Japan - Here we come!
Our family of 3 hadn’t been whole for a couple months, but it was almost time for us (my Sidekick and I) to head to Japan, our new home. To say anticipation was high would be an understatement.
Hawaii - Here we come!
So this was my first time ever to Oahu and my Sidekick’s first trip to Hawaii at all. It was also a work trip for my husband and during the school year for my Sidekick. But I had just finished months of working 7 days a week and one way or another it was going to be a vacation for me!
A little general information - when we travel with my husband for work my goal is to be as unassuming as possible, (my requirement, not his, it’s the only time in my life I’m unassuming and honestly it kind of weirds him out). My second goal is to do it as economically as possible. There will be lots of these trips and I want to be on as many as possible. If he went without us we wouldn’t see him at all so any time we do have together is a bonus. We’re just tagging along for the adventure.
Now back to reality - First things first - we’re going to need a different hotel. Same price, different priorities, nothing crazy. Which brings us to the Laylow! Pools with lounge chairs and fancy drinks (I’ve got plans for you), shaved ice everyday at 2 (my Sidekick has plans for you) and walking distance to everything; and by everything I mean the beach and the zoo. What else is there?
We arrived on Sunday at varying times (us from the east coast and the husband from Japan), but the shaved ice machine was going when we check-in to the hotel so all was right with the world. After sorting out that we needed a king room with a couch, like the picture on the website (apparently they don’t all have couches), we were living the Hawaiian dream. I’m not really sure what we did from there other than food, drinks and relaxing - Oh, no, that’s right, I’m crazy, I do know what we did. I had already picked out places for us to go, (every night, cough-cough); tonight was the The Maui Brewing Company. It was a cool place and ended up being perfect. Totally laid back and quiet, since it was the middle of the afternoon. Which is what we needed. We were all jet lagged in opposite directions and had so much catching up to do. Our Sidekick spread games out for us to play and we relaxed and snacked all afternoon with cold beers. While I haven’t been back since, my husband has, and when going out with work groups and it’s always a welcomed suggestion.
As I mentioned earlier this was not a vacation, this was a work/school trip. Which means there was not the normal level of sightseeing and tourist activities. Monday - Thursday we had school in the morning before heading off to the zoo for our science lesson. Thank goodness we were studying animals at the time because this worked perfectly. Lesson first then my sidekick could decide what she wanted to explore - which always included a good amount of time at the playground.
A couple notes on the Honolulu Zoo: it’s small, but really well done. It’s clearly laid out, very walkable (and stroller friendly), has all the animals you’d want to see, and need I mention the playground with an awesome climbing structure. Lastly, it’s largely economical, $19 for adults and $11 for kids, but you can get a membership for 2 adults and 4 kids for $55 for a year. They also have a great military discount and there are many more membership options. The zoo was a clear win for us and if you’re having a relaxing stay on Waikiki it’s a nice little add to break up the beach time. If your goal is to see as much of Oahu as possible there are bigger sights to see first.
Anyhow back to our week - School in the morning, a mid-day zoo excursion and then back to the hotel just in time for shaved ice, followed by pool time! Life wasn’t too tough. Then we’d clean up and head out to dinner, sometimes 2 of us, sometimes 3! I had prepared a bunch of restaurant options , nicer ones when it was 3 of us and more economical options when it was just the 2 of us. This is kind of a fun challenge for me to find fun, funky, hole in the wall places good for a budget. Some of these have become our favorite spots!
Friday we were able to switch it up a little, because we follow a 4 day school week which means we had a whole day! And I knew exactly where we were headed, the beach! I’d been in Hawaii almost a week and had yet to make it to the beach. As I mentioned we came to Hawaii enroute to moving to Japan. Which means we had way more stuff with us than normal. While this was a huge pain, schlepping through the airport and hoping everything would fit in the rental car; having all our worldly belongings crammed into our hotel room did have the occasional upside. And today that meant I could paint on the beach. I wouldn’t ordinarily travel with my painting supplies but since I had them I might as well us them. So today we headed out early and spent the morning painting on the beach until the heat chased us into the water. A poke bowl and fresh pineapple lunch and it was a pretty perfect day in my book. My Sidekick needed her afternoon shaved ice, so we headed back to the hotel just in time to make sure she didn’t miss out!
While my husband was off working we had a pretty good week. Now it was the weekend though and the possibilities are endless, (at least for the next 2 days).
Saturday we headed out early towards the Polynesian Cultural Center. But first a quick stop off at Dole Plantation. Yes it’s touristy, but it’s also fun and an easy visit. It’s also a great excuse to have dessert for breakfast - Dole Whip is basically the same as having fruit for breakfast, right?
Next stop the Polynesian Cultural Center. We had purchased the Ambassador Luau Package, (there are quite a few package options depending on what you want included). Ours included a tour, luau, dinner, and show; basically every experience just not all the upgrades. We figured this is probably the only time we are ever going to do this so let's not miss anything.
On the whole it was a good day, but a long one. There was so much to see you’d hard pressed to see it all in one day. (If we had known what a long day it was going to be we would have skipped Dole, despite being on the way.) Unfortunately, by mid-afternoon the heat was winning and we were having a hard time staying motivated to see as much as possible. Dinner was a welcome break and while the dinner show was entertaining it did not hit the luau bucket-list item for us. After dinner was the real show, Ha: Breath of Life. Now this show was great. The story telling, the performances, all of it. If you ever find yourself going to the Polynesian Cultural Center, don’t skip out before the nighttime show.
After such a long Saturday we were up for a more relaxed Sunday. Which was good since we also had laundry to do, a downfall of traveling for more than a week at a time. So after a morning trip to the laundromat we were off to the beach followed by music and fruity drinks at Duke’s, before an early night. After all some of us had to rest up for another full week of school, zoo, shaved ice, pool, repeat …
The Laylow, Autograph Collection - When we visited the Laylow during this trip, (the first of 2 or 3 stays there), they had just opened. There were some hiccups during this stay which we found had largely corrected themselves by future stays. I actually really liked this hotel, it's new/modern/trendy. The rooms are nice, each has a small balcony. While it’s not located on the beach it otherwise has a great location; very central to all of Waikiki. The pool is small but not often crowded and the same is true for the lounge/restaurant. The Hideout, which is their dining option, is a very nice rooftop bar and in my opinion is better suited for apps and a drink than dinner. Lastly, they offered some low key, but nice amenities, (these can change regularly), we took advantage of the shaved ice, fruit and water offered poolside, and ukulele lessons. Overall, it’s not a traditional family hotel but our Sidekick was very happy there and all the staff was very friendly with her. I do highly recommend this hotel; however we no longer stay there. With all our travel I have platinum Marriott status; they don’t have a lounge, which is not uncommon for that area, but the perks they offered platinum guests seem to lessen with each stay. For example, this may seem small but there’s no coffee maker in the room and no free coffee option from their coffee bar. Being there on a work trip for 2 weeks, that can really start to add up. Despite our love for the Laylow we eventually had to move on to a different property where we were able to get a much higher value stay.