Despite my never setting foot in the Aloha State, I had island dreams. In the months leading up to my month-long journey, I read Mark Twain's witty and enamored account of his trip to the island for the San Francisco Chronicle. I played the old Hawaii Five-O in an ultra-marathon screening. I Google'd and practiced basic words on Hawaiian.
My first stop - Oahu.
My first stop was Waikiki Beach, and my hotel right off of the harbor. After long days of travel from New York - San Francisco - Honolulu, the first order of business was the hotel pool. I haven't seen crystal clear waters like this since my trip to Cuba in 2012.
The rugged days would come later.
A few days later, I moved out of my hotel and into a rental apartment with the perfect view of Waikiki and Diamond Head. As far as views go, I couldn't have asked for anything better. From my ample research, Diamond Head landed high on my list of things to see whilst on the island. Early one morning, we strolled the Waikiki main strip and climbed the Diamond rater Head with hot coffee in our hands. From the top, the dense Waikiki Village seemed far removed, as did the suburban houses clustered at the base of the mountains opposite.
Ask anyone about the best snorkeling spot in Oahu and you'll find yourself being pointed to the way of Hanauma Bay. This pristine marine life conservation is home to hundreds of fish and many sea turtles. Time starts to slow down when you're in the bay. A few times, I found myself re-emerging out of the water only to learn that I'd spent last hour was spent chasing after playful fish.
I came to Hawaii for many reasons. I wanted to sit on the beach, catch the whales migrating, and learn the Aloha way. But I also came to stretch out my legs in open fields and challenging mountainsides that are not so accessible in Manhattan, New York. I spent many days hiking the Island, but of all the trails blazed, the most satisfying hike was a direct ascend to the top of Koko Head Crater. Certainly, this hike is much more popular with locals than Diamond Head. There is something thrilling about climbing an old railroad track one mile up the side of a mountain.
Once at the top, Honolulu lies at your feet.