This is the first time I've ever done a trip report, although I have often planned to do one. I hope not to bore anyone, but wanted to share our experiences since I have so enjoyed reading other's reports on here.
11/21: We flew direct to HNL on Hawaiian out of JFK. Good flight, my family of 3 (myself, husband, and 2 1/2 y.o. son) had 3 out of 4 seats in a center row towards the back of the plane. The complimentary meal was tasty, and I thoroughly enjoyed unlimited POG juice the entire trip:) Our son was an absolute saint on the 11 hour flight too. Our only complaint was about other passengers, a family of 6 (2 parents, 2 grandmothers, and 2 children) who occupied a total of 10 seats- the entire row in front of us, the entire row behind us, as well as the window row across from us. We are QUITE sure they did not pay for all these extra seats, but they sure played musical chairs with them shuffling kids to and fro, and the batty grandmother who was behind us clearly thought it was perfectly appropriate to yell over our heads to her daughter and grandchildren in front of us the entire time. She and the kids of course never fell asleep the entire flight either, which was just awesome. Not.
After our 4:05 PM arrival we gathered luggage and headed for the taxi stand. Our driver was a kindly Vietnamese gentleman with a sad story to share: his wife was murdered at a stop light in Honolulu 2 years ago while driving with their 15 year old daughter. Apparently a crazy man went on a shooting spree that day and has since been apprehended. We were sorry to hear this and of the family's suffering, and offered our condolences and prayers for the family's comfort. Anyway, he dropped us off that evening at the Holiday Inn Beachcomber where we would stay for the night before moving to our timeshare at the Ilikai. Cost was $40 plus a $5 tip. Since we were running later than planned and were very hungry, we skipped our usual ritual for dinner (happy hour at Hula Grill) and headed someplace new, the Aloha Table on Lauula St. behind the Waikiki Shopping Center across from DFS. It is hidden, and as one of the friendly waiters said "you aren't paying for the view!" and he was right, prices were more reasonable than those along Kalakaua. We had a 10% off coupon and I had read pretty good reviews, so that's why we gave it a try. Delicious, probably one of my favorite meals this trip, and the staff was sooooo friendly. Apparently it's Japanese owned and thus frequented mostly by Japanese. I will write a full review of the restaurant later! After dinner we meandered over to the IMP and found a great deal on matchy-matchy family Aloha wear for our Thanksgiving attire- $43 total for an adult shirt, dress, and baby outfit. After a quick ABC store stop for supplies, we called it a night.
11/22: The day started out HOT and humid just as it was the day before. We went to Duke's for the breakfast buffet then headed to the Zoo. Just a tip for visitors with kids, if you plan to return to the zoo twice in one trip- it's worth it to become a member for $40 which gets two adults and two kids in for unlimited visits. After the zoo we walked back to the hotel for a quick nap, then instead of heading to the beach as planned decided since it was so hot to just pack up and head to the Ilikai and hope for an early check in there. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, somewhere in there we grabbed burgers for lunch at Mahaloha Burger in the R.H. Center! The taxi was $12 plus tip to get to the Ilikai, and it was a very short trip. We skipped the beach and unpacked then went for happy hour and an early dinner at the Harbor Pub. Fantastic drink deals at this place, and while yes, they serve the food on paper plates and it's a very casual atmosphere, we enjoyed our 2 mai tais, a pitcher of PBR and a pizza all for under $30 bucks! Also met a nice Australian family with their two kids, as we ended up sharing some of our crayons and stickers to help keep the kids occupied while their parents enjoyed some drinks.
11/23: This was a casual day for us, we were sad the Farmer's Market at Ala Moana had moved, but we still headed over around 9:00 AM to get some groceries and check out a few stores. I have to say, my fascination with this mall is over. The first time it was nice to gawk at the stores and explore the multitude of cuisines in the food court, but this time I found that when I really wanted to go to a particular store (like the Body Shop or Hilo Hatties) it took foreverrrrr to find it ! What a waste of good vacation time. Why they couldn't put a center hallway through this mall with interior store entrances is beyond me, because it seems to take so much walking to get from one side to the other. Even with a map in hand we got turned around at least 3 times. I vowed never to go back. We did stock up at Foodland though, and enjoyed that they were having a Makai card special on Poke. The tradewinds had finally blown in, so it was much more comfortable than before and we had no problem walking both directions. We loaded up the kid's beach wagon and headed out to the beach to enjoy our lunch and some sunning & swimming. I found the ocean to be much warmer than Duke's Lagoon, so we ended up swimming there. I cursed myself for deciding last minute there was no room to pack the sand shoes though, because the water there of course is very rocky. After getting cleaned up, we grabbed some take out sushi from Magokoru (recently recommended on here) and took the bus to the Kuhio Beach hula mound to enjoy a picnic during the free hula show. We were running a little later than planned, and almost gave up finding spots because the area was so crowded but then we finally found some grassy seats off to the far side. It turns out it was a keiki hula night (along with adults) so obviously lots of extra parents and grandparents were taking up most of the room. It was thoroughly enjoying and peaceful though, a beautiful end to our relaxing day. On the way back we pushed the sleeping baby in his stroller through the Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian lobbies. I definitely want to stay at the RH next time, if only for a night. I just love the atmosphere there! It was an easy walk back to the Ilikai.
11/24: This is where I should mention that we were each given Go Oahu cards as birthday gifts before leaving! My Mom found them at Costco and thought it was a good deal, so we were willing to take advantage of the pre-paid activities and tours they offer (not sure if we really got the full value or not, but they were gifts!). We had a 9:00 AM sail on the Makani Catamaran reserved and easily took the bus to the Kewalo Basin. A very enjoyable sail with some dolphin & turtle sightings. It was supposed to be a one hour sail, but actually ended up taking 2 hours (I think there were some technical difficulties with a rigging) so I guess bonus, although we were behind on our own schedule then. Instead of heading to Foster Botanical Garden and Iolani Palace, we decided to stay in the area and visit the Children's Discovery Center instead- which was also included on the cards. I have to say, I was disappointed with this in a couple ways. First, while it was a brief walk to the museum from the Kewalo Basin, it is right through a congested tent city area. It was just a surprise to me that tents literally lined all the sidewalks to the Children's Center entrance in every direction. I am quite aware of the homelessness in Honolulu and all of Hawaii, and have never had any issues, but this was a little startling. Nuff said. We had no problems at all crossing through the area in either direction though, so I just want to be clear on that. My second issue is that even though our $10/adult admission was included on the Go Oahu cards, they also charge $10 for children over 20 months. Now, my son has physical issues and can't walk even though he is almost 30 months, and we really only wanted to see their giant bubble maker we saw in an ad since he loves bubbles, so this seemed like a waste of $ to me. Especially since he's tiny and I could have easily said he's only 12 months if I knew at the time! All in all we did spend more time there than we thought we would, especially in the water play areas at the end, so I guess it was worth it to see him happy. I just would never pay full admission for all of us to get in. We then ended up walking alllll the way home because the bus stop in front of the Kewalo Basin was occupied by a homeless gentleman who apparently chooses not to leave the bus shelter to relieve himself. We waited there for about 5 minutes and then just couldn't handle the smell any more and figured it was only a few blocks to Ala Moana anyway. So with sore feet we again wandered aimlessly around Ala Moana Shopping Center before locating Foodland for some more poke before walking the last couple blocks back to the Ilikai. We then spent a lovely afternoon in the Ilikai's pool, which was almost bathwater warm. Perfect for the little one:) Dinner was at the Shorebird, just a brief walk along the beach. We just missed happy hour BOOOO, but had one of those great buy one get one 50% off coupons for the meal. Yay.
11/25: We walked to the Dollar/Thrifty Rental car location along Kalakaua to pick up our ride for the next couple days, the Jeep Wrangler included as a bonus on Go Oahu cards. Win! Not what I would've chosen, but it was a 4 door model with plenty of room and hey, we only paid about $17 total for taxes & fees for a 2 day rental. After about a 40 minute wait in the car rental line, we were off and driving up the Windward Coast. First stop Sea Life Park! Again, not something I would typically pay for, but included on the Go Oahu cards- and my son does love fish almost as much as he loves bubbles! This was a nice little stop, actually a very scenic park overlooking the Makapuu tide pools. We just missed the touch pond (closes for a break at noon) but he was happy enough in the aquarium section by the entrance for about an hour. Since we were about an hour later than planned, we grabbed a couple hot dogs and dole whips right there in the park. I didn't think they were too expensive, and it was a snack I could share on the go with my son (we cut one dog in half lengthwise so it's not a choking hazard for him) while we headed out and started driving to Kualoa Ranch. We made it just in time for check in to do the 1:45 PM Voyaging Catamaran sail. This didn't compare at all to the Makani Catamaran sail, and actually the catamaran on this trip doesn't even have a sail, but we did get a nice close up view of Chinaman's Hat and a little history of the area. The ranch was a peaceful place, and if my parents weren't flying in that night to meet us, I would've stayed to do another tour. Instead we said hi to the horsey & goats in the petting zoo and headed back to Honolulu along the Pali after a brief stop at Tropical Mac Nut Farms. Not much worth getting there, although the sample of natural pain relief lotion was nice for my sore feet, along with the little cup of free coffee. The baby was asleep by the time we got to the Pali Lookout, and it was very windy, so hubby got out for some pics while I waited in the car. Still not sure if you're supposed to pay for parking if the car is running with someone in it, but I didn't see the attendant anyway so I guess we were OK. Once in Honolulu, we made a right and then a left into Chinatown to stop at a lei stand. There was ample street parking, and we went in the first shop we saw since we were trying to hurry, Lin's. Picked out two non-fragrant leis for each my Mom & step-dad for $14 total. I would've gotten one for myself they were so beautiful, but that wiped out our cash and I wasn't sure if they took cards. Anyway, we ran back to the hotel for a quick clean up then met the others at Hilton Hawaiian Village, where they would be staying, for a light dinner at Tropics. Step-dad had sticker shock over their prices LOL, and this is also where we realized that his soy allergy might be an issue in Hawaii! Kalua Pork for anyone who doesn't know, is made with a soy based BBQ sauce. Or at least we were told.
11/26: Day 2 of the rental car, we enjoyed a free continental breakfast with the parents at the HHV VIP club then drove to the Dole Plantation. We were already hungry on arrival, so started off with Dole Whips all around. Unfortunately, due to this, we missed the last train before they started taking breaks and ended up waiting 50 minutes for the next 25 minute train ride! Our rides were included on the Go Oahu cards, but the parent's weren't, so I felt bad about that. They didn't seem to mind too much, but by the time we hit Macky's Shrimp Truck in Haleiwa for lunch, it was almost 2:00 and I knew it would be a complete waste to try to do the Polynesian Cultural Center that late (I did have 2 for 1 coupons for them on that, but still). So we enjoyed a nice walk around Haleiwa Town Shopping Center, at least I think that's what it's called. The one with Aloha General Store and Coffee Gallery. I know those two places, because I had great coupons (we're online Entertainment Book members through our timeshare) for BOGO offers at each, and two of us wanted iced coffee while two wanted shave ice:) We joked about spending the next couple hours just shopping there and then hitting up the Mexican place for dinner, but after about 30 minutes we decided to continue our circle island drive. The surf competition was ON that day at Sunset Beach, but we had no trouble driving through, probably because it was about 4:00 by then. We made a couple picture stops, as well as a farmer's stand stop for fresh fruit and the most delicious fried banana leaf things with bananas in them I have ever had. No clue what the name was, but it was awesome! We circled past Kualoa Ranch and Chinaman's hat and then took the Liki Liki to the Nimitz, avoiding nearly all traffic. Dinner was at the Chart House. We all loved the atmosphere there, and had a great meal.
11/27: Returned one rental car while the parents picked up theirs (this time across the street from The Ilikai at Alamo in Discovery bay Center). The line was even longer for them and we wasted over an hour, but hubby & I went & got snorkel rentals for $5/day at Quality Surfboards behind Wailana Coffe House. We were headed to Kailua so I showed the parents Kalakaua Ave, Diamond Head, Kahala, and the Makapuu Blow Hole along the way. Our original plan was for early morning Malasadas at Agnes's and then hitting Lanikai Beach before lunch, but since it was almost 11:00 we decided on a picnic lunch for the beach instead. Two of us hit up Pepper's for cheesesteaks (we're from Philly, and yes, these were actually very good) and the other two Ted's Bakery. We had no problem finding parking and beach access for Lanikai beach, and spent a nice couple hours there swimming, sunning, and snorkeling. Then we packed up and took the Pali home with a stop at the lookout which wasn't windy at all this time, odd! After cleaning up, dinner was at the Hula Grill. Due to unclear communications and missing the driveway, we had to loop all the way around the block to get to the valet, and subsequently missed the 5:45 cutoff for Hula Grill's Chef's Tasting menu. I'm probably the only one who cared since I had my meal already planned, but we still had a lovely meal and a table at the rail to watch the sunset.
11/28: Thanksgiving Day! We drove down to the Waikiki Aquarium so my son could see some fish one last time since they give him so much enjoyment. Mom sprang for the $12 each admission, I really should look into the membership there next time since that seems like a lot to spend. But it is a nice display, and my son particularly liked the indoor exhibits this time since the tradewinds were moving out and it was starting to get hot & muggy again. My husband & I peeled off early to do some snorkeling in the Marine Conservation District out front. We spent about an hour, and saw some larger fish than at Lanikai, but the coral actually wasn't as pretty or colorful, which surprised me. If you are going there, use the ramp to the left of the area to enter the water, and you'll see most of the fish at that end. Back by the hotels we ordered a spicy tuna roll from Magokoru to snack on while getting cleaned up for dinner. Our reservations were for 4:00 at the Shorebird, but we were running about 15 minutes late and they had given away our rail seat. That's OK, the interior areas were actually cooler since the sun wasn't beating in on those tables, and the fans were offering a nice breeze. I opted for the traditional turkey & ham while hubby stuck with the steak, everyone was stuffed when we left and all were satisfied. Mom & step-dad took my son back to their room for the night which was a nice break, even though he is a complete angel that I love having around!
11/29: A sad day, the day we get ready to leave. We got most of our packing done and headed to Wailana Coffee House for breakfast. I was disappointed that their "Perfect Waker Uppers" on the menu included bloody Marys but the bar wasn't open yet for us to get one:( Afterwards, hubby headed over to the Ft. De Russy Military Museum, while I went back to the room to wait for the driver to come pick up the baby gear we had rented. I enjoyed a magazine on the lanai while finishing up the rest of the open alcohol we couldn't take with us. I'm not a total lush, it was only a glass of pineapple wine and then some vodka and Guava juice. Perfectly acceptable before 10:30 AM;) We checked out around 11:00 and took a bus down to Duke's where all 5 of us enjoyed the lunch buffet. For anyone who didn't know, they also added a pasta bar with chef to the buffet line making it an even BETTER deal than before! The whole thing was a hit for everyone trying to fill up before long flights home. Our scheduled flat-rate taxi showed up to take us to the airport as planned at 2:00 PM so we headed off as Mom & step-dad went back to the HHV to enjoy the next 5 hours relaxing by the pool on their own (they paid $100 to keep the room all day). The flight home was uneventful and quick (8.5 hours) but more crowded than the flight there. The annoying family was on the same flight again, but way in the back and we were up front in row 12 this time. As we exited, many passengers praised our little boy and said they would fly with him any time! So would I:) We're already planning the next trip, and our only regret about this one was not enough time relaxing on the beach or by the pool. That's actually trickier with the little one than being on the go moving & sight seeing is, but he'll be a little older and hopefully more mobile to enjoy himself at the beach next time.