Our first visit to the islands in six years was in September. As we were celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary we decided to splurge and had oceanfront/ocean view rooms in each of our three hotels. I’ve written separate TA reviews for hotels and restaurants so won’t go into detail on this trip report.
We arranged our holiday through American Express, who organised everything really well. I had spent months on this forum researching and getting very thorough answers to our questions. Thanks to everyone who does such a great job here.
Our transportation to and from our hotels/airports was through hotel cars and we had no problems at all. We were met at the gates and our luggage was organised very smoothly on every occasion. At each of our hotels a bottle of champagne and cake or chocolates was waiting for us to mark our anniversary, which we very much appreciated and enjoyed.
We flew Hawaiian Airlines interisland – flights were all on time, clean and with pleasant staff. We enjoyed Kona’s open air terminal; not so much the long security lines on Maui.
We travelled from Perth in Australia to Honolulu with Air New Zealand and had a two-day stopover in Auckland in New Zealand. A visit to the wineries on Waiheke Island was a great laid-back start to our holiday.
Arriving at the Halekulani at 10 pm, we had a very efficient and quick check-in and were taken to our room by one of the reception staff. Surprisingly we had a good sleep and woke up refreshed to have breakfast on our lanai and watch the surfers on Waikiki Beach.
We spent three days on Honolulu with friends from Texas. Picked up our Hertz rental car at the Kahala Hotel – did not realise how far out it was - looked like an interesting hotel but too far away from the energy of Waikiki for us. Discovered we could have picked up a car from the Hilton Hawaiian Village and organised to return the car there.
The first day we went shopping at the Ala Moana Center. I know – imagine going to Honolulu and shopping but we wanted to get all the items on our list crossed off and get the shopping out of the way. As we live in Australia where things are extremely expensive compared to the US, you have no idea of the bargains we picked up!
We had intended to have lunch at the Shirokiya beer garden but it was full and our guys were starving so we ended up in Ruby Tuesday’s! Again I know – a chain restaurant in Hawaii but the food was fine and it wasn’t about the food but the company, which was excellent.
Lazed around the hotel pool later in the day and went to Alan Wong’s in King St for dinner. Very disappointing.
Sunday brunch was at Orchids. On the forum’s recommendation we had booked this well in advance and it was excellent.
In the afternoon we drove to Mt Tantalus and the Round Top Drive. What beautiful views of Diamond Head and the Valley. Okay the road is very winding and you have to be careful to avoid cars coming at full speed in the opposite direction but it is well worth a visit with lots of designated lookout areas.
We stopped at Puu Ualakaa Park which was peaceful with lots of photo opportunities – it looked like the whole of Honolulu was laid out beneath us. Did I say peaceful? About five minutes after we arrived about 30 members of a motorcycle gang turned up. At first glance they looked a bit intimidating but it wasn’t a problem. When they heard our accents (my husband and I are originally from Scotland) they were polite, asked us about Scotland and Australia and were very helpful about things to see in the park. There is so much to explore up there – don’t miss it.
In the evening, dinner was also at Orchids – complementary through our Amex package. The restaurant’s signature coconut cake is divine – worth going just for the cake!
Next day we decided to head for the North Shore. Unfortunately for us, that was the same day that work began on the Karsten Thot Bridge so we were stuck with a good view of Schofield Barracks for an hour and a half. Despite that we made it to Shark’s Cove for some excellent snorkeling.
Our timetable had gone up the spout by then so we decided to drive back instead of going farther north. Heading back we hit Haleiwa and Jameson’s by the Sea for a great burger.
We didn’t visit Pearl Harbor on this visit as we spent a couple of days there on our last trip but if this is your first visit to Oahu, don’t miss it as it is very special.
Our anniversary dinner was at Le Mer. Good evening but food was not quite as special as I remembered from previous visits.
Tuesday we said goodbye to our friends and headed for Maui. Previously we have always stayed in the Lahaina area so the Four Seasons at Wailea was new territory for us. The hotel was very good but slightly disappointing, as the outstanding reviews on TR made it sound so much better.
I had lots of things on my to-do list but the Aloha spirit had taken over by then and we spent our time here relaxing and unwinding which was really, really good. Our only forays out were to Mama’s Fish House- I am in the pro-Mama’s camp – great food, and a snorkeling tour to Molokini with Trilogy, which was excellent.
Next up was the Big Island – our first visit. Almost unreal landscape – so barren that is seemed to stretch forever. Arriving at the Four Seasons resort, my first impression was that it was huge but of course that was the golf course and houses on the land. The FS resort itself is ,fabulous – thoroughly recommend it.
Our room overlooked the honu resting place. It was magical watching these ancient creatures coming up out of the ocean to rest on the sand. What was not so magical was watching tourists coming up really close and in one case touching the turtles, to get their photos taken. They were completely ignoring the warning signs to keep away as well as completely ignoring us shouting from the balcony to stop.
Apart from that, Hualalai was so good for relaxing.
We had hired a car for a couple of days - very convenient just like at the FS on Maui - cars are brought to the resort and returned there as well.
We drove to the shops at Waikoloa – had a quick look around, some coffee and then drove to the Pololu Valley lookout. So interesting passing through the microclimates of the Big Island – it is very lush near the valley – hard to even imagine that it is on the same island as the lava fields. The lookout was busy with more than a few tourists hiking to the shore. It’s a beautiful sight – well worth the drive and with the added attraction of donkeys in the nearby areas.
We then drove to Merriman’s in Waimea another lovely drive with good views from the road. Merriman’s was okay but not a tremendous location.
Next day we drove south to Pu’uhona o Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. Again such an interesting place with a lot of history. We turned left out of the Place of Refuge instead of right to go back the way we came and the road was extremely narrow with hardly any places to pass, however we did eventually get back on the main road. We drove through Kailua – very touristy but I admit that we did not stop to look round – mainly because we could not find any parking. Ate at Sam Choy’s on our concierge’s recommendation – average, tourist fare but good views. In fact, there are great views all along the road here.
And again we had lots of things on our to-do list for the Big Island but as I said the spirit of Aloha seemed to take over and we had such a relaxing time that it was easy to put our visit to Volcano etc on hold. Hey, there is always next year – right?
Travelled back to Oahu for one more night at the Halekulani. Excellent service as before – only one jarring note - I used the free wi-fi at this hotel both times and both times my iPad was somehow ‘mirrored’ through the wi-fi system. Not too much of a problem as the only site affected was Amazon but I cancelled my credit cards just in case.
We had a brilliant time on the Hawaiian Islands, thanks to all the interesting locals that we met and spent time with, thanks again to the knowledgeable posters on this forum and mahalo Hawaii.