A GUIDE TO HONOLULU - WHAT TO DO AND SEE AND WHERE TO STAY AND EAT ON THE ISLAND OF OAHU

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There is so much to say about this city and I have some regrets I waited so long to visit. Let’s not dwell on the the negatives and just focus on the fact that I got to visit Hawaii - Island of Oahu and I had the most incredible time - I cannot wait to return to the state and explore other Islands - I am looking forward to exploring Maui ; Lanai and Kauai. I visited the Island of Oahu and Honolulu is the largest settlement in Oahu. I spent five days on the Island including one day of lounging on the beach (all day) - It was excellent.

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GETTING THERE. There are direct flights from most major US cities - from NYC - it is eleven hours to Honolulu ; from Dallas/Houston - eight to nine hours ; from Los Angeles you have a six hour flight time. If you are planning a trip from London or Europe - you will have a challenge finding direct flights so I recommend flying to the West Coast or Dallas or Houston and then connecting from there for a direct flight to Honolulu. if not, you should plan for eighteen to twenty-fours hours travel time.

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GETTING AROUND. I recommend renting a car ; it will make life easier for you if you plan to explore the Island. If you intend to spend all your time on Waikiki, you may be able to get away without a car; but I think it is a huge miss to go to Oahu and only explore Waikiki. At the time of my visit, ride shares were not very popular and difficult to get during certain times of day. If you choose to rent a car - make sure you plan parking fees in your travel budget.

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WHERE TO STAY. I recommend staying near Waikiki Beach. I don’t recommend staying on the strip unless you have a large budget. Staying on the main strip of Waikiki can be a huge expense. I stayed at a hotel that was less than 10 mins walk to Waikiki ; from my balcony I could see the beach and I paid almost forty percent less than staying on the strip. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach and other than the morning when the elevator access was cut off - it was an excellent stay and the hotel made up for the inconvenience so no complaints from me. The Laylow hotel is also an incredible option - while I did not stay here, I visited enough time during my time in Honolulu to know it is a great option.

Waikiki
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HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED. I was in Hawaii for eight days - I had work commitment from Tuesday to Friday and stayed on my own account until Wednesday night so I had five full days to explore the Island and one of those days was spent lounging on the beach and another beach hopping in North shore.

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WHERE TO EAT. The food in Honolulu is amazing and I probably say that about every city I visit because besides doing my research on the city; I spend a lot of time researching the best places to eat; I talk to locals about their favorite spots to eats and make my dining decisions from that list. Don’t leave Honolulu without trying local Hawaiian delicacy - Ono’s Hawaiian food and Helena’s Hawaiian food. Ono’s is now permanently closed and I still feel incredibly lucky to have dined there just before they closed their doors after fifty years. Helena’s is equally delicious. Shaved ice is big in Oahu and I tried a lot of shaved iced - two spots I recommend are Matsumoto Shave Ice and Island Vintage coffee. Loco Moco is a local delicacy of rice ; hamburger meat and egg - sounds simple but so so good. I had an incredible brunch and Loco Moco at Koko head cafe. Other Brunch spots I recommend are LuLu’s and Heavenly Island lifestyle restaurant. Ramen at Marukame Udon was excellent. Malasada from Leonard’s was so good I ordered a dozen to take back home with me to the mainland; Shrimp Tacos at North Shore Taco (or Shrimp Tacos anywhere in North Shore); I stumbled on a Dim Sum spot in China Town called Mei Sum - it was delicious. For your coffee fix - I recommend Hideout Coffee at the Laylow hotel; Holoholo Café and Market for the best Iced coconut latter and Kona Coffee. Finally, don’t leave the island without trying Haupia Pie - a traditional coconut puddings. Many locals recommended Ted Bakery in North Shore and I was not disappointed.

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Loco Moco
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Leonard's Bakery
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Heavenly Cafe
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Heavenly Cafe
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Matsumoto Shave Ice
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WHERE TO EXPLORE. Honolulu has got a lot to offer and if you are traveling with a group with varying interests - it is the best destination because there will be something for everyone. If you want to lounge on the beach - I recommend Waikiki Beach - if you can go early to rent a lounge chair and umbrella - for $40 you can rent one for the day and it is worth every penny. On one of my days in the city , I did just that and laid out in the sun all day - napping; reading and eating. It was the best part of the trip. I also did the sunset cruise on Waikiki which I absolutely loved (once I got over my bout of sea sickness). If you are up for it , take a stroll on the beach - it is a lengthy stroll but it is very worth it - I did the trek at sunrise starting at the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue - it was incredibly beautiful - I got to watch surfers ride the first waves and see a sunrise wedding on the beach. My heart was full.

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For a beach less crowded - visit Lanakai beach - it is stunning. Hanauma Bay is an incredible reserve with a beautiful beach that is great for snorkeling. It is not free so plan accordingly if you add this to your itinerary. Sunset beach in North Shore - it is known for big waves in winter and it a lot less crowded than Waikiki.

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For jaw dropping views (and a workout ), there were three spots I thoroughly enjoyed hiking. Manoa falls is a great hike to see waterfalls - make sure you have proper foot wear. Diamond head hike rewards you with a stunning view of Waikiki - I saved it one for the last morning in Oahu . Makapu’u Point is very popular for tourists and locals alike and offers great views of Makapuʻu and Waimanalo Bay on one side and the Ka ʻIwi Channel on the other side. Nuʻuanu Pali is a cliff of the Koʻolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley has a beautiful panoramic view of the windward coast of Oʻahu.

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There are a few things that are uniquely Hawaiian (Honolulu) and highly recommended for your Itinerary. Do not miss the Halona Blowhole - this spot requires some patience but very worth it. Essentially as waves crash into the cliffs under the rocks the water surges out of a blowhole (Holona) shooting into the air. I waited almost half hour to see this; but I thought it was worth it. The Hanauma bay is an excellent spot to snooker or just lay out on the beach. Before making your way down to the beach - make sure to take in the spectacular view of the bay. The queue to get down to the bay does get lengthy - especially on the weekend; so keep that in mind. I mainly went for the view and I was very happy with it. Be aware, parking cost $1 even if you are just going to get a glimpse of the view. Dole Plantation is a uniquely Hawaiian experience - learn about the different species of pineapple; take a tour of the plantation and try pineapple soft serve ice cream - it is not like any other ice cream you have tried. Byodo-In temple is a Buddhist temples in the mountains of Temples Memorial Park - it is so perfect and beautiful here - it also feels like you are in Japan. ‘Lolani Palace was a great experience for me and perfect to learn about the history of Hawaii. It use to be the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom. Hānaiakamalama aka Queen Emma’s Summer home is another stop I recommend if you want to learn about the history of the Hawaii.

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inally, there is Pearl Harbor - if you wanted to, you could probably spend a half a day here. If you have Pearl Harbor on your itinerary, book your tickets early. Some of the monuments/memorials are free and others are paid. Either way, I highly recommend booking tickets online to explore USS Arizona memorial ; USS Bowfin and Ford Island for Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

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24 HOURS IN MONTENEGRO - A DAY TRIP FROM DUBROVNIK

Kotor, Montenegro

Montenegro. This Balkan country known for narrow strip beaches along the Adriatic coastline; mountains and medieval villages is a must visit. Before my trip to Montenegro, the only thing I knew about the Country was that it was part of the former Yugoslavia. I had also seen pictures in my Instagram feed of Montenegro and thought it was a beautiful country to add to the list of “maybe someday”.

Kotor, Montenegro

Never in a million year did I think I will get a chance to visit until my friend “B” and I started planning a trip to Dubrovnik last summer. Given our travel arrangments, I was going to arrive in Croatia a day before she did and had a full day to myself. Since we had planned to explore Dubrovnik together, I did not want to start sightseeing until she arrived. I started researching options for a day trips. Montenegro came up as an option and it was a no-brainer. I booked the tour with Super Tours and counted down the days.

Kotor, Montenegro

You can either visit as a day trip from Croatia or plan a Montenegro (long) weekend getaway. There are weekly direct flights from London that will get you to Budva in about four and a half hours. Rent a car to get around the rest of the Country or explore other Balkan countries.

I was picked up at the agreed stop and joined the tour bus of about forty other tourists. Getting out of Dubrovnik was a bit of a hassle because of the immigration checkpoints. It took about an hour to complete the process of leaving Croatia and entering Montenegro. Once that was done and behind us; it was time to get this day trip underway. We made three stops in Perast; Kotor and Budva. While Kotor was the destination I really wanted to explore, Budva is the city that captured my heart and I will gladly go back to Budva (and Montenegro) any day.

Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro

Perast is a town in the bay of Kotor known as home to two artificial islands. According to legend, the Islet was the result of an oath local seamen made after finding an icon of Madonna and child on the rock. After every successful trip, they will lay a rock in the bay until the Islet gradually emerged from the sea. Today, it is home to the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks which is both a house of worship and museum housing over fifty paintings by the famous baroque painter - Tripo Kokolja. The cost of the boat ride to the Islet was not included in the tour price. It cost five euros (cash only) for a roundtrip journey. Our tour guide informed us the tradition of throwing rocks into the sea still happens once a year at an event call Fasinada. We were on the Islet for about forty-five minute before heading out to Kotor.

Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro

Kotor. The pictures I had seen of Montenegro were of the bay of Kotor so I could not wait to get there. The city is often described as southern most Fjord because of its shape but I doubt it is actually of Fjord (just looks like one). Most importantly the medieval old town is one of the best preserved old towns in the region and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city has an incredible love affair with cats (I will not ruin it for you), but know cats are (very) cherished here. We happened to visit on a day when the cruise ships were docked and the old town and the area around it was swarming with tourist. The downside of visiting with a tour group is the limitation on time; we had about an hour and a half in Kotor and it was not nearly enough. The tour came with a guide who walked us into old town - I use the term “guide” loosely here because he handed us a maps; walked us into old town; pointed out a few things and left us on our own to wander around the city. I had the option of hiking up St. John’s hill or exploring the rest of old town. Unfortunately, a hiking injury sustained in Edinburgh ruined my record of hiking to the highest point in any city I visit. If you want to do the hike, it is 1,350 steps to get to the top with entries at north gate and behind Trg od Salate. I hear the views from the top are spectacular. I stayed on the low ground instead exploring old town via narrow alleyways; peeking into the courtyard and in the process, I stumbled on some points of interest along the way. If you want to plan out your trip, here are some other points I recommend - St. Trephine cathedral; Gurdich Gate (Southern entrance); St Luke’s church; St. Nichola church; Sea Gate; River gate and the cat museum. I found a fantastic coffee shop in my wanderings - O Clock coffee - they make amazing homemade scones and make a killer iced latte.

Kotor, Montenegro
Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor,  Montenegro

Budva. What a city! Budva is located on the Montenegrin coast overlooking the Adriatic sea (literally). The city is known for its beaches (I think there are 20 in total); water sports and nightlife. Apparently, Budva is one of Europe’s top party destinations. Budva was also host to the famous Yacht week this year (I found out about this from friends we met while exploring Lokrum). I visited a few days before Yacht week kicked off and the Yachts were already trickling in - a black one that looked like something Bruce Wayne (Batman) would own caught my attention. I got seating at a restaurant with a direct view of the Yacht just to admire its beauty. Other things I did while in Budva - explore the promenade (there are several stands selling roasted corn on the cobb with a sprinkle of sea salt - it was divine ! I also explored old town (Stari grad) ; visited the town walls and lay on one of the twenty-something (reported) beaches in Budva. Morgen beach; “Hawaii” aka Sveti Nicola and Sveti Stefan came highly recommended but our time in Budva was too short. The citadel was also highly recommended but I did not get to it. After my very quick exploration of Stari grad, I wrapped up my day with lunch at La Villa which had a perfect view of the Yacht I fell in love with earlier.

We wrapped up our time in Budva early evening and made our made back to Dubrovnik. Instead of driving all the way, we took the car ferry which cut about 30 Km (45 minutes) off our drive time from Budva to Dubrovnik. if you do the drive on your own, I recommend driving the long way one-way and taking the ferry the other way.

Budva, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
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Kotor, Montenegro

Have you visited Montenegro ? Any cities or things you recommend because I am certain there is a return trip to Montenegro in my future.

FIVE LIFE LESSONS FROM MY TIME IN SAO PAULO // SAO PAULO , BRAZIL

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What an experience ? I still pinch myself when I remember my time in Sao Paulo. The opportunity to visit Brazil and spend time in this city has been one of the most significant life experiences of my thirties. Unfortunately, I don’t have a guide for you because I spent most of my time in the city working or commuting to and from work and/or nourishments. However, through interactions in those settings, I discovered away of being and life in Sao Paulo that I think I (we) could all do more with in our day to day.

KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. I cannot even tell you how many times strangers stopped to help me without prompting or asking. They saw the perplexed look on my face and always stopped to help. There were at least two occasions where I handed my phone to strangers to give the Uber driver directions on how to find me. The Sunday afternoon I arrived, I decided to make the most of the free afternoon to explore the city. I ended up at a cafe trying to figure out the paper map because my phone was acting up. A lady at the restaurant spent ten minutes helping me sort out how to get where I wanted to go. That willingness to lend a hand was really touching and made me love the people more. How could I forget mentioning after a meeting how several friends in the states had asked me to bring back Brazilian coffee but we were working too late for me to get to the supermarket before they closed. A member of the team made plans for someone to pick up coffee packs for me and my colleagues delivered to the office. If we all made a daily effort to give/show kindness - imagine how much better our communities will be.

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LEARNING TO SLOW DOWN THE PACE OF LIFE. The pace of life in Brazil is slower than the western world and initially I found that irritating because I have spent all of my adult life living and working in the United States and United Kingdom which is crazily fast paced but is that really the only way ? Most of my days are spent glued to my Computer and phone and since moving to the UK, I feel the work never stops - those hand held things that keep us connected have also become the source of more stress than I am willing to get into in this post. It took me almost a year of working in the UK to stop having panic attack of thinking I needed to be available 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, they work really hard in Brazil, there were days when we worked several hours past closing time; but It is not handled as THE most important thing and it as do or die as (I think) we approach it in the West. There is not a mad sense of urgency and they don’t let work consume them. They genuinely seem less stressed and happier than we are in the West so maybe there is something to this approach. I wonder how much more normalized my blood pressure will be if I put work in its place - meaning work hard; but also step away from it and experience life.

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IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY. They seem very community orientation (at least with those I interacted with); everyone looked out for each other. I am sure there is a Brazilian version of Corporate competition; but there was a sense of people and relationship first and everyone seemed supportive of each other. I observed this in the work setting; dining out and in the hotel we stayed in during our visit. There is something about that sort of connection that I think is a great value add for my life here and for all of our groups and communities.

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VALUE OF CULTURE. Brazilians truly love their culture and they are happy to share it with others and help you experience it. They are patience to share their traditions and discuss why it is important; they take time at lunch/dinner to explain the cuisine and the ingredients. They remind me of my people (Nigerians) that way. Even more important than loving and sharing that culture is the willingness to embrace and inquire about others and strive to get to know about others. There are times when people ask a question about where I am from and as soon as the words leave their lips, they are tune off. That was not the case in Sao Paulo. They are happy to share about their traditions and willing to listen and learn about mine as well. We could all do better listening (truly listen).

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WILLINGNESS TO REACH ACROSS. This goes hand in hand with my last point; their willingness to reach across and make other comfortable. I was the one visiting their Country and the only Portuguese words in my vocabulary were “Olá” ; “Obrigado” and “Por favor”. Everyone I interacted with made a great effort to communicate with me in English; even when they only knew a few english words; they strung those together to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I felt very ashamed - given I was the one visiting their Country; I should have been the one going above and beyond to communicate with them and not the other way around.

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My interactions with locals left a positive impact that makes me want to return to Brazil in future. I hope to properly explore Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I want to visit the Christ the redeemer statue; get to beautiful beaches (maybe ring in the new year on Copa Cabaña) and spend time interacting with locals.


A DAY AT THE BEACH IN LAGOS - LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT // LAGOS, NIGERIA

LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT

I thought it might be useful to share about our beach day in Lagos. As I said in my last post; spending a day at the beach is a must do if you are in Lagos. The beach at the La Campagne tropicana beach resort is one of the most popular beach destinations in Lagos. It is about an hour drive from the Island and probably two hours from the mainland; but well worth it if you need to get away from the hustle of the city. We only pspent a day here but there are options for overnight stays if you want to stay a bit longer.

LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
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We arrived early afternoon ; I thought the check-in process was a bit tedious; but that probably has more to do with hunger pangs than anything else. We checked in and purchased coupons - while you can purchase food and pay for activities beach side - you need coupons to do that and it is easier to purchase at check-in. After the check in, we were directed to the waiting area for the shuttle to the beach. It is a trek from check in to the beach but not a terrible one; we did the trek at the end of our visit and I did not find it to be an issue. As we approached the beach, I could see the rows of palm trees and the ocean peaking from behind them.

LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT

We found a spot to camp out under one of the umbrellas and proceeded to order meals and drinks. Mainly ordered the fresh coconut water; you can also bring a picnic with you. The party camped out beside us came prepared with an incredible spread of food and drinks. Next time, I am doing that. Besides the general seating area. There are also “SIMI” - essential luxurious queen bed sized cabanas that can be rented using coupons.

LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
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I spent most of my day lounging beach side but for those restless ones who cannot be bothered to lounge beach side all day; they have got several activities including horseback riding ; jet skis and kayaking. The facility has also got spaces for sports play like beach soceer ; basketball court ; football field. For those of us with no inclination for physical activities, there is an area for board games as well. The facility seems very kid friendly; there were several groups with little ones and they seemed to be having a great time. Here are a few pictures from our beach day.

LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
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LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
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LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
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LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
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