I’m back from Hawai’i (not pronounced “How-are-ya”), after six days of blissful, rainless paradise. Well, the blissful part is true, anyway, or just about… it rained most of the time there, but we had plenty to do despite mother nature.
I think I am going to have to break down and get a flickr account and start posting pictures there because we took way too many and I am also not so sure about the pictures script I wrote and have been using on another system lately… I have some concerns about it.
In any case, a quick rundown, as best I can remember…
Thursday: Arrived in Honolulu, hopped in the taxi to The Hilton Hawaiian Village. Checked in, got upgraded to an ocean view room on the top floor of the Rainbow Tower. Relaxed a few, and then made our way down Kalia Road to walk into downtown Waikiki. Lots of uppity shops down there. Prada, Gucci, etc. Earlier in the day, the guy at the concierge desk headed us towards the International Market Place — an obvious tourist trap for tchotchke, it didn’t excite me too much… a lot of those booths are the same things over and over again.
Anyway, while as we made our way there, the sky opened up and it completely poured down in spurts. During relatively dry moments, we made our way back down the street… ate a quick spot of noodle at one of the many Japanese noodle shacks along the way. We ate at Ichiban Ramen [S-something]” near the intersection of Kalakaua and Saratoga. We figured that eight bucks for a big bowl of noodles plus dumplings wasn’t too bad, considering the cost of most restaurants in Honolulu.
As we left the noodle place, the sky opened up again, which meant we waited around for it to settle before hurrying back to the hotel. Got back, had a drink or two at the Shell Bar on the resort, a sorta indoor/outdoor joint, when the sky once again tore open and unleashed quite heavy rains and wind. We decided, at that point, to go back to the room. An interesting note — there was lots of thunder and lightning that night. Apparently such is a rarity in Honolulu, even during heavy rains.
Friday: Was an amazingly terrific day. Rented an umbrella and lounge chairs for a spot on the beach — kinda got suckered into that, as I didn’t realise it was something one paid extra for — and stayed there most of the afternoon to make sure we got our money’s ($50!!) worth. Planned parts of the rest of our stay. Ate Hawaiian buffet at the Rainbow Lanai downstairs… wasn’t really worth it, but I had a 2-for-1 coupon for it, amongst the others, so we went. We had the same sort of food later at a quasi-luau (read on), and it was better there.
They featured an end of week hawaiian celebration/show downstairs by the pool, and they charged $12 for premium seating, i.e., poolside seating. Not figuring it was worth it — as we could see clearly from the path, and look down upon it from our balcony, we kind of just poked around… before the rain started — again.
I am running out of expressions to describe how hard and quickly the rains fell. I have seen some serious raingusts in my time, but this was textbook tropical rain. It was literally coming down sideways. We thought the rain meant no fireworks to end the show — and indeed, the show ended pretty abruptly — but half an hour later we heard loud explosions and went out to the balcony to see a short, but very fierce, fireworks display right out our window.
Saturday: Hiked up Diamond Head, which made for a nice, although quite slick, excursion. The previous night’s rain made the trail quite slippery. It was kind of overcast that day too, which made the scenery okay, but not breathtaking. Afterwards, we (accidentally) went to the Sea Life Park which was kind of campy but had impressive sea life displays. We meant to go to the Aquarium, but figured this would be a reasonably good substitute. Plus, we got a scenic tour of the south-eastern coastline. Pretty tired, we headed back to the hotel. Stopped into the on-site noodle shop for a quick bite, and later on had dinner at Golden Dragon downstairs, another 2-fer. It wasn’t too bad at all. No Sichuan, but not bad for Hong Kong style Chinese food.
There was rain throughout the day, on and off, as well.
Sunday: Got up quite early in the morning to head over for the requisite Pearl Harbor trip. Rainy again, of course. We were in group #2 to go through, which means 150 people were ahead of us in line at around 7:00 AM. Came back, stopped into the pizza joint on-site, and pretty much lounged around for the rest of the day before having dinner at the other, more formal Japanese restaurant on the resort.
Monday: Practically all of Monday was spent out at, or getting to/from, the Polynesian Cultural Center. This was expensive, but well-worth the money. We got the basic Luau package which was more than adequate with regards to food. If you go there, here’s a hint or two:
* If you didn’t get one of the ambassador packages, there’s no guided tour. No big deal if you get the shuttle service, the guide on the bus will probably offer his/her own guided tour for $10. It’s worth it!
* Be sure to catch the Samoan village exhibit, the guy who works that one — at least, the one who was there when we watched — is hilarious, yet the whole bit is quite educational.
* The Latter-Day Saints influence on the place is negligible, but certainly perceptible. Between the multiple references to “90% of the staff being Brigham Young Hawaii” students, and the lack of caffeinated soda during the luau, it becomes pretty obvious. I mean, come on, I can understand no beer or mai tais, but no regular coffee or Diet Coke?
In any case, it was a fantastic day, it’s a great excursion. The food was good — although not what I would call a real Luau in the sense of what one might expect from Hawai’i — and the exhibits are hardly as cheesy as one might expect. Finally, the requisite dancing/hula/fire show at the end of the night was terrific.
Somehow, even though the forecast for Honolulu, at least, said a 100% chance of rain, there was none on the northern tip of the island, where we were. Amazing, it was a beautiful day.
Tuesday: What can I say — rain again! We went downtown to see the Iolani Palace, and came back to take the Atlantis Submarine tour. The rain put a… ahem, damper, on both a little bit, but they were still good… the underwater tour was pretty cool although, in my opinion, you spend as much time seeing not a lot on your side of the ship while the other side gets to see the main attraction for each stop. Maybe it was just the conditions of the water that day.
We ate dinner at the Kobe Japanese steakhouse around the corner, opting for it over the Benihana due to our coupon. It tasted pretty good, but seemed to be an awfully uninspired show. Or maybe i’ve just been to too many Japanese steakhouses.
Wednesday: Not much here. Checked out, went to the International Market Place to get some souvenir shopping done, stopped into the Ichiban Ramen place one more time for a quick bite to eat, and then headed over to the Hilton Grand Vacations place to do their 90 minute tour. It’s kind of like a timesharing thing, but you can use your time anywhere versus just one location, even though you might be deeded at one place. I wasn’t really too interested, but couldn’t resist 30,000 HHonors points as a gift for listening to their spiel. Actually, after seeing the thing, it doesn’t sound like too bad of a programme, but we were in a hurry to catch our taxi, so that was our excuse to get outta there before they tried to sell us on the package any more than they already had.
The rest of the day, and night, and most of the next day when you take into account the timezones, was spent flying back, with a three hour layover at CVG (yuk). Overall, the trip was great, despite all the rain, and we were wishing it wasn’t time to come back home. We mixed enough touristy stuff with out-of-the way stuff that I didn’t feel like a full-on moron. I didn’t get my Hawai’ian shirt because I couldn’t find one that I liked — or at least, not the pattern I liked in my size. If I had to choose a regret, that would be it, but even that’s only a tiny little thing, and most of that is due to my own pickiness.
I should note, at the risk of sounding like a sales pitch, the coupon book we bought at Entertainment.com saved us a metric buttload of money on stuff we probably would’ve used and places we probably would’ve visited anyway. A lot of two-fers at restaurants, $36 off at the PCC and 25% off on the Atlantis sub… made those expensive Hawai’ian dinners a little more reasonable and other activities a bit less pocket intensive. Highly recommended. I got this tip from someone’s posting over at Tripadvisor, and I have to agree, it made a lot of sense, even having not used 98% of the coupons.