Part 1 covers our trip there + the first couple of days. Click the link below for the full story!
I made our reservations through Travelocity. If I'd wanted a specific airline or a cheaper hotel I might have chosen another option, but this was the easiest way to get a packaged deal for us.
We flew out super early on Monday morning. I learned from our fiasco of 2 years ago and got us a reservation at a nearby Parking Spot location. We've used them before and the experience was decent, so I don't mind recommending them (with the caveat that there was a little snafu with the reservation fees, but the manager of our location kindly cleared that up for us).
We actually had to fly out to Atlanta before catching a connecting flight to the islands (because we flew Delta), but it wasn't so bad. The plane we were on was pretty new. Everyone had little screens right in front of them on the back of the headrest part of the seats in front. That way everyone got to pick their own movie or TV show or game -- all we had to do was plug in headphones. The movie options were mostly fairly new releases. I watched The Great Gatsby and Monsters University and part of Tangled. The flight would apparently have normally had WiFi, but not this time for some reason.
The first thing we had to do once on the island was pick up our rental from Hertz (we chose them because they had the best deal for USAA members). We got a soft top Jeep Wrangler. It took us a while to figure out how to get the top down and put away because the instruction manual was just not very helpful, but once we managed it we were pretty darn pleased with ourselves.
We stayed at the Waikiki Marriott which was OMG freaking beautiful y'all. We were literally right across the street from the beach. Our room wasn't super huge but it was big enough, with a nice little TV and lovely lighting and the most comfiest bed ever. There was a little city view balcony, too, which was lovely.
That first night was just all about relaxation and recovering from the flight. We went for a walk along Kalakaua (the main shopping strip along the Waikiki beachfront) and had dinner and drinks at Duke's and then passed out pretty early in the evening.
Our first "real" day on Oahu was dedicated to a jaunt up to the North Shore by way of Mililani, the town where Gary spent his high school years. We stopped to shop and eat and see Gary's old school and the house that his family used to live in. It was bittersweet for him. A lot has changed in the 12 years he's been away.
We intended to go to Waimea Bay, but we dawdled around to much in Mililani and couldn't find any parking for that particular beach. We ended up at Pipeline/Ehukai instead, which was nearly deserted. This beach's slope is pretty steep and the undercurrent is strong even on its calmest days; it's actually pretty famous among surfers for amazing (and dangerous) waves. We played in the surf for a bit and sprawled out in the sun and later we watched the little kids being let out of the elementary school across the street as they basically just skipped down to the beach for the shave ice truck and some swim time before dinner.
Dinner for us was at Tiki's, and it was amazing. I had a calamari steak, which I didn't even know was an actual thing up until that point. There was some decent live music, too. We ended the night back at the hotel bar with more live music and drinks.
Our plan for Wednesday was to head down to Hanauma Bay, but we got there way too late. Neither one of us seriously believe the guidebooks' suggestions to get there early before the parking lot filled up. Too bad! We ended up taking the scenic route around the island, and in this case "scenic route" is not a sarcastic euphemism for the dumb long way 'round. We stopped for lots of photos, of course.
Of course we had to make a stop at Matsumoto's in Haleiwa for shave ice. I had some kind of rainbow flavor with ice cream and azuki. It was every bit as tasty as I'd been promised.
At some point we had lunch at Mililani Restaurant, but I can't for the life of me remember if that was before or after the shave ice. It was a great little "Chinese" (Americanized/Hawaiianized East Asian) place. The atmosphere is maybe not that impressive but there were lots of people in an out, picking up lunches... you could tell it was a popular place with the locals. And for good reason. The food was delicious and the portions HUGE. The funniest thing to me was the inclusion of macaroni salad with every entrée. Apparently that's pretty common on the islands?
We ended up at Waimea Bay and this time we found parking. It was a tiny bit of a hike to get to the beach but it was so, so worth the wait. There was hardly anyone around at the water was just so clear and calm and cool... it was hard to believe that sometimes in the winter (surfing season in Hawaii) the waves here can get to be 20+ feet, even splashing up to the parking lot high above. Gary and I floated around lazily, watching the small school of silver fish doing the same just feet below us in the crystalline water.
Later we drove up to Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau, the remains of a major indigenous Hawaiian temple. Gary was particularly excited to show me a path that he fondly remembered that led from the temple through some brush out to a cliff's edge, where we had a spectacular view of Waimea below.
Dinner was at Cheeseburger in Paradise, which was... just... not that great. I mean, the food was OK. Our server was rather inattentive. The whole ambiance was just really cheesy, like some kind of Rainforest Café but ocean-themed and for grown-ups.
That mediocre experience didn't ruin the night, though. We had a lovely little moment on the beach that night.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!