Let me first start off by saying thank you for all the TA advice from the Oahu forum users. It was spot on and so very much appreciated. Wanted to put his here as this report is long winded and many won’t make it to the end!
My husband and I took a nonstop flight from Atlanta to Honolulu arriving at 4pm. Picked up the Alamo rental car (rented through Discounthawaiicarrental.com) and drove to Ko’Olina. APEC was in full swing in Waikiki so we were happy to head in the other direction. Checked into Marriott Beach Club and headed to the outdoor restaurant there before hitting the pillows early.
The room was a bit small and the balcony was tiny, but we only had two nights here before moving on. The grounds were beautiful. If I were to spend more than two nights, it would be necessary to get a larger unit for the elbow room I think.
Woke up between 4-5am as many have said we would. It worked out great since we booked a 7:15am snorkeling tour with Ko’Olina Ocean Adventures. On the recommendation of the forum, I did not purchase fish food! Captain Mike was a hoot and we had a great time. We saw sea turtles and spinner dolphins. It was a little chilly but we rented wet suits and I was able to get by. By mid-morning the sun was out and things were warming up.
Next was golf at Ko’Olina. It was a beautiful course with huge fairways, a true resort course. Black swans can be see all over the course. They are so pretty! Afterward, we had a seat at Roy’s outdoor pub (overlooking the golf course ) where DH had the Ahi appetizer. We then headed to Just Tacos for dinner. Roy’s was pricey. We paid more for one appetizer at Roy’s then two entrees at Just Tacos. The food was ok at both but not great, nothing very memorable. Stopped at a grocer across the street from Just Tacos and picked up food and adult beverages for the room.
After dinner we hung in the hot tubs at the Marriot Beach Club… highly recommend this. They were great!
Up early again but we had two choices, get out early and head for the north shore before APEC arrived, or enjoy the morning. Relaxation rules, so we decided to take a walk around the lagoons. Secret Service folks were everywhere. There was no getting close to the JW Marriott or Disney Hotel from the lagoons. The streets were all closed down as well. We parked ourselves by the pool for a while and enjoyed a snooze. We were able to leave around 11am but had to take an alternate route to the highway. No biggie. If I had to classify this resort I would say it would be great for families, especially with young kids. The lagoons are very calm and perfect for little ones. The pool also looked nice for families. Activity at this resort seems to get quiet early, which was ok for us at this point in our trip. I think folks looking for some nightlife might find this resort a little too quiet for them.
We arrived in Haleiwa around lunchtime. We love this town!! We live in a Florida beach town but this so much more awesome…a true surfer town. We ate lunch at the Grass Skirt Grill. DH had an Ahi Tuna sandwich and I had a veggie burger. Both were really good. Next we walked over to Matsumoto’s for some Shave Ice. YUMMY! It was so good. Just a warning - get the small. A large one looks like it could feed everyone on the island. Next we stocked up on more supplies at the grocery store and headed to Turtle Bay.
Checked into a beach cottage and enjoyed the scenery for a bit, then went to the pool for a while and watched the sunset from the hot tub. So cool! If you can swing the upgrade to the beach cottages, do it. We looked at a room in the hotel just for reference, and there is no comparison. While expensive, the beach cottage upgrade was worth it in my opinion.
Walked to the main hotel and grabbed some coffee before heading out on one of the Turtle Bay trails. The trail was along the ocean and then looped around by the golf course. Nice relaxing walk. Next we headed to Ted’s Bakery for breakfast. DH had the egg & potato sandwich, and I just had a side of potatoes. We both loved the food. On the way back, we stopped at a few beaches and found a surf instructor to arrange a lesson for the next morning.
We spent the rest of the afternoon playing golf on the Turtle Bay Palmer course. This was a nice course near the ocean. We would play this again if we had the opportunity. Had some fries at Lei Lei’s and then headed back to Haleiwa to hit the Shrimp trucks. DH absolutely loved the shrimp scampi at Giovanni’s (I don’t eat shrimp so can’t comment). We then stopped at Ted’s for Haupia Pie before heading back to the hot tub.
Off to my surfing lesson at Chun’s Reef with Edison from Surf Hawaii. He was awesome. I was able to get up and enjoy a few rides, along with a few wipeouts. Chun’s Reef was a perfect place for beginners and intermediate surfers. I highly recommend Surf Hawaii if you would like to take a lesson. My instructor Edison was patient, knowledgeable, and highly skilled. While floating on my surfboard, a sea turtle came up and hung with me for a bit. It was so neat. Stopped at Ted’s on the way back for some potatoes. Boy they are good (as you can probably tell by now, I’m a big fan of the spud).
After surfing, it was off to the mountains to play golf at Ko’Olau. Boy, what spectacular views! I’ve never played another course like it. Very difficult but also very beautiful. Nature is the architect here, unlike the manmade beauty of Ko’Olina. The Pali Lookout looks down on this golf course and we had fun reliving some of the holes from that elevation the next day. Unfortunately, the back nine of Ko’Olau is wet and makes it very difficult to play. There was mud on the ball on every shot, and I think we caught the course on a “dry” day. A tip, if you are thinking about playing this course, call and ask if carts are permitted on the fairways on the back nine. If they say no, that will give you an idea that it’s wet. If so, I’d skip it. Otherwise, bring lots of balls and enjoy the views!
We hit the Kahuku Grill on the way back to Turtle Bay. Cute place with reasonably priced food. I had a veggie sandwich and DH had the coconut shrimp & fish. Believe it or not, he wasn’t blown away with the shrimp. I’ve read so many good reviews of that shrimp but he preferred Giovanni’s shrimp truck.
We hiked the other Turtle Bay trail that goes out to an old WWII bunker. Nice walk but be careful of the horse droppings! The same trail is used for the horse tours. Said goodbye to Turtle Bay and headed to Waikiki…. but of course we had to stop at Ted’s one last time before hitting the road. Arrived at Diamond Head and had nice hike to the top after getting some shave ice from the truck at the base…. that ice is nowhere close to Matsumoto’s creations, but it was refreshing for the walk. The hike was quick and easy. The views were spectacular of course.
Next we drove to the Pali Lookout to enjoy the views before checking into the Hale Koa in Waikiki. After settling in, we stopped for a Mai Tai at Shorebirds (great place for happy hour specials) before the Rigger catamaran cruise. The specialty drinks on the boat kicked in quick. Let’s just say things got interesting. Never made it to Dukes for dinner after that. We had enough trouble just getting back to the hotel. Too many clouds to see the sunset but still a fun time all around.
Played an early round of golf at the Navy-Marine Course before heading to the Arizona Memorial in the afternoon. The Memorial was very touching. My DH is a Naval Academy graduate and served 20 years, so this was especially important to him. We also took the audio tour of the Bowfin (WWII submarine). Very interesting and educational.
We had a wonderful dinner at Hau Tree Lanai to celebrate our 1st anniversary. I highly recommend this restaurant. The service and food were both outstanding, as was the view. DH had a local fish called Opakapaka, which he thought was outstanding. I had the Tofu dish which I enjoyed very much.
Afterwards, we walked through the shopping district and stopped at Duke’s for a Lava Flow after dinner. This is my new favorite drink! Duke’s has a great atmosphere and I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend more time there. The shopping district was very nice. I never imagined all of that prior to going to Waikiki. I’m not a shopper but if I were, Waikiki would be the place to go!
We walked from the Hale Koa all the way down the beach, towards Diamondhead, until we could not walk any further. It was great looking at all the different hotels. When we returned from our walk we rented a couple of paddle boards. So many sea turtles poking their heads up and hanging out with us!! We both enjoyed it very much!
Ugh, reality hits. Off to the airport to head for home. Need more time!!!!