‘O Veronica ko‘u inoa. No Salt Lake City Utah mai au. Hele au i ke kula nui ’o Hawai‘I Pacific.
If you weren’t able to catch what that means without using google translate, I said… Hello! My name is Veronica. I am from Salt Lake City Utah and I go to Hawaii Pacific University. (My Hawaiian language professor would be proud that I retained at least that much from my Hawaiian language course 😉)
This post is to introduce you to a little bit more about me and why I chose to make the big move to Hawaii!
Like I previously stated, I am originally from Salt Lake City Utah but I now live in Honolulu Hawaii. I have been in Hawaii on and off for the past three years! I say on and off because I spent a semester abroad in Thailand and Australia and a little bit of unplanned time back home.
I started my Hawaiian journey in the fall of 2015 for my first semester at Hawaii Pacific University. Throughout high school, I never had any intention of going to school in Hawaii or anywhere outside of Utah for that matter. I had plans of going to a community college for two years and then who knows after that. I knew I wanted to go to school but I did not think I could afford it or that I could stick with it for four years. I was the typical high school graduate that was all about making money. So, I worked, and worked, and worked.
One day on my Facebook page I saw a friend post that they got accepted to play volleyball at Hawaii Pacific University. This was the first that I had ever heard of the school. I clicked on the link to “Hawaii Pacific University” and that is where it all started.
I became obsessed with the school and every detail about it. Who wouldn’t want to go to school in Hawaii?! Obviously my first reactions were that this was just a dream and I would never be able to actually do it. Too expensive, too far, too late to apply… the list went on.
At this point in time I hated my job and really wanted a change. I did not want to remain in Utah for the rest of my life. So, I decided to apply.
Not thinking too much into it, I received a large envelope from the school and knew this had to be it. My acceptance letter had arrived, and not only was I accepted, but I also received a scholarship! This would help the financial costs of moving to Hawaii tremendously. And for those wondering how I afford to go to school in Hawaii, please just take a moment to compare the prices of any school in Hawaii to the school you are currently going to or planning on going to. Hawaii Pacific University was the same price as one of the most expensive schools in Utah. I feel like often times people do not thoroughly do their research and miss out on opportunities that would really make them happy.
After receiving my letter, I was in tears and could not believe how much my life was about to change. From this point on I was 100% determined to go to HPU and graduate from college.
To some this may not seem like that big of an accomplishment, now it seems everyone goes away to college and furthers their education, but for me I am a first-generation college student, and this was a very big step for me. I would be the first out of my family to leave Utah.
Fast forward six months… The long six-hour flight to Honolulu Hawaii. I was ready. Ready for my new life to start. I stepped off the plane and the nerves instantly kicked in. I was about to enter my first real adventure into the unknown. And this is where it all began…
For this section, I really want to focus on the expectations and realities of moving to Hawaii. We live in this digital era where everyone believes that the pictures you post on Instagram are your actual reality. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but photos only tell two seconds out of a life that was aimed for the right shot. We want the most likes, the most views, but what is the reality? I want to share with you my reality that I live with every day in Oahu Hawaii.
Honolulu Hawaii is not what you would typically expect when picturing Hawaii. Whenever someone thinks of Hawaii they usually think of palm trees, beaches, crystal blue water, and pure paradise. Well… there are palm trees, beaches, semi-blue water but it is far from your typical paradise. Honolulu Hawaii is just another city surrounded by a body of water and beautiful tropical mountains.
Before I arrived in Hawaii, I obviously google earthed every inch of Honolulu, so I could get an idea of what to expect. I was not prepared for what was to come as soon as I stepped off that plane…
I was in a shuttle van from Honolulu International Airport to Waikiki. I could tell we were in the city with no beach in sight. We passed by downtown Honolulu (where my university is located) and all we saw were tents and tarps covering the sidewalks. At first, I had no idea what this was. Then I realized. These were the makeshift homes for the homeless. I could not believe how many homeless people I saw on the streets.
I am quite used to seeing homeless congregations as I am from Salt Lake City, Utah which has one of the highest homeless populations in the United States. However, I was not ready for this in a different environment. It was truly sad to see that this is how many Hawaiian natives, military veterans, traveling gurus, and even families were living each day.
I am not sure how the other islands of Hawaii are in regard to the homeless population, but this is something that people tend to avoid when talking about the “Hawaiian Paradise”.
In all honesty, it is hard to not face judgment when confronting a reality like homelessness. Although you see many homeless people when you first get to Honolulu it is not all what you expect. Many are truly very nice and just want to have a conversation with you. It’s sad and disheartening to put it this way, but you get used to it… You truly want to help everyone you see and wish they could live on the island as you do.
When traveling to Hawaii you have the expectations of friendly local faces with surfers and locals on every corner. Facing the realities that Honolulu is another city that does have many of the same problems as cities on the mainland do is something that I encourage all travelers to take in. Know that you will face situations like this where it is instantly disconcerting, especially when you are moving somewhere. Remain positive and open to the new experiences that you will face on your journey. Be kind and remember everyone has a story.
This week with expectations versus reality in Oahu Hawaii, I want to talk about grocery shopping! Have you ever paid $10 for a gallon of milk?! Welp, I have. MULTIPLE TIMES! I am hoping to give you a little insight on what to expect when paying for groceries in Hawaii.
When I moved to Hawaii for school I originally expected that I would be eating tons of local fruit and vegetables from the island. We all know pineapple and coconuts are very popular when you think of Hawaii and don’t worry, they still are! However, what you expect from Hawaii food and grocery shopping is completely different.
Food here is so expensive! When people talk about how milk is $10 a gallon, they were not lying. However, this is only if you go to the gas station for milk. Milk at Walmart or Safeway is around $4 which is really not that much more than the mainland… just double!
Anything that must be shipped refrigerated or frozen to Hawaii is going to be expensive. So, forget about buying ice cream or any of your TV dinners when you come to Hawaii unless you want to pay an arm and a leg for it. This is especially hard when you are a broke college student living a ramen noodle and mac n cheese diet. But I have two words for you that will help tremendously when grocery shopping in Hawaii… Farmers Markets.
Farmers Markets will save you from gaining the freshman 20 that everyone talks about if you are a college student when moving to the island. The produce at farmers markets may still be more expensive than what you can get on the mainland, but it will be so much cheaper than your local grocery store. The people running the farmers markets are so welcoming and friendly and truly want your business. There are markets that happen all over the island on different days of the week. My basket usually consists of fresh pineapple, spinach, apples, bell peppers, jalapenos, etc.
Also, if you go to a local farmers market in Hawaii, I highly suggest going to the musubi tent or booth. Chances are, they will have one. Musubi’s are basically white sticky rice, a slice of spam (or other kind of meat), formed in the shape of a block and wrapped with seaweed. So delicious! And you cannot come to Hawaii and not try a spam musubi!
So, when you are planning on coming to Hawaii and staying for a bit, I highly suggest you keep note of the grocery expenses that you will be making. It is hard to not get everything you usually get at the grocery store but there are many alternatives the island has to offer. You just need to do a little more researching and catching up with the locals.
I am back and here to talk about something that I get asked CONSTANTLY about! What are the best hikes and beaches in Hawaii?! Well, I can only speak on behalf of the island of Oahu but I will share my personal favorites.
Let’s start off with hikes.
The first hike that I highly recommend doing on Oahu is the Pink Pillbox Hike on the Westside of Oahu. You can find this hike by googling that title. This hike has the most breathtaking views of the west side mountains and ocean. The pillboxes at the top of the hike are all decorated pink with breast cancer awareness ribbons and markings. I would consider this an easy hike that many people can do. Helpful Hint: Make sure your car is locked and you have nothing showing through the windows. Many cars get broken into on the westside and it can be very dangerous.
The next popular hike takes places in Lanikai Oahu. This is my favorite spot on the entire island and chances are you have seen a picture from here before. It has one of the most popular beaches and hikes on the island. I would recommend first going on the hike and then heading down to the beach after. Like the Pink Pillbox Hike this hike also has two pillboxes at the top that you can take your best new profile picture or Insta-worthy photos. This hike is also very popular among tourists, so I would recommend going early in the morning or late in the evening before sunset.
Koko Head… or shall I say 1,048 railroad steps of doom! This hike is not an easy one. It is one of the most popular for those looking for an incredible workout that gets your heart pumping. The Koko Head hike is located on the East side of Oahu and is very easy to get to. You will also see the miserable staircase on your drive there. I absolutely love this hike but if you plan on doing it, make sure you go during sunrise or sunset, brings A LOT of water, and prepare to not do anything the next day because you are going to be sore. I guarantee it.
Those are the top three hikes that are personally my favorite on the island.
Next, let’s talk about beaches.
I already stated my favorite beach on the entire island which is Lanikai beach, now I will tell you my least favorite beach. Waikiki… This may come as a surprise to you as Waikiki is hands down the most popular tourist destination in all of Hawaii. It is slammed with tourists constantly and honestly that is why I particularly do not like it. I would rather take the extra 20-minute drive somewhere else that is less crowded. The beach is nothing compared to others on the island. It may have a nice view, but so do all the other beaches but with less tourists and less hotels surrounding it.
Another beach I would highly recommend when traveling to Oahu is basically any beach on the North Shore. They are all incredible! Sunset beach is an amazing one to go to if you are looking for a great long sunset to enjoy. The beach is huge, and you will not be side by side with other people visiting the beach.
These hikes and beaches are only some of the amazing things to do on Oahu. There is so much to explore and so many incredible people to meet on this beautiful island. Everyone has their own favorites and I am sure you will too if you get the chance to come out here.
Also, please remember to be one with the Āina and pick up after yourself.