Arrived in Honolulu at 11.40am, 10 hour direct flight from Sydney on Hawaiian Airlines. Flight was uneventful. No personal TVs on back of the chair, but they do play 3 or so movies on small TVs throughout the plane. Free beer and wine only (alcohol-wise). Once arriving at Honolulu, we took shuttle to Alamo (30 minute wait in line) to pick up the Jeep (jet black 2 door - $347.00 for 9 days including additional insurance cover for Australian drivers - bargain!). Jeep was brand spanking new and surprisingly comfy. We then drove to the ROYAL HAWAIIAN HOTEL for our 5 night stay - wow! What a gorgeous, gorgeous hotel. We decided to splash out on this hotel as I would be spending my birthday here, and I had originally had booked a Garden View room through Expedia for a total of $1,800.00 (AUD). A few days before leaving for Hawaii, I noticed the Ocean Tower Rooms on Expedia had dropped to the ridiculously low price of $1,500.00 (AUD) so I cancelled our original booking and re-booked the Ocean Tower room. I am so glad I did! The view was spectacular! We were on the 3rd floor (room 3006) and I can't imagine getting a better view anywhere else in the hotel (see photos). WARNING: On the second day of our stay we realised the hotel had put a hold on our debit card for $1,000.00 (AUD - about $800USD) for "incidentals"!! Unfortunately, this was a large part of our remaining spending money and we were advised it would take 5 working days for the funds to clear back into our bank account. This would mean several nights of cup noodle dinners would follow, which was a little sad. That said, if one does have to have a cup noodle dinner, better to be partaking of it in paradise right? I've heard of hotels holding one or two hundred dollars but this seemed ridiculously excessive to me. Had lunch at the MAI TAI BAR (bad service and expensive - around $40 for 2 bowls of fries and 2 beers) and then wandered down to the INTERNATIONAL MARKETPLACE. Loved this place! Best and cheapest place by far for sounveniers, tikis etc. I had made dinner reservations at DUKES as recommended on this forum which was simply fantastic! Had my first ever Mai Tai (delicious) and Hula Pie (OMG!!) and a delicious dinner. Total bill came to about $80 + tip. Excellent value, highly recommended.
We woke early and drove to DIAMOND HEAD. Arrived around 8am and paid our $5.00 entry (for a car). The round trip hike took around 1.5 hours which included alot of stopping for DH to take photos. Note: this is not what I would call an easy hike, especially the last part with the 50 bajillion stairs. Once you reach the top, you will feel like you've done a few hours on the Thighmaster, no matter how fit you are. The view is totally worth it though. Returned back to the hotel around 10am, showered and then drove to ALA MOANA SHOPPING CENTRE to do some serious damage on the ol' credit card. Had the worst lunch experience of our entire stay in the food court from some sub place (not Subway). Avoid this place like the plague. When a salad wrap leaves you feeling sick in the stomach, I shudder to think what something with actual meat in it could do to you. Once we were done at Ala Moana we drove to the tiki bar I had read so much about and was so excited to see... LA MARIANA SAILING CLUB... and it did not disappoint! Note: this place is a little difficult to find as it's not directly on Sand Island Road (which is its official address). There is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it teeny tiny sign on the side of the road, which of course we missed but eventually found it after turning around. Arriving at around 3.00pm in the afternoon, we were basically the only people there. This place is a visual delight and a tiki lovers dream! The 50's style tiki decor is brilliant, the cocktails were delicious and the service was flawless and extremely friendly. Had we not driven there, we would have stayed all afternoon knocking back cocktails and pupus until the sun set, but alas, all too soon it was time to return to the hotel. Bill came to about $40 + tip for 4 cocktails and pupus. On our way out, we stopped by La Mariana's little gift shop and purchased a fabulous tiki mug for our tiki bar collection at home ($35.00). After returning to the hotel and discovering most of our money was being held by the hotel, we opted for a Subway sandwich dinner on the beach, watching the sunset. A great day!
Today we had arranged a 1.00pm beach photo session at Waimanalo Bay with the amazing Kyler of KAI-PHOTO http://www.kai-photo.com/. Beforehand, I had arranged to get my hair did at the salon at ABHASA SPA at the hotel. The Abhasa Spa is just divine. The salon itself was very cute, with a peaceful setting amongst the beautiful gardens of the hotel. Paul the salon manager did a great job on my hair but like most things at the Royal Hawaiian, it came at a price. $99.00 to be exact ($120 AUD). I'd pay about a third of that at home, but I’m not complaining, it was still a nice experience. Once we were dressed in our finest, it was off to find WAIMANALO BAY. After getting a little lost finding the freeway exit, we arrived at Waimanalo Bay about an hour later. Our photo session with Kyler took about 90 minutes and was such a fun experience. Kyler gave excellent direction and clearly had an amazing eye for photography. I can highly recommend KAI PHOTO to anyone looking for a photographer on Oahu. Kyler is a great guy and his photos were absolutely brilliant. Once the photo session had ended we headed back to Waikiki stopping in at Safeway for supplies followed by a few hours lazing on Waikiki beach. This particular weekend in Waikiki was the King Kamehameha celebrations, so that evening, after a tantalizing cup noodle dinner, we hit the streets of Waikiki for the Friday night King Kamehameha block party. The block party mostly consisted of food stalls, music and various performances. Got an early night as tomorrow would be a big day (my 30th birthday).
Woke early, grabbed our snorkels, packed some sandwiches and we were off to HANAUMA BAY ($7.50 per person entry fee, $1.00 parking). Arrived at around 7.30am and the carpark was already filling up. Do get there early! The carpark isn't that big and once it's full, it's full. There's nowhere else to park. We snorkelled for around an hour or so. It was OK. I didn't have high expectations for Hanauma Bay as it would be pretty hard to top the snorkelling we have done in Fiji, Tahiti and the Great Barrier Reef. That said, there were lots of colourful fish but nothing we hadn't seen before. After that, we made our way to see some of the beautiful Windward beaches. We didn't get a chance to swim at WAIMANALO BAY the day before, so that was our first stop. Being a Saturday, the beaches were alot busier but parking wasn't too much of an issue. Ate breakfast on the beach and sat back admiring the extreme beauty of it all. With brilliant blue waters ahead of us, and whispering pine trees behind us, this was by far my favourite beach in all of Oahu (and Maui too). Back in the Jeep, we then headed to the equally as gorgeous KAILUA BEACH. Parking was a little tricky here but we eventually found a spot in one of the side streets and took a short stroll to the water. Sat on the beautiful white sand beach watching the windsurfers and ate our picnic sandwiches. I couldn't think of anywhere else It was a perfect day. At around 2.00pm and a little sunburnt, we decided we'd probably had enough sun for one day, so we headed back to Waikiki and hit up the SHOREBIRD for some of their famous $3.00 Mai Tais (very tasty but not quite as good as Dukes, still a bargain!). What a great spot, right on Waikiki beach. After scrubbing up for dinner, we were off to TIKI'S BAR AND GRILL at the Aston Waikiki Hotel for our 7.00pm reservation. The food was OK here, not great, small portions and quite expensive for what you get. The biggest bargain at Tiki’s is their tiki mug/ cocktail offer. You can choose any cocktail in any tiki mug for $12.00 (and keep the mug). Dinner cost around $80 + tip including two tiki mugs. After dinner we decided to hit the streets of Waikiki for many, many celebratory birthday drinks! First stop was RUMFIRE at the Sheraton. Loved this place! Fabulous service and a gorgeous poolside/ beachside setting. After that, we made our way to infamous YARDHOUSE for a gigantic beer. Unfortunately, it was absolutely jam packed (Saturday night?), so we couldn't sit down anywhere in the bar, but that didn't stop us from ordering and drinking (in record time) two of the biggest Longboards we would drink in Hawaii. Note: while being a novelty, the yardglasses aren't exactly a cheap venture at $13.00 each. However, after reaching the bottom of the seemingly never ending glass we were feeling fine and ready to party! I had grand plans to hit a few other bars/ clubs in Waikiki that night (namely Senor Frogs, Zanzabar), but this wasn't to eventuate. Why, you ask? Because upon exiting the Yardhouse, we would stumble across a fabulous little hole in the ground/ cave of a bar known as LAVA ROCK located in the International Marketplace. Entering the dark, dingy underground bar, there was only a few other people there, which seemed rare for Waikiki on a Saturday night. We plonked down on the couch with our beers in hand and took it all in. The DJ was playing some awesome tunes. We then proceeded to drink and laugh the night away with some new friends we met at the bar. I don't recall leaving the Lava Rock, or how for that matter I got back to the hotel. I'll guess I'll have to thank my husband for that. What an awesome 30th birthday!
What a complete waste of a day. Even so, the night before had been so worth the horrific hangover that followed this day. Consequently, we could barely get out of bed but cravings for an egg muffin won in the end and we slowly made our way to Subway. The rest of the morning was spent rolling around Waikiki beach, moaning and holding our sore heads. By lunchtime, the hangover hunger had hit again so we dragged our sorry selves to JIMMY BUFFETS MARGARITAVILLE for some hair of the dog Margaritas and nacho goodness (lunch bill around $50 + tip). Ahhh... is there nothing nachos can't fix? Note to the (Aussie) vegos - anything that says it has "chilli" in it, ie. nachos etc, has meat in it. So ask them to take the chilli off. We had a terrifying and traumatic incident with "chilli fries" in Maui, but more on that in my Maui review. We slept away the afternoon and woke up feeling a million times better. Just in time for the big KING KAMEHAMEHA DAY PARADE on the main street! And what a colourful parade it was. I believe it went from around 5-7pm. After the parade, we took a long walk down Waikiki beach and watched the sunset. As the sun went down, I felt sad that this was to be our last day in Waikiki, and our last night staying at the beautiful Royal Hawaiian hotel. Needless to say, we got an early night that night. And didn't wake once.
OFF TO THE NORTH SHORE...
Woke up, packed our suitcases, jumped into the Jeep and we were off to TURTLE BAY RESORT! Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of my all time favourite movies, so I was super excited to be heading to the North Shore for 4 nights at Turtle Bay. What an unbelievably gorgeous setting this hotel has. No, it wasn't nearly as fancy as the Royal Hawaiian, but it was by far my favourite hotel we stayed in on our whole trip (Maui included). We had booked the cheapest category room here (approximately $850.00 for 4 nights), so I had low expectations of the room. Upon entering our room on the 2nd floor (room 243) I was completely blown away by how: a) huge it was; b) unbelievably awesome the view was (again, see photos) and c) how tastefully it was decorated, it didn't seem tired at all to me and had a real Hawaiian feel to it. There was chirping bird sounds playing on the clock radio as we entered (clock radio holds an iphone so we could play music straight from my DH's phone while having drinks in the room). The only thing missing was a lanai. It had a tiny Juliette lanai you could stand on, about a foot and a half wide HOWEVER, we just opened the sliding doors right up, dragged the two comfy chairs to face the windows and wa-la! An indoor/outdoor lanai. We unpacked and then hit the pool. Had a tasty lunch at the HANG TEN BAR (pool bar), bill was around $50 including tip. Note: Drinks are really expensive at the pool bar for some reason ($6.50 for a beer!) They were much cheaper at Lei Leis and Ola's, even the cocktails were cheaper. That afternoon, we drove to the Foodland near Pupukea Beach (about 15 mins drive from hotel) and stacked up on supplies. After another delicious cup noodle dinner in our room, we got dressed and headed to OLA'S for cocktails and dessert. Fantastic! Bill came to around $30 including tip for 2 cocktails and 1 dessert.
A VERY SAD DAY...
Upon arriving at Turtle Bay you are given a map of all the hikes you can do around the resort. So on this morning we decided to tackle a few of them. First we did the green trail which basically takes you along the coast and to the famous BANYAN TREE from the TV show LOST. This was a beautiful hike, taking you past the TBR stables, an old war bunker and ending at the beautiful banyan tree. We then did the blue (?) trail which was basically in the opposite direction around the hotel coastline. Again, another beautiful hike along lovely deserted beaches. All in all I'd say we hiked around 5 miles that morning. Afterwards, we headed back to the room and got ready for our exciting adventure to KUALOA RANCH! I had booked the 3.30pm, 2 HOUR ATV TOUR for us months in advance and was incredibly excited to see all the famous movie sites at the ranch. We left Turtle Bay at around 2.00pm and took our time driving to the ranch, stopping off every so often for photos. And there are so many photo opportunities on this drive! This was my favourite drive on the entire island. Just gorgeous! Laie is a lovely town, driving through here you feel a millon miles away from Waikiki but in reality, you're not. Driving feet away from crystal clear waters to the left and lush green mountain ranges to the right. You really shouldn’t miss this part of the island. We arrived at Kualoa Ranch around 3.00pm ready for our ATV tour. Watched the short safety video and then it was on the quad bikes for a test run. Now here's where my day turned very sad... I FAILED the test run! I wasn't even sure this was possible, but apparently it is! I should note that I don't drive a car and have never been on an ATV before. So maybe this had something to do with it. I was crushed. I told DH to continue on the tour while I got off my bike and made my way to the "bus of shame" that would take me back to the ranch. Just as I entered the bus of shame, my gorgeous DH hopped off his ATV and joined me on the bus. He said he didn't want to go without me. At which point, I began to cry. My hero. Back at the tour desk, I explained my embarrassing situation to the kind lady who sympathetically said we could come back in two days and do the 2 HOUR HORSE RIDE instead. We'll take it! Let's face it, we didn't have much choice really. This whole heartbreaking episode actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise... but more on that in 2 days time! We exited Kualoa ranch all too soon and I decided now would be a great time to drown my sorrows into a few hundred Mai Tais. Off to the CROUCHING LION it was! I really loved this bar. The whole vibe and decor were awesome, not to mention the view! Cheap cocktails too – at around $7.00 each and probably one of the best Mai Tais I drank on Oahu. Mahalo Crouching Lion, for lifting my spirits! Afterwards, heading home we passed the infamous GIOVANNI'S SHRIMP TRUCK and I told DH he just had to pull over and get some. I didn’t have any (vego), but watching DH’s delighted face as he sucked down those prawns (we call shrimp prawns in Australia), well that was more than enough for me. He had the chilli ones (half plate with rice $6.50, full plate $13.00) and apparently, judging by his watering eyes and sweaty brow, they were pretty hot! Returned to the hotel and watched yet another stunning Turtle Bay sunset. I think the thing I loved most about Turtle Bay, was sunset time. Everyone gathers around grass area across from the pool, cocktails in hand and quietly takes it all in, silently snapping away on their cameras. They even have little benches were you can sit and watch the surfers as the sun goes down. I just loved this time of day. For dinner, we headed back to OLA'S. We had made 8pm reservations that afternoon and requested a table in the sand. What an amazing dinner in an amazing setting. I'd go as far as saying it was our favourite dinner of the entire trip. The food was absolutely delicious and the service was excellent. Bill came to around $100 including tip. I would have paid twice that though. It was just that good. Afterwards, we headed up to the BAY CLUB BAR located in the TBR reception for a nightcap and a game of pool. What a great end to a very sad day.
Slept in and then made our way to WAIMEA VALLEY for some hiking. This "hike" turned out to be more of a stroll, the entire path through the gardens all the way to the waterfall is completely paved, not at all strenuous (mostly flat) and only about 1km long. That said, it really was a gorgeous place. Entry was a bit steep at $13.00 per person however, I'd still say it was worth the expense. The gardens were amazing and the whole place was incredibly serene. This particular day, we barely saw anyone else. It felt like we had this huge oasis all to ourselves. If you're a nature lover, don't miss Waimea Valley. If not, you'll probably find this place a bit boring. Afterwards, we decided to head for a swim at WAIMEA BAY. No luck here today as the parking lot was completely full, it was like this most days, so if you do want to go there, I'd suggest going early. We then decided to go see if we could find ourselves some real Hawaiian turtles, so it was off to LANIAKEA BEACH! No turtles when we arrived, however as luck would have it, 10 minutes later, a beautiful big honu made her graceful way to the shore. What an amazing site to behold. We were told by one of the volunteers that around 1.30pm was a good time of day to go if you wanted to see turtles in the summer months. Apparently there were seven ashore at this time the day before! I found it sad that there has to be two wildlife volunteers present to watch over the turtles and hold up a rope to keep people back as they come to shore. And it was frustrating to see the volunteers' requests for people to back away from the turtles being ignored. I think some people need to put themselves in the turtle’s shells and realise that 30+ excited tourists might be a tad terrifying to a little sea turtle. I’m all for admiring nature. But please, admire it from a kind distance. After this awe inspiring moment, and with huge grins on our faces, it was off to HALEIWA on a mission to find some of this SHAVE ICE we'd been hearing about. I can safely say, I hadn't lived until I had my first shave ice (or hula pie or Mai Tai for that matter). Yuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... We got ours from AOKI'S SHAVE ICE and for the bargain price of $2.50 each, we enjoyed a good 10 minutes of mouth watering coloured-ice heaven. Tip: Please do fork out the extra 25c for the plastic cup. A little boy devouring a bright red one just outside the store hadn't, and the ground beneath him looked like a crime scene. After strolling around taking in the sites of Haleiwa, we headed back to Turtle Bay and got dressed, only to return to Haleiwa shortly after for dinner at JAMESON'S BY THE SEA. Jameson’s has a fantastic sunset view and on this particular night, the sky put on quite a show. The restaurant itself was nice, Irish-themed with good food. The service was severely lacking though but I believe it was just our waiter. Bill came to about $68.00 + tip.
We decided to take an early morning drive back in to Waikiki to pick up a few last souveniers and gifts before we headed to Maui. We also needed to grab some big tikis for our tiki bar back at home and I hadn’t seen many on the North Shore. I had a feeling that things were going to cost alot more in Maui than in Oahu. And I was right. Gas for instance. $3.30 a gallon in Waikiki, $3.75 a gallon in Maui. On the way, we stopped in at the notorious TED'S BAKERY to get DH a morning pastry snack. I think a plain doughnut cost us around 0.91c including tax. I was stunned to find you could actually get something for less than a dollar here. Especially something that tasted so good! Further on, we dropped into the DOLE PLANTATION for one of their famous Dole Whips. I think it was around $3.95 + tax and it was delicious. Not much to do/ see at the Dole Plantation, I think a 15 minute stop off would be enough time to set aside unless you really, really dig pineapples!! Don't get me wrong, I love a good pineapple. They just don't do much. Got into Waikiki about an hour later and parked at the Royal Hawaiian Centre. We didn't get our parking validated, so it cost us $6.00 for around 40 minutes of parking. If you get it validated it's $2.00 for 2 hours (I think??). Headed to the International Marketplace, grabbed a few things and then it was back in the Jeep and back to Turtle Bay. Stopped off at Haleiwa for another Aoki's shave ice... we were officially addicted! At 2.30pm it was time to head back to Kualoa Ranch for take two of our ranch adventure - horsie riding! This was my first time on a horse, so I was a little anxious but the horses and the guides were fantastic! They knew where to go and what to do so you could just kick back and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. The best part about this tour for me was that we still saw heaps of the movie sites filmed at Kualoa, such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Lost etc. Horse riding is a great ab and butt workout - who knew?! You will be sore for a day or two afterwards! Returning to the ranch, we noticed the ATV tour folk also returning from their tour and here's where the blessing in disguise comes in - they were completely filthy! Covered from head to toe in thick brown dirt, with nothing but goggle marks around their eyes. I don’t think I would have enjoyed that. DH agreed. As they say, everything happens for a reason. Only slightly grubby from our horse ride, we headed back to the Crouching Lion for one last beer at our favourite North Shore drinking hole. We walked in right at the last minute of the NBL finals and the place was jam packed and going off! It was a great vibe though. We had a quick beer and then headed back to Turtle Bay for a much needed shower. Had dinner at LEI LEI'S at the TBR golf course. A bit more expensive than Ola's and the menu did not seem as interesting (especially for a vego), but the food was good and the service was stellar. Yet again. Bill was about $90 + tip. After dinner, the sadness hit again. I had loved our time on the North Shore so very very much and the past four days had gone way too quickly. Tomorrow, we were off to Maui, which was exciting, but I was soon to find out that nowhere on our trip would top the North Shore. I'll miss you Oahu. Mahalo for your kind locals, kind service and kind hospitality. We will be back.
MOST "ALOHA": Turtle Bay and the North Shore
FAVOURITE HOTEL: Turtle Bay Resort… by a mile!
FAVOURITE BEACH: Tie between Waimanalo Bay & Kailua
FAVOURITE EXPERIENCE: Horse riding at Kualoa Ranch
FAVOURITE MEAL: Tie between Ola's & Duke's Waikiki
FAVOURITE BAR: La Mariana Sailing Club - do make the effort to go there! I don't know how much longer it will be around.
FAVOURITE ISLAND: (Oahu or Maui): Oahu
THINGS I FOUND SURPRISING AS AN AUSSIE:
- You can't get served two drinks at a time but you can get a drink and a shot at once. Huh????
- Motorbike riders/ cyclists don't have to wear helmets - you'll get a big fine for this in Australia!
- It's not that hot or humid in Hawaii in the summer. Nothing at all like the Caribbean or other South Pacific islands I have been to. Bring a light jacket for at night.
- "Chilli" has meat in it!!!!
- Booze is super cheap!!
- Coconut M and M's are the best!!
And in closing, I'd just like to say a huge MAHALO to all those TA members, especially the locals, who answered my many questions while I was planning this trip. It's because of you, that we had one of the best holidays ever!
I'd be happy to answer any questions! I have also posted a Maui review on the Maui forum.