This is the story of Yaya’s big adventure in Honolulu, Hawaii.
To set the stage for this story we have to rewind a few weeks back when Stacy commented on a Facebook post from a friend about a trip to Hawaii. Well, that started the snowball rolling and before I know it we had a full-blown travel itinerary. We had talked over the years about a vacation to Hawaii but it never seemed to be a realistic destination with work and the expense but after hearing that a friend was going I told her “see what you can find.” And she did, without hesitation – a week in Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu that fell right into a great time frame between commitments at work. The week started off in the Doubletree then we could move to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Something to do with the hotel points and such. I’ve learned over the years just to nod and agree when it comes to sales and deals but more on that later. The booking done, the anticipation begins, and the planning and then the packing.
Stacy: Okay, I have to interject here… My friend Kelly posted on Facebook that she was 1/3 of the way to Hawaii. I thought she was on the plane and just finished the first leg of the trip. I mentioned it to Glenn and he said, “I’ve wanted to take you there for a long time.” I said, “When?” He said, “Now”. Okay, that’s all I needed to hear!! Hawaii here we come!! I spent a few days looking over our airline points, hotel points, and even visited a great website to find what island should we go to based on our interest. I selected shopping for me and history for Glenn and found out that we should go to Oahu. Sounds good to me!! If you want to go to Hawaii you need to check out this link, https://www.hawaii-guide.com/content/posts/which_hawaii_island_to_visit
Embarkation day, Wednesday, Aug 23rd
Vacation day finally arrives, none too soon for us. It had been a while
since we had taken a trip to somewhere that wasn’t just back home. Nothing wrong with that but it’s nice to vacation in a new location to see and do new things. So, Stacy and I loaded up the car with a couple bags, we tried to travel lightly and headed out to Phoenix for the eight or so hours of airplane time to get to Hawaii. We departed Phoenix on time and had a brief stop in LAX to hop another plane then off we went on the long leg to the south pacific.
Even though we are three hours ahead in Tucson, we still landed at night in Honolulu. Our next adventure began right away; getting to the hotel. Stacy vetoed the idea of just grabbing a taxi because there was no way she was paying that much to go eight miles down the road. We checked around some of the shuttle services and settled on one that only saved us a few dollars but he was ready to go right away. We had an uneventful twenty-minute drive to the Doubletree and still had plenty of time to check in and find some dinner. The hotel lobby was set up island style absent the entire front wall, open to the night with no windows. We could feel the ocean breezes as they flowed through the hotel and it really started to feel like a vacation. The desk clerk was overly friendly and seemed excited to see us as she welcomed us into her hotel. Such a nice change from some of the hotels where we’ve stayed in during some of our other travels. She spoke in broken English and was a little hard to understand but I must admit her English was much better than my Japanese. Room secured and luggage dropped off, now we’re off to find food. Stacy’s not a big fan of burgers but Cheeseburger Waikiki was right next door to the hotel and it was late and we were very tired so she didn’t argue about it this time. We shared a Hawaiian style chicken sandwich with pineapple and barbecue sauce to start off the island vacation, couple sodas and back to the room. Since we have a few extra points at Hilton properties from all my travel at work, they kindly upgraded us to the penthouse suite. Even though it was only one night it was nice to have a little extra room to move around in before bed.
Vacation day two, Thursday, Aug 24th
We started the morning off with a quick snack at the hotel breakfast buffet then off for a hike to the Ala Moana Mall. (Where’d you think we’d be going!) Luckily for us it was only about a quarter mile from the hotel and a pretty easy walk because again, Stacy wasn’t paying for a cab. This mall was on our list of must-see stops. I’d been there on a previous trip and knew without a doubt Stacy would enjoy shopping here so we had to make this a priority. The mall is three and four stories tall and has just about any store you could imagine along with a bunch of restaurants. Like a lot of businesses on the island, it’s mostly open air. The center has no roof at all and we could still feel the sea breezes while walking the halls in the Hawaiian sun. I’m not a fan of shopping but this mall makes it enjoyable. We took a quick few laps around each level then spent some time in the lower area near the food court. Step outside the court and you enter the parking garage where surprisingly there are several stores that run between the food court right into the covered parking areas. The layout is unique and something I’ve never seen anywhere else. It almost feels like you’re walking along the street going between stores in town. We spent a couple hours at the mall, mostly to look at the scenery, watch the people and enjoy the weather before we headed back to the hotel to check out and move over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village where we’d spend the remainder of the week.
Stacy decided to forego the taxi, again (see the pattern here) and we walked back to the DoubleTree and then over to the Hilton. It was a quick walk, only a quarter mile back, grab the suitcases then another few blocks to the Hilton. That walk was a little slow since we were dragging suitcases down the sidewalk but we managed. Once we got there we made a quick lap through the resort to check out the four different towers open for us to choose from then headed to reception. We (Stacy) chose the ‘Diamond Head’ tower which offered us a larger room (a suite) but most importantly, a nice view of the beach and it seemed to suit someone’s personality.
Once we got into our room we dropped our bags and headed out on a more thorough exploration of the resort’s village area. We ate lunch at the Tropics Bar and Grill at the edge of the resort, right on the beach with a wonderful ocean view. They had a pretty fancy ‘Chef Matthew’ style menu but we also found some pork nachos with fruit salsa that we liked and actually came back a few times throughout the week to get them again. After lunch we wandered over to the shops in the center of the resort between the towers. Several shops and restaurants lined the inner streets and gave off a small town, local feel. We found souvenir stores, jewelry stores, expensive clothing stores, several restaurants and even a Harley Davidson store.
Vacation day three, Friday, Aug 25th
Off on a walkabout Waikiki. We headed toward downtown and the shopping malls. Along the way passed through Fort DeRussy Park and walked the winding paths under the shade trees. It would’ve been easy to set up a hammock and spend the day in the shade, with the ocean breeze blowing through the leaves. But, we didn’t stay long, had malls to see and bargains to hunt. We passed by the Hale Koa Army recreation center and hotel where Stacy stopped to reminisce about phone bills gone awry and then off to Trump Tower. We didn’t go inside but did stop for a couple pictures by the big sign for Mema.
Stacy: Glenn briefly mentioned my phone bill story, I will share a little more. When Glenn was stationed in Korea he took annual leave to vacation in Hawaii. Glenn called me when he arrived at his hotel, the Hale Koa, for a brief chat. Long story short, I thought we had free long-distance because my mom worked for AT&T. I never had a long distance charge on my private line so I said, let me call you back, it’s free! We talked all night long until the sun rose in Hawaii. A few weeks later a very unhappy mother picked me up from work. It took me quite some time to pay off that phone bill but it was worth the money.
The first mall we came across was the Royal Hawaiian Center, a two-story mall with lots of yuppie type stores. I didn’t recognize most of the brands but Stacy did! We hit a couple shops and then spent some time looking at jewelry on some of the kiosk carts in the center but nothing really caught our attention. We stopped for a few moments to watch some mall hula class. I was sure Stacy was about to break out in song and dance.
We wrapped up and crossed the street to the International Marketplace Mall. I thought the stores in the previous mall were yuppie, these were beyond yuppie; yuppie squared I suppose. The Hawaii theme really continued inside this mall with several huge trees in the middle and they even had a waterfall coming out of the ceiling. Stacy stopped by a Ferrari in the middle of the mall for a quick peek. I convinced her it wasn’t her color or I think we’d have been test driving it before the day was out.
Next on the agenda was lunch. We headed for Waikiki Beachwalk Shops and Duke’s restaurant for lunch. Duke’s is a casual beachside restaurant that leads right out into the sand. You eat lunch with a view of the surfers and sunbathers. We picked a table with a great view of the beach to continue the vacation ambiance, then headed to the buffet. We dined without coupons so it was the best we could do.
After lunch we headed back to the Fort DeRussy Army Museum and took a quick tour. The museum documents the fortifications made to the islands leading up to and during the war in the Pacific. One display is dedicated to the period following the attack on Pearl Harbor and describes how the islands were severely restricted under martial law and rationing of goods and services. Stopping by this museum was a great precursor to our upcoming tour of the Pearl Harbor memorial.
After we cleaned up at the hotel from our exploration we picked Benihana for dinner. Stacy and I both love Lampu in Mt. Dora so we expected this to be about the same. I mean they cook at the table just like Lampu, right? Nope, not even close. Aside from the chef hats and the flying utensils there wasn’t much in common at all. Stacy was quick to point out no ‘house special’ then she got caught up on up-charge for fried rice. That was it, she was bent and there was no coming back. We were sitting across from a group of ladies who had apparently hit the lottery. They were knocking back fifteen-dollar drinks and ordering the filet of cash. I was waiting for the stolen credit card or counterfeit cash to pop out to cover that bill. Those of us on a normal budget stuck to the cheap seats and kept it reasonable as we could. We still ended up with a bill easily over fifty dollars.
Vacation day four, Saturday, Aug 26
Off to breakfast at the local McDonald’s because that’s what you do on vacation when you don’t want to spend fifty dollars on toast at the hotel. We decided to take a morning walk and I don’t think either of us wanted the yuppie stuff at the hotel anyway. When we got to the restaurant both of us enjoyed reading the unique Hawaiian menu. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Spam, Eggs and Rice on a McD’s menu but the locals were digging it; several plates passed us while we stood in line. We laughed all the way to the register, then realized I didn’t have my wallet; luckily, we had my phone with the apple pay thing and wallah- it worked! McBLTs for us.
Time to head back to the beach to get a seat on our towel before the hotel emptied out and all the sand disappeared under tourists. We were slick and found some shade below a nice tall palm. That worked for about thirty minutes until the sun moved and so did our shade. Grab the towel and slide to the left. About thirty minutes and another slide to the left. All right, maybe not such a great plan. We headed down to the water for a splash in the ocean. We quickly learned the Pacific is a little colder than the Atlantic Ocean and there was quite the undertow making it difficult to stand in one place. I also noticed that the sand wasn’t what we were used to at Daytona. This was more the crushed seashells type and a little rough on the feet. All in all, nice beach but I think I’ll keep Daytona. Can’t beat the soft sugar sand that you can drive right onto.
We had lunch at the Tropic’s restaurant again, more nachos! Then it was time to get ready for the luau dinner. We met the bus and headed out to see more Hawaii. When we arrived a nice lady in a coconut bikini gave us flower necklaces and we took a quick welcome photo. I tried not to smile too much, didn’t want to get in trouble right away. Once we arrived inside and found our seats we had a few hours until it darkened enough to start the show. There were several activities to do while we waited. Stacy found palm frond folding and lei making to occupy the time. Once the show started it was pretty captivating. The ladies were impressive with the wiggling and all. The men were doing the native warrior thing with the flaming baton and spear tossing. All in all, it was pretty impressive. I took quite a few pictures of the wiggling hula girls. Somewhere in there we had the opportunity to run to the Hawaiian BBQ a couple times. It was alright but we’re spoiled with our Sonny’s BBQ from back home. On the way out we stopped for another quick photo with the coconut girls before jumping back on the bus.
Vacation day five, Sunday, Aug 27
I got to examine the coconuts so it’s only fair that Stacy gets to examine jewelry. Today we took the short bus, literally – held about eight people, to the Maui Divers Jewelry Design Center tour where they make the doughnuts. I think they check your credit before you go up the elevator and into the ‘halls of misery’ as you follow the too happy to be there on a Sunday guide as he walks us down through what could best be described as jewelers under glass. Since it was Sunday there was only one actual artisan behind the thick glass but it was pretty interesting to see him working on some gold rings. Our tour guide took us down the hall and past several work areas that might be described as surgery rooms for gold and gems. They were all painted white and well-lit with lots of tongs and tools laid about. There were Tupperware card catalogs with clips and pins and hooks just waiting for someone to make them into something fancy. We paused by the pearl room, and by paused I mean asked a thousand questions. Stacy made sure that when she got to the buyin’ area, she was well educated on what to look for. Finally, we made it out of the real-life dungeons and dragons tunnels and burst out into the bright mid-day sunshine that was actually the showroom. There were more than enough sales ladies ready and willing to tell us what we just saw and why we needed a genuine Maui Divers souvenir (or three). Stacy looked up and down each aisle, then across, then back across, then in reverse, then we asked a ton of questions; then we went to lunch. Surprised as I was, we got nothing! She found better stuff at Costco I think but we had a great time looking and tormenting the guide.
Off to the mall for lunch, on foot since the bus was moving on ‘island time’ and we wanted to get there before dinner. Since it was just a few blocks we made the sacrifice and walked in the sun the entire five blocks. After surviving our exhaustive trek we chose to stop by Islands Fine Burgers on the top floor of the mall. We split a chicken dish with rice, pineapple and some teriyaki sauce that I think we tried to capture in the picture. This is a place I had the opportunity to stop by on a previous visit and wanted to take Stacy back to for the experience. It didn’t disappoint and the waiter provided quite the entertainment. He claimed to be a Hawaiian native despite the prominent Boston accent. Quite the character and definitely kept lunch entertaining.
We walked the mall a few more times and picked up some souvenirs for the kids and Stacy did a little shopping with her other boyfriend “Clarence.” We always look for Clarence when we go to the mall; if any of the family shopped with Stacy they’ve met Clearance.
Stacy: Okay everyone, I have to share. Here is a look at what “Clarance” helped me find. My favorite purchase in Hawaii is an Alfani white dress that I picked up for $15 (regular price $110). When I purchased the dress I had about 10-15 pounds to lose before I could wear it out but I couldn’t pass it up. When you try something on and it makes you feel happy you just have to get it!!
Dinner was a little more exciting for us this day. We had our hearts set on all you can eat crab legs at this restaurant we passed while dragging our suitcases from the first hotel. The sign prominently said all you can eat crab legs so we were all in on this one. Well, the reality of it was not so much on the eat part. We checked in with the comatose lady at the door and grabbed a table which already seemed to have a nice coating of grease or oil or something sticky. But, we’re troopers and can overlook a little dirt and such to get all you can eat crab legs – got our plates and off we went. To the empty bar. Yup, all out of crab legs, so there goes the eat part. They had some cold shrimp and other miscellaneous seafood looking stuff but no crab. We asked nicely, then whined and eventually bitched a bit. Someone yelled at someone else in the back who came out looked at the empty bin with no crab legs and then yelled at someone in back, mind you all in Korean or Japanese, I’m a little rusty on both. But to our dismay, still no crab legs at the all you can eat crab leg buffet! Decision time – not really; we both looked at each other and I think said simultaneously ‘let’s go.’ Off to restaurant number two, the village sandwich shop but nothing really jumped out at us there and the seats were covered in kids. Not the kind of quiet dinner we were looking for so off to restaurant number three the Tropic’s restaurant. Quick glance at the menu and nothing looked like it wanted me to eat it. I found a very expensive burger that I’d have had to ask them to take everything off in order to cover it with ketchup and mustard, just not that cultured I guess (ask my brother, no chocolate covered bear for me). So, if you’re keeping count, off to restaurant number four. This time we went for what we know Outback Steakhouse. Nothing like going all the way to Hawaii for some Aussie chips! Finally some food we could sit down and enjoy. We know there was a long day tomorrow so off to the hotel for some needed sleep.
Vacation day six, Monday, Aug 28
Off for our early morning Island Tour. Started off with a thud because Stacy “don’t do” taxis and Stacy “don’t do” mornings. I think she dislikes mornings even more though but she was a trooper and we were down at the bus by 0600, or 6am for normal folks. We were off to the Pearl Harbor Memorial to start the day. The tour advertised tickets to the memorial and we found that it actually meant they drive us to the gate and we stand in line with all the other tours for the free tickets to get in. So I’m in a marvelous mood already, because I could have rented a car and done the same exact thing but we’re here and time to make the most of it, as we stand in line for the next thirty minutes. But hey we got lucky and got the tickets for the second round of entrants. Quickly we passed through the gate like a bunch of middle-aged kindergartners following our teacher. At least we didn’t have to hold the rope to stay together.
The Navy manned to boats and ran an orderly transition from shore to the memorial above the Arizona. We disembarked the boat and entered the white-walled arch that sits at the last resting place of the Arizona. I was immediately taken by the small size of the harbor. I could imagine the ships stacked side by side two to a tender all tucked into this harbor. I guess its hindsight armchair quarterbacking to imagine all our eggs in such a small basket. I’m sure there were senior leadership reasons for bringing all the ships into port the way they did. We took some pictures, watched the oil float to the surface and read some of the names on the wall. I had not had the opportunity to visit this memorial on previous trips but I’m very glad we made it a point on this one. I’m doubly glad that I had someone like Stacy who could appreciate the moment and the history that accompanied such a serene solemn place.
I think she read and studied the markers more than I did. I really appreciated her company as we spent the rest of the tour discussing what we saw and the audio that we listened to as we went from marker to marker. One thing that Stacy and I did notice was that it appeared as though there were more foreigners at the memorial then Americans. I hope this was just an off day or a perception thing. It’s a sad state of affairs when someone from outside our shores appreciates our history more than our own people. I hope and pray that’s not the case.
Onto the rest of the story, we found our kindergarten teacher and boarded the bus for more adventures. Off we went to the Pineapple plantation and quite the plantation it was. We drove through miles of farmland and finally hit the tourist shop. There were gifts galore that all had a pineapple theme. Pineapple ice cream, pineapple gum, pineapple candy. In the back there was a nice lady that even educated us on the funny knives you see in the store for pineapples. Apparently there is a ‘right’ way to cut one open. I didn’t know that I’d been doing it wrong all these years. Although I can’t actually recall when the last time was I cut open a pineapple but for sake of this story, I now know the Hawaiian approved cutting technique. Stacy tried a slice of pineapple with some red powdered sugar and dripped red juice down her white shirt. Stacy washed off the juice and we wrapped up at the pineapple farm and drove up to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a quick lunch. A chance for a little more shopping and someone ended up buying a flowery sarong dress thing. We left the Center and our kindergarten teacher drove us along the North Shore where we stopped for photos. We didn’t get to explore much of the beach because we had more stops to make; and she was double parked. We pulled into the blow hole park where we got rained on a bit but had the opportunity to see waves crash into the rocks and blast out the ‘blow hole.’
We stopped by Hanauma Bay and learned that the big moon shaped bay used to actually the mouth of an ancient volcano that filled with water when the outer lip fell away and dropped into the ocean. Our kindergarten was confused about the time then said we were ahead of schedule so we got to drive through the Diamond Head Crater for a quick peek then down through the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Hawaii with the big million-dollar homes then back to our hotel. We were both exhausted by then and had to start packing for home so off to a familiar place; dinner at Tropics Restaurant for more pork nachos.
Stacy: Leave it to me to make a mess but I learned something… antibacterial gel on a paper towel takes out just about anything. The very noticeable red stain was gone in a matter of minutes. For my friends heading to Hawaii, the tour of the island was great but expensive, about $110 per person. If I were to do it again, I agree with Glenn, rent a car and get out your GPS then you can move along at your own pace. Don’t miss Pearl Harbor and make sure to do the audio tour. The stories told by the survivors really added to the whole experience. I could have stayed there much longer than the time allotted on the tour. If we had seen Hanauma Bay when we first arrived I would have spent an entire afternoon snorkeling with the fish around the coral reef.
Return travel day, Tuesday, Aug 29
Final day of vacation so we got up and out early. Since at least one of us was awake and wanted to see the ocean again we headed over to Ala Moana Park. Out on the end of the park there are piers stretching into the ocean and surf breaks all along the edge. We found a quiet area on the cement wall and sat for a while just watching the waves crash into the rocks. We could see the tiny crabs fearlessly darting among the rocks between waves. If there had been a hammock strung up there I could have spent the day just watching the surfers and listening to the waves.
Since someone got Stacy up so early, mostly against her will, I had to buy her breakfast. Off to McDonalds again! After feasting on spam and eggs (just kidding, I had a bacon biscuit and Stacy had a sausage biscuit but the spam was funnier), Stacy decided to visit the girls room. The fine folks at the McDonalds weren’t taking any chances with their restroom key, it was chained to a gallon milk jug. We laughed (mostly I laughed) at that as she disappeared out the door and around the corner with her milk jug. After breakfast we headed back to the room and packed for our return trip. The hotel gave us a place to check our bags and go sit by the pool. We had a time slot for a courtesy room later in the day to go change and clean up for the trip back home so we were all set to sit in the sun and hit the pool. And then the rain came, and it really came. The whole pool deck became a shallow pond. Luckily we found a gazebo to hide under until it let up. After the deluge stopped we jumped back out to some good chairs and resumed relaxing; for about thirty minutes before it came down again. We finally gave up and headed back into the village to check out the shops one last time. We also stopped by Tropic’s restaurant to use up our remaining resort credit by indulging in more nachos. After we exhausted ourselves in the stores we headed up to the courtesy suite and dressed for the trip. Stacy scheduled a bus to pick us up at the hotel so we didn’t have to use a taxi at all on the trip. We were down in the lobby for a little while and I started to get nervous because it was a bit late and there was heavy traffic out of the tourist area to get to the airport. The bus finally showed and we were off at a snail’s pace. We rode and stopped and drove and stopped and turned and stopped and inched and stopped and before we knew it we were right back at our hotel again. The bus driver actually drove around the block, at ‘island time’ speed and we were right back where we started. I couldn’t believe it but Stacy managed to calm everyone down a bit by playing the weather app on her phone. She hit the app and it loud and proud said; “Tonight you’re going to have Under Boob Sweat, just saying.” Everyone on the bus got deathly silent as Stacy giggled and snickered and fumbled trying in vain to silence the phone. She even tried to sit on it but no luck, everyone heard it. Then as if once wasn’t enough she tried it again as if to say,“yup, just in case you had any question about where it came from or what you heard I’m here to remove any doubt.” After that we had a pretty uneventful ride to the airport and we actually made it on time. Now ‘on time’ to me is about two hours early; ‘on time’ to Stacy is about fifteen minutes early with a mad dash to the gate. She wasn’t all that thrilled that we were there a little early but we agreed to disagree and found a Burger King for our last Hawaiian dinner. A little anticlimactic but we made our flight and didn’t break the bank getting there. Off for the long ride home to our adopted state of AZ.
Goodbye Hawaii! We had a great time!!