I wanted to share with you my first Holiday for 2019, yay! This year I was lucky enough to visit Hawaii for the first time and thanks to @alohadownunder I got to stay in a couple of hotels fo-free!
Now, because Hawaii is known for beach and shopping, I decided against taking Jordy with me, purely so I could buy my designer handbags, browse Sephora, read on the beach, tan by the pool, visit a mall, shop at another mall, Ross, Victoria’s Secret, snorkel, sit on the beach, tan, read… sorry, what was I saying? This was a perfect trip to take my little Sissy along and what made it even better was a suggestion by our dad (he probably wanted to get rid of us) to add our Mummy on as a surprise. Girls Trip READY!
Living out in Kapiti, we decided to take Air Chathams up to Auckland to meet our separate flights with Hawaiian Airlines. Although there are risks of taking two separate tickets, the convenience of flying from home, only 5 minutes away, over the one hour commute into Wellington is certainly a plus. The planes are a lot smaller but are comfortable enough and the flight time is about the same as from Wellington, which is approximately one hour (I assume due to the smaller aircraft).
Tip: Air Chathams planes are small but they sure are loud! I could hear the engine even with headphones in. It is not a massive issue for only an hour, but something to keep in mind.
The configuration on Hawaiian Air was 2-4-2 and I was lucky enough to get a row of two all to myself for the night flight over mwahah. We got a little sandwich pack, even though it was midnight and breakkie in the morning.
Charley’s Taxi is how we got to/from the airport(s) for this trip. They offer flat rates which I did find was much cheaper than a metered taxi. They actually even leave the meter on while they drive, I guess to show what a good deal it is? Anyway, on arrival we paid 29USD + tax (it’s always plus the good ol’ tax in the USA) from the airport to our first hotel in Waikiki, Honolulu the capital of the US state of Hawaii. All you need to do is pre-book the taxis you want and then call from a free phone when you arrive at the airport.
Tip: When calling local numbers in Hawaii, you don’t need to put 808 (which is the area code), just the numbers after. We couldn’t figure out how to call the cab when we arrived so ran around like sweaty headless chickens for a little bit, luckily then stumbled across a Charley’s representative.
The first hotel we stayed at was the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel which is a 3.5-4 star property located towards the Diamond Head end of Waikiki beach and right across the road from the beach – yuh! awesome. We had an Ocean View room on the 23rd floor which was an awesome start to the trip. Remember there is a Room Tax which you need to pay on arrival 😉 I assume the tax contributed to the funding of our very own COMPLEMENTARY DRINK BOTTLE woohoo! I actually used this bad boy every day & was so pleased I had something to re-use for the trip.
After checking in, we hit the beach because the pool chairs were all full.
The beach area in front of the Aston has the “Waikiki Walls” which is kind of like a closed off rock wall, so it is safe to swim from rips and big waves – not only awesome if you are travelling with kids but if you are not the most confident swimmer. In the pictures it does not look like much, but I did swim out to the wall and couldn’t touch the bottom at the end, so it does make for a nice lagoon-ish area to flop around in.
We decided to get some navigating out of the way and used the local bus lines to visit Ala Moana Shopping Centre. The bus is 2USD cash per direction and stops at various hotels and landmarks along the way; there are different lines for different areas – you can get a pass for these if you want. There is a bus stop right outside the Aston Waikiki Beach so we had no trouble remembering where to get off when we got back.
Mum’s bucket list item here, was a Filipino fast food chain in the food court, so she was happy with her Jollibee fix and I can also now confirm Hawaiian Pizza is named “Hawaiian style pizza” and that yes, there is pineapple on it.
We left our hotel 5.30am for a 15 minute cab ride to the Diamond Head hike. The cab dropped us off outside and we had to walk through to the Visitor Centre, which only took another 5 minutes – 10 if you stop for a photo shoot. Yes Uber is available, but ah, yeah, I ah, drained the main account shall we say… anyway back to the hike!
It costs 1USD per person if you walk in and a little more if you drive in yourself.
The park opens 6am and closes at 6pm, with the last hike allowed being 4.45pm.
If you are a food-loving-semi-active-but-not-really kinda gal like me, 6am was already super-hot to “hike”, so I wouldn’t recommend going during the day unless you enjoy lots of people, narrow walkways with lots of people and overheating with lots of people! It took the three of us around 30 minutes up to the top and a little shorter on the way down. There were already a few big groups at this time and on our way down, even more groups making their way up, so I personally would not have gone any later. Someone might think I don’t like lots of people? Personal bubbles are important okay?! At the top all of the groups up there formed a sort of photo line, where everyone got their 2 minutes of photo shoot time, before moving on for the next person. It was a bit of a squeeze, even at this time of the morning, with the highest point being quite small. There are stairs too, not a whole lot, but a nice high intensity burst into your uphill expedition.
Tip: it is hot. You will sweat. If you wear a green hat, your sweat will leek through…
Pearl Harbour was a really cool afternoon. For 1USD, I booked online 60 days in advance which included a 23 minute film on the history of Pearl Harbour and a boat ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri battleship. Unfortunately the USS Arizona Memorial was closed for maintenance so we didn’t get to physically walk on it, but the view from the boat was fine and we had plenty of room on the boat. Naturally one must indulge in a quick frappe before a day trip…
It is about a 25 minute drive from Waikiki to Pearl Harbour and we paid 80USD round trip. Being day two we did not want to risk missing our time slot due to navigation issues, but there are multiple ways to get there including by bus, which is pretty easy and accessible. When I compared the cab to the Uber app (which I couldn’t use anyway) it was pretty similar.
The $1 Pearl Harbour option was a really good quick trip if you’re not a big history buff and don’t want to spend all day looking at ships and hearing numbers. I for one do love history, especially when it comes to wars; it is just the “ship-talk” (tehe) that could put me to sleep, so this to me was perfect.
Just to compare, the guided tour is 79USD which includes a “Pearl Harbour passport stamp” so for a buck, our little snippet was not only great but a big saving – I don’t need a passport stamp anyways, but hey, a good-to-know if you know anyone who loves this sort of thing! After the movie and boat ride, it was essentially over, so you have time to walk around the, I suppose you could call it an outdoor museum? There is a snack and gift shop on site and there are sheltered areas to sit down.
Tip: You are not allowed to bring bags bigger than a small side bag inside, but there is a bag check outside.
Day two’s dinner was of course at The Cheesecake Factory. The number one place to eat yourself sick without trying and the menu is so big you don’t know where to start… Collage below featuring Chicken Tacos/Chicken & Prawn Gumbo/Chicken Katsu
Not pictured but of course we needed to indulge in a Hershey’s chocolate cheesecake via doggie bag for the roll home – death by chocolate could actually be a thing I swear!
Tip/Reminder: US portions are HUGE. DO NOT, I repeat do not get an entree!
Kualoa Ranch Day Trip IS SO MUCH FUN!
It is basically a ranch on a massive stretch of land that has a range of different activities to can choose from for your day. The Experience Package we booked included three of the many tours Kualoa Ranch offer.
Movie Sites and Ranch Tour:
– stop off at some iconic places, like Jurassic Valley and a photo op at the log where Sam Neil hid from the dino stampede!!! squeeeeeee!!!
– lots of info on the history on the ranch and the old military WWII bunker which is now a mini movie prop gallery.
To all my movie and TV nerds, see if you can spot anything familiar…
– a bumpy jeep safari ride up into the mountains
– scenic views of outer islands and photo ops
– history of Kualoa.
Buffet Lunch and to finish was Taste of Kualoa Farm Tour:
– a deep dive into the agriculture flora/fauna and various projects
– taste test of taro, coconut, tuna and apple bananas
– iconic movie stop offs.
All of these had different movie sites which was nice and having different guide for each trip kept it interesting. Even if you had already heard the information, you got it told again in a different way, so it did not get boring.
I started to zzzz through the Farm Tour though but perked up when we got to taste some food (not an uncommon thing for the Lazz I’m afraid) and of all three, this one surprised me the most – it could have been the film location spots or maybe the food, hard to say… Other tour packages included zip lining, horseback riding and quad biking through the ranch!
Day 3’s dinner was at a sports bar next door the Aston Waikiki Beach called “Lulu’s” –
$15 burgers and $9 pinacoladas and/or desserts.
We nailed it on not getting an entree but were still stupid enough to all get dessert each. …which not one of us finished.
Tip/Reminder: US portions are HUGE. Share and DO NOT, I repeat do not get your own dessert!
Breakfast at Hula Grill (inside the Outrigger Hotel)
15USD for tropical pancakes and 9USD for pine punch or smoothie. We made the discovery that anything 15USD and above is a good indicator that you probably could have shared it.
Tip/Reminder: US portions are HUGE. Share and DO NOT, I repeat do not order anything around 15USD to yourself!
Banan is a wicked must go place 16USD for a pineapple yacht (which we shared). We stopped here for lunch.
Aside from the food bucket list ticking, Day 4 was a very interesting day because, this lil Travel Agent bought locally for some day trips! The easiest way to get yourself around Oahu is to hire a car and self-drive but I decided pretty early on, that I did not want to drive but wanted to make sure I visited the North Shore and Hanauma Bay. So I asked the tour desk in our hotel about getting out to the North Shore. Now, I work on commission so I know how all this generally works and I’m pretty happy to spend money when I am being sold something; but I really wasn’t sold on what was being sold to me (drink every time I say sold). The guy even recommended I go and see another guy who worked for another place, that would “save me some money”. The best deal between these two dudes was 90USD for a basic Island Circle Tour. Yes it went to the Dole Plantation, yes it stopped at a Shrimp Truck and yes it stopped at the major lookouts along the way; but did the guy sell me 90USD worth of tour and service? In my opinion, no!
I was having a browse through a local Ohau magazine and came across hawaiitourandtravels.com and decided to take a chance on it – and this was totally a “don’t judge a book by its cover” moment because it truly didn’t look like much on the outside and inside was this tiny little room. I think I actually said to my Sister “oh no this better not be it”. Long story short, the lady was amazing and she could sell. The exact same Island Circle tour was sold here for about 40USD and she up-sold me to the Majestic Grand Circle tour, which was all those same bucket list ticks PLUS a visit/swim at a waterfall AND a temple visit (actually was my highlight of that day) for 70USD. We also purchased a Hanauma Bay snorkel trip for around 16USD for that same afternoon. I did actually ask her why it was so much cheaper with her and she said that they are a wholesaler rather than a third party. Either way, she was efficient, knew what she was selling and knew the value of what she was selling so I was more than happy to hand my money over to her.
Tip: You will save money buying day trips from agents outside of the hotels and the staff at hawaiitourandtravels are good at their jobs!
Our second hotel was Surfjack which is located a few blocks back from the beach and on the other side of Waikiki. It is, much like most places, walking distance to all the major things in Waikiki.
The last minute Hanauma Bay trip was fine for 16 bucks. It did not cover the 7.50USD entrance fee however and was basically a transfer that had snorkel & fins we could borrow. She did have to haggle with two different companies because we only had that day to do it and a particular time slot due to check out/in from our hotels.
So with that, I think we landed a Chinese Tour that was basically return transfers and snorkel gear hire – we did get told in English which order the hotel drop off went but that’s about it. There was this weird stop and driver swap which we knew nothing about – he did talk to the other family on the tour in Chinese so maybe they knew what was going on but anyway, it was all we needed and we got there and back with only minor confusion. We booked a 1:30pm departure for a 30 minute drive from Waikiki, so when we arrived, naturally, the Bay was full of people.
It takes about 15 minutes to walk to the entrance then 10 minutes downhill after a video briefing. At this time of the day, there are lots of people and it is hot, you will want a hat to wait in line to watch the video! There is a tram that will go up/down the little hill. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of it, but we used this on the way up (as we had all our gear) and it was only a couple bucks cash per person.
We knew it would take more time to walk back up hill so were only able to snorkel around an hour if we wanted to make the pick-up time. With the amount of people there, I thought this was fine. Hanauma Bay was once a volcano and is now crater and beautiful marine reserve. Hmm, you have done a lot of reading, here, look at some pretty pics…
Tip: If I could have done it differently, first thing in the morning would be the time I’d want to go (yes, it is even warm enough to swim at 6am), so jump on the first available ride out/drive in for opening time if you can.
Dinner was at a massive food hall of all Japanese restaurants & was really yummy!
Breakfast at “Heavenly island lifestyle” – all ingredients are organic and local produce from around the Island. Open omelette 16USD/Breakfast burrito 12USD/Energy smoothie 8USD had us ready for a day at Waikele Outlets…
Shopping Day (and more Filipino food)!
I picked us up a VIP Welcome Pack each which was a tote bag full of vouchers and little goodies. There are plenty of ways to get to there, the most popular is Robert’s 18USD per person round trip. The cheapest around is 5USD each way some on an old looking bus or local bus. We used Waikele Express Shuttles, which were priced in the middle at 10USD per person return online, which had wifi and air-con, so it was pretty comfortable. It is about 40-45min drive from Waikiki so is much cheaper than a cab or Uber at peak traffic time.
Waikele Express Shuttles have select pick up and departure times. We opted for 8.30am (which didn’t get to our place until 9ish) pick up and 2.30pm departure which was ample time to shop and get lunch without rushing.
Dinner tonight was at Buho Waikiki which is a really awesome open rooftop restaurant serving Mexican food. Fajita 33USD/Fish Tacos 18USD/Chicken Tacos 13USD/Sangria 10USD.
Tip: Bring bug spray or put it on before you come here.
The ever iconic IHOP breakfast. Who doesn’t love a good IHOP? 14.99USD meal & 3.50 coffee (milkshake 6.99). IHOPs are sort of like Denny’s, a nice safe option where you always know what you’re in for.
Majestic circle tour by Explore Hawaii. I have just outlined what the stop is and the amount of time we had to stay in each. This was a really great day! If you are from New Zealand however, I just want to point out how lucky we really are. You will find a lot of trips like this in the Pacific with stops for views and photo opportunities that look pretty similar to home. There were so many moments where people on our bus rushed to the right hand windows, camera in hand and snapped away at the ocean – count your blessings Kiwi Folks, because we sure do have a lot in our backyard!
– Diamond Head Beach Lookout (10min)
– Kokohead Crater (1000 step trail) on way to Hanuama Bay (pointed out from the bus)
– Halona Blowhole Lookout (15min)
– Dole Plantation (30min) YAY FOR DOLE WHIP!!! 100% MUST DO
– Waimea Valley Falls Park: a 20 minute or so walk through the UNESCO natural wildlife reserve to a waterfall that we got to swim in. You must wear life jacket (bit of an awkward moment there) and recommend to tip the lifeguards (90min).
– Banzai Pipeline and stop at Sunset Beach Park (15min).
– Stop for lunch at a Shrimp Truck (lunch not included) and Rick’s first ever shrimp.
– Stop at Macadamia Nut Farm, passing Kualoa for coffee and macadamia samples (coffee around 10 bucks and bag of nuts 9 bucks).
– Byodo-in Temple in “the valley of the temples” original temple destroyed in Kyoto. Rebuilt by monks and only from memory and made in forgiveness for Pearl Harbour (30min). This was my favourite place of the day. It was so sombre driving through a cemetery that had American gravestones, later a section of Japanese gravestones and then coming around to this peaceful temple. Absolutely beautiful.
For dinner I wanted to get a sunset table at House Without A Key but they were fully booked 😦 so we found a Chinese place called P.F Chang. All of the below was 85USD including tip (a cheap dinner compared to what we had been paying!).
Off to Maui! We got picked up at 6am by our pre-booked Charley’s taxi and it took about 20 minutes to get to the airport. It was really confusing as there was a big line outside for security, so we waited in it to find we needed a boarding pass first and then had to start the line again. Security took almost an hour, as all passports and all passengers (neighbouring islands, mainland USA and other) were all in the same line. We got to our gate about 7.30 for a 7.40ish boarding and the flight was only 20 minutes – I didn’t even finish my coffee!
Tip: You need to have ample time at the airport, for any flight, even domestic!
To get to our hotel we used a company “Maui Shuttles by Roberts” (Roberts is a well known company in Honolulu too). The cost was 40USD per person round trip. A taxi is about 90USD one way, but Maui is usually a place where you would hire a car and self-drive. Again, I knew early that I did not want to do this and while there is so much to do in Maui, we used our three days just for some R & R.
Kaanapali Beach hotel in Maui is really wonderful. Surrounded by five star properties this place was the perfect vibe for what we were after. Not too schmancy, all you need including laundry facilities, cocktails, beach and a pool. There was a shark sighting the day we arrived and later announced, a fatal shark attack so we never swam at the beach during our time in Maui; despite the signs “shark attack do not go in the water” can you believe that there were people still swimming?!
We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, Tiki Terrace and an early night after a few cocktails and the free Hula Show.
Another “nothing” day of relaxing. We took a morning stroll to Kahekili Beach in the morning around 15 minutes up the beach which has coral all along it and we saw some turtles swimming!
More lounging by the pool, book reading and did some washing.
Then we went for a walk in the other direction around 5 minutes each way, to Whalers Village which is a little outdoor mall – cried at Sephora because we are out of money and haven’t bought any make up – and had a Frappe for lunch. I was all about the Frappes on this trip, channelling my inner Jordy I think? (when we go on holiday he needs to have one every time we pass a Starbucks).
Dinner at the resort again but at the Tiki Grill – Rick style food. Rick got her pizza WITH FREE COKE REFILLS and Mum got her hot dog fix too. What about Lazz you ask? What did she get out of this dinner? Double parked cocktails of course 😉 The waitstaff at the Tiki Terrace and the Tiki Grill are really lovely & you can feel the family vibe that Kaanapali really go for.
Another lazy day with another morning walk – I think you get the picture of these three days now, right?
After 911 Kaanapali Beach Hotel started giving Kukui nut leis to their guests as a symbol of enlightenment and safe travels. All departing guests receive an invitation to attend a lei ceremony where one of the staff will do a Hawaiian chant and ask you to embrace each other with your new leis. When you return, you are to bring you lei with you and have a white nut added to it, to represent each visit. Notice how many white pieces the staff have on their leis, this symbolizes years of service at Kaanapali Beach Hotel.
We had our leaving ceremony a day early as we checked out early the next morning to head our final hotel back on the mainland. But not before our afternoon hula lesson!
Another hard afternoon of tanning followed and, to finish, we used free drink vouchers for a round of pinacoladas with another Rick Style bar snack dinner!
“HOLY EFFING SHIT!” was the first thing I said when I arrived at Aulani. The resort is full of restaurants, pools, staff (lots of kids but there is an adults only pool), as well as a river ride! This place is heaven on earth for any child that can walk and it is just as heavenly for the adults too.
On Day 10 we flew out of Maui around 9am and took our pre-booked Charley’s cab over to the West Side of Oahu, to our Disney Resort.
I was instantly hit with noise of kids everywhere but overwhelmed by how flash the place was. Our room was ready too, a garden view with a view of the river ride and the doors are sound proof! There is so much here! 5 pools, 3 restaurants, activities, you name it. It is in a little private village with other high-end hotels like the 4 Seasons. The little village is kind of like if you crossed Anaheim with the gardens of Singapore. Clean, quiet and exclusive!
There is a free shuttle from Aulani out to yet another mall which we naturally had to check out. It is a small mall that has only been around for about two years, so it seemed like a ghost town compared to the others we had been to. The shuttle was around 20-30 minutes in each direction and again with specific pick up/drop off times and locations, all easy to navigate around.
We had a buffet dinner and ate ourselves sick at the resort for 50USD per person and ended the night with delicious robes and face masks from Sephora.
This little village has a beach walk that goes all around this group of hotels, so we took a morning walk along the beach, taking a look at where we would spend our final days.
Breakfast was at AMA’AMA where mum and I had a traditional “loco moco’ breakfast (but shared one) which is: a massive burger pattie, on rice with gravy and onions, topped with 2 eggs!
Our final full day in Hawaii was spent in a few of Aulani’s pools and the beach.
Paddle boards are 45USD per hour and other things can be rented on a first in first served basis. The last bucket list tick was shaved ice and thankfully being a kingdom of literally anything you could ever want or need, Aulani had a place that served shaved ice. I was “as happy as a pig in shit” as my Father would say. Just look at that face… do I look like I’m five years old inside or what?!
My Mum loved the free hula show in Maui so much, that my Sister and I teamed up (with the Bank of Dad – let’s be real we blew all our money at the outlets) to secretly book the Paradise Cove Luau, which is one of the more popular Luaus on the mainland and it was only a 10 minute walk from us! Going to Paradise Cove made me realize that I didn’t actually know what a Luau was. I honestly thought it was people doing some traditional dancing while eating a whole lot of food (my fave pass-time). There was a Luau going on in Maui on our last night there and I wondered why there was so much going on: Island tattooing (temporary of course), games, music and I just assumed it was something the hotel did. This is actually something that happens long before the entertainment, a party like setting, celebrating the feast together.
Tip: If you are heading to Paradise Cove and you do get the outer seats, I do suggest getting there a little earlier, because you do not get to choose were you sit, rather, you get assigned, so you could end up on the very outside, which would be hard to see. There is also no shelter, so if it does start to rain, you will get wet. The ground is also sandy so if you want to wear heals go for wedges or something stable and of course, if you tend to get eaten alive, like yours truly, bug spray.
The saddest day of all, but not before the last surprise that I had up my sleeve was a Character Buffet Breakfast, where all the OGs came out to eat with us: Mickey, Mini, Goofy & Pluto. Because we were flying out on Rick’s birthday, I wanted to make sure there was something special for her on this day and it really was awesome. So awesome, that she got a special birthday badge, which meant she had to get up, with all the other Kids & “Aunty” to do a birthday hula, in-front of everyone eating breakfast that day. What a treat. Happy Birthday Sissy! She did also get a little birthday dessert after breakfast which was a nice treat.
And that’s a wrap on my getaway to Hawaii. Hawaii was definitely a place where there is something to do all the time. Eating out is similar pricing to home, but you can find ways to do it on the cheap (though I would not call Hawaii a “cheap” destination). Transportation is relatively easy and there are plenty of options and price ranges to choose from. Everyone is super lovely and the temperature when we went, in May was very pleasant.
If you have read all the way to the bottom, thank you and if you have skim read and looked at the pictures I thank you too. If you have any questions or suggestions for any of the trips I have done, please feel free to let me know.
Hi Lara, a very impressive report! I can follow nearly every step you did – from Oahu to Kaanapali Beach on Maui… we where there and on Kauai about twenty times… great remembrances of 40 years Aloha Spirit…
Thank you for reading, Joachim! It was a wonderful trip and it certainly is a place you can continue to travel to.