrostCity was open when we needed it! Tastes like Taiwanese snow ice. We got the mango snow ice, and it really tasted like mango.
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      My college friend
  7. Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice (North Shore) – This place is famous for their shaved ice. We got the $6 Ichiban special with Lilikoi (passion fruit) flavoring. It comes with vanilla ice cream, red bean, and mochi so it’s a much better deal than just getting the shave ice.
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  8. Waikiki Farmer’s Market (Waikiki) – Opens around 4PM on Wednesday – we picked up some awesome apple bananas and very sweet pineapple. We asked the vendor to add some Li hing powder to the pineapple. Hawaii loves their Li hing powder! It also makes the pineapple even sweeter.
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Drinks

  1. Mai Tai Bar – Sooo we are old fogeys and only went out one night during our stay in Oahu. BUT this place was so much fun! It’s located on the 4th floor of Ala Moana Shopping Center, open-air and spacious. They have a live musician, and $5 cocktails and $3 beer during happy hour (4-7pm then 8pm to 11pm). They also have great appetizers that range from $6-8. It was busy on a Friday, but luckily we snagged a table!
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  2. This is not to say we didn’t drink at all during this trip! We of course went to grocery stores to buy beer and snuck them onto the beach to enjoy 😉 Kay’s favorite one he found during our stay is called Shore Break!
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  3. Wailana Coffee House (Waikiki) – Didn’t get a chance to try this place, but locals recommended that you try the $4 Mai Tais here

 

Things to Skip

  1. Helena’s Hawaiian Food – This is what Hawaiian food is like.  The food here is good but not amazing.  It is worth a visit if you have extra time. Apparently, you’re supposed to try poi (it’s a starch Hawaiians eat instead of rice). We got Kahlua pork, Lomi salmon, laulau, and pipikaula short ribs with two scoops of rice.
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  2. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck ($13 for 12 pieces of garlic shrimp and rice).  The rice was so soggy! However, you can eat the shrimp with the shell on because it’s super crispy. The hot sauce on the side is SUPER hot, be warned!
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  3. Rainbow Drive-In – Meat was overcooked, bland, and dry.  Their slushy/ice cream floats were yummy though! Chili & rice is a staple here.
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      My college friend again!
  4. YogurStory – We would just come here to try their Ube pancakes ($12) but nothing else.  It was very overpriced, and portions were small. You’re really paying for the restaurant environment (modern and spacious).
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Well, that’s it for now folks! Comment below if you have questions or comments – we’d love to hear from you!