8 nights in Waikiki

Trip Start Dec 10, 2009
Trip End Dec 25, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We arrived at Honolulu airport after an 8 hour flight from Seoul, Korea. Because it was below zero when we left Korea, we were rugged up big time and ended up stripping off as we hopped out of the plane in Honolulu. I'm sure that must of been quite a funny sight. Anyway, we didn't pre-book transfers to our hotel in Waikiki but asked the info desk on the best option - they pointed us in the direction of a bus that only cost $15 for a return trip. Great! A quick tip - there was only one currency exchange at the airport that we could see and the rate we got was terrible compared to in town.

After a short trip, we arrived at Aqua Waikiki Wave. We couldn't check into our room (as we were a few hours early) so left our bags and went for a walk to get some lunch etc. The hotel is in a fantastic spot. The international marketplace is beside/behind the hotel so pretty much as soon as you walk out of the lobby, you are amongst market stalls. Lots of towels, t-shirts and hawaiian themed things (of course). There are a tonne of bags and suitcases with pretty hawaiian prints at reasonable prices. Before we left, we needed to buy another suitcase and a carry-on bag each, so we set out to get them. We found the best value place to be a small little store beside the McDonalds (5 minute walk left as you walk out the hotel lobby) the owner was really friendly, you don't need to bargain and the price was as cheap as we could bargain anyone else down to. A large suitcase cost me $55US and the expandable carry-on bag $16US. My Mum bargained for her set and paid $60 for the suitcase and $16 for the carry-on bag.

Our hotel was nice and roomy with 2 big comfy beds. We had a lovely balcony with a slight ocean view, views of the mountains and looking down onto the stalls beside the hotel. We had a flat-screen TV and free internet in the room that I used to jump on facebook and email friends. There was also a microwave, bar fridge and coffee maker. The bathroom was a bit small and a bit old looking but did the job perfectly ok. Everything was within walking distance of the hotel which was great.

After we checked in we unpacked then headed down to catch a trolley to the Ala Moana Shopping centre because I couldn't wait to shop in Victoria's Secret. Because we don't have it in Australia and can't get our hands on most of the products, I was so excited - not to mention that it was Christmas so they had all their gift sets out!! The trolley costs $2 each way BUT there is also a free trolley if you don't mind going for a short out-of-the-way trip to Hilo Hattie. We took the free trolley and went to the Hilo Hattie store where they sell all hawaiian souvenirs, an abundance of t-shirts and apparel and pretty much anything you can think of. We picked up a nice embroidered cotton tote bag for $10. Everything else though was more expensive that what you'd pay in Waikiki. After the mandatory Hilo Hattie stop, the trolley dropped us off at Ala Moana. It is a massive shopping centre, flooded with natural light from the sun. It's pretty easy to navigate, just remember where the trolley came in from!

A tip for the trolleys.... at night, the line at the trolley stop at the front of Ala Moana is massive so you will have to wait for 4 or 5 before you will get on one. If you take the $2 trolley from Waikiki you will notice you get dropped off at the back of the shopping centre, near Nordstrom. You can get on at this stop, which then travels to the front of the centre, but since you'll already have your seat - you won't have to worry! We wish we'd known this earlier as we only realised on our last trip to the centre (we went about 4 times).

At Ala Moana there is everything you can imagine, depending on your tastes. For me, the big draw card was (as mentioned) Victoria's Secret but I also had a great time in Sephora, Macys, Guess and Juicy Couture. If you are from Australia, you will find that just about everything is around 50% the price of at home. For example: I purchased a Juicy Couture bag for $160US (on sale from $199) which retails in Australia for just under $500. You do the math!! Fragrances are also a lot cheaper; Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy 100ml EDP gift set with Body Lotion and Shower Gel was $90US (the 100ml bottle alone retails in Aus for $135). More great finds; A gorgeous Black Guess bag from the Guess store was $37US (on sale), Lancome Juicy Tubes gift set (8x7ml) for $39 in Sephora (1 x 15ml in Aus is over $40), Idole de Armani gift set in Macys for $65US and pretty much every cosmetics brand you can even think of - around half the price of in Australia. It is a shoppers heaven! So forgetting about my love of beauty stuff, cosmetics and handbags.... my Mum purchased 2 Mickey and Minnie Mouse "Hawaii" toys from the Disney store for $10 each. They're about 30cm tall sitting and a great souvenir! We also found some pretty watches in Sears for $10 each. I literally could go on and on about the incredible prices and things you can buy there but I'm sure you want to know more than just shopping details! Oh - and one last thing, Sephora has some great box sets you can buy - My favourite was the Mascara Sampler for $39. It contained 10 high end brand mascara samples like Benefit, Korres, Cargo, Laura Mercier, Smashbox, Tarte etc. (around half retail size) that you can try out and pick your faves from. I love all of them and 6 months on and not a single one has run out yet!

Ok, moving on from shopping... like I have mentioned, the trolley stop at the front of the centre gets busy and I think we waited for about 40 minutes before we could get on one... and even then, we were standing, with a tonne of shopping bags... not a lot of fun. After I had shopped myself silly, it was time for bed.

We didn't set our alarm the next morning as we didn't have anything planned and we though we could do with a sleep in. My Mum and I both had to do a double take at the clock when we woke up and saw 11:58am. We had slept in until midday. For me, it wasn't that bigger shock as I easily sleep in till 10 or so on the weekend but for my Mum, who never wakes up later than about 8:30, it was a huge shock. Anyway, we decided to go down to Perry's Smorgy for lunch. (turn right from the hotel, 5 mins walk) Buffet lunch was only $10US with tax and included drinks and desserts. The type of things we had were crumbed fish, chips, lasagne, fried rice, mashed potato and vegetables, garlic bread, fried chicken and bbq glazed chicken. There was also a carving station. The drinks were great because there is powerade on tap. Because I don't drink soft drink, whenever I go to a buffet or anything I always only have water so I was so glad to get something this time and boy, was that powerade good on a hot day! Tea and coffee were also there. The desserts area was pretty small, just little plates of pre-done desserts... coconut cake and cookies were what I had but there was also jelly, chocolate mousse, soft serve ice-cream and other cake-type things. It's all an open plan seating area, you just pick where you want to sit and we chose to sit near the little pond. It was very nice and so cheap for what we had... I know a lot of people say it's terrible because I researched it before we travelled but they are obviously people who dine in expensive restaurants because there was absolutely nothing wrong with the place! The food was hot, all cooked well and there was a good selection.. and the prices amazingly cheap. We went to Perry's Smorgy at least once for breakfast, lunch and dinner and every time there was different dishes and always plenty we liked. Breakfast was US$8, Lunch $10 and Dinner $13.

While we were at Perry's Smorgy, we decided to drop into the grocery store just next door. Again, I saw that people complained about the prices there but nothing really shocked me (except the price of Milk...it was about $8 for 2.5 litres!!! OMG) but lots of snacks and drinks to put in your mini fridge and CHEAP alcohol. We bought a bottle of pre-mixed Pina Colada (700ml) for around US$7. Funnily enough we couldn't finish it because it was so strong. There's also a payless shoes just before you get back to the hotel with really cheap shoes and bags, and a great little gem of a clothes store with just about everything under $10. Funky tops, dresses and shorts - lots of club-style clothes.

After dropping our groceries back at the room we headed for our first look at Waikiki Beach. We strolled around and went for a good look through International Marketplace where we found a great store called MAGNETZ which sold mainly, you guessed it, magnets. All shapes and sizes but usually 4 for $10. We got a tonne to give away when we got back. They also had fashionable sunnies for $5. You will notice in Waikiki an ABC store every few 100 metres. They are literally everywhere! People complain about them a lot but they were really convenient. We always ducked in for a cold drink (Try the pink lemonade! It's non-fizzy and so yummy! I wish we had it in Australia!) and some of their souvenirs are actually cheaper than other shops.

A tip if you're buying chocolate macadamias... I purchased a 3-box-pack (3 boxes of 24) for about $5 and I have to admit, I didn't think they would be that great for that price. Man was I wrong. When I got home and gave them out, everyone said they were beautiful. My work colleages even went as far as to say they were the nicest chocolates they had ever eaten!!!! I tried some too and they really were delicious chocolates so definately make sure you pick up a few boxes - everyone at home will thank you!!

We headed down to pick up our "GO HAWAII" card (great value!) from the designated place (it was an easy to find hotel along the beachfront) before heading off on the trolley, back to Ala Moana for more shopping.

The next morning we did our first activity on the Go Oahu card; The City and Pearl Harbour Tour. We got picked up and taken to the site where we had to wait for a couple of hours for our boat ride to the actual memorial but there is a museum there to stroll around. Because we had our Go card, we could also get the audio tour free so we used that and it really did give us a great insight to everything that happened on the day and days after the attack. We eventually got on the boat and went out to the memorial. It is quite extraordinary and very sombre on the memorial and very quiet. I think it just hits you and sinks in that so many people lost their lives right there at that place and that at one time, there were ships and planes everywhere surrounding this little white box-like memorial. It is fascinating and something that was really an amazing experience to have done.


We then headed off to see the sights of the city with a stop at the famous King Kamehameha statue and a drive around the cemetery. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our hotel room before we used our Go Card again that night, this time for Germaine's Luau. We were picked up early but because of traffic jams, didn't really get to see the sun go down which was dissappointing but oh well. The show was really entertaining, lots of variation and good intermission breaks. We got 3 drink vouchers each so both tried a Blue Hawaii. Boy oh boy, it might not sound like 3 drinks is a lot but these people don't make weak drinks. All of my drinks were really, really strong. I had a Mai Tai, Screwdriver and 2 Blue Hawaii's (stole one of my Mum's vouchers!) Before the show started you could watch the "ritual" of burying the meat. I can't remember the specifics, but it is cooked underground and served later in the buffet. The buffet dinner that was included was good but did take a long time to get. We had bread rolls, fried chicken and salads with the traditionally cooked meat which was oh-so tender and juicy. Their method really worked a treat. We also had coconut cake for dessert that was yummy. During the show there are a number of audience participation segments, but it's just a "go up if you want to" none of that someone coming and dragging you up (thank goodness!) they also had a lucky door prize which was cool. Again, you didn't have to go up on stage or anything so you don't have to hope you DON'T win. After the show the performers posed for photos before we headed home. It was a fun night and something different. I have read a lot of negative reviews about it not being authentic and what not but hey, I don't really know what's authentic so I had a great time. The knife performer was amazing and also the segment where the girls twirl these glowing things in the dark.

Our next day was using the Go card again. This time we were going on the Grand Circle Island tour. Our first stop was Hanauma Bay which was gorgeous (even more gorgeous when you actually go snorkelling... read about that later on) but the scenic drive all along the coast was spectacular. There were a lot of stops at shops, which was a bit irritating, but you know, I guess that's how they get their business. There was a jewellery store, a macadamia nut farm and the lunch stop; Coral Kingdom. We had burger and chips with a drink for about $10 each if I remember correctly. It was then onto a lookout for a view out to sea. We stopped at a gorgeous beach for a few minutes for some photos and drove past the famous beach where international surfing comps are held (there was actually one held there just a couple of weeks earlier with massive waves!). We then passed through beachside towns and a beach where turtles lay up on the sand to the Dole Plantation. Unfortunately the tour doesn't give you long there; about 45 minutes.. just long enough to buy some of the "must try" pineapple ice-cream which is pretty much as far as I could tell just pineapple sorbet? It was nice but I don't get what the big fuss was over. Because we had the Go Card, we could have gone on the train ride there but we didn't have time so that was pretty dissappointing but we went for a stroll around the gardens. We headed back to Waikiki finishing our big day trip around the whole island and arrived back just in time to go and see the sunset from the beach. It was beautiful and unlike any sunset I'd ever seen... it literally looked like the sun had fallen off the side of the world. Amazing. We headed to Perry's Smorgy for dinner. This time they had really delicious ribs added to the menu. YUM!

The next day, after a bit of a sleep in, we headed back down to Ala Moana. Today was the day I actually bought a tonne of stuff. We had lunch at Bubba Gump which was pretty good. The meal (we had burgers) was OK but nothing special, probably not as good as some of the one's I've had in Brisbane, but the service made up for it. Jess was our waiter and she was lovely (she even snapped a photo for us). We wandered around in Waikiki for the rest of the day, picking up souvenirs and snapping photos. We ended up getting Subway (across the street from our hotel) for dinner. They had a dinner deal of 3 footlong subs for $10. So cheap compared to at home where 1 footlong is $8 or $9. Massive drinks (they had pink lemonade!) were only around $2 each too.

The following morning we hopped on a trolley up to Sea Life Park (included on our Go Card). It was raining and freezing but cleared up by time we got to the park. I had never really heard much about Sea Life park but it was worth the visit. There was a great animal show and lots of animals to see including some very cute seals and penguins. We came back into Waikiki and once again, wandered around looking in the shops etc. I decided to try out a "Hawaiian Dazzler" from Haagen-Dazs. I had seen it in one of the touristy coupon books and had a discount voucher so decided i'd try it. One word: YUM! :-)

Our second last day in Waikiki was my favourite. Today we used our Go Card again and did a Hanauma Bay snorkelling trip. I have only snorkelled once since I was about 7 years old, and that time was on the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns. When I went snorkelling in Cairns they told me "you'll see this and you'll see that" and I saw hardly anything so when I was told I'd see all these things at Hanauma Bay I thought "yeah right" but they didn't lie. Of every fish/creature they had a picture of on their "to see" list, I saw just about all of them. It was an AMAZING experience and definately the most enjoyable thing I did in Hawaii. My Mum isn't a water person so only waded in the shallows a little bit but I went out right to the edge of the snorkelling zone, all along and snorkelled for about 2 hours alone. It honestly seemed like about 10 minutes. It was fascinating and beautiful and I would reccommend that if you only do 1 thing when you go to Honolulu, this is it. By time we got back to Waikiki it was around 3pm so we thought we could quickly use our Go Card one last time and go to Honolulu Zoo. It was beautiful and quiet and I was amazed to find nearly every animal was up and moving about... I've often been to zoo's where the animals are just sleeping! The Hippo's were swimming right up against the glass, the giraffes were eating trees right near the fence and the Rhino's were bathing in the water right on the fenceline to their home! It is a lovely zoo and it was a beautiful time of day to visit, they also had a really nice and well priced gift shop there, with (I think) profits going back into the zoo. Definately worth a visit. We walked back to the hotel from the zoo and headed out for dinner at Perry's Smorgy (again).

Our last day in Waikiki... we went to Perry's Smorgy for breakfast... all the usuals; scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, muffins and then other things I've never had for breakfast, like cinnamon buns! It was pretty yummy, but I'm sure the ones at Cinnabon would have been better (I never did try one...). We then went for a walk around Waikiki and I went into the Macy's there for the first time. It's a little shop but they had some great stuff in there. I purchased my best friends Guess rings, beautifully gift boxed for a steal! Also a clinique superbalm was only US$13! At lunch time we headed off to Ala Moana for the last time. Famous fighter BJ Penn (I had no idea who he even was until I googled him) was at the centre for an autograph signing so it was packed, but the shops were actually pretty quiet. We actually ventured out of Ala Moana down to WalMart too. I had never been to a WalMart so wanted to see what it was like. It was about a 10 minute walk from Ala Moana (if you leave the back entrance of Nordstrom and see KFC across the road on the right you're going the right way!) WalMart is huge and we were so bummed we didn't go there sooner because they had ridiculously priced snacks, drinks and lollies/candy! I bought a tonne of stuff to bring home and share around. Something I found really interesting is that they have a massive range of sugar/fat free lollies. My Dad is diabetic so can only eat sugar and fat free and there was so many options compared to here where there's about 10 different things and thats it. I bought him some stuff that he wished he could get his hands on more of! I bought some big bags of Hershey Kisses to bring home for family and friends too (I found the best price for these was actually at Longs Drugs in Ala Moana).

Theres also a Walgreens there that had some great stuff. We found amazing smelling coconut shampoo and conditioner (400ml each) for $1. Yes, really. Maybe it's a cheap brand in the US but being addicted to anything coconut scented, we bought it. We went back to Waikiki and went to Subway for our dinner and took it to the beach to watch the sun set for the last time. It was a beautiful end to our time in Waikiki.

Waikiki is, admittedly, aimed at tourists. You can't look anywhere without seeing a souvenir shop but it's not a big deal. It's a lovely relaxing and laid back place and watching the sun set over Waikiki Beach is just gorgeous. The shopping is great, but it is everywhere in the USA for us Aussies, but there are great things to be found at Ala Moana and throughout Waikiki. Hanauma Bay is a must-do and no trip to Honolulu would be complete without seeing Pearl Harbour. After 8 days in the blissfully warm weather we packed up and headed back on a 16 hour flight back to Brisbane via Seoul, ready to share our stories and hand out gifts to everyone waiting for us in Australia.

Would I go there again? Maybe. It's not a definate yes, but it's not a definately no either.

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