Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hawaii Vacation

So I've been to Hawaii once a long time ago when I was a wee little tike, but it wasn't to a resort so this was the first time going there as a real tourist. Was it fun? Yeah it was good, much better than the cruise trip, but like all vacations, we always have to return to the real world sometime.

So I'll go through the booking process since there were many questions that I had that were left unanswered unless I experienced it first hand. I went through Costco, American Express, and USAA to try to find the best deal on the flight/hotel, and I think the American Express one won out. They were mostly close but I think the Costco one was the most expensive. Now the next question would be, is it better to buy everything as a package or separately. I actually think it doesn't make a difference in this case. The tickets and hotel could've been purchased apart from each other and they both added up to the total. There may have been little charges that everyone adds in, but for the most part I didn't see any game changers.

For this trip I had no idea what I was doing so I went and booked with the Hilton Hawaiian Village since it was the cheapest and it had everything included in one area meaning that things were guaranteed to be close. Was this needed? No. Turns out that vicinity was the only thing it had AND we didn't really even use any of it. It had a private lagoon where you could rent paddleboards, little boats, kayaks, inner tubes, etc. but it cost around $30 per 30 min so unless you are rich as fuck or want to ditch some kids for an hour or so, why pay that? Next the beach wasn't as "private" as I thought it was. It wasn't very crowded since there weren't that many peeps flooding the area, but we noticed many people from other hotels invading the beach. Everything was very "open" as well so there aren't any private doors or gates or whatnot. A total nobody can wander in/out of the "resort" and nobody would ever notice. When we left we were charged a $30 resort fee per night so that sucked. Watch out for that on the booking. I remember reading this but ignored it since I had my sights set on this location, but in the future it should be highly factored into any hotel price total.

So in the end it's really about location and what you want to do. We were there to look around a bit and go shopping. We picked the Waikiki Beach area since that was where all the action was happening. There are 2 primary shopping areas. The first was a huge-ass mall called Ala Moana Center which had every store on Earth practically. The second was this street called Kalakaua that had a shitload of shopping and smaller malls. A lot of peeps wandered around this area as well. For a sub-5% tax rate, shopping in this state was quite good in terms of prices. That and all products were a bit cheaper than they are on the mainland.

Food was a different story. We tried out everything from fancy-dancy places that cost $100 for two peeps, mall food, side street food, a buffet, and then $55 for a super good seafood place located above a 7-Eleven called Fook Yuen Seafood Restaurant. So here is how it boils down. Don't go to any name brand place like a P.F. Changs, Red Lobster, or Subway because you're just going to be disappointed with the inflated prices. Eating at mall shopping centers have more variety but the food is still mall food even though the prices are over $10 and that fact tries to convince your brain that the food is somehow of better quality. The ultra fancy places are so not worth it as the food tastes mediocre and you are paying for a better dressed waiter and whiter napkins. The buffet was a mistake because we were starving. The food places located within the confines of the resort suck as well and are merely overpriced fast food. What you should do is find smaller Japanese Noodle Shops or go to this Fook Yuen Seafood place because it was the only location that I was actually happy with. Of course you have to buy a ton of Macadamia Nuts as a nightly snacky food even though they cost around $23 for a pack of 6.

Weather was wonderful. I didn't even feel the humidity although my skin was way softer. I didn't even get a headache once during the trip. I had pondered renting a car or not, and it was good that I didn't. Driving looked to be hella bad and there were so many streets that had lanes that would abruptly end. I would be quite frustrated with driving in this touristy area and definitely on their single freeway. There are trolleys that take you here and there. It cost $2 per person to get a one-way pass so that wasn't so bad assuming you weren't gallivanting around too much. There were shuttle buses that could take you further away, but that shit was like $30 per one-way trip and that sounded like way too much although I have no idea how much a taxi would cost to get to the same location. We ended up walking around a lot so that soreness got better after the first day. Comfy shoes as opposed to flip flops is a must for this, but you still need flip flops for the beach and for light wandering around.

One funny thing I noticed was that half of the population of Japan was wandering around this whole area...I mean everything was written in English and Japanese too...never seen that before. I guess it's a big tourist destination for them as well.

In terms of people, the waiters and waitresses at restaurants were pretty lazy and slow as fuck. Don't know what is up with that but everything seemed to be done in a non-punctual manner. They were either way too chill, some were definitely high, or they all just didn't give a fuck. We actually got "tricked" into eating at this one sketchy, newly-opened restaurant where the whole wait staff had no idea what the fuck they were doing. I only went in since the pied piper chick who was hawking her restaurant on the corner said that she had breakfast food there. It's hard to fuck up an omelet, but they actually did.

The only touristy area we went to was the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial and the visitor's center at Pearl Harbor. Pretty educational stuff there, but it's just like most touristy locations. The sunken ship wasn't much to look at; they should've established a see-through underwater tunnel, like in Jaws 3, to make it more visual instead of only being able to view the top of the ship.

The trip lasted for 4 nights and I think that was perfect. The last day almost got repetitive and that's when you know that you've maxed out. Our trip back was horrible since the plane didn't take off and just sat there on the runway as the pilot said they were working on some "navigation glitch". Everyone has a cell phone compass, so just fly East...not that hard buddy. We ended up going back to the gate for fuel and them saying that all was well. 2-3 hours later we took off and everyone missed their connections since the plane got into SFO at 11PMish. So yeah United Airlines, you can eat shit. No compensation for the hassle, a replacement ticket for a 8:15AM flight the next morning, no hotel, a few food vouchers (that couldn't be used until 4-5AM), 2 thin blankets, and 3 cans of free soda later, I was well on my way to sitting there uncomfortable in an airport for the duration of the evening.

Had to take an additional day off of work because I was a zombie when I got home, but all kinda OK refreshed now. Back to getting on that horse and to pay off the insane CC bill that will be coming through...vacations.