Aloha Oahu!

IMG_0887So, it’s our final night in Honolulu–and what a trip it has been! Tonight, we went to Oceanarium and it was delicious. We had no idea what we were getting into other than it was in the hotel with the big aquarium. Turns out, it was an awesome buffet. On the way back to our home away from home–the Ilikai–we stumbled upon a Stevie Wonder concert! He was performing a private concert at an outdoor venue so we were able to hear–and partially see–the concert from the sidewalk–awesome! Very superstitious… First the season premier of Hawaii 5-0 on the beach and then Stevie Wonder, what luck!

But now, we must embark upon the loooong trip home. I am dreading the flight. We have a layover in Chicago so at least I’ll get to stretch my legs before the final leg. But then, I have to drive from NJ to MD–a 3-hour hike. And for those that don’t know, the NJ Turnpike is no joke. Alas, it must be done. All good things come to an end and so must vacation. But I am totally looking forward to seeing my dog!!! And the fall weather is approaching, one of my 2 fave seasons.

So there you have it. We went on trolley rides; to the Paradise Cove Luau; Pacific Aviation Museum; the Mighty Mo; Punchbowl Cemetery; the beach; the pool; and a host of restaurants and shops. It was exhausting and relaxing all rolled into 2 beautiful weeks. I’ve tweeted…I’ve posted on Facebook…and I’ve blogged. And now, I’m going to bed. Alooooooha!

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Our Trip to Honolulu Zoo

imageOn day 2 of our vacation in paradise, we went to the zoo. (At the time this post was started, we were still there because it was pouring rain. And since we don’t have a car and were quite a ways from the hotel, sitting in the children’s petting zoo area was the go-to option. Now, unfortunately, we had sent my one cousin to be captured by the gorillas while we hung out with the tiger. He’d been gone a while, but we hoped he would turn up in one piece. Ok…ok…ok…he wanted to see the orangutans, which we had seen, so he went off on his own. And yes, he returned unscathed.)

The zoo trip was the first time I had ever heard a lion roar–that was pretty awesome. The zoo, in general, was pretty cool. My father has been a zoo fan for years, so growing up, I had the privilege  of visiting quite a few zoos on our travels, including the Bronx Zoo, where I rode an elephant with my Dad when I was a little girl.

The trip to Honolulu Zoo did not include riding an elephant, but it was fun and definitely worth a visit if you travel to the island; particularly if you have children. Though, I have to say, my 27-year old cousin is the reason we went to the zoo and he had a, and I quote, “a marvelous time.” Apparently, the zoo is for all ages.

After seeing the animals; hanging out under an awning to wait out the monsoon-like rain, I proceeded to walk back to the condo. It’s a loooong walk, or so I thought. Turns out, it was only about 2 miles. But I’m sayin’…it felt waaaaay longer! Lunch, relaxing, dinner, and now we are all drained. I hear snoring going on all around me-I think it’s time to hang it up for the night and see what kind of trouble we can get into tomorrow.

Aloooooha!

Oahu Vacation: Day 1

photo 1It was an incredible first day in paradise and felt like coming home. But after 20+ times coming here, it is like home away from home. I can’t say that I’m committing to a daily blog, but I’m going to do my best to keep up to date on the activities as quickly after they occur as possible.

Our day started at Duke’s, one of our favorite spots. The breakfast buffet, is without a doubt, one of the best in Waikiki. After my orange, guava, passion fruit juice, some of the tastiest home fries ever, and the delicious French toast, we stopped by the concierge desk in the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. Incidentally, this Outrigger used to be our home away from home and therefore, still holds a special place in my heart. Anyway, Jackie–one of the concierge’s there, has been booking our excursions for the last 3 years, so it was good to see her. If you ever go there, ask for Jackie–she’s awesome!

So after a hearty breakfast and our upcoming activities booked, it was off to get our trolley passes. In the same vein, we’ve bought our trolley passes from the trolley desk in Royal Hawaiian Center for the last few years as well, from the same lady, she too rocks.

Then, it was off to the beach! My one cousin and I stayed in the water for about 2 hours. I truly think that I’m part fish, because once I get in, I don’t wanna get out. But here’s a tip–put on sunscreen! I am now bright red and tender to the touch because I neglected to put on sunscreen because I just wanted to go swimming in that gorgeous blue water! Lesson learned.

Post beach, it was off to Tiki’s for afternoon cocktails. They make a delicious blue Hawaii. We trolley’d back to the hotel and had just settled in for an afternoon snack when the fire alarm started going off. Mind you, there was a funny smell while we were waiting at the elevator. And as we were sitting on the lanai, we did notice several fire trucks pull up, but who pays attention to such things when they’re on vacation? Alas, we were told to vacate our rooms and not to use the elevators but to come down the nearest staircase. Here’s the kicker–of the 26 floors in the hotel, we’re on the 24th. We made it to floor 16 when we were told we could take the elevator back to our floor and go back to our room. Thankfully, the fire was in the parking garage and was contained and under control. Don’t think anyone was hurt; so off to dinner we went. One incredibly delicious pulled pork sandwich later, a stop at a few stores in The Hilton Hawaiian Village and then it was time for bed.

Next up, the zoo!

Hawaii: An Oahu Travel Guide

photo-8For those that either know me or have read the ‘About Me’ tab, you’ll know that I go to Hawaii every year with my family. I’ve been incredibly blessed and fortunate to have started traveling there when I was in middle school and as such, will be going again this summer. We have visited several islands over the years: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the big island of Hawaii. So, quite often, family, friends, friends of friends, etc., will ask me for recommendations on what to see and do. This occurred last week when a former co-worker reached out to me because she’ll be visiting Maui and Oahu in a few months with her family. Since the list is fresh and the question is often asked, I decided to share more broadly. Here you go!

Maui: It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been to Maui, but it is my most favorite island. There is just the right mix of things to do and relaxation. The last time we were there we took ‘The Road to Hana’. To say it was bumpy would be an understatement–my father stopped speaking to me after the tour. Personally, I thought it was super fun and very pretty. I suggest a tour so you don’t have to worry about damaging a rental and if you do get a rental, tell them where you’re planning to go so you can get an appropriate vehicle because the terrain really is that bad.

Kauai: Without a doubt, this is the prettiest island (and considering we’re talking about Hawaii, that’s saying something). It’s incredibly lush due to the crazy amount of rainfall it gets in the mountains. This is the ideal island for honeymooners and/or couples that want to get away and relax because there is not much to do. I’ve heard of people taking helicopter rides to see the Nepali Coast, but I don’t do helicopters so…

Hawaii: If you like doing things outside, this is your island! There’s hiking. There’s horseback riding. And there’s the Volcano House, you simply must go. It sits at the top of Kilauea, which yes, is still erupting. You can see actual craters, historic lava flows, and steam coming from the vents in the ground. A few years back we took a tour (my father is big on tours) that went to see live lava flow at night. We, the tourists, stood several yards away and watched the lava flow into the ocean, the Hawaiian bus driver/tour guide stayed with the bus. It was a very cool experience but it was dark, we had 1 small flashlight between 3 of us, it was raining, and we had to hike through slippery, uneven lava terrain. But clearly I lived to tell the tale.

Oahu: Now this island is my home away from home. My father–who has been retired for over 20 years–likes to be in the midst of the ‘action’ in Hawaii, so we spend the majority of our time on this island. I often say that Waikiki is like New York City in paradise. NYC is my fave city in the world, so take that statement with the grain of salt. And because of my father and his aforementioned proclivity to want to do all things entertaining, we’ve explored.

  • Pearl HarborI recommend a tour, that way you don’t have to deal with getting tickets and then you can lump in seeing the Mighty Mo and possibly Punchbowl Cemetery. I believe Roberts Stars and Stripes tour is the only one that goes to Punchbowl.
  • Polynesian Cultural CenterI think this is consistently named the #1 tourist attraction on Oahu. It is a neat set up, seeing the different villages representing the Polynesian Islands. The canoe parade is beautiful so get a good spot ahead of time to take pictures.
  • Paradise Cove LuauThe location is gorgeous, food yummy, and drinks delicious. It is somewhat similar to the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, but I would recommend Paradise Cove—after all, Kimora Lee Simmons enjoyed it.
  • Navatek Dinner CruiseGreat views of Diamond Head at night and if you go on a Friday, they stay out an extra hour so you can see fireworks on the island from the ship. And the buffet is good.
  • Snorkeling at Hanauma BayPersonally, I hate snorkeling because I can’t breathe through my mouth and I hate stuff on my face, but even I did it. It’s very pretty and was definitely worth it. I think it’s closed on Tuesday’s, but double-check me on that one.
  • Climb Diamond HeadThe views are gorgeous, but the climb is no joke. A lot of switchbacks, 100 steep steps at one point, an iron spiral staircase, and then an opening in a rock wall to climb through. But your pictures will be awesome.
  • Iolani PalaceVery pretty and truly a place to go if you like history. The tours are given by volunteer docent’s and it’s downtown. If you take the trolley, you can hop off at the Aloha Tower and Marketplace and get some good pics at the top of the tower.
  • Red or Blue Line Trolley ToursIf you have a down time kind of day.
  • North Shore–Rent a car, see the surfers at Sunset Beach, eat at a shrimp truck, stop by Ted’s Bakery, and spend the day wandering.

Eat at:

  • The Hula Grille is my favorite restaurant. The purple (taro) mashed potatoes and the oil for the bread are yummy.
  • Duke’s is touristy, but you kind of have to go. The live music is pretty good and it’s on the beach. Plus, their breakfast buffet is AWESOME, so is their salad bar at dinner.
  • Keoni’s for breakfast is a bit of a hidden gem. I love their pancakes and corned beef hash.
  • Eggs n’ ThingsBut if you go to the original one on Saratoga Rd., you have to go when they open or at an off-peak time of day because it is just that crowded.
  • Pai’s DeliIt’s in the Outrigger Waikiki. A literal cut out in the wall on the bottom level of the hotel, they have the freshest sandwiches and veggies ever and the iced tea keeps you going back for more.
  • Any shaved ice stand will do, just have make sure you have one (or more).

You could also visit the Byodo-In Temple, the Dole Plantation (ride the little train), the Aviation Museum, take a submarine ride (pretty cool), and see the Society of Seven show. Oahu will not leave you wanting for things to do, trust me. So when you get back from your visit, drop me a line and let me know what you thought!