Sunday, May 3, 2015

Aloha - Hawaii - Waikiki Awakening

(Waikiki beach) 

(Diamond Head Hike View) 

(Finishing stairs at Diamond Head)
(Acai Bowl from Jamba Juice) 
(Coconut Mojito - Dukes, on the beach front) 
(Fish taco's - Dukes, on the beachfront)
(Mai Tai - Dukes, on the beachfront)
(Waikiki beach)

(Farmers Market Macaroon's)

(Koko Crater trail - 1000 steps)
(makittas Buffet Restaurant)

Before we got the shores of Hawaii I had done my research and devised a tick list of things I wanted to see and do in the week we had booked.  We arrived in the Honolulu airport early morning, fairly cranky and tired from our 9 hour flight over (which hasn't been my worst flight, or longest for that matter).

To relieve any stresses we paid $15 each to get the 'Speedy Bus' which took us directly to our hotel and could pick us up at a different location (which we needed having three difference accomodations booked in Waikiki and one in North Shore - which we had two different rooms over two difference nights. Sigh. Backpacker life). We later found that there was public transport that also could have taken us to our doorstep for a lot cheaper, and there are always hotel shuttles to the airport which would also save a penny.  But sometimes when your hungry, smelly, and tired you look for the easiest option. 

Where did we stay in Waikiki?
We found accomodations in Hawaii pretty challenging especially on a shoestring budget.  Hostels were still charging $30 for shared accomodation, and $35 each for a private room but these rooms went quick and we missed out bar one night.  Other than that, Waikiki known for its influx of tourism bumped the prices of 2 - 3 star hotels to what would normally be the price of 4 - 5 star hotels.  Made life difficult but we just managed. 

-Grand Castle Waikiki - 2 nights 
Basic room, with Wifi. Great location at the end of the restaurant and bar strip on the foreshore.  Two doors down from Starbucks (wifi saviour), one door down from Teddy's Burger which actually had pretty decent Acai bowls and about 10-15 walk from shops, markets and the Diamond Head hike which overlooks the Waikiki foreshore.... Annnnnd of course you are right next to the beach... The Waikiki Beach. 
-Polynesian Culture hostel - 1 night
We had to stay here last minute as we thought we might have stayed in North Shore for longer, but due to bad weather we decided to seek some sunshine back in Waikiki.  For a hostel we thought it was still a bit over priced.  We booked a 'semi private' room (whatever that meant) because it was about the same price as a six bed dorm.  In the end 'semi private' meant walking through a tiny bombed room with three bunk beds and sleepy people to our hole in the wall at the end + share bathrooms (which was expected).  I think have done my dash with hostel stays.  This not being the worst hostel I have stayed at - they did offer cheap bulk made dinners, free breakfast and the place did have a funky vibe with graffiti'd walls trekking up the stairwell.  Also once you picked the right wifi for your floor it was pretty good.  It is definitely not the cheapest though. 
-Hokele Suites - 2 nights
We decided to try and stay a few streets back from the strip to try and save some money, but in true style it was a last minute decision so it was still quite pricey.  There was a pool in the centre of the hotel which was a nice touch (not that we used it), and the room had a cute little balcony at the side of the room which had city views and was great for people watching (Mind you the people you were watching were either on their balconys or in there apartments with the windows open - professional creeping 101 don't make eye contact. I repeat, don't make eye contact. That's a bit too creepy). It was great having the luxury of a double bed each in the room, and cable TV when we wanted to collapse into bed after a big days hiking and happy hour.  Downfall - wifi was only limited to the lobby area by the pool and was usually fairly busy with school spring breakers so the connection wasn't always the best. Also they charged hidden taxes to use the Wifi which I thought was a bit rich considering it wasn't in your room. 


-The hikes - we made it to Diamond Head trail which isn't too strenuous to the top, and has a great view of the Waikiki foreshore. Koko Crater head which isn't for the faint hearted and a little fitness is required.  Koko Crater head trail was an old railway that the fitness junkies in Waikiki use to kick their ass in a training session.  It consists of over 1000 steps in which you feel your heart rate starting to increase after about 125 steps... I started counting but lost count. About midway the limestone blocks turn into airborne flat wooden slates and concentration is needed.  The view is worthy and the workout is even better.  We tried our luck with the deadmans catwalk trail which is technically closed and is guarded most days due to it being 'unsafe'.  I would have loved to give it a go, the photos I have seen looked the best of all three trails but alas big man guard was looking gruff and not very friendly as we drove up looking wide eyed and eager. Asshole. 
-Acai Bowls and Poke - new obsession. Not together. But seriously. YUM. Poke (pronounced Poke-ey) Hawaiian dish - raw fish chunks with a seasame seed sauce. Wait, that doesn't sound too desirable.... But please I beg you. Sooooooo gooooood. I didn't even get a photo of any bowl I had because I couldn't help but scoff it.  And for those who know me well I'm a serial food instagram offender. Shit, and Acai bowls... Well.... The obsession is real. 
-Happy hour - it's no Bali happy hour, but you can still find some drink specials at most bars and they usually run all night. A special mention to Lulu's bar who happened to have $5 cider specials on the night we had poke, and I had a delicious almond crusted Ahi tuna fillet and mash potato (salivating)
-Makitta's Buffet - we found a coupon for this restaurant in a free information booklet we picked up anddddd it included free lobster. Done. It's a few streets back from the main strip, but it's worth the walk.  Not only was there Poke, Sushi, Salads, Seafood, Prime Rib and many more on offer, it also included a hula dancing show andddddd it was only $20 plus tax. Needless to say we rolled out of there.
-Dukes bar and restaurant - awesome sunset spot, yummy coconut Margharita and decent fish tacos. Get in early to get a balcony spot. 
-Farmers Market alley under the Hyatt hotel (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun) - we picked up some fresh produce and bits and pieces from the Farmers Market for our next days adventures.  Popular items were pre sliced mangoes, Tapioka coconut dessert (so yummy - just like a chia pod dessert), salads and macaroons (they were probably the best I have ever had!).


-Save your pennys if you are planning a trip to Oahu, Hawaii. Waikiki is slammed with tourists and have prices to match with the demand.  People who come here are willing to pay the big bucks as most are on a weeks holiday to then go back to work.  Having a two month trip ahead of us, we were trying to be mindful of our dosh, and staying in Waikiki and North Shore sure didn't help the bank account.  Also watch for extra expenses that aren't stated either in the menu (tax) or in your booking.  Some hotels we got charged an extra $10 per night just for Wifi and 'complementary' tea and coffee in the lobby. There was no option but to pay it. (Also like every American country, remember to tip - a dollarish at bars and around 20% for good wait staff at restaurants - it adds up).
-Signage - I'm not sure why, but we braved the wrong side of the road and hired a care from Enterprise (Nice and cheap for those who are looking) to hoon around the island.  I don't know why, but Hawaii signage seemed to be half assed.  You could think you were getting on the right highway (first sign) until you find yourself at a fork in the road and you don't know whether it's meant to be left or right because nothing is signed or marked and then you spend half a day taking the gamble of heads or tails. Funny in the beginning and frustrating by the end. 
-Promoters, Parrotmen and Preachers - it's a tourism paradise, which goes hand in hand with annoying promoters haggling to get people on their pub crawls, or to go on their tours, etc. Old guys carrying around sad looking Macaws (which in my opinion is cruel) asking you if you want to get photos with them for money about 100 times a day annnnd preachers handing out pamphlets and letting you know what they thought of you if you didn't take one. Rude.  

Waikiki was a palm tree paradise, overcrowded but I'm glad we went to check out the hype.  If I was to come over again I would try and get to the other islands that are less touristy so I can immerse myself more in the culture without the hassle.  Next stop is the islands North Shore. 

Tahnee xx

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