Sunday, June 2, 2019

Hawaii 2019: Oahu - The Grand Circle Tour

The morning kicked off with a hike up Diamond Head, shower and hotel check-out, and a trip to the mall.   Our next hotel was only 40 minutes away but it took us 6 hours to get there.  That’s because we turned right instead of left from Honolulu to head east for a day of touring.  Our route would follow the highway to the North Shore then back down to the Ko’olina resort area. 

Of course we encountered a mostly overcast day with a few drizzles in between.  Not a good day for pictures along the coast.  GyPSy Guide told us about the areas we were driving through and gave us some good tips.   Our first pullover along the road was to get a view of Rabbit Island.   Not sure why it’s a thing, but it was.  

On Holly’s must-see List was the Byodo-In Japanese Temple.  The original Magnum P.I. show did some filming here and she always wanted to see it in-person.  The temple is on the grounds of a multi-national/multi-faith cemetary.  The building, built in the 1960’s to commemorate Japanese immigration to the island is very ornate and stands out from the sourrounding mountains with its red frame.  Inside is a pretty statue of Buddha.   In the moat are a gazillion koi.   For a few dollars you can buy a bag of koi food and feed them.  These guys are trained for feeding time.  The black swan was an added bonus.

Further up the road we passed through the beach town of Kanaha. It’s a place we only knew about because Kona Brewing named a beer after the area.   You should try it. 95 calories and full of craft beer flavor.  No reason to stop due to the rain. 

Somewhere along the way we caught a glimpse of a monk seal on the beach.  We pulled over for a closer look (not too close). A volunteer was present to be sure folks kept their distance and to inform visitors about the seals. This particular seal came here a lot. 

Also along the route we saw the Chinaman’s Hat island and the Kualoa Ranch made famous in many movies like Jurassic Park.  We also made a stop at the Turtle Bay Resort to take a look at the coastline and see the site of a tv show we used to like - The North Shore.

Finally time for lunch.  We stopped in Kahuka where a bunch of little cottages and food trucks gathered. We chose the popular Giovanni’s for their famous garlic shrimp.   Excellent choice! Your fingers will get greasy here but worth it.

We checked out a few more surf beaches including The Bonzai Pipeline. The horrible weather kept the crowds low but the extremely tight parking areas were full of cars.  We arrived right before a competition started. 

Our final stop before arriving at Aulani was for shave ice at Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa - the main town of the North Shore.   Besides shave ice the town has a lot of shops, galleries, and a few restaurants.  We don’t spend much time in town this visit since we plan to have an outing back to the area a few days later.  The ice below is fully loaded with ice cream, boba balls, bean sprouts, and creme topping.

The trip to our hotel from Haleiwa took about 40 minutes.  We had a great time exploring Oahu and we were looking forward to seeing what else the North Shore had to offer.  
A few days later we needed a break from all the children at Disney Aulani’s Resort (more on that in a future post).  Our first stop was the Dole Plantation for a tour of their pineapple fields.  The first thing you notice here is the massive souvenir / food shop.  Everything touristy Hawaii is here. We bought tickets for the Pineapple Express ~$11 each to take a 20 minute tour of the fields on a tiny train.   Of course they take your picture pre-boarding to sell to you later.    It’s obvious these aren’t the real production fields.  Everything looked kinda neglected.   The best part of the tour is the stupid theme song, available exclusively on CD for $5 in the store.   We didn’t buy one, but then regretted it upon returning home so we asked a friend to procure us a copy on their trip a few months later.  It’s actually a good album for the money.    The Plantation is as cheesy as you would expect it to be and we hesitate calling it a must-do.   If it fits in with your itinerary then make a stop, but don’t plan a trip around it.

We made a quick stop at the Green World Coffee Farms.  The line was too long to wait for a drink so we just browsed the shop quickly and Dave drank a few free samples.

Back in Haleiwa we spent some time browsing the shops and galleries.   We found we really liked the art of Nick Kuchar - some great retro style Hawaiian based art.  We made another stop for shave ice at Matsumoto’s before hitting more shops.  For lunch we stopped at Haleiwa’s Beach House and shared a beef stir fry and pork grilled cheese.   Excellent food and location across from the beach. 

That covers all of our outings outside the resort.  The next post in our Hawaii series will cover Disney’s Aulani Resort and the area of Ko Olina. 

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.