The sun is warm on my face, the waves are crashing, and what’s that noise…? It’s my tummy rumbling! I don’t know about you when it comes to choosing what destination to travel to but I can tell you food is definitely a factor in our decision. Hello, we’re Lexi and Alex and we love to travel to beautiful places and seek out the best plant-based food. We’re going to take you to the sunny island of Oahu, Hawaii. With alluring beaches and supple greenery, Hawaii is colored with beautiful vegetation and for us, veg-heads, it is a dream come true. We decided the only way to get the full Hawaiian experience was for us to travel the island living out of a van. Alex has traveled to Hawaii a couple of years before we got together and fell in love with everything about the islands. He knew that our first adventure together needed to be Hawaii so I could see why he was so obsessed. We saved up and made the trip happen in the summer of 2019.
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Choosing Van Life
The island of Oahu has so much to offer, with never enough time to experience its wonders. What we experienced on this trip was truly special and we find ourselves reminiscing more often than we could have imagined. In true Hawaiian fashion, we rented a blue VW Westfalia and took the route via highway to the north shore where our foodie adventure begins. We did not have any exceptions for how hard or easy it would be to live van life in the tourist capital of the Hawaiian islands. With limited options for van rentals on the island, which include a bed, kitchenette, we chose Hawaii surf Campers. We chose van life instead of a hostel or resort because we believe it is the best way to travel. You have your stuff at all times, you have a place to sleep, and the ability to make food whenever. Also, in the long run, if you do it right you save a ton of money, and everyone knows traveling in Hawaii is never cheap. We gave ourselves the option of finding delicious restaurants for at least one meal day and every other meal we forced ourselves to prepare in the van.
The Beginning of Our Vegan Eats in Oahu
In early 2019, we come across a famous Instagram page of the Sunrise shack, this was #1 on our list of must-eats. Famous for their acai bowls, bullet coffee, and iconic photogenic shack. Avocado toast is made with just two simple ingredients, which they made taste like a world of flavors. The toast was the best we ever had; we couldn’t just have it once. Turns out we had to because the next two times we went they were completely sold out. Nevertheless, we made it work with the delicious acai bowls. The bright yellow shack brings the warmth of the tropics the moment you lay your eyes on it. The atmosphere in the dining area radiates good vibes, with fun signs and friendly chickens.
Of course, all of the ingredients are grown on the owners’ farm. The freshest fruit money could buy. The owners of the sunrise shack are three Hawaiian friends who aren’t just known for their delicious eats but are also professional surfers. This is our #1 recommended place to eat. When we weren’t cooking, the sunrise shack was one of our go to’s. But there was another restaurant we ate at often. If you need to switch things up, there’s a cute little Thai place around the corner. Our favorite dishes are pad Thai and spicy green curry and boy did Siam Garden Café deliver. We went to this restaurant twice because everything about the food was delicious. If you like Thai food for a good price we definitely recommend it here.
Van Life Turned Difficult?
Many people imagine Hawaii being a van lifer’s dream location, but I promise you our experience was more difficult than we excepted. The island of Oahu is beautiful but the downside is it has the highest population of the Hawaiian Islands so finding a place to stay (especially off-grid) was tough. We managed to park on Malaekahana Beach Campgrounds’ front parking lot. They closed the gate to the campground at 4:30 PM, a little too early if you ask me. So, this forced us to sleep in the front parking lot of the campground. About an hour into sleeping, we woke up to the campground security who we ended up paying $20 to let us stay the night. The following day we immediately booked the last site on the grounds. The campground was beautiful, well-kept and our site was as good as it gets. Our site was right on the beach with the ocean breeze keeping us cool at night. We made this our home for the next few days for only 20$ USD a night.
Having a stove in the van made it simple to save a little cash for other knick knacks we bought. That being said, we made some pretty simple and delicious meals with fresh produce and fruits that we picked up from produce stands you see all over the island. Driving down roads, it is super easy to get fresh produce due to the fact there are so many fruits-stand out in front of people’s houses. Buying from them helps support the local Hawaiians and also gives you the freshest possible produce one could get. When you’re in Hawaii you have to have fresh pineapple. The best pineapples in the world are all grown from Hawaii and you can taste the difference. It may sound weird but we really like going to grocery stores in other travel destinations. It makes us feel like we live there almost like we are a local. That feeling is what any kid from a boring town in Ontario would dream of, living in the most beautiful place on earth. Hopefully, that dream will become our reality in the future. Since we had to be back on the campground by 4:30 we ate all of our dinners in the van. Pinterest has always been the best tool for us veg-heads to find delicious recipes. We stuck to one-pot recipes that we could find off Pinterest because we didn’t want to do much cleaning and keep the grocery bill cheap. We had stir fry with the same ingredients every night for dinner, only changing up the sauces so we wouldn’t get bored. So yeah, we think we ate pretty well and managed to save some money while living the van life in Oahu.
The Travel Verdict
Van life in Oahu is a very underrated way to see the island. You manage to save money and experience even more all out of the comfort of one vehicle. No worries about uncomfortable congested hostels, and you don’t need to spend big on a resort room. You save money on a rental car accommodation and food. Make sure you try out the famous sunrise shack and say hello to the chickens for us. If you’re downtown Waiki and craving some Thai food now you know where to go for the best Pad Thai on the island. Waking up beachside can never be topped. Oahu holds a special place in our hearts, be back soon. – Alex & Lexi