Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii. Yes, it actually looks like this. (courtesy Karen Chan 16 on Flickr CC)

Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii. Yes, it actually looks like this. (courtesy Karen Chan 16 on Flickr Creative Commons)

You’re here at last.

These are the pristine, stunning beaches you came to Hawaii to plop your towel down on and enjoy. Here are those palm trees you imagined, their fronds rustling quietly in the breeze off of the Pacific….the breezes that blow so consistently, you usually don’t need air conditioning so many residents only have a high-tech gizmo called a “fan.”

On the way there, try not to drive into the guardrails on the Likelike or the Pali Highway while peering up at the picturesque mist wrapping itself around the tops of the green, jaggedly Ko’olau mountaintops. Stop in at Morning Brew, the friendly little local coffee shop in town. It has a nice menu, decent prices (compared to Waikiki) and a deliciously-named concoction they call the Krakatoa Steamer.

You’ve shot through the bolthole and found Oahu’s Windward Side, and it’s time to spend a couple of days anchored down in Kailua.

After speaking at the Hawaii Social Media Summit in Honolulu, my daughter and I were looking for a getaway outside of the city. I normally don’t use travel agents or booking services, but this time I knew a local guy in the Islands who could save me a lot of time finding just the right place at an affordable price.

Bruce Fisher and his wife Yaling Yu Fisher own Hawaii Aloha Travel; it’s a travel agency based in Honolulu, but they’re familiar with all the islands, not just Oahu. I met Bruce and Yaling several years ago on a blogger press trip, and they did not see my best side back then; I was tired and cranky from all the running around, but they were unfailingly gracious. Since that ignominious beginning, I’ve enjoyed keeping up with them on Twitter and their blog about Hawaii (Bruce does a podcast about Hawaii as well.)

I sent Bruce a tweet, with no more guidance than 1) Somewhere on the Windward Side of the island, with North Shore as a backup, 2) A budget of about $150-$200 a night, which can be tough to find on Oahu, and 3) I’m not super-picky and don’t need “luxury.”

The photo below is the lanai (patio) area where we ended up, in the Lanikai Studios across the road from the beach. Not too shabby, eh?

Garden lanai at the Lanikai Studios in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Garden lanai at the Lanikai Studios in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Our downstairs studio in the back of the building had a king-sized bed, a sofabed, kitchenette, an a/c unit that we only used one of the nights, a shower with gloriously strong water pressure, boogie boards and beach chairs for our use and did I mention we were across the street from one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world? Host Mary was there to greet us and she had all kinds of ideas for places to go and things to do in the area.

The high point was waking up early one morning – yay for jet lag – walking across to the beach with only my suit, flip flops and a towel, and leaping into the Pacific as the sun rose and I had the beach practically to myself. Well, except for the outrigger canoes going by, but they only added to the atmosphere.

Our sponsor Trivago can help with Honolulu hotels, but for options a bit off the beaten path, look to locals like Bruce to find your path to paradise.

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I'm a writer and speaker specializing in tourism, travel and social media. NHRA drag racing fan. Co-founder of Tourism Currents. U.S. Navy veteran. Caffeinated.