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Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

Austin, Texas
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Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

We have been to Maui twice and did a day trip to Lanai, but this was our first time to Oahu or the Big Island. We flew from Austin to Los Angeles and then on to Honolulu via Hawaiian Airlines. The flight to Honolulu was great. Loved the aloha on Hawaiian Airlines! (The flight back wasn’t so good, but more on that later.) We spent five nights total on Oahu – two near Waikiki and three at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore – and seven nights on the Big Island – two at Volcano and five at Hapuna Beach. We loved the Big Island and are already planning a return trip for our 10th wedding anniversary. We enjoyed our time on the North Shore of Oahu, and Turtle Bay Resort is in a beautiful setting, but we didn’t really like Waikiki – too many people, too crowded, too much shopping. Overall, it was a fantastic trip though. I will post the details of what we did on each island in a trip report thread on their respective forums. Warning - these trip reports are long! I have already submitted reviews of all of the hotels and many of the restaurants we visited.

Austin, Texas
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1. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

9/10

We had flown from Austin to Los Angeles the day before, so today was the flight to Honolulu from Los Angeles. Check in and flight went smoothly. We were able to upgrade to a bulkhead seat (row 11) on the plane, so we had plenty of room to stretch our legs during the flight. Hawaiian Airlines really does provide excellent in-flight service and the hours seemed to pass quickly. We arrived in Honolulu, got our bags, and then made our way to the rental car shuttles. We picked up the car and were on our way in no time.

We stayed just outside of Waikiki at the Hawaii Prince Hotel overlooking the Hawaii Yacht Club marina. I have submitted a review of this hotel, but will say here that we really liked it, and despite the fact that it didn’t have a beach, we were glad we stayed here and not in Waikiki. The hotel was peaceful and quiet, and we had spectacular views from our room on the 32nd floor.

We checked in, had a quick lunch at the hotel, and then rested up for a while before dinner. We had made reservations at Morimoto Waikiki for our first night and loved it. We did the chef’s tasting menu, which I discussed in detail in my posted review. The restaurant is in a hotel just two buildings down from the Prince, so we walked there, and then walked through the Hilton Hawaiian Village and to the ABC Store after dinner. By this point, we were exhausted and full, so we went back to the hotel and called it a night early.

Austin, Texas
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2. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

9/11

We were up very early this morning, and headed to Pearl Harbor right after breakfast. We arrived at 7:25am and were able to get tickets for the 8:15am boat to the USS Arizona Memorial. We spent some time before our scheduled tour going through the visitor’s center exhibits and museum. I understand that this is relatively new and we thought it was very well done. I found just being there very moving and very emotional. Considering the date of our visit, especially so. We went in for our pre-boat film at 8:10am, and then on to the boat for the ride over to the Arizona. I didn’t know how deeply seeing this in person would affect me, but I cried when we arrived there. I was pleased to see that everyone was quiet and respectful and treated the place with the dignity and honor it deserves. We took the boat back to the visitor’s center, walked around a bit more, and took more pictures. We had already been there for three hours at this point, so we decided to skip the Bowfin and Missouri and do some more exploring.

Since it was a Sunday, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet was underway. We could see the stadium from the parking lot of the visitor’s center, so we made our way over there and walked through a few sections of vendors. Everything I have read about this is true – the booths all have the same things, it gets repetitive quickly, and it gets hot later in the day. The highlight of our visit to the Swap Meet wasn’t anything we bought, but meeting the shave ice guy from Hawaii Five-O! He has a booth where he sells t-shirts and takes pictures with Five-O fans. He was super nice and even bigger in person than he looks on the show.

At this point, we decided we wanted lunch. We are huge fans of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, so we decided to go to one of the places he visited while in Honolulu – La Mariana Sailing Club. It took a while to find it, even with the GPS on our phones, because it’s tucked into an industrial area near Sand Island, but we are so glad we kept searching. This place is fantastic! Classic tiki décor, great tropical drinks, and good food. It was a wonderful place to spend a Sunday afternoon in Hawaii.

After lunch we stopped at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, took a few pictures there, peeked into a few shops and then decided we needed a nap. We went back to the hotel to rest up for dinner.

Dinner Sunday night was supposed to be at Duke’s for sunset. I had made reservations in advance and based on what I had read was looking forward to a nice meal in a beautiful setting. When we arrived at Duke’s, I thought we might be in the wrong place. It was very loud, very crowded, and really had more of a frat party – as opposed to romantic dinner – atmosphere. It really turned us off, so we didn’t even ask to be seated. Instead, we used our phones to start searching for something else in the area. We were not interested in The Cheesecake Factory or anything else like that, so we started searching for a sushi place. Searching on Yelp uncovered not sushi, but what was reportedly a fantastic udon noodle house called Marukame. We found it on the street behind the International Marketplace and saw a line out the door. The line seemed to be moving quickly, so we got in and ended up having an amazing dining experience. It is cafeteria style, so the line moves quickly. The udon is made right in front of you, there are several broth/sauce options and traditional condiments. We were not 100% sure what we were ordering, but it ended up being fantastic. Tempura shrimp and musubi were also delicious. Definitely worth seeking out if you are interested in something other than the traditional fast food options in Waikiki.

After dinner we walked back through the International Marketplace and had a somewhat negative experience with one of the vendors there. All of the vendors are trying to do a hard sell by calling out as you walk by, standing in front of you, trying to get you to step over to their booth or stall. I get that it’s what they do and they are all competing for business. We always just say “No, thanks.” and keep walking. I am a savvy enough traveler to know that someone offering me a “coupon” or something a deep discount it’s not offering me anything I really want. We tried to walk by one of the tour vendors, and he stood right in front of me, asking how much longer we were going to be on the island and if we had done any tours. I slipped to the side and just said, “We aren’t interested. Thanks.” That’s it. I said nothing else. He starts walking closely behind us, yelling at me, saying, “Well, that’s rude! How do you know you aren’t interested if you don’t even listen to me? You’re being really judgmental and rude!” We’re walking faster trying to get away from this guy, and once we are back out on the street, he stops and we continue on, but it was a bit unnerving. I understand that competition for tourist dollars is intense, but this was unnecessary.

We walked over to Waikiki Beach, stepped into the sand just to say we had been there, took a few pictures, and then caught the hotel’s shuttle back to the hotel.

Austin, Texas
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3. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

9/12

After breakfast, we decided to go to the Bishop Museum before checking out. It was still relatively early when we set out, but our plans were quickly foiled by non-moving traffic on Nimitz Hwy. We seriously did not move more than ½ mile for almost an hour. (We later found out that the entire roadway was closed due to a utility pole falling.) When we were finally able to get into a lane to turn off of Nimitz, it was getting late and we figured we didn’t have enough time to really enjoy the museum and get back in time for check out, so we just headed back to the hotel and checked out.

We had a few stops to make before heading to the North Shore. The first was Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts. As noted above, we are huge fans of Anthony Bourdain, and this is here he bought his aloha shirt on the Honolulu show, so we had to go. This place is very cool and literally packed with new and vintage aloha shirts, vintage jeans, and Hawaiian print fabrics. My husband bought a replica of he shirt Bourdain purchased on the show and we had a nice chat with the owners. They, too, are huge Bourdain fans and are very appreciative of the business his visit has brought to them.

After our shopping, we were only a block or so from Rainbow Drive-In, so we decided to have an early lunch. My husband had the classic loco moco and I had the mixed plate. Both were delicious.

The last place I wanted to visit before we got to the North Shore was the Byodo-In Temple. (LOST fans may remember that this was featured prominently on the show as Sun’s father’s house in Korea.) The Valley of the Temples is a memorial park and the Byodo-In Temple is at the back among beautiful trees and koi ponds. The setting was beautiful and peaceful, and we enjoyed walking the grounds and seeing the Buddha. It is definitely worth a stop.

From here, we continued our journey to the North Shore. We stopped to take pictures of Chinaman’s Hat and at a roadside stand selling tikis and bought a small one to accompany the one we bought on Maui several years ago, but didn’t stop at any of the shrimp trucks as we were still full from lunch at Rainbow Drive-In.

I was so happy when we finally arrived at Turtle Bay Resort. There is a big open lobby with beautiful views of the ocean. The valet and front desk staff were friendly and welcoming and we quickly made our way to the room. We booked an ocean view deluxe room and had an awesome view of the ocean and were close enough to hear the waves crashing all night. I have submitted a review of the hotel, but in short we thought the location was almost magical. The rooms could certainly use some updating, especially the bathrooms, and service at the restaurants was often lacking, but the location makes this place worth the price.

We settled into our room, then hit the pool. We sat poolside, drinking fruity beverages until sunset, when everyone started gathering on the little bluff overlooking the water. We moved over there, watched the surfers, and then the amazing sunset. It was peaceful, just the sound of the band playing and the waves crashing, I had a drink in my hand, my husband by my side and at that moment I could not have wished for anything more. This was absolutely one of the most perfect moments of the trip.

We had dinner at Leonardo’s, which I discussed in my hotel review, and then called it a night.

Austin, Texas
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4. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

9/13

Today was our first day to just totally relax. We spent the morning at the beach, had a fantastic lunch at Ola on the beach, and then spent the afternoon by the pool. We took a nap, went out to watch the sunset again, and then had dinner at 21 Degrees North at the hotel. A wonderful, wonderful day overall.

Austin, Texas
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5. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

9/14

Today was the day to explore the North Shore a bit more. We ventured out early and stopped at a few of the beaches before making our way to Haleiwa. Once there, our first stop was at the small group of shops near the bridge. We went to Surf n Sea for t-shirts, and then to the other two little shops across the street. We were really on a mission for shave ice though, so we headed into town. There was no line at Motsumoto, so we pulled in and went inside to order. We both go smalls, which were plenty for us. I had a guava, mango, coconut and it was delicious and refreshing. After we ate, we bought t-shirts and then continued on. We walked through several galleries and shops looking for a particular piece of artwork to place on an empty wall at home. We saw some wonderful pieces, but most were out of our budget, or just not right for where we wanted to put something. We loved Haleiwa and though it was a very cute little town. We did some more walking around and then went to Pizza Bob’s for lunch. Excellent pizza and garlic bread! We spent some more time wandering through shops and then drove outside of town a little ways to see what was out there. The answer: pineapples. We made it all the way to the Dole Plantation, but didn’t stop at the visitor’s center.

We went back to the hotel in the afternoon, but then decided to go back to Haleiwa for dinner since our evening dining experiences at Turtle Bay had been less than stellar. We ended up eating Mexican food at Cholo’s. We rarely eat Mexican food while on vacation because we can get it at home, but this place looked cute, so we decided to give it a try. It was actually very good! After dinner, we stopped at Ted’s Bakery for a slice of pie to take back to the room for dessert. We had the chocolate haupia pie and it was wonderful. Perfect way to end the day.

Austin, Texas
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6. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

9/15

We had a flight to the Big Island this morning, so we were up and out of the hotel by 7am. The drive back to Honolulu was quick and easy, about an hour, but it did take us a while to figure out where the rental car returns are located. We dropped off the car and checked our bags. The flight to Kona was short and uneventful.

(continued on the Big Island Forum)

Santa Monica, CA
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7. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

I felt the same way about Turtle Bay. Once there, we just. slowed. down. It was lovely and relaxing. But the food really is not the best.

It's too bad you didn't know that just above Duke's is The Hula Grill and Chuck's Steak House. We enjoy both of them.

Los Angeles, CA
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8. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

Excellent trip report! So glad that you enjoyed the Turtle Bay Resort. we missed each other by one day! You should have eaten at Lei Lei's at the resort. It has the best food.

Looking forward to your Big Island report.

South Coast NSW
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9. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

Too much shopping? BLASPHEMY! ;)

For us Aussies, there is no such thing as too much shopping. Too little money, certainly.

Sounds like you had a great time. Nice report!

Milwaukie, Oregon
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10. Re: Trip Report - Oahu 9/10 - 9/15

Excellent information. Thanks for your report.