I just spent four nights at a beautiful beach side hostel on the North Shore of Oahu, hiking in the mornings and relaxing on the beach in the afternoon. It sounds picture perfect, but I also cried at least once every day I was there.
I forgot how HARD solo travel was. And I don’t just mean figuring everything out all by yourself, or making friends, or speaking different languages, I mean having to spend so much time by yourself. On my last big solo trips, I was so comfortable with being alone not because I didnt have friends at home, but because I’ve always valued my solitude and it wasn’t that much of a change. This year, I moved home to Nova Scotia and I live with my best friend, down the street from my parents, AND I met a boy. So basically, I’m barely ever alone anymore, and I got used to it. Throwing myself into 4.5 months of alone time was very jarring and I’m still not quite adapted.
Anyway, emotional trauma aside, I have been doing some amazing things. The hostel I stayed at, Backpackers Hawaii, is full of chickens and lizards and it doesn’t have air conditioning, but it was perfect! The dorms have a kitchen right in them, everything you could need is walking distance away, and it’s got that cool surfer vibe.
On my first day, I hiked up to the Ekuhai Pillboxes and loved it. The Pillboxes are old military installations and they have amazing views out over the North Shore. If you do this hike, it starts at Sunset Beach Elementary and the trail to the first pillbox is really clear. Keep hiking parallel to the coast and you’ll reach the second pillbox, with a giant peace sign painted on it and WAY better views. I stayed up here for over an hour chatting with other hikers and journalling. Also, near the base of the hike is my favorite little smoothie food truck – Sunrise Shack. So yummy!
After my first day it started raining, so some of the more challenging hikes I wanted to do were thwarted by mud. One afternoon I walked up to an old sacrifice site about thirty minutes from my hostel – less of a hike and more of a terrifying walk along the sides of many, many switchbacks that cars came careening around. Also, there was a homeless man with a giant knife on his back walking up too who said a very creepy hello to me. At the top I admired the lovely view of Waimea Bay, and then asked a nice couple if they would drive me down the hill to avoid death by car or homeless man – they were happy to do so and it turns out they live in the same city as me!!
Speaking of Waimea Bay, this is actually the only place I was able to get in the water up here. I am honestly a terrible swimmer – I can get by, but I have no faith in my ability to escape a strong current and I’m terrified of waves. The North Shore is known for huge swells and strong currents, which sounds like my personal hell. So any beach with waves on the shore was out for swimming – at Waimea Bay it was flat enough for me to get in for a dip.
My favorite beach, however, was Sunset Beach. The first morning I was kind of jetlagged so I woke up around 7 and decided to take advantage of the beautiful morning light. I walked over 4 miles down to Sunset Beach and I could not believe how beautiful it was with the golden reflections of the sand and water. It felt like something out of a fairy tale.
I also came back the next day with some friends from the hostel – we rented bikes, which was a much smarter way to get there. We bought some beer and biked over, getting caught in the rain halfway through. Arriving at Sunset Beach it was absolutely POURING so we took shelter unsuccessfully under a tree until we moved into a bathroom (lol) to stay dry. We had a lovely evening playing drinking games and laughing and finally running over to the beach when sunset appeared and the rain tailed off. This night really restored my faith in solo travel.
Final thoughts on the North Shore: it’s amazing but it’s one place I think I would have enjoyed more with a friend. It’s so quiet and I just wasn’t ready for this kind of spot yet. I was surprised how easily I could do it on a budget though: the hostel is $32 US a night, I easily ate well on $20 US a day and you can get around with either buses or bikes.
Even to get up here if you’re pinching pennies or can’t rent a car, it’s a long bus ride from Honolulu but you get to see the whole Windward coast in relative comfort. And for $5.50 for a day pass, it’s the best deal in town. I’m on the return trip right now, ready to enjoy Waikiki Beach and hopefully cry a little less!