Friday, February 11, 2011

Honolulu Trip Report - Feb. 3 - 10, 2011

This was our third visit to Honolulu.  It is my son's (he's 20) fave place to vacation.  We went for two weeks in 2005, one month in 2007 and now had a quick winter week long getaway almost 4 years later.  I got a great deal out of Bellingham, WA with a promo Alaska Airlines had on for their new service to HNL.  We stayed at the same place we did on our first visit, the Ohana Waikiki West.  When we stayed for a month we rented a condo @ the Hawaiian King.  We like this neighbourhood and it works well for us!

This pic is from the "" website

So, in our previous 6 weeks, we covered a lot of ground!  We've been to a lot of the best or supposed best restaurants like Alan Wong's, Orchids, Hoku's, Roy's, Hy's, Aaron's atop Ala Moana, Sam Choy's when he had the restaurant @ Diamond Head, Top of Waikiki, Ruth's Chris, Nick's Fishmarket before it closed, etc, etc.  We've done the Circle Island Tour, both luaus - Germaine's & Paradise Cove, seen the shows like Society of Seven, Magic of Polynesia (loved it!), etc.  We've snorkeled a few times at Hanauma Bay.  We visited the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor.  We took "Da Bus" to Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park.  My son has had surfing lessons here and we did the outrigger canoe rides too which were loads of fun.  We also did a catamaran sail from the Outrigger Reef, visited the zoo, shopped at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet  and probably lots of other things I've forgotten now.

So...this trip would be about enjoying the short time we had and trying to do some things we missed...I planned some dining, but tried to leave the rest of it open which I don't normally do.  I usually have all my reservations made for lunch & dinner before I arrive anywhere.  I love researching food!  I simply made a list of possible places to eat and decided we could play it by ear once there...

Before I start, excuse me if my tenses go in and out of correctness...I type at all different times, pre, present and past, so it doesn't always flow as it should!

February 3rd:

Caught the shuttle to Bellingham for our 5:20pm flight.  Flight was on time, had a great crew who really made getting to Honolulu exciting.  We realized how much we've missed it!  We landed early, at 9:15pm Island time. I had pre-booked Roberts Shuttle ($15 each, return) and they pulled up right as we got outside and we were off.  I did not mind stopping at different hotels as it gave me time to reflect on where we were and I actually like seeing the different places people stay.  We met a lot of nice people on the bus too.  Everyone was very happy to be here.  We were checked in and in our room by 10 pm.  Great Aloha service at the front desk.  Wired Internet access free.  Local, US & Canada calls free if under 15 minutes.  Free in room safe, coffee, newspaper and tote bag.  Also included was free use of the Pink Line trolley which goes to Ala Moana mall and back.  Room also had a fridge.  It's an older, budget hotel but I like it, all the staff are very friendly including the maids.  I loved our maid, she was a sweetie.

A quick stop to Food Pantry (which is conveniently right next door) where we got nibbles, wine, water, etc. and we were down for the count!  Beds were relatively comfy.  Pillows sucked, but it was a semi-good sleep...

February, 4th:

The alarm went off at 7:30.  A peek through the blinds showed beautiful sunshine!  Started to unpack and get ready.  I had made reservations for breakfast at Duke's.  This is my son's fave place and it really makes us feel like we are IN Hawaii when we come here.

We had the buffet breakfast which was $15 each and included coffee.  Duke's is a great setting right on the beach.  We had made to order omelets and more.  Here's what I had with a spinach omelet, biscuits and gravy too.

We were pretty full, so we went for a stroll down Kalakaua after enjoying the warmth and the sights.


We came back to the room, changed and went to the pool for awhile.  Swam and laid out for an hour or two then decided to go to Ala Moana mall.  Took the Pink Line.  You just show your hotel room key card in lieu of paying the $2 it costs.  Shopped around for awhile.  Snacked  and oogled at the Makai food court and then took the trolley back. 

We headed over to the International Market Place for a bite to eat.  I went to Blue Water Shrimp & Seafood Co. which was just terrific.  They send the orders back on a zip line too!  I had a combo of fish (furikake tuna), shrimp & steak.  Delicious.  The steak I could have done without and left most of that.  The plate was huge!  When you look at this picture, you can see 2 large pieces of tuna on the left with salsa.  The salad was also very good.  The garlic shrimp were the star of the plate.  It was well worth the $16 price tag.  My son ate at some hot dog/burger place called Tiki "something"...he was jealous...(I gave him 2 out of my 5 shrimp!)

Then it was time to return and freshen up for our Fireworks Catamaran Cruise through Island Dream Catamaran (Groupon).  We arranged shuttle through them ($5 pp) for pick up at 6pm.  Driver Christy arrived, no problem.  Another couple who were already in the van, and us went to 1025 Ala Moana Blvd.

Island Dream

The cruise was ok.  I think they are new and they were not very polished in service.  No one knew if they were even in the right place when they arrived and no staff spoke to them.  We, of course did know, but a few other people all mentioned this to me, how disorganized everything felt and no staff talking to anyone.  They offered complimentary coke and water.  The alcohol option was beer or punch for $10 per person - open bar.  Punch apparently had OJ, Malibu Rum and Bacardi and was pre-mixed.  I passed.  The fireworks were nice, though short (which I knew so it wasn't a surprise).  I was glad I paid half price for it.  For $50 a person, I would so not recommend it! 

Another three passengers rode back in the shuttle with us.  They were a lot of fun and also from my province.  We went and had a drink when we got back.  My son went to the room, we went to the bar in my hotel called Nashville Waikiki.  Music was loud!  And, at around 10pm, everyone was 2am drunk already!  We went over to Da Big Kahuna and had a couple more drinks there.  This is a strange place.  When we arrived there was a solo artist singing lounge lizard music.  Then there was silence, like a restaurant.  Then there was DJ, a dance floor and disco lights...not sure what this place is about!  Anyway, my new friends Dan, Pearl and Whitney were driving around the island the next morning so we parted ways somewhere around midnight.  I really had a lot of fun with them and could have partied all night with them actually!

I ordered Round Table pizza when I got back to the room, it was $25 for a medium and I just found that extremely expensive!  And the medium almost looked like a small. 

February 5th:

We started the day with breakfast at Moose McGillicudy's.  In our previous 6 weeks, we have never been here.  I found a buy one get one free breakfast coupon in the visitor books so we decided to try it.  Service was terrific and the food was not bad.  I had to order my fave fried steak...

With mimosa, OJ and another entree, bill was $21 before tip.  Very nice!  They don't serve alcohol before 10am, so I was glad we arrived right at 10!  :-)

From there it was off to the beach!!!  We had to stop and buy mats & air mattresses from the ABC store and then we were good to go.  Beautiful day.  Spent a good three hours there.

Diamond Head is lush and green!  It's alway been brown on previous visits.

Back at the hotel we showered and got ready for Happy Hour at Wolfgang's Steakhouse.   HH is from 4 - 6:30pm at the bar and is a great deal!  They serve home made potato chips for free served with Wolfgang's steak sauce (though that kind of tasted like cocktail sauce to me).  Chips were great though!  All appys were $5.  We got 4 out of 5, the only one we didn't get was the steak tartare.  They were more like meals rather than appys!  I had wine by the glass for $5 and it was very good.  I can recommend the cab.  I also had a martini for $7.  Tab for two including 20% tip was $50.  I can't complain about that.  My fave was the hamburger sliders cooked medium rare.  My son's was the steak kabobs cooked medium.  Service was as fabulous as you would expect at a fancy, schmancy NY steakhouse.  We wanted for nothing at anytime.

Ahi Tartare with wasabi soy sauce

Steak Sliders
Hamburger Sliders
Steak Kabobs

Then it was off to the Waikiki Trade Center to meet our shuttle for Oahu Ghost Tours.  We had a full group and went off to Iolani Palace.  The tour took place in this area and was quite interesting in terms of history.  We did get lots of orbs in our pictures.  My son enjoyed it very much.  Here was one of the largest orbs at a banyan tree at the palace.  (And no, that wasn't the moon)...

Then once we got back to Waikiki we went for a light meal at Menchanko-Tei on Kuhio.  We both had Ramen and finished about 1/2 each.  I had a sake, and son had a green tea iced tea.  It was $33 after tip.  Very good!  I would return, and it did not taste like the Ramen we get in was better...(IMHO).  So much more vibrant in flavour than the exact same offerings I've had at home.  I have to say though, we have a lot of Ramen places in Vancouver and I haven't tried them all so I don't want to make that a blanket statement.

Shoyu Ramen
Pork Ramen

And then it was back to the room and down for the count!  I was exhausted!!!

February 6th - Super Bowl Sunday:

I awoke with "The PACK is BACK" on my brain...I am not a Packers fan, they are just the lesser of two evils and I had money on the game.  Though, I would love for Charles Woodson to win a Super Bowl. 

We started off for Sunday breakfast at the Shore Bird.  Previously, I really liked the atmosphere of this restaurant.  Today, I did not.  In fact, even with a coupon ($20 for two breakfast buffets which you pre-pay before you are seated).  I would not return.  Duke's wins the breakfast buffet contest by a landslide!  The food was lame, no made to order eggs, no waiter service, no toast or bagels.  It was just cheap pastry, muffins, some fruit, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, carved ham.  They brought a turkey breast at the end too which was dry and crumbly.  We only had one small plate each and could not get out of there fast enough.  I had to go to the bar for my own mimosa and pay there for it.  In hindsight, we should have went for regular breakfast next door at Ocean House.

Bought a Hawaiian Xmas ornament at the Xmas shop in the Reef hotel.  Bought one that said  Mele Kalikimaka. and they personalized it for us which is included in the price.  Then we went shopping at Food Pantry.  Got some Leonard's malasadas, spam musubi, Maui chips for Super Bowl.  Outside, since awakening, there was light showers, WIND, and clouds today - no sunshine.  I decided to just relax and watch the game in my room.  My back was sore and my feet hurt from wearing my sandals too.  I sent my son out to buy me some Advil.  Getting old sucks! :-)  The weather also made me not feel so guilty for not being out doing something like watching the game with Steelers fans...  ;-)...the down time was needed... food, no snacks, no nothing was eaten by me, but a lot of wine was drank!  When Charles Woodson didn't come back after the 1/2, I was distressed!  Anyway, joy of joys after much stress!  I cannot say how happy I was/am for onto next season...

I remember telling my son I needed a nap and to wake me at 7pm.  Next thing  my son was waking me up saying, "Mom, wake up, it's dinner time" I jumped up...and got in the shower.  While I was showering, I hollered out, "Where did I say we were going?"  Son yells back, "Roy's".  Great!  There goes my cheap dining!  If Steelers would have won, I probably would have told him dinner was at McDonald's.  I continued to get ready while he made a reservation and when we left, it was monsoon raining!  So, it was a $8 cab ride with tip too.

Dinner was pretty good.  We did the set menu ($41.50 pp) and it was exactly the same as it was four years ago.  We ate the same things as last time too.  And, it finished the exact same way too.  I had a bite of the tart and my son ate both desserts.  :-)

Appy of Ahi, Chicken egg roll, Spare rib
Macadamia Nut crusted Whitefish
Short ribs
Macadamia Nut Tart
Chocolate Souffle (I got my son to poke it open for the picture)

I had the wine pairings.  Dinner was $130 after tip.  We walked back in the rain from Lewers street.

February 7th:

No sunshine again.  Rainy and cloudy at 7:30am.  I had a sore throat and stuffy head and a cough beginning too.  At least my back wasn't as sore and my feet were ok today.  Debated how to dress, I ended up in my usual shorts and sandals...Son wanted to sleep in so we made our way out about 11am and it was cloudy still but not raining.  We walked Ala Wai and Kapahulu to Rainbow Drive-In.  This was still on our to do list, as we never made it previously.  Son had asked for loco moco.  I wanted to go to Ono Hawaiian Foods today, but wasn't really feeling hungry.   I am still hoping to make it here before we leave.  I have not made it in all three trips yet and it's always a must do on my list. 

It was muggy and hot out.  Busy place the Rainbow is, but they serve everyone really quickly and it's a tight run ship.  I ordered the Rainbow Royal and a side of chili with crackers.  They both tasted very good but I had no appetite so only had a couple bites of each.  Son devoured his loco moco.  He didn't even wait for me to take a picture before he dove in.

Walking along Ala Wai

Loco Moco $6.75
Rainbow Royal Burger $3.50
Chili w/crackers $2.75

Walked around for an hour or so, back down Kalakaua, then decided to go for a swim at the hotel.  My son went.  Now I had a fever, and was coughing and just feeling like utter crap.  I got back in my jammies, took some advil, took a nap and hoped for the best.

I awoke at 5.  My son still wasn't back from the pool.  I was still coughing, but the fever seemed to have subsided.  I was also very hungry now!  I ate the spam musubi from the fridge and decided we could go to Tenkaippin Ramen  for dinner.  Soup sounded like what I needed and I loved the ramen I've had here so far.  I read this one was really authentic too.  It is on Kapahulu, farther up than Rainbow, almost by Ono.

The chicken was delicious.  I ordered the Kotteri which was a chicken broth ramen but it was really like a gravy.  Apparently it is full of collagen.  Very different, but heavy.  I probably wouldn't have it again, but it was interesting to try.  Our server suggested we add the chili garlic sauce to it so we did and it was good.  Dinner was $29 including tip.  We had two sets.  My son had the fried rice with his kotteri.  The fried chicken I had with my set was one of the best fried chickens I have ever eaten!

Walking back, it started to rain again.  Did some souvenir shopping and grabbed a coffee.  Then I was soaked from head to toe, so we returned to the hotel.

February 8th:

I awoke still coughing, still stuffy head, but at 7am, it did look like it was possible for sunshine.  If it was sunny, this was going to be a beach day.  By 9am the sun was shining!  We decided on the Cheesecake Factory but it wasn't open for breakfast which surprised me.  So, looking around, we went to Jimmy Buffet's.  It actually has a nice patio upstairs.  Loco Moco for me today, Eggs Benny for my kiddo.  Twas fine.  Bill was $45 after tip but I expected as much.

Then it was time to go to the beach.  It was a most perfect day.  One of those days where you're happy to be exactly where you are (even if you are sick)...

Stayed at the beach from about 10 - 2pm.  Then went back to get ready for Happy Hour which was 4 - 6pm.  I was hurting.  Really coughing up a storm so had a half hour nap.  Then an extra long shower.  We made it to RumFire right at 4pm.  Both of us were starving.  This place in the Sheraton has a beautiful setting!  I finally had a Mai Tai.  I don't like them but always have one, somewhere once on each trip to Honolulu.  It just seems like it's a must do.  It was pretty good here actually.  Then there's the ribs, chicken wings and Caesar salad.  Food was good, not great, but definitely fine...the wings & Caesar salad were my faves.

Next are  a couple of shots of  the view from this place.  It was really relaxing and comfortable.  They had a good lounge lizard guy singing too.  I really liked this place.  Tab with tip for two was $60.  We stayed for the whole two hours.

Then we watched the Hawaiian dancers at the Royal Hawaiian mall, and then made our way to Duke's for a drink.  We shared  a table with two sets of people, two from Vancouver and two from California.  Had a nice time talking with both.  Went back to the room for a brief bit, stopping at a pharmacy to buy cough syrup!

We then finished the night with a bowl of Ramen again.  Went to Kiwami Ramen in the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.  Son tried the "dip noodle" ramen which was new to us.  You take the noodles and "dip" them into a very salty broth.  He enjoyed it and they advised him not to dip the noodles too long or it would be too salty.  I stuck with a simple Miso ramen which was nice and steaming hot.

Dip Noodle

February 9th:

Alarm went off  at 7:30.  I coughed the whole night, it felt like.  I had booked the Diamond Head hike with Oahu Nature Tours ($52 if booked online.  I know, I could have took the bus and done the entire trip for $12, plus $4 more for the certificates.  Ours were included in our trip price).  I was worried we wouldn't make it again if I left it to myself to get there.  Two previous trips of not making it there told me this.  So a day ago, I booked the 9:30am trip.  My cough is definitely getting worse!  Ran over to Food Pantry, got son a coffee and banana bread from the coffee shop.  I grabbed a sandwich from the deli and that was breakfast.

Our guide Mike arrived right on time and was really interesting and entertaining.  Unfortunately, I had quite the coughing jag while in the van and Mike was wondering if I should even be out, I think.  Thankfully, I did not cough the whole hike up and down.  We were the only two on the trip so we had our own personal guide.  He had lots of info/stories about Diamond Head and Oahu in general.  He spoke four languages fluently and is learning two more.  Impressive.  I have to admit, I was winded after the sets of stairs at the top.  I would classify the hike up as moderate, down was easy.  My son found the whole trek "easy"...

Came back and my son was hungry now, so I told him I'd take him to Cheesecake Factory today (he loves this place, is why).  Meals there are on steroids.  He got a burger.  I got the Carlton salad, that was large, but it was all healthy, pretty had Romaine Lettuce, Grilled Chicken, Feta Cheese, Avocado, Organic Dried Cranberries, Pears, Fresh Orange and Pecans Tossed with Vinaigrette.  My son then got the apple crisp for dessert.  I don't eat dessert very often and was not in the mood today.  He only ate half of it.  I kept looking at the size of the cheesecakes they were serving definitely should share!  Ridiculous!  Lunch was $52 after tip.

Back at the room, I had to take more cough medicine, advil, and have a nap.  My head was stuffy again too.  It was also time to think about packing.  Roberts was picking us up at 7:45pm tomorrow.  I checked with the front desk and they charge $10 an hour to stay in the room if it's available and you have to check on the morning of check out.  I thought I might do it til 2pm so we could get some beach or pool time and have a nice shower etc. after.

Dinner was going to be at Ono Hawaiian Food!  I'm happy I knocked off most of my leftover "to do" items...Walked up Kapahulu again and got there about 7pm.  Waited in line until 7:45.  It closes at 8pm.  Only on vacation would I ever wait 45 minutes in a line up.  I would never do this at home.  It is really small, and really hole in the wall.  We ordered a combo plate to share and chicken long rice soup.  The pork lau lau stole the show.  It was delicious, melt in your mouth good.  The soup was our next fave.  Dinner was $31 after tip.

Pork Lau Lau

February 10th:

I coughed non-stop all night long.  It hurts to cough today.  It's rainy and cloudy too.  I decided there wasn't any need to pay extra to keep the room.  Well...I would have liked to lay in bed all day, to be honest as I barely slept with all the coughing.  I called front desk to enquire about it and they said no can do as they have a full house.  It was sad for the trip to be over and worse to have been so sick for what felt like the majority of it!  Flying today was not high on my list - especially since I'm blaming the sickness on the plane ride over here! 

So, we just wandered around Waikiki.  At 2pm we stopped at Yard House and they had Happy Hour starting then.  We had some wings and a cheese pizza and a couple of drinks.  $33 after tip.  Decent food and atmosphere as well. After that we headed to the Waikiki Trade Center.  On the 3rd floor they have 3D Glow-in-the-dark Mini Golf.  So we went in and played a game of that.  $17 for two.  Not really worth that much money but it killed some time.

At 5pm we went to Ruth's Chris for Happy Hour (5 - 7pm).  Service was definitely as polished as it was at Wolfgang's.  Our server (I think her name was Miki) was just great.  And she made an awesome Lychee martini.  I had 2 appetizers (also had escargot, not shown).  My son and I shared the mushrooms.  With his dinner he also got Vanilla Ice cream for dessert.  Total bill after tip was $110 and this took us right to the time to go take our bags out of storage and leave. 

Lychee Martini $6
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms $7
Oysters Rockefeller $9 (served on fire - to oohs & aahs at the bar!)
Caesar Salad (First course of $39.95 dinner special between 5 & 6pm)
2nd course of Mashed Potatoes side & Petit Filet Mignon from dinner special

Got our luggage and sat outside on Walina chatting with the bellman while waiting for Roberts Shuttle for 7:45.  They showed up exactly on time.  We had three more stops and we were let off at the airport at 8:15pm.  Red eye flight was horrible and I'm sure everyone was aghast with my chronic coughing all night!  I didn't sleep a wink and I'm sure no one in the vicinity of me did either due to my horrible barking!  Amtrak from Bellingham to Vancouver (same thing for those poor folks on my car) and I am home finally where I don't have to cough in shame anymore!

Needless to say, it was wonderful being back in Waikiki.  We still enjoyed ourselves even how sick I was.  We really love how happy everyone is here and that means staff, locals and visitors.  People always talk to you and it's a great place for socializing! 

That being said, my socializing is done for now.  I am heading to my own bed, for a LONG sleep because it's soon back to the grind we call real life!

Aloha and thanks for reading!  :-)

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