My husband has a mantra we hear on every trip: “You can sleep at home!” I agree. Why travel hundreds or thousands of miles to sleep in when there are a world of new opportunities outside your hotel door? Granted, traveling with our just-graduated-from-college daughter Sondra meant we didn’t need to account for nap times with cranky toddlers.
Since this was the first Hawaiian trip for my husband and daughter, we decided to stay on Oahu and see as much as possible during our six-day stay. Our trip was off to a great start when Sondra’s phone rang right when we were leaving for the airport. I knew it was an “important” call since she walked away from us while saying, “Yes, Yes … Yes.” Suddenly she turned and began hysterically jumping up and down, while keeping a very professional tone to her voice. “That would work out fine. Thank you. I’ll keep in touch. Goodbye.” Then the screaming began as she breathlessly announced she got her dream job in Washington, D.C., working at a conservative think tank. Not bad to graduate from college and six days later get a job. Oh yes, then there’s the thrill of vacationing with your parents in Hawaii.
Shuttle Service Saves Money
Instead of renting a car, we simply took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel. Several companies offer a flat rate of $30 for up to four people. Since most hotels charge $20-30 for parking, the shuttle fee seemed reasonable. Hotel Renew was a perfect fit for traveling with our young-adult daughter. The boutique style hotel had an upscale feel without being stuffy.
Hotel Staff Family Friendly
Throughout our three day stay, the staff had a genuine desire to help in a friendly way. As we arrived, they gave us a drink and a cold scented towel so we could freshen up. Sondra wanted to hit the beach right away. The hotel helped us out by supplying towels, beach mats and lounge chairs for the close walk to the beach. Hotel Renew’s rooms were so immaculate I didn’t feel I had to clean the doorknobs and remote with my hand sanitizer! At home, we get two TV stations; reruns of Mash and a Canadian news station. That night, at Hotel Renew, we got cozy in our fluffy beds and watched “real” TV on a 50-inch screen.
Bus Tours to See the Sights of Oahu
It seemed like every place we visit around the country has a double-decker tour bus driving through the city. We decided to hop to the top of the Aloha bus and check it out. The bus stops at 19 places throughout Oahu, including right by Hotel Renew. If you move at a pretty good clip, you can get your money’s worth from the 24-hour pass. The bus is a convenient option if you want to see numerous attractions in a short period of time.
We visited China Town, the Iolani Palace, a la Moana Shopping Center and a few places in-between. The bus even goes out to Pearl Harbor. We enjoyed plugging in our headphones and hearing narrated descriptions about the sights. That wasn’t the case for three pre-schoolers on the tour; they kicked seats, screamed and demanded to go home … while their parents ignored them. I suggest getting off at frequent stops if traveling with young children. Adults might enjoy the evening tour which lets you enjoy the warm air while seeing the lights of Honolulu.
Visiting the Site of Pearl Harbor
Every year on December 7, news broadcasts commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor. Actually visiting Pearl Harbor makes that event all the more meaningful. Our tour leader from Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours gave an informative and dramatic historical account of what we would see upon arriving at Pearl Harbor. Viewing the museums and taking the Navy shuttle to the USS Arizona Memorial was a sobering experience. The few young children I saw seemed uninterested in the visit. I’d recommend this tour for kids 12 and up. Arrive early to beat the crowds.
Surfing Lessons on the Shores of Oahu
I am 58 years old and have never been involved in athletics of any form. (Yes, I was a drama geek in high school.) Imagine my shock when I discovered I have a knack for surfing. After a lesson with JoJo on land, she took me out in the ocean and I surfed! Not only did I surf, but this uncoordinated body stood up on the board and rode the waves into shore every time.
It was so shocking to me I kept screaming, “Look at me! I’m surfing!” to all the amateurs falling off their boards. JoJo is a licensed surfing instructor with loads of patience to teach surfing skills to non-surfers. I may quit my job as a speaker and hit the Professional Senior Surfing Circuit.
Riding Mountain Bikes through the Rainforest
We conquered the ocean so it was time to conquer the mountains. A tour with Bike Hawaii had us enjoying a two mile hike through the rainforest to reach a 200’ waterfall. The hike’s bumpy path, streams and slight inclines made us feel we were on an actual hike, not a casual saunter on a paved path. For one stretch, we maneuvered our way through a narrow trail in a bamboo groove. Even at noon, the path was dark due to the thickness of the bamboo. After a van ride up a hill, we hopped on bikes and rode five miles downhill on a road next to a rainforest with views of Honolulu.
Waikiki Beach for Shopping and Hotel
That night we stayed at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel located right on Waikiki Beach Walk and next to the International Market.The Beach Walk is actually a combination entertainment plaza, shops and hotels. I’m not a shopper. In fact, we spent an entire year traveling the U.S. in an RV and I never bought one souvenir. Yet, the Beach Walk was a great place for people watching. Our room at the Beachcomber had that “fresh” feel where you feel comfortable getting into the duvet covered bed without looking for bed bugs. Friendly staff, a clean room with balcony and ocean view…what more do we need?
Taking in the Magic of Polynesia
For entertainment, (besides watching Allan toss ice cubes from our balcony into the empty swimming pool below) we went downstairs to the Magic of Polynesia show.
We had the meal and entertainment package, which some people around us felt was a bit pricey. Then others told us they used coupo
ns and felt it was a good value.
I noticed that after we ate, several families with children arrived for just the entertainment portion of the program. That seems like a good idea, since younger kids around us got restless before the show started.
Once the performance began, everyone was enthralled. John Hirokawa led a power packed show. I loved his light-hearted attitude, rather than being a dark and somber illusionist you see on TV. He made a helicopter appear and a car disappear. In between, dancers performed intricate native dances, highlighted by a fire knife dancer. Of course, the highlight of the evening was when John pulled my husband on stage and they performed a gag magic trick together.
Polynesian Cultural Center for Family Fun
I always like interactive activities, so the Polynesian Cultural Center fit the bill. Authentic villages are set up to provide native songs, dances and even ukulele lessons. I watched families enthusiastically participate in hula lessons, canoe rides, coconut bread making, weaving, coconut tree climbing and spear tossing. Get the picture? Plenty for all ages! You can buy straight admission for the villages or also include a Hawaiian luau and a spectacular evening show featuring singing, dancing and fire-filled performances. This seemed like the perfect place to have kids be able to get exercise while participating in many hands-on activities.
Nature Tours and a Climb on Diamond Head
A sunrise trip to climb Diamond Head started at 6:00 am with Oahu Nature Tours. Driving into the park, we immediately saw we were in the middle of a clearly defined crater. Ranchers used to graze cattle here, without the need for any fences. Our guide described the gentle paved trail we would start out on. He also described various birds, shrubs and historical sights along the way. We actually loved his short nature talks as they gave us a chance to rest as the trail got steeper and steeper.
Soon we entered a pitch-black tunnel followed by a set of 173 steep steps. The view at the top is worth it as you see islands, beaches and Waikiki. What a great way to get your blood moving at the start of the day! Of course seeing the ocean made me want to get back on a surf board. Did I mention I can surf?
Fish and Dolphin Encounters on a Hawaiian Cruise
We ended our trip with a cruise with Wild Side Hawaii and the possibility of swimming next to wild dolphins. Unfortunately, the dolphins decided to leave the area when we were there, so we had to be content with seeing two huge humpback whales. One actually swam directly under our boat, eliciting a scream from our marine wildlife biologist. “They’ve never swam under our boat!” she told us while holding the hydrophone underwater so we could hear their sounds.
The tour took us to a coral reef where we snorkeled among sea turtles and a variety of fish. We were fitted ahead of time with fins and masks so the perfect fit made snorkeling a pleasant experience.
For some reason the fish were attracted to Sondra because she’d come up for air and say “Those fish keep swimming directly into my body!” While our group was disappointed in not being able to swim with the dolphins, it was obvious the staff were doing everything they could to find the elusive animals.
Now we are home and can sleep. Did I mention I can surf?