Showing posts with label Waikiki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Waikiki. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Honolulu: Memories and Present-day Madness

Back – ahem – decades ago, Honolulu, Hawaii was our tropical dream destination.

DSCF3131Both young and single back then, (didn’t even know each other). . . carefree. . .and ready for Waikiki. 

Swaying palm trees. . .golden sand. . .picture-perfect blue skies and sea. . .

. . .yep, that’s the way it was back then.

And that is still the way it is now, sort of.





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Waikiki's legendary 'Pink Palace' ~ The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
So drawn were we to Waikiki that after we met and married, we made it a mandatory add-on to any trip to any island in Hawaii. In recent years the vog (big city smog mixed with blowing ash from the neighbor island volcano) and vagrancy (homeless camping in parks and on sidewalks) became more and more noticeable even during those brief stays.

One evening three years ago we happened upon a street fight between two homeless men not far from our hotel; a block later the sidewalk was blocked by a group of chanting, tambourine-thumping 1960’s hippie-type throwbacks who competed with the emergency vehicle sirens for noise-making.

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Royal Hawaiian pink umbrellas and striped beach towels frame Diamond Head
It was during that visit that we decided then that even the warmest memories can cool when confronted with present-day reality.

We skipped Honolulu and its tourist-magnet Waikiki last year even though our interval home at KoOlina is about 30 minutes (on a ‘good traffic’ day) away. This year, though, for old times sake we trekked into town for a Sunday afternoon visit.

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Royal Hawaiian beach Waikiki on the left, KoOlina on the right

We concluded that an afternoon was long enough in Waikiki these days, but still it was nice to visit some of our favorite spots, like. . .

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Duke Kahanamoku, surfing legend
The statue erected in the heart of Waikiki to honor hometown boy, surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku, who was born here in the late 1800’s. This Olympic medalist is considered ‘the father of modern surfing’ and you’ll never see this tribute without his arms laden with flower leis that have been left in his honor.

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Window to Kalakaua Avenue's street 'show'
One of the best people-watching places in Waikiki is the Honolulu Coffee Company at the historic Moana Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue. A constant parade of tour buses disgorge passengers while a steady stream of limousines pull under the Porte-cochere to drop off brides and grooms. For the price of a cup of coffee we can enjoy the ‘show’ through the shop’s large open windows.

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Moana Hotel's Banyon Tree Beach Bar
Then we must stroll through the lobby of this historic Moana hotel (with a quick trip up the wooden stairway to look at historic memorabilia displayed on its second floor) and then head to the Banyon Tree Beach bar; a beach-front gathering place since the 1950’s. (It’s another great people-watching spot, but difficult to find a seat come sunset time).

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Honolulu scenes from Nimitz Highway
We drove into Honolulu taking the older Nimitz Highway after leaving the H-1 freeway for reasons I will show you in the next mosaic.  But that loopy old route gave us a chance to admire some of the newest high rise buildings in town, to see the Holland American cruise ship that was in town and of course, take a photo of the iconic Aloha Clock Tower at the cruise terminal.

Part of Honolulu’s madness these days is its traffic. Like metropolitan areas everywhere with nearly a million people (Honolulu metro area is about 950,000 people)  the place is jammed with too many automobiles. The photos below were not taken during rush hour when the roads really come to a standstill, these were taken at 1:30 on a weekday afternoon and a Sunday morning on H-1, the main freeway on the island.
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Sunday morning on the left; Tuesday afternoon on the right
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Train track construction - Honolulu

The island’s governing bodies are trying to address the problem with an elevated link train – still billions of dollars underfunded and not yet constructed – but at least they have made a start at laying the foundation for the line that will run west to Kapolei, the island’s second largest city.






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Halewai on the island's North Shore is served by bus 52 from Honolulu

Traveler’s Tip: One way to get around in the traffic is to use the island’s incredible transit, The Bus.  Its user-friendly web site caters to tourists with a link “Visitors” that explains how to get to tourist destinations and how to buy passes. We parked at the city’s sprawling Ala Moana Shopping Center (with a visit there, of coure) then hopped the bus to and from Waikiki.

How about your travels? Ever found that you prefer the memories of past visits to a present-day ‘reality’ visit? Are you a country-person or prefer the more ‘happening’ city beat?

Thanks for joining us in Honolulu and for all the time you spend with us. Hope you’ll tell your friends to drop by and join in on the travel tales and tips!

This coming week, you’ll find us joining in the fun at:
 
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Travel Photo Monday - Travel Photo Discovery

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beyond Waikiki

Waikiki is that touristy hip, happening place on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii, where tourist buses parade through its streets, camera-toting tourists jam the sidewalks and sun-seekers fill the beaches.

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Think Waikiki, think Diamond Head. Think Waikiki and think Honolulu. . . 

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Honolulu, the skyscraper filled big city of some 374,600 people; the capital of the state of Hawaii. It's that big city image people often think of when we say we are heading to O’ahu.

We do enjoy the 'big city' for a few days and then we follow the advice of one of our favorite Hawaiian songs: we head out to O’ahu’s country:

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We drive along the Leeward Coast, the drier west side of the O’ahu where sweeping vistas up the Wai’anae Mountain range in the early morning sun can nearly take your breath away.

We follow the two-lane highway through the Wai’anae Valley Makua Valley and its Kai’ena Point, the furthest most point on the western tip of the island.

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It is literally the end of the road. . .the pavement ends and the hiking begins.  There is no way around this point other than on your own two feet.  Last year we’d thought about hiking but spent the morning instead  watching the waves at the nearly empty nearby Yokohama Beach, a place popular with the locals.

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On another day we found ourselves heading out through the central valley of  this 597-square-mile island toward its North Shore.  With the Wai’anae Mountains to the west and the Koolau Mountains on the east, we traveed through miles of sugar cane and pineapple fields.

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We must stop in Hale’wa, (Ha-lay-E-va) the laid-back historic surfing town filled with eateries and artsy-craftsy stores (we’d be  remiss to miss a rainbow colored shave ice cone from Matsumoto’s Store here – even though the lines are sometimes long).
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There are any number of places along the North Shore to watch enormous waves. . .again a popular place for the locals and experienced surfers. Waves of 30-feet are not unusual here in winter months.

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And no trip to the North Shore is complete without a stop at one of the many shrimp trucks that line the highway. (Take plenty of paper towels with you – you’ll need them for the delightfully messy meal)– sit at one of the roadside tables and dig into a pile of shrimp – cooked to the spicy heat level you’ve requested.  Prepare to wear some of the sauce home on your tee-shirt .

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Continuing along the two-lane highway we travel through the  Windward side of the island  -- the wetter, greener side – where the ocean nearly brushes the roadway to one side while meadows and pasture land stretch to the Koolau Mountains on the other side of the road.

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This is the O'ahu that keeps bringing us back each year. As the song says, “Take a walk in the country, there’s a place for you there…”

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That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. Stop by Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos. And if these photos got your travel juices flowing, then  click this link  for a bit more Hawaiian country thanks to a You Tube version of the Makaha Sons song.

Map picture

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Plate of Hawaiian (Tourism) ‘Pupus’

Pupus, Hawaiian for appetizers – those small delicious tidbits that provide a sample of the flavors of the islands. 
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Since our arrival in O’ahu we’ve picked up quite a bit of pupu-sized bits of tourist news.  I’m serving up those up today to give you a taste of what’s happening here and what’s planned for the future:

Aqua Hotels and Resorts:

VegasHawaii2012 355Remember the Aqua Lotus hotel I said we’d planned to return to this year until its rate increase drove us elsewhere? 
It is among those properties that will be re-branded as Aqua Hotels and Resorts becomes  Aqua Hospitality, restructuring the 24 properties they manage into three distinct brands:  Monogram Hotel Collection which will move their best properties into  boutique, luxury experience places; Aqua Hotels and Resorts will be aimed at the mid-price-range traveler who wants style, service and value and their Lite Hotels will provide economy accommodations to the 'budget-minded visitor'. 

Waikiki in Focus:

Hilton Hawaiian Village plans to spend $700 million to add two towers with 550 timeshare units on its 22-acre site. There’ll also be new swimming pools, retail shops and parking.  The 37-story tower is to be completed in 2015 and a 25-story tower some five or six years later.

OahuKolina2013 011Kyo-ya Hotel and Resorts plans to replace an eight-story wing of the Moana Surfrider with a taller building and that is just part of a $1 billion planned renovation or replacement of each of its Waikiki properties (Sheraton Wailkiki, Royal Hawaiian Resort, Princess Kaiulani Hotel, Ainahau Tower and a new 34-story Pikake Tower).

Tourism is hitting record numbers again – evidence that the recessionary pullback by travelers in 2008 and 2009 may be over. We can tell you Waikiki sidewalks, beaches, bars and streets were packed with tourists during our brief stay there – we do wonder where those staying in the new timeshare and hotel rooms will find to sun on a beach or sip in a bar or the other limited common areas of this famous section of town. . .

VegasHawaii2012 366Perhaps some tourists will be steered from O’ahu when Hawaiian Airlines adds 25 new long-range airplanes between 2017 and 2020 which they will use for nonstop flights between neighbor islands and the 10 West Coast cities it already serves.
And speaking of other island’s and airlines. . .

Our final pupu is that billionaire Larry Elison (co-founder and CEO of Oracle) is rumored to be the undisclosed purchaser of Island Air, a small interisland airline.  Last year he purchased 97-percent of the island of Lanai (yes, that’s correct – nearly the whole island). Lanai is the state’s sixth largest island with a population of just over 3,000.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Travel Realities: The Other Side of the Postcard

“Do you ever write about the bad stuff. . .or do you ever experience any bad stuff?”

The question has been asked more than once of us.

In reality, we  haven’t experienced any real ‘bad stuff’ –  lost luggage, small rooms, cranky people, schedule changes – are irritations, but not ‘bad stuff’ in our book. 

0005540-R1-035-16Yet, we probably are guilty of focusing on the  pretty side of the postcard when writing of our travels. We’ve not spent much time on the flip side, the one on which the human message is written. 

Our travels -- particularly in Europe --have given us a chance to see the other side of the post card; particularly the graffiti and the protests.

Those images on the flip side of the card aren’t the picture-pretty tourism shots, and we don't focus on them but realize  it’s important not to forget them either. Today we remember:




Madrid, Spain

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DSCF0663In Madrid, Spain posters announced a manifestacion (a protest) that would ultimately fill the Plaza del Sol with such numbers of unhappy Spaniards during our stay that we ultimately quit going through the square but took back streets to avoid it. We weren’t particularly afraid of going through the gathering but just as we avoid emotionally-charged groups of protesters at home, we do so on our travels as well.



Dubrovnik, Croatia

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From the top of the Old City wall’s of Dubrovnik, Croatia we had spectacular views like that to the right, but also far too many views of graffiti marred historic buildings like the photo above.






Bologna, Italy

Graffiti artists had struck nearly every building here – even those where owners had painted murals to decorate the metal security doors that are pulled down and locked each night.

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And while we loved this Italian city and hope to return one day soon, we’d be less than honest, if we didn’t mention the smell of urine that filled the air as we strolled through some of its famous arcades (and there weren’t that many dogs. . .let your imagination do the rest)







Naples, Italy

As we began our day-long explorations last fall the ‘welcome parade’ was a protest march – again by another unhappy group.

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SilhouettePt12012 034 In fact, it is always interesting when we see the notices and the signs being carried. . .prompting this basically monolingual pair to wonder what all the unhappiness is about?












Seville, Spain

One of the more interesting protests we encountered was a group of unhappy teachers who’d set up their protest camp inside the massive Cathedral:

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Venice, Italy

Even Venice was not immune to graffiti vandals who tagged walls where ever they saw fit:

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Lisbon, Portugal

Where the  tram was so graffiti covered that it almost appeared to be a mural. . .

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Madrid,  Spain

Where faux-blood, red paint was splattered near the sign of the Syrian Embassy when we went past one morning. . .and gone by the time we returned a  couple hours later.

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And  the protestors who lined the street near the Embassy the day before. (Just down the city street firefighters had set up a protest camp).








United States:

I wrote that first portion of this post prior to our arrival in Honolulu, Hawaii last week.  It would have ended there, but we’ve got a post script to that postcard now:  We spent three nights with this view of Waikiki – the postcard view, you might say:

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OahuKolina2013 053Saturday night as we walked back to our hotel, we sadly witnessed a fight between two street people; one who was using his leather belt to whip the bare upper body of the man who’d challenged him.  By the time we got past, they were grappling on the ground as sirens of the responding police cars could be heard. Three of the police cars were below our room for some time.  Just last night a police chase in Waikiki ended in officers killing a soldier, whom they were unable to otherwise restrain.

Yes, we’ve come to realize there are certainly two sides to the postcard. What have you learned from the other side of the postcard during your travels?

And that’s our contribution to Budget Travelers Sandbox’s Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over there for some additional armchair travel.  Hope you’ll visit our Facebook page as well. And come back again real soon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Waikiki (Sticker) Shock Waves

The good news for Hawaii is that tourism is on an upswing.

The bad news for travelers planning to go there is that tourism is on an upswing. 

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As hotel occupancy rates spiral upwards they are taking prices with them. For example, last January (2012), we got a ‘steal’ of  a stay in Waikiki by booking a deal with the online company, Jetsetter. 

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Four nights in a premium ocean view room at the Aqua Lotus Honolulu near Diamond Head and total cost: $530. 

Following our stay on O’ahu’s western coast at our KoOlina timeshare, we returned and paid $169 per night (plus taxes) and stayed a couple more nights at the hotel.

VegasHawaii2012 062Still a reasonable rate, we thought, for a property that sits in the shadow of Diamond Head across from Kapiolani Park and not on the beach.







Our $169 got us this ‘ocean view’ room:

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We’d loved the place and planned to return this year. . . but after being struck by Waikiki (Sticker) Shock Waves, we’ve come up with a different -- affordable -- plan.

A quick check of this hotel’s web site (last Thursday), -- using the equivalent days and dates of last year’s stay for comparison purposes -- found that ocean view room available at $351.50 and premium ocean view at $371.50 for the January dates. It costs more in February.

We turned to our trusty Expedia, the on-line booking company where we've often found great discounts, only to be hit with a sticker after shock: the January dates for the hotel were listed at $527 for ocean view and $556 premium ocean view. February dates: $599 and $627, respectively.  (Expedia users rate the hotel as 3.5 out of 5 and TripAdvisor rates it #3 of 81 hotels in Waikiki.)

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We are thinking our decision to buy a timeshare at Marriott’s Ko Olina (pictured above) and avoid Honolulu hotels was probably a good one.  In fact, we’ll likely skip Honolulu and Waikiki in 2014 and head directly to Ko Olina.

But since we’d booked flights this year to allow three days in Waikiki, we pulled out the stops on the hotel search and landed at Costco. . .yes, you read that correctly.  (For those not familiar, it is a customer membership warehouse chain that got its start in the Seattle area). So, now in addition to purchasing large quantities of paper goods and food, we also can lay claim to booking our travel there:

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We’ll be across the street from Waikiki Beach at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel (one of those on the right in the photo above) on a three-night package that provides a partial ocean view room, lei airport greeting, round-trip transfers, daily continental breakfast on the beach and a variety of half-off coupons.  Package price: $614.  

This hotel has the same Expedia rating as the Aqua Lotus but doesn’t fare quite as well on TripAdvisor.  Will we find our ‘deal’ wasn’t as good as we thought?  Stay tuned. We’ll let you know soon!

Have you experienced sticker shock in Hawaii? Or have you found some good hotel deals? If so, where?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Waikiki’s SPAM® JAM Festival. . .no joke!

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It's time to celebrate SPAM®. . . the kind you eat, not delete.

A conversation with two blogger buddies earlier this week found us in agreement on spam, those nuisance bulk emails that clog inboxes, but we had vastly differing opinions on SPAM®, the food. 

I’m the lone SPAM® fan in this trio.

Blogger Ann, who normally muses about life, mused about eating anything that slides out of the can in a wiggling gelatinous wrap.  Blogger Dick, whose focus is community and education, simply pondered SPAM® and its relationship to public education. 

SPAM®, we agreed, was a worthy blog topic for us all. Lucky for me, this announcement arrived in my inbox two days later:

10th Annual Waikiki SPAM® JAM Festival
is set for Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, Honolulu

DSCF0080More SPAM®, according to one of the conference sponsors, is consumed per person in Hawaii than any other state in the United States, which makes it somewhat appropriate for their signature food festival.

SPAM® stands for ‘spiced ham’; a product introduced in 1937 by the Hormel Foods Corporation.  The food cube inside the can is a mix of ham and pork shoulder and now comes in low-salt, spicy and original (simply salty) versions.



Two key statistics in the news release caught my eye:

* nearly seven million cans of SPAM® are eaten every year in Hawaii. (Hawaii’s population was 1.375 in 2011 – that’s a lot of SPAM® per person!)

* in the decade since it began, the Waikiki SPAM® JAM, has become one of the most popular festivals in Hawaii. More than 20,000 are expected to attend this year’s festivities.

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Waikiki’s main beach front drag, Kalakaua Avenue, will be closed to vehicular traffic. You can see why in this photo from a previous SPAM® JAM.

Some of Hawaii’s favorite entertainers will perform on two stages, and a dozen restaurants are serving up some crazy ono grindz (that’s ‘really good’ in Hawaiian) SPAM® dishes. A sample of the dishes being created and served include:

!cid_C212A5D2-207F-41A1-A7CC-1CFE8BFDF2DD@hawaii_rrP.F. Chang’s: SPAM® Lettuce Wraps and SPAM® Lo Mein

Duke’s/Hula Grill: SPAM® Loco Moco with Shitake Mushroom Cream Gravy.

Cheeseburger Beachwalk: SPAM® Babies

Aqua CafĂ©: Ono Mac and Cheese with SPAM® and a SPAM® Bento.

Atlantis Seafood and Steak: SPAM® Mahi Carbonara.

Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber: Will have three dishes including Hormel’s Grand Prize Winning Recipe from the Great American SPAM® Championship. . .drum roll. . .Mini Maple SPAM® Doughnuts (created by Jason Munson, at the Puyallup Fair right here in Puget Sound)!


Admission is free.  But if you plan to attend keep in mind,The Hawaiian Food Bank will also have a booth at SPAM® JAM.  Since 2004, more than 10,000 pounds of SPAM® have been donated to the food bank thanks to this festival.

For more information, visit, www.spamjamhawaii.com.   Ever been to the festival? Tell us about it, or tell your own SPAM® story by adding a comment below or drop us an email.

Note:  Thanks to Wiki Commons and photographer Matthew W. Jackson for use of the SPAM® photo at the top of the post and to SPAM® JAM organizers for the other two photos used in this post.

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