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Everything I Did On My Solo Trip To Oahu

Here are the best places to visit while in Honolulu

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After my girlfriends all bailed on my birthday trip, I found myself on an unintentional solo trip to Oahu. However, I knew I'd still be met with great adventure and lots of sun, I mean it is Hawaii after all. I refused to let a sudden lack of companionship ruin my birthday trip, so I booked the flights and prepaid all of my activities. I made sure I wouldn't have time to be lonely because from boat rides around the island, trips to the spa for a massage, hiking and snorkeling — my itinerary was packed! I didn't rent a car and was apprehensive about how I was going to get around the island, I thought I'd spend a fortune on Uber and Lyft. Surprisingly I found that getting around the island wasn't as difficult as I thought and Honolulu actually has a very efficient transit system. The bus is cheap, and for $5.50 I got a day pass and explored the island.

Hawaii is made up of eight main islands — Hawai'i, Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lana'i, Moloka'i, O'hau, Kaua'i and Ni'hau. The island of O'ahu is widely considered the heartbeat of Hawaii. And when it comes to visiting O'ahu, most tourists flock to Waikiki Beach, the popular and crowded side of the island. What some travelers fail to realize is that the island of O'ahu is filled with many gems, and they're only a short ride away from Waikiki.

From lush mountainsides, colorful koi fish, swimming with wild sea turtles, and taking in spectacular views, you can explore the island without breaking the bank on costly excursions.

If you're in Honolulu for a few days, you should visit some of my favorite places on the island.

Hula Grill Waikiki

Enjoy the sounds of the waves crashing into the shore and the unbelievable view of Diamond Head at the Hula Grill Waikiki located inside of the Duke's hotel.

Hula Grill has something for any taste you're in the mood for and their menu is vegetarian-friendly. They source their ingredients straight from the island, the restaurant boasts of locally caught fish, all-natural meats and O'hau-grown produce. There is also live entertainment offered throughout the week — so catch a bite, grab a mimosa, and get a friendly waiter to take a picture of you.

Byodo-In Temple

The Valley of the Temples Memorial Park is nestled on the other side of the island, if you're staying in Waikiki. You can take the bus there for less than $6 for a day pass. The trip is about one-and-a-half hours but peaceful and beautiful. The bus will shuttle you up the mountain side, which allows you to see the island in a more authentic light, outside of the tourist-ridden Waikiki.

Unlike Waikiki Beach, this side of the island is misty, the rain can be sporadic on the wayward side of the island and the air smells sort of like burning wood. The temple is an honorary shrine built to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawai'i. The temple is a replica of the historic Byodo-in Temple of Uji in Kyoto, Japan. It might also be familiar to you if you've seen the Chris Brown video for "Autumn Leaves" featuring Karrueche Tran. For just $3 admission, you can leave an offering at the Buddhist shrine, ring the sacred bell, feed the koi fish, and marvel in the wonder of black swans.

North Shore

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Escape the crowds of Waikiki Beach and head over to the north side of the island where the locals tend to go. The views are surreal and the locals are very friendly. You'll get to see wildlife like turtles, sea lions and more. Go swimming with turtles on Laniakea Beach. Beware that turtles, or honu, are protected animals in Hawaii and considered well-revered by local Hawaiians. If you see one on the beach, do not touch it — the locals get really upset about this one. It's said you should give them at least 10 ft of space and not disturb them, which can be kind of hard when snorkeling or swimming but do your best to keep this in mind. The beaches are calmer than Waikiki as well, which due to boats can experience very large and choppy waves.

Diamond Head

This beautiful hike up to Diamond Head is sure to yield spectacular views. If you're the type of person looking to get in some physical activity on your vacation, this hike is very easy to fit in to your schedule. Hike early in the morning to catch the sunrise and listen as the waves beat against the shore. If you're a non-experienced or intimidated first-time hiker, like me, then you can drive to Diamond Head lookout instead to experience all the views without the sore muscles.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of the most popular wedding venues in Hawaii. The botanical gardens is also infamous for its beauty. Admission into the park is completely free but be prepared for a lot of walking around and wear good shoes! I took the bus from Waikiki Beach and then basically hiked all the way up to the park so I could get a shot of the famous entrance, unfortunately it was very foggy that day.

Note that if the guards at the front gate catch you trying to catch a picture, they will ask you to move, so be quick!

You can see plants from around the world, endangered plants, and native Hawaiian plants. You can feed the ducks, fish, and camp at Ho'omaluhia Lake. It's a beautiful place filled with tranquility. In fact, Ho'omaluhia means "peaceful refuge". Visit this botanical garden to enjoy a chill day away from the beach while learning more about Hawaii.

Kualoa Ranch

You must visit the home of some very popular movies like Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Jumanji, and 50 First Dates Kualoa Ranch.

With the towering hills and mysterious valleys, this side of Oahu is very mystical. Travel a short 24 miles outside of Waikiki to one of Oahu's most sacred places. Kualoa Ranch even offers a roundtrip shuttle for $15. The ranch has many excursions and Instagram-worthy photo-ops, but be sure to schedule early and expect to pay a little more for the exciting activities. From ATV tours, horseback riding, zip lining, and jungle expeditions, this site is a one-stop-shop for adventure and fun.

Top of Waikiki: Revolving Restaurant

Want to see Waikiki beach from a different point of view? Climb the escalators to the Top of Waikiki and enjoy a meal as the floor below you slowly rotates.

It's unlike any restaurant I have ever been to. The upscale restaurant is a fantastic way to take it all in; you can sit in one spot all night and enjoy the 360-degree views of the island. The floor to ceiling glass panels and rotating floor is the highlight of the experience but the food and drinks are just as noteworthy. Enjoy a sunset here by yourself, or with a loved one because the ambiance is very romantic and posh. One things for sure, you won't be disappointed by the experience.

Duke’s Marketplace

Nestled in an alleyway a few blocks from Waikiki Beach is an open air market, the only one left in the neighborhood. If you're looking for a souvenir to take home and want something that screams "I got this from Hawaii", visit Duke's Marketplace. If you're not looking closely, you could end up walking right past it and into the higher end stores. You can find almost anything at Duke's, from jewelry and ukulele to hand-crafted gifts and more. The marketplace is lit up and alive at night, running operations until 11:00 at night.

Dole Plantation

This historic pineapple plantation is located in Wahiawa and was owned by James Dole. If you're a fan of pineapples, you must try the infamous Dolewhip, hop aboard the Pineapple Express train ride, and enter the world's largest maze which stretches over three acres long. The Pineapple Maze is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records and is filled with secret stations to find along the way and flora native to the islands of Hawaii. There is something fun and interesting here for everyone, including families!

Fumi's Kahuku Shrimp Truck

In the mood for some seafood? The locals on the north side swear by Fumi's Kahuku Shrimp truck! It is one of the top contenders for the island's best shrimp and the Hawaiians don't play about their shrimp. Grab a plate and take a seat under the trees where the leaves are marked with names and dates of past visitors. The place gives a more authentic feel than the restaurants on Waikiki Beach, and the food is packed with flavor!

You don't want to visit Oahu without exploring the island and all of its hidden gems. One visit was not enough time to truly take it all in so be sure to put some of these places on the top of your bucket list. Whatever you do, don't spend your entire vacation on the beach with all the tourists because the island of Oahu and its people have so much to offer.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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