Just a few thoughts about our time there:
The hotel: we loved the hotel, the location was perfect and despite my worries that it would be too noisy, it was more than fine. We had a city view room but were on the 16th floor facing the city rather than diamond head, and had both a great city view and a great view of the beach and ocean from our balcony. The only thing noisy was the air conditioning unit from next door above the cheesecake factory. But we quickly got used to it. The nice thing was we were on the very end, so had nobody above us (the spa is on the PH level I guess but we never heard a soul) and only one other room beside us. Very nice. The room was fine. Shower area is pretty small, but we managed. Beds were comfy, and the balcony was fine. We loved the beach out front, and being right across the street from the international marketplace.
Eating out: we loved a little restaurant about a block away called Keoni's on Kuhio. Went there for breakfast and kept going back. Very open little restaurant with lots of flowers, birds flying in and out. and absolutely delicious thai food at night and wonderful french toast with coconut syrup for breakfast. In fact, I bought four bottles of the stuff the last night we were there, to take home. It's to die for!!
One of the best meals we had was in the IM when they had a farmer's market there, I think it was on Wed or Thur night. Fabulous food, thai inspired, great atmosphere at a little table by the fruit and veggies. It was so good, and such fun.
We ate one night at Dukes, on the railing. It was good but honestly not GREAT. I had just the salad bar, and it was fine. DH had seafood pasta that was good but he said it was pretty heavy on the oil. The kids meals were terrific though. The girls had teriyaki chicken (and a pretty nice sized piece) with fries. It was great that they offered something other than chicken nuggets. The glass of red I had was lovely though, as was the atmosphere. This was after our first full day there and really helped to set the mood for the trip. I think if we ate there again though it would just be for drinks and appies in the afternoon. They did have great live music in the afternoons starting at 3 pm on Fri-Sun, which you could hear from the beach and was a lot of fun.
The beaches: we had fun on the Waikiki beach, but it was pretty crowded. The water was quite warm, and the waves kept the kids happy. We were so lucky. The 2nd day there someone came by and gave us their boogie boards and the girls had a blast with them. Then a couple of days later a nice family who were leaving the next day gave us their beach chairs and umbrellas (2 of each). We found a family just arriving the day before we left and passed it all on to them with a smile and a suggestion that they do the same when they go.
We went to Hanauma Bay twice, and saw lots of fish. It was pretty windy though, as the trades were blowing through, so the sand was flying all over everything. We took along sandwiches from a great bakery just outside the IM on Kuhio. Our routine was to get pack sandwiches and snacks for the trip, and then pick up a pastry there for the wait at the bus stop. Thanks to suggestions from TA, we knew to walk further up Kuhio to a stop closer to Honolulu and away from diamond head. Doing this ensured we got a seat both times we went, and the stop closer to our hotel was so crowded that some people didn't even get on. I still think they should have the #22 running more often or get a bigger bus! When we came back from our second visit we coughed up the $5 per person to take a taxi van back. The first time we took the bus and ended up hot and tired and grumpy when we got home. The taxi was WAY worth the $$ if you haven't rented a car. HBay was lovely though, and the first were amazing. Wonderful time!
The island: we rented a car one day for a drive around the island. It was one of my favourite days, but I'd do it a bit differently next time. DH surprised us by upgrading to a convertible, but when it came time to get us our car the attendant said the engine light came on so they offered us a jeep instead. One of those new fancy jeeps. So off we went with the top down and no idea how to put it back up. The attendant didn't either so they said we wouldn't have to put it back up when we returned it. We were rained on at times, but it was very fast to blow over and actually felt good. We stopped at the Dole Pineapple plantation for a pineapple ice cream cone (used the coupon from the entertainment book) and just to look around. Then on to the pipeline beach to watch the surfers. Stopped briefly at turtle bay but no turtles, and then on to the PCC. Now here is where I'd change things up for next time. I would skip PCC entirely. We didn't find it that interesting, frankly, and it seemed kind of boring (yikes). We wandered around through some of the villages, but were kind of bored and hot, so we didn't stay that long. We didn't do the luau which is probably a good thing because we would have had to stay around all afternoon to wait for it. After that we meandered around before finally heading back to our hotel.
Odds and Ends: the weather was fine. Yes, it was windy, but the breeze felt great sometimes. It rained off and on but was always warm and it passed quickly. Shopping was fun (anyone seen an ABC store nearby!? LOL) and the aquarium was interesting and a nice walk to get there. We didn't end up climbing diamond head since my hubby and kids weren't too interested. We did do the vow renewal and it was lovely. I recommend calling ahead if you plan on doing it as I didn't think we needed to and we almost didn't get a spot. The concierge worked his magic though and got us in. There was a photographer who took lots of pics and we bought the CD for $75. Well worth it as he included our kids as well and took individual shots of them that were terrific.
Finally, the people: seriously, the people in Hawaii were so warm and kind and lovely, a big MAHALO to all of you there. We felt safe, comfortable, welcomed and received many smiles and helpful advice and suggestions. Seriously, it made the trip that much more enjoyable. We can't wait to go back again, but now are thinking maybe a week in Oahu and then a week in Maui.
Sad to be back, but we had a GREAT time!!