Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels.
This week I’m welcoming back another familiar face, Julie Cao, who previously sent me a lovely Postcard From Ireland. Travel lover Julie Cao, who runs Always On The Way, spent three years living in Oahu, Hawaii and is currently living in Canada to complete her second Master’s degree in Social Science. She studies and works during the day, and writes at night, and just like me, Julie’s ultimate goal is to travel around and explore the world.
Welcome back to Postcard From, Julie! Tell us all about Hawaii…
I attended school in Hawaii and worked there afterwards. I had blue water in my veins, so a visit to Hawaii was always on my bucket list. I felt I lived the dream when I landed there. I explored Oahu and the neighbour islands during the past three years, and was impressed by the unique natural wonder and the Aloha Spirit each island has to offer. Although school, jobs, high costs of living, and daily routine stressed me out sometime, it does not matter when comes to the appealing nature beauty of the island.
When’s the best time to visit Hawaii?
The weather in Hawaii is perfect year around. We have year around sunshine and the daily temperate is between 17 and 28 Celsius. Here do get lots of rain, but a shirt is not necessary most of the time. Even in the coldest month, saying December to February, we are still able to go to the beaches with only swimming suits on.
Where did you stay?
I rented a single-occupied bedroom by the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It is accessible by bus. I love where I live. It is far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and easy accessible by public transport. It is a quiet and peaceful area, and I get to meet many neighbours in the end. We got together every week for parties, diners, and all kind of other events.
In three years, you must have got a lot done…
I spent tremendous time on the beach, bar, hiking and exploring. My friends and I chill out on different beaches after the class. We usually avoid some craziness, tourists and hustle on the beach so we prefer Kailua or Lanikai over Waikiki.
In the evening, bars in Waikiki and around Ala Moana had live music on, which makes a perfect ambience for dining and socializing. My favourite dining place was Rum Fire, the one inside the Sheraton Waikiki hotel. It offers happy hours every Wednesday from 5 to 8pm. You can sit in the oceanfront, enjoy tasty cuisine, listen to the live music while watch the lovely sunset. I also travelled to the neighbour islands on holidays to enrich my island experience.
Do you have a highlight?
It is difficult to pick up a highlight in Hawaii due to the breathtaking scenery everywhere. If I had to pick one, it is a 4 miles trek on Ridge on the island of Lanai. It was a strenuous hike for me as I did not wear the proper hiking shoes and I was out of shape that day. The road gets muddy, and I started felt the dirt and pain on my feet and was dehydrated. However, after 2 hours long walking, I was rewarded by the commanding view of the Maui and Molokai atop while had the gulch and Pacific Ocean right under my feet. One cannot envision the wondrous seascapes if he had not experienced it. I stayed on the top for almost an hour staring at the breathtaking seascapes and do not want to leave. My feet hurt but the scenery is well worth it. I proud of myself reach the summit which is the only vintage point in Hawaii for a bird-eye view of both Maui and Molokai.
I also felt the staff members at the Four Seasons Keole are second to none. I checked out my room before the hike. When I back in the hotel, the staff member gave me a bottle of water and even allowed me to use the shower room to sooth my aching muscles. They chatted with me and made me loose after a tough hike. I really love Lanai and all the people there. I wish I could be able to come back and visit it again.
Where did you have the best food?
Hawaii offers worldwide cuisines. I had a taste of the meals from different countries, and the food in Bangkok Chef was my all time favourite. I ended up spending most my stipend there. Bangkok Chef was a decent Thai Restaurant, and guests had many delicious dishes to choose from. I usually ordered Basil and Shrimp ala carte, or fish and eggplant. The drink in Hawaii is unique, and do not miss the opportunity to taste a tropical Hawaiian drink. I particularly fancy the Lava Flow (virgin version), a fruity drink had pineapple juice, coco loco, and ice all blended together and had puréed strawberries poured in at the end to create the flowing lava effect.
Did you have any embarrassing moments?
I tripped on the beach once… I was on the Waimanalo Bay Beach Park in a sunny afternoon, and spotted a few people in the emerald water. I was thrilled and jumped into the waves immediately. I did not know the current was too rough to swim and that I needed a boogie board for playing in the water. When I dived into the ocean, the waves came along. I was unable to swim under such strong currents so I was sort of caught in the compact zone. The next thing I remember was being pushed back into the shore and tripped. It was quite embarrassing but being pushing by the waves all the way to the shore was fun. I decided to entertain at that beach often but made a rule to myself of not going into the water without board handy.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone headed to Hawaii?
I have two tips to fellow island visitors:
I highly recommend Haleakala and Mauna Kea to everyone. The landscape over there is absolutely breathtaking and surreal. They are also the two of the few places on earth allow you to witness sunrise/sunset over the clouds. The Milky Way on both summit is crystal clear overhead, sometimes you are able to see stars in front of you and right under your feet. Driving up to Mauna Kea will be risky due to the change of climate zone, and hilly and windy road conditions. It was foggy after dark and the visibility was less than 10 feet, and the temperature on the summit was under zero degree. So driving cautious and stay warm.
Make the most of your trip. There are six accessible islands in Hawaii, and each of them has its unique culture and amazing wonder. It is difficult to explore it all during a short-term vacation. Therefore, plan your trip in advance, do the research, and be flexible. It is an expensive place to visit, and is a bit exhausting for cramming too much places in few days, but it is worth going there.
And finally… what’s the most useful bit of Hawaiian you learnt?
“Aloha”, meaning hello, goodbye, or greeting in Hawaii. Beyond the common meaning, Aloha also describes an attitude or way of life called Aloha Spirit – treats everyone as a part of the family and shares the joy of life with them.
NB – all photos are owned by Julie Cao.