Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hawaii Trip Report Part 11: Last Day in Hawaii

Trip Report so far:

Vacation Video
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: Hiking Diamond Head Crater
Part 3: First Day at Aulani 
Part 4: Tuesday in Hawaii (Girls Version)
Part 5: Tuesday in Hawaii (Boys Version)
Part 6: Dole Plantation and the North Shore
Part 7: Out to Sea
Part 8: Friday at Aulani
Part 9: Kualoa Ranch
Part 10: Picnic on the Beach and Waikiki

Part 11: Last Day in Hawaii

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our flight didn't leave until 3:10 p.m., so we still had a good chunk of the day to spend in Waikiki. We requested a late check-out and got it. We had $40 of hotel credit that we could use towards breakfast, and we were able to get all of us fed for that amount at the Starbucks in the lobby of our tower.

What to do on our last day in Hawaii? I really wanted to take the Hawaii Duck Tour or visit the Bishop Museum (it would be free for us since we were members of the Perot Museum in Dallas). But we decided to just enjoy the pools and beach near our hotel.

We definitely did not want to go back to the freezing pool from yesterday, so we walked a few blocks (still in our hotel "village") and went to the Paradise Pool. This pool is the kid-friendly pool with water slides.

The kids posed for a few photos on our way to the pool:

We asked at the front desk for the hours of the pool and the slides, and the employee told us that both opened at 8:00 a.m. We arrived at 8:00 a.m. since of course we had already been up for a few hours.

Unfortunately, the front desk was wrong, and the slides didn't open until 10:00 a.m. The pool was also not heated and was very cold.

So we enjoyed the hot tub for a bit:

The employee at the towel check booth at this pool told us that our middle son was too short to ride the slides unless he had arm bands or a life vest. He said the slides dumped into 8 to 10 feet deep water. They didn't have any life vests to rent or borrow, we had to buy him some arm bands. Which is why in subsequent photos he is wearing those.

Also, the pool towel attendant was really stoned and was smoking weed in the hut by the pool. Nice.
Brian went to check out the "super pool" in a different location to see if it would be better for the kids, but it didn't seem to be. We got bored waiting for the slides to open so we walked to the beach. We walked around Duke's Lagoon.

I was surprised it had fish in it!
And we spent some time at the beach:

Around 10 a.m., we went back to the pool so that the boys could try the slides. And at the end of the slides it was only 4 feet deep. This enclosed tunnel slide was the most fun since it was faster.
More hot tub time after the cold water:

We headed back to our room around 10:30 so that we could shower and change and check out by noon. It took us a while to get back to our room because an employee gave us wrong directions. Honestly, we were not overly impressed with the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Compared to Aulani, it was much less kid-friendly (no zero-entry pools, longer walk to other towers for food and pools). And we much preferred other parts of Oahu over the Waikiki/Honolulu area. But the hotel had a lot of amenities compared to other hotels in the Waikiki area.

We made it to the airport on time and had no issues with our flight. Our return tickets were on Hawaiian Airlines. Our plane was so much more comfortable than our American Airlines airplane that we had going to Oahu. The Hawaiian Airlines plane had more legroom, we were served a meal and each seat had a video screen with on-demand movies. I paid $4.99 for Alyssa to have the keiki movie package, which included several Disney movies and shows.

We had a good view of the island as we departed:

Farewell, Hawaii! Until next time!
We had a layover in Las Vegas. Our flight landed around midnight, but our luggage was delayed due to airport issues. Alyssa fell asleep while we waited for our luggage.
We took a taxi to a nearby Hyatt Place that I reserved on Hyatt points. It was a big room for the 5 of us, and it had a free breakfast. Our final flight from Las Vegas to Dallas was on Southwest.

On this final 3 hour flight, Alyssa finally slept on the plane.

Sigh....I guess this vacation is really over, now that I've finished the trip report. :(
I think I have the post-vacation blues. I spent so much time and effort to make this trip happen--the miles and points strategy, researching what we should do with our limited time on Oahu, etc. And the anticipation from my entire family of traveling somewhere new to all of us--it's hard to adjust to the current time when we don't have a big trip to Hawaii to look forward to!

During one of our date dinners, Brian and I discussed how we now understand what attracts people to Hawaii. It's beautiful (stunning, actually), has a lot of diverse activities, the locals are super friendly...and it has the familiarity of being part of the USA (same traffic laws, language, money, no passports required, etc.). Before our trip, we didn't really "get it."

We'd like to go back to Hawaii in 3-5 years. My ideal Hawaii trip would be 5-6 days in Maui (for a smaller-town feel) followed by 4-5 days on Oahu (at Aulani).

Thanks for reading about our Hawaiian vacation, and let me know if you have any questions about our trip. :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hawaii Trip Report Part 10: Picnic on the Beach and Waikiki

Trip Report so far:

Vacation Video
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: Hiking Diamond Head Crater
Part 3: First Day at Aulani 
Part 4: Tuesday in Hawaii (Girls Version)
Part 5: Tuesday in Hawaii (Boys Version)
Part 6: Dole Plantation and the North Shore
Part 7: Out to Sea
Part 8: Friday at Aulani
Part 9: Kualoa Ranch

Part 10: Picnic on the Beach and Waikiki

Still Saturday, March 14, 2015

We finished our tours at Kualoa Ranch before noon. We had packed lunches and decided to eat at the nearby beach at Kualoa Regional Park. We could see the entrance from Kualoa Ranch, and it had a lot of parking, picnic tables, a huge grass area and restrooms (that happened to be closed for construction while we were there).

The day we were there it was super windy. We didn't notice the wind while we were at Kualoa Ranch, but it had picked up. Nevertheless, this was a great place for a picnic lunch.

There were a lot of locals having picnics, doing yoga and just hanging out there.
After lunch, we walked to the beach. It was a little rocky, but the kids didn't seem to care:

And the gorgeous mountains were behind us:
After the park, we drove back to Honolulu for our last night on Oahu in the Waikiki beach area. We checked into the Hilton Hawaiian Village for one night (two free rooms with Hilton free weekend certificates from a credit card). Hilton Hawaiian Village is a huge hotel with many towers, restaurants and pools. This is the open-air lobby:
We were assigned to two non-connecting rooms in the Kalia tower. Each room looked like this:
We had been upgraded to an ocean view!
Directly underneath our rooms there was a pool on the 4th floor roof:
We decided to spend some time at that pool before our dinner reservation since it was the closest pool. What we soon discovered is that this hotel doesn't heat its pools and the water was FREEZING! The temperatures had been in the high 50s and low 60s at night, which doesn't make for pleasant water in the day. I thought if we just got in and spent some time in the pool our bodies would adjust, but I was wrong. So we mostly hung out in the hot tub.

We went back to our rooms to change before going to the famous Duke's restaurant of Waikiki. A few months prior to our trip, I made a reservation for 4:45 p.m. (the only time I could get). Since it was a Saturday night and the beginning of Hawaii's spring break, I knew the Waikiki area would be packed.

We asked at our hotel if we should walk on the street or walk on the beach to get to Duke's, and the employee recommended the beach. So we started along the paved path of the beach and then discovered it ended and we had to walk in the deep sand on the beach and walk through hotel bars to get to Duke's. By the time we got there, we were starving.

We got seated after a few minutes, ordered an appetizer and started with the salad bar. We were seated on the covered patio section of the restaurant, and there was the bar below us with a live band playing. It was a very fun, festive atmosphere.
The food at Duke's did not disappoint! Brian and I each ordered fish:

And we shared this huge piece of Duke's famous Hula pie!

The sun was beginning to set. We took a few photos on the beach before we walked back to our hotel (but this time we walked on the street):

That's Diamond Head in the distance:
We passed by a Christmas ornament store and bought an ornament for a souvenir from our trip:
The view from our balconies in the evening:
The boys slept in the room with Brian, and Alyssa and I had a room all to ourselves. She fell asleep by 7:30 p.m., so I watched TV for a few hours before doing the same.

Up next: Our last day in Hawaii

Hawaii Trip Report Part 9: Kualoa Ranch

Trip Report so far:

Vacation Video
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: Hiking Diamond Head Crater
Part 3: First Day at Aulani 
Part 4: Tuesday in Hawaii (Girls Version)
Part 5: Tuesday in Hawaii (Boys Version)
Part 6: Dole Plantation and the North Shore
Part 7: Out to Sea
Part 8: Friday at Aulani

Part 9: Kualoa Ranch

Saturday, March 14, 2015

We had to leave Aulani at 7:45 a.m. to make it to Kualoa Ranch by 8:45 a.m., 30 minutes before our first activity. Of course, this is the only day we slept past 5:30. We woke up around 6:30 and had to rush to get breakfast and get everything packed and pick up our car from the valet. But we made it, and drove down the H1 highway to the H3 highway. The H3 highway goes through this mountain and then it is like a highway on stilts until it gets to the east coast of Hawaii:

Photo by Scott Sharick
This side of Oahu is the rainy side of the island, and in my opinion, it is the most gorgeous part of Oahu.

We made it to Kualoa Ranch around 8:45 a.m. When I was researching activities on Oahu and came across Kualoa Ranch, I knew we had to go here. It is stunning.
Kualoa Ranch has so many activities--movie sites tour, jungle tour, ATV riding, horseback riding, boat rides, zip lines...I debated for months about what we should do. I was tempted to buy a full day pass here so that we could do 4 activities, but I couldn't decide if that would be too much for the kids. In the end, we decided that Brian would do a 2-hour ATV tour while I took the kids on a 90-minute jungle expedition.

The kids and I checked in for our tour and then headed to the nearby petting zoo for a few minutes. There were goats, roosters, pigs, a cow and a turtle.

This was our jungle tour vehicle, a 6-wheel drive Swiss Pinzgauer.

The tour group was divided into 2 of these vehicles.

We started driving through the jungle and came across these idols. Our tour guide explained what they represented to the religion of Hawaiians. (Um...I think the God of fertility, the God of crops? I had kids distracting me, that's my excuse.)
We kept climbing up the mountain, and next the entire group got out of our vehicles to visit an outdoor temple. But I kept on admiring the view:

That little island popping up there is known as Chinaman's Hat or Mokoli'i.

We listened to our tour guides explain the outdoor temple and we took some pictures before we continued up the mountain.

We passed these ancient Hawaiian fish ponds:

We stopped at a lookout point near the top. We all got out to take photos and look at some of the jungle plants and trees.

Our driver gave each of the kids an opportunity to "drive":

One of the guides showed the kids this plant called Mimosa pudica that falls asleep when you touch it. Really, the leaves fold up at the slightest touch, and they unfold later.

It was hard to capture on video, but watch this YouTube video to see this plant in action:

Our guides also showed us these "fake pineapples" and other cool leaves:

After the stop at the top, we drove back to the main part of the ranch and our tour was over. It was a great tour and interesting for everyone. (And we also saw a set from the upcoming movie Jurassic World).

Meanwhile, Brian was out on an ATV ride in another part of the ranch.

The ATV ride was in the valley where a lot of movies were filmed.

Godzilla's footprint:

He enjoyed the ride. Can't beat the scenery!

The kids and I finished our tour about 20 minutes before Brian did, so we had some Hawaiian shaved ice while we waited for him:

And we checked out some stuff around the ranch:

Alyssa and Joshua loved petting the ranch cats:
If we ever return to Oahu, I'd like to return to Kualoa Ranch. If the kids are older, I think they could handle a full day there. It's too gorgeous not to return!

The ranch had a restaurant inside and some light lunch foods where we got the shaved ice, but we packed a lunch and we decided to have a picnic at the beach.

Up next: Picnic at the beach and Waikiki