Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hawaii Vacation 2012

STOP!!!  Go grab a drink, maybe a snack, and get yourself a comfy chair.  This is an extra long post and you could be here a while.

We are back from our vacation.  To say we had an amazing time would be the understatement of the century.  There aren't enough words in a Thesaurus to even begin how to describe our week in paradise.  I will say this, we have been looking forward to this vacation for so long that it crossed my mind a few times that I hadn't prepared myself for it not living up to the expectations I had going in.  Luckily, in no way shape or form was I disappointed.  It was everything we imagined it would be and more.  BEST. VACATION. EVER!!
Some pretty excited guys ready to take off.  Funny story...when we were on the plane getting ready to take off and the flight attendant was going over emergency procedures, she was of course mentioning that the seat can also be used as a floatation device, and we thought the boys were listening at all.  All of a sudden, Ryan turns to Rich and says, "Wait, we're not going swimming are we????"

Here is Matthew's Day 1 To-Do List.  I find this highly informative and pretty much spot on.  I was disappointed that we couldn't get him to do this every would have made this process easier on me.

So we get to the car rental place and we had told the boys that we were getting a convertable for the week so that we could get a fun island experience.  And with any other dad, this car probably would have been fine.  However, getting a 6'2" guy in a convertable Mustang...not an easy thing.  There was no room for him and no room for the boys in the back seat.  Poor Ryan had to take off his shoes every time we got in the car because his feet and shoes did not fit in the space behind Rich's seat.  It was bad....and a little funny too, if we are being completely honest.  It's like when you see really tall person get into really small car and you think to does that work??  It doesn't.  We lived it, and it doesn't actually work.

And five minutes into the car ride on the way to the hotel.  A body can only take so much excitement.

I have to say.  I somewhat went through a panic mode while we were driving to our destination.  Because truth be told, the island looked dead and brown.  I was thinking to myself, where in the heck is all the luscious greenery that can be seen for miles???  This is it??  It looked like we were in Elk Grove!!!  Thankfully, THANKFULLY, when we took the Ko'Olina exit, we entered a transformed world that was what I had imagined.  It's a wonder what a little greenery and sprinkler system can do.

This is the entry to the front of the resort.  The whole resort is actually wide open, with hardly any walls or windows.  So when you walk in, it looks straight out over the pool area and ocean.

This is the look from the lobby overlooking one of the restaurant areas, a couple of ponds, and then the lazy river in the back.

We had time to kill because our room wasn't ready, so we took off for a walk around the resort.

This is overlooking the private lagoon.
The check-in desk that I had to take a picture of.  All the pictures were of Hawaii and the culture.  I will say that this place was a perfect mesh of Hawaiian culture and Disney.  The Mouse's ears could not be found all over the place and all over everything like they are at Disneyland.  The Disney aspect was subtle and not over done, which I appreciated.

As I make fun of my husband for his EXTENSIVE RESEARCH...I am grateful for his efforts sometimes.  This happened to be one of those times.  We did not actually pay for an ocean view, which of course was extra, but he had heard that if you request a certain floor with a pool view, you will also see the ocean.  And luckily our request was granted!  This was the view from our room.

Finally!  Welcome Home.
 Matthew giving a thumbs up for the bed.

Once we got in our room, there was no way we were going to waste our time unpacking.  We were so excited to throw on our suits and get in the water.  As we were killing time walking around, it was killing us not to jump in and play!!  It was now definitely time to enjoy the place.  Here we are in the infinity spa.  This was our favorite place to go at sunset because it overlooked the ocean.

Boys playing around in the spa.

Here is the Menehune Bridge.  This was a definite highlight for the boys.  It was a water park that had water coming out of everything and two little water slides.

Here is Matt coming out of one of the water slides.

Both boys did this for HOURS!!!

I have to say...the lazy river turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip.  We were always running to get to tube to just relax and float.  A definite highlight for all of  us.

The tube slide was the boys favorite, favorite, favorite!!! 

The boys had breakfast every morning out on the balcony.  I loved our balcony, especially at night, because we could hear the live bands performing each night as we hung out in our room after the pool closed.

The next day, Thursday, was a resort day.  I won't even go into detail about the itinerary I created for each day, including meals and reservations that we had because it was a little much for some people, but necessary for me.  I call this a resort day because off resort days were excursion days and they too were detailed.  Sick, I know, but this is how my mind works.

We were told that shaved ice in Hawaii is the best.  Something about ice cream being on the bottom, topped with shaved ice in your favorite flavor, and then covered with condensed milk.  Sounds a little gross, at least to me it did (I told Rich, you lost me at "covered with condensed milk"), but surprisingly it was delicious!!!

Shaved ice pool side happened more that once ;).

After dinner stroll along the beach for some sunset pictures.

After the sunset, we headed to a grass area overlooking the ocean where the Starlit Hui was.  It is basically like a luau, it tells a story of the island and the culture...just without the meal.  And it's free.  Let me say that again, it was free.  It made the decision for us on whether we would pay for a luau and see our kids eat nothing, not pay attention to the "story", and us be upset with them, easy.  I remember my parents taking me to a luau when I was ten and seeing the pig come out of the hole dug on the beach and not eating a single bite of anything for the rest of the night.  This was an easy decision for us.


At the end of the show, the characters came out and we had a dance party out on the grass.  Everyone was dancing and singing.

Best seat in the house.

Some pictures with our favorite friends.

Friday was an off-resort day.  Better yet...ROAD TRIP!  We headed to the Dole Plantation for a little pineapple indulgence.  Oh, and it happened to be a perfect day for the top to be down on the car.

They are about to get their pineapple on!

First order of business...The Pineapple Express.  We took a twenty minute train ride around the grounds and learned about growing pineapples and such.  Did you know a skilled planter can plant 10,000 pineapple plants in one day???  (That's proof I was semi-listening)

After the train ride, we stopped for lunch.  What's a lunch at the plantation without a pineapple float?

This was Rich's first Loco Moco, a traditional Hawaiian meal.  I say first, because not his only of the trip.  It contains a bed of rice, with a hamburger patty, covered then with gravy (in this case chili), and then topped with an egg.

And because you know I don't shy away from local cuisine (wink, wink), I had teriyaki chicken.  You are welcome!

What I am not sure about is this....Is this normal?  Sharing the dining area with mice?  There were several...SEVERAL, and my boys took to them as pets and fed them.  That's a fry he is about to eat!  I would say that I am appalled and disgusted....but I am the one taking the pictures.

After the Dole Plantation, we headed to North Shore.  I love North Shore, it is actually my favorite part of the island.  It is quiet, more locals less tourists, and the beaches are usually quiet and less crowded.  Before we stopped to play at the beach, Rich and I were on a mission to find the house we stayed at six years ago.  We loved this place and it had its own private beach and we had hoped to show the boys and see if Matt had remembered it.  As soon as we found it, I ran up the private driveway, snapping pictures with my phone and camera hoping to not get caught in the act and then I ran like crazy.  I sent the picture to my Aunt Leath and my Mom so I could tell them we were successful in our quest.

Side note---Let me be frank.  If it had not been for our Navigation App on our smartphones, WE WOULD STILL BE DRIVING AROUND THE ISLAND OR AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN.  Neither of us has any sense of direction and we were at our phones mercy the entire trip.  When our battery was dying, we would freak out and head back to the resort as fast as we could.  It saved us.....SAVED US!!!!

After driving around for a little bit we decided to pull over and let the boys play in the ocean.  Let me remind you that at this time, it was Friday afternoon, our resort has its own private lagoon and not one of us had stuck a toe in the ocean yet.  We're not's just truth.  So, you could imagine how excited the boys were to run, splash, and throw sand at each other for a couple of hours.

Okay, so truth be told.  The ocean was not exactly a pleasant experience for the boys.  Don't get me wrong, they loved the water, loved playing a cat and mouse game with the waves, they just didn't love the sand.  The aftermath of the sand to be more specific.  See, when you lay in the sand, and the waves wash up and move out, they leave a trail of sand in unwanted places.  This was an issue for both, more for Ryan than Matt, but an issue for both.  They just couldn't deal with sand sticking everywhere, and I mean everywhere. 

Let's blow this popsicle stand!!!

After a day of fun, sun, and sand removable, Rich and I were done!  D-O-N-E!!  It was time to test out Auntie's Beach House.  THE BEST IDEA DISNEY HAS EVER HAD!!!  Basically it is a huge "house", located right by a bar (no joke!) and you can drop off your kids for hours if you want, have them served lunch or dinner, and then pick them up when you are ready.  Saturday was Rich and I's big date night at a restaurant across the street and we were planning to leave the boys at Auntie's while we were at dinner.  We thought it would be a good idea to do a test run just to see if they liked it and if Saturday's dinner needed to be changed from a party of two to a party of four.  Good news, wait no GREAT news, they loved it!!  This became Heather and Rich's second favorite spot at the resort.

You did just read where I said it was located right next to a bar, right??  Now listen, only one of these is mine.  And it is the martini.  The foo-foo drink that sounded delicious came looking like this on the left, and it belonged to Rich. 

Sooooo, to make things more masculine, he ordered a beer and set it next to it.  Drinks and dinner were delish!

We enjoyed a little pool view before heading out for the sunset.

Saturday was another resort day. It was also my first spa day, so you could imagine how excited I was to see 1:00pm come around.  Saturday was also the morning we had the character breakfast.

Real is a Menehune.  There are over 300 hidden all over the resort and the boys were absolutely obsessed with finding them.  This guy was hanging out in one of the elevators. 

As much as I love this guy...and I do love him something big...I'm going to need at least one vacation in the near future where he and I don't end up in a picture together.  Just it too much to ask?

Mickey waffles just taste better!  Period.

We kinda love her.

This guy is fun too.

This was waiting for us when we got back.  Now technically our anniversary isn't until next month, but we did mention that we were about to celebrate our 47th anniversary, I mean 10th anniversary.  I get carried away....It just seems like it has been that loooooong!  :)

Date night!  After a trip to Auntie's, we were off to Roy's at the Ko'Olina Golf Course.

Our appetizers.  And I want points for eating the raw thingy.  I don't do raw.

This is my dinner.  The catch of the day coated and seared in macadamia nuts on a bed of asparagus with a lemon butter sauce and a lobster sauce.  They had me at lobster sauce.

Rich had the salmon.  And rice.  And herbs that were on the rice.  Okay, my description on his sucks, I really wasn't paying attention to what he ordered.

And the drinkies.  A beer for Rich and a raspberry lemonade martini for me.
Both of our meals came with desserts. This was mine.  Chocolate souffle with a raspberry sauce.

Rich had a macadamia dessert with a caramel sauce. 

So you understand that when they brought this to the table, we thanked them extensively and then thought....crap!  Who eats three desserts???   But isn't it pretty?

On Sunday we headed into the "city". The last time we were in Hawaii we had gone to the Aloha Stadium because they have a flea market of sorts there.  We told the boys, if you want to buy is the time to do it.  It is the cheapest you will find it!  So they found some fun stuff and some not so fun stuff.  Matthew has been obsessed with graffiti lately and so interested in why it is on buildings and train cars and what does it say and mean...all these questions that we just answer the best we can. 

So you understand why it was not shocking at all when this was his big purchase for the day.  And the saddest, and scariest part (especially since we were flying back into Oakland) was that he LOVES it and really never took it off after he bought it.  I love that he tells people the hat was $15.00, the writing was free.
After we left the Aloha Stadium, we headed into Waikiki for lunch and a brief walk around the International Market Place.  This picture was the closest we got to Waikiki beach because approximately three minutes after the boys got in the car, they were asleep.

We decided to take a drive...again, a nod to the navigation gods, and drive up to Hanauma Bay.  We had originally planned on bringing the boys here to snorkel because it is pretty shallow in certain areas, but thought they might now be ready for it.  So we took in the views instead.

I love this picture because when I was little, one of the most vivid memories I have of Hawaii is the low clouds covering the tops of the mountains.  There weren't a lot of high mountains where we were staying and this was the closest I could get to what I had remembered.

Ahhh Leonard's.  I had a direct order from one of my students, Miss Madeline, to NOT leave Oahu without going to Leonard's for malasadas.  We went, we tasted, we loved.  I'm so glad we went because I sent her a picture of us eating and I think she liked it!

Finally back for a little pool time.  I took this picture because everyday when we were at the pool, we would see fighter jets do fly-bys over us.  It was the coolest thing because we could hear them before we could see them and then they would "buzz the tower", if you will. 

On Tuesday, we told the boys that we were going to the lagoon in the morning and try snorkeling for a little bit.  This turned out to be not only funny, but incredibly pathetic.  I'm not sure people would actually consider it "snorkeling" when the depth of the water was three inches.  Call me crazy, but....

And Ryan, not to be outdone by Matthew, was doing a little "snorkeling" of his own. 

This beach thing is not so bad!!  They actually had a blast playing in the ocean.  But, in all honesty, oceans don't have tube slides and so this venture out of the pool area was short lived.

A view from the beach. 

After some pool time, and during my spa service, the boys signed up to do a lei making class.  It turns out the class was right outside our balcony and when I got home, I saw the boys out on the lawn making leis.

These turned out fantastic and you will see pictures of us wearing them shortly.

After the class, we headed to lunch.  This is a restaurant called 'AMA'AMA. It was the only restaurant that overlooked the ocean, so we had to try it out before we left. 

Loving the view!

On our last night, Rich and I headed to Chuck's, which was a couple of lagoons down for happy hour.  We went there two different nights and had cocktails and a free show each night.  It was a nice little getaway while the boys were at Auntie's.  Here is a view walking back from dinner.

After dinner, we were in such denial that it was our last night.  In no way shape or form were we ready to leave.  Denial, denial, denial.  So, we took to the pool for the last time before the fire pit storytelling.

This was taken as we were walking out to our car on our way to the airport.  It turned out to be one of my favorite pictures of the entire trip!

Eight days worth of wrist bands!!

Hang Loose.

The night before we were flying back to reality, I made Rich guarantee a return trip and we already have the date picked out.  I really can't say enough about our stay and the experience we had while here.  It was a dream vacation and I think one of the best times the four of us have ever had.

Mahalo Aulani, from the Marini Ohana.
Click HERE for a video postcard that the boys made.

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