Hawai’i On My Mind: A Few Of Our Favorite Things

Not that we’re experts in Hawai’i or anything (especially since we’ve only ever been to one of the islands together), but, to paraphrase our friend Rosie, we know what we like and we like it hard.  So the following are some of the things that have been dancing in our heads as we grow ever restless for our Hawai’ian vacation:

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Sunset drinks at The Edge of Waikiki: We stumbled into this patio bar at the Sheraton Waikiki resort after its neighbor restaurant removed some of our favorite items and went scrambling for a place to get a drink.  What a find!  The Edge, sandwiched between the Sheraton’s infinity pool and the Pacific, has by far the best sunset views of any bar in Waikiki.  And the drinks are so bleeping strong that, after two. I was literally falling over in gift shops and politely asked to leave.  We can’t wait to see Lynn again, our favorite server!

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The steak plate lunch at HI Steaks: Like Las Vegas, the cost of eating in Hawaii can start to add up, and most places you can go to grab a quick bite in Waikiki are overpriced for the pretty mediocre food you get. On our last trip, as I was starting to get fed up with the lack of quality options, we stopped in the local Foodland supermarket on the way back to our hotel when we decided to try their counter-service HI Steaks.  And it just happened to be the best meal, hands down, of anything we’d had on that vacation.  Perfectly cooked steak, seasoned rice, AND a spinach salad for $10? (And it didn’t hurt that Lance’s Hawaiian boy crush, seen above, worked the register on every visit.)

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You know, natural beauty and stuff: This one is obvious, but between gorgeous sunsets, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Waimea Falls, or various racially-insensitive islands, Hawai’i is a treasure trove of beauty.  Point-n’-shoot cameras don’t really do it justice.

collage4Bold-ass birds: There are a lot of birds on the islands, including wild chickens, peacocks that roam around the Waimea Botanical Gardens, or seagulls who will hop right into your hotel room and steal your food when you aren’t looking.  We dubbed them, “bold-ass birds,” because they get closer to humans than we’ve ever seen on the mainland.

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Yup, I”m pretty cool.

Uncle Bobo’s: We went to Uncle Bobo’s Smoked BBQ in Ka’a’awa based on the recommendation in the O’ahu Revealed travel guide.  And it is no joke the best barbecue I’ve ever had.  It’s a little shack-y type establishment next to a post office, just across the street from the beach; it seems a little dive-y, but isn’t that how BBQ is supposed to be?

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Shave ice and Yogurtland: Yogurtland is by no means Hawai’i exclusive (I don’t even think it’s Hawai’i born), but the first time we stepped into this self-serve froyo chain was in Waikiki, so it has a strong association with Hawai’i for us (it is, no doubt, the best chain froyo out there, too).  Then there’s Hawai’ian shave ice, too, which is basically where a huge chunk of ice is, duh, shaved down and served like a sno-cone and doused in sugary syrup, sometimes over ice cream.  These treats are a steal at about $3 (sometimes more if you add on a whole bunch of flavors).

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Fruit stands: Roadside fruit stands have the best, freshest pineapple you’ll ever have…and you’re supporting a local business!  Look at you, hippie!

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Being cute: Lance is no happier than when he’s in Hawai’i.  I can’t wait to see that smile on his face, even if his teeth are all brown and yellow.  Ick.

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The Lance+Jeff Guide To Planning Your Tropical Island Getaway

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Welcome to Hawaii Countdown Week on Lance+Jeff!  Lance and I will soon be off jetsetting around the world, leaving this dump of a city (Philadumphia? Filthadelphia?) for the tropical U-V rays of our nation’s 50th state, the Aloha Isles, the “Hawaii” in “Hawaii Five-O:” Hawai’i! (You have to use the apostrophe, just ’cause.)

Way back in the yesteryear of 2010, we thought we had just stumbled upon an unusually great deal to Hawai’i and were convinced we’d never go back.  As it turns out, this will be our third trip together to the islands.  I never would’ve believed years ago (and barely believe it now!) that we’d be fortunate enough to visit as often as we have.  Tomorrow, I’ll go over just how we got to Hawaii this time for a straight-up steal: flights and 10 nights across two islands for less than $1000 for the both of us.

Today, though, I’ll share some of the tips we’ve developed for a successful trip to Hawai’i.  If you ever find yourself visiting this crazy/beautiful place, hopefully these will help you out:

  1. The flight is long, especially from the East Coast, so be prepared.  This means: have stuff that will legit occupy you for 9-11 hours. On my next trip, I’m bringing my iPad, my Nintendo 3DS, my Kindle, and an iPod.  Puzzles books are good, too, if that’s your sort of thing.  And for Pete’s sake, if you are like us and fly in the cattle car called Economy, you’d better eat a proper meal first, otherwise it’ll be like our last trip: the flight attendants ran out of food for sale by the time they got to our row, so Lance and I had to split a cookie somebody spirited out of First Class for us.  One cookie, two people, 9 HOURS.
  2. If you can afford it, get private transportation from the airport.  The last thing you want to do after getting off a 9-hour flight is to sit on an airport shuttle to Waikiki for another hour, which is what Lance and I did on our last trip to save money.  It was excruciating, not only because we were stuck in traffic but also because the bus stopped at every damned hotel and ours was one of the last on the strip in Waikiki.  We eventually got out early and just walked the rest of the way.  Cabs from Honolulu to Waikiki can be expensive ($40+ each way; from Kona to Waikoloa was $80+ each way), so you might want to look into private, flat-rate cars like Hawaii23 (yup, $23 flat rate one-way, up to 3 passengers).
  3. Know what you’re getting in to.  Waikiki on O’ahu is the biggest tourist destination in Hawai’i and it shows–heck, there’s a Cheesecake Factory there, fer cryin’ out loud.  Waikiki is a walkable strip of chain restaurants, resort hotels, ABC Stores, and souvenir shops right on the beach.  It has enough familiarity to feel comfortable while still being relaxed and tropical.  If that kind of environment is not for you, consider staying in another area of O’ahu or on another island.  I can tell you that the Big Island is a much different feel from O’ahu, much less developed and much quieter.
  4. Coupons, coupons, coupons!  Most of the coupon books you find in Hawai’i (like Oahu Gold or somesuch) oftentimes don’t offer you a great deal but can be fun to peruse while on the beach.  I’d actually recommend looking into things you want to do (TripAdvisor’s Activities pages for the Hawaiian islands are a good place to get ideas) and shopping around ahead of time for the best deal–a lot of places will offer online or advanced booking discounts.  Also consider signing up for the Honolulu Groupon and/or LivingSocial for deals on activities (though 90% of the time, the deals will be for auto detailing or canvas photo prints).
  5. Know what kind of traveler you are.  As discussed before, Lance and I are very different in how we approach traveling/vacationing.  Like with basically anything you do in life, this might be your one and only shot at experiencing Hawaii, so do what you want–NO REGRETS!
  6. 90% of luaus are crap.  Do your homework. The Hilton Hawaiian Village luau is held on the top of a parking garage.  If that doesn’t sound like something you’d want to spend $100 on, don’t.  So many of these are tourist traps and aren’t terribly authentic.  If you’re on O’ahu, you should probably considering the luau/show combination at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is owned and operated by Bringham Young University’s Hawaii campus.  We went with this luau because it’s supposed to be the most authentic on O’ahu, though I felt dirty giving my money to an organization tangentially related to a religion that’s trying to suppress my freedom to marry (but really, which religion isn’t? Ba-ZING!)
  7. Read up on Hawai’i.  Hawai’i is paradise to a lot of people, but like pretty much everywhere else in America, it has a tumultuous history, especially regarding how the West basically destroyed the culture of the native Hawaiians in the name of religion and capitalism.  You owe it to yourself and the Hawaiian people to learn about the island’s traditions, history, and beliefs–and do it honestly and respectfully; don’t come off as a patronizing jag.
  8. The best travel guides out there are, without question, the Hawaii Revealed books by Andrew Doughton.  Full color, brutally honest and pretty funny all at the same time, these books are broken down by island and are incredibly thorough.  There are also smartphone apps for each island, which Lance and I haven’t tried but get really great reviews.
  9. If you’re used to Manhattan prices, you won’t be shocked by the cost of being in Hawaii. With the exception of the $10 gallon of milk (which is totally for real), prices for food are pretty much on par with what you’d pay in any metropolitan area…or Disney World.  Rental cars are actually pretty reasonably priced given that there’s so much competition.
  10. Don’t worry about the “rain.”  Lance and I do this dance every trip, where the forecast says it’s going to rain and Lance is supremely bummed and lets it ruin his whole vacation before it even starts.  It’s a tropical island; it’s gonna rain, but oftentimes the rain is fleeting (think Florida afternoon rains, but quicker).  It may rain overnight or briefly in the afternoon, but 95% of the time it’s sunny as hell and you’ll probably burn like a lobster, just like me.

In six days, Lance and I will be enjoying mai tais on the beach on Kauai.  Until then, aloha and mahalo for reading, friends! We’ll be back tomorrow sharing how we got to Hawaii on a (relative) shoe-string budget.

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