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.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maui timeshares: A Taxing Tale

We've discussed timeshare ownership with a number of those reading this blog and thought you would find of interest tidbits from an article appearing in the Jan. 22, 2010 Pacific Business News, that took a close look at Maui's timeshare tax and the money and ire it is raising on that island.

The article written by Janis Magin says, "Maui County became the only local government in the U.S. to create a tax rate category just for time shares in 2005, and at $14 per $1,000 of assessed valuation has the highest tax rate on time shares in the nation, according to the time-share industry's trade group, the American Resort Development Association."

She reported that the Starwood Vacation Ownership sent an email letter to time-share owners that said property taxes for the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas North went from $1.2 million last year to nearly $6.4 million this year.

On Maui, Magin writes, a residential condo is taxed at $4.85 per $1,000 or $2 per thousand if it is the owner's primary residence. A timeshare unit is taxed at $14 per $1,000 and that bill is split among 51 owners. At the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas the 2009 assessed valuation for more than 280 units ranged from $555,000 to $2.9 million and taxes on those units range from $7,700 to $41,101.

We've been pondering the purchase of another timeshare week, and it certainly would be something we would keep in mind had Maui been the destination we were considering.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Diamond Head's a Gem

We opted this trip to skip our walk around Diamond Head and haven't yet been inspired to climb up Diamond Head; instead we climbed down the switchback path to the beach at Diamond Head Beach Park and wondered why we had never done it before. The beach was of the finest sand around areas of long-ago lava flows. . .that today make for spectacular tidal pools. The climb back up the hill was made easier by using a beacch access road we found on the Waikiki side of the lighthouse. It was an easy two mile walk to the park from the hotel and a mile or so along the beach. . .and justified another one of our ono grindz dinners.

Honolulu Headlines: Vog and Vagrants

Thought I'd add a touch of reality to these posts from paradise. So I am sharing a couple of topics that have made the news around here this last week. First, Honolulu has been under a 'vog' canope off and on since we arrived. Vog is the local term for a condition like fog, but made up of volcanic dust and debris. It is being brought to us by the Kona winds from the volcano on the same island. Trade winds, blowing the opposite direction, have come along for a couple of days and cleaned up the air, with both strong winds and a bit of rain, but by tomorrow there is talk of the 'vog' returning. Okay, so being from the Pacific Northwest, I have to admit we hadn't noticed it until people and the press alerted us to the conditions (which can cause problems for those with breathing ailments). This photo shows the cover at sunset. I mentioned a bit of rain which came the other evening: another headline alerted us to the fact that Hawaii is suffering from a drought.

One of the other topics getting press is what we call in the Seattle area, "Tent Cities" the encampment of homeless folks in tents. We saw such a city out in the Makaha area of the island last year and a few along the Northshore. This year more tents are visible in Fort Derussy Park and Kapi'olani, in the heart of Honolulu/Waikiki which has lawmakers debating how to address the problem. The latest being pondered is a fee for tents and abolishing grocery carts from the park (often used by homeless to carry their belongings). Again, we had been commenting on the number of 'campers' using the park last weekend. Good to have the press keeping us up to date on what's going on around us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Waikiki Ono Grindz

Ono grindz, that's Hawaiian for good food. And ono grindz is in abundance here. You could eat yourself to death -- I at least am appreciating those floral mu-mu dresses, that appear more tent-like than fashion -- having started to eat my way through town. I had mentioned deck dining in an earlier post -- this photo was my $10.50 dinner: chicken katsu, bbq pork, potato salad, broccoli (I had to have something healthy) and two types of kim chee, the spicey Korean vegetables and of course two scoops of rice. Yes, that was my plate; Joel had his own.

Wine, purchased at the local grocery, brought the cost of the meal to less than $35. . .and we've had leftovers for two lunches.

We followed the advice of local columnists at The Honolulu Advertiser ( tried Happy Hour at the Sheraton Hotel's RumFire; a place with million dollar views and great Happy Hour prices ($3 draft beer, $5 wine and $5 mai tai) Pupu's were of gourmet quality and greatly reduced during the 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. daily Happy Hour.

Waikiki's Freebie Finds

Not long ago friends seemed surprised when we suggested they give Waikiki a try instead of flying to an outer island. They questioned cost and what they might find to do. . .hotel prices don't get much better than they are now and as for things to do, the place is abuzz with freebie finds. Friday nights there is a fireworks show out over the Waikiki waterfront that matches those we know as Fourth of July extravaganzas in Seattle. We watched from our room while others gathered along the beach.

Saturday night we caught the tail end of the free hula show that takes place four evenings a week on Prince Kuhio Beach (adjacent to Waikiki Beach)

Sunday we happened to be here during the 25th Annual Ala Wai Canal Canoe Races, sponsored by the Waikiki Community Association. Ala Wai, is two blocks back from Waikiki. At other times it is fun just to watch canoes out on the canal. That afternoon we happened upon a band concert at the Pavilion at Kapi'olani Park, only two blocks from Prince Kuhio Beach.
The local paper, The Honolulu Advertiser, is a great source for daily information on lectures, tours and activities going on about town

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On Deck in Honolulu

Our deck, mentioned in yesterday's post, made reference to it being the best dining venue in town. In truth, we are spending most waking moments here when 'in our room' . The sun peeks around Diamond Head about 7:15 a.m. - a perfect scene to start each day. With Diamond Head over our left shoulderas we sip morning coffee (Hawaiian, of course) and read the paper.

The deck provides us a great viewing stand to watch both water and beach activities that take place from morning to night. We have the Marriott to the left, the Catholic Church and Foster Tower to our front -- just slightly interferring with our otherwise panoramic view over Waikiki.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A toast to the tropics. . .

There is something about a glass of wine at sunset in the tropics that can't be matched anywhere else on earth. We toasted our arrival at the Outrigger Canoe Club, a Honolulu institution since its founding in 1908.

Palm trees swayed, the sky moved from its cloudless blue to gold and pinks as we ended our first day on the island. Temperatures have been in the low- to mid-80's with a 'cold spell' expected to drop them into the high 70's today and this evening (I know, none of you mainlanders have any sympathy for suffering through such temperature drops here).

Our room at the Hilton provides a sweeping view from Diamond Head out over Kuhio Beach. We had wondered what a $99 rate would get us: 31st floor, six from the top and our deck provides the best deck dining venue in town. More on that next blog.

For those armchair travelers out there who want to envision yourself here, I suggest you try
KINE FM turn up your computer's sound, stand up and do a little hula.


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