When: October 12-21, 2007
Day 1: Let's be honest here, I was NOT looking forward to the 8 hour flight from Minneapolis to Honolulu. If it was just me traveling, no problem, but between Ross and the kids, I was expecting a long haul. Thankfully, I was wrong! We were on the non-stop flight, leaving MSP at 11:30am. The morning couldn't have gone better. We had the middle 4 seats in row 14, and both Ross and I had an aisle seat with the kids in the middle. Each seat was equipped with its own personal TV monitor and entertainment menu. We could choose from a handful of video games, movies, music channels, shopping and maps. It was definitely entertaining and kept us busy for the most part. Our seats also came with a power source, so I could plug in my laptop when the battery ran low. With all of the in-flight options, it didn't seem like long and we were landing in Honolulu. We were excited!!!
After getting our luggage we headed to Alamo to pick up our car, a sleek convertible! The Alamo office is not in the airport, so we had to shuttle over, then wait in line. This was s-l-o-w. But, we eventually got our car and were off, with a copy of Oahu Revealed in my hands. This is a book written by folks that live in Hawaii. It gives you real directions on how to get places, what to see and what you can skip. I have to say, I will recommend it to anyone traveling to Hawaii, just as I recommend that Milepost for anyone traveling north into Canada and Alaska.
Our hotel was great! We stayed at the ResortQuest Waikiki Beach Hotel in room 2107. It had a beautiful oceanview, comfy beds, and is in an excellent beach location. A plus here is that each room comes with 2 soft side coolers that you take down to their poolside breakfast buffet and fill up with goodies to take with you. The idea is called "Breakfast on the Beach", but you can dine anywhere. We filled up once for breakfast and again for snacks throughout the day. A downside here is that the rooms were small. We didn't have room to store luggage and often were in each other's way, but it's a small price to pay for the view and location.
So once we checked in, we let the kids swim in the pool for awhile, then headed to the room and ordered pizza. It was only 7pm in Hawaii, but it felt like midnight according to our Minnesota time clocks!
Day 2: Because of the time difference, we were up at 4am. We ended up having breakfast at 6:30am then heading over to Pearl Harbor. We got in line for the Arizona Memorial. It must have been about 8am and the line took 30 minutes to get through. Once inside, we got our tickets for the 9:15am show. We spent some time looking through the museum and made our way to the theater for the short film depicting the events of December 7, 1941. It was moving, and very interesting. We then made our way to the boat that took us out to the Memorial itself. It was so quiet there, people spoke in whispers, if they even spoke at all. There were people crying, praying, and dropping flowers into the water. Seeing the wall with the names of the soldiers killed that day hit me like a ton of bricks. You can see the drips of oil still making their way to the surface. Looking down on the oil mixing with the flowers floating on the surface was unexplainable. It was such a moving experience.
We had planned to tour the battleship USS Missouri and the Submarine Bowfin, but the kids had had enough. So I whipped out my Oahu Revealed book and directed us to a road called Tantalus Drive. It winds and curves its way up though the hillsides of Oahu, through dense tropical jungles. The kids enjoyed spotting bamboo trees, fruit and flowers, but they mostly liked the vines hanging down from the trees. They sang the George of the Jungle theme song and pretended to be Tarzan. We stopped a few times to let them "swing." The views of the shoreline along this road are simply amazing!!! We basically had the road to ourselves. Beware, however, that we thought this road was a loop, only to come to a "road closed" sign on our way down, leaving us no choice but to turn around and go back the same way we had just come from. Oh well, more great views on the way down!
Back at the hotel, we changed and headed to Waikiki Beach for a few hours. The kids chased a small school of minnows around in the ocean while Ross and I rested on the sand. What a nice day. We ended it by watching the sunset from our lanai.
Day 3: Well, since I am blessed with being an early riser, 4am came quickly and with force. There was no way my body was going to let me sleep anymore. So I quietly got my laptop out and started on my trip report. Oh, how I wished there was free wifi in our room! Everyone was up and ready to go to breakfast again at 6:30am, then we left for a driving tour of the island.
With my book in hand, we headed east to Diamond Head, following some winding roads with great views of the shoreline. We stopped at the Macadamia Nut Farm where we discovered Maui Onion and Garlic flavored mac nuts. YUM! A couple from our church actually told us about these, so we brought them a bag home as a thank you. We continued along our drive, traveling counterclockwise around the island. We drove H3 through the tunnel, then came back through it again. We stopped at some beaches, passed Turtle Bay Resort and then got to the North Shore. We found the famous Ehukai Beach, known for surfing the Bonzi Pipeline. Winters provide huge waves for surfers. There were really good sized waves being surfed when we were there, but not like winter. We checked out a few other beaches for a little bit, noticing a great tide pool area. The kids really wanted to go to the Dole Pineapple Plantation and do the maze, so instead of more beaches, we went to Dole. The maze would be been a lot of fun if it wasn't so hot. Riley loved it, though. We shared some pineapple ice cream before heading out towards Waikiki again.
Back in Waikiki, we found a glow-in-the-dark mini-golf coarse location in a mall. This was something else the kids had wanted to do. It was loud, but fun. A nice family time.
Day 4: We liked the North Shore soooo much, that we decided to skip going to the Missouri battleship and Bowfin submarine so we could spend the day back North. What a great decision! We packed up our water shoes and beach gear and headed to the tide pools we drove by the day before. The water was clear and we saw a ton of fish immediately. We found a place on some rocks and settled in. We snorkeled and explored the tide pools. We saw star fish, sea urchins, a sea snake, a sea slug, crabs and tons of different fish. Further down the shore was Turtle Beach, appropriately named for the number of endangered green sea turtles that call this beach home. We saw a few turtles swimming along the shore line right away. After a few minutes, a turtle made its way to shore, crawling through the sand to take a nap in the warm sun. We were within 10 feet from it. Very cool! It was another great day.
Day 5: Up early again, but this time to catch our Island Air flight over to the Big Island. The kids got such a kick out of having to walk out onto the tarmac to board the plane. It was a small plane that sat maybe 30 people. It was a nice 70 minute flight. We were able to see the islands and shoreline as we passed overhead. We landed in Hilo, got a rental car, and headed south towards Volcanoes National Park. We got to the Visitor's Center and went into explore and watch the short video. Driving through the park was so interesting. Along one stretch of road we'd see lush green trees and vegetation, than all of a sudden it would change and the only thing we'd see for miles was lava. We drove as far as we could, to the point where the lava passed over the road, forcing its closure. We did some hiking on the designated paths and had fun exploring. Along Crater Rim Drive we made some stops to look at the volcano craters and steam vents.
We had some time after VNP so we drove back to Hilo, stopped at the Big Island Candy Factory then did some scenic driving along the shore. Before long it was time to head back to the airport to catch our next Island Air flight to Maui.
Day 6: We checked in late at the Royal Lahaina Resort on Ka'anapali Beach in Maui. The hotel was absolutely lovely. The valet helped us unload the car and called a bellhop to show us to our room. When we entered the room, there were ocean sounds playing from the radio. Nice touch. The bellhop showed us around the room and was so genuine and welcoming. It was such a nice welcome. Our room was fabulous!!! It had a huge lanai with a table and chairs that faced the ocean. We did splurge on an oceanfront room here, and it was so worth it. We had two double beds, a plasma TV, desk area, a nice bar area with two stools, a fridge, safe, and robes. We really loved this hotel.
Off to Lahaina Town for breakfast. We were heading to Moose McGillacuddy's but ended up at Cheeseburger In Paradise instead. It was nice, but overpriced. $60 for breakfast for 4 people? That's just wrong. We walked around town after breakfast, which was fun. I liked this town. The Lahaina Inn would be a great place to stay.
By this time, the kids had discovered their own version of body surfing, and were loving the ocean. We hung out at the beach, swimming, playing in the sand and snorkeling. We had reservations for the Royal Lahaina Luau this night, so we wanted to keep the day simple. We paid $15 extra for the premium seating at the luau, which was worth it. We didn't have to wait in line for our seats, drinks or meals. We were first to eat and had great front row seats for the show. The luau was entertaining. It is my first luau, so I can't compare it with anything, but we did enjoy it.
Day 7: The kids wanted to find more tide pools, so we drove north along the shore in search of a nice place to explore. Before we left, we had breakfast at the hotel's buffet. It was a bit steep at almost $18 per adult, but the kids ate for free, and it was convenient. We watched the naughty birds on the porch stealing bits of food from people's plates! Too funny! We had a copy of Maui Revealed, so after breakfast we set out for the day. The book talked about some tide pools here and there, but nothing like on Oahu. We ended up driving clockwise around west Maui. We found the Blowhole and did some hiking here and there, but ended up back at the hotel and its great beach for some swimming. It was a pretty low key day.
Day 8: Still in search of tide pools, this time we headed south towards Makena. We drove all the way down past the Maui Prince, stopping at a black sand beach (where we found more green sea turtles), as well as Big Beach. It was a nice day checking out the different south Maui areas.
Day 9: I decided to ask the activities desk guy for recommendations on where to go snorkeling. He suggested Kapalua Beach, back north towards Napili. What a great recommendation! We found the beach and headed to the water. Ross took Riley and I took Sydney, and we snorkeled. It was awesome!!! We floated right over the top of some great coral reefs, saw a ton of fish, and a sea turtle. The kids did great with snorkeling. I am so proud of them. We were really far out there at times, but neither kid wanted to quit. So, we just kept snorkeling. Another perfect day.
Day 10: How can 10 days go by so fast? We fly from Maui back to Honolulu, where we caught our nonstop flight back to MSP. The flight home seemed a lot longer than the flight there.
So, here are my impressions and recommendations:
- Our favorite was Oahu's North Shore. While there are not many lodging choices, keep in mind that it is a short drive across the island from Honolulu (about 30 minutes.) Turtle Bay is on the North Shore, but it is a higher end property. Lovely, though.
- The USS Arizona Memorial was incredible and very moving. Our 6 and 8 year olds did just fine there, so don't be afraid to bring children. We told them prior to arriving that we expected "church behavior" while we were there. They could sense the mood, and behaved perfectly.
- You probably don't need a car the entire time you are at Waikiki, but do rent one for a day at least so you can tour the island. There are a lot of places to see outside of Waikiki.
- Island Air was fabulous! I paid $29 per person, per flight to get between the islands. Totally the way to go!
- Maui was lovely! However, I got the impression that while on Maui, your resort was your destination, not the island. For people who love the resort life, and golf, Maui is perfect!!!
- Oahu just seemed more... "Hawaiian" if that makes sense. Lahaina was great, and the small towns along the south shores were fun, too.
- Will we go back to Hawaii? Absolutely! We had planned on driving the Road to Hana on Maui, but opted for a beach day instead... good choice for us with the kids. When we go back, I think we'd spend a few days on the North Shore, a few days on Maui to drive to Hana, and snorkel Molokini, then spend a few days on Kauai and/or Molokai.
- We have become avid snorkelers! Our next trip is an Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Caribbean Princess in April. We'll visit St. Thomas, St. Maarten and the Bahamas. You can bet we'll be bringing our snorkeling gear!