Sunday, May 12, 2019

Hawaii 2019: Oahu - Honolulu

We were most concerned about the Oahu portion of the trip (well maybe the race portion first) because of a few posts that came out on December 14th. Our resort for 5 night of the 6 nights, Disney's Aulani, was going to be invaded by the American Idol TV Show.  Disney Parks Blog announced it, the Hawaii news channels, even our resort.   All indications were this would impact our trip. We called the resort that day to ask for details and the answer was "Sir we don't have any knowledge of an American Idol event".  Really?

So frustrating to call every other day to hear "We have no knowledge..."  We ended up buying admission for Pearl Harbor for two separate days so our plans could stay flexible.  We booked multiple dinner reservations at the resort in case one of the few restaurants ended up getting closed for an evening.  We will let you know what happened at Aulani in another post - in this post we are talking Honolulu.

We left Kauai on an early morning flight to maximize our one full day in Honolulu.   We spent a little time at the rental car booth because they had the nerve to upgrade us to some big SUV.   Dave wasn't about to drive anything bigger than he needed to.  Our first stop was in the center of downtown to see the Iolani Palace and the King Kamehameha Statue.   In real life this site is a museum, but on current TV it's home to Hawaii 5-0.   Dave's not sure why they hold this illusion since most other locations are their actual sites and we know this building is a museum.....  After a few quick photos we went to our hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, to drop off our luggage since we didn't want to risk a break-in and losing our bags.

Our wishful thinking was to try get into Hananuma Bay for some snorkeling but of course the lot was closed by the time we arrived.   We did the next best thing we could do in the area which was to stop at a scenic overlook, grab malasadas (donuts) from a Leonard's truck, and have lunch at a Kona Brewing Pub.

Back to the hotel to check in.   The Hilton has one road in and it’s lined with tourists from all over the world that don’t pay one bit of attention to oncoming traffic and just cross the street at will.  Dave may have lost his “aloha” spirit driving through here.   After checking in we visited the lagoon and the spot where the Hawaii 5-0 crew get shrimp.   We walked up Waikiki Beach with one destination in mind - Duke’s for Happy Hour.   Live music and seats near the drink mixing station made for a great two hours.   

It was still too early for dinner.   We couldn't leave Oahu without visiting a brewery (Kona's lunch had very limited capacity) so it was time to Uber closer to the hotel and visit Waikiki Brewing.  The open-air bar faced into the production area giving it a no-nonsense truly local feel.   The staff was very friendly and took great care of us.   After the brewery we decided we wanted to get some form of Asian food for dinner.   The nearby Korean BBQ place had questionable reviews so we played it safe and headed back to the area by Duke's for Morimoto's Asia.  We've enjoyed meals at the their Disney location.   We found the Honolulu menu a bit more limited and the atmosphere not as much fun or upscale.


We woke up early the next morning for our hike up Diamond Head.  By 7:30AM the parking lot was getting full.  At this time of the morning the climb wasn't too stressful.   We couldn't picture doing this in the middle of the afternoon heat like some of our friends did a few days before.  The worst part was the long and steep staircases that went on forever.   We had a lot of overcast that morning so the lighting wasn't cooperating for our photos but at least we had a decent view of Honolulu from the top.

After the climb we drove back to the hotel for showers and check-out.  Today was going to be another long day of touring the island counter-clockwise.  Most of that tour will be covered in another post.  We'll keep this one focused on Honolulu.  Our first stop was the Ala Moana Center for the Alex and Ani store Hawaii exclusive bracelets.   This is a huge outdoor mall with some pretty nice shops, but we stuck to the plan and only hit A&A.

With it being a Tuesday Hanauma Bay was closed.   We spent a few minutes at the nearby Halona Blowhole Lookout watching the idiots stand too close to the blowhole for their Insta.


Jump ahead a few days.  We're at Disney's Aulani west of Honolulu and about 40 minutes from Pearl Harbor.  It was raining off-and-on that morning but the ride in was mostly uneventful.   Pearl Harbor was smaller than we imagined.    It's amazing to believe all that happened here occurred in such tight corners.  The Arizona Memorial was closed to visitors due to dock work being performed.  We took a cruise around it a few times.  The rest of our time was spent following the audio tour narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis.   This was a well-done  tour providing many different perspectives of the war and life on the islands at the time.   The exhibits helped bring the narration to life.     We spent over 3 hours at Pearl Harbor and did not see everything the area had to offer.

After touring the harbor we drove back into the city to tour the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.   More rain inhibited us from getting out of the car for closer looks.

While we were in town why not stop at another brewery.  Honolulu Beerworks was in a warehouse section of town - one of the best places for a brewery.    Hawaii breweries did not disappoint - Honolulu Beerworks included.    We split a flight and picked our favorites for pints.   

We decided not to eat in the area because we were going to check something off Dave's bucket list.   Near our hotel was a place with conveyor belt sushi.   Unfortunately at 2PM on a weekday the only thing on the belt was a jar of wasabi. Whomp Whomp!   Oh well... the entrees we ordered off the menu were good.
Honolulu was a fun destination.  Waikiki Beach was pretty, people were friendly, and there are a lot of international influences. We would love to spend more time downtown.  In the next Hawai post we will cover our trip to the North Shore via the east side of the island. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hawaii 2019: Kauai Part 3

Oahu | Kauai Part One Part Two Maui Posts | Maui Oceanfront Marathon Report 

 had two more full days in Kauai before heading off to Oahu.  We decided our last day would be a beach day at the resort leaving us one more full day of island touring.  We’d start this day heading east and north with the island’s north side as our goal.   Our morning started at Little Fish Coffee Bar near the hotel.  The line was extremely long but we figured out they offered online ordering and saved ourselves around ten minutes.  Dave tried his first açaí bowl that was filled with granola, bananas, chocolate chips, berries, peanut butter, etc.   This dish legalized ice cream for breakfast.  Photo of the cafe below is stolen from the internet.

We started our tour by chasing waterfalls.  The GyPSy Guide App was a great help navigating to some of the locations that were a little stray from the main road.   Wailua Falls were first.  These are the waterfalls from the Fantasy Island TV show opening.   They were pretty, but the alignment of the overlook didn’t really allow for great photos, especially with the lighting at this time of the day.  Opaeka’a Falls was our next stop.  By this time it was a bit overcast and drizzling.

We enjoyed our ride through the town of Kapa’a and made mental notes of where to stop for snacks on the way back.  The drive up the east side was very nice with lots of lush vegetation and well-maintained properties hidden behind that lush vegetation.   The Kileau National Nature Reserve was next on our list.  The government shutdown had just ended which allowed us to buy a National Park Annual Pass vs. the individual entrance fees.  We needed a new pass for later in the year so win-win.  The refuge is small but still worth seeing.   The cliffs with the crashing waves were pretty, the lighthouse was cool, and the bird activity at the nearby island was fun the watch.  

Now for the fun part. GyPSy told us about an area in Princeville called Queen’s Bath. It was supposed to be a pretty place to see waves crashing on lava rocks. The guide did say the path could be challenging. We arrived at the area to find the parking spaces all taken.  We waited for a space that happened to be in front of a locked gate on the fencing surrounding the forest.   Somehow we were oblivious to the fact the gate was locked for a reason.  Other tourists directed us to the gap in the fence and we proceeded down the path.   Much of the path was full of ankle-breaking roots exposed by heavy rain wash.   On the plus side we got to see a waterfall.   The bath itself was nice to look at but we could tell it would be dangerous to go too far out.   After snapping some pictures we went back up.   Near the cars we finally found the handwritten danger sign tallying the deaths in the area.  

It was time for a drink.

We found Tiki Iniki in an upscale Princeville shopping center. We fell in love immediately.  The retro vibe was all over the menu artwork, the bar was full of interesting artifacts (including some Disney World Polynesian Village Hotel items), and the right mix of exotica and surf music playing.  Since we still had a lot of driving to do Dave stuck to a beer instead of an umbrella drink.  We did go home with a souvenir for the mug collection.

Our next stop was the town of Hanalei and a visit to its famous bay.   One thing Dave enjoyed about traveling around Hawaii was he better understood the artwork and names on Kona Brewing beer labels.   The town of Hanalei was really cute, but a bit crowded.  The beach on the bay was not as impressive as we expected, maybe it was the lighting and slight overcast impacting our impression.   We had lunch at Tahiti Nui, another tiki bar of sorts.   This was Home to Holly’s favorite Mai Tai of the trip.  Dave picked up a fun swim suit at Billabong.
Image result for Hanalei Island IPA label

On the way back we needed a bathroom break and stopped in Kapa’a.   We had a very difficult time finding restrooms and ended up buying a beer in a dive bar so we could be “customers”.   We made a shave ice stop at Hee Fat General Store.  JoJo’s was still our favorite. 

There was one more activity we were hoping to participate in before heading back to the Sheraton.   The Koloa Rum Company's tasting room had its last sampling at 4pm.   We walked into the store a minute beforehand and were told we were out of luck.   We lingered for a few minutes and they decided they could squeeze us in.   The free tasting offered several tiny tastings of their different products and offered a snack.  The tour guide told us a bit about the rum and how the Hawaiian language almost disappeared a few decades ago.  We didn't enjoy any of the products enough to fill the luggage, but they were good quality products and the store is worth a visit.

Dinner that night was at Eating House 1849 from Roy Yamaguchi in the nearby shopping center.  The Sheraton was nicely situated to give easy access to the shopping center and restaurants at the other resorts.  Holly really enjoyed the ramen noodle dish.


The next day was our designated beach day.  We took a quick trip in the morning into the town of Koloa to fill up the gas tank and browse a few of the shops.  There aren't too many stores in Koloa, but there's enough to entertain you for about an hour. 

We spent the afternoon on the beach and in the pool.   We talked with a couple that "borrowed" a dog from the local humane society.  It's a great program where tourists can borrow a dog for a few hours and take it on hikes or spend time at the beach.

Dinner tonight was at Red Salt in the Ko'a Kea Resort.   This is where Dave got some bourbon-based drink with the addition of gold flakes.  Pinkies up!    They gave us a nice window table away from the big groups and we were able to enjoy a great meal of mahi over black rice.  Red Salt was a great place to have our final Kauai meal.   

We enjoyed our time on Kauai.   The island had a lot of diverse activities to choose from and we are sure we could find more to do on a return trip.  At this point in the trip we were feeling Maui was more to our liking vs. Kauai.  Friends had really built up our expectations of Kauai to be so tranquil and laid-back.  We seemed to have had that feeling more on Maui.  People also told us we were likely not to enjoy our next destination, Oahu, as much as the others.   We were actually quite surprised at how much we enjoyed Oahu.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hawaii: Kauai Part 2

Oahu | Kauai | Maui Posts | Maui Oceanfront Marathon Report

Time for another action-packed day.  We grabbed breakfast from the hotel market before driving a few short miles to the Spouting Horn Beach Park that was home to the Spouting Horn Blow Hole.   Since we arrived early we didn't get a chance to browse all the souvenir/craft vendors that were setting up shop for the day.   The park is on a pretty little stretch of land with some interesting volcanic rock outcroppings.   Plenty of Kauai chickens to watch at this location.

We've yet to mention our "third wheel" for our trip - the GyPSy Guide App.    We bought apps for the three islands we were visiting (about $7-$10 each).  As we drove along the guide would start telling us information about where we were based on our GPS position.  We'd get helpful tips such as "...turn left to see X, or continue straight to head to Y".  It helped us to find sites that were not on our radar. Apps are offered for many locations across the country.   We also heard a lot of stories about Hawaiian history, legends, food, culture, geology, and received a language lesson.

We traveled along the south shore west to head to the Waimea Canyon (The Grand Canyon of the Pacific).  On our way we lucked into the seeing the monument commemorating Captain Cook's arrival to Kauai in the town of Waimea.   Along the way through Waimea Canyon State Park we pulled over to see a few sites like a small waterfall flowing through red clay.   Leaving as early as we did allowed us to get to the first canyon view point before the tour buses.  This was the only clear view we had in the park.    As we made our way further up the mountain the clouds and rain got heavier.  The view of Na Pali Coast from Pu'u O Kila Lookout was not in the cards for us today.  This spot is considered one of the wettest places in the world with over 300 inches of rain a year.

We waited it out as long as we could then called it quits.  On our way to our next destination we made a pit stop in Waimea for a snack at JoJo's Shave Ice.  It was the best of the entire trip!  Holly had the Lilo and Stitch (berry flavors) while Dave had the cold brew coffee.

Our next destination was Port Allen for two attractions:  a brewery and the launch point for our dinner cruise.  Kauai Island Brewery and Grill had the best kalua pork of the trip and the lumpia egg rolls were pretty good.  Inside the brewery is a pretty nice mural of the Na Pali Coast.  Beers were good, but Kauai Beer Company in Lihu'e won that contest.

We walked across the street to Captain Andy's office/waiting lounge.   We were signed up for a dinner tour of the Na Pali Coast, but given the seas were very rough on the west side (and would be for the rest of our trip) the cruise would alter course to sail east.   We had the option to bail with a full refund but decided a catamaran ride was going to be better than any alternative we could come up with,   The coastline is not as dramatic on the southern/eastern route but we did get to see our hotel from the water!  Along the way we saw one monk seal on shore, a few whales, and a dolphin pod pretty close to the boat.  Since we missed the Na Pali Coast by boat we now have a reason to come back to Kauai.

We docked after sunset and made our way back to Po'ipu and the Sheraton.   The problem we have with sunset dinner cruises is they feed you way too early.   Dinner at 5:00 is way to early.   Back at the Sheraton we went to Rum Fire to enjoy a few cocktails and the live entertainment for the evening.   Back in the room we enjoyed some of the snack food we had been hoarding.  Tomorrow was going to be another long day of touring.