Whenever anyone tries to tell me that Hawaii is too flashy, too busy, too EVERYTHING, I like to drill down exactly what they’re talking about. Mostly, I find they’re talking about Waikiki. They’ve either been to Waikiki – once – or never been and assume it’s going to be ALL of those things.
On our first trip to Hawaii, I was pleasantly and happily surprised to enjoy Waikiki as much as I did. Yes, it can be busy. Yes, there are high-rise hotel complexes lining the beachfront and the streets back from the beach. Yes, it can be touristy. Yes, it’s all those things but, for me, it’s still all kinds of wonderful.
However. What we did on that first trip is something I advise anyone heading to Hawaii for the first time: hire a car. Once you get beyond all that glitters in Waikiki, you’ll discover some extraordinarily beautiful spots on Oahu less than an hour from the crazy. One of those finds for us was Lanikai.
Like for all our holidays, I do a bit of research once I’ve decided on a destination, with the aim to find places to stay or visit that are known but a little bit off radar. So, in 2016 when the husband was all about a day trip to the world-famous North Shore beaches of Oahu (spoiler alert: in summer the beaches are as flat as lakes), I was all about Lanikai and its neighbouring town of Kailua.
What led my searching to Oahu’s Windward Coast was a relatively unknown (spoiler alert: they’re not!) couple with the first names Barack and Michelle and last name Obama. This is where the then US president and his wife holidayed – and continue to holiday. They were even there when we visited this month, with Barack spotted at a country club 800m from where we were staying.
I figured that if Lanikai was good enough for B and M, it was good enough for us and that day trip in 2016 confirmed it. Even on a ridiculously windy and hot late June day, the beauty of the white sand beach and turquoise waters looking out to the twin Mokulua islands was the stuff of picture postcards.
That day trip also showed me just how chilled this part of the island was, the kind of place we like for an extended stay when the aim of the holiday is to hunker down and recharge. So, I declared that on a future visit that was where we would spend the majority of our time. We’d enjoy the big, city lights but then retreat to a quieter paradise.
There are no hotels in the Lanikai/Kailua region, so your accommodation options are limited to private rentals. In a travel world where many of us head straight to searching on Airbnb, especially when travelling as a family, it pays to take note of the local laws surrounding vacation rentals in Hawaii. Legal, short-term vacation rentals are limited – and must be licensed. That doesn’t mean that you won’t find unlicensed rentals available on Airbnb and other booking sites, it just potentially leaves you vulnerable should your host be fined or otherwise while you’re there. We were burnt back in 2012 in New York and don’t want to ever feel that way again. Yes, we’ve used Airbnb since but I check local laws first.
… so … much Googling led me to Lanikai Beach Rentals and we were not disappointed. More on that below because our accommodation was very much at the heart of reason we fell head over heels in love with Lanikai.
10 reasons to fall in love with Lanikai
1. It’s a super quiet location. Pulling up to our accommodation, and getting out of the car 40 minutes after leaving Waikiki, it felt extremely surreal. Gone was the traffic noise and general hum … all we could hear from the wind in the trees. Yes, Lanikai gets loved to death by day-trippers, and there is only one way in and out of this precinct, but at that moment, it was silence of the golden variety in bucket loads. The calming effect was immediate and I knew we would really and truly have a chance to decompress after a very exhausting year.
2. The beach. There are tracks dotted between the beachfront houses that lead to the reef-protected, lagoon beach. Not all have a lot of sand but the main Lanikai public beach area does. When we walked down our nearest laneway on that first afternoon, it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Another morning, we had our local to ourselves. Even with the onshore trade winds, that as luck would have it hit the day we arrived and lasted all week, it was still incredibly beautiful and picture-postcard like.
3. Staying here feels like you’re living like a local. I guess that’s why you’d choose to stay in a licensed rental over a hotel. I like to mix it up but there is a lot to be said for living like you always live there. Well, pretending at least. Because there are no hotels here, you really do get to experience just how chilled life could be if this was real life. HAH. If you’re familiar with Stradbroke Island’s Point Lookout, Lanikai feels a bit like holidaying there.
Our two-bedroom, one-bathroom accommodation was atop the home of our host and the cost at this peak time was about $US370 a night … so definitely not cheap but similar to beachside in Australia at peak times. There’s also a one-bedroom garden studio on the property. We had an off-street parking spot (a serious win as street parking is limited) and it was just across the one-way street to the beach laneway. We loved the very “Hawaiian” decor, a mix of local and vintage art, cane furniture and woven bamboo ceilings – anywhere else it would feel kitsch but here it was decidedly cool.
The sea breezes kept comfort levels cool and the wide eaves meant we could leave the windows open, allowing us to fall asleep listening to the rain. The kitchenette was well appointed for basic cooking (microwave, plug-in hotplate, toaster, drip-coffee machine). The only thing we would have loved would have been on-site laundry facilities … but who doesn’t love really living like a local and experiencing a laundromat on holidays!?
4. There is some serious property perving to be had. The homes here are a mix of renovated plantation-style beach homes, new beachfront mansions and very expensive shacks that one day will become mansions. One day I’m coming back and living like a different kind of local! Long’s has gone straight to the wish list!
5. Kailua is near enough but far enough away. Kailua is also home to beautiful beaches and it’s the main retail and dining precinct in the area. It has all the big supermarkets and discount department stores but also has gems to visit, including the historic Kalapawai Market (the nearest store to Lanikai) and the independent boutiques and cafes in Hekili Street.
6. Self-catering helps to reduce costs. The Aussie dollar is not playing nicely with the US dollar – and hasn’t done so for some time – so being able to stay somewhere where you can cook your own meals was very welcome indeed. And, I just love a supermarket shop in another country. Let’s just say that we could have done it cheaper but shopping at Whole Foods was worth it.
7. There are plenty of dining out options nearby if you prefer. We only chose to eat out one night – but it was a good one. We walked (about 25 minutes) to early dinner at Buzz’s Original Steakhouse, kicking off proceedings with a Mai Tai. It was all that we hoped it would be and more. Buzz’s is on the Obamas’ dining out list but we didn’t run into them that night. I think they were on to us!
8. You don’t need a gym, you’ve got the Pillbox Hike. In my head I thought we might do a quick trot up the Pillbox every day. The hike gets its name from the two military “pillbox” bunkers situated across the Kaiwa Ridge that rises up behind Lanikai – the entry was about 800m from our accommodation. It’s about a 20-30 minute climb to the top. A bit of a warning if you’re trying this – it is a steep climb from the get-go. There’s even a rope at the bottom to help you up the first bit and we had the added “challenge” of the track being muddy from the overnight rains. Think slippery, clay-like mud. We were rewarded with incredible views but after crab walking back down down, I was all, “well, that’s done. TICK.” Glad I made the fam wear matching Hawaii run shirts for the occasion, though!
9. If you’ve always wanted to kayak, it doesn’t get much better than this. Sadly, it was way too windy for us to contemplate a kayak trip out to the Mokulua islands but when the wind is offshore, it’s like a lake and perfect for novices. Check out Kailua Beach Adventures.
10. You are 40-60 minutes away from anywhere on Oahu. We hired a car for the week via Alamo in Waikiki – this was a very reasonable cost. It would be very tricky to have a stay at Lanikai without transport. There is a local bus but it’s a minimum 30-minute walk to the nearest shop for supplies. A car also gives you the freedom to explore further afield. We did a trip to the North Shore, taking the long way via the eastern coastal road, to see some of the waves we didn’t see on our summer 2016 trip (spoiler alert: the swell isn’t always pumping – it was dropping the day we visited and the beach was still too rough to swim at). It was also too rough for any swimming with turtles in a couple of spots that we’d been given the heads up about. On another day, we headed south to Hanauma Bay (30 minutes away); and on another to Waikele Premium Outlets (about 30 minutes away).
This part of the Oahu was exactly what we needed for this particular holiday. It was restorative, beautiful, and left us feeling that we were saying goodbye to a friend you know you’ll see again.
So, tell me, have you visited Lanikai? Any more tips to add? Where did you stay? Hit me up with your questions if you’re thinking of going here …
* This holiday was booked and paid for independently.
Why I think travel insurance is as important as your passport
For me, I don’t book a holiday without first taking out travel insurance. Often the time of booking flights and accommodation can be long before the time of travel and you can never be certain of what might happen between then and showing your passport at customs.
I then want to take off knowing that if someone in my family needs it, I’m backed up with help from my travel insurance company. For all my recent international trips – to Europe, Hawaii, Bali, Japan and New Zealand – I’ve chosen and paid for Allianz travel insurance. I also take out Allianz travel insurance for any domestic travel or road trips we do.
In my experience, obtaining Allianz travel insurance is a simple and easy process. I select and purchase my cover online. I’ve found that the insurance cover is competitive in price for the inclusions I select.
For me, it’s about having peace of mind when we travel. I want to know that if anything goes wrong, I have purchased a policy that includes medical help if travelling overseas or simply help with additional accommodation or replacement belongings should something be stolen.
When our son injured himself while snowboarding in Japan, we weren’t concerned about being out of pocket for the potential expense of his treatment. And when I book holidays in advance, I do so with the knowledge that if unexpected cancellations occur, I’m insured.^
In short, I don’t leave home – or book a holiday – without it.
Book with Allianz Travel Insurance online HERE. Enter STYLINGYOU to receive up to 10% off Allianz Comprehensive Travel Insurance*
*Discount based on standard premium rates and applies to International Comprehensive policies only. Please note some discounts may have already been applied to premiums when a product is purchased through a certain channel (for example, online) (Original Discount). In such a case, the greater of the discount offered under this voucher and the Original Discount will be applied. Discount applies to standard premiums only. No discount will be applied to other premium components such as pre-existing medical condition cover.
Allianz Travel Insurance is issued and managed by AWP Australia Pty Ltd ABN 52 097 227 177 AFS Licence No. 245631, trading as Allianz Global Assistance, on behalf of the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFS Licence No. 234708. Styling You have entered into a commercial arrangement with AWP to write this blog post. Styling You does not operate under an Australian Financial Services Licence. Before making a decision please consider the Product Disclosure Statement which is available at allianz.com.au.
^Terms, conditions, limits, and exclusions apply. Styling You does not operate under an Australian Financial Services Licence. Before making a decision please consider the Product Disclosure Statement which is available at allianz.com.au. If you purchase a policy, Allianz Global Assistance receives a commission, which is a percentage of your premium – ask them for more details before they provide you with any services on this product.
My 10-step packing guide for any destination
For me, the holiday planning is all part of the excitement and anticipation of being on that escape. I love nothing more than going down the rabbit hole that is the internet looking for inspiration and ideas for what to do at the chosen destination but also for the types of clothes and accessories that will best suit that destination at the time that I’m travelling.
The formula I use for packing is one that can be adapted and applied to every destination and type of holiday. It’s not complicated. If you follow all the steps it’s quite liberating. I can’t ever imagine returning to my bad old days of throwing everything into a suitcase, sitting on said suitcase to get it closed, and hoping that I’d packed what I needed.
Want to get that formula? It’s all in my e-book.
Last year I released my e-book, How to plan and pack for your next holiday (confessions of a reformed over-packer) and I’m excited to let you know that it’s had a 2018 update and an expansion with some new chapters.