Showing posts with label Marriott's Ko Olina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marriott's Ko Olina. Show all posts

Sunday, February 8, 2015

10 Days and nearly 10,000 miles later. . .

Our Stone House on the Hill - Greece
We covered furniture, packed up clothing, shuttered the windows, locked the doors and said goodbye to our Greek Stone House on the Hill for a few months.

Then we hopped a plane and traveled nearly 8,000 miles, back to our Pacific Northwest home where we emptied and repacked our suitcases. Ten days and another 2,000 air miles later, we arrived in Hawaii – our ‘other’ getaway home for the next five weeks of winter.

Lagoon at KoOlina, O'ahu, Hawaii

Yes, that’s the way life goes for us these days. . .travel is our lifestyle. . .and home is more a state-of-mind than a place in the world. I am reminded of the old cliche’ “Home is where the Heart is. . .” In our case, “home is where the suitcase is. . .”

Hale Kona - Marriott Beach Club - KoOlina from Hale Moana where we are

We’ve gone from residing in our the small stone house in an olive grove on a Greek hillside to our current place of residence, in one of three high-rise condominium buildings overlooking a Hawaiian beach. Here instead of being the sole owners, we are among 28,000 people who own a piece of this rock. We are back at our Marriott Vacation Club (interval ownership by the week) at KoOlina on the island of O’ahu.

Those of you who’ve followed our blog, know that we love this carefree interval life. We’ve gradually built up our weeks and now can stay here as long as six weeks each year or we can use portions of our time here and trade for other places in the world.

Sunset at KoOlina
As tempting as it is just to stay here, we’ve already tapped into our 2016 stash and traded a week here for a week in Bangkok, Thailand which will give us a chance to visit that city prior to hopping our cruise ship to Istanbul, Turkey later this spring.

Hibiscus blooms cover the KoOlina landscape

Speaking of cruises: Remember that Amazon River cruise we had planned to take over the Christmas holidays? We’d booked it and were ready to go until in late November the cruise line offered us a deal we couldn’t pass up – we traded that cruise for the one we will be taking from Bangkok. Turns out that once again the travel gods were looking out for us because. . .

We were set to sail from Miami for the Amazon River on Dec. 17th aboard Oceania’s Insignia ship. It turns out that the (newly refurbished just last spring) ship caught fire on Dec.15th as it was completing a cruise and returning to Miami.  While the fire was contained in the engine room and no passengers injured, sadly, three people were killed.  The ship, at last report, is still in dry dock awaiting repairs.  So, we wouldn’t have sailed to the Amazon River even if we hadn’t switched course. . .

Sunset over Messinian Gulf from Stoupa, Greece 

In our next post I’ll take you back to our place in Greece for a quick tour of the neighborhood and take you to some of our favorite places to eat and drink in the neighboring villages.  Then we’ll head back to Hawaii for a tour of this tropical paradise. I’ve also got some packing tips and want to talk about the business of Business Class flying in future posts so hope you’ll come back soon because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover!

Mahalo, Thanks, for the time you spent with us today! Safe travels to you and yours~ and E Komo Mai, Welcome, to our new followers this week, so glad to have you with us!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wet and Wild in Hawaii

That would be the weather to which this title refers, not Hula Babe and Beach Boy.

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Our time here began 10 days ago in a picture-postcard setting; the type for which Hawaii is known. . .

. . . Mai Tai weather . . . . with tropical breezes, blue sky and plenty of sun.  These shots were taken during an outing we took along the coast to Ka’ena Beach Park at the tip of the western side of O’ahu.

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Within a couple days of our arrival came the first ‘weather front’ – a storm strong enough to close the beaches on the island because of the dangerous high waves. A tourist was killed while golfing when a tree branch was blown down. A half dozen homes lost their roofs.

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That tropical sunshine went into hiding behind heavy dark clouds; being fickle and peeking out  for a brief ‘sunset’ one day. So this week’s photos show you O’ahu when it isn’t postcard perfect – on the other hand, when it sure is interesting:
PicMonkey Collage

Our second outing was a Sunday drive under gray skies –  the kind of skies we  have in the Pacific Northwest . We passed Aloha Stadium an hour before kickoff for the Pro Bowl – I snapped the photo above between swipes of the windshield wipers. 

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Those gentle Hawaiian tropical breezes have gusted throughout the week, sending sand and leaves flying. Grounds crews at Ko Olina, where we are,  have been kept busy cleaning up fallen leaves and blowing sand that has covered the grassy areas.
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And the sea gods really threw a hissy fit this past week, tossing enormous waves at the shore– some the largest they’ve seen in 20 - 30 years.

PicMonkey Collage

These photos were taken on the day after ‘the front’s’ arrival – yet the waves still pounded the shore with a deafening rhythm.

PicMonkey Collage

We are reminded that while you can control many things about travel, Mother Nature still calls the shots on the weather. The photo on the left was taken a week ago, the photo on the right this Tuesday. Admittedly we aren’t suffering freezing temperatures like the mid-western United States nor fighting snow in Atlanta, but we are having a rather unusual, wet and wild time in Hawaii.

Gotta run. . .the sun’s finally out and the surf is finally down. . .just sprinkles and some wind. Time to get some rays. . .Hope you’ll return here soon. . .

Linking up this week:

Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox
Travel Photo Discovery on Monday

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hawaii: Tales from the Hale. . .

Hale ~ ‘home’ in Hawaiian.

A week has passed already and we are settled in to our Hawaiian lifestyle. We went from replacing a driveway and tree trimming at our Pacific Northwest home two weeks ago, to our carefree (no home improvement projects) lifestyle in a high-rise condo where our view of the Pacific Ocean reaches the far horizon.

I’ve written several times about our timeshares – or as we think of them, 'second homes' – in Arizona and Hawaii. I've told you how we’ve extended our stays by purchasing and using  two-bedroom ‘lock-off’ units. Lock-off, as the name implies, means we lock off one side, and use each of the two sides consecutively: two weeks for the price of one!
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I’ve written about living in ‘the big house’ side before, so this time I wanted to give you a tour of our first week 'hale' at Ko Olina in ‘the lock-off’ or small side --  an over-sized  hotel room with small balcony and kitchenette.

KO2014 005I’ve jokingly called it a ‘glamping’ (glorified camping) because you need to be a bit imaginative when menu planning and shopping to stock up a tiny kitchen; although it probably is as big as many in Paris apartments. It is definitely small compared to the big side.

The week in the small side is always a good excuse, . . .ahem. . ., reason, to visit the many Happy Hours that are within an easy walk of home. 

But we also eat most of our meals in; dining on that table in our nest-like balcony. The small in-room microwave and  the communal barbeques simplify the task.

In fact, gathering at the bank of bbq’s is one of our favorite features of this lifestyle.  We’ve met  fellow owners as well as those who’ve just come for a visit -- and they come from all over the world.

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The Scout, aka Beach Boy, in the photo above is visiting with a friend from Gig Harbor and fellow Ko Olina owner while the two sip wine and cook our dinners.

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The room is 360-square-feet with the balcony adding another 18-square-feet. In reality, it’s plenty of room for two people who spend most of their waking hours outdoors at the beach, pool, gym or off exploring.

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You do need to improvise at times. . .for instance that is my beach bag, shoes and a box of papayas (from Costco!) sharing a bit of storage space.  I photographed the door because it is the link to the full-side condominium --  had we booked the whole unit for a single week it would have been open. 

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Marriott Vacation Club - KoOlina, O'ahu
Yesterday we moved into the large side -- ‘the Big House’ as we owners call them --which is home for the next three weeks. . .I am in the real den, The Scout’s in the living room, we’ve been to the gym, I’ve done laundry, and tonight we are dining at home – we’ve got a couple big steaks to grill.

Last night, a woman clad in a swimsuit, and riding the elevator as we headed back to the room with our grilled Mahi Mahi and roasted corn on the cob exclaimed, “Oh! You actually cook on vacation??!!” I almost replied, “No we are cooking  at home tonight.”

That’s it for this weekend.  I know I promised some ‘novel destinations’ but those will come soon.  We’ve had to get settled into our island lifestyle first.  Mahalo, or thanks, for visiting today. Hope you’ll be back often!

If You Go:

Ko Olina is a planned  development on O’ahu’s West (Ewa) Coast, about 20 minutes from Honolulu International Airport; the nearest city is Kapolei.

Map picture

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

E Komo Mai to Our Hale Moana Home

E Komo Mai, (Welcome), to Hale Moana, our home on O’ahu, Hawaii.

It’s not a permanent home, it’s temporary, just a month, 1/12th of a year . . . but far longer than either of us once ever anticipated ‘living’ in this tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

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Over the decades we’ve gone to realtor open houses during visits to Hawaii and for decades have declared ownership of what we deemed ‘our kind of places’ to be beyond our budget. 

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That was, until we discovered the world of timeshare ownership.  That was five years ago and life hasn’t been the same since. . .

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Now, in the second week of our four week stay at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club; our ‘home’ is on O’ahu’s western shore about 30 minutes from the Honolulu Airport and light years away from the hustle and bustle of that big city.

KoOlina2013 009

I’d worried – when we made our first purchase into this short-term ownership world – that we had been here only five days. What if we got bored after a week? Horrors! What if we got tired of returning to the same place year after year? (That part really isn’t a concern because you just trade your ‘home’ for one somewhere else).
KoOlina2013 007
My initial fears were unfounded (as they usually are) and we spent the next three years acquiring additional bits of time here. . .

This year we live in Hale Moana, the same building as our previous stays and each year we’ve had a different address within the building but all units are identical.  So E Komo Mai, or welcome, to our Hawaiian home were the temperatures are in the 80’s with sun and blue skies as compared to 'back home' where temperatures are in 30’s and 40’s:

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KoOlina2013 011As for what we do. . . well, we live here (and work here, for as much as we work these days).  A typical weekday finds us exercising in the morning, lunching on our lanai and then heading out to the beach or walking, or sunning, or reading or playing in the lagoon, pool or hot tub until it is time to fix dinner.  A far cry from owning homes in Mexico and spending most of our time working on them or making trips to the local hardware store. . .

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Still there are those who don’t quite understand the allure of such an ownership. Ah, but those who’ve taken the plunge, all seem to be like us: having a ball at their second home ~ a home that requires no more work than writing an annual maintenance check and reserving our time.

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Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s visit – on Travel Photo Thursday I will show you a bit of the island. . .you might be surprised at what lies Beyond WaikikiAloha until then.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hawaii: "So what do you do there?"

hawaii 2010 024 Our island days moved as gently as tropical breezes. They also moved far too quickly.

Maybe that was why we extended our stay for just a few extra days (despite the airline change fees) . . .just to squeeze in a bit more time in our Pacific Paradise.

Several friends have asked, in somewhat incredulous tones, about our near month-long stay, "But what do you do there when you stay that long?"  .

I was reminded of yet another passage -- words to ponder -- written by my 'beach book buddy' Frances Mayes, in her book, "Every day in Tuscany":

"I'll never be over the nagging sense: I should be doing something. My friends in Cortona (Italy) don't have that particular demon. They are doing what they need to be doing by being."

Much like those Tuscans, we didn't go to Hawaii with the idea of doing we went there to experience being.  Some days we were entertained for hours watching a pattern of sunlight sprinkle its diamonds across the sea. Sometimes we'd go grocery shopping. Other days we watched stormy waves crash against the shore. Sometimes we took out the garbage. Other times the whales entertained us as they made their way past. Sometimes we did laundry. Other times we read books and napped.  A few times we'd go explore another part of the island. . . but we weren't often moved to do so.  

We spent the majority of our time on O'ahu at  Ko Olina , a development of single-family residences, an 18-hole golf course, marina, hotels, timeshares and privately owned condos on O'ahu's western Wai’anae Coast. It's a laid-back place far different from Waikiki but close enough that we could easily drive there in a half hour.

When we took the timeshare plunge five years ago by purchasing a week in Hawaii, we were not only giving ourselves a vacation destination, but we were also giving ourselves permission to 'be doing by being'.

So, Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club (top photo) has become that vacation beach home we once dreamed of -- without the cost or headaches that accompany long-distance vacation home ownership. 

It really does feel like going home now. We have staff members who remember us from our previous  stays. We have met other owners over the years and have become friends. We are lucky when our visits overlap as we have time to catch up on news over home-cooked meals.
hawaii 2010 051
 We are so taken with Ko Olina that we've returned each winter, and will likely continue doing so for many years to come. Although one of the positives for us in this timeshare world is that we can trade our place, or a portion of it, for nearly anywhere else in the world we might want to go. We did that last fall when we stayed at the Marriott Vacation Club on Spain's Costa del Sol.

hawaii 2010 050 We purchased the type of two bedroom unit called a lock-off which means that we stay two weeks a year in our ocean front home: one week in the lock-off, a small efficiency sized place 360-sq. ft. (32 sq. meter)  unit with an18-sq. ft (2 sq. m) balcony.  The second week is in  the much larger sized unit (pictures in this post). It is the smaller unit we trade for accommodations in other destinations. Since our initial purchase, we've added time at Ko Olina, which lets us stay longer and trade more

 So this is our getaway and what we do there.  How about you? Where do you go when you 'do what you need to be doing by being'?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Songs of Sunrise and Sunset

We have a symphony playing each day precisely at 6:30 a.m. and again at 6:30 p.m.  It heralds in the pink sky of morning and the blaze of the sun as it sets out over the Pacific.

Ko Olina sunset
J. Smith photo (c) 2011
 It is the symphony of Mina birds who flock by the dozens to two 'garbage trees' (named so by the groundskeepers because of the leaves that perpetually fall from them) in the gardens outside our Marriott Vacation Club at Ko Olina.

While on a horticultural tour we learned that Marriott had once tried devices in the trees to discourage the birds from singing their songs, so they wouldn't disturb the guests. . .the tour participants were aghast. 

Can you imagine being in the tropics and not hearing the songs of the birds?

Monday, February 8, 2010

O'ahu is more than Honolulu

If you envision this map as the face of a clock, our Ko Olina is on the lower left hand side just about 8 and Honolulu is down at the bottom in the big bay about 5 - 6. Tourist maps advise it is 90 miles to drive around the island; noting that the point on the top left of the map doesn't have a road, there you would need to hike from Yokohama Bay at the end of Farrington Highway through Ka'ena State Park and around to the north side which would bring you into Dillingham Airfield and Gliderport. We haven't been that ambitious this trip. (Double clicking the photo will enlarge it)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ko Olina Resort and Marina, O'ahu

I've focused on the Marriott Vacation Club but want to clarify that Ko Olina is much more than Marriott. Ko Olina Resort and Marina is a multi-project development with free standing vacation homes, full ownership condo's, an 18-hole golf course, a J.W. Marriott Ilihani and a marina. Soon Disney will be opening an enormous 21-acre vacation complex located on the beach between the J.W. and the Marriott Vacation Club.
Last January ground had barely been broken on the Disney facility and this year the structural steel is giving a sneak preview of the resort that will follow. Aulani, 'the place that speaks with deep messages' is not like other Disney properties as it isn't associated with a major theme park. Plans are to open the resort -- with 360 hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom units like those in other Disney Vacation Club properties -- in the fall of 2011.

Our 'home', Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club last January had slowed completion of its third building Nai'a; one wing is now open and is where we spent our first week. Talk is that the second wing will open Jan. 2011. Construction on the fourth building is to begin in 2012 with completion slated for 2015.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hawaiian Ohana Homecoming

In the Hawaiian language ohana means family. When we bought a week at Marriott's Vacation Club at Ko Olina on the northwestern shore of Oahu two years ago we were told we were now members of the "Marriott ohana" and that we had just purchased 'a piece of paradise'. Since I come from the world of public relations I had to agree that both sound better than saying we bought a timeshare.

On Friday we began our two-week stay at Ko Olina, which they tell us means 'place of joy' in Hawaiian. We were greeted at check-in by clerks who warmly welcomed us 'home'. So here we are at home in Hawaii with our fellow Marriott family members for the next two weeks.

Because the piece of paradise we purchased is what they call a two-bedroom lock off, we are able to stay two weeks for basically the price of one. This first week we are in the smaller guest room side that has a couch, chair, coffee table and studio sized kitchen and king bed and small deck; next week we move to the bigger unit which has a full bedroom, living and dining room and large kitchen with en suite washer and dryer.

This photo is from our deck in the Hale Nai'a (dolphin in Hawaiian) building that was completed last year. In fact only the wing we are in is yet open as result of the economic downturn in tourism here. The other wing is now scheduled to open next year. There are now three buildings as part of the Marriott complex and someday there are plans for a fourth.

Our view is straight out over the lagoon of the same name as the building and the Pacific Ocean. We also have a great view of the JW Marriott (in the distance in this photo). So our days start on the deck watching the sun turn the water from its dawn silvers to the deep blues of mid-day and we watch the day come to a close from the same viewpoint. And that bit about owning 'a piece of paradise' isn't p.r. spin, it really is paradise.


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