When your husband asks you to join him on a work trip to Hawai’i you don’t think twice about it, you just say yes! Thankfully, we had enough frequent flyer miles that I was able to get my ticket for free, and because it was a work trip most of the hotel and car rental would be paid for as well.
The trek from Maryland to Oahu is no joke. If we were to fly direct it would take over ten hours of flying time. That did not appeal to me, so we booked through San Francisco with a layover long enough to stretch our legs and have lunch.
Prior to arriving at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, you will be given a declaration form on the plane (Bring a pen). On the form you will need to list any restricted item that you may be carrying. Restricted items are defined as, “Fruits, plants, or live snails.”
If you did remember to pack live snails in your carrying on, you will have to go through an agricultural inspection upon arrival where they’ll probably wonder what’s wrong with you.
When he came back with the keys, we piled all of our luggage and ourselves into car #2, exhaled a huge sigh of relief, put the keys in the ignition, and realized the keys did not belong to this car.
Swap to car #3
With three times certainly the charm in this case we made it out of the garage and on the highway toward Waikiki.
Managing to arrive at our hotel without any further fuss, I checked us in at the front desk, while Mike unloaded the bags and arranged parking with the attendant. He joined me at reception and asked me if I had his (Rather expensive) work blazer with me.
I did not.
So while I got us unpacked and settled into the room, he drove the twenty minutes back to Avis to retrieve his jacket, likely muttering unprintable things at the cloudy Hawaiian sky. Thankfully, upon calling Avis, a kind, non-judgemental attendant was able to rescue his jacket from car #2 before some other bleary eyed couple drove off with it.
By the time he returned to our hotel it was about 7:00. There is a six hour time difference this time of year between the East Coast and Oahu, so to combat jet lag we stumbled down the Waikiki strip like extras from the “Walking Dead” searching for a good place to eat dinner.
Finding a suitable restaurant was about as easy as finding a suitable mode of transport. There are a lot of tourist traps on Waikiki and we were in no mood for any of them. We eventually settled on the lesser of all of the evils at Tiki’s Grill & Bar, mostly due to the outdoor space and the quietness of the diners.
After our delicious appetizers arrived, a photographer popped up at our table and we were forced to pose for a cheesy tourist picture. I can be pretty ruthless about saying no to these types of dumb souvenirs, especially since we had been traveling for about 15 hours and had the weary look of refugees, but we struck up a conversation with the young photographer and he told us he had attended an art school in Washington D.C. and being parents of an art school graduate, we are sympathetic to an artist trying to pay the bills, so we gave in and bought the goofy picture.
After dinner I took a hot shower and fell into bed counting on a good night’s sleep since I was so exhausted. But you know how these things go in hotel rooms.
At about three-o’clock in the morning our sleep was interrupted by a couple in the room above us who were fighting, while this is not unusual, it is unusual for one them to lock the other out on their balcony, which caused that particular combatant to scream and threatening to jump from the 34th floor.
Not being one to let things of that nature go, I jumped out of bed and rushed out onto our balcony where I could assess the situation. Realizing that she was not likely to jump as she was threatening to do, but more concerned that she would fall over the railing accidently due to her intoxicated state, I alternatively scolded and soothed her until her nemesis let her back into her room, while Mike tried in vain to get someone from security to go up there.
Needless to say, we did not sleep well, and the decision was made then and there to switch hotels in the morning.
In full disclosure, the nocturnal habits of the young and inebriated were not the only reason we left. We realized that even though the hotel had just completed a $115 million renovation, and despite the information to the contrary on their website, this hotel simply wasn’t ready for guests.
DAY 1/’EKAHI: NORTH SHORE
Mike chose the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa due to its abundance of amenities. Since we couldn’t check into the Marriott until after 3:00, we loaded all of our bags (Yet again) into our rental car, and then set out on foot to find breakfast. This was no easy feat. Strangely enough, there are not a lot of appealing choices on the Waikiki strip for breakfast unless you like fast food, or Asian breakfast foods. We were grateful that this would be the only morning we’d have to search, since our Marriott reservation included a full, hot European breakfast. We were dangerously close to melting down due to jet lag and the lack of sleep, but somehow we managed to stumble upon Eggs ‘n Things just in the nick of time.
A Honolulu favorite of tourist and locals alike since 1974, they had some of the yummiest pancakes we’ve had in a long time.
TIP: As you stand in line on the steps waiting your turn, make sure you grab a menu and decide what you want before you get to the hostess stand. They have an unusual procedure that requires you to place your order at the hostess stand, then you pay at the door, and then you are seated.
Because it was Sunday, Mike had a free day before the start of his work conference, so we decided to take a tour of the island. I have been to the Hawaiian islands on four other occasions but had never been to Oahu, so I was looking forward to exploring it. Mike wanted to drive up to the North Shore so, well fed, caffeinated, and with our camera ready, we set off.
It was surprisingly hot with very little breeze, something I did not expect as the Islands have been breezy every other time I have visited. We traveled east on Kalanianaole highway from Waikiki past the grand and imposing view of Diamond Head. Whipping past Hanauma Bay (We will visit there later in the week) and the azure lagoons that dot the south and east side of the island. Our first stop was at Sandy Beach Park where we took some photos of the ideal Hawaiian bay.
We continued our trek along the coast via rt 83 aka Kamehameha hwy, taking in the pristine natural wonders of the island, stopping for photos along the way. We had decided that, due to time constraints, we were not able to spend time at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which we passed on our excursion, but it is Oahu’s number one attraction and if you have a day to spend I would highly recommend it.
Passing the famous Kualoa Ranch we were in awe of the beauty of this four thousand acre nature reserve. The reserve has been owned for seven generations by the kama’aina family. A plethora of famous movie and television shows have been filmed here, including Jurassic World and Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor and Godzilla. Fans of the TV shows Hawaii Five-O, Lost and Magnum P.I. may also recognize the Ranch. If we had had more time we would have stopped to spend the day ziplining, horseback riding, or sailing around their ancient eight-hundred year old fish pond.
For lunch, Mike was on a mission. In his many travels to the island he had heard about a great place to eat shrimp. I like shrimp, especially locally raised, fresh out of the pond shrimp. So a quick search had us heading for Romy’s Shrimp Shack (No active website) for lunch. Upon arriving and parking in their ample lot, we got in line behind locals and tourists. The line wasn’t terribly long, and the area was covered, but it was hot with little relief from the elusive Hawaiian breeze. No one was grumbling but it did appear that the line was moving excruciatingly slow.
An extremely long hour and twenty-five minutes later (We were committed!!) we settled down at a bright red picnic table to eat our boiled garlic shrimp. We settled on these since any other fare from their menu would have taken an additional half an hour to prepare. So be warned if you are thinking of stopping for a quick lunch here, you are better off tracking down their food truck. The shrimp were fresh, but being a Marylander I couldn’t help but long for a shaker full of Old Bay to spice them up.
Somewhat satiated, and back in the air conditioned car, we were just about at the most northern part of the island and starting our return to Waikiki. As we entered the area world renowned for its big wave surfing, The North Shore, we dodged surfers of every possible age ferrying their boards towards the water. We drove past the tumultuous waters of Waimea Bay, the iconic Bonzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach) and through the picturesque town of Haleiwa. A quick search on the internet told us that the preeminent surf contest, The Vans Triple Crown was taking place during this time, as well as, The HIC Pro. It did not appear as if there was a competition happening at the present time however so we dejectedly continued on our way.
SIDE NOTE: Peak months for big wave surfing (Waves higher than twenty feet) are October through February. During this time you will find some of the most famous surfers in the world camped out in houses along “Surf Row.” These beachside homes are owned or rented by the large corporate surf companies. Names synonymous with surfing like, Oakley, Billabong, Vans, Volcom. For a fun behind the scenes article take a look here: “North Shore’s Surf Row: Where the pro surfers live“
We still had time before check in at the hotel so on our way back toward Waikiki we decided to take a detour to Waimea Valley. Known for its deep spiritual and cultural ties to the Native Hawaiians, the land is sacred and carefully tended. It was especially important for us to visit because my husband’s ancestors are native Hawaiians.
Waimea Valley was the home of the Kahuna Nui or High Priests, who lived there in relative peace for seven hundred years prior to the arrival of Europeans. In this lush valley they built homes, and places of worship. They tended to crops of taro, sweet potatoes, kalo and bananas, and held gatherings. There are many sites in this valley that are still used by Hawaiians for cultural purposes to this day.
We wanted to see the wailele or waterfall, so after paying a $16.00 entrance fee (No AAA discounts) we decided to hike the smooth paved path. If you would prefer not to walk the 1-1/2 mile round trip trail you can hop aboard a tram for an additional $10 RT. But we wanted to see as much of the valley as possible.
SIDE NOTE: In 2003 Waimea Valley was given back into the conservation of Native Hawaiians. The main goal of Hi’ipaka LLC, who holds the title to the valley, is to “Preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural and natural resources of Waimea for generations through education and stewardship”.
The gentle incline of the path led us through lush botanical gardens, with native vegetation on boths sides. Our leisurely stroll (It was too hot to do otherwise) had us meandering along side of Hibiscus, ferns, bamboo and all manner of fruit and nut trees.
Arriving at the 45 foot waterfall we were surprised to see a snack bar and grill, as well as, restrooms and a changing area. There was also a shaded seating area, where families and hikers of all ages were spread out and relaxing in the tranquil setting. Some of the more inspired ones decided on a swim in the cool, clear pool at the base of the waterfall.
TIP: There is a manned lifeguard stand at the base of the pool. You are required to wear a life vest while swimming, which will be provided for you by the lifeguards at no additional cost.
SIDE NOTE: This beautiful waterfall actually has two names depending on the amount of water flowing from it. If you are visiting after a heavy rain the name will be Waihī which means “purging water,” if it has been a little dryer it is called Waihe’e or “Softly trickling water.”
We lingered long enough to enjoy the full measure of our surroundings but it had been a long day and we knew we had to press on.
Taking the quickest route across the center of the island, Rt 99, we passed the famous Dole Plantation (I will visit Dole on a tour later in the week.) and journeyed on, swinging past the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones state monument and merging with H2 and on into the city of Honolulu where we were able to check into our comfortable room in the Marriott where the view from our room was not too shabby here either.