Oahu // Delta Vacations + Oahu Visitors Bureau December 2017

Overall a great trip – well planned and organized to show us the diversity of the destination. We enjoyed a variety of dining options, cultural training, and activities, along with a few hotel visits. It was a nice overview of the island – both Waikiki Beach, and a circle around the island to visit other areas and various experiences.

Hotels (adding DLV hotel pricing for 5 night stay mid Feb 2018 – 2 adults to compare):

Alohilani – formerly Pacific Beach Hotel – always been a great location, and with updates is better than ever. Rooms were completely redone, a bit basic (white walls and not a lot of décor), but quite comfortable. They installed a pool deck on 3rd floor that is a bridge between the buildings – cabanas to rent and a pool bar (not swim up). They also have a new gym that opened the 2nd day we were there. It is for hotel guests, and has a limited # of memberships for local residents. They are still working on the ground floor redo of many shops & restaurants in the building near the beach. This should open this month. Only negative were elevators were slow, and you could barely get people off before the doors closed on people getting on!

Pricing from $1238 standard room to $2286 Ocean Front. Daily resort fee $25.

Hilton Garden Inn – complete redo of previous property – left the shell of the building, and all rooms & facilities are new. 2 blocks from the beach (behind the all NEW International Marketplace – will say more about this below). A very nice lounge on the main floor – with a good happy hour, along with shops and a locally sourced restaurant with Southern influence (chicken & waffles for lunch!)

Pricing from $1206 standard room (not much left). NO resort fee.

Outrigger Waikiki – always a great choice on the beach! Still much is the same, but it still looks good, and of course Duke’s is the hot spot. Also fun is the Blue Note Hawai’i (see comments below).

Pricing from $1259 city view – $2270 oceanfront; resort fee $32/day.

Aulani – very Hawaiian feeling with just a touch of Disney. Beautiful, comfortable, large but feels intimate. The majority of rooms are timeshare but available for rental also. Some are studio units, but smaller than the standard room. They have up to 3 bedroom units that are amazing for a family stay! Other notes on activities and food below. There is a mall across the street with other restaurants and shops, so don’t worry that it is too remote – less than ½ hour from the airport; about 45 minutes to Waikiki Beach.

Pricing from $2656 (island garden view; no other categories available to compare). No resort fee, but parking fee applies.

Kahala Resort – a lovely traditional resort on a beautiful private beach. If you don’t mind being just around the corner from Waikiki, this is a great option. Comfortable rooms, great service and warm welcome. The beach is a small cove, but a nice size and calm waters for families. We had a great dinner & also breakfast buffet here, and enjoyed a cocktail and snacks on the beach too (pretty reasonable prices too). The low-rise oceanfront rooms are very close to the water with lovely views; the dolphin view rooms would be great for families. Even my standard room had a great view of the golf course, and a glimpse of the ocean. We saw the suite where many presidents and celebrities have stayed too – quite lovely!

Pricing from $2440 Scenic view – $4008 Ocean Front. Please note – not all rooms have balcony, but are clearly shown on DLV availability; also many inclusions – wi-fi, bicycles, shuttle to Waikiki and more – no resort fee.


Blue Note Waikiki – Henry Kapono – great local artist who covered past hits and stories of life on the road. Great setting and location in central Waikiki. Had a nice selection of appetizers along with the show (at extra cost of course). Bluenotehawaii.com

A Pinch of Salt – SALT at Our Kakaʻako This is a new facility not far from Waikiki with many small restaurants (notes below) and shops. Bonus Christmas craft shopping market that day!

Sunrise Yoga on the beach Aulani – Glad this activity was just for our group (not all resort guests). And if you want to do yoga, I can think of no better place to check it out – the sound of the waves & birds, view of the ocean, sky & clouds. I might even learn to like it!

Wild Side Specialty Tours – This has to be the highlight of my trip. This is small group snorkel tours – 20 or less, and they took us to 2 locations on the west side of the island to snorkel with wild dolphins and sea turtles. They had 2 guides with us, and they showed us all around the different reefs. We spent about 3 hours total on and in the water; with a light lunch too. Highly recommend! www.sailHawaii.com

Kualoa Private Nature Reserve – movie tour, working ranch and many activities. If you want outdoor activities, this is the place to go. On the eastern coast, near Chinaman’s hat, it’s the site of many movie shoots from the 40’s to today (Jumanji). We did the movie site tour that includes driving around to various shooting sites (including some props), and the bunker once used for defense; now used for memorabilia. They offer this tour by bus and ATV; also offer horseback riding, zip-line, and other outdoor adventures, a restaurant with their own beef, and wedding venues. About 1 hour from Waikiki. http://www.kualoa.com/

Waimea Valley Guided Tour – A beautiful location with botanical gardens (touring by cart is recommended), a waterfall pond for swimming, restaurant, and also wedding / event locations. Well worth a visit if you are in the area (not far from Polynesian Cultural Center). This is a non-profit entity “Today, the mission of the Valley is to “Preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural and naturalresources of Waimea for generations through education and stewardship”. https://www.waimeavalley.net/

Since my flight was the late return from HNL, our last day after breakfast was free. Two of us decided to head to hike up Diamond Head “Le’ahi” (http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/hiking/oahu/diamond-head-summit-trail/) We were fortunate as during most of the stay the trail was closed for repairs; and the day we went it was only open until noon, which was perfect timing. It was about 10 minutes – $15 taxi one way from Kahala Resort. Cost is $1 for walk in, or $5/vehicle (parking was limited and cars had to wait for spots to open). 760 feet above the ocean; the hike is about .8 mile one way from the visitor’s center, and you climb 560 feet. The 1st part is a walkway which is nice, but rises quicker than you think. The 2nd part is also steep and uneven rocks, so good footwear is necessary. The last part is 70+ then 90+ steep steps to the top (and a small tunnel also). There are a couple ways to the top, and places to stop along the way if it’s too strenuous. I felt challenged, but also it’s pretty accessible for a mild adventure. It took us about 1 ½ hours total walking up, down and enjoying the view.

Cultural Experiences:

Hi’ilani Shibata – Cultural Trainer hiilanishibata@gmail.com
Hi’ilani taught us correct word pronunciation, answered questions about Hawai’ian history & culture, and taught us hula and massage! A fun and interesting morning

Historic Honolulu Cultural Walking Tour
An interesting overview of Hawai’i from ancient times to immigration to modern times. From learning how people lived in their Ahupua’a in the valley between the mountain ridges and traded the resources among the other districts; to the necessary immigration period as the native Hawai’ians were dying from exposure to European diseases; to the 20th century business practices of today. We learned about the custom of sharing gifts “makana” or “omiyage”. And then made a gifts, and learned a chant to sing at the burial grounds at the ‘Iolani Palace. travel2change.org

We had a lot of family style dining which I really liked – you can try various items and set your own portions! This is a true foodie destination – so many great restaurants

Herringbone at International Marketplace – 1st to mention – International Marketplace is totally new and beautiful. http://www.shopinternationalmarketplace.com/

Many upscale shops (Saks 5th Avenue) and restaurants. Also comfortable lounging locations and nightly entertainment (though it was mentioned the hula at Royal Hawaiian Shops was better). We dined at Herringbone, and it was wonderful. Another interesting concept here is The STREET, A Michael Mina Social House. This is a collection of dining options – various new chefs working at stations to feature their cuisine – all under the same roof.

Lunch at Hilton Garden Inn – TR Fire Grill – local sourced foods with southern flair, good pizza and salads; craft wines & beers, and great happy hour options

Appetizers – Alohilani & Blue Note – nice variety of bites to try – from Asian specialties at Alohilani (dim sum, egg rolls), to crab sliders, fresh seafood, and salads at Blue Note, we sampled and enjoyed them all.

Leonard’s Bakery – Malasadas! Portugese fried dough – plain, filled, sugar coated, wrapped around spicy sausage. Other baked goods too, but best to get these fresh and hot. This is a Waikiki institution and not to be missed.

Dine around at Salt – We had 3 tasting stops as well as full lunch here www.saltatkakaako.com

Village Bottle shop and Tasting Room – a fun brew pub with craft beer & wine on tap, as well as an assortment of bottles and food to enjoy also https://www.villagebeerhawaii.com/

Moku Kitchen – A quick cocktail, along with a bite of roasted squash ravioli & Hamakua wild mushroom pizza – all fantastic! https://www.mokukitchen.com/

Lonohana Chocolate – Handcrafted chocolate from Hawaii. Tastings a dozen different varieties, and brought a bar home for David. It’s so good he just placed another order for 3 more – yum (and they are not cheap!) http://www.lonohana.com/

Highway Inn – Started as a food truck, and this is the 1st permanent location – authentic Hawai’ian food! Just check out their menu on-line, and prepare to get hungry! http://www.myhighwayinn.com/

No luau at Aulani due to high winds, but dined at Makahiki buffet ($49/pp). Nice assortment – meat, seafood, salads, side dishes. Includes kids buffet – mac & cheese; excellent deserts (hot fudge cake; bread pudding!) Breakfast buffet $39/pp. Other casual dining – poolside coffee bar & pizza (prices were high, but not unreasonable for quantity).

Monkeypod Kitchen at Ko’olina – Right across the street from the Aulani in the shopping mall. Best Kale salad I’ve had, and all other options were great too. www.monkeypodkitchen.com

Lunch at Waimea Valley – in house food; note open to weddings – bring your own vendors (I have resource websites for weddings and events if you need)

Dinner at Kahala – Plumeria Beach House – lovely presentation & delicious. Also enjoyed snacks/beverages on the beach the next afternoon – pretty affordable and good!

Last mention – the O’ahu Visitors Bureau arranged a wonderful photographer to join our trip to document what our hotel inspections & experiences. This was so we could be more immersed and attentive to our hosts at the hotels and activities (and not stop to take photos all the time). I am hopeful to have the photos soon, and from what I have seen of her photography it is amazing, and plus she was the sweetest person too! She does all variety of photography – outdoors, nature, weddings, and even underwater. I would highly recommend her if you have a client who would like a special memory of their stay on O’ahu. Meredith Sunnanonta (www.sunnphotography.comMeresunn@gmail.com)