HAWAII – 5-0
I have just returned from my family (of five) getaway to Hawaii! I love Hawaii – one of my favourite destinations in the world, Hawaii makes me HAPPY, I have no idea why it gives me the warm fuzz that it does – it was still there – I love this place~!
This time I was with my hubby and kids! Yes – no luxury on this trip – I was MUM – it was all of us the family trip to Hawaii! The airport always makes me giggle when I arrive – still exactly the same as when the Brady Bunch arrived for their Hawaiian Adventure! LOL…
I chose the Aston Waikiki Banyan for the accommodation, as it was one of only three places that was reasonably priced that we could all be in together! It is located on the South end of the city of Waikiki – near the zoo and the Aston Sunset Towers. We had a beautiful ocean view and looked directly into Diamond Head – the view was amazing! A little too high for me to be honest – we were on the 33rd floor of 37!! WOW! It was high!
My kids are 13 through to eight and I did not want us to be shared across two rooms – even as a Travel Agent – there are no guarantees that you will be next door to each other. At the Banyan – we had an Ocean View one bedroom suite- this was great for me! Two Queen Beds in the main bedroom, one double sofa bed in the lounge room, one bath room. A full working kitchen – cupboards, kitchen, oven, kettle – all full of cutlery – was so clean and a really good size. Every morning – we could easily fit along the bench to have our breakfast and I could make lunch and pack snacks for the days adventure~ Easy and convenient!
The Banyan is all about families – I would rate it a three star property at the most – in Australian Standards – it is given a 4 star rating in the brochure though. It is very clean – but the property is getting old – most standard properties are dated in Hawaii – so this is a general feel at the standard properties – if you want luxury you pay triple the price! It is HAWAII after all – people pay this!
The Banyan has a large swimming pool and two spas on the ground floor – there are BBQ and tables and chair permanently around the deck – there is a canteen for easy pool side snacks and there is also a coffee shop off the reception area for the descent cappuccino’s and lattes in the morning so you are not subject to the American peculated coffee!! YUK!!!!
The reception is 24 hours and the tour desk is very helpful and friendly! A very good family friendly hotel – if you didn’t have a family – I would not recommend this place – as the pool can get a little crowded with kids and mums n dads like me!! Ha ha ! There is a resort fee of $18 USD per room per day – this gives you access to the free WIFI – newspaper each day and the Play Station 3 console in your room and the DVD hire 24/7 on level five. All inclusive! We used all the facilities every day at the Banyan – definitely worth staying here for us – good value for money! Definitely not a four star property, so keep this in mind! I thought was similar to the Paradise Resort Surfers Paradise!
Pearl Harbour – Great place to visit. My children had very little knowledge of the history of Pearl Harbour – We discussed it with them based on our very limited knowledge – they knew what it was about – they were more than impressed! I do recommend pre booking this tour as if you turn up on the day – you will most definitely be turned away. This is mainly because of the pre purchase system that the Tour Guides have over there – everyone is on a half day or full day tour – so the random chance that there are no coach loads of tourists on the given day of your choice would be a miracle. It is not more expensive to pre purchase tickets to the Arizona Memorial and Submarine Tours – just do it – will save you waiting in line to be turned away. Entry to Pearl Harbour is FREE – it is the Memorial and Submarine Tours that cost money! Great day – an insight into the attack on Pearl Harbour and gives you an insight into the Multi-Cultural Island of Hawaii and the future of the Armed Forces – the positioning of the Navy and Marine base in the USA and how important they are in today’s wars.
Diamond Head WALK – Look OUT!
Get your joggers on and head to the mountains! This walk is awesome! Very commercial – just be aware of this, and don’t take offense to the tours that you will encounter on the way up! I would recommend catching a cab $15 USD TOTAL – from down town Waikiki into the crater itself! You will be told that you can catch the city bus to Diamond Head – this is true – however the buses stop at the Gate of the National Park, therefore you still have another four kilometres to walk until you check in! You will be stuffed before you have even started! It is a very uneven track, very narrow – you will need a water bottle each and sunscreen and a hat that is for sure! There is no shade what so ever! The tunnels at the near top are amazing – this is where the soldiers would sit and hide and launch fire to any threats! Crazy view from the top – just so worth it! Takes approx. two hours – we asked our taxi to meet us at the entrance to the car park and when we returned after a good 15 minute rest to eat our shaved ice he was there – like clockwork!
Star of Honolulu – Lunch Cruise
This was well worth is. We flew over to Hawaii so we got to see Hawaii from the Ocean and looking back on to the beautiful beaches and coastal roads was beautiful. This is a commercial experience – it is all about the Whale Watching. Whale watching Season in still on until end of May – however we didn’t see any whales. If you are unsuccessful in seeing whales they will give you an additional 12 months to re visit them and get another cruise to hopefully see some whales – the buffet lunch is not free – but still a very lovely gesture for you to come back if you can! We had the pleasure of being sang traditional Hawaiian songs and ate a very traditional Hawaiian Island buffet three course lunch on board. The Star of Honolulu is a daily cruise that takes approx. 2.5 hours to travel from Pier 8 – near the Clock tower – all the way to South Waikiki and back again. The kids and adults can get entertained by Traditional dancers, lay making classes and Ukilalilie lessons! The cruise is lots of fun, entertaining a great chance to cruise the coast line and look back at the beautiful Island landscape.. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the kids had a great time too! (They were not fussed on the traditional food I’ll be honest!)…we stopped into Maccas on the way back in to the city! Ha!
Ala Moana Shopping Centre
This is a great place to shop and look around – if you like Tiffany & Co – COACH, PRADA, Kate Spade, H & M, Macy’s… well look NO MORE! This out -door – in door mix of the everyday Hawaiian shops and food courts – is a melting pot for the rich and famous! The security is very present throughout the levels. The levels are endless – it is a very well spread out shopping area – centre if you would call it. The top level has dozens of restaurants and bars so if you or your hubby have had enough – head to the top to have a drink – rest your feet – fuel up and then keep going – or go home! Shops are open late every day – retail stores always seem to be open in Hawaii – the poor retia; workers do work long hours – as we the tourist make the most of our days – we seem to head to the shop late afternoon as to not miss a minute of the great day on or around the ocean – shops will still be open till late. Please check the opening hours with your tour desk as different dates and events hours do vary – some night open till 10pm – or even 11pm at night. Most nights, (9–9:30pm!) Great for us! When we were there – we were paying about 30% more for the US dollar – just nudging in to the high 70’s – so add 30% on the price tag – then don’t forget 10% tax!! All price tags DO NOT Include the VAT tax – so don’t get shocked when it’s more at the check -out!! TAX! A little tip – when shopping at Macy’s don’t forget to tell them you are VACATION from AUSTRALIA and they throw in an additional 10% off the price – even if the item is already on sale! BONUS!!! Works every time! This is only applicable in Macy’s! The other stores may just not really care!
This Bay is south west of Waikiki – a beautiful magic bay – I am so glad that we were recommended to visit this place. I knew of the bay – and our cousins who we met up with on holiday wanted to visit the Bay – so we all did it together. The weather was crappy on this day – it was raining and a bit cool – but this made the water really warm and comfortable. My cousin Tara and I had a great time with the kids as we saw lots of beautiful coloured fish and the tide was getting very low so the details in the coral were amazing. I do recommend visiting this Bay. There is a trolley up and down the hill all day long for a gold coin donation if you don’t like to walk hills or are just tired – there is a canteen at the top of the National Park entry that sells hot fried food – so if you are planning a day there – I would recommend taking your own fresh food and drinks in an esky or day bag – as the fried food options of American hot dogs, bad coffee and French fries is about all you will get out here at Hanauma Bay.
Hanauma Bay sees on average 3,000 visitors a day, or around one million visitors per year. The vast majority are tourists, but locals love this beach as well. The bay is closed to the public every Tuesday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day to allow the fish a day of feeding without interruption.
I would recommend if travelling with a family – call a taxi and arrange a price to go out there and back. We did – our taxi was $40 USD each way – for the five of us – well worth it. The National Park is $7.50 USD per person to access the marine park all day – you can come and go as you please. You all must watch the coral reef video ten mins and guide lines of visiting a natural existing coral reef – in this video you are advised of how to snorkel and swim within the coral reef and the marine life – to have respect for it to keep it alive.
This bay is gorgeous – to be honest it was really hard to watch the tourists with no respect to the coral – walk all over it – take selfies on top of the coral at low tide and think nothing of it. This is a natural coral reef – one that will not be around for much longer I can only assume, as ignorant tourists kill it off slowly. The Volunteers do try hard to keep the tourists informed that they can’t touch and walk on the reef – but it really seems like a useless warning. They are ignored!
Formed within a volcanic cone, today Hanauma Bay offers a pristine marine ecosystem after the City and County of Honolulu laid out a plan in 1990 to restore the “curved bay,” after years of neglect and abuse from the millions of visitors who visit and love to snorkel Hanauma Bay. Part of this plan requires first-time visitors to watch a video before entering the park so they can learn about the marine life, preservation, conservation, and safety rules for the park. All visitors are required by law to refrain from mistreating the marine animals and from touching or walking on the coral heads.
Waikele Shopping Outlets – Waikele
In 2013 – this was the place to be~~ Unfortunately with our current AUD – against the USD – I found that the shops were more expensive than our very own DFO and also I could get just as good or a little bit cheaper down town Waikiki and at the Ala Moana Shopping Centre! The local Transport companies are making a killing on the Asian Tourist market – as just to get out to the outlets they are charging per person $25.00 USD so for my family it worked out cheaper for us to get ourselves there when we had the hire car and keep the $100 USD to shop with. It is not far off the express way about 40 mins from down town hotels in Waikiki – we are so glad that we did this as to be honest we were in and out of there within an hour and a half.
The Converse Shop did have last season shoes at approx. $30 USD – but the new season shoes we still retailing for $59 USD for adult sizes, I did buy my younger kids Converse, VANs and ASICS shoes as they were slightly cheaper than home (maybe $10-$15 AUD)- my youngest is in a size US 4 – he got all his shoes for about $20-$30 USD per pair – so was happy with this! My eldest son – he waited till he got home as they didn’t have the shoe design he wanted and the price was no difference. Coach, Kate Spade, GUESS, and LEVIS they were not cheaper here and to be honest – I did not get the fashion at the moment! It was like they were all preparing for a Seinfeld Summer – yes – I’m talking Elaine’s famous paisley print dress and waist coat was parading in all the HIGH FASHION stores!! I’m being honest!! Not sure what that was all about! I bought ACTIVE WEAR – and MAC make up – I fell in love with MAC make up – I was a sucker for the make over every time you caught the girl’s attention – added service bonus! Buy make up – get a fresh new funky face!! PERFECT – got me every time! Ha! I recommend the MAC counter at Macy’s at the Ala Moana Shopping Centre – leave yourself a good hour and half so you can get a makeover at the same time!!
International Market Place
There is a lot of BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION around Waikiki as there is about five new resorts being built around the main beach and also Bloomingdales and Sax 5th Avenue are coming to town – right where the Market Place used to be! It is about 40% complete – still a lot of work to do – the locals are saying by JUNE it should be complete. The little stalls from the International Market place are still there – just about a dozen. They are situated in the alley way just next to Foot Locker – to the right of the California Pizza Kitchen – down stairs from the Holiday Inn – in the main street. To be honest I was never a fan of the Markets – it was fun to walk through – but every stall sells exactly the same thing – and they are all the same price – and they will not budge on price! It is a tradition – so a little is still there – I don’t think us tourists are missing out on anything at all. I can’t wait for Bloomingdales!!
WET’ N WILD
We ventured out to WET N WILD when we were staying in the North shore – the kids were killing us to be honest – we were told it was not that great – and that the Australian version (they we had been to only last Easter – in the Gold coast) was like eight times bigger! YES – this is true! It was cute – we went there on the first day back of the term – so there was like 200 people maximum there – this was good as no lines – but they alternated the rides all day – so you’d climb up to the top of the slide to read a sign saying open in one hour! YAY – Great exercise – it is about the size of Jamberoo Recreation Park – but to be honest it is very old and run down – and Jamberoo Recreation Park is so much better! It was a cheap half day out – all in all – it cost us $114 USD for the family. Catch was though – my pre packed lunches all had to go in the bin when they checked our bags – sorry folks – you can only eat our really bad fried food – fries and American Hot Dogs!! YUK!! Food was horrific! We made the most of it – we were done in about four hours – then headed back to the north shore – via the DOLE Plantation!
Food – Shops and Restaurants
- Cheese Cake Factory – food for the whole family, great free re fill ups on all soft drinks – so you and the kids can get crazy on the fizz together! Big meals – advice – order a starter and have it for main – or order one main and share! Kid’s meals are perfect size and variety! Don’t be shocked though – family of five average dinner is $150.00 USD without the tip!! Treat yourself, you must have dinner here! We didn’t order any cheese cakes – they look divine! We were too stuffed from dinner every night! Get there early as usual wait time is 45 mins to two hours! Go early – get your buzzer and go for a walk around town – then come back!
- California Pizza Kitchen. This is a great restaurant – next to Holiday Inn – near the little International Market place alley way. Great variety of pizzas – choose your own type of pizza! I love the Mexican pizza and the vegetable pizza! Great for kids, they have colouring in packs to keep them entertained! The Service is exceptional, they are looking for at least a 20% tip here!
- F.Changs – YUM!!! Best Chinese restaurant in town! Great variety – great atmosphere – Very Expensive!!! I love Chinese – again – get here early – pre book, get a buzzer and if you need to go for a walk around town and come back! Kids menu is very minimal – so make sure the kids like Chinese – no fries here folks! A pricey night out for dinner – looking at about $180-00 USD five dishes – two rice’s – drinks all round – no refills for free for the kids at this joint! We only went once – Cheesecake was more value for money for my family!
- BURGER KING – MCDONALD’S – they are in town – at either end of the strip! Price is approx. the same as ours – just take into account the dollar exchange, be specific about what you want on the sandwiches (burgers) as they do love to put extra sauces and pickles, onions than we would normally expect here in Australia. Good place to get your soft serve ice cream and small lunch and snack options all day long when you are over at the beach – keeps the price to a minimum!
- The Sky – Waikiki Roof top revolving Restaurant, lounge, and night club! This is a new joint in town! Looks amazing – I didn’t get a chance to visit – we looked up every day! The lines were long to get in here and I was very impressed! People raved about this night club and bar – I was MUM on this trip – so will be on the top of the list when I go back without the kids– for sure! You must call and make a reservation – they open up for reservations at 5pm every night.
- Cheeseburger Waikiki – another famous open aired restaurant – family friendly. Just on the main drag – up from the Big Kahuna! This is a very expensive burger and pancake joint. The meals are huge – on the day we arrived – the kids were feeling hungry and just a bit out of sorts as we had gone back in time for one day – and were not sure if we were hungry or not! So they chose pancakes each!! WOW!!!! The biggest serving of pancakes I have ever seen – nearly couldn’t see little Baxter’s face! LOL…. But they tasted terrible. I had a scrambled eggs – it was okay! But this little morning tea cost us $90 USD – so we nearly choked when I got the bill – we never went back! Families stay clear – don’t feel it is good value for money, well for us we should have just gone to Burger King – right next door!
- If you book into an apartment – I recommend walking down town to the PANTRY – the local Woollies – just behind the Ohana East – basically across the road – this is where we did our local week shop and stocked up the kitchen. ABC stores are fabulous too – don’t get me wrong, I always got the pre packed salads – chips and bits n bobs in the day here – but go and do the big shop when you get there – stock up on Kellogg’s, milk, snack bars – chocolate, biscuits, chips, orange juice, bread, beer and wine – pre packaged bottled water – save you heaps!
We picked up the car on Easter Sunday morning from down town Alamo Car depot! I am so happy that we had pre booked and I had the magical voucher to collect the car! The depot was packed! We got there about 9am – as the depot opened at 7am – it was Easter Sunday after all – but in Waikiki there was not a mention of Easter – let alone a chocolate Easter egg or Easter Bunny poster in sight! It was the last day of Spring Break – so most people were in bed – and those that weren’t were at the Alamo Car Collection – this I know for sure! I had my Travel Bug Wallet in hand – there would have been at least six families in the snake line in front of us – so much for us thinking we were early and up – get out on the road as early as possible! I looked at my husband and said to the eldest child – go in to the waiting area and get yourselves comfortable we are going to be a couple of hours.
In a few minutes – a lovely Alamo Assistant saw me – got my eye and said – Pre PAID – Me – Oh YES!! Pre- paid – just wanting to collect YAY! Magically we were at the front of the line – checking our documentation and then shown our car – Just gave the assistant our credit card as a bond – they froze about $145 USD while we had the car just as security – since has been reversed!
Just love that we can pre pay our vehicles in Australia with Travel Agents and have completed contract signed and ready to go – at a fully inclusive rate – no extra or hidden charges on pick up – $0.00 Excess – road side assistance! GPS – already programmed – good to go!! We got a DODGE CARAVAN seven seater – we loved this car – I would love one, just saying! I have never seen such excited kids – leather seats – reclining chair and room to move –still smelt brand new, 25,000 kms on the clock! GPS – the opposite side of the road and the car was something that took a few hours to adjust too – but then we just rolled with it, every now and then I would grab the front of the glove box thinking we were going to die driving straight in to on-coming traffic!! Ha! All good – my husband enjoyed it – don’t get me wrong we had to always be concentrating on the GPS and the direction of the traffic – our eldest son was always saying as we approached an intersection – far right dad, go right! This did help! I had a little play around the car park of WET N WILD – that was all I was up for, I was not keen to tackle the 12 lane highways up to the North Shore – this was my hubby’s job! He did a great job at that! The car would eventually be dropped back at the Alamo car lot on the outskirts of the airport – we were met by the Alamo team – they charged us for the tank of petrol and we were then shuttled back to the terminal for our flight home. Easy process – strongly recommend pre purchasing – this saves time, hassle, money and lines – all done good to go!
DOLE PLANTATION – PINEAPPLES – YES MILLIONS OF PINEAPPLES
(On the Way to the North Shore) – approx. one hour from Waikiki – you can book this as a day trip from Waikiki if you do not have a car) **
We were told by a lovely assistant in the Converse Shop on our travel to the North Shore that we must stop when we see the DOLE PLANTATION signs – so about 45 minutes from Waikele outlets we started to see the Pineapple SIGNS! So off we went! It was a random stop – the car park was full of Tour Buses and we could see all of the Korean Tours that were visiting the park. We parked our rental car and went right in. It was pretty cool – we had never been to a DOLE PLANTATION before, the kid’s ran to the big signs saying THE WORLD’S BIGGEST MAZE – we paid for them to have a go – and about 50 minutes later – they surfaced! We looked into the world of Hawaiian Pineapple farms and learnt so much! I would recommend that regardless if you have children or not – check it out – we had fun!! It was one of the kid’s highlights of the holiday to be honest – they got to be kids and run off some energy on a beautiful sunny day – finished off by the biggest pineapple slushy in the world! Very cool in deed! Go the Pineapple Dole Plantation!
For a fun day out in the Hawaiian countryside, discover Oahu’s pineapple heritage at the Dole Plantation. What started out as a fruit stand in the middle of the pineapple fields in 1950 is now an extremely popular Hawaiian attraction.
The Dole pineapple empire was founded more than a century ago by the Pineapple King, James Dole. Visit his original pineapple plantation to tour the living museum housed in a traditional plantation home. Exhibits trace the history of Dole and his pineapple industry, but there’s far more than history to be found here.
Get lost amongst Hawaiian plants in the world’s largest maze, ride the Pineapple Express train through the fruit fields, take a garden tour of the hibiscus, bromeliads and other tropical flowers, and dine on island cuisine at the Plantation.
THE NORTH SHORE
The North Shore is seriously only an hour – to an hour and half away from Waikiki, The highways – are six lanes either way – yes that is right – 12 lanes of free way to the North Shore! Traffic in Hawaii grows every year – it does seem to get worse – but then this goes without saying – there are more tourist going to Hawaii every year – and the US Military are using this as their preferred rehabilitation location for all of the current serving soldiers and amputees due to the perfect climate and Island way of life.
Us Australians, don’t blink an eyelid at travelling, two-three hours just to get to an event – it is the norm. The locals think we are off on an expedition, some of them sound like they have never been there themselves! So we were off to the North Shore!
WOW – I can’t recommend enough – that when visiting Hawaii – if you can spare some time – please go to the North Shore. You can access the North even without hiring a car – you can chose one of many day trips from Waikiki – you can go to Turtle Beach – the Polynesian Cultural Centre – ZIP LINE – this is all in the North!
We stayed in the North Shore in a very new hotel – only seven months Old – The Marriott North shore in the little town of Laie. This is seriously hour 30 mins from Waikiki. We made friends with three Australian families – they had decided to base themselves up here and see Hawaii by travelling from the North Shore on a daily basis. This saved them thousands in the cost of accommodation. This type of Holiday planning – is time consuming but saves you money. I would strongly recommend if going to the North to stay here – if you have a family. If there is a couple of you – or maybe just four – then I would recommend Turtle Bay – WOW! This Resort is amazing! Absolute beach front – luxury and on two golf courses – This is my kind of hotel!! Unfortunately as there are five of us – we opted to save the money and stay at the Marriott as we needed two rooms here!! Very pricey!
Public has access to Turtle Beach – next door to the hotel complex – open all day long – there are canteens either side of the beach huts where you can buy food and booze and sit on the beach and relax – local Turtles are famous for popping by, on the days we were there – a large Ocean Seal was in sun baking as due to the huge swells it needed a good rest!
Accommodation in Hawaii – Waikiki is approx. $400-$800 room per night. In the North you can get the Marriott for about $280-$300 a night – for a family room, so the saving is a large one! I am glad we stayed in the North when we focused on touring the north – getting up at the crack of dawn and travelling for hours was not the type of holiday we were after – but if you are keen and want to travel on a budget – recommend this as an option for sure!
The Marriott is located on the grounds next to that of the Polynesian Cultural Centre – North Shore – so if you are planning on visiting this centre – and taking the trip from Waikiki there is at least an hour an half travel time each way on the coach. Every day at midday this centre fills up with thousands of International tourists. The centre is home to the Traditions of the Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian, Fijian, Tongan, Marquesas, and Aotearoa. The Polynesian Cultural Centre is an expensive day out for the family. We had a look around here as our hotel was next to the centre – but to be honest I am glad we didn’t spend the $795.00 USD to attend the park for five hours and go around the theme park – with the exchange rate, nearly one thousand dollars!
Breakfast was not included in the rate with this hotel – however this is because they have a Star Bucks coffee shop in the foyer – check in. It was a lovely option for us to have breakfast the way we wanted too – grab a fresh piece of fruit – and a decent coffee, as American Coffee is YUK! Next door to the Marriott is McDonald’s (we never went there though to be honest) – and food land – this is like a little Woollies – has everything there – but No Alcohol in a five mile radius in the north – it is a religious thing. You can drive a good 10 minutes into the next town and there is a bottle- o there next to Domino’s! Thank the Lord! No night life in the North Shore – the locals all get up at 4am to Surf!! CRAZY!!
Waimea Bay/ Pipe Line/ Sunset Beach
This coast line is magnificent! The Power of the Ocean – the waves and the shore line is something that you just can’t not describe in words! It has to be seen to be believed! I am so thankful that we got the opportunity to take our kids here at the ages they are – they were so impressed with this part of Hawaii. It is commercial to a certain extent – I mean after all it is PIPELINE and we are AUSTRALIAN’S.
When we arrived the ocean was really calm, and we were lucky enough that for the first three days we could go for a surf and muck around in the ocean and Waimea Bay before the big swell came! As by day four – the massive oceans arrived and all the beaches were closed to the General Public the local surfers were all geared up with their life vests and flippers, so we had plenty of entertainment watching them bless themselves before they entered the shore line! WOW – I still will never fully comprehend how the massive waves of the North Shore do not cause Tsunamis, houses are metres away from the 30 ft. waves – but yet – they break – sounds of thunder roll in and then the white wash settles calmly at the foot of steps of the Sunset Primary School as the little kids learn English and maths! Crazy!!
Hawaii makes me Happy! I believe you will never regret booking a holiday to Hawaii – the only regret is it will never be a long enough stay!