November 19, 2012
When we left off, Mr. Karen and I had arrived on Oahu after spending not quite a week on the Big Island. It’s taken me so long to pick up our story because holy crap I took a lot of photos, and they did not sort themselves.
Day 7, continued— Aulani
We landed in Honolulu in late afternoon, which meant we caught the early part of rush hour traffic on our drive out to Aulani, Disney’s Hawaiian resort. That was not very magical, especially since we’d gotten used to no traffic on the Big Island (other than a few block stretch in Kona, which was easy enough to avoid after the first time we happened upon it). We got checked in just in time to go down to the beach and see a stunning sunset. Where to get dinner after sunset and before the one time we’d be able to see the hotel’s nighttime show during our stay caused a bit of stress, but it turned out that we were able to get seated pretty much right away at the restaurant where I hadn’t been able to get a reservation when I’d called earlier in the day. It was a wonderful buffet—pricey, true, but very tasty and with a lot of choices for the more adventurous palate. We finished eating with plenty of time to make it to the show, which was a sort of luau without food but with Disney characters in the last act. I’m glad we saw it but wish we hadn’t had to rush around our first night there to do so.
Day 8—Circle Tour of Oahu
We set out for Honolulu in our rental car after morning rush hour. Our first stop was the Hawaii Nature Center, where we did a very short hike and were thwarted in our quest to get the trail map we’d come for (we did take a photo of the one posted behind glass but didn’t end up needing to refer to it). A long winding drive up Mount Tantalus came next, with the reward at the top being a panoramic view from Pu’u Ualaokua Park. We were lucky to have a pretty clear day; we could even see Aulani way off in the distance. After short winding drive down the mountain, we spent the next several hours driving up the coast, stopping at various viewpoints and beaches to see what we could see. We took a short detour inland to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout before having lunch at a local chain, where we had our first and last plate lunches of the trip—so much meat and starch. After lunch, there was more driving along the coast stopping as we pleased to look at stuff. My favorite spot on this stretch was Laie Point, a small limestone peninsula with crashing waves, and offshore sea arch, interesting contours, and beautiful views. I could have stayed there longer taking it all in, but we had a date with the sunset on the North Shore. We didn’t have a specific spot in mind but just pulled over and parked when we saw a space near a beach. We strolled and watched the surfers and while the sun disappeared.
We set aside this day to hang around the hotel, which isn’t something we usually do on vacation, but who knows when we might get back to Aulani (and unlike other Disney hotels we’ve stayed at, there were no theme parks calling us away). We splashed in the pool, floated around the lazy river, careened down both of the waterslides, snorkeled with captive fish in the Disney-made reef next to the pool and with wild fish in the ocean lagoon, relaxed in one of the hot tubs, and ate lunch and shave ice in our bathing suits before going back to do some of the same things again. Hours later we returned to our room to shower and change before watching the sunset from the beach, strolling along the shore, and eating dinner at the restaurant near the water.
Day 10—Honolulu and Waikiki
There was no way we were going to be on Oahu for the first time and not go see Pearl Harbor, despite having heard it gets very busy and it can be hard to find parking and you can’t take any bags or purses in and you can’t leave them in your car because there are a lot of break-ins (but you can pay to check a bag) . Fortunately it’s now possible to reserve a tour time in advance online; you still have to arrive an hour early but at least you know you won’t have to wait longer than that. We’d reserved a late morning slot so we didn’t have to wake up early or battle rush hour traffic. We didn’t have any trouble finding parking, and the hour wait after we checked in went by quickly between looking at the museum exhibits and the gift shop. The visit to the USS Arizona memorial itself was just as moving as you’d expect; I don’t think I need to do it again, but I’m glad I did it once. Maybe someday we’ll go back to see the other sites at the Harbor. We followed our visit to the memorial with something much less somber: a quick look at part of the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. It was almost over for the day by the time we got there, which meant some of the vendors had already packed up, but there was enough repetition of merchandise in the ones who were left that I didn’t feel like we’d missed much. Then it was on see our third Kamehameha statue of the trip (this one being the one that’s on the tv show Hawaii 5-0) and some other nearby sites before going Waikiki to have lunch and walk up and down the beach with the rest of the tourists. We caught the sunset there before heading back to Aulani, which seemed so peaceful after the bustle of Waikiki.
Day 11—One More Sunset
Our plane didn’t leave until later in the evening, so we had almost one more full day to enjoy ourselves. Aulani has a nice lounge for guests who’ve had to check out but don’t have to leave just yet, so we took advantage of that, stashing a bag in a locker before heading out to play in and around the hotel some more. We tried one of the interactive adventures and did some more swimming (Mr. Karen tried stand up paddling, too). Sometime in the afternoon we thought we’d explore a bit farther afield and got in the car to head to Waianae, but we ran into slow, heavy traffic almost immediately that took the fun out of that plan. We did get to see some pretty scenery when trying to work our way back toward Aulani after bailing off the main road. We grabbed dinner from a quick service place at the hotel and found some lounge chairs with a view of the beach to see our last sunset of the trip. Then it was time to retrieve our bags and head to the airport for an overnight flight home.
This set on Flickr has all the photos, even the ones of the electric hand dryers I felt I might need to add to my virtual collection in the cloud.