WLHQ: Insiders Guide to O'ahu
This is the second blog in our series of "in-house" blog posts from Wanderlust Headquarters (WLHQ), with the aim of sharing with you a bit about who we are, what we value and the challenges that we grapple with. You'll learn a little bit about what we do here, and why we work throughout the year to bring your four days of epic adventure and transformation in beautiful places (hint: it's because you people who come together to make Wanderlust happen provide us with ample inspiration to work the next 361 days to make the next gathering even more unforgettable). And we thank you for that.
We hear from our Assistant Graphic Designer, Maria, who grew up on the island where we're having our next festival, which is a huge asset for insider knowledge! She shares her hot tips for what not to miss when visiting O'ahu with us next month:
As the "resident Hawaiian" in the Wanderlust office, I'm beyond excited for Wanderlust to leap across the pond and plop softly into warm, Polynesian sand. To quell your suspicions, no, I'm not a Native Hawaiian, but I happened to grow up in the islands until I came to the mainland for college. I know and cherish the islands, in particular the isle of O'ahu, where I was raised in a little mountain village called Maunawili.
To lend some island spirit to the fest, I'm dedicating my designated Wanderlust HQ blog post to the place I love most - and happen to have in common with Wanderlust. Without further ado... my favorite places & your locals-only guide to O'ahu, Hawai'i:
1. Maunawili Falls Hike
My extended backyard doubles as one of the island's best (and muddiest) casual hikes. This gorgeous 3-mile hike lies in the heart of the jungle and crisscrosses across a stream all the way to a glorious waterfall and pool. The rock faces surrounding the waterfall are popular cliff-jumping destinations and are always lively on a weekend. The hike was also featured in Jason Mraz's music video for his radio-heavy single "I'm Yours"- check it out here.
2. Ala Moana Mall
The most upscale and largest mall in all of Hawaii is also the coolest. Entirely outdoors and surrounded by greenery, the mall is one of the only places on O'ahu where locals and tourists are in harmony. Great shops, tasty restaurants, and satisfying food court with local specialties. Plus, it's across the street from gorgeous Ala Moana Beach Park.
3. Punahou School's Lily Pond
I was privileged to attend Punahou School, the largest independent school in the US, and a scenic haven for learning tucked in Manoa valley. Besides having legendary alumni- among them Steve Case (founder of AOL) and Barack Obama (no explanation necessary) - the school itself is built upon a Hawaiian legend. Ka Punahou in Hawaiian means the New Spring - and myth has it an old man in dry, barren land recurrently dreamed there was water beneath a tree in his backyard. He eventually pulled up the tree and a spring flowed- the stream that formed the Lily Pond at Punahou School. True or not, it's a great story to recount when dipping your feet in the lily pond and letting the fish nibble on them.
4. Malaekahana Beach
In Hawaii, you've got your pick of incredibly beautiful and semi-private beaches. There are few places you can walk the beach all day and only see a handful of people. My favorite beach, just a little ways from Turtle Bay on the North Shore, is dreamy. Turquoise waters, naturally sculpted driftwood, an island within swimming distance, and a stone stairway to nowhere make this beach unique. The spot is my family's favorite place and where I most often had often picnics while I lived in Hawaii.
5. Ulupo Hei'au
A Hei'au is an ancient Hawaiian burial ground and place of worship, and Ulupo Hei'au is one of the most beautiful, secluded and spiritual places on the island. I went to middle school nearby in Kailua and we would always walk through the Hei'au to get to the YMCA, which happens to share some of the same space. The land itself is a lush mix of taro wetlands, exotic plants and flowers, activity spaces and the enormous Hei'au itself, which is a pile of hundreds of thousands of hand-piled lava rock. The energy of the place is tranquil, renewing, and flush in Hawaiian tradition.
That's my guide to some of my favorite places in Hawaii. And after Wanderlust O'ahu, The North Shore is guaranteed to be one of yours. Aloha!