March 5th, 2022
As Phase Two of our Epic 2022 USA trip, we were headed to Hawaii! We played this a little Coy in our last blog as we were leaving Las Vegas, in a forlorn hope of building suspense. But the cat is out of the bag and we are here on the paradise island of Oahu! We have a lot planned for the next 6 days. We will head around the entire Island, Visit Luaus, Resorts, and many beaches, We have helicopter tours, Catamaran Cruises, and a whole heap of snorkeling and water sports planned. It really is going to be epic. But we Start our Hawaii odyssey in Las Vegas, the morning before…
Sometimes when you put a plan together it feels like a really good idea. Like you have discovered some great Travel hack that is both convenient, time-saving, Money-saving, and free’s up a whole chunk of valuable vacation time. Then the reality is, you have kinda messed up.
This is one of those moments. Stood at Las Vegas Airport, at 11 pm at night, waiting for check-in to open. 2.5 hours before departure and 9 hours away from landing and already tired, grumpy, and pretty pissed off. And this was planned!
You see, while we were putting this itinerary together we noticed the 1:40 am Flights out of Vegas Direct to Honolulu, arriving at 6 am Hawaii time. And we figured, instead of booking another night in Vegas or Oahu, we could simply spend the entire night in the Air. Leave vegas at night after a full day, and simply arrive in Hawaii with a full day ahead of us. Sleep on the plane and save a whole night’s Hotel cost, the flight was about the same price as a hotel so it’s a no-brainer!
Honestly, this made perfect sense and we congratulated ourselves on our cunning. What did we forget? We are Human. We get tired, irritable, and grouchy. A full day in Vegas is exhausting and to crawl into a soft hotel bed at the end of it is heavenly. To stand in line waiting for check-in to open, to then stand in line at security, to then stand in line to board and spend an awkward and uncomfortable night crammed into an economy seat in the back of a metal tube, is not heavenly! And this was starting to dawn on us!
In fact, only one thing got us through this, the thought that when this night from hell was over, we would be in Hawaii!
We were booked onto Hawaiian Air, this was a re-arranged flight from a trip we booked prior to Covid that was canceled. We accepted a flight Voucher instead of a refund as we knew we would be back.
The first hurdle we had was passing the Quarantine Exemption hurdles. As we were flying from the US we were considered Domestic Travelers, and as such were required to quarantine for 7-14 days (we could never work out which tbh) unless we could qualify for Exemption.
This was via either a Negative Covid Test or proof of vaccination. We are fully vaccinated so went down this route, but our vaccine records are from the UK’s NHS so not as well recognized as a US record. The Hawaiian Airlines and State websites both clearly stated this would be fine, but there is always the worry.
Everything can be uploaded via the States Safe Travels portal and we duly did this as soon as we were able. Once through Check-in and Security and at the Gate, there was a long queue to get your docs checked and get Pre-Approved. With this, you get a nice wristband and can show this on arrival and head straight out of the Airport. Without and you head down the “other” lane at Honolulu, and what happens down that lane is shrouded in mystery and we wanted no part of that. So Securing our wristband was paramount.
As we waited in line there was much confusion and flapping at the front of the queue as people rifled through papers and frantically searched for docs on their phones. This was quite worrying. But when we got to the front, the agent simply asked our name and gave us our wristband, all the while others were being pulled aside as they hunted out their docs. When we asked why it was so easy for us…”Oh, you uploaded everything beforehand right?”
Yes, of course, but we had assumed everyone else had too, but apparently not. It amazes us how few people actually make use of these free and easy portals to get docs pre-approved. As covid restrictions wind up these may be a thing of the past, but still every time we have used them it’s saved us a heap of time and worry. But most people seem to just rock up to the airport on a wing and a prayer!
Note – As of March 26, 2022, all Covid entry requirements have been lifted to enter Hawaii for Domestic Travellers. International Travellers still need to adhere to CDC Guidelines for entry. (Essentially, you need to be fully vaccinated and produce a negative Covid test the day before travel)
Onto the plane and we have to be honest, this was not an enjoyable flight. My chair was basically broken. It rocked back and forth with the slightest movement. The Guy in front was in full recline before the plane had moved (he had to put it up for take-off but straight back down). We were insanely tired but sleep was hard to come by and the famed Hawaiian Air food service, that they told us about several times, was a pure figment of the imagination.
It was simply a case of getting through it. Grabbing as much sleep as possible and begging for water if we saw a flight attendant. After a long and uncomfortable night, which was about the roughest and bounciest flight we have ever been on, the seatbelt light was on ALL night we finally touched down.
It was still dark and we must have had a couple of hours at most of sleep. And we really didn’t feel ready to tackle and airport just yet. Honestly, the memory is still hazy, but we got through somehow, picked our bags up, and somehow made it to the Car Rental Center.
Inside Budgets New Rental Unit, which is shared with Avis, there was just one desk open with one member of staff and this was with Avis, not Budget, not really a criticism as there was also only one customer part from us. The Avis clerk noticed us and said he would help once he was finished with his customer. So all was good, we were just stupidly early. The plane had got in nice and early and it was not even 6 am yet.
After 5 mins a Budget representative arrived, coffee in hand obviously just starting his shift. He saw to our booking in no time and we were off to our car. Like in Vegas, securing a Cheap Hire Car had proved incredibly difficult. We were looking at $600 for a basic compact for 6 days. So like Vegas, we looked for something interesting. This came in the form of a Jeep Wrangler. Jeep prices seemed pretty unchanged and we picked a fully insures 2-door soft-top jeep up for less than $700, so while we had still had to pay out, at least we had something worthwhile for our money. However, this left us with another headache.
The Jeep was great, but it was soft top and we now had ALL our luggage and valuables with us, and we would not be able to check in until 3 pm and we were planning on exploring the west coast today, but we would not safely be able to leave the Jeep with all our gear in it. This left us no option but to head straight to our hotel and see if we could leave our luggage at reception, this would normally be no issue, except the “hotel” was on the other side of the Island and it was not exactly your usual Hotel!
North Shore – Backpackers and Plantation Village
As we headed out of the Airport. We were very stressed. Vegas will do that to you, as will Air Travel, especially during Covid Times, and especially when you book a stupid overnight flight and have NO sleep. So things were tense. But we pulled out into the warm Hawaiian morning air just as the sun started creeping up, and things started relaxing, as we cruised along the H1 northwards with the mountains to the right and the ocean to left, the tiredness lifted. As we headed through the Pineapple fields and rolling meadows of the central Central valleys as the Sun peeked over the mountains. A calm descended on us.
We arrived at the North Shore at around 7:30, the Hotel reception didn’t open till 9 am, so we headed into Haleiwa to hunt out some breakfast. We came across BREAKERS who were open and had a wonderful Lanai overlooking the Park and mountains. We sat in the warm morning sun and opened the menu. We were used to Vegas Prices at this point, where everything is heartstoppingly expensive. $8 coffee, $5 water, $30 breakfast, etc, and we kind of expected the same. Several of the breakfast Entress were under $10, and coffee was $2, we had a fantastic setting and all the stress of getting here just seemed to melt into a puddle on the floor.
It was the nicest feeling in the world and reminded us strongly why we love these Islands SO much. For the next few days, it felt like nothing at all mattered, apart from choosing which wonderful Breakfast items to have.
We had Breakfast Burrito and Short Rib Hash, and both were incredible and the whole bill was less than $30.
After a wonderful and relaxing breakfast, watching the lizards sunbathe on the Banana Trees and the Chickens forage on the lawns we headed back to our hotel…erm Hostel.
Here we had a nice surprise, while the receptionist said we could have left our stuff with them, there was no need as our room was ready. So we grabbed our keys and headed over. We were booked into the Backpackers Hostel, with a whole bungalow booked on the Plantation Village.
Now being honest, the hostel scene is not really our thing. We have grown accustomed to a better standard of accommodation. But paramount for us was staying on the North Shore and accommodation here is limited and really expensive. A few nights in the Plantation Village slumming it a little was worth it for the stunning location and escaping to the North Shore for a few days in paradise. Our bungalow was two bedroom, right on the oceanfront by Three Tables Beach, and had a wonderful outdoor deck.
It was very rough around the edges, the beds were worn and looking pretty sad, the furniture tatty and the whole bungalow just had a kind of layer of dirt that could no longer be cleaned. The word best attributed was grungy. It was very much beach bum chic, and really right on the edge of what we could tolerate. It did come with a free cat though and there were Ripe Papayas growing right on our doorstep. It really was a blend of shanty slum and jungle paradise!
Disney’s Aulani Resort
After securing our things in the Bungalow, we headed off for our day’s adventure. The bleary eyes of the overnight flight are now washed away by the stunning Hawai Sun. The plan was simply to head out and explore the wonderful West Coast around Waianae and the Waianae Mountain Range.
Before that, we wanted to take a quick trip to Disneys Aulani Resort. As we were not guests we were unsure how much of the resort we would have access to and didn’t want to break any rules or intrude where we were not welcome. So we just went to have a look around and see where we could go.
Arriving at the Resort we parked across the street in the Island Country Markets, which is not really allowed but we visited the shops and spent money there so it’s ok really. We then headed across to the resort,
Naturally, the whole lobby area is open to the public and we looked around the shops and open areas in the public space. The Disney store here is pretty small but it has some really nice Aulani exclusive merchandise and Kate helped feed here Loungefly Obsession with an Aulani Exclusive Moana-themed bag.
We then explored a bit further and headed down towards the pool area. There were Cast members guarding the pool doors but we just wandered past, there were no signs restricting us, and no questions asked by the Cast Members. The Pool area is seriously stunning. It’s integrated into the most wonderful Tropical Gardens with Koi Ponds, waterfalls, little Disney Easter Eggs, and of course the poos themselves and the amazing Lazy River. We had decided against staying here this trip, mainly due to the $5-700 Room Rate, but we were beginning to regret this decision now!
We kept going through the resort taking in the beauty until we got to the beach-side of the resort. Here we headed out of the resort, finally passing some signs saying access was restricted to guests (the opposite direction), and headed down to the ManMade beach area.
The Ko Olina Beaches are stunningly beautiful but they are all man-made coves and the sand is really coarse and feels a bit like builders’ dust. The Natural sand in Hawaii is often crushed shells and feels so wonderful underfoot, but the importer sand here leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it’s a wonderful spot and we kicked back for an hour or so taking in the sun and indulging in a little snorkeling.
The sheltered cove host a good amount of sea life. Again the unnatural sand means water clarity near-shore is terrible, but once you are out near the protective boulders things clear up and the fish come out.
After a swim and some sunbathing, we headed back to the Jeep, this time along the pubic footpath past one of the many small public beach parking lots. Back at the Country Market we did a little shopping to justify our parking and headed off.
The Plan was to head down the Farrington Highway all the way down to Keawaula Beach at the far end of the island, and then work our way back checking out the beaches as we went.
The weather was utterly perfect, with barely a cloud in the sky, and a soul-warming 85°F (29°C) as we cruised up the coast. Traffic was pretty bad and there was some really noticeable homelessness along the coast, a real huge problem currently in America and in Hawaii in particular which now has one of the highest Homeless rates in the country. It’s never nice to see and our hearts go out to the people forced to leave their homes for whatever reason.
It’s hard not to think though just for a minute, if you are going to be homeless anywhere, Hawaii is not the worst choice! The Homeless camps seem to be clustered and are completely avoidable, but there is a real lack of touristic feel down this coast compared to the rest of the Island. It feels far more residential and less welcoming to the visitor.
It is however a stunning coastline. The Azure blue sea’s lapping miles of golden sands with lush green mountains to the rear. The Waianae Mountain range is the oldest in Oahu and is heavily eroded which leaves deep valleys and rippled green mountainsides, feeling very exotic and Jurassic in nature.
At the far end, we came to Keawaula Beach a real remote and untouched beach park. The Breakers here were really pounding and there were large crowds of surfers and locals just messing around in the swells.
We then made our way back and down the coast stopping at Mākua Beach, Mana Kai Beach, and then finally Electric Beach (Kahe Point). We love snorkeling at Electric beach as it has a really high concentration of Marine life. The warm water outflow from the Electric Plant drives an abundance of plankton and in turn an abundance of marine fish to feed off it.
Conditions were really poor and in fact, were probably borderline unsafe. So Kate stayed on the shore while I used my high-level swimming skills to brave the breakers at the shore and head out to the outflow. Great care needs to be taken at this site as if you stray into the Outflow, you can expect to be deposited several hundred meters further out to sea. But it is easy enough to follow the pips along the seafloor to the end and stop well short of the current.
Life at the outflow was decent but not amazing. The rougher winter swells disperse the Plackton do there is not as much life as there can be, but it’s still pretty incredible even on a poor day.
After the long swim back to shore we stood on the rocks for a few minutes watching the Sea Turtles play in waves alongside the completely oblivious tourists doing the same. The sun was now getting low and we called it a day and headed back to the Plantation Village.
Sunset, Poke, and Mai Tai’s + Bonus Rescue!
Back at the Bungalow, we spent a while settling in after we departed pretty hurriedly in the morning. Then headed down to the Seafront to catch a pretty wonderful North Shore Sunset, We are literally just down the road from the famous sunset beach and the view f the Sun dipping into the ocean from here is really wonderful.
We then walked up to the Local Waimea Foodland’s Supermarket to pick up some Hawaiian Staples for our trip. Kona Coffee for Moring, some amazing Poke, a fresh Sushi Selection Box, some Pasta Salad, and ingredients for some Mai Tai’s then back to the Bungalow for dinner and a relaxing evening o the Lanai before Crashing into our beds for the night…It had been a long day and over 40 hours since we had any reasonable sleep!
However, the day was not quite over…
As we sipped cocktails on the evening air, two young female residents came to our lanai asking if we could assist them with an intruder in their lodgings. They claimed a HUGE spider had taken up home in their Shower and they were not able to evict him without resorting to lethal tactics something they were keen to avoid. So they wondered if we could help.
Kate flat-out refused. These girls were obviously a bit scared of Spiders, but Kate is terrified so she was to be no help. Myself, I have a cautious wonder of Spiders. I really love them, but feel it sensible to keep a healthy separation between myself and them. However, as a whole, there are very few large spiders in Hawaii and I figured there was a large Garden Spider in there. These look pretty fierce but are harmless and only a few centimeters, but you know girls, they always overexaggerate things.
So I grabbed a large Glass from the Kitchen and headed over to entrap the beasty and release it to the jungle. Upon entering the bathroom I found the unwelcome visitor hiding up above the shower curtain and instantly realized these girls were exaggerating NOTHING!
This was a Big Boy. My rather large 20oz cup was not going to cut it in capturing this beasty that was not far off the Size of my hand at least 5 inches in length and instantly recognizable as a Cane Spider, the Hawaiian name for a Hunstman Spider. Not only a really large Spider but incredibly fast and capable of jumping. It was at this point I considered leaving the girls to it, but chivalry got the better of me.
We quickly upgraded my armory to a large wastepaper bin and a brush to scoot him out of his hiding hole into a more targetable position where I then dropped the bin over him (after a few worrying escapes) and scooped him in with the dustpan.
The photo above shows him in the bottom of the large bin, which had an easy 8inch diameter, and despite its shiny walls, the spider would have no issue climbing out in seconds, hence the rather hurried pic. I carried him outside in the bin and deposited him as far into the bushes as possible.
For anyone reading who hates bugs and things like this, just know we are staying in a really remote part of the island and right in the jungle, so things like this happen. If you are staying in the City or a more touristy area you are not going to encounter beasts like this, This is the first time I have seen a Cane Spider in Hawaii and I look for them! Really I was so happy to see him and glad we could get him out of the shower and back to the jungle unharmed.
And with that, we all headed off to bed.