I was in Hawaii! With NPY! We are like the last people I know to travel to Hawaii –perennial late bloomers and all– so what can I add really? Except to ring off the cool stuff we managed to squeeze into a week. It’s a fair amount but we didn’t fret and overtire ourselves and we stayed relaxed.
We arrived late on Friday, 9:10 pm on a Westjet flight. The humidity hit me like a wall and I felt vastly unprepared emotionally from the get-go. Fortunately it was never so humid again and only got more stuffy just before rainfall. It drizzled a little almost everday but nothing that stops touristing. The airport is open air, stuck in the 70s era and very brown. I felt like it hasn’t changed at all since I was last there over 20 years ago.
Checked into our digs for the week, the Courtyard Marriott and all of my fears melted away. We got upgrades to a Deluxe room so it wasn’t too cramped. It wasn’t too dated in look and feel (but wasn’t fabulous at all either). They accommodated my request for a quiet room in the main tower which is what I learned to ask for from Tripadvisor. The bathroom was spacious enough but the shower stall was tiny. I managed in the shower but NPY took forever because he is bigger and kept touching the shower walls! The hotel is on Kuhio which is one street away from fabulous and resort-lined Kalakaua but the streets were not by any means far from each other and beach access wasn’t so very important to us. Our first walk around did confirm the, uhm, colourful nature of Kuhio as our hotel was one block away from the clubs and infamous Seaside and Kuhio. We had some kind of fun trying to differentiate between the prostitutes and girls just headed clubbing. Really.
Westjet doesn’t serve (complimentary) meals on any flights so we were hungry and ducked into an izakaya, Tako-no-ki, just before they closed for our first ramen and poke on the island.
Our first full day was designed to be relaxing. We tried a couple places for lunch with hilariously bad results and ended up at Duke’s Waikiki ahead of schedule. We got to see the beach and what awaited us and I loved my entree and our dessert. We walked all along about four sections of Waikiki and stopped for drinks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tropics Bar. My first mai tai and NPY ordered a blue cocktail. It was pricey but then “defrayed” when a band set up and Henry “The Wild Hawaiian” Kapono started his set. One of the two women sitting at our lounge table is a huge (groupie) fan of his. We were most fascinated by the percussionist and how busy he was and all the implements he had to make sound.
I owed NPY a birthday dinner and it was to be at Nobu and we went back to the hotel to change. I was Googling activities around Hawaii and ahead of my search results was a tsunami warning in Hawaii. It did not register with me. NPY reported someone in Vancouver posted on Facebook about a 7.7 earthquake in BC and I got vexed that I always miss the earthquake and it did not register. We were late getting to our reservation because Nobu is not on at their advertised street address and when we did arrive, the host wouldn’t seat us! He told us that as a result of the earthquake in BC, a tsunami warning had been issued for the city and they weren’t seating anyone else! Nobu is closer to the water and as we passed by shops heading uphill and inland to our hotel, shops were closing up quickly. We managed to get water from our nearby ABC Store and a tin of Pringles. There was two hours until the tsunami would strike but McDonald’s was also closing. From our hotel we heard the tsunami sirens ringing throughout the city. It was wild. We settled down for the night with me excited something exciting would happen but also worried that it could ruin all of our plans. I fell asleep before the first wave was to hit while NPY we still up at 10:30 and 11:30, wonderng if he wasn’t going to see water rushing up our street. Nothing happened and the warning was downgraded and then canceled by the middle of the night. At International Marketplace later in the week I would see “I survived the 2012 tsunami” t-shirts for sale. The more accurate t-shirts read, “I survived the 2012 tsunami scare”!
So we could continue with our plans the next day including spammy McDonald’s breakfast followed by bussing to Diamond Head to hike up the crater. Easy hike. That evening we went to a luau at Paradise Cove which was a great once-in-a-lifetime experience to share with NPY. It’s nothing like the intimate experience on a beach you see on TV.
The next day we took another chill day and went to Ala Moana Center which has inside it a Japanese department store with its own food court. We caught their 1 pm hula show and walked around the area before heading back. We finally went into International Marketplace to find Hank’s Haute Dogs for pre-supper snack. We did go immediately to Marukame Udon but had to queue to get in.
I allowed a switch in days and the next day we went down to the beach and rented stand up paddleboards for an hour. The cool (or irresponsible) dudes set us off in the cordoned off water after a few minutes of instruction and without checking if we could swim. We didn’t want to take a dip in the water or get eaten by a shark so the moderately large playpen suited us fine. There was an element of excitement when I would inadvertantly drift past the white buoy and freak out because the water got choppier and it was right above a coral reef that would scratch you up good. We didn’t bring cameras so I can only just try to remember seeing NPY standing upright on his SUP, paddling on the clearest blue water and with Diamond Head as a backdrop.
I loved the Moana Surfrider (Westin) resort and want to stay there next time (although they probably had to be evacuated on Saturday night, especially those below the fourth floor). We had great post-water activity lunch at their beach bar. NPY’s first loco moco and I had a salad that really hit the spot.
We cleaned up and walked around Kalakaua where I finally did some shopping. We stopped in at the Honolulu Coffee Company attached to Moana Surfrider and it was a really great spot for people watching.
NPY Yelp’ed Genius Lounge Sake Bar & Grill which might be frequented by locals and has happy hour. No locals but good drinks and food. We walked around some more and had cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory.
It was an early morning the next day and it started off with an omelette from an authentic looking stand a block away. We were headed to Pearl Harbor by bus and I pulled us into the wrong bus (#20) which stopped everywhere. As we approached Pearl Harbor finally and it was just us tourists, the bus driver got on the PA system and joked with us and advised us how to get back to the city, gently warning us to take an express bus and not his, unless you really wanted to.
We were quite afraid of facing a two-hour wait but were issued tickets for the very next cohort. First, a short film then loaded into the little Navy boat for a few minutes at the site before being herded off again.
We took a bus back to town and stopped in Chinatown first. I felt wiser about the place from reading the Honolulu chapters of Bonnie Tsui’s Chinatown but was vastly disappointed by how dead it is. As far as NPY is concerned, the city essentially doesn’t have a Chinatown. I dragged him through a Hong Kong-style wet market which astonished me with its existence. I haven’t seen any of those in North America. Lunch at the tourist trap like Little Villlage Noodle House but at least we ordered noodles.
From Chinatown we walked downtown. I visited EY in Hawaii which is in a great and unique Hawaiian structure. Aloha Tower and Marketplace were dead. We did see more activity when we arrived at the Iolani Palace and Duke Kamehameha statue. There was nothing left so we head back too clean and shiny Waikiki.
It was Halloween in Honolulu and I’ve don’t have any frame of reference of being in other American cities at this time or ever attending Mardi Gras or anything. I’ve only been on the streets of Vancouver after Canadian hockey gold and it was crowded like that and Hawaiians take their Halloween uber seriously. It made me cringe a little but we ended up at PF Changs for dinner. I’ve never been to one before so I was bound to try it, there was patio seating so we could watch people walking up and down Royal Hawaiian Avenue, and they were in no real rush to usher us out of the restaurant.
After dinner we really hit the streets and gawked. NPY liked seeing what boys like to see and there was plenty. I liked the group efforts and guys who did drag well. Really overgeneralizing it, the Japanese seem to enjoy dressing up and they were out in abundance and in that way hyper Halloween in Hawaii is different from any other American city. It got rowdier as the night went on and it was apparent the folks who drank a lot at home (and did other things) were out and on the streets and we retired home.
Our air conditioners compressor was connected to that of the room below and if one of the rooms opened the balcony door for a short period of time, it would stop the AC unit for both rooms. That happened three times in as many days so we got breakfast vouchers to the hotel restaurant, Spada Bar, and an offer for a room change. We cashed in the vouchers on a morning we wanted a proper and convenient breakfast.
A trip to Oahu is not complete without seeing the North Shore so we left the Waikiki resort like strip on Thursday with a rented car. We started at Halona Blow Hole that was not blowing and stopped at Scenic Points marked with signs on the highway. We passed by Koko Head which I wanted to hike since seeing it on Hawaii Five-O but it was not logistically possible. We seemed to be following any number of tour buses on the same counterclockwise route about the island. We dipped into the center of the island to check out Pali Lookout. Continuing on, we drove a while and had lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck and digested while watching Hawaiian green sea turtles crawling out of the ocean to take a nap on Laniakea Beach. We stopped at Matsumoto Shaved Ice for the works concoction of a shaved ice and soon after we were at Dole Plantation checking out the free offerings and gift shop to work up (unsuccessfully) an appetite before getting Dole Whip. We went to Costco for appropriated priced Hawaiian souvenir food items then Waikele Premium Outlets, the latter of which was a letdown. Except Leonard’s Bakery has a truck there and NPY was introduced to fresh and fluffy masaladas which he wanted again the next day. “Then why didn’t we get a half dozen yesterday?!” It was a mad dash to get back into the city and drop off the car at 8 pm but with some teamwork and aggressive practices, we dropped it off and didn’t have to worry about exorbitant Waikiki overnight parking rates.
NPY appreciated my planning and navigating efforts and found a nearby Korean restaurant, Mikawon, for dinner.
Our final day was kicked off with another meal by the beach. Hula Grill‘s breakfast sounded so good but I built up expectations a little too much. We walked the rest of the beach which seemed to have little return until we stumbled upon the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District. Fishies! And we met the Hawaiian state fish humuhumunukunukuāpua’a (aka wedge-tail triggerfish). It did seem like a little too much time before our highly anticipated flight back home at 10:30 pm but we spent some time at Moana Surfrider, had some local brews at The Yard House and visited another ramen joint, Ramen Nakamura. As we sat in our Roberts airport shuttle and I waved goodbye to Kalakuaua, Oli Oli charter buses and Waikiki, we could see the sky lit up by the Friday night Hilton Hawaiian Village fireworks but not actually see the fireworks.
I bookended my trip with a night in Vancouver each way which gave me a chance to help NPY pack and we got together with friends over dinners to first get psyched out about going then to debrief.
NPY said long ago Hawaii was the top place he wanted to go and it took six years (but only three years since we started making signficant trips regularly) to make it happen. I essentially got everything done that I wanted to and anything we didn’t like snorkeling in Hanauma Bay and hiking up Koko Head to compare and contrast with the Grouse Grind was to “save something for the next time”. We’d go again and would visit another island perhaps by flying to Honolulu and then taking a Hawaiian island cruise. I didn’t push it but I was already chattering with NPY my ideas for where to go next year and I think I might need to get onto my company’s extended vacation plan…