Day One Arrival
Video by The Hawaii Vacation Guide
What has already been a dream vacation is now turning into something amazing. It made more financial sense to come and stay for more than a week and visit several resorts to share my journey with you. Thanks to TZort, you can stay for less than you might pay for your flight to the islands alone.
In my last trip blog I shared with you the kinds of over the top experiences that everyone loves to do, but not all can afford. On this stay while staying at this amazing Lagoon Tower by Hilton Grand Vacations I want to show you things you can do that are either free or much less expensive.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- Ice Maker
- In-Room Safe
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Free WiFi
- Outdoor Pools
- Beachfront Access
- Business Center
- On Site Restaurants
- Fitness Center
- Concierge Services
The reason for this is most people are in different financial conditions at certain times of their lives. You might be up for the trip to Hawaii when you have just enough to pay for the room, flight, and a few extras but not the over the top expensive options. That is perfectly fine, and many of you will actually prefer the more hands on a natural trip.
One of the secrets of a great vacation is to not spend like a drunken 22-year-old with their first credit card. Instead, of going were locals in the know go, and to do and see many of the things you can for free. I love all things touristy by nature, but I also love to get to know the real people, and experience of somewhere I visit. Those are the kinds of things that will make you fall in love with a place.
For me, this is amazing not having to come in a little tired from 15 hours of flights. All I am doing today is moving myself and my bag from one resort to another, and that is awesome.
Again, check in was a breeze, and I chose a 1 bedroom villa again. I was also able to score an ocean view here at the lagoon too. This view is a little closer to the ocean and has a perfect view of the lagoon itself, which is great to look at and enjoy.
Once I moved my bags over (one large bag and my carryon) I wanted to get back to the beach and see an area I had not visited yet.
Kapiolani Park is a beautiful park located in Honolulu. It was given by King Kalakaua to the city. It is named after his wife, Queen Kapiolani. It is divided from Waikiki by Diamond Head.
Kapiolani Park is Honolulu’s oldest public park and also one of the most beloved. It contains family attractions such as the Waikiki Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium and the Queen Kapiolani Botanical Gardens. The main highlight for adults is a beautiful assortment of flowering plant species. The gardens contain plants from Hawaii and other places around the world, including rare native Hawaiian species.
The first thing I wanted to do was to see the Zoo. In all of my trips to Hawaii, I had never taken the time to see the Zoo. I enjoy zoos but when you are in town for a few days with so much to see and do; it is easy to forget the zoo. Since during these few days I wanted to go local, and see more of the nature of the island, I thought the park and zoo would be a great place to start.
The Honolulu Zoo is a beautiful place to see exotic animals. It was founded by King David Kalakaua who wanted to bring back the native Hawaiian culture. The Honolulu Zoo is located in Queen Kapiʼolani Park. There are many types of animals, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish, insects, and other invertebrates.
Over 600,000 people visited the zoo last year. The zoo is administered through the Department of Enterprise Service.
Kapi’olani Park is a beautiful place where the people of Hawaii can enjoy themselves. There are many kinds of plants and flowers there. There are also many birds and animals living there. A lot of people come to this park every day because it is very nice.
Even though King Kalakaua had many exotic animals, he didn’t want them to be killed by people or other animals. He wanted to protect these animals, so he made sure they were safe. He also protected the park from being used for anything else except for what he wanted it to do.
Ben Hollinger collected animals to show off at Queen Kapi’olani Park. He also kept a collection of monkeys, bears, lions, and elephants. He wanted to buy an elephant but couldn’t afford it. Instead, he bought a circus train full of animals. He brought the animals to the park and put them on display. A ship arrived in Hawaii carrying an elephant named Daisy. She lived in the park until she died in 1933.
Those early days still show in the history and local love of the zoo. When you visit the zoo, you are both stepping back in time and enjoying the animals that it supports in an amazing habitat.
The Zoo tickets are modest in cost compared to many zoos today. At $19 for adults and $11 for children, this can be an affordable adventure for all.
For those with bigger budgets, you can arrange a private tour for up to 5 people. On this trip I did not opt for this myself, but if you had a child who was considering becoming a zoologist or veterinarian in your group, this might be something very special for them.
Queen Kapiolani Gardens
While in the area, you do not want to miss the gardens. Even people who normally might not stop and smell the roses should stop for this. The gardens here have some of the finest examples of flora and fauna in the world. Hawaii is famous for its hibiscus, which was declared the state flower in 1988. This park is known for its amazing hibiscus and roses, as well as many other native flowers you will find in the gardens.
There is no fee for entry to the gardens. They are open to the public and something you should not miss. My note to guys for this one is to make sure to take you special lady here. A great place to romance her with a poem, or just some flowery words of your own.
After a nice time at the park, zoo, and gardens, I wanted to get something to eat.
A great option loved by locals and the travelers who find it is Marugame. Here you can get Japanese Noodles and tempura at a very affordable price. With meals starting as low as $5 and going up to $20. I chose the Chicken Teriyaki Bowl.
Which offers house-made sweet mirin glaze on our big chicken katsu, served with your choice of steamed rice or udon noodles, topped with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds. It tasted amazing and was still under $10. If you look this location up online, you see they have a 4.5 star rating with reviews and that is hard to earn given how difficult people review restaurants these days.
Ala Moana Beach
After lunch I wanted to visit magic island. Magic Island is a small island next to Ala Moana beach park. It’s a great place to swim or relax. There is a lagoon there that is safe for swimming. The aquarium is located right next door. You can see many types of fish, sea turtles, sharks and other creatures.
It seems like every beach here just keeps getting better and better. Magic Island is just amazing. What blew me away was that on this day, I was about the only one here. That made it all feel very special. Here you are on what feels like a private beach at times, in a protected little beach harbor area, and enjoying it all for free.
Here you can see a neat photo of Magic island and Waikiki being both ends of a rainbow, captured just after the rain. The beach itself is just beyond the area on the left in the photo and easy to reach as a local park.
I wanted to visit the aquarium , but I was tired from swimming and playing like I was 20 again. So I headed back to the resort.
I woke a little later today. I think I have adjusted to the local time and I really enjoy the slower pace of the islands.
I walked just a few blocks from the resort and found the Aroma Café for breakfast. It has an affordable menu, and great fresh local food. It is located between the resort and Duke’s statue in the Beachcomber area at 2300 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI. My breakfast was one of their amazing waffles they are known for. They also offer many other affordable and healthier options.
The Duke Statue was my next stop. This life size bronze statue is an amazing work of art and a great place to take a photo on the beach. If you are a scuba enthusiast, you can stop by the on the beach location of Dive Oahu right on the beach just steps away. Here you can arrange dives, equipment, and even purchase gear for a dive if you left yours at home.
This entire area is a travel shopper’s dream. While I will purchase gifts to take back home from my travels, I am not a giant shopper. But even for those who just like to window shop, there are great options in this area.
One spot not to miss is the Royal Hawaiian Center at 2201 Kalakaua Ave. Another great shopping area here is International Market Place at 2330 Kalakaua Ave. Both of these locations are for the shoppers who get a kick out of seeing potential gifts and amazing finds.
Diamond Head Crater is an extinct volcano located on the eastern side of Waikiki Beach. It was formed by lava flows about 2 million years ago. It is also a symbol of the city of Honolulu. From the beach, you can only see the profile of the crater, but if you go to Diamond Head State Monument, you can actually walk down into the crater.
A historic hiking trail leads up to the top of the crater, following a rather steep pathway. There are stairs leading up to the view point. The road to Diamondhead Crater goes up the eastern side of Diamondhead Crater and then connects the inner and outer sides.
Diamond Head is a jut of land or a head. When sailors first saw these crystals, they thought they were diamonds. Diamonds are made up of carbon atoms arranged in a specific pattern called a crystal lattice. This diamond shape is what gives them their hardness and brilliance. Diamonds are also used for making jewelry because of their beauty and durability.
Walking down into the crater was an amazing experience. It certainly does give you pause and makes you question the extinct classification. In a way, you can see how old it is, yet part of your brain says there are active volcanoes in Hawaii and this could be active again, at any time.
It is a climb to the crater. There are also two staircases towards the top that will take you up into the crater itself. The older staircase would give Rocky a problem. The newer stairs are less steep and easier to manage. This is still an outing for people who like to hike and are in shape.
Late Lunch Time
I headed to a local favorite spot for a late lunch. Hulas is a pub style bar and restaurant, just with that great Polynesian feeling.
I enjoyed an order of tropical nachos which have Kalua Pork, Mango Pineapple Salsa, Olives, Chipotle Cream and their house queso. It was a nice size for $15 and really hit the spot.
More at Diamond Head
The walk up to the crater and down wore me out. But that is because I am out of shape and a big guy. Most people who hike regularly, or exercise at least once a week, would likely be in a better condition after the trip up.
If you have more steam (energy) you could go see the Diamond Head Lookout and then visit the lighthouse as well. You can even walk down to Diamond Head beach, which feels private and exclusive but is not.
Another neat local option is the Diamond Head Theater for local plays. This is not year round, but they do offer plays several times a year and you can see if a play is happening when you are in town. They keep the ticket prices affordable for locals and tourists alike.
Day Three in Waikiki
Today was Friday, and it is the day for free fireworks which you can view from the lagoon or beach, and with some of your rooms views. That will be tonight, so I am looking forward to that.
This morning, however, I am starting with breakfast at the Barefoot Beach Cafe the setting here is ideal, and I chose a great omelet for my meal. The cost was very reasonable for the area at only $13.
This trail is completely free and is marked by surfboards that point out historic points and fun things to see. The trail is a great path to enjoy and get to see many scenic locations in the area.
I spent hours just walking and checking things out all in this amazing beach area. It gives you an easy purpose to keep you moving.
You can download a free guidebook in PDF format here.
Going to Steak Shack for lunch was a great call. You can choose your meat (s) and the sides make a great lunch which can be less than $10 for a lunch size of $13 for a dinner size. Which is a bargain.
Since I am staying on site with an ocean view room, I have the perfect view from my room itself. Given that I had walked so much the last few days, I thought a nice bit of chilling in the room and a long shower before the fireworks was what the doctor ordered.
The fireworks are just a few minutes, so you want to make sure you are in position and ready. The normal start time is 7:45PM but you should check with staff to confirm.
Follow me to my next Hilton resort here in Waikiki.