toward the end of our vacation in hawaii, we decided to rent a car and to drive all around the island in order to explore oahu. it was so nice to just drive along the coast line and to see all of the beautiful views of the ocean along the way. we made a point to stop at all of the must-see spots that were still left on our list.
the very first spot that we went to was the valley of the temples to see the byodo-in temple. the temple and the temple grounds were so peaceful and absolutely beautiful. after we left the temple, we made our way up the windward cost of oahu and we drove past mokoli'l island (which is known as "chinaman's hat" since its shape bares a resemblance to a straw hat).
as we continued driving up toward the north shore of the island, we passed by kualoa ranch and the gorgeous kualoa mountains. we stopped at both the shrimp shack and fumi's shrimp along the way for some lunch. (we tried the garlic shrimp, ginger shrimp, and coconut shrimp.) i can't even pick which one was my favorite because they were all so good. nothing beats fresh shrimp. seriously, they have shrimp ponds right out back!
we stopped at several different beaches along the way, including 'ehukai beach park where the bonzai pipeline is located. the waves really were huge! when we got up to the north shore, we peaked around the cute little town of hale'iwa. while we were there, we just had to stop for the famous shave ice at matsumoto's. have you heard about this place (on the food network or the travel channel maybe)? it is crazy famous. i tried the mango, pineapple, and coconut flavors.
on our way back to waikiki, we made our last stop at lanikai beach. this beach was on my must-see list because it is constantly ranked as one of the top ten beaches in the world! let me tell you, it did not disappoint. by far, lanikai beach was the most beautiful beach i have ever seen in my life. it was unbelievably gorgeous. i think i can now die happy after just seeing that beach.
we got some great exercise while we were in hawaii too. on our last full day in hawaii, we decided to hike diamond head volcano. before our hike, we enjoyed the view from the amelia earhart lookout at the base of diamond head, then we made the hike up the windy paths around the volcano's crater. the whole time, i just couldn't get over the fact that i was standing on a volcano. it was so cool. the view from the top of diamond head was absolutely amazing. we could see all of waikiki as well as the diamond head lighthouse.
as if one hike wasn't enough for one day, after we hiked diamond head we decided to hike up to the makapu'u lighthouse too. the second hike was even longer than the first, but it was totally worth it for the view of the (very tiny) lighthouse and the gorgeous lava cliffs that descend into the ocean.
we were totally exhausted from two hikes in one day (in ridiculously hot weather), so we ended our vacation on a high note with an awesome dinner with my parents at hula grill. it was probably one of the best meals we had in hawaii. we finished off the night with dessert (of course). my mom had coconut creme brulee which was served in a pineapple, and the rest of us had hula pie . . . hello, macadamia nut ice cream!
overall, it was a really awesome vacation. we had a great time in hawaii, and we were so thankful that we were able to share the experience with my parents. we sure waited a long time to be able to travel to hawaii, but it was definitely worth the wait! total paradise. we can't wait to go back some day!