When I was in 1st grade, I met Danielle Mangine. We’ve been friends ever since. And although I don’t get to see her or any of my friends back in Minnesota as often as I would like, it’s one of those friendships that just picks right back up from where we left off the last time we saw each other! Danielle is a “yes” person who never turns down a chance for an adventure, which is one of the reasons she’s an awesome travel buddy. So when I called her up in January asking if she wanted to fly to Hawaii for a week of hiking, surfing, and relaxing on the beach (yes, I actually DID use the word “relaxing”!) she said “yes” right away!

Adventure buddies!

With a few months to plan, we got our flights, picked out our AirBnb stay, and then because I’m a nerd I read an entire guidebook cover to cover so we could plot out the best adventures to be found on Oahu. And boy, let me tell you, we packed a lot into that week!

Welcome to Oahu!

We started off with Makaha Beach. This would later be a really controversial spot for us, but I’ll tell you that story when I get to it later in the week. For now, the beach was amazing! We saw huge shore break with waves that crashed up bigger than me (run away! run away!) and we saw a super cute little turtle just chilling and surfing the waves, “Finding Nemo” style. If he could talk, he would have been one chill little dude.

Me, goofing around in the waves.

We then headed to Kaena Point, the North-Western most tip of the island. We saw cool little tide pools, huge waves, a sea arch and a blowhole that made a really funny whistling sound when the waves and wind hit it just right!

Danielle on Kaena point!

What better place to field-test my Podiumwear training tank?

Danielle exploring the tide pools on Kaena Point.

The next day, we drove up and down the famous North Shore. Why is it famous, you ask? Because SURFERS LOVE IT! We did, too. We saw the famous Banzai Pipeline where the waves, sure enough, were forming perfect barrels. We saw the beaches where waves in the winter months get up to 20 feet high (yikes!) but they were calm the day we went there. I jumped off the rocks at Waimea Beach, which was super fun and then got turned head over heels body surfing in the huge shore break. We met a big turtle at, (you’ll love this): Turtle Beach. Well named. Then in the afternoon I rented a board and surfed until my arms were sore and I couldn’t paddle fast enough anymore. Also, because I got distracted by some turtles popping their heads up. Those little buggers really are the cutest things ever.

Me, doing a little cliff jumping!

Sleepy turtle. (and protected, so don’t disturb!)

Getting ready to go surf some smaller waves on the North Shore (not going to pretend I can handle anything above 3 feet!)

Then we saw the famous Hanauma Bay and snorkeled from one end to the other, and I loved all the fish I got to see!

Danielle and I at Hanauma Bay!

However…the biggest thing that gets me about Hanauma Bay is that before you’re allowed to enter you have to watch a really cool video about preserving marine life. It’s not hard, you only have one rule: DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING. If you step on or touch the coral you can kill it, which means the fish lose their home and bam! The reef is not as magical anymore. Don’t touch the turtles either- they’re protected and also don’t want to be harassed (I mean, hey, I wouldn’t like being poked either). But what do people do? They STAND ON THE CORAL! This drove me slightly nuts, because most people shouldn’t be that stupid or selfish to kill a reef just for the sake of a cool selfie. Just find a patch of sand to stand on when you need to take a photo or adjust your mask. Or suck it up and wear a life jacket so you don’t have to stand when you get tired swimming. Ok, preacher mode turned back off now. But now, should you ever go snorkeling, you know not to touch anything and we can all still be friends. 🙂

Danielle crossing a stream on our hike

So much beautiful green! Which is probably why it was raining.

After we stopped for lunch and enjoyed a picture-perfect beach on the east side, it started to rain and we went for a hike anyways in search of a waterfall. The trail was unmarked and covered in mud, and after wandering around in the jungle-like forest we finally headed back to the car, without a waterfall but happily tired from our hike and loving the vines and ferns we got to see. Since we were sweaty and super gross, we went right to the epicenter of people: Waikiki Beach. I’m really glad we were renting a room on the west side because staying in this super busy city would have been a little overwhelming for me (thank goodness Danielle is more city-savvy than I am and could direct me through the traffic!). We had hilarious beach-bum moments as we used the outdoor showers to scrub the mud off and changed in a bathroom stall into our dresses, but then we blended in pretty darn well for the fireworks show and dinner afterwards!

Fireworks over Waikiki

The next day was both the most amazing day of the trip…and the worst (that night). We really wanted to see and hike the Haiku Stairs, which were built during the war up to a huge satellite tower on top of a mountain that overlooks pretty much half of the island. While originally wooden ladders strung up a ridge, they were rebuilt as sturdy metal ones. But the tricky thing is…the stairs are now illegal, with a fine apparently over 2,000 if you get caught. So, I think I’m supposed to say this for liability sake: I’m NOT telling you to go do this hike, and I’m officially not recommending it. Wink, wink. The hike was amazing.

Danielle and I about 1/3 of the way up!

One of the rope sections. That rope came in handy as the mud could get a little slippery.

Doing some steeper hiking

We hiked up the backside, in the Moanaula Valley. It was 5 miles to the top, and a lot of epic climbing up the ridge line. In many places, ropes were strung up as you couldn’t have made it up the steep mud and dirt on just your feet! The flowers and plants were amazing and most of the time it smelled like perfume since it rains so much that it was impossibly lush. Even more amazing: I didn’t get a single mosquito bite! Unlike the plants, however, I didn’t smell that great so maybe that was what did it. 😉

Danielle on one of the coolest rope sections up the ridge!

When we got to the tower at the top, it was an incredible view. We have photos, but that somehow never does a place justice. If you want proof of how amazing it is, you’ll probably have to go hike it. Oops, I wasn’t supposed to say that!!! Remember: I’m officially not encouraging people to hike the illegal stairs.

Panorama of the top!

Danielle and I at the top of the stairs!

While we were originally planning to hike down the way we came, we met some locals at the top who assured us that the guard would only lecture us at most and that it “wasn’t even THAT illegal anymore. It used to be bad, but not now”. We decided to risk it and took the amazing and crazy 3,920 stairs down. My calves still don’t like me for it.

At the top of the stairs, the steep sections look like a roller coaster drop-off!

Ready to go down!

A short few sections were flat…and it looked like you were about to run off the edge of the earth. 

…and other parts looked a little “Indiana-Jones-ish”.

Nearing the bottom, we were super ready to take off running after the last stair and, with the help of satellite GPS, find our way out of the bamboo forest into a nearby neighborhood (also per recommendation by the locals). But to our amazement the guard thew us a peace sign and winked, and we scurried out of there, our faces bright red. We didn’t look back.

Some amazingly beautiful shore break – it was a lot taller than I was!

After catching an Uber back to our car, we drove back to Makaha Beach (remember? Surfing turtle place?) to rinse off in the ocean and relax before dinner. We locked our wallets and anything valuable in the trunk, completely out of sight, (thinking it would be safer than having it on the beach when we were swimming) and while I came back to the car to check on it before the sun started to go down, we returned an hour later, while it was still light out. The drivers side window had been smashed and the trunk popped open, with both our wallets gone. This was a serious dent in our vacation. Without getting too far into it, everything is ok now: we have the police on it, they found video of the woman trying to use my credit cards (this woman had probably been watching us pull up to the beach and targeted us because we are obviously not locals), our cards were cancelled and while she stole some clothes and things as well, we didn’t lose things we can’t live without and nobody got hurt. What we DID lose, however, was our peace of mind and trust in the locals, which is a huge shame. Every time we parked the car after that, we cleaned it out entirely and never touched the trunk in case people watching thought we were locking valuables away. We didn’t trust people like I always do, and that bothered me that our vacation had a slightly different color to it for the last few days. We still enjoyed it, and didn’t let it ruin our time there, but it was different. I’m not telling you this for your sympathy (or for your blame in having left anything in the car), but I AM telling you this so if you go on vacation remember that just because you’re as happy as you’ve ever been, there are sometimes people who are bad people and target tourists, and that just plain sucks!

The sunset right before we left.

The next days after many, MANY hours on the phone trying to figure everything out with credit cards and such, we still got to hike Diamond Head Crater and see Pearl Harbor. The Arizona Memorial was extremely powerful and it was so humbling and moving to see the museum and learn everything about what happened there. I was really grateful for the opportunity to go see this, and Danielle felt the same way.

Top of Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki

After Danielle flew home, I had the next morning to spend before my flight so I hiked to Manoa Falls to see the beautiful 100ft waterfall (and got totally soaked in a really fun rainstorm). Then I went back to Waikiki Beach (the only place I felt safe parking my car in a secure parking garage) and spent my last few hours before I flew home on a surfboard!

Danielle “battling the weekday crowds” at our last beach stop together!

Hiking in Manoa valley was so beautiful!

The 100 foot tall waterfall was really cool

I got soaked in a rainstorm while hiking through the bamboo forest!

When I got home the next morning at 6:15am, I had 30 hours to spend in Minnesota before my flight to spend time with my boyfriend in Boston (finally! YAY!). While I was slightly less excited to finish filing my taxes, I was thrilled to be headed to my end-of-season party that evening, organized by Kris Hansen and my wonderful parents! Huge thanks to Slumberland for hosting the event, and to Salomon, Podiumwear and Swix for providing really cool door prizes…including a new pair of carbon skis – wow!

Visiting with the next up-and-coming skiers! (photo by Bruce with SkinnySki)

Giving a presentation on the winter and what it’s like to be racing on the road. (photo by Bruce with SkinnySki)

It was so fun for me to see my home ski community after being gone all winter, to get to meet new people and have a chance to share photos and stories from my year on the road. Thanks to everyone for coming out and sharing your enthusiasm for this sport we all love!

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