Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hawaii

The last weekend in April I took a long weekend in Hawaii on the island of O'ahu for the fun of it. Really it was a combination of mile run (Hawaii was on sale with Delta/NW), group trip for my travel meetup (http://www.meetup.com/nova-travelers), and adventure trip to explore new territory.

 
 

Jon opted to stay home for this one, so it was just myself and another friend Jeanette. The flights to Hawaii were rather uneventful except that of course I can now saw I have flown over the Pacific ocean. Another box to check off the list… We popped in and out of the Delta Sky Clubs in the airports along the way and that was a nice respite from the noise of the gates. I did meet a really nice couple on the plane who were also mile runners. They were the really ambitious type too, having gone to Asia recently for dinner! They didn't know anything about the mile runner's site flyertalk.com so I explained to them all about our little group online and they were thrilled to discover they weren't the only ones with this crazy hobby.

 
 

Once on the ground in O'ahu we caught the SuperShuttle to Waikiki Beach as planned to take us to our hotel. It's about a 30 minute easy drive from the airport to Waikiki Beach.

 
 

We stayed at the Marriott on WB, right across from the oceanfront. It was a lovely view of the ocean to the front and a partial view of the mountains to the side and rear. (I've uploaded pictures of the whole trip (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=114761&id=603259739&l=cd0ff17fcd) so you might want to open that in a second window to follow along.)

 
 

First thing I really started to notice (how could I not?) is the overabundance of men wearing Hawaiian shirts. If space aliens dropped down on Oahu they'd conclude it was an enforced dress code. We were in Hawaii, I know, *how cliché* and what else should I expect, but really, butch up a little guys will ya?

 
 

Dinner our first night was at Roy's - a legendary Hawaiian chef's restaurant in Waikiki Beach. It's right near the Outrigger for those of you who make it over to WB anytime soon. This was *the* best meal I had all weekend in Hawaii. We both ordered from the prix fix menu. I chose the crispy vegetable spring roll, Macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi with lobster butter, and hot chocolate soufflé. Every dish was beautiful in presentation and showcased an exquisite pairing of Pacific Rim flavors with native Hawaiian culinary ingredients.

 
 

As if dinner on an island isn't fantastic enough, we had a great view of fireworks over Waikiki Beach that evening.

 
 

After dinner Jeanette went out for a night on the town while I played old lady and relaxed in the room, tired from the long journey from the east coast). Remember that Hawaii is 6 hours behind DC so by the time it was 9pm I was exhausted.

 
 

Saturday morning we opted for breakfast at our hotel, as it has a well recommended Polynesian themed buffet. For the rest of my life I will remember the delicate taste of waffles with coconut syrup, fresh whipped cream, macadamia nuts, and shaved coconut. In addition to the fabulous waffles the buffet featured traditional breakfast items, an omlette bar, and salmon and rice (hmm for breakfast?). We tried a little bit of everything before we set off for the day's adventures.

 
 

We decided to rent a car for the day and beach hop along the island. The rental shop in our hotel was sold out completely, as were the three others nearby. I called Jon back at home and asked him to rent us a car through USAA somewhere within a couple miles of our hotel. He found a rental spot through USAA that still had a car left and it was just a few blocks from us. Success. And the one car they had left? A blue mustang convertible. Not too shabby.

 
 

We got out a map of the island (Waikiki Beach is on the island of O'ahu, one of 19 Hawaii islands. Hawaii gets its name from one of the islands that is actually named Hawaii) and began planning our route for the day. You can open a big map of O'ahu to follow along our route in a second browser window by clicking HERE. Sorry for the tiny print. (There is also great reading on the Hawaiian islands at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaiian_Islands#Main_islands . I recommend you visit this link at some point and school yourself up on Hawaii if you're not too familiar with the state.)

 
 

Our driving route was approx 100 miles. We started in Waikiki Beach of course (lower right on the map) and took H1 over to Pearl Harbor (lower center of map). We got to Pearl Harbor too late to avoid the crowds, so we skipped the 3 hour line for the USS. Arizona wreckage view and instead I went aboard the USS Bowfin submarine which had no line. Jeanette had already seen her fair share of subs in her lifetime so she sat this tour out. I was really shocked at how short and small the quarters were on the submarine. And you can tell it's a ship built by men for men because everything is ugly steel- there is no interior décor going on at all, except a pinup calendar, which hardly qualifies. The memorial area of Pearl Harbor is really pretty with small monuments erected in dedication to all the fallen ships/subs from WW2 that tell you about each one and the crew. I was really moved by the site, as it reminds you that life can change in an instant and that peace is never guaranteed even in the great USA - there are always shadows of war around the corner.

 
 

After Pearl Harbor, we began our journey toward the north shore up Highway 99 (center of the map). Whereas Waikiki Beach is loud and touristy, the north shore is known for it's quiet, laidback beaches and beautiful mountain scenery. The drive up 99 was so beautiful! It's hard to describe the landscape of Hawaii. At times it reminded me of prairie lands, but much more green. It's unique to say the least. I took so many pictures (are you still looking at my pictures in another window too? Hope so!) including one of the Dole Pineapple plantation. (The plantation is right about where the 99 marker is on the map, a bit before 99 meets Highway 83 on the upper middle section). As we drove by the plantation I began to look for pineapple trees but could find none. We did spot row after row of what we thought were cactus plants coming out of the ground but later found out were actually the pineapples. Did you know they grown in the ground with their spiky tops sticking out? Yeah, me neither.

 
 

After 99 merged into Hwy 83, we stopped at Haleiwa Beach (center of map, just after the Hwy 83 marker). This beach had a pretty piece of land jutting out into the water covered in palm trees. We snapped some pics and were off again down the road.

 
 

Our next stop was at Waimea Falls, inside Waimea Valley Audubon Center (center top of map). It's a lovely nature park with a trail alongside botanical gardens that eventual leads to Waimea falls. WF is a 40 foot waterfall and we got some great shots of it in the picture collection. Swimming is allowed at the falls but I dipped my toes in and found the water to be too cold for my tastes. We also met a friendly peacock in the parking lot and had authentic Hawaiian pulled pork sandwiches at the visitor's center for lunch.

 
 

After the falls we continued beach hopping as we drove east and then south on Hwy 83, taking pictures at each one and making memories (but not swimming- the water was cold). These included Sunset Beach (where we saw wild muskrats, center top of map), Laie Bay (great view of the mountains behind the water, right top of map), and Kahana Bay (west cost of map halfway down). We stopped at a beat up roadside shack along Hwy 83 south and bought little baggies of fresh pineapple, coconut, and other fruits and ate them straight out of the bag. The vendor had dusted the pineapple with some red powder that was fantastic. He said it was a local spice and spat out one of those over-voweled unpronounceable Polynesian names. Wish I knew what it was, but whatever it was it was delicious. (My pet peeve about Oahu is the excessive use of vowels in the Polynesian language. First, it is hard to pronounce anything. Second, it's hard to keep the different names straight with so many similar vowels. Third it forced me to have the Muppets song "Mahna Mahna" stuck in my head all weekend.)

 
 

Somehow we missed a turn and ended up on H3 heading back toward Waikiki. It turned out to be a happy accident because there is a scenic overlook just before the tunnel on H3 that goes into the mountain. After we had entered the tunnel, found a place to make a u-turn and came back out the tunnel where we had entered we pulled over and took some great shots of the landscape from the viewpoint (look for the H3 marker lower right of map moving toward the center).

 
 

We made our way back over to the west coast from H3 and down the coast, stopping at Waimanalo Beach (the red dot on the map where Hwy 72 meets the west coast), and Makapuu Beach (lower right on map) and the Halona Blowhole (right after Makapuu Beach, but not listed on the map). We took so many pictures and while I hope you enjoy the shots, the two dimensional nature of photographs cannot fully present the beauty of the three dimensional view.

 
 

We dropped the car off around 8pm and headed to Cheeseburger in Paradise (a local Oahu chain that claims to have originated from 2 women who, while vacationing in Hawaii, decided to stay permanently and open a hamburger shop and borrowed the name from the JB song) for dinner. The food was disappointing and I could swear I've seen a restaurant with the same name in Virginia but the manager told me they did not have any restaurants elsewhere. I came home and looked it up and sure enough there is a completely separate company running a chain of CBiP restaurants along the east coast. I wonder if they know about each other? They must in this day and age of google right? And yet nobody is suing anyone? Maybe they both licensed the title from Buffet (would you need to license a title built on a phrase from a song?). Who knows. Anyway the virgin pina coladas were excellent but the food was unremarkable and overpriced. After dinner my vacation mate went out to explore again while I hit the sheets.

 
 

Sunday morning we headed over to a cheaper ($8) local buffet a few blocks down that had good reviews. The food was alright and there was a lot of entertainment provided by the birds who quickly descended on mass on any plates left on outdoor tables after the patrons had paid the bill and left but before the tables were bussed. I thought it was cute, but I could hear Jon in the back of my mind going on about bird germs.

 
 

Once we finished breakfast we took the public bus (easy to find, heads right down the central streets) to Hanauma Bay. Because we would be swimming this day, and leaving our clothes unattended I did not bring a camera. Suffice to say the scenery was beautiful and as one of the most popular photo spots on Oahu a quick google search will bring up lots of pics for you if you are curious. It's a steep walk down and back up again to the beach and there were quite a lot of people there but the experience was still enjoyable. We rented snorkel equipment and snorkeled around the reef that's sitting right in the middle of the bay. Tons of beautiful fish all around. It's the best snorkeling experience I've had since Belize. I did manage to cut myself on the coral plenty though accidentally as I was swimming past. The reef can be difficult to maneuver around in the shallow water. We did see a lot of kids and adults intentionally standing and sitting on the reef despite the signs that prohibit such. It was a very relaxing day at Hanauma and we did not return to Waikiki until the late afternoon.

 
 

Once back we grabbed lunch at the Tiki bar next to our hotel (there's a shot of it in the picture gallery). Although the virgin pina coladas here were delicious (can you sense a trend?) the food was mediocre and overpriced. It seems I was learning that food options are limited if you're stranded in Waikiki without a car. I did get a chance to try a unique Japanese ice cream preparation that was tasty- basically they wrap ice cream in gummy rice gelatin. It sounds gross but it's very tasty.

 
 

After lunch there was shopping to be done for mementos and gifts for family/friends and then I wandered around the hotel taking pictures of the décor including all the fresh flowering plants. Spent some time at the beach across the street and the pools at the hotel before freshening up and heading out to try to find a quality dinner in Waikiki. No such luck. I eventually ended up at a Thai place that served the worst interpretation of Thai food I've ever tried and at 3x the price of the Thai restaurants in DC/VA. What really makes me mad is that I thoughtfully tried to warn patrons waiting in line to get in as I was leaving just how bad it was and not one of them took my advice and left. I guess they deserve what they get.

 
 

We packed up our stuff that night and prepared for departure. I got up at 3am Mon morning Hawaiian time to work on east coast schedule with my coworkers, taking my "lunch" break to have breakfast downstairs at the hotel buffet again. After the day of work was done at 10am, I played at the beach for a few hours before it was time to head for the airport.

 
 

Overall, it was a fabulous trip and I'm so glad I went. I'm hoping to head back sometime this summer or fall and explore a different island this time and bring Jonathan with me.


 

 
 

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