Due to the $100 credit that Virgin America issued me for the flight delay in December, as well as their fare sale, I booked another week in Hawaii at the start of March. I had another AirBnb place all set up in the vicinity of the place that I’d stayed at and loved in December, Island Colony. My flight took off and landed without a hitch. As I was in the shuttle and headed towards my AirBnB, I texted the owner to let him know that I was on his way. He then responded to ask me to meet him around the corner from the place instead as the building I’d booked wasn’t “cool with AirBnB.” The shuttle dropped me off at the appointed stop and the owner and I found each other. He informed me that, due to a last minute cancellation, he had a larger one bedroom spot available in… Island Colony. He said he’d show me both places and let me make up my mind, though I was already leaning towards Island Colony. We checked out the one bedroom at Island Colony first. Though it was decidedly decorated by a guy (he admitted that he stayed there every so often), there was a great view of the Ala Wai from the living room window, a great view of Waikiki from the large balcony, internet, a full kitchen and the added bonus of the fantastic pool/Jacuzzi/sundeck area that Island Colony has. We then went to look at the one bedroom around the corner. It also had a great view of the Ala Wai from the living room window, was smaller, had a full kitchen and a pool, but no dedicated internet. I went with the Island Colony space, of course. He charged me an additional $60, saying that he hoped he could keep me there for the entire week, but no promises. He said 5-6 nights in Island Colony were most likely before being switched to the smaller place.
After depositing my bags and freshening up, my first stop was, you guessed it, the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian! I had one drink, but assured Chris that I’d be back mostly in the evenings. My second stop was Hawaiian Crown Plantation for that Minty Hawaiian smoothie. I’m SOOO addicted to it!
Next up was a quick run to Chinatown via the bus. I bought a few leis from Lina’s Leis on Mauna Kea Street (especially liked the one of pink rose buds), then stopped at Bar 35 for their Happy Hour. Bar 35 has pizzas, a few bar bites, certain cocktails, martinis and beers on special. I didn’t feel like eating an entire pizza, so simply got triple cheese crostini and a Heineken. The crostini was fairly average, though it DID have some bacon crumbles. It would certainly do in a drunken haze, though. Bar 35 has a HUGE beer selection with beers from Hawaii, the Continental U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Scotland, Tahiti and Thailand. It’s almost as good as going to Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood! (Yeah, I know, yet I stuck with my usual Heinie.) Afterwards, while wandering down Hotel Street, a cute dog was sitting inside Smith’s Union Bar, so I snapped a photo. I made it back to the beach in time to watch the sunset.
On Friday, after an hour and a half at the pool, I had an early lunch at Tango Contemporary Café. Although they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch, I was a little late for breakfast and my desired loco moco. I settled on a chicken salad sandwich on focaccia bread with Swiss cheese and tomato, as well as a glass of pinot grigio. It was good, solid food with good service.
Often when I go on vacation, I search Groupon or one of those websites for special deals prior to my arrival. I found a deal for a photo shoot, so had one set up for that Friday at 3:00 p.m. The photographer from HawaiianPix had asked me to meet him at one of the lifeguard stations at Magic Island. I showed up in an Island-inspired sundress, a lei, slippers and sunglasses. I told him that I don’t usually photograph well as most photographers don’t make me feel comfortable, but endlessly search for that photographer that I click with. He was quite friendly, did most of the shots well away from other people and we actually joked around a lot. Oh, and he did NOT let me wear the sunglasses for any of the shots!
When the photo shoot was done, I dashed over to Ala Moana Center intending to hit up the Mai Tai Bar there for Happy Hour. It was completely full, though, so I stopped in at Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room in Macy’s for a quick snack. Although I’ve eaten at Alan Wong’s downtown a few times, I’d never tried the Pineapple Room before. It was decidedly not busy on a Friday after lunch and before dinner. Service was excellent, though. Not being overly hungry, I chose the black tiger shrimp and pork gyoza appetizer which had ko choo jang vinaigrette, housemade kimchi and garlic chive chimichurri. It was a good portion, tasty and beautifully presented. I washed that down with a watermelon soda, which was delicious, but overpriced. As I dashed through the department store on my way out, a Bobbi Brown makeup artist at Macy’s offered to do my makeup. She did a great job (should have had her do my makeup PRIOR to my photo shoot) and I loved the Perfectly Defined Long-Wear Brow Pencil with its slanted tip. It’s waterproof and contains waxes and emollients, but I had to pass on purchasing it for $42!
Back at Island Colony, I had a great view of the Friday fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village from my balcony. I got ready to go out with my cousin through marriage, Davey. He’d moved to Hawaii from the Bay area nearly a year ago and is working on the new rail transit project. When he picked me up, we drove around getting caught up for awhile. We ended up at the Mai Tai Bar in Ala Moana for a drink. He then texted his roommate, who told us to meet him in Chinatown at Polarity. The place was small, had a $15 (?) cover and drink tickets, if I remember correctly. There were DJs, as well as stripper poles and aerial equipment for patrons to make use of. However, if you wanted to play on the aerial equipment, you had to sign a release form. I really liked the vibe of the place. We later moved on to Asylum Afterhours Club. It wasn’t that busy when we arrived, but seemed to be filling up. It was a bunch of little rooms and DJs playing various music. We had a few drinks there before heading home.
I was up early on Saturday for the long bus ride to Haleiwa. My lunch was gumbolaya from Dat Cajun Guy. The gumbo was a little soupy for me, but I love his jambalaya. I wandered through various stores (Matsumoto’s, Mahina, Pineapples, Happy Haleiwa, etc.) and bought a few dresses that were on sale, plus some Maui Onion sea salt to satisfy the saltaholic in me. I then grabbed a small regular acai bowl ($7) from Haleiwa Bowls before getting on the bus and heading back to Honolulu. The girls who work at Haleiwa Bowls were about as indifferent as last time. Their acai bowl is probably in my top three, though.
That evening Vince at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel introduced me to his Big Blackberry Cocktail – a concoction of blackberry, lemon, habanero, ginger, honey, tequila and another ingredient or two. It’s spicy and you’re only allowed two, for fear of what you might do! In reality, the guy sitting next to me was drinking one. Since it looked interesting, he offered up a taste, which convinced me. After making a few friends at the bar, I headed out to the food trucks over on Beachwalk for dinner. I got the Beefy Wild Ramen from Kamitoku Ramen for $10.25; flavorful and good, but not mind blowing. That was it for my Saturday night, aside from picking up some water at CVS. I love their Gold Emblem flavored waters, particularly the strawberry and pineapple-coconut ones.
On Sunday morning I took the #42 (Ewa Beach) bus to the Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium. Though I wasn’t in major shopping mode, I bought some Hawaiian quilt purses, some T-shirts, a silver necklace and a silver pendant. Then it was back to the pool. Someone barbecuing at the pool got me in the mood for a late lunch. Mahaloha Burger in the food court at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center took care of that. I love their loco moco burger; it’s a good size and economical for the Waikiki area.
I actually had another photo shoot set up for what I thought was that evening. It turned out that it was supposed to be at sunset at Kahanamoku Lagoon. Since the photographer and I had that timing misunderstanding, he said we should probably just meet for a glass of wine, beings neither of us were doing anything then (he’d already put his lights and equipment away). We met at the Sunrise Bar at The Modern Hotel. We ended up having a bottle of wine, a few appetizers, then a few more glasses of wine. Obviously, we hit it off. We had a very intense conversation that went from humorous to profound. He then dropped me off back at Island Colony (I got to meet his sweet dog, Bernie, in the car) and planned to reschedule for either Tuesday or Wednesday.
My evening ended at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, of course, where I made even more new friends. I love the bartenders there. When I asked what time last call is, Shane said “Whenever you’re done!” When I paid my bill, he smiled “See you tomorrow!”
Monday morning began with some pool time, of course. Lunch was at Duke’s Canoe Club because I have to stop in there at least once per trip. Besides, I love their salad bar at lunch. In addition to all the different types of salads, there’s usually teriyaki chicken, kalua pork and cabbage, pasta and maybe some fish. The kalua pork and cabbage really hit the spot that afternoon. At 1:00 p.m. I was being picked up for a half day Island tour, which encompassed mostly the East side. I’d reserved and paid for it through Hawaii Discount Tours (www.hawaiidiscount.com). Our van driver, whose name was Ernie (I believe), was hilarious. He made jokes throughout the tour that kept us amused and on our toes. We saw Hanauma Bay, Halona Blowhole, Makapu’u Lighthouse, the Pali and a few other places, with a short stop in Waimanalo.
I was back at Ala Moana Center after the tour ended. I finally managed to find Farmers Market Hawaii to pick up a few T-shirts. Then I stopped by Lupicia Tea to buy a few of their exclusive Hawaiian tea blends. My favorites were the Hoku (Taiwanese oolong with pineapple and guava) and the Lanikai (black tea with pineapple, coconut and vanilla). I also bought a melon oolong tea, which was very refreshing. When I passed through the food court, I decided to grab something for dinner. At Poi Bowl, I ordered a small chicken long rice. My Filipino boyfriend used to make chicken long rice for me back in the late 70’s; haven’t had it since because I never attempted to make it on my own and never really see it on restaurant menus in California. I also ordered bacon and cheesy fries from some Philly cheesesteak place.
There’s a “hidden” bar on Royal Hawaiian Avenue called Cuckoo Coconuts. It’s set back off the street with a clothing store in the front (which may be theirs), so it’s not easily located without prior knowledge. The crowd was eclectic in age, character and seemed to be equally mixed with locals and tourists. A woman was playing ukulele and singing. I found an empty seat at the bar. Just my luck, there was an obnoxiously drunk guy on my left. The guys on my right seemed to know him, but not want to be associated with him, if you get my drift. He kept trying to chat me up. I was “social,” but not overly friendly. He did inform me, however, that they offered $4 Mai Tais, which are NOT advertised on the menu. I went with that; mine was served in a smaller glass, but was relatively potent. I might have stayed for another drink, but the guy was getting on my nerves. So… another nightcap at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian to end my evening.
Tuesday morning was my sunrise photo tour with Blue Hawaii Photography. Evan picked me up in a van around 5:45 a.m. There were 3 other passengers, besides me. The tour was about 5 1/2 hours and we also went to the east side of the Island. We shot near Eternity Beach, then at Makapu’u and the tide pools, Waimanalo and at Judd Waterfall, stopping for breakfast at Kalawapai Cafe in Kailua. The sunrise wasn’t spectacular and it was a little breezy out, but Evan was a wealth of information as to camera settings and little tricks to take better photographs. He’s one of THOSE people who simply seems to spread positivity everywhere he goes. If I lived in Hawaii, I’d definitely want him to be one of my closest friends!
While on the photography tour, the AirBnB owner had called me to say that he needed to switch me to the smaller apartment. After the tour, I moved my things to the other place (he’d already left the keys for me), went to Zippy’s for a mini chili moco, picked up a small loco moco from Rainbow Drive-In (for later) and went to Chinatown for a fresh lei, in case I had a photo shoot at sunset. While perusing the leis at Cindy’s Leis, I noticed that they had hakus on sale for $10. Since one of those might be nice for a photo shoot, I asked the owner, Ray, if any or all of them might be fresh enough for that night and/or the next evening. He was kind enough to take each of them out (there were 3) and examine them. All 3 of them were fine; they just had overstock. I picked one that had a few little blue flowers in it, plus two other leis. He sold all 3 of them to me for $20. I then asked him if it might be possible to pick up manapua somewhere. He directed me to Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery across the street. He said that they wouldn’t be as fresh as first thing in the morning, but that they were as good as any in Chinatown. I went over and picked up a couple of chicken curry, a baked (or was that steamed?) chicken and a black sugar one, plus some pork hash shu mai. By then, the photographer had said that it was a no go for the photo shoot at sunset as it was too windy. I went back to the apartment instead and heated up one of the chicken curry manapua and one of the pork hash shu mai. The pork hash shu mai was good, but the chicken curry manapua was YUMMY!!! That will be one of my newest Hawaii food obsessions. When I ate the other chicken one and the black sugar one the next day, they weren’t as impressive.
Wednesday morning came quickly, meaning my vacation was nearly over. I was slow to get out and about. After my morning manapua and pork hash shu mai, I spent part of the afternoon at the Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I ran into a couple that I’d met a few nights earlier, so we spent a couple of hours hanging out. The only reason I left was because the photographer had said it was a go for the photo shoot. I needed to go back to the apartment, change, freshen up and meet him at the Natatorium next to the Honolulu Aquarium. Never having truly been there before, it seemed like an odd choice for a photo shoot at first. However, he set the lights and equipment up in the banyan trees, then walking along the paths and finally on one of the walls. The photos that he showed me were quite nice, although I knew he would edit them to make them even better.
My cousins from Ewa Beach were meeting up with me that evening. They’d asked for some Super Bowl T-shirts and hats, as well as regular San Francisco T-shirts, which I’d brought along. Since my cousins were hungry and we were all a bit tired and quiet, we simply had dinner at the IHOP in the Ohana Waikiki Malia. All I wanted was a side order of fried rice, but it was HUGE! The service was extremely slow and a little weird, so I don’t see any of us frequenting that place again. We were looking to have a drink, so I suggested either the karaoke bar, the Italian wine bar or Cuckoo Coconuts, since it was close. They settled on the latter. The place was about half full and we’d just missed the live music, but my cousin happened to know one of the guys from the band, who were packing up their equipment. Thus, they reconnected after not having been in touch for quite awhile.
Another friend of mine took me to breakfast at Wailana Coffee House very early on Thursday morning before my flight. I was very, very sad (due to receiving bad news on Tuesday night), but he always manages to cheer me up, even when I’m crying over my scrambled eggs. He calmed me down and took me back to the apartment to pack my things. Of course, when the shuttle driver picked me up, he seemed to be in a bit of a rage. He yelled at me and threw my bags in the back. When he dropped me at the airport, he seemed to regret his actions a bit, though, ’cause he was extra careful with my luggage. Maybe he thought he was going to get a tip, but I merely grabbed my bags, gave him the stink eye and walked away. Of course, since I was already emotional, that little incident set me off. While the woman at the counter was checking my bag, I was crying hysterically. Neither she or the security guards standing nearby were sure what to say or do. I actually had to take an extra 10-15 minutes to go stand off to the side, continue crying and attempt to compose myself before going through security. My departing flight was uneventful, though – no delays, no mechanical problems, etc.
All in all, even with the bad news that I’d received towards the end of the trip, my vacation in Honolulu was still good, for the most part. I’m simply better around Poly people.