Friday, July 17, 2009
Hawaii in the Summer
Our balcony at the Waikiki Sheraton -- Mary was able to get the room for $100 a night on Priceline, which has to be the deal of the year
We had only previously been to Hawaii in the winter. When I was growing up, Hawaii is where Edmontonians who could afford it went to escape Winter over Christmas. I never got to go as a kid, but I had always therefore assumed that Hawaii would be more crowded over Christmas holidays than at other times of year, and that Hawaii would be nearly deserted in the summer, because why would you pay all that money to leave Alberta for the two months Canada has decent weather? But of course, that understanding of Hawaii tourism turned out to be completely wrong-headed. Hawaii is way MORE crowded in the summer, filled to capacity with Americans from Texas and Arizona etc escaping the heat. So the experience of Hawaii is a little different in the summer, because the place is filled with American tourists (and a few Australians escaping their winter) rather than Canadians.
Having done Honolulu previously, we were focused primarily on the beach and fine dining this time through. One of Lethbridge's deficits is that there are no really fine restaurants, just chains (though that is slowly improving). So Mary and I in particular were really looking forward to Roy's, one of our favorite restaurants anywhere. We ate there twice, Hulla Grill twice, Duke's once, Keo's (a Thai restaurant -- order the 'Evil Jungle Prince'!), and Eggs and Things once (all highly recommended). We made up the rest of our meals at Planet Hollywood, the Cheeseburger Waikiki and Maui Taccos (which spoils you for any Canadian tacco chain ever again) because sometimes you just have to, you know, eat. Planet Hollywood is only okay chain restaurant food, but really good value for the money if you order the half price appetizers during happy hour or the breakfast. (We didn't get to eat at Le Mar, but we would have needed babysitting and a bigger budget to go there.) Roy's is especially wonderful, and to our amazement, a favorite of the kids' too. They have a great kid's menu, and give the kids the same three course dinning experience as adults, just with more kid-friendly food and prices. Almost worth the trip to Hawaii for Roy's alone.
Mary took the kids to the beach twice without me, giving me two mornings to write. That was great! Sitting on a balcony in Hawaii overlooking the beach and the ocean, is the way to write! An unexpected bonus was that, since I was essentially sitting still for hours keyboarding, a wonderful variety of birds came and sat on the edge of the balcony with me. I've never seen so many different types in a single day. And I made quite a bit of progress on my book. Other days I went with them to the beach, but since I can't swim, and burn at the mere sight of sunlight, Mary was still mostly stuck with supervising kids while I just found some shade and read. (Stephen King's On Writing, about which more in another post.)
The four day trips we planned were the trip to Sea Life Park, where we had the dolphin encounters (see earlier blog entry); the Hawaii Fire Surf Lessons for Tigana and Kasia; a trip to the Dole Plantation: a pleasant afternoon touring the historic plantation and doing the maze; and an afternoon in the Honolulu Zoo.
Tigana surfing well
Tigana surfing well -- but right into Kasia and her instructor! (The instructor had to pull Kasia under the water to keep Tigana's board from hitting her)
both kids going out to the waves
close up of Kasia with her instructor going out
We would highly recommend Hawaii Fire over other surfing lessons, especially when as in our case, kids are involved. Much cheaper lessons are available all along the beach at Waikiki, but the Hawaii Fire folk have two key advantages: one, they take you to a more sheltered, shallower beach which is ideal for learning on (lots of waves but manageable waves); and all the instructors are firemen --so, if you're going to have problems, these are the guys you want to respond.
The Zoo is considered a small one, but we found it highly enjoyable. As Mary pointed out, the entrance fee would have been worth it just to walk through the trees, bushes and flowers between the animal exhibits -- a great botanical garden. And the Zoo is cleverly laid out so that although its footprint in Waikiki is small, it seems quite big and takes a full afternoon to walk through. I was fascinated that even though we were only a few yards from apartment blocks on one side, the beach on the other, we felt completely isolated from the rest of the city; one really did feel as if one were out on the African savannah.
One of my favorites were the hippos, who were not only hugely huge magnificent beasties, but were enjoying themselves hugely playing ball -- no question about it, they were tossing that enormous green sphere around between them.
Kasia's favorites were the Zebras. Kasia is hypnotized by all things pony, and Zebras are apparently close enough to count. Here a zebra rolls in the dust to cool off. (I was tempted to point my hand like a gun and shout bang as it started to go over for a roll, but that probably would have meant years of therapy for Kasia, so I let it go.)
I'd recommend the zoo for anyone looking for a couple of hours away from the beach.
So, overall, a nice quiet vacation -- quiet days at the beach alternated with low key day trips. A great chance to detox from email and the stresses of our day jobs.