My 50 Fav O’ahu Go-Tos

It’s no surprise, from the cool ocean breezes to rice with every meal, living on O’ahu has truly grown to become our home. I get excited to introduce visitors to the place we love, and am thrilled myself to always explore, try out and wander new places. There’s lots to do while visiting–and here are my favorite “off the beaten path” recommendations for people headed to the islands:


because that’s what you came here for, right?

Lanikai + Kailua Beach Park: by far one of the prettiest coasts on island. White sand, calm, turquoise waters. It’s picture perfect Hawai’i in the middle of a quaint residential neighborhood. A “must see”, especially for a stunning sunrise.

Bellows Beach Park: A long, gorgeous strand of open and calm beach (sometimes with miniature waves, fun for body boarding). Military personnel have access all week, the public beach is open on the weekends. Beware of Man of War jellyfish!

Shark’s Cove: Don’t worry, there aren’t sharks…well, in the COVE! ;) Shallow, rocky waters (bring water shoes!) perfect for relaxed snorkeling. Head to the right  just outside of the cove for deeper waters and even bigger fish! A fav snorkel spot on the North Shore.

Ko’Olina Lagoons: Want to feel the resort vibe without staying in a fancy hotel? Head out to the west side of the island and park it at one of Ko’Olina’s man-made lagoons. Stay for some of the best sunset views and get THE best (and deadliest) mai-tais on island at Longboard’s.

Yokohama Bay: While you’re out on the west side, keep going until you can’t go any further. Yokohama Bay is beautiful, with incredible views of layered mountain ranges + sometimes dolphin spotting (especially in the early morning!). Stay late into the night and get THE clearest views of the stars, sometimes even the milky way, bright as day!

Kaimana Beach: Okay, so you MUST stay in Waikiki, but hate the crowds? Head down to Kaimana beach, close to the end of Kapiolani beach park (and in front of the oceanside condos). It’s less crowded, plus there are a few shops within walking distance which makes grabbing snacks and booze a breeze. Sometimes you can catch bands jamming out at Kapiolani park, too, which is a plus. Sunset out there is pretty gorgeous as well.


My favorite part of O’ahu. Please remember to be kind and pack out what you took in and be thoughtful in where you park to get to these hikes!

Lanikai Pillboxes: Awesome for sunrise and views of Kailua–during the winter you can see whales breaching, too! A relatively short and easy hike with killer views, absolutely worth the effort. Just pleaseeeee be considerate of where you park within the neighborhood, and be quiet and respectful especially in the morning time.

Maunawili Falls: A fun, adventurous and downright muddy hike through the thick jungle to a waterfall + freezing cold swimming hole. Bring your bug spray and go-pro, you’re gonna need it, and a swim suit, because you’re definitely going to want to get in after the trek!

Diamond Head: This is definitely a ‘touristy’ thing to do, however heading up the mountain in a line of people is totally worth it for the gorgeous views of Waikiki!

Makapu’u Lighthouse (+/or tide pools): The trail up to the Makapu’u lighthouse is a steep one, but paved with rewarding ocean vistas. If you’re looking for more, brought solid shoes and are brave enough, you can hit up the tide pools on your way down (or skip the lighthouse all together). I’m not the best with directions, but you take a right at the first whale watching sign on the lighthouse trail, then follow the white arrows spray painted on the rocks all the way down the mountain to the ocean. Yes, ALL THE WAY DOWN THAT STEEP CLIFF. It’s slippery, and you don’t want to die, so beware, but with tide pools (that are strong currents, watch out!) and blow holes called “dragon nostrils”, it’s super cool down there. Not for the novice, so do your research and please, for crying out loud, don’t get swept out to sea.

Pele’s chair (a.k.a. Allen Davis): people who live here are gonna kill me for this, but I don’t care. Nothing is a secret, folks! If you don’t feel like much of a hike and would prefer a walk, park at the Makapu’u lighthouse trail and instead of taking the paved route head through the valley (staying on the trail), toward the ocean. Sticking to the left of the little cove you will find yourself up on a mini-ocean cliff where someone repurposed an old 2×4 into a shiesty diving board. The cove is somewhat protected from strong waves via the reef, so it seems safe (enough) for jumping. Just beware, you gotta climb back up! Fun to take inter tubes to float around after you take the leap. But again…please don’t get swept out to sea…

Manoa Falls: A stop on tourist trips, this is actually a beautiful waterfall that is worth the walk! A hike (that can get muddy) ends you at a gorgeous + rather tall waterfall worth getting stuck behind slow-pokes for.


the best part of the island! Okay fine, just my personal favorite

Uncle Bo’s: hands down DA BOMB. Everything is incredible, truly.

Real a Gastropub: get the chicken + waffles, deep fried deviled egg + cover your french fries in their homemade ketchup OMG.

Duke’s Waikiki: sit outside (not inside) for a delicious bar menu, descent drinks, a “hawaii beachside” atmosphere + sunset. The hula pie is pretty incredible, too.

Doraku Sushi: interesting + fancy sushi in Waikiki. They have a surf + turf roll that is steak + fish that’s delish!

Shokudo : in an odd part of town if you’re staying in Waikiki, but their sushi is FABULOUS. The honey toast can’t be missed, either. Nom nom nom.

Leonard’s bakery: just go there + get a box of malasadas. Haupia is my favorite. Don’t even mess with the ones without filling.  Trust me.

Yogur Story: yummy breakfast close to Waikiki! They have these waffles that are KILLER!

Dat Cajun Guy: food truck in Haleiwa on the North Shore. His New Orleans style meals are phenomenal. Seriously. I actually want some now.

Opal Thai: Thai food in Haleiwa, this place is ALWAYS poppin’.

Monkeypod Kitchen: Kinda ‘fancy’ but delicious food on the west side out by Ko’Olina. Good, interesting drinks and incredible live music.

Ted’s Bakery: Close to sunset beach on the North Shore, this place has it ALL! AMAZING local food (chicken katsu with mac salad OMG I’m drooling) and, of course, the famous Ted’s pie selection! Everyone goes crazy over the chocolate haupia but I absolutely say pick lilikoi cheesecake.

Coffee Gallery: Well, duh. ;) Coffee + baked goods on the North Shore in Haleiwa town.

Lucky Belly: Swanky asian fusion in chinatown. MAN OH MAN is their ramen soooo good.

Royal Hawaiian Sunday Brunch: All you can eat buffet. Everything you can imagine and more, all by the ocean. Just don’t hope to get into a swimsuit after all that.

Crepes No Ka ‘Oi: Crepes in Kailua that will have you ordering everything on the menu. Need I say more?

Cinnamon’s restaurant: the wait is killer in Kailua, but it’s worth it for the guava pancakes (or the island staple, loco moco!)


Tuesday +/or Friday night: get drinks by the pool at the Modern Hotel in Waikiki + watch the Hilton’s firework show (it starts around 7:45pm)

Rent kayaks and paddle out to the mokes (the two islands across from Lanikai beach)

Hit up Eat the Street on a Friday night

Wander the fashionable Honolulu Night Market

Go to the Kailua Farmer’s Market, or my personal favorite, the KCC by Kapiolani Community College on Sunday Mornings

Shop for souvenirs at the Aloha Stadium swap meet

Bring a blanket + a bottle of wine and watch sunset from the rocks at the Ko’Olina lagoon

See the show at the Polynesian Cultural Center (really really fun!)

Walk around downtown Honolulu, maybe even stop by Iolani Palace!

Rent beach chairs and am umbrella and park it on a beach in Waikiki

Spend a Saturday at the Hale Koa pool (military only)

Sneak into a hotel hot tub (but play it cool, duh)

Watch sunset from the top of Kailua Pillbox Hike (gotta start early, though!)

Ride all around the island on your first day! It’s a must!

Rent stand-up paddle boards and try not to fall off

Jam out to local live music at Mai Tai’s bar at Ala Moana shopping center

Weave through the industrial streets of Kakaako + take photos in front of the insane graffiti

Hit up a luau (of course!). Paradise Cove is my favorite.

Catch a poolside movie at the Modern Hotel (select nights)

Enjoy cocktails and sunset at Rumfire

Watch sunset + take scenic photos from atop Mount Tantalus

Catch a sunset and waikiki views on a catamaran booze cruise

Visit Doris Duke’s estate Shangri La. I  haven’t yet but am simply DYING to. DYING.

Here during rainy season? Learn the history of Hawai’i at the Bishop Museum.



July 9, 2014 - 7:02 am

Stacee Lianna - This is amazing. I’ve decided to believe you wrote this just for me. ;]

July 9, 2014 - 2:08 pm

Sara - Shangri la is AMAZING! Like simply amazing. Such a little gem!

How to Get Photography Leads In A New Market

You’ve plastered all over the internet that you’ve recently moved. Updated your website, blog and marketing materials. Sat across the table, hands wrapped around countless Starbucks cups as you met local Creatives in your industry practically proclaiming “I’m HEREEEEE!”. You’ve exercised your generosity and worked on several free shoots. You’ve even slyly left stacks of business cards at every cafe/boutique/coffee shop you step foot in. My heavens cut your prices in HALF! And…so far…crickets. Just when you feel you’ve put every single marketing idea into motion and shed a virtual tear in ALL your Facebook groups, don’t quit. Hold out hope, keep making strides and be freaking patient. And in the meantime: second shoot.

[BTS sneaky photo by Kayleen T, a GENIUS photographer who so kindly second shot for me recently]

When I first moved to Hawai’i I did all of the above. I hustled, posted and blogged every minuscule thought in my brain, started up personal projects (that didn’t last long) and picked up film. I even (tearfully) got a job as a server for a few months. But nothing, and I mean nothing, paid off more than second shooting. Being a helping hand for another Photographer on a wedding day was almost like paying my dues, even though no photographer really ever has any dues to pay. I had never shot in Hawai’i before, I hardly knew a soul, and I certainly was unfamiliar with the market. Having the opportunity to be a little beam of bag-carrying light on a wedding day for another thriving creative was truly an honor which paved the way for tremendous working and life-long friendships. It was a win-win for both involved. I got to help out, be a team-mate and supportive shooter for someone else, alleviating stress wherever I could and in-turn learned the ‘local ropes’ (and some pidgin), shot at popular hotels, and encountered traditional hawaiian style ceremonies without the pressure of being a main shooter. And in the end, I walked away with a trusted friend in the industry. Lots of my sincere friendships on O’ahu have flourished from working alongside like-minded peers, and thankfully have blossomed into extraordinary business relationships as well. Plus, it helped me to stay creative and on my technical game even when I wasn’t booking weddings on my own just yet.

The bonus? Majority of my referrals come from other photographers. Second to that are local vendors who I consider dear friends, and third are a few online features. Google sometimes comes up in there, and when it does I hoot and holler and high-five, “You found me on GOOGLE?!?!?!”, but truthfully scoring via Google juice is rare, so when it happens we POP CHAMPAGNE (“oooooo, we pop champagne…” You know that song?!? ‘Cause I love you if you do).

Second shooting allows for creativity, an opportunity to spread the love to Photographers in your industry, can be humbling (those bags ain’t light), and adds to the experience of learning, something we all are always doing. Personally I want to see those around me that I love, appreciate and see ambition in succeed, so whenever there’s someone I connect with who is a hustler, works hard to help others and is sincerely grateful (and shows it!), I will HAPPILY pay it forward and send business their way whenever I can because someone, somewhere, once did it for me.

I second shot, I humbly toted bags and supplied water, and I am appreciative of every. single. minute. I have to give a giant shoutout to one photographer in particular, Malia Cano (who has excitingly ventured on to owning an events rental company Chair Cover Express!), who was so kind, loving and down-right freaking awesome to me when we moved. When I saw Malia’s personal style I knew she and I could be great friends and as our relationship grew she generously invited me along to some fabulous weddings to shoot. Soon after she began sending referrals my way, and I recognize that if it weren’t for her straight up LOVE and support that my business possibly wouldn’t have taken off as quickly as it did. Thank you, Malia, for treating me like ohana, sister! :) And to every single photographer both in Hawai’i + on the mainland who have sent clients or potentials my way–I know you, recognize you (have hopefully personally thanked you!), and really really appreciate you.

So help one another out. Make genuine friends, truly invest in one another’s businesses and blessings will surely come your way. And when it does, don’t forget to show gratitude, share the love, and keep passing kindness along! A thank you card never hurts, either. :)





July 8, 2014 - 6:43 pm

Malia Cano - Oh Ash! Thank you for all your sweetness & kindness! Those sure were some good days together :) And of course we knew you’d be successful not only because you have an amazing heart, but also because you’re crazy talented! LOVE YOU!!!

July 15, 2014 - 6:48 pm

Kayleen T. - Haha… I was like look at Ashley being all cute, bare feet and on her tippy toes! lol. Love your film shots above!! How did that one of the huge cabinet of coral turn on out on film?

Ff | The Safest Way to Mail Your Film

You walk into the sterile smelling building, packaging tape and complicated forms stacked high all around. You assemble a priority mail box, stuff it full of foam peanuts, include your zip-lock bag of exposed rolls, and seal it with a prayer. You confidently approach the counter where a postal worker recites the phrase “anything fragile, liquid, perishable, potentially hazardous?” in such a blur you wonder to yourself if they say it even in their sleep. You request tracking, say another prayer that postage doesn’t cost you a fortune, and hope hope hope everything arrives safely. You decline any stamps indicating ‘fragile’ because you’ve heard horror stories about those, and you’re smarter than that. Then, she does it. She picks up your delicately packaged box, turns 180 degrees and straight up chucks it into the white bin behind her. Your precious box of film soon to be buried under hundreds of other boxes headed to their final destination…some regretfully ending just like the movie. 

Living in the middle of the pacific ocean, one would swear donkeys are assigned to swim mail over. And often times by the way packages arrive, you’d think they were also instructed to do a little jig on top of them, too. I’ve had family members tell me boxes were delivered completely flat, and had a Post Office worker compliment my sister on the coconut she was mailing home then wish her “good luck with that”… I even, sadly, read about a photographer who dropped a few rolls of film into a regular padded envelope to mail to her developer just an hour away and when the envelope arrived it was ripped open and it’s contents gone. It’s no surprise that with mailing things there’s no guarantee. However  to lots of photographer’s worries, the process of mailing film to labs also isn’t something that makes shooting film riskier as opposed to digital, because wether lost in the mail or a corrupt memory card, precious moments can unfortunately be mishandled either way. Thankfully when mailing film there is a safe and more secure way to make sure your rolls get to their destination without being lost, tampered with, or straight up smooshed. USPS Registered Mail.

[iPhone photo taken quickly at the Post Office to the dismay of the worker who was trying to go home. HEY, SIR! I gotta BLOG POST TO DO! ;) ]

Clued in to this nugget by a film shooter who used to work for USPS, Registered mail provides maximum security for your packages, giving you a 99% guarantee it will arrive safely. What about the other 1%? I assume that’s in the unfortunate even that your package ends up like Wilson, and that’s something only God can really control. The difference in sending registered mail vs. priority is the special handling packages are given. Registered mail is delivered with the utmost of care from drop off to arrival, starting with the way it’s packaged. Every opening MUST be sealed with paper tape (the kind that you have to get wet in order for it to stick. You can ask the post office for this tape or purchase it online here). Then each side of the paper tape is stamped with the post office seal to make sure it’s not tampered with. After that, the box is on it’s way where it is kept under lock and key separate from standard mail and personnel have to sign off on paperwork when handing it. When reaches it’s destination it is again received with a signature, and according to the lady at the post office is “very, very safe”.

Registered mail packages can be insured up to $25,000 (for an extra charge), however considering the invaluable price of memories captured with film the rolls can only be insured for their physical value. It is my understanding they can be not insured for the price of your services or the value of the actual images. Wamp wamp. It comes with tracking and in my experience doesn’t take any longer than mailing priority. Opposed to the $7 – $10 it costs to mail priority, sending registered is more expensive (averaging around $25 from Hawaii to California), however I will GLADLY pay $25 for extra measures and peace of mind. Gladly. You won’t see your local postal worker tossing THIS one in with the rest of them, they cradle it like the wittle baby it is.



1 comment

July 4, 2014 - 9:16 pm

Bora Pogeler - Great advice!! Tip from me as a framer…use distilled water on your brown paper tape! Less minerals makes for a faster and stickier drying time!

Permission to Speak.

Ever since I was a kid I knew I wanted to be a speaker. I’d hook our hefty black karaoke microphone up to my double-sided tape player and record mix tapes filled with announcer-like and entertaining clamoring, pretending I had my own Top 40 radio show. Getting great grades across my manila colored report card, the inevitable conduct row was sometimes checked with a C, accompanied with a note from the teacher explaining my excessive talking; some would argue I simply liked the sound of my own voice. Confused by others as the need for attention, I always felt I could contribute. That my experiences were worth something and if they could possibly help someone else then by all means I should share them. Where in the world I got this notion from I haven’t the slightest clue, but I’ve never given it up, despite perils throughout school and young kid who got teased for not understanding the meaning of “no means no” (Yes, I got made fun of for that. I mean, you got nothin’ better?!?!) and was always labeled the “most talkative”. In college after a semester of studying abroad (and never once anyone mentioning my towering voice posing a problem to their sensitive little ear drums), I surprisingly received a sarcastic award for “the Best Broadcasting Voice”, something I took in laughter and stride but added to my growing self-conscious notion that I was indeed too loud. And talked too much..and in the eyes of others did it for attention. And still didn’t take no for an answer.

These traits of mine compacted, and consistently throughout my young  life the world conveyed that these parts of my personality were just too much. And with that, I started to feel guilty about my desires to speak to crowds. As if this desire within me was nothing but pleasurable, self-promoting, and attention seeking. Plus others were already doing it, and I was too loud and vocally rambunctious to stand up there anyway. I’ve always known I am meant to help. The desire to honestly share and connect where I can is a huge part of me that is practically bursting through my chest. Staring my business I put the notion aside, and as it always tugged at me, I put my head down and carried on, determined to focus on my craft of photography and quietly help those around me, consciously making an effort to not draw attention to myself. After all, that’s what I had been conditioned to think was wrong with me.

I will never forget sitting in the banquet hall at WPPI, ready to hear Jose Villa speak. The lights dimmed, the screen on the front flickered on, and his awe-inspiring images paired with a cool, trance-like mix of songs I’d never heard but immediately obsessed over flowed across my senses. I was excited. In awe. And completely, utterly, envious. He was up there, doing what I wanted to do. Crafting. Creating. Inventing. And mostly, encouraging. I’ll never forget the way hearing that song “On A Big Jet Plane” next to his romantic images impacted me. In that moment, I knew, I was meant to do what he was doing, but in my own way.

I don’t know when it happened, but eventually I began collecting songs of my own. Sounds that spoke to me and helped me to see myself living the dream. Ones I pictured playing myself as I stood on a stage, nerves and adrenaline pumping, in hopes on sharing a nugget of info with someone who needed it most. Driving down the road the other night after a meeting with my church group, I heard it. And saw it. And felt it. And allowed my own heart to become inspired by myself. I came home and eagerly described the moment I heard Jose speak to Marshall (because he’s gotta know the backstory, duh), then made him listen to what will be my slideshow songs. I dictated the presentation as he struggled to listen to my jam, politely letting me know he wanted to actually hear it, and we laughed as I danced around, excited I found the beats that make my heart soar. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to play those songs set to my images for a massive crowd, but I do know I’ve begin to let the thoughts and stereotypes of others go. What they say about me doesn’t matter. I may be too loud, my jewelry too gawdy with too many curse words peppered in, but in my world more is more. I will never let the opinions of others dictate my personality — there’s a reason I want to speak and my voice naturally carries–my mic just give out one day and I may need to wing it! ;) I don’t know where life will take me, but I’m happy I’m back to dreaming those wild, fearless and loud dreams.




July 1, 2014 - 12:47 pm

Meredith - Ashley, your little Vimeo videos are seriously the best things ever! I’ve never met you but those videos are ridiculously entertaining. You could be talking about nothing and is laugh. Haha. Please keep talking.

July 1, 2014 - 1:10 pm

Courtnee - I LOVE this! God gave you that voice for a reason, don’t you dare shy away from it to please others. You were made to make an impact, and your loud voice is a part of your story! So happy you are deciding to be fearless and chase your dreams regardless of what anyone thinks! I’ve been made fun of my whole life for “dreaming too big” and “wanting too much” but I OWN it! I do dream really big and I’m not afraid to chase my dreams relentlessly! it is what sets me a part ! Cheers to being fearless!!

July 2, 2014 - 8:54 am

Leslie - This. is. awesome. Coming from someone who isn’t exactly the quietest person on the block …I’m totally with you!!! :) Keep dancing <3