By Gavin Arucan | Staff Writer

With summer break in full swing, a vacation is the perfect way to completely recover from the hectic school year. However, most college students don’t have the money to just get up and leave to the mainland or another country for a few weeks. As proven in some of our previous articles in the “Hidden Gem” series, there are enough unfamiliar parts of Oʻahu to explore to warrant a staycation. A weekend at an upscale hotel can be fun, but spending time in the bustling streets of Waikīkī isn’t my definition of “relaxing.”

Ka’a’awa Beach was a beautiful nearby beach lined with beach houses. (Photo by Isaac Emoto)

As a way to get away from school, work, and home, I spent four nights at a beach house in Hauʻula with nine close friends. It took a few months of on-and-off planning and browsing through Airbnb, the the outcome was a relaxing, affordable stay in a small community near the ocean.

Obviously, the east side of the North Shore, isn’t much of a hidden gem, but it’s a part of the island that’s mostly foreign to me, having lived in Waipahu all my life. While the area around Hauʻula may be a hidden gem for me, it may not be for someone else, so if you do decide to stay in a beach house, search for one in someplace unfamiliar. Spending time in someplace new can open up intriguing gems to explore.

Due to the abundance of rentable beach houses on the North Shore, Hauʻula and its nearby neighborhoods are still a bit of a tourist area, just not nearly as crowded as Waikīkī. One of the beaches we drove to, Turtle Bay, ended up being too overwhelming for me, who enjoys more empty and quiet beaches. Luckily, the beaches just down the road, as well as Kaʻaʻawa Beach, were devoid of people. They were great, calm spots to relax, pick pipipi, and play volleyball in the water.

I brought my own grill to the beach house and created a burger based on the ʻŌlino Burger from the movie theater I work at. (Photo by Gavin Arucan)

The well-stocked beach house provided many good times too without ever having to leave the house. Although there were enough shrimp trucks in the area to feed us for days, we instead had delicious home-cooked meals every day. With hamburgers, steak, fried rice, and butter mochi, there was no need to spend money anywhere outside of the grocery store. Since the group was fairly large, everyone had their own favorite recipes to cook, whether it’s from their grandma, an old cookbook, or their own creation.

Even on the rainy days, we would just stay indoors and play board or card games, watch movies, tell stories, or roast marshmallows in the patio. With friends all around you, nothing is every boring.

Unlike our previous “Hidden Gems,” spending a week at a beach house is less of a hidden gem itself and more of an avenue to find your own hidden gem. Sometimes you won’t uncover the best spots on the island unless you actually live there a bit. Even if you don’t find that one place you’ll keep returning to in the future, the experience you’ll share with friends or family can be a gem on its own.