In the midst of the COVID-19 blues and being stuck at home I thought it would be fun to reflect on one of the highlights of my year abroad…Spring Break! For a week in February students across Canada finally get to have a rest from all the hard work at university and the vast majority spend it going away somewhere. I hadn’t really thought much about what I would do with Spring Break until a couple of my friends started excitedly talking about finding really cheap plane tickets to – drum roll please – Hawaii!! Yep, you heard right, we were going to be spending a week on the tiny island of Oahu in the Pacific Ocean (aka paradise) 6 hours away from Vancouver. If someone had told me before I had ventured on my year abroad that I would get the chance to visit somewhere as cool as Hawaii I would have split my sides laughing. But there ya go, year abroads are full of surprises!
We stayed in a lovely little hostel which was about a 5 minute walk away from Waikiki Beach, a beautiful sandy beach dotted with palm trees and surrounded by clear blue ocean. When we arrived we spent the first day walking around pinching ourselves that this was real. I have never seen so many stunning sunsets and rainbows. We soaked up the atmosphere in the evening watching a local hula dance show on the beach front, with each dance telling a different tale.
We made sure to pack the week with day trips to explore the island as much as we could – which did mean a lot of long hot bus journeys! It’s safe to say public transport in Hawaii is not as reliable as the Oxford Road bus route in Manchester – but exploring the island is doable without having to hire a car! We visited Pearl Harbour and learnt about the role of Hawaii in WW2; wandered around the botanical gardens and Chinatown in Honolulu; snorkelled in the crystal blue waters of Hanauma Bay where we spotted parrot fish, a Hawaiian Monk Seal and the famous Humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish (and if that’s too much of a mouthful, the Reef Triggerfish!); walked along the Makapu’u lighthouse trail in search of whales; and stuffed our faces with the local Asian-influenced cuisine.
One of the highlights for me was waking up at the ungodly hour of 5am to hike up Diamond Head (a volcanic cone) in time for sunrise. We hadn’t realised quite how busy it would be at this time but once we reached the summit and saw the sun rising over the ocean we understood why it was so popular. It was hands down one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. And soooo worth the 5am start!
I also loved spending a day in the town of Haleiwa in the north of the island, with its umpteen food trucks selling pineapples and garlic shrimps, and hundreds of chickens wandering down the streets. We stopped at Waimea Valley and walked through its luscious vegetation (many films have been shot here, from Jumanji to the Hunger Games) to its waterfall where we all donned lifejackets and floated around its 30 ft deep plunge pool. To finish the day off we sat on Sunset Beach to watch the sunset over the ocean and the handful of surfers still out, eating delicious Thai food. I remember sitting there thinking how incredibly lucky I was to be able to have this experience.
The trip wasn’t without any mishaps however! A group of us managed to get stranded on the east of the island because we’d underestimated how long it would take to walk around the coast to the lighthouse and we ended up having to get help from some very laid back Hawaiian cops who were chilling in the sun. We also underestimated their public transport system and once spent over an hour waiting for a bus to get back to our hostel – but at least we had the view of Koko crater to enjoy!
It just goes to show that spontaneous trips are often the best ones!