This year we were supposed to go to Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks as well as Las Vegas and Hoover Dam. Then came the news of overcrowded national parks and dangerous heat and we started to think with three bad knees between two of us maybe this wasn’t the best year to go to a national park. With seven weeks until our trip we had a big decision to make. Where to go? On a lark I mentioned Hawaii. Then we started actually looking at Hawaii.
Seven weeks later we were off to Honolulu! After many, many hours of travel we were in Hawaii! I couldn’t believe it! The bright blue Pacific Ocean, the mountains, the beaches, and oh my, the resort! We started out at Disney’s Aulani Resort. Before you roll your eyes, let me say you have to look for the Disney at this resort — except at the character meal in on restaurant. In documentaries we have watched, Disney’s Imagineers refer to Aulani as “Disney with a lower case d, and Hawaii with an upper case H”. There are hidden Mickeys around the resort, an abundance of Disney merchandise in the gift shop, and little touches here and there, but overall the resort honors and celebrates Hawaiian heritage and culture.
We had a fabulous time at Aulani. We spent two days on the beach and two days at the pools. On the additional days we visited Pearl Harbor and took an Oahu island tour. The pools were amazing and so much fun. We both enjoyed several trips around the lazy river in a float watching the sky go by. Of course, we took advantage of the water slides for some more fun. There were two choices, one with a float that was more open air and windy and fun, or one that was covered and more straight down. I chose the fun one, while my husband chose the straight down one. What fun!
Lunch most days was a Dole Whip (pineapple soft serve), or a Hawaiian shave ice. One day the shave ice even had a pair of ears making it look like a familiar character. While I’m on food — all of the restaurants at Aulani are fabulous. Our favorite was The Olelo Room. This outdoor bar had local musicians each night for some live entertainment. We loved the local entertainment and fell in love with the sound of the ukulele. Blend the wonderful entertainment, outdoor atmosphere, and excellent small plates together and this was a recipe for three ideal nights on vacation in paradise.
A highlight of our time at Aulani was the canoe ride! We saw the “Moana” movie-style canoe on the beach on our first morning and I just knew I had to get on that no matter what. My husband dutifully figured it out for us and got us booked on a morning ride. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! The water is so clear and blue and the canoe is so unique! We even got to see two sea turtles swim by us! I loved the perspective of looking back to the island from the canoe. So beautiful. I would have loved to have gone out on the canoe every single morning.
Of course, when in Hawaii you have to go to a luau! We walked about 10 minutes from our resort to Paradise Cove for their fabulous luau. Before the luau we met some parrots (for some reason I didn’t get in the photograph, maybe next time!), learned how to dance hula-style, enjoyed a Mai Tai, and saw how the pork was cooked. Then it was time for the delicious meal and the fabulous show. The show took us on a tour of the Polynesian islands and through the history of the luau — what fun! Of course, the most thrilling part was the fire dancing! We loved every moment of the night.
We made sure to take a day-long tour around Oahu that took us to Nu’uanu Pali Outlook, Byodo-In Temple, Waimea Valley and Falls, Dole Pineapple Fields and Plantation, along the North Shore, plus lunch at Fumis Kahuku Shrimp. What a beautiful island. I continue to be fascinated by the mountains that are the remains of volcanoes. So striking and beautiful and green. Words can never do justice to the beauty of this island. All I can offer is photos, which like words, fail to communicate the true beauty. Plus, we got a mini-hike in this trip with a 45 minute walk up to a waterfall. While we didn’t swim in the water with the rest of our group I did wade in the water.
After a week at Aulani we were off to Waikiki Beach for two days before heading home. This included an early morning walk along the beach to Duke’s restaurant for brunch and to see the statue of Duke Kahanamoku. Of course, time was spent poolside and checking out the famous beach. Our resort had a shopping area that included a Honolulu Cookie Company — as true cookie fans we had to check these out. They are perfectly sized, pineapple shaped, delicious shortbread cookies in various flavors. My favorite was the Kona coffee flavor dipped in dark chocolate.
Then the inevitable sad day came. It was time to leave the islands behind and go home. Yes, home is Florida, but still, Florida has a very different vibe than Hawaii. We’ve been talking about our trip since we got home and are planning our return. If we could we would move to Hawaii! My dad recently mentioned no matter where we go on vacation we come home ready to return or even move there!
Just like we tried to incorporate French food or relive memories of our trips by making baguettes, croissants, and crepes we are now doing the same with Hawaii. I am eating a lot more pineapple than ever! We’ve tried with varying degrees of success to recreate some of our favorite meals — and most dinners are coated in a teriyaki marinade now. We are also saying “Aloha” and “Mahalo” between “Bonjour” and “Merci”. Until our return to Hawaii, we’ve got wonderful memories, lots (and I mean lots) of photos, and Dole Whips at Disney World to remind us of our wonderful time in the Rainbow State.