01 October 2012


It was not in the plans this year to go to Honolulu.  But a couple of months ago, United was having an airfare sale, and I found a weekend I could go.  Moreover, the upgraded seats were available at booking, so I used up a voucher I had from a prior trip and essentially booked a free trip to Hawaii.  Other island destinations in Hawaii did not come up as cheaply for that weekend.

The flight over was straightforward for the most part.  The morning flight I was on left at around 9 am and got in at 11:15 am.  The only glitch was that the video system did not work on the airplane.  United uses a two-class "domestic" 777 for this flight, so there is just one big video screen in the center of first class.  They did not want to delay the flight, so we still left on time.  For the trouble, I received a $250 voucher.

I used Speedishuttle to get to and from my hotel.  They were not an option the last time I visited.  They were quick to depart and if you booked a round-trip ticket, they scheduled that right then as well (with a follow-up call the day before departure).  It worked very well.

Honolulu is not one of my favored destinations in Hawaii, but it is still Hawaii.  I think I had been there about three times before this trip.  This time, instead of staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which is located at the other end of Waikiki (towards Diamond Head).  It's not right on the beach, but it is a much smaller property than the multi-towered Hilton Hawaiian Village.  Every room has a balcony, and I pre-booked an ocean-view room.  Upon arrival, they upgraded me to an extra-large two-room suite, with a living room/dining room area, wet bar, parlour bathroom and separate bedroom and bath, all on the top floor of the hotel.  The hotel has an Executive Lounge on the ground level.

During my short stay, I decided I would visit one or two restaurants, hike Diamond Head, and shop a little.  I did not have a dining reservation for the first night.  In a text conversation with a friend, the suggestion came up of going to the revolving restaurant called Top of Waikiki.  I went onto OpenTable.com and was able to secure a dinner reservation for that evening.

It was only a 15-minute walk from my hotel, and was located on top of a commercial office building.  I thought the food was fine.  They used local ingredients and provided good service.  The food production was geared for tourist volume.

Corn chowder

Day-boat scallops

Wilted-spinach salad with duck confit

Panna cotta
My meal was almost two-hours long and we probably made 2.25 revolutions.  The meal was also not that expensive, but I did not order a full entree.

The next morning, I headed out to Diamond Head crater for the hike up.  I had planned to take the bus around to the park entrance.  But the bus service was extremely irregular, despite having a posted schedule.  I ended up walking all the way to the park entrance instead (about a half-hour total).  I then entered the park and hiked all the way up.  Once you are on the main trail past the parking, lot, the trail is only paved for about 100 feet.  It then follows a gully up the crater side to the top.  Towards the end, there are a lot of stairs to climb.  It's a very popular hike, so the trial can get crowded, especially at the top.  It was a nice day to do it, as it was partly cloudy in the morning and there was a strong breeze.

I hiked back down the trail and went out to the road to take the bus back. I first checked out a farmers' market nearby. The right bus didn't come for awhile (I think I had just missed it).  I thought of walking back, but waited it out as I didn't really have anywhere I needed to be.  A bus came which I thought would take me back to Waikiki or very close.  At one point, the driver told us to change buses to get to Waikiki and I decided that I thought the bus would go somewhere near enough that I wanted to check out a different route.  Turned out the bus soon veered away from Waikiki.  The then decided to get off the bus after a bit (I was tracking my location on my iPhone) and would have just taken the bus back towards where I came from, but I found another but that was going to take me to the Ala Moana Shopping Center.  I thought it would give me a good place to get lunch.  Plus, my transfer was going to be good for two hours, so I could get there, eat lunch, and then catch a bus back to Waikiki, which was how my early afternoon went.  After my soba noodle/shrimp tempura lunch, I was back at my hotel in time for a little swim in the ocean before having to get ready for dinner.

Before leaving the mainland, I had used OpenTable.com to make a reservation at La Mer at the Halekulani Hotel.  I had tried to go to an Alan Wong restaurant that had a chef's counter.  But it was located downtown and didn't look like I could get in at a good time.  la Mer has been a highly-rated restaurant on Waikiki for a long time, so it certainly was not a bad option.  I like my meal there, even though  I had to wear dress shoes, dress pants, and long sleeves.  The food was very good, they were flexible enough with the tasting menu to accommodate my preferences, and the service was excellent (including a free glass of champagne to start the meal)..

Foie gras and pineapple

Scallops and mushroom


Duck breast and potato puffs

Apricot sorbet

 The next day, my flight was scheduled to leave at 12:30 pm.  The Speedishuttle picked me up on time 3 hours before the flight.  The airport check-in was fine.  They were almost ready to implement the TSA-PreCheck program (I would have qualified as my boarding pass beeped three times at security), but I was a month too early.  Still, I did not have to wait long.  The return flight left on time but arrived just a few minutes late due to less-than-favorable winds.  It was a quick but nice weekend where I picked up about 5,000 lifetime qualifying miles for fee.

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