Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Our Hawaii trip

After 5 years of saving and planning our big family trip was finally here! Before we had Julia my inlaws had been talking about taking a big family trip every 3-5 years. My Mother in Law has a cake business that she does on the side and every thing she makes from her cakes she puts away in a vacation fund. Also for birthdays and Christmas instead of buying us gifts she puts money up for the trip. Our last big family trip was the Disney World/Disney Cruise trip. Julia was 9 months old and Elijah was 3. We took a cruise to the Bahamas and then a few days at Disney World. After that trip we began talking about where to go on our next big adventure. My in-laws had just been to Hawaii a couple years before that trip and fell in love with it. They suggested we make that our next destination. My in laws had visited all the islands when they went, but thought for a big family trip it would be best to stick to one island and Oahu seemed to be the best choice. I've never been to Hawaii or really knew much about it at all.

We left from Atlanta International airport at 5:00AM. We had to get up at 3AM to get shuttled and checked in. I thought leaving that early would be difficult for us, but really it worked out. Our flight was from Atlanta to Washington D.C. to Honolulu. It was a little over 10 hours from D.C. to Honolulu. The kids slept most of the way there. I had packed all kinds of books,magazines, Ipads, games, toys, etc, but didn't get one thing out. The plane (United Airlines) had individual screens on the back of the headrest which had over 200 movies, tv shows, and games. That kept everyone entertained! The plane was completely silent it was almost eerie!
I won trivia on the plane!

We arrived on Saturday at 1:00PM Pacific time. When we got to the hotel we were greeted with fresh leis. They smelled amazing! The shuttle took us to our condo on the beach. There aren't very many condominiums directly on the beach in Oahu.  Honolulu is a pretty big city with rows and rows of hotels so getting a condo was nice to accommodate our big family. We got two rooms. Our room was the four of us and my Mom. The condo had a separate bedroom, 2 twin size beds, and a couch that had a fold out bed. It also had two bathrooms and a kitchen. Our room had a city view and a partial ocean view. My inlaws room had an ocean view. The hotel beside us was a sister hotel of ours. We were able to use the pool from that
hotel everyday. That hotel also included a Starbucks and yes, I went EVERY morning! After settling into our room and taking a quick swim everyone was winding down so we ate inside one of the restaurants in the hotel called Shorebird. It was a buffet with a twist. The twist was that you had to cook your own meat! They had a big grill beside the salad bar with tongs and seasonings and they brought you out raw meat of your choice and you season and grill it yourself. It was a unique buffet experience!

On Sunday we all woke up right before 4:00AM! Our bodies were so messed up from the time change.Thankfully Starbucks opened at 4:30! Cameron really wanted to hike Diamond Head Volcano.  Online I read that it was one of the must see things to do with kids. We took a bus and began our hike. Looking at the volcano you do see that it is huge, but you don't really think about how high it is. We started our hike and almost immediately Julia starts complaining. So Cameron puts her on his shoulders and hikes pretty much the whole thing with her on his back. It's a .75 mile hike that feels like a 5 mile one!! It was a pretty rough trek, but the view was amazing! I will say that unless you think your child can walk the whole thing I wouldn't take small
kids. I got to brag on Elijah though because he walked the entire thing and didn't complain once! After the hike we refreshed ourselves with shaved ice which someone conveniently located at the bottom of the volcano. It was the best shaved ice I've ever had. Not sure if it was due to how hot I was after the hike or it was really that good. It was time for lunch so we headed by taxi to Teddy's burgers recommended by one of my friends. It was sort of like 5 Guys but way better! That night we were so tired from the hike and once again the time change was putting us off so we decided to just take advantage of the pool side restaurant at the hotel. It was decent food, but way over priced. Starting to find out that is the way it is in Hawaii.

Monday: We woke up a little later today. Made it 5:00AM! It was my Mother In Law's 60th birthday! It was also Memorial Day. That morning me, Cameron, Tessa, and Jon had booked an ATV tour on Kualoa
Ranch. The tour was going to take you to some more excluded parts of the island and show you where some tv shows and movies were filmed. That morning it looked pretty gloomy as we were heading to the ranch. When we got there it was a light rain, but they told us the tour was still on. As we got our gear on it really started coming down and there was even thunder, but the guides just acted like it was no big deal. We started the trek around the mountain on our ATVs and the rain was just pouring down, but it was pretty fun going through those mud puddles! We only went about 1/4 mile and we stopped at this bunker that was an actual military bunker used for WWII. Inside the bunker were some tv and movie props. If your a fan of Lost like us it was neat to see the
submarine and generator that was in the show. While inside the bunker our guide got word that there was lightening that struck just 300 ft away and they were canceling the tour. They said that rain was common on that part of the island in fact it typically gets 150 inches a year, but thunder storms were rare. They were very apologetic and even offered us a full refund which when we talked to some other people that week about it they said that was huge for them to do that. After we took our ATVs back we were soaked and ready to go, but because it was a tour the bus we took wasn't scheduled to come back for another 2 1/2 hours! It was still raining, but not storming so they offered us to take another tour for FREE on a different part of the ranch. It was a 6 wheel drive vehicle that took you up a mountain. The guide was so fun and stopped us on this part of the mountain that you could overlook the ocean. That is where we got a picture with the dinosaur! After that he took us a
little further and we passed by this huge oval cage looking building. He said they were filming Jurassic Park 4 here and it looked like a Raptor cage! Even though the original plan was ruined by the weather we still had a ton of fun on the other tour and it was all free! While we were gone the grandparents kept the kids and took them to the Honolulu Zoo. Afterwards, they went to the beach and picked up the lantern for the Floating Lantern Ceremony. Every year on Memorial Day in Honolulu they have a Lantern Floating Ceremony.  The Ceremony is a huge event there. The morning of the ceremony you can go pick up a free lantern kit that you can put
together and write a message about a loved one you lost. At the ceremony you light the candle inside the lantern and release it into the ocean. Hundreds of people showed up for the ceremony. Della picked up a lantern in memory of her Mother and my Mom picked one up in memory of my Dad. The kids wrote/colored a message on the lanterns. The weather was absolutely perfect that night. It was a beautiful moment watching the sunset over the beach and sending those lanterns out to sea. After the lantern floating we had reservations at Duke's. It is one of the most popular restaurant on the island. The food was very good, but the dessert was the best. We all shared a huge piece of Hula pie! It was ice cream with frozen chocolate syrup on a Oreo Crust. It
was amazing.

Tuesday: The family set out to spend the entire day at the Polynesian Culture Center. From what I understood it was basically a museum to showcase the history/culture of the Polynesian Islands. I wasn't sure what it was really about and honestly I was not looking forward to this day, however, it ended up being my favorite day here!! It was basically a mini theme park kind of like Epcot showcasing the different islands.

We went on the Admiral tour which allowed us to have our own tour guide. Our guide was a college student from New Zealand attending Brigham Young U. She was amazing. We went around to the different islands and learned about how the people lived on each island showcasing different things from each place. My favorite was the Samoa island. The men do all the cooking, cleaning, and entertaining! My kind of living! :) One of the men showed how he could cut open and clean a coconut in less than a minute and another man climbed a tree in about 10 seconds. Pretty amazing! That evening we had a luau at one of the Pavilion's at the Culture Center. It was a little disappointing because the food wasn't all that great, but the best show of the week was after dinner called Breath of Life. It was an amazing show about a Polynesian family. It has dancing, singing, fire throwing, etc. We were all impressed and the kids didn't blink or move a muscle the entire show! We were there 10:00A until about 9:00P so it was a really long day, but definitely worth going!

Wednesday: Me, Cameron, Tessa, Jon, Elijah, Julia, and London had a kayaking and snorkeling excursion planned at He'eia State Park. We got picked up at our hotel and the bus took us to the park to get all of our gear and then they towed us out on our kayaks to the snorkeling areas. We had two guides for this trip. They were fantastic!! They were so helpful and our kids were the only kids on the tour and they helped out so much with their gear and at one point Julia had fallen asleep on the kayak and they helped get get back to the boat and made her a little bed. We kayaked to another location for more snorkeling and the water was so clear. We saw alot of fish and even a sea turtle. The coral snuck up on you through and if you touched it it was really rough. We were out for about 90 minutes and then we kayaked back to drop our gear off and then they had grilled out lunch for us. We had chicken, ribs, rice, salad, and corn. It was delicious. I would highly recommend this tour if you ever go snorkeling on Oahu!!

That afternoon the boys left to go pick up rental cars for us to have the rest of the week so for dinner we decided to drive over to Aulani which was Disney's resort on the island. We had actually looked into staying here, but for a group our size it just wasn't very accommodating plus of course it's Disney so it was triple the cost to stay there. You can go over to the resort though and eat at their restaurants so we decided to go over and see how the resort looked and eat. the resort was beautiful. It reminded me of Disney's Wilderness lodge, but with a Polynesian theme. The pool looked amazing!! They had a lazy river that wrapped around the pool and a small volcano in the middle.
The beach was nice and they had brought their own sand in. Hawaiian sand is very rough. It's full of tiny pebbles/rocks and it doesn't pack very well so it isn't good sand castle sand. The kids were a little disappointment because non guest of the resort aren't allowed to swim and while they do have Disney characters there they do not come out at night so they didn't get to see Mickey, but they did have Mickey shaped dessert!

Thursday:  Me, Cameron,Tessa, Jon, Elijah, and my Mom went to Pearl Harbor. My In laws had been last time they came to Hawaii so they stayed with Julia and London back at the hotel.
That was nice because I dont think anyone younger than Elijah would have enjoyed it plus the little ones needed a day to relax. We did enjoy Pearl Harbor. It was a really great memorial to honor those who lost their lives in such a tragic way. Elijah has become a little history buff so he enjoyed this tour. They had a 45 minute movie showing actual footage and retelling about that day. Elijah had also waited until today to buy his souvenir. He was dying to get a U
.S.S Arizona boat and so he was able to get that at the gift shop. The tour was done pretty early so that gave us time that day to relax by the pool. For dinner that night we had reservations at Tiki's. I found it on Yelp and everyone had said it was a good kid friendly place to eat. It definitely was! They had normal kid food choices (chicken fingers, pizza, burgers, etc.) and they served it on frisbees which you could take with you! The kid desserts were also only $1 more. The adult menu was also good. Cameron and I split a chicken parmesan type plate. It was excellent and plenty of food to split. After dinner we went out and took some pictures on the public beach and saw the sunset.

Friday: Our last full day here. We got up and took the rental cars for a drive on the island. A girl on our kayaking tour told us we should go to Waimea Bay. So that morning we headed out and ate breakfast at Boots and Kiko's which was featured on Diner's Drive ins and Dives.

I got a fried rice egg omelette. It was yummy! Cam got what Guy ate on the show which was their Puleho Ribs. They were delicious!! After stuffing our faces we headed to the bay. The drive over was long. We got to see more residential areas but the traffic was pretty bad. When we made it to the bay it was gorgeous.
The water was SO clear and this time of year the waves were very calm so it was perfect for the kids to swim in. Along the beach was "the rock" where locals and tourist could climb up and cliff jump off. Elijah, Cameron, and Jon braved it and jumped!! After a couple hours of the beach we headed back toward our hotel, but first we stopped at Giovanni's shrimp truck. A friend of my in laws had told us about it and then I saw an episode of Real Housewives and they had eaten there so I wanted to see what is was about. Their specialty was garlic shrimp. It was good, but you really need to like garlic!

When we left the shrimp truck we headed back to our condo a different way we came so we got to see more rural areas of Hawaii which included coffee trees and their pineapple plantations. We barely made it before closing, but we got to shop at the Dole Plantation.I picked up a pineapple to take home which I have yet to cut into because every time I open my fridge its'a nice reminder of paradise!

Saturday: Our flight left today, but not until 8:00PM so we had most of the day to get more stuff in. Some friends had told us to wait to buy souvenirs until today  because at the Aloha Stadium they set up a flea market with hundreds of booths with all kinds of things you could buy. They had shirts,hats, toys, and handmade or homemade goodies. Some booths had fresh cut up fruit. We bought a bag of bread fruit. It's a fruit in the mulberry family, but it reminded me of a peach. After the flea market we returned our rental cars and grabbed lunch at Cheeseburger Beachwalk.
Cam and split a California Burger which had pineapple and avocado. It was AMAZING!! I will be adding pineapple and avocado to my burgers from now on! The flight back wasn't bad at all. Honestly leaving at night worked out because the kids slept all the way back.

Some things I was surprised at on our trip. One, is how many Japanese people there were! I mean at one point I thought maybe we were in Japan! It's covered with Japanese. I love the Japanese though. They are so funny and love to laugh at everything! This Japanese couple was taking pictures at the ranch where we did the ATV tour and I offered to take their picture together and they did this pose by the sign to the ranch and then they offered to take mine and Cameron's picture. I told Cameron we should do that same pose that they did so we did and they laughed so hard and even took our pictures with their own camera.
Cam had a good point though in that Japan is basically the same distance to Hawaii as it is from California. So it's easily their vacation destination. Another surprise was how expensive the food really is there. I had heard Hawaii was expensive, but GOODNESS. It's expensive!! For a family of four at a typical restaurant expect to pay no less than $50 if you each get a meal. Tiki's was the only one that fell under $50 and that was with Cam and I splitting. Food and drinks are so pricey. Be prepared to pay it. Also, you could choose to have a typical relaxing beach vacation, but to see everything you can see in Hawaii you will be busy! We had something planned every day and we were exhausted, but I am glad we chose to do that. I may never see Hawaii again and I feel like I saw everything I wanted to while we were there. After we got back I asked everyone what their top 3 favorite things were from the trip. here are the rankings:

My top 3:                      
Polynesian Culture Center
Snorkeling/Kayak tour
Waimea Bay Beach Day

Cameron's Top 3:
Polynesian Culture Center
Diamond Head Hike

Elijah's Top 3:
Pearl Harbor
Polynesian Culture Center

Julia's Top 3:
Swimming at the hotel
hiking Diamond head

Overall I had a wonderful time. Probably my favorite family vacation we've taken so far. I wander where we will go next??

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