A place of tranquility and the slow-paced island life…
Where the calming music plays in the background as you walk to Waikiki beach...
Yep, this was life…well seven days and six nights of it anyways.
We got to experience just a dab of that Hawaiian lifestyle that has been on the top of my bucket list since I was able to write. But more importantly I had made a deal with the woman of my life, my mom. Flashback 15 years ago when I decided to tell my mom that ‘one day I would take her to Hawaii’ because why not?? I felt, after all, that she deserved it. This was the woman who supported me throughout my hormonal teenage years and put up with me through all my temper tantrums and wanderlust dreams so in my mind it was the least I could do. Over the years, it became an ongoing joke between the two of us, until one cold autumn night I turned to my mom and stated that it was time to book our trip. Of course, my mother laughed it off stating that I was crazy. As her laughter turned into a slight concern that I was actually serious, I hopped onto the computer, checking airline prices and began clicking those beautiful buttons that confirmed a future adventure awaited us. Soon we would be laying beach side in Oahu, Hawaii.
This was going to be our first mother-daughter trip. A true bonding experience and a time where we could shop, eat, and relax on the sandy beach while reminiscing about the cold Canadian winter back home. When we arrived in Honolulu, we instantly felt the warm humid air against our skin and prayed that this week would bring us good weather. My mom quickly realized that my backpacking bargaining skills would come in hand, especially when hunting for a taxi to take us to our hotel. That was an adventure all on its own as I set the price with the driver before entering any vehicle caring less about taxi meters. With Hawaii being so expensive, I was on a mission to save every penny we could. Fortunately, our first experience with a local (our taxi driver) was amazing and he provided us with some local options for food and beaches outside of the busy Waikiki strip.
We planned to spend most of the days ahead sun-tanning and cooling off in the lush blue ocean. At night we decided to treat ourselves to different dine out experiences along the Waikiki strip. We enjoyed people watching and sipping on a fresh pineapple drink. In all my travel experiences, I could not believe the extent of Waikiki’s shopping. Expensive stores including Gucci, Fendi and Chanel were jam packed of people all hours of the day. Japanese tourists flooded the stores and I can say that they sure do know how to shop!!! We were officially impressed! So much so, that we found two husbands asleep on a bench as their wives continued to buy their expensive skin products. However, it wasn’t too long until we found ourselves shopping for deals…but it seemed that all we left Hawaii with was a painted medal rooster that my mom found at a Ross store. We walked the street with pride as we showed off our purchase while a woman holding her newly purchased Chanel and Coach Bags passed us. To this day my mom still loves her colourful rooster, a prized possession in the family home.
Most mornings we were blessed with breakfast cereals complimentary from our hotel. In the background we listened to “somewhere over the rainbow” as a Hawaiian dancer performed for all the sun-burnt guests. Since we had already budgeted out our adventures for the week, including hiking up to the top of Diamond Head (a giant crater), we decided that it would be cost-saving to take public transit to the base of the park. As we waited at the bus stop for what appeared to feel like a lifetime, a rugged looking taxi driver wearing a sun-visor and traditional Hawaiian-flowered t-shirt pulled up in an unmarked van, asking us if we wanted a ride. Instantly, I felt my mother’s body language become hesitant by this odd man, questioning the legitimacy of the taxi, but I saw it as an opportunity to get to Diamond Head… for a bargain! (Also, I saw that a taxi meter was in the van and his id was posted on the side). I began to state that I was only willing to pay the same price as the bus ($2.50US pp, a total cost of $5US). The driver responded back with a price of $6US but I smiled back waiting for him to take the bait of my initial price. Irritated the driver gestured us to get in and away we went. Within that fifteen minute journey to the base of Diamond Head, this man was in disbelief about the “cheapness” of bargaining with a taxi. “You…you are cheap!” he stated. “You are a young beautiful woman, how did you learn to bargain?” he continued onwards as my mom continued to laugh, appearing uneasy as I played along with the conversation. Once we arrived to our destination, we thanked the driver and tipped him an extra $1US for his humorous disbelief that I would bargain any taxi ride.
Continuing on with our day, laughing about my new label of ‘cheapness’ in Hawaii, we hiked Diamond Head and enjoyed the breathtaking viewpoints. The mid-day heat had gotten the best of us as we were so distracted by our taxi experience we had forgotten to put sunscreen on!!! Trekking back down the crater, we desperately tried to cover up our poor shoulders, legs and in my case, nose! We decided that we wanted to try out public transit and began walking to the bus stop. Suddenly, we realized that our determined taxi driver was waiting for us, standing in front of his van, carelessly dressed with his shirt coming out of his fly (pants zipper). My mom was in disbelief feeling embarrassed that we had to acknowledge him. As he attempted to persuade us to take another ride for a minimal price, we politely declined. While we stood at the bus stop, the determined driver pulled up with other passengers already in the van and asked us if we wanted to join…we politely declined. Other tourists waiting at the stop appeared to be slightly confused but we smiled back as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. When the bus finally arrived we quickly sought out relief from our burning skin as we made our way to the ABC store, situated at every corner along Waikiki. Luckily for us Aloe Vera was on sale!
In the following days, we embraced our lobster-like appearance and decided to take day trips including visiting the Polynesian Cultural Centre and Pearl Harbor. As a backpacker at heart usually I would try to get to these locations by myself but I can tell you it is worth the time, hassle and money to get tours. Especially after our taxi driver experience! By the way…we would recommend checking out both sites in a heartbeat.
The Polynesian Cultural Centre allows you to get educated about the Polynesian islands, traditional customs and people. Ensure to take the early day tour and stay for the fire dancing show at night. Ninety percent of individuals who work at the cultural Centre, origin from Polynesia, and are students studying at the nearby University. The cost of your ticket provides these young people an opportunity to study aboard, and learn about their cultural customs for a discounted tuition at the University. The day trip to the north of Oahu Island provided that surreal green lush scenery, complete with those spectacular views made famous from the movie Jurassic Park.
Pearl Harbor was the last stop on our Hawaiian adventure. And this memorial site is worth checking into if you are a history fanatic like me! My mom and I were amazed by the impact Pearl Harbor still has on the island today. Thousands of people come to pay their respects to those who lost their lives on December 7th, 1941. It is important to book your tickets ahead of time as the memorial site is located in the heart of the US navy base and tickets are limited per day. I was surprised on how expensive this activity was to visit but considering I had it as a bucket list item to paying my respects, my mom and I decided that it was worth it. The tour guide provided amazing insight to this historic event and without hassle of time or stress it ended up being cheaper than going on your own.
However, the best activity everyday was sitting on the beach at sunset. The twinkle lights along the beach set the perfect mood for the evening; completing each day with happiness. I was honored that I was able to experience it with my mom, a mother-daughter trip of a lifetime but more importantly a commitment to each other in past years that was followed through. Today, we joke about the next adventure… Cuba? New York? Maybe back to Hawaii? Yep, that sounds about right…time will only tell.
As we finished gambling at the MGM Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, the excitement came into mind that tomorrow I would be able to cross another thing off my bucket list: The Grand Canyon. Being a tourist pit-stop through the state of Arizona, it was only a 12 hour bus ride away...or at least that is what I thought. When I had booked Las Vegas as a surprise gift for our eight year anniversary, I knew that one of the days would be set aside to visit the Grand Canyon. However, I did not know that Thomas had a little surprise of his own once we got there.
With the camera charged and ready to go we waited in the MGM parking lot to be picked up. As a limo picked us up with other individuals already inside, we all were excited to share the Grand Canyon adventure. I felt that spark of luxury. My mind thinking "oh no big deal...just getting picked up in my limo to my helicopter that awaits us". Once we got to the landing pad site and signed away our lives, we waited with two other couples who would be joining us in the helicopter. Our pilot called out our number and away we went. Thomas and I sat behind the pilot and put on those giant headphones to be able to communicate to everyone. As our helicopter took off smoothly, the pilot began to tell us all about Nevada, Arizona and the Grand Canyon. He went into detail about the Hoover Dam and told us that we would be flying over the dam shortly.
After we flew over the massive concrete wall, we continued our journey to the Grand Canyon. This was also the point I began to realize that I may get sick on helicopter rides…. my stomach began to twist and turn as the aircraft continued to have a small shaking feeling. At one point, I remember telling Thomas on the intercom, not realizing I was speaking to everyone, that I was going to throw up. The response to my statement was not from Thomas but from the pilot who told me that there was a bag available if needed. I went quiet with embarrassment...
As we began to fly over the Grand Canyon, my body forgot that I was feeling sick but moreover, turned its perspective on the amazement of what was just underneath us. We had arrived!!! The sunlight hit the deep carved hole at the perfect time as shades of sandy oranges and reds went on for miles. As the helicopter began to descend into the canyon, the pilot stated that our picnic style lunch (wine included!) would be eaten while sitting in the middle of the Grand Canyon.
Once we had our photo opportunities with our beautiful surroundings and had some time to relax, the pilot stated that it was time to head back. After a so far perfect day, the older couple who had been sitting in the front of the helicopter asked us if we wanted to sit in the front on the way back as the shaking was less. I declined in politeness but the man insisted, stating that he was a pilot himself and they both had their fair share of flights. Thomas and I hopped into the front with the pilot and away we went. The way back was spectacular as the sunlight began to descend away from the canyon and the shades of colour diminished. When we saw the Las Vegas strip in the distance, we noticed the bright lights sparkling in the middle of a desert. It was only mid-day; however, the lights still sparkled between the gigantic hotels. Our helicopter turned towards the north side of the strip and headed straight over the massive hotels. Thomas and I felt that we lucked out with front row seats to an amazing end in our adventure. When we arrived back to our hotel room, we both looked at each other and knew that the experience was worth any ‘backpacker dime’ but also worth that extra check mark on my bucket list.