About These Pictures
The pics you’ll find throughout this review were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 995. Some were taken using a circular polarizing lens. By clicking a thumbnail, you’ll access a 800×600 version of that picture.
To check out our ratings of the restaurants we visited on Oahu, Kauai and Maui, click here.
This was our first trip where we visited the island of Kaua`i. Although we had agreed that a future trip to Maui wasn’t likely after our March 2002 trip, we also included a stay of one week on that island.
Props are in order to Andrew Doughty and Harriett Friedman for their series of books on various islands of Hawai`i (Big Island, Maui and Kaua`i). Their book “The Ultimate Kaua`i Guidebook: Kaua`i Revealed” was a huge help to us in deciding where to stay and what to do while we were there. Their website www.wizardpub.com has information on these books. You can find them at Barnes & Noble (and other places) for $14.95. A very good deal, in our opinion.
A 4:00 a.m. alarm ring started the first day of our trip. You can do this trip a hundred times and you still wonder if everything necessary was taken care of beforehand. It’s something that gnaws at you just a little until you get there and realize that anything which you forgot to pack probably wasn’t necessary to begin with. Or could be purchased in Hawai`i, anyway.
We arrived at Duluth International Airport at 5:45 a.m., ready for our 6:50 flight to the Twin Cities. As in 2002, there was a necessary long layover at the Minneapolis airport, although it wasn’t quite as long as the layover we endured two years ago. This time, the layover was “only” slightly more than four hours.
A word about DC-10′s; their overhead space is severely lacking in comparison to 757′s and also the jets which Hawai`ian Airlines operates. Another word, this time directed at Northwest’s flight crews; a smile on occasion would be nice. We can handle the long layovers, we can handle the crap food, what we object most strongly to is the impersonal and sometimes snooty attitude put forth by those employed in Northwest’s planes. Smarten up. You only succeed in making other airlines a favorable option.
Hawai`i has been in the midst of one of their rainiest winters in history and we caught some of that. Waikiki was mostly sunny the first five days; Saturday and Sunday found increasing clouds, windy conditions and showers. The weather on the windward side of Kaua`i, for lack of a better word, sucked. We encountered some rain every day we were there, and saw little sun on four of those days. Only Saturday was the only clear day in Kapa`a; even then, we ran into some rain showers heading towards Kahaleo.
In Maui, this changed dramatically. We found sun every day we were in Lahaina. A few showers occurred the day we drove to Makena; however, it was mostly clear by the time we’d returned to Lahaina.
Overall, the weather in Maui was as we expected; great. Nearly nice in O`ahu, and Kaua`i was a disappointment. For us, the weather situation plays a part in how much enjoyment we derive from a vacation. How could it not?
We had some outstanding meals in Hawai`i; this was nothing new. We’ve rated those places here.
Park Shore Hotel
Two years ago, we stayed at the Park Shore and had an incredible stay. What we didn’t know at the time and found out the hard way is that the corner rooms are the only rooms which are to be considered here. We had room 1507 our previous stay, which was quite spacious and had an unbelievable view of Diamond Head and the ocean. This trip, we had called well in advance of our departure and specifically requested any rooms above the tenth floor ending in “07″. This request was ignored. The rooms in the middle at this hotel are extremely small to the point of being nearly unbearable. We had just one small table on which to put one suitcase (the other suitcase had to be left on the floor in what was already a cramped area). Now I understand what my travel agent meant when she said that she’d had complaints about the room size at the Park Shore. Our biggest mistake was in not marching directly to the registration desk and demanding a more suitable room. We also were a bit put off by the reaction to the registration clerk to our not getting the room we requested, which was to basically blow us off. The only way we would stay at the Park Shore again would be if we were guaranteed a corner room (those where the room numbers end in “07″ or “24″). Anybody considering staying there has been forwarned.
Here is what we liked:
– The view was still very impresive from room 1111.
– The rooms were clean and were cleaned fairly promptly each morning.
– The location of this hotel is extremely convenient. You’re across from Kapiolani Park and the Honolulu Zoo, across Kalakaua Avenue from the beach, plus you have Denny’s, Starbucks and two ABC stores only a few yards away. You’re also right on a main busline.
– An in-room safe, although they tag you for $3 per day for using it.
– A mini-fridge
Here is what we didn’t like:
– Room size; already covered that.
– Ten freaking bucks a day for parking?!
– No whirlpool/hot tub in the pool area.
– Being on the corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu, while convenient, also was a detriment due to street noise which lasted well into the night
We gave the Park Shore a “9″ rating two years ago, but this experience was different. Rating: 5
I’m not sure what we expected to find here; it was one of those last minute “gee, what do you want to do to waste a few hours?” type of things. The garden maze is fun if you have children, I suppose. The plantation is free to enter, which is its strongest (and possibly only) selling point. The Pinapple Express, which costs $7.50 per adult to go on, is generally forgettable. It’s a nice drive up past the end of H-2, however. Rating: 2
This was the primary reason we decided to rent a car. Sure, you can go around the island taking The Bus, but you have to wait for the next bus every time you decide to get off the bus and take pictures. Guided tours are also nice, but you’re at the mercy of the tour operator and have little if any control over where to stop and how much time to spend at those stops. A rental car gave us the freedom to set our own pace, and it was well worth it. Unless, that is, the thought of driving in Honolulu traffic freaks you out. Honolulu traffic is, to say the least, interesting. However, I found drivers in Honolulu, like elsewhere in Hawai`i, to be the most courteous drivers I’ve found.Anyway, it was an early 7:30 a.m. departure. I had no idea how long it would take to get all the way around the island. The route was; get on the H-1 eastbound, continue on SR 72 around the windward side of the island, take the Pali Highway to the Pali overlook, then backtrack north, taking the Kamehameha Highway (SR 83) past the Turtle Bay Hilton and down through Wahiawa until you hit the H-2, south on that to the H-1, westward through Kapolei and then up the west coast on the Farrington Highway until it ends, then backtrack through Honolulu. Confused? You are unless you’ve actually driven it. Looked like an easy drive and I had no idea how pooped we’d be by the time we got back to the H-1. In other words, we decided to forego the west coast and our last two stops. In hindsight, this is a trip best split up into two days. Make it more of a half-circle island trip, take your time, and it’ll be far more enjoyable.
Not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. We saw some very nice sights along the way. The mountains inland from windward O`ahu can be spectacular in places. The Pali Overlook provided some amazing views despite the light rain we encountered. Stopping at the highly-touted Jamison’s by the Sea for lunch also made the trek worthwhile. In short, a very nice way to see O`ahu outside the Waikiki bustle. Rating: 8