Friday, May 27, 2011

Hawaii Trip Report - May 2011

8 May 2011, Sunday

Tony and I are sitting in first class seats on USAirways somewhere over the Pacific Ocean! We are heading to Hawaii for 11 nights. Wish it were longer but still happy. Well be splitting our time between Oahu and Maui. Having grown up on Oahu, I always want to go home. This will be my first time to Maui.

We started our travels yesterday, 7 May 2011, out of DCA flying stand-by to Phoenix. Our original plans were to spend the night near the airport and fly to Phoenix this morning and change planes to Hawaii, but Tony decided we should go the night before. This was a great idea, as it breaks up the two flights. Tony purchased upgraded tickets for first class: $10 per person for continental flights and $100 per person for international flights. A flight to Hawaii is considered international by USAirways due to the distance over water.

We are able to check the flights to see how many seats are empty and how many non-revenue passengers are listed and their priority. Tony gets “SA1” priority each year, which bumps him up to the top of the list. If another employee uses his or her SA1, then it’s based on date of hire. In our case, Tony was still above everyone else. In checking the flights we knew we would not get first class seats from DCA but for the Phoenix to Honolulu flight, there were 129 seats available in coach (47 passengers) and 12 available in first class!! There are 10 of us in first class, so I guess they upgraded some frequent flier passengers.

The flight yesterday was pretty smooth. The flight was pretty full and we couldn’t get seats together. That was fine. We were just happy to be on board. I enjoyed the views from above and saw some mountains with snow still on top. I also saw lots of circular fields. I wonder what’s the purpose of them being round instead of rectangular.

We arrived to a hot and dry 90-degree Phoenix. Got our bags and caught the courtesy van to the Sheraton hotel, which was just 8 minutes away. Our room, 350 was nice and faced the inner courtyard with the pool area. We went directly to the bar and had dinner: Steak salad for me and a burger and fries for Tony.

I wasn’t thinking about the time difference, looked at my clock – 8:20pm – and called Mom. Woke her up. I felt so bad! It’s a 3-hour time difference and she goes to bed pretty early.

Once we landed in Honolulu, we picked up our Enterprise rental car and I drove us to the Hale Koa in Waikiki. This was our third time at the Hale Koa, which is a military resort in the heart of Waikiki. It has prime beach front, a fun Barefoot tiki bar, beautiful pools and grounds, and best of all the room prices are great. I booked a garden room for $136/night and that's inclusive of all taxes since this is a government resort.

We had to wait a couple of hours for our room, so we dropped off the luggage at the storage area and had brunch at the Koko Cafe. We tried to get in the main restaurant, as they serve a fabulous champagne brunch, but the wait was too long for our hungry stomachs.

After lunch, we walked around the area and ended up at the Barefoot bar. We enjoyed our first mai tai's of the trip.

At 3pm our room was ready so we headed to #639, which is a corner room and has a nice wrap around balcony, so we could peek at the ocean in addition to enjoying the city/mountain views.

For the afternoon, we walked around Waikiki taking in all of the activity. Waikiki looks like it's about to burst at the seams with all of the buildings. I saw new stores and a new Trump tower, which looked beautiful. We walked around the International market place but I didn't buy anything knowing I could buy souvenirs at the Aloha stadium at a cheaper price later in the week.

We ate at the Hula Grill for dinner. It was a light dinner of a few appetizers at the bar. Just outside was a beach concert, which is held at Duke's.

9 May 2011, Monday

I wanted to see some of the downtown sights and decided to drive and finding a parking garage, rather than taking The Bus. I actually called the Iolani Palace to see about guided tours (not on Mondays) and was given the address for a parking garage near by.

We walked around Chinatown, checked out the various markets with the wonderful selection of fruits, vegetables, fish, etc., some of which we couldn’t idenfity.

We had lunch at Nayong Filipino Fast Food restaurant, a tiny hole-in-the-wall place. Tony ordered a lunch plate of adobo pork, chorizo, rice, and noodles to share, as well as vegetable and pork lumpias. Yum! I think the adobo pork was the best of the meal. The area has lots of restaurants to choose from. A longer vacation is needed.

At the Iolani Palace, we donned the shoe covers, which protect the flooring in the palace. With our audio guides, we visited the various rooms. I remember when we were there in 1988 (on our honeymoon) we were able to walk up/down the beautiful Koa stair case and walk right up to the royal chairs. Now they’re roped off. I’m always saddened when I re-read the history of Hawaii, the last of the Hawaiian royalty, the overthrow, and Queen Lili`uokalani’s imprisonment. On a positive note, I’m proud of the Hawaiians today for keeping their ancient history alive, their song, their dance, and their traditions.

The basement of the palace has about 50 rooms, many of which are filled with artifacts, as well as the kitchen area. There is an organization, Friends of the Iolani Palace, that is trying to locate the missing pieces of furniture and artifacts that were taken from the palace. It would be wonderful to have the palace fully restored.

After relaxing on our balcony, we headed to Tiki’s in Waikiki to meet up with fellow Fodorites (Melissa, Lucy, Paula, David, Hank, and Janice). Tony and I met Melissa and Lucy back in 2003 with other Fodories. I told Melissa I would like to meet at Tiki’s. Love the place and the food. She made the arrangements with the marketing manager, got us a nice table, complimentary parking for 3 hours (which was the right amount of time) and we had a great time. We received complimentary pupu’s: Kalbi beef gyoza, ahi-tuna spread with toast, and edamame that was coated in a decadent white truffle oil. The edamame was so good that some of us used the empty edamame shells and toast to sop up the oil. The gyoza and tuna tartar was also delicious.

While enjoying our pupu’s and tropical drinks (love the Mai Tai’s), Ronnie Nasuti, executive chef, came out to say hello. He previously worked at Roy’s in Hawaii Kai and is now at Tiki’s. Handsome man and very friendly.

Everyone selected different dishes for dinner. Tony had the all-you-can eat ribs (with a guava glaze), but could barely finish the first rack. The waitress recommended additions to the prime rib poke: noodles, avocado and mushrooms. What a flavorful combination and the avocado (one of my favorite foods) was creamy and perfectly ripe. It was a heavy dish, but after the pupu’s and a taste of Tony’s ribs, I was stuffed.

Lucy brought fragrant leis for Paula, Janice, and me. I kept it as long as possible; Melissa passed out local grocery bags. Hawaii is very “geen” and many stores ask people to bring their own. Tony and I selected one with local foods and sayings on them. Thanks ladies!

The food:

Melissa has a nice write up of our evening :

After we left, we went to the Barefoot bar and talked with some friends we met the other night.

10 May 2011 Tuesday

Tony and I woke up very early. I can’t seem to get in 8 hours of sleep.

The Hale Koa has a continental breakfast/orientation that we went to. They start with a short show with performers from the Polynesian Cultural Center, and then a talk on the various tour options. We won tickets to Pearl Harbor, but we didn’t use them. We preferred to be flexible in our days.

We drove to Ford Island and visited the Pacific Air Museum. Next to the large hanger is the still-standing air traffic control tower that survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Scaffolding is all around the tower with workers restoring this historical building. Admission was $12 with a military discount. Two hangers contained aircraft such as the P40, Japanese Zero, B25, SBD, F4F, and N3N (yes, I had Tony give me the info, as I recognized just a few of them). There’s a small cafeteria where we had lunch. I had the mahi mahi sand which and decided this fish is not one of my favorites. Should have gotten a cheeseburger like Tony did. When we first arrived to the place we could smell something delicious. Well, it wasn’t this place but at a building across the street. We didn’t discover this until we were leaving. So, for those of you out there, go across the street to eat!

Before leaving Ford Island, we drove to the housing area and I took some photos of the Arizona Memorial, which I had shots from the backside. We could see people standing on the memorial looking down to the water.

While winding our way back to Waikiki, we stopped at a Foodland and picked up some snacks, including ahi poke and tako poke (tuna and octopus, each marinated in soy sauce and other ingredients).

Being a sunny afternoon, we enjoyed some beach time right outside our hotel for about an hour. I think this beach area is some of the nicest in Waikiki.

After showering and some of our snacks and drink, we headed to the Shore Bird for dinner. One of the flight attendants recommended this cook-your-own-steak place, which sits beachside. It wasn’t on my list of dining options but Tony wanted to go there. We were seated in a very dark area, so I asked to be moved. There was no way either of us could read the menu so I knew we wouldn’t be able to see what we were eating. We had a drink at the bar while waiting for a better table. Our table had plenty of light but was close to the grill area, although it wasn’t too hot.

We grilled our meats and enjoyed it with the salad bar fixings. Our evening ended at the Barefoot bar with Mai Tai’s in hand (are you surprised?).

11 May 2011, Wednesday

Finally, some sunshine! It was beautiful out with clear skies towards the ocean and some clouds toward the mountains (typical).

We went to the Aloha stadium for the weekday swap meet. We got there early and found a parking spot in the shade. I left all my camera gear at the hotel just in case…. We walked around the area and bought a few items. Should have bought more, as the prices are really cheap compared to the shops in Waikiki.

Back at the hotel, we dropped off our shopping goodies and headed out to the north shore. A friend we met at the Barefoot bar the other night said the waves were pretty high. Not for us! Flat, flat, flat. We stopped for a bit but continued to Waimea arboretum and gardens, but Tony was wearing flip flops and he was not about to walk the long distance, so we decided to do this another day or visit the Lyon arboretum.

Lunch at the L&L drive inn in Laie. We shared the Hawaii BBQ mixed plate (Hawaiian Barbecue beef, chicken, & short ribs with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad), which was filling and tasty.

We stopped at the park near Chinaman’s hat island. I wish we had better weather!

We drove back to our hotel via the Pali highway but didn’t stop at the lookout – really clouded over. It would be better in the morning for photo taking.

For dinner, we dined at Dukes, one of our favorite places. Tony and I love how they service their Opah (moon fish) with the macadamia nut, parmesan cheese, and herb crust. It’s topped with a lemon sauce and capers and served with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and string beans. I wish we could get this type of fish in Maryland. The salad bar was nice too with a good selection to choose from. I was hoping for a table close to the beach but the place was packed – as usual. Service was fast and we were in/out in an hour!

12 May 2011, Thursday

We took a drive around the eastern part of Oahu. We started with a drive around Diamond Head and I took some photos of the surfers in the water. There were a couple dozen riding the small waves. It was an overcast morning. We drove through Kahala and to Hawaii Kai. Oh my goodness! Hawaii Kai has certainly grown. More homes further back on the ridges and at least 3 new high rises. Kaiser High school – attended a long time ago - looks the same.

Hanauma Bay was beautiful with blue, blue waters. I got some very nice shots. We were there for just 30 minutes (cheap parking at $1). The sun was out on this side of the island. We stopped at Sandy Beach where I used to body surf and watched the people in the water. Also stopped at Makapu’u point. Fabulous scenery!

Lunch in Kailua at the Ohana BBQ, a Korean hole-in-the-wall place. Delicious plate lunches. I had the Kalbi ribs and chicken katsu and four types of vegetables: Pickled cucumber and bean sprouts, kimchee, and cabbage. Tony had the same ribs and a beef Jun, which was thinly sliced beef that was egg-battered and pan-fried. Oh so ono!

Heading back to towards Honolulu we stopped at the Pali Lookout ($3 to park). The clouds clung to the peaks of the mountains but the views were great. The temperature was cool. I remember when I was little and barely 40 pounds I could lean into the high winds and not fall over.

We drove to Manoa valley and visited the Lyon Arboretum. It was lightly raining but the forest treetops kept us mostly dry. We hiked for about 2 hours and got lost at one point. I should say we got off one of the main paths and created our own to cross over one area. We were waiting for a dinosaur to jump out, as it felt like Jurasic Park. There weren’t as many flowers as I hoped to see but still lush and beautiful with many types of plants, shrubs, and trees. I also saw a small taro garden. I bought a small spray tube of mosquito spray but it didn’t work at all. I had about 30 bites.

Back at the hotel, we had some mai tai’s and talked to Geri, one of the waitresses at the barefoot bar. We met her back in 2005 and we remembered each other. The last time she gave us a bunch of cocktail stirrers. This time she gave us some plastic cups so we could use them in our room – as long as they don’t get smashed in my suitcase.

In the room I showered while Tony started a load of a laundry. The laundry room was close to our room and only cost $4.75.

We walked around the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village (saw some pink flamingos) and then a light dinner at Bibi’s café (burger for Tony and chicken quesadillas for me). More drinks at the Barefoot bar in the Hawaiian night air and then to bed.

13 May 2011, Friday – Off to Maui

We’re sitting at the airport waiting to fly to Maui. We’ve been getting up early every day so we were out of the hotel by 9am. We packed pretty quickly. Our flight #328 has been delayed and the plane should arrive at 12:15pm. Our original take off time was 12:02pm.

I had asked to sit on the right side of the plane, as I read that most times it’s be best side for viewing the islands below. Well, not this time. I did see Maui, but was really hoping to see Waikiki, Diamond Head, etc.
Haleakala in the distance

We picked up our Dollar rental car and headed to our hotel – Ka’ anapali Beach Hotel. It took close to an hour, as traffic was pretty bad in Kahalui. One of the staff at the hotel said there was an accident and we must have gone through the tail end of it.

We had to wait an hour for our room, so we sat at the Tiki bar and had some snacks (calamari and pork dumplings) and shared a mai tai. It wasn’t that great compared to all of the mai tai’s we had on Oahu.

I didn’t like our room at all! I booked a garden view room with an airline discount with “complimentary upgrade based on our availability at time of check-in”. During check-in the young woman said the place was “pretty full” when I asked about the complimentary upgrade. I called the front desk from the room and asked for another garden view room. The one we got (#169) faced the exterior of the complex and a building. The short bushes make the lanai feel very small and almost claustrophobic. I was told there were no other garden view rooms but that we could upgrade to a pool view room for an additional cost. I said, “If you have available rooms then shouldn’t we get the complimentary upgrade?”. She stated, “That’s not always the case.” I explained to her I had my letter from Ms. Kristelle (assistant reservations manager), which stated if there were available rooms we would get the upgrade. We were immediately moved to 160. Thank goodness we only had to move our luggage down the hallway.

This room (in the Kauai building) faced the interior gardens. We couldn’t see the pool at all, but it was a much, much better location with view of the gardens. We were on the first floor with two taro ponds in front of us. Lovely and tropical. In reviewing their hotel web site (back home), room 169 was actually an Aloha Value room (lowest category), which faces “exterior lawns or surrounding hotels.” We should have received the garden view room (160 is not a pool view room) in the first place, which is what I booked. A letter to Ms. Kristelle and Ms. Dora (reservations manager) will be sent to them.

View from our room

We relaxed at the hotel before meeting Paula at Star Noodle. She had been on Maui a few days and was heading home in the evening, so we met her for an early dinner. Reservations are not accepted, so it was good we arrived early (5:45pm). The place was full within the hour. Located in an industrial park, I guess only those “in the know” know about this place. I wouldn’t have found it unless told or read about it. The room is large with a communal table in the center and smaller tables for 2 to 6 people. From the windows you could look out towards the sunset.

Star Noodle is a place where you share dishes with your dinner mates. We shared the steamed pork buns (actually complimentary from our waitress who said they were extras) with a hoisin sauce, cucumber and shiitake mushrooms (excellent, flavorful, and I could have had a couple more!), a Vietnamese Crepe that is filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and Nouc Cham sweet sauce (this was the most meaty Vietnamese crepe I’ve ever had and was delicious), Karaage chicken – deep fried and served with a miso mustard sauce (very good), and fried Saimin with kamaboko, spam, egg, bean sprouts, and scallions (delicious). For dessert, we ordered the malasadas (donuts), which came with three sauces for dipping: caramel, chocolate, butterscotch, and chopped peanuts - a nice ending to the dinner. I found the food to be reasonably priced but a glass of wine for $12 out of my pocket range.

At Walgreen’s nearby we picked up some vodka and wine for the room, sodas, and other times, headed back to the hotel to watch the live performance on stage (nightly), and then drinks on our lanai.

14 May 2011, Saturday

Tony had not been feeling well these last few days, so we both slept in. It seemed like he had a nasal infection and was coughing all night. I didn’t get much sleep and in fact I was beginning to get a sore throat. We missed the welcome breakfast at the hotel but would do it the next day.

For a late breakfast, early lunch we ate at Mama's Rib's & Rotisserie in the Napili shopping plaza. I had a delicious bowl of Portuguese bean soup – like I remembered in my younger days. Tony had a chicken sandwich. It’s a local fast-food joint and I saw a lot of take-out orders. We sat outside, as it was an absolutely beautiful day (84 degrees and dry).

We spent the part of the day driving up north stopping along the way. There’s a small parking lot in front of the Ritz hotel next to a golf course. We walked along side the golf course and right by an ancient Hawaiian burial site. Apparently Ritz had planned to build their hotel right on top of the burial sight, as they wanted an ocean front property. While digging, they discovered the graves. The Hawaiians put a stop to it after close to 900 remains were dug up. Most of the burial area is covered with plants with signs to stay out. The ocean scenery was beautiful. There’s also an area right next to the water with interesting lava formation. It’s called the Dragon’s Teeth for their shape.
Honolua Bay

Next we drove to Honolua Bay where we saw three catamarans in the water and many snorkelers enjoying the incredible blue water. We made other stops and walked along a couple of trails towards the ocean. I wanted to see the Olivine Pools, but it was too difficult a hike down and we had flip-flops on. Note to self: Keep walking shoes in the trunk of the car. From above we could see the pools but they weren’t very pretty. The water in the pools was murky. I was tempted to drive all the way around the north side but decided against it due to the 1.5 miles of single lane road. Someone would have to back up if it wasn’t near one of the turnouts.

We had some beach time at hour hotel. It was a hot afternoon, so I took a dip in the ocean. It felt refreshing.

Later we walked to Whaler’s Village, which just down the beach. There were lots of people on the beach and walkway waiting for the sunset. We went to the Hula Grill and had mai tai’s at the bar and then dinner. I had the fish of the day: Swordfish in a lemon butter sauce with rice and Chinese cabbage salad. Tony had …. a burger.

After dinner, we walked around the village and checked out a few of the stores. There’s a map store that sells originals, some up to $20,000.

In bed early, as I was feeling crappy.

15 May 2011, Sunday

This morning we got up early to attend the hotels welcome buffet breakfast and presentation. I didn’t read the card correctly – they don’t do it on Sundays. Oops!

It was a beautiful day so we spent the morning in Lahaina. We began with breakfast at Cheeseburger in Paradise. We sat upstairs next to a window with its great views of Lanai in the distance. I had the eggs benedict with hash browns and Tony had a burger with hash browns and a fried egg on top. Everything was tasty and service was good.

I had a self-guided walking tour map, which we followed. I had my map out and a man at a time-share shop offered to give me a better one, although I was using a guide from Frommer’s. We ended up booking a time-share lecture for Tuesday, as we were offered $125 in dining options. I thought it would be nice to have for a splurge dinner.

We walked by the Master Reading Room, Baldwin home, taro patch, Hauola stone (sitting at the ocean’s edge), brick palace, Pioneer Inn, the huge and ever-growing banyan tree, the courthouse (now a free museum including interesting artifacts on whaling), remnants of the fort, Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, Maluuluolele Park, and Waihee cemetery. There were other places to see, but it was getting hot.

Not feeling great, we went back to the room to nap. Later we walked to black rock and along the beach.

In the evening we sat at the bar at Lelani’s on the Beach where Johnny and Josh served us delicious mai tai’s. They were much better than at the hotel. For dinner I had the Kalua pig Cuban sandwich and a salad; Tony had the Kobe burger with a salad. Everything was excellent. One person at the table next to us was eating fish tacos, one item I was considering. He said they were delicious.

I was in bed early again hoping I would feel better. My sore throat was getting worse and Tony didn’t feel great either. Did we catch something on the flight over? I was beginning to be disappointed that we were not putting in full days of sightseeing. I've never been sick on a trip before.

16 May 2011, Monday

The welcome breakfast buffet was simple: scrambled eggs, Portuguese sausage, fruits, toast, and pastries. There was a short performance by the hotel staff and then a talk on the various tour opportunities on the island. I really wanted to snorkel at Molokini Island, but I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money getting there if I was feeling sick. Tickets were drawn, which we won complimentary drinks at the Tiki bar.

Today we drove around the area of the lower sloped of Haleakala called Up Country. Up Country consists of rolling hills, cattle farms, lavender gardens, and botanical gardens. I didn’t want to drive up all of the switch-backs to the top, so we visited the Kula botanical gardens (a family-run operation). We were there during peak flower blooming and we saw many exotic flowers and unique plants. There were also waterfall, a koi pond, and an aviary with lovebirds. These gardens were more beautiful garden than the arboretum on Oahu and we didn't get lost!

We stopped in Makawao, a small rustic town with art galleries and eclectic boutiques. For a light snack we ate spam musubi (fried spam on top of formed rice, wrapped with nori – seaweed – and pressed together) that we brought from the local grocery store. Spam is a staple in Hawaii from WWII. We visited some of the stores and Tony picked up some local hot sauces.

I considered stopping in Paia, located along the northern coast, but wanted to see Iao Valley State Park. Driving through Paia, We stopped at the beach to watch the wind surfers.

I was glad we didn't stop in Paia. It was packed with people and the traffic was bad. Located west of Wailuku on route 32, there is a natural rock pinnacle surrounded by sharp high mountain walls. The valley area is lush and thick with tropical plants and trees. This area is where King Kamehameha I defeated the Maui army in order to unite the Hawaiian Islands in 1790. Called the Battle of Kepaniwai, this battle changed the course of Hawaiian history.

Back at the hotel, we had our complimentary drinks at Tiki’s before heading to the bar at Lelani’s for dinner. We just ordered a couple of appetizers to share: Fried calamari and the nachos with Kalua pig. Oh wow, they were the best nacho’s I’ve ever had! Of course, the tender pork made the dish. Johnny asked if we had our receipt from the previous night. We did, so we were given a complimentary hula pie for dessert. He later gave us an extra receipt for this evening to use another night. The hula pie was rich and very filling with its oreo-like cookie crust, ice cream, whipped cream, and topped with chopped macadamia nuts.

17 May 2011, Tuesday

I didn’t sleep well at all, and in fact was probably up from 1am to 6am where I finally dozed off for a couple of hours.

Why did I decide to go to a time-share lecture? Yes, for the dinner coupon, which we would use to go to Roy's for dinner. We were told it would last only 90-minutes, but it ended up being close to 3 hours. Time-share seems to be a good concept and I was very tempted to buy in but Tony crunched the numbers and we decided there were too many expenses, too many risks, and felt they didn't have the right locations for the places we like to travel to, especially in Europe. It’s much cheaper to just rent a place or book a hotel on your own than taking the risk of a time-share. It may be great for people who would like to return to the same location every year.

For the rest of the afternoon, we swam at Black Rock. I snorkeled with four turtles! I just floated around them while they munched on algae on the coral.

I made reservations a few weeks in advance for the Old Lahaina Luau (OLL). There are a few different companies but based on my research, OLL has the most authentic Hawaiian show. Having grown up in Hawaii, I've had all of the foods typically served at a luau, but never attended one. Tony had never been to one either. The ticket prices were high but I was able to get a military discount. Seat choices (closest to stage and back) are by first booked, first served. When I called I just asked the woman to pick any day that we were in Maui that had the best available seats.

We arrived too early to get inside, so we walked across the street to the Cannery shopping center. We window-shopped and I picked up a few items. In a t-shirt store, I saw one with a triggerfish, called "humuhumunukunukuapua'a" in Hawaiian. I taught Tony to say this long word several years ago! Just below the triggerfish, it read, "Humuhumunukunuku, yada yada, yeah whatever."

At the check in counter, we paid for our tickets. The woman looked up my name and said, "Kamaaina rate" and charged us less than the military rate - by about $30! We were handed over to a handsome Hawaiian (Randy), scantly dressed with some beautiful tattoos. We walked right past the long line of people waiting to get in and went to our table. Randy got us some mai tai's and explained how the evening would proceed. Tony and I looked at each other wondering why we seemed to be elevated to a higher status. Well, I think Melissa had a hand in this. We later saw our receipts, which on them were written, "Have fun! Aloha from Melissa". I later found out from her that yes, she had a hand in this. Mahalo Melissa!

In the center of the grounds was a round stage with the beach behind it. There were seating areas around 2/3rds of the stage where people could sit on mats. Tony saw them and said, “I'm glad we're not sitting there”. I told him I requested conventional seating (chair/table) rather than traditional mat seating. His knees thanked me. The regular tables fanned out from the stage and ours was on the first row closest to the mat seats. Nothing obstructed our view of the evening’s performance.

Before dinner, you can wander the grounds. There were some Hawaiians making various crafts, as well as photographers taking photos that you can purchase as a souvenir, although we received a coupon for a complimentary photograph. When the time came, many gathered around the "Imu" (underground oven) to watch the unearthing of the kalua pig. With it, one of the men explained the preparation of the pig and the luau.

The buffet was great! It's an all you can eat, but I couldn't finish my plate. The buffet included foods such as the kalua pig, lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, crab salad, ahi poke, grilled tenderloin steak, chicken long rice, island style chicken, poi, fruit, rolls, etc. Various breads and rolls were brought to the table and later dessert.

Included in the price is a premium open bar. So, I had to have a few of their mai tai’s. They were very good. Randy took care of our table and made sure everyone had plenty of drinks.

Once the sun goes down, the evening entertainment begins. The performers tell the story of the history the Polynesian migration, the Hula, and the modern hula. Their web site reads:

“~ Oteÿa- Our program begins with the early migration of the Polynesians across the Pacific to the “new islands” of Hawaii.
~ Kahiko- The ancient Hula was a way of communicating with the Gods. It is accompanied by chanting, and traditional implements and is performed with respect for our ancestors.
~ Missionaries and the Merrie Monarch- The missionaries brought many changes. We present Hula depicting this era as well as celebrating King Kalakaua.
~ÿAuana- The modern Hula was influenced by immigrants and tourism. Hula dancers tell their stories through their graceful moves, subtle eyes and lovely hula hands.”

The entire evening was wonderful and we were so glad we did this luau. I was always hesitant, as I read that many can be overpriced and tacky. This is truly a traditional luau with wonderful song, dance, and delicious Hawaiian foods. We even sat for a while after the show with a couple at our table and had a fun time talking to them.

18 May 2011, Wednesday

Today we drove to Hana, or I should say we headed towards Hana. We first stopped at Costco to get gas but realized they don't have a gas station. Inside, Tony needed to buy a pair of sunglasses. I headed to the jewelry section and lo and behold, they sell Hawaiian heirloom jewelry! Early birthday present! I ordered an 8mm bangle with an engraving on the inside. I should get it in two weeks. Prices were so much better than the retail stores. Go Costco!

Driving the Hana road can be very tiring for the driver - me. We stopped in many places so I could take pictures. The waterfalls were at a trickle, so we didn't bother to go all the way to Hana. At one point we took a hike in the jungle. It was an easy trail. After mile marker 22 or so, we headed back. Tony fell asleep quite easily with the curves of the road. So much for having a co-pilot in the car. The next time we’ll go all the way to Hana and around the south side.

Back in Kahalui, I picked up a few items at Target, including a reusable underwater camera. It was only $12. Now I have something for my snorkeling long as I can find film.

At Black Rock, I swam around five turtles that were munching on coral. It's a wonderful experience swimming with these endangered species. When one would start to swim towards me I would just float and let him or her decide which way to turn...sometimes right underneath me! I was always careful never to touch them and even reprimanded a young guy who was petting one. That's kapu! (forbidden). I shot off the roll of film in minutes of the turtles and fish in the area.

For dinner, we drove to Kahana and ate at Roy's, a popular place located in a shopping plaza. Roy's serves Hawaiian fusion cuisine. We started with drinks and then appetizers of crispy port and shrimp Lumpia and the flying dragon roll (with unagi, butterfish, avocado, macadamia nuts). We were given a bowl of seasoned edamame too. Tony had the seafood collection (Molokai shrimp, scallops, fresh fish, clams, and crab) and I had a white fish with a crab imperial type topping and shiitaki mushrooms, with mashed potatoes and green beans. We ended with their apple tart topped with macadamia nut ice cream and thin dolphin-shaped cookies. This was the best meal of our entire trip! The ingredients were fresh, everything was beautiful prepared, and everything tasted great.
Flying Dragon Roll
My fish
Tony's seafood

19 May 2011, Thursday

I was sad to leave Maui. Having been sick for a few days, we didn't get to see everything that I wanted to see. We didn't even hit south Maui! I got up early to buy a roll of film for my underwater camera. I wanted to take more photos of the turtles at Black Rock. Walgreen’s was just a 10-minute drive away.

Back at the hotel, we quickly changed into our bath suits and walked to the beach. The day was beautiful, sunny, and again, with dry weather. Out in the water I didn't see a single turtle! I was so disappointed. I suppose they were off someplace sleeping or eating. It was too bad because the lighting was much better in the morning and the water clearer. I did get some shots of Moorish Idols, trigger fisher, and other colorful fish.

We had the room until 1pm, but checked out around noon. In Lahaina, we had lunch at the Aloha Mixed Plate. We sat at one of the tables closest to the beach in the shade. I had the beef teriyaki with rice and macaroni salad; Tony had one of their burgers. The menu has a nice mix of local dishes and always with large portions.

After lunch, I re-parked the car closer to the center of town in a public parking lot. Our luggage was in the trunk but I had my valuables with me in my bag. We figured no one would break into a car that was in sight of everyone. Up near the banyan tree, I found a tattoo shop and yes, I decided to get a tattoo! I decided to get a permanent one instead of a 3-week temporary henna tattoo. I had been thinking about it for a week. I made my appointment for 4pm and then we went to a bar to hang out for a couple of hours (yes, I later read that drinking before getting a tattoo can thin out the blood and it’s a no-no - and yes, after close to 2 weeks now, it's pretty much healed).

Justin, the artist, helped me with the final design of a Hawaiian turtle, which I felt was very appropriate. I had it added to my right ankle. Yes, it hurt, stinging, as the needles plunged into my leg. But, it wasn't too uncomfortable. Being a small design, about 2" in length, it took only 40 minutes.

Done with the tattoo and bandaged up, we headed to the airport, dropped off the car and took the shuttle to the terminal. It was a long wait for our flight so we shared a small pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. Pretty good pizza but I wouldn't go out of my way to go there again.

Got seats one row back from the front exit door and we had the middle seat to our selves. I hate red-eye flights, as I can never sleep so I just tried to relax. It would be a long day getting home.

In Phoenix, Tony and I tried to get on two different flights in the morning but ended up on the 3pm flight. After trying for the second flight, I wanted to just get a hotel and fly home the next day but Tony wanted to try one more. Anne, the gate agent, was great. She got us listed for each flight and felt so bad for us that she asked her boss to work the 3pm flight just to see if we got on board. One stand-by passenger was trying for the same flights as us and gave us two complimentary USAirways Club Lounge cards. We enjoyed drinks, snacks, and comfortable chairs while passing the time. The internet connection was much faster in the room too.

There were only a few empty seats but all of the stand-by passengers made it on board. Tony and I were in different rows. We landed around 11:30pm, picked up Lucy around 1:30am, and were in bed (after a couple of glasses of wine, as we were wide awake) by 2:30am. I woke up at 3pm! I really needed the sleep.


It's always great to return to Hawaii, a place I call home and where I grew up. We made the best of our trip while being sick ( went to the dr. when I returned home and have bronchitis). We were somewhat disappointed in the weather on Oahu (it's been the wettest in years) but loved the dry, sunny temps of Maui. It's amazing that the islands, about 80 miles apart, had such different weather conditions. We loved the food and the mai tai's. I loved the scenery of the islands and enjoyed my time swimming with the turtles. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones. I'm looking forward to our next visit to the islands.


Stephen said...

Sounds like a fantastic trip so far! I loved Maui so much. I need to go back and visit the other islands! Looking forward to the pixs!

Betsy Grant said...

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