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!
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.