This is my friend, Hella Rothwell, relaxing by the Halekulani pool in Waikiki. It was not always like this. We had to struggle to secure a spot at the pool. Like, when there are so many other things to do in Honolulu over New Year’s but we became obsessed with the pool.
Why? Because the Halekulani, like just about every other hotel in Waikiki, has overdeveloped its property to the point where the hotel cannot accommodate the needs of all of its guests.
At first blush, it seemed nutty. When a guest pays 4 figures a night for a hotel room, one would think a guest would have a right to a chair at the pool. Yah? But one would be mistaken. There is no distinction at Halekulani between a guest in a garden courtyard room or a a guest in the Diamond Head ocean front room, much less an ocean front suite.
The Miyako Restaurant at the new Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel in Honolulu amazed us to no end. Just when you think you’ve dined at all the best Japanese restaurants, this one soars to the top of the list. Even the Otani Kaimana Hotel was a unique and amazing discovery.
It wasn’t as though I had planned to discover this place. My trip to Honolulu for New Year’s to see Hella Rothwell involved returning to Kona on Thursday. But then my husband pointed out that Patton Oswalt was on vacation at Oahu. Apparently, Patton posted to Twitter announcing a show at the Blue Note in Waikiki, located next to the Outrigger, the day after I would have left.
This is Kailua Beach on Oahu. It is so windy. Of course, it was late afternoon, about 4 PM, when Hella and I were there yesterday. But still. These people are sitting on the beach like they are lucky to be on a beach anywhere . . . in extreme wind. It was so windy my cork Hawaiian bag from Kona spun around four times.
I guess you make the best of it. Gotta hand it to people who make lemonade out of lemons. It was so windy my hair blew out of my clip, and my hair is pretty long.
Rabbit Island. Anything more to say? No, yet . . .
This person happens to be a friend, too. She could have asked any other number of people to accompany her, but she asked me. So, I guess it is an honor along with a privilege to do this. I also happen to be quite the colonoscopy preparation expert. Having done it twice, and all. By now I have it down to a science and have eliminated most of the nasty aspects of it.
Now, you might not realize, but to get to Kaiser in Honolulu for a colonoscopy, we had to hop a plane. Surprisingly, Kaiser paid for it. My friend’s insurance paid for her round-trip ticket on Hawaiian and Kaiser picked up my fare, too. The first thing I noticed on the plane was, hey, I’ve never sat in coach on an island hopper.
Those are really tiny seats. Three across in a space meant for two. No free newspaper. A tiny tray was available on the back of the seat but it didn’t have any lip edges. That means a drink could go sliding off into oblivion. Not only that, but if we had to make a crash landing, I would break my face on the hard seat back in front of me. But, hey, I got free miles and my Pualani status got us into the Premier Club lounge.
Not only did my friend’s insurance pay for our transportation, but it included vouchers for a cab. Kaiser found a cheaper cab than Charleys. Because I had planned to book on Charleys, which was $20 flat fare. Eco Cab was $16. When we got off the plane, we found the cab but the driver was not in the cab.
Hey, it was my responsibility to accompany my friend to Kaiser in Honolulu for a colonoscopy, and I take that responsibility seriously. First thing I did was discover the cab door unlocked, so we helped ourselves to a seat. Then I called the cab company to see if they could track down our driver.
Our driver finally showed up. No excuse for the delay. Then he held us up by saying he had another passenger. No wonder they are so cheap. They double book. Why should we share a cab with somebody else? He tracked down the guy’s friends who said he wasn’t coming. I pondered if the cab driver deserved a tip. On one hand, he has a crummy job, barely a step up from Uber. But on the other hand, not my cab, not my trip and he irritated me.
All in all, though, it doesn’t take that much longer to go to Honolulu for a colonoscopy than it does to drive up to Waimea. While I sat in the waiting room, I worked on two new listings. Obtained one listing and sent it off for our office assistants to input into MLS. It’s not like I didn’t have anything to do.
The driving force behind our 48 hours in Honolulu adventure was to visit Pearl Harbor. Followed, of course, by a quiet dinner at Michel’s at Colony Surf. That was our last half of the 48 hours in Honolulu trip. The first 24 hours was a trip to the Bishop Museum to see royal artifacts and learn more about the overthrow of the Monarchy. Coupled with dinner at Le Mer. But this second half was our real reason for visiting Oahu from Big Island.
I had already booked the tour when my husband produced my senior lifetime national park pass. You probably can’t get those anymore. Not that we could have used it anyway. Because the park at Pearl Harbor gives away a limited number of free tickets in the morning, but you have to be there at oh-dark-thirty to stand in line. With a private tour, you can go at a more decent time of day, say 10 AM. And the private tour company picks you up at your hotel and drives you around sight-seeing spots, too. So you don’t have to drive to Pearl Harbor or take a cab. It’s just much easier for $45 a person.
As I dressed to leave our hotel, I had one hand on the door knob of our room when I looked down at my t-shirt. Uh, oh. Second thoughts about my attire. “Do you think this is insensitive?” I asked my husband, pointing to what I had called a pineapple with a purse on top in the store while he more accurately assessed the image as a hand grenade. Which made me want the t-shirt even more. Nope, probably NOT the thing to wear to visit Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, my husband had brought an extra t-shirt I could wear. Well, Day of the Dead beats hand grenade.
The tour starts with free time in the park to walk around exhibits and read the ages and names on plaques of civilians and military who died. You can see the USS Arizona memorial out in the water, constructed over the sunken ship. I had toured this memorial in 2014 by myself prior to my Vanuatu trip, but I really wanted my husband to experience what happens standing in front of those engraved names of men and women who died in the bombing by Japan.
After we watched a 20-minute movie, that always makes you cry, we were told to get on the ferry. Nobody told us we were not able to land at the USS Arizona Memorial. Nobody told us when to take photos. Nobody told us anything. The communication was terrible. We got as close to the memorial as you can see in the photo above when the ferry abruptly turned around and headed back to dock. It was too windy, officials later said when we were on dry land.
Part of our visit to Pearl Harbor included a trip to the Punchbowl Crater where the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located. Some of the soldiers who died at Pearl Harbor are buried here. Others still remain underwater in the sunken ships. We pulled up next to the grave of Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer winning journalist from the Washington Daily News. Pyle wrote famous pieces from a first-person point of view about the gritty casualties of World War II.
The tour guide, Pualani, let us off the bus in front of the Iolani Palace. This is where the royal family resided in Honolulu. Beginning with King Kamehameha III and ending with Queen Liliuokalani as the last reigning royalty. When the overthrow happened in 1893, Queen Liliuokalani simply stepped down from the throne rather than see her people harmed. The United States did not have the legal nor moral right to seize the kingdom but that’s never stopped our country before.
Ah, yes, the icing on the cake, to help us get over the fact we didn’t get to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, is a nice dinner. You can see the good mood present on my face as I smiled at my husband. We had just stepped out of an Uber and into Michel’s at the Colony Surf to find a Manhattan with my name on it. This is where I had dinner with Hella Rothwell the day after our wild New Year’s Eve in Honolulu. I was so impressed with this French restaurant that I brought my husband.
The service seemed a bit slow, but that was the only drawback. Location can’t be beat. Ambiance a big plus. Slack Hawaiian guitarist serenades diners. All I could muster for dinner was a warm seafood salad. Had to save my energy for the next morning.
Of course, we had to see Chinatown. Every great city in America has a Chinatown with fabulous food. Although, I’m seeing a trend in San Francisco where the dim sum restaurants are moving away from cart service. Which is really a drag. Huge bummer. But not in Honolulu. We found some hole-in-the-wall dim sum place where the locals go, the best kind, usually. Although the Shrimp Chow Fun was double wrapped, a bit doughy, and the shrimp too small.
Our Uber driver told us all about his experience surviving the Hawaii Ballistic Missile Threat. He basically reacted like a moron. Complained that at age 50 his money ran out and he had to find a job. His wife home schools their kids. He wanted to beat up the first cop who might stop him for speeding, whatever, which shows you his irrational thought process. He was a nice guy, despite being so clueless. I think I harbored more favorable thoughts about him than my husband did.
I guess I believe in giving people a break. They’re just doing the best they can.
Elizabeth Weintraub is a top producer at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento. Call her at 916.233.6759.