Yes, you are reading me correctly. I really did mean to type sandwiches instead of bliss, sunshine, fun, or any of the other things that could have occupied the space at the end the title. Our 12 days of vacation were indeed blissful days of fun in the sun but far and away the most constant feature of the whole trip was the sandwiches. For 12 days straight we had either a peanut butter or a ham sandwich for lunch. We had one at Diamond Head, one at the Dole Plantation, one on the beach in Waikiki, one or two on the North Shore, and a whole bunch in-flight. Soon they became more than just a convenience; they became something to look forward too. Weird, right? A simple sandwich can go from boring to superstar all depending on where you eat it.
But the sandwiches weren’t without purpose. Hawaii is an expensive place. Milk $6 a gallon, bread $3 for the generic loaf, and gas pushing $5 a gallon. Here’s how we kept the trip affordable.
We rented an apartment through Airbnb. For $65/night we got a full kitchen, full bath, access to laundry facilities, wifi, and an amazing view. We also had a 42” TV, which wasn’t so much noteworthy as it was just odd to find in a relatively small apartment (300 square feet). The plus of this space, besides being cheap, was that it was relaxing. We were away from the hustle and bustle of the city and tourist areas.
We ate like we lived there…thus the sandwiches. Breakfast was cereal and dinner usually came from a drive-inn. L & L Hawaiian BBQ is everywhere on the island and compared to what you get, they are super cheap! Every entrée is under $10 and comes with 2 scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and enough meat to feed two people.
We rented a hybrid car. Oahu is a small island – about 120 miles to go completely around it. The ultimate cheap would have been to ride the bus but when we looked at travel times, a good chunk of every day would have been spent just riding, so instead we opted for an economy car. The “peanut” as we affectionately named it had a 9 gallon gas tank. We filled it twice and had half a tank left when we took it back. I’m pretty sure it averaged 45 miles per gallon.
Coupons! You have no idea how much I love coupons and there are so many of them online and in the travel brochures that you almost never have to pay full price to do anything in Oahu. Angie took a surfing lesson at Blue Rush Surf School for $29 (courtesy of Amazon Local) and it even came with a free shave ice. We got a BOGO for the Dole Plantation maze from the Ultimate Oahu Guide (saved $6). We would have gotten a free gift at our luau but somebody was so excited she left her coupon in her wallet.
Almost everything we did was free – except surfing and the luau. If it cost more than a few bucks, we passed on it and I don’t think either of feels we were cheated out of any experiences. We hiked Diamond Head and Manoa Falls, visited a Buddhist temple, snorkeled Shark’s Cove, strolled the shops in Waikiki, visited several beaches, and took the free tour of Pearl Harbor.
We also went on our own “food tour”, tasting pineapples, nuts, coffee, and so much more for free. The Manoa Chocolate Factory and Tropical Farms are both near Kaneohe where we were staying. Manoa is an artisan chocolate company that makes everything on site. We tasted some really exotic flavors like Ghost Pepper, Goat’s Milk, and Black Lava Sea Salt dark chocolates. They offer tours for $10 but if you come when they aren’t busy, they’ll show you the process for free. Tropical Farms also offers tours for $20 but we skipped the opportunity to be crammed into a converted bus with 3 dozen tourists and went straight for the samples instead. They have every imaginable flavor of macadamia nuts – coffee glazed, sea salt, garlic and onion, and more. Farmer’s Markets are a good place to sample goodies too. The Haleiwa Farmer’s Market is held on the North Shore on Thursday afternoons. There we had more mac nuts and a delicious taste of a goat cheese and coffee cheesecake.
We shopped like a local. People who live on Oahu don’t buy their pineapples at Dole, where they are $15 apiece. They don’t buy their coffee, their chocolates, or their Hawaiian shirts from Hilo Hattie. They shop at Walmart, Long’s Drugs, and the grocery store. We scored great deals at Long’s (which is really just CVS). By signing up for a rewards card we got 20% off plus a $3 coupon. We promptly used that to buy 8 bags of Lion Coffee for $3.99/bag and two boxes of chocolate covered mac nuts ($2.49/each). These things, a postcard, and two $5 t-shirts were our only souvenirs.
I haven’t finished the final tally of our trip yet but I’m projecting that it cost somewhere around $2200, including flights, lodging, car rental, gas, food, and entertainment. Not included is our 2 day stay in Los Angeles prior to leaving for Hawaii. That was a trip all in itself. Regardless the cost (as MasterCard would say), the experience was priceless. I may never be able to look at a jar of peanut butter again without thinking of sandy beaches, warm breezes, and lazing the days away on an island in the Pacific.
One final note on the sandwiches – I’d like to thank the LaQuinta Inn near LAX for supplying the bread for 3 of our 12 days of sandwiches. Nothing beats a free breakfast bar!