OK, this trip is exciting even to think about. Hawaii, I mean if you have never been, or you have been, and just dream of going back, who does not dream about Hawaii?
Those Native to Hawaii say the islands were named after the main islands of Hawaii, and that the main island was named for a legendary figure from Hawaiian myths. The linguists may recognize that the name sounds like Proto-Polynesian, Sawaiki which shares the meaning of homeland.
One thing for certain, once you journey to Hawaii you will leave a part of your heart there ever after.
I live on the East Coast of the United States so this trip will be a bit of a flight but well worth it, I am sure. It is still possible to get a flight from Norfolk VA to Hawaii, and for less than you might guess. My flight will have one stop to change planes and pick up more happy travelers for the longest stretch of the flight from Atlanta. If all goes well, the flight will be just under 14 hours of travel time in the air.
Flying does not bother me, but flying for that long is not a trip I look forward to. I book a business class seat, and an aisle seat and pray for good legroom or an upgrade to first class for that legroom.
One thing I have learned in all my flights treat the stewards, and stewardesses with care, concern, and kindness. Help them understand you are thankful for their efforts, and that you are a friendly person. Do this regardless of the plane being late, the flight waiting to taxi for seemingly ever, or anything else out of their control.
On the flight to Atlanta, I had the aisle seat, and I could move to the emergency exit row. This gave me plenty of legroom. From Atlanta to Hawaii, I thought I was going to be stuck in coach for 13 hours with no legroom. But again, I was nice, and they saw I was packed in like a sardine and took pity on a tired traveler with a 36-inch inseam. The first class was very nice for the legroom. The flight to Atlanta made me think I needed to check at the airport on my arrival to see if I could get the emergency row seat on the way back just in case first class was fully booked.
When you arrive at HNL (Honolulu Airport) if you come into terminals 1-2 (which most international flights do) this brings you to the second level of the airport for arrivals. You follow the clearly marked signs to baggage claim and you are off to the races.
At the airport, you can choose an inexpensive transfer bus to Oahu if you like. The bus will take you and your bags to most locations on Oahu for $17. Or if you are like me, you can take an Uber, Cab, or even rent a car. But as I have shared before in these blogs I prefer to be driven on vacations and trips when I fly into an area. It just helps me relax more. I also enjoy hitting up local drivers for helpful tips and information.
Day 1 Arrival
I arrived at Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club a little after 5 PM. The flight had landed a few minutes before 4 PM, and I got my bags, grabbed the cab, and made it to the resort in just a little over an hour. I think without traffic the drive is only about 30 minutes. But I had to wait for the bags, and then a few minutes for the cab.
Your first view of the resort is more than impressive. I felt like I had just arrived at Fantasy Island, and at any moment I was going to hear “The Plane, the Plane!”
The setting was straight out of the movies or TV. I will confess right now; I love all things Polynesian. The palm leaves, Tiki Culture, and lush greenery call to me. I mean, it sings to me. Something about it also makes me instantly at ease. I have been blessed in my life to travel to some most amazing locations on Earth. But none compare to Hawaii. I love the 7-mile beach on Grand Cayman, but it still just does not have the feel of Hawaii. For all its commercial abundance, Hawaii still has a natural feel that is hard to capture when writing about it.
If you have never been, go while you still feel good enough to get the most out of your trip. There is so much to visit and see, and the views are breathtaking. Hawaii must be where the term breathtaking (breath is taken) was first coined. Because nature is that amazing! It will make you gasp. Hawaii is so beautiful that it can tame the heart of even the most upset, grouch.
Back to the resort. I entered the welcome area, informed them of my booking, and presented my ID. A few clicks of the computer mouse later, I was checked in and headed to my room. The resort has several buildings, and I was booked for the principal building on this trip.
When I walked into the room, it was my first look at the ocean spot the resort is on. Wow, it blew me away. The beach setting was beyond a series of pools. It was sloped to the ocean at an angle. Which made the view even more impressive. You just do not see that like this at most beaches in the USA. It really caught me off-guard. It almost looked like the sand was part of a bowl with the ocean at its base or bottom on one side, then it spread out into the sea.
The only thing I could think of was the scene from the made-for-TV movie where the cast from Gilligan’s Island has a reunion in Hawaii. I looked the title of the movie up it was Rescue from Gilligan’s Island and it has not been aired on TV since 1978, but I still remember the scene of the cast away seeing Hawaii and the cove they came into. That and since I was maybe 8, I also remember a trick phone, both that was a secret entrance or something that I thought was amazingly cool at 8 years old.
Don’t you find it amazing how something your see, or smell can bring a memory flooding back into your mind from so many years ago? The mind is a powerful thing.
After catching my breath and taking a short 1-hour nap. I woke hungry and ready to eat. I had been asked if I wanted a seat at the Polynesian buffet and luau, and being a nut for all things Polynesian I had to say yes. The dinner and show were going to start in 30 minutes. So, since I was starving (had not eaten in 15 hours) I was headed down to be one of the first guests ready to be seated. This is an event, not a meal. For those who are on a tight budget, this is not the path for you. But for those with some flexibility, it is more than worthwhile, even at $140 a person.
Now you may think this is criminal, but I am solo on this trip. This trip opportunity came last minute since the Tzort booking was available, so I grabbed a last-minute flight it was literally the day before so no one else could come on such brief notice. People may think traveling single often would bug me, but I am a true solo traveler most of the time. I enjoy taking things in myself, and the reduced level of complications. When things are right, it is a joy to take people on dream-like vacations, but it does not always make sense. I get it some people do not even like to eat out at a restaurant alone, much less fly and go on a trip 15 hours from home. For me, I love the escape.
Moving down to the dinner buffet and show, I was thinking about the menu items I prayed they had. I thought there would-be BBQ, Poke, fresh Pineapple, and lots of seafood, but there were a few local dishes I hoped to have again, other than Poke. If you have not had Poke before, it can be great. Poke is a raw fish salad where the fish is cooked with fresh juices. The meat stays amazingly flavorful and fresh. With Polynesian food, the key is freshness. Everything is fresh and well prepared. The buffet style is much like the family style you would find in the local restaurants. It is truly bottomless, so when you find something you like you can eat until you fall in love.
Night one was over and so was I. Right now, I was as full as I could remember. The show was impressive, and the food was awesome, but my bed is calling my name.
Day 2 at Ko Olina Beach Club
Waking up at Ko Olina Beach Club is dreamlike. You do not even realize you are truly here for at least a few moments. The view out your window, and at the resort is just too dreamlike.
I know, I know, here is a guy writing about a travel destination for a travel blog. He is going to write things over and make them seem amazing. Well, dear reader, this is me just trying to do this location justice. I am failing if you do not want to spring up out of your seat, get on a plane, and be here tomorrow. Failing miserably!
Right now I had second thoughts about the fact that I have to leave in 4 days. Ouch, the idea of that hurt. Not going to let my mind go there again soon. It may be 10 AM, but I feel the need for a Mai Tai. That favorite drink was first made (some say) at Trader Vicks in California in 1944. But it tastes like Hawaii to me. The name Mai Tai supposedly came from the first customers who were from Tahiti and guests at Trader Vicks, who proclaimed the drink was “Maita’i roa ae!” or Amazing.
At 10:15 AM my vacation truly started. Sure, last night was amazing. But for the first thing, you drink to be a Mai Tai, now that is a vacation. Now I was not on a fire mission. I did not intend to drink several. I just wanted to celebrate my first full day in Hawaii, by starting off strong.
After my drink, I had to head down to the ocean. I mean it just flat out, hands down looked amazing. I moved with the grace of a man on a mission. By that, I mean clumsy but fast. I found a beach chair I think I saw my name on, and I dove in. I was there absorbing the Hawaiian sun for about 10 minutes until an amazing resort staff member asked me if they could get me anything. They must not get a ton of cocktail requests at 10:30 AM but I was on vacation so I settled on a Pineapple Coconut Daiquiri. The next thing I know, the server comes back with a pineapple with a straw coming out of it. If I was someone who cared what others thought, I would have been on display as the morning drinker for the world to see. But after a few moments, others on the beach took my lead and ordered one of their own.
After starting my morning off like a playboy, or hedge fund billionaire (at least in my mind) I did something enlightening today. This meant a trip to Byodo In Temple on the Island. The Byodo-In Temple is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It was established on June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Byodo-In Temple in O’ahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan.
My interest in the Temple was not spiritual as as it was in the experience. From my youth and into early adulthood, I studied martial arts. My first two styles were both of Japanese origin, so I thought the Temple would be a neat experience. I was not wrong. It is worth the trip, and the setting is amazing.
Next, it was time for lunch. It had been 15 years since I had been to the islands, so I had done some online research for places to eat. I had read about Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, which has 3 locations, and one was closer to the temple than anything else I had read about. I stopped in and got a large shrimp plate. That was a great call for lunch.
The drive to the template and the shrimp truck lunch took me closer to Honolulu,, so I thought today would also be the day to see the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. I did not have any relatives in the military in World War II, but the attack on Pearl Harbor resonated with me before my trip. I had not been on a previous trip to the islands because on that trip the guest with me was not into history and did not want to go to a war site. I got it, but I always regretted not going.
Be ready if you go. Arizona is still releasing oil to the surface. That knocked me off my socks, really. I mean, this was long before I was born, and that watery grave is still producing oil from the wreckage as if it does so just to remind us all. Battleship row was amazing to see and think back to what it must have been like for those brave souls.
I enjoyed the memorial and history. It was tough, but sometimes tough is good. But now I wanted another drink or two and some dinner. Today on my list was Mud Hen Water a local spot of some renown and for good reason, I would find out. I chose Mud Hen because it looked like they did a proper dinner. It was a respectful distance from Pearl Harbor maybe 20 mins or so but worth the can ride over.
I had the Lau Lau, which was venison, pork, and poi. It was astounding. I also got some Hapa rice and some farmer’s bread. Freshly baked bread is hard to beat no matter where you are in the world.
Next, it was back to the resort for a few more drinks down at the ocean to watch the sunset. Then off to bed. The day before, with 15 hours of flights and starting the day with cocktails, all took their toll but not in a bad way.
Day 3 more fun at Ko Olina Beach Club
After a glorious night’s sleep, the balcony opened to the warm salt breeze from the ocean. I woke feeling like I had the best night’s sleep in at least a year.
It was time to hit the brunch buffet on site. I love a good breakfast buffet. Really everything about them from the fresh-squeezed local pineapple juice to the custom-made to order omelets. One thing you do not expect in the islands is great sausage or meats. Mentally you expect, and they have great fruit and seafood that is perfect. But the meat is wonderful as well because it comes from local farms.
Everything on the buffet seems fresh, and it is closer to an old-world level of quality. By that I mean everything is fresh and sourced from fresh, not frozen ingredients. These days, if you go on a cruise, or travel to many locations on land, the buffets resemble something closer to the free breakfast at an interstate hotel. This was much the exception and was an amazing meal. The cost is modest given the level of the quality of the food. It was a great way to start the day.
I am sure when I get home there will be some dreams, I have about the omelet I just had with flakey local white fish and 3 kinds of cheese. It was better than some fresh crab omelets that I had back in Florida on my recent trip to a resort there.
After my breakfast, I went to relax on the beach for a bit since the amazing sun and ocean views are a big part of the island’s trip to me. Also, this resort setting is heaven-like. I mean literally, there are some people who would see this and think that they had died and then arrived. Somehow passing through a dreamlike state between the airport and the resort.
The pool and ocean views here are amazing. The local stone and lava rocks that are in the water and around it, when combined with the palm trees and other super green vegetation, create an environment like none other in the world.
I enjoyed spending most of my day on the beach today. There are many things to see in Oahu and the other islands of Hawaii, but this spot is amazing and one I just did not want to leave during the day today.
After a long day at the beach, it was time for dinner again. A small part of me wanted to just go back and crash in the room. But I was hungry, so I took advantage of the onsite Italian Restaurant.
The menu was pricey but worth it since the food was perfectly cooked. Sometimes it is worth the added cost to just have that perfect meal experience. I started my meal with the crab cake appetizer. Choosing that in part to see how the local crab tasted versus the blue crab of the Chesapeake Bay back home in Virginia. They were outstanding, but I must confess I think the blue crab is still the world’s best. Perhaps I am just used to the sweet taste of the meat?
Next for the entrée, I chose Seared Ahi Au Poivre since the Ahi is fresh and local. It was great and you could tell the fish was prepared by a chef that could really cut and prepare fish. The odd thing about the restaurant was the lack of traditional Italian dishes on the menu. I was thrilled with what I had, but I would have liked to see a local take on Lasagna, and maybe even a wood-fired seafood pizza.
I was full however and the next step was the bed. The sun was brilliant, but that and the salt air will wipe you out.
Confession time. I travel a lot; I mean a great deal. I am used to places that have a ton of sun. But as I took my morning shower, I was reminded that for as white as my skin was at the start of this trip, SPF 30 was not the winning combination.
Nothing lets you know you are alive as fast as sunburn in the shower, ouch. Note to self; find some SPF 50 today and a baseball cap that is cool.
Dear reader, you know by now I am a tourist stop fan. I love to go to some tourist things to do on every trip. For Hawaii, that includes a tour of the Dole Plantation. It is located 27 miles north of Waikiki Beach, so I planned to visit the plantation and do every tourist thing you could do there, then head back to Waikiki Beach for the morning.
What amazed me was how much there was to do at the plantation. So, I ended up staying until I got hungry enough for an early lunch and I visited their Plantation Grill which for Hawaii had excellent food and a more reasonable price. Dole has done an outstanding job of making a family-friendly location here, including the food. If you go make sure you at least try the Dole Whip Ice Cream. I had mine in a waffle cone and it was worth every penny and then some. There is also something nice about ice cream when you have a sunburn.
I know the ladies reading this area saying “guys are such wimps” since I keep talking about my sunburn. Ladies, you are right guys can take serious pain well but let us have a sunburn, or worse a cold and we are wimpy.
An excellent lunch and the ice cream sunburn/energy treatment. It was time to work my way to Waikiki beach. Waikiki Beach is famous for Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, who learned and later taught people how to surf during the Waikiki break. I wanted to see one of the most famous beaches in the world in person, and just hang out a little and watch the surfers. I had never found a love for surfing myself, but the peacefulness of it was appealing.
Now the beach is amazing and the view of Diamond’s head in the background is neat but to be honest I preferred the beach at the resort. Less crowded and more of a sense of perfect isolation for me.
Before leaving the area, I checked the Duke Kahanamoku Statue out and in my mind sang Tiny Bubbles.
Now if you love hiking (not my thing) like many of my close friends. Then Hawaii has some of the best hikes in the world. From active volcanos, to sunrise and sunset hikes with amazing views. Hawaii has it all. This blog post features many of them if you are interested.
To end my day I wanted to stay and see the sunset here since this beach is one that we all have seen on TV and the Movies for most of our lives. Well, this and the north shore. Not last minute, but close to the last minute that was available to leave and see the sunset from the North Shore, I changed my mind and moved quickly to end the day on the North Shore.
It was a great call because if I had not done so, I likely would not have made it to the North Shore this trip since this was the last full day of my vacation.
My flight out does not leave until nighttime, but I have to check out by 10 AM. So, I wake and focus on getting a substantial breakfast to hold me over until a late lunch before getting to the airport. I figured I wanted to get to the airport at least 1.5 hours before the flight to be safe. The plan was to spend my last few hours after breakfast on the beach. I had ¾ a bottle of SPF 50 left, so I figured another few hours of those amazing rays would be fine.
Before leaving the beach I found a family and showed off my sunburn, offering them most of the SPF 50. The wise mother accepted kindly and thank me for the $20 travel offering (the bottle was $22).
If I ever get the chance to come back to Hawaii again (and I want to) I would book 2 weeks next time. There were so many things I did not have time to do, that I would have liked to. One is going on a volcano hike to an active volcano. Dangerous? Sure, but it would be a lifetime experience for certain.
If you get the chance, save up some money for this once-in-a-lifetime trip (for most) and mark this one off of your bucket list. Then save even more traveling resort-style with Tzort.