“Once you’ve been to Hawaii, you spend the rest of your life trying to get back” Those wise words were spoken by our driver on the last leg of our journey home and they couldn’t have summed up our trip better. Even as the days lazed by filled with sun, ocean breezes and colorful drinks, I was already planning the next trip in my head. After six days in paradise, a piece of me will always long to go back.
January 27-28, 2012 – Los Angeles, California
We flew from New York to Los Angeles via Kansas City, after 9 hours of traveling we landed in Cali exhausted but unwilling to miss a moment. Michelle met us with the car and we trekked to Anaheim to check in at the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disney. If you are not a DVC member this is a fine hotel, as a DVC snob it was disappointing to me and that is all I will say about that 🙂
We took a deep breath, arranged our rooms then headed to Hollywood to play tourist on Hollywood Boulevard. We saw the Hollywood sign but was too far away for a good picture, walked the Walk of Fame, snapped photos at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and saw lots of interesting street performers. We had an early morning planned for the next day so back to the hotel we went.
Saturday morning we headed to Denny’s for breakfast – a treat since the last Denny’s I’d seen was in Florida – before heading over to Disneyland. We were doing two parks in a day – Disneyland and Disney’s Grand California Adventure. I’ve been to Disney World often and found that many of the rides were the same with some notable exceptions (i.e. Indiana Jones is an actual ride, not a show), the parks were much much smaller, and the cast members in California obviously didn’t get the “friendly” training, since we encountered more rudeness in Disney than you would in Manhattan. Disney’s Grand California Adventure is half under construction but we did get to go on Soarin’ (a favorite of ours), but missed out on the giant Ferris Wheel. Dinner reservations at the Wine Country Trattoria gave us reserved viewing for the World of Color show in the Paradise Pier (not to be confused with the hotel) section of the park. In a day that found us often making comparisons World of Color blew us away. A combination of water, music, lights and fire, they wowed us all with their retelling of many Disney classics. Totally redeemed themselves (rude cast members, what rude cast members?) It was the perfect ending to the California leg of our journey and it was off to bed for our 8am flight to HAWAII!
January 29 – February 3, 2012 – O’ahu / Kauai, Hawaii
Landing in Hawaii was the culmination of a year of planning and for some decades of dreaming. At the airport we got lei’d for the first time, thank you Michelle. Beyond the airport, car rental and navigating our way down H1, we finally arrived at Aulani. A bellhop unpacked our car and walked us over to a greeter who presented us with our second lei and led us in to the breathtaking entrance to paradise. The entire lobby of the resort is opened to the ocean breeze with plenty of places to relax and enjoy the view. I wish I could tell you what our greeter said to us but I was too busy looking around to pay attention. Finally she led us to check in, we got our room keys and headed up to the 4th floor.
Room 401 was to be our home for the week and what a home it was, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, full kitchen with separate dining room and living room, all the necessities (i.e. washer / dryer) and five sets of sliding doors leading out to a balcony that was the entire width of our villa, looking out over the pools and ocean. Hawaiin music filled the air, tropical breezes washed over us and we just had to put our feet in the Pacific. Within an hour I had a fruity drink in hand, my feet had touched the ocean, the sun was warming my pale New York skin, and the lazy river was leading me in a merry circle around the resort grounds. It was no hardship to imagine this as a daily occurrence. We capped off our first day with dinner at Ama Ama, while the sunset over the ocean. Aaron was able to join us so we got to see him for the first time in over a year.
Day 2 had us up early again, our destination Pearl Harbor. To say this was a moving experience doesn’t do it justice. We walked around the museums for a bit then sat for the movie which explained the events of that day, with actual footage of the bombings. Then we took a boat ride out to the Arizona memorial, which sits on top of the wreckage of the actual ship. After we continued to walk around the various monuments, then Wes and Andrew got to meet three survivors. It’s a place that should be on everyone’s must-see list.
We followed that up by going grocery shopping for our home away from home. Then another afternoon spent drinking and lazing down the river.
Day 3 Michelle, Andrew and I went to the Dole Plant for Michelle’s birthday. Wes spent the day drinking and Eric got served poolside by pretty Hawaiian girls. That evening we went to Germaines Luau – the entertainment was great, the food not so much. Andrew got picked to go up on stage and soon we saw him in a coconut bra and grass skirt, battling it out with two other audience members for best hula dancer. He didn’t win but he put on a great show. Lois got up and learned to hula, then she went up again with Aaron for another round of dance lessons. Cousin K was our guide for this adventure and he was a lot of fun.
Day 4 Michelle, Andrew, Pat & Lois went to the giant flea market where they spent hours and money perusing the wares. We followed that up with a trip to Diamond Head where the boys climbed to the top to get some great pictures. Then we went into Waikiki and had dinner at Dukes – established by the olympic gold medalist who founded modern surfing. Waikiki was great the say but the trip getting there was an eye opener. Honolulu is a city just like New York, cramped, dirty and not what I wanted to see on my vacation. Waikiki itself is jam packed with hotels, shops and high end boutiques (Gucci, Ferragamo, etc). Dinner was great, the view awesome, but not an area that I would rush back to.
Day 5 Wes, Pat, Lois and I went to Kauai, the Garden Island and toured such famous sites as the Spouting Horn, Waimea Canyon, Wailua River and Fern Grotto. Tony was our tour guide for the day and he was an endless source of information on the history and culture of Kauai. Even if we didn’t stop he was constantly pointing out things to see, suggesting places to go that weren’t included in the tour and very obviously loves his island and his country. We also took a boat ride down the Wailua River where another guide continued telling us the history of the island. The boat ended in Fern Grotto where 10,000 couples have gotten married.
Day 6 Sadly our day to return to California where I got to check off another villa on my list, the villas of the Grand California Resort. Our two bedroom temporary home overlooked the lake where World of Color took place so we got to watch both shows from our balcony
February 4, 2012 – LAX to LaGuardia
It took us a little over six hours to find our way back to the land of reality and New York traffic. Though we were sorry to see our adventure come to an end, we were glad to be off the plane.
Aloha Hawaii and Mahalo Yo! We will be back.