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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hawaii - Day 1 - Welcome to Waikiki

This morning we woke up quite early to make our flight out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Honolulu, Hawaii. Our flight boarded at 8:10am, which meant that we had to leave our home in Thousand Oaks by 6:00am. Fortunately at 6:00am, traffic has not become too gridlocked through the San Fernando Valley – although it slows at some points, it is still manageable.

However, once we get to the Avis car rental return – things slow. First, the Avis busses are running slowly – every 10 minutes instead of every 5. It appears that every other bus is skipping the loading area and going directly back to the airport.

Then once we get to the United Premier terminal the baggage check only line takes 15 minutes get through for 8 people to get through and actually runs slower than the first class check-in. Next, when we hit the TSA line the United Premier area is longer and running slower than the non-Premier line. Takes another 20 minutes to get through – which is unusual based on my twice a month trip to this terminal for travel.

At least once we get to the gate, we have a few spare moments before we board. Luckily this time, we are in first class – thanks India trip) – and board the plane. Then, just as we are about to take off, a maintenance worker identifies a scratch on one of the cargo doors. While I am absolutely happy and never think to complain when an issue is checked out – it ends up being another hour and twenty minutes until we are able to leave, putting us about one hour behind schedule.

Hawaii flights are always fun, partially because I think every airline plays the halfway to Hawaii game. I seem to do fairly well at them, on last year’s flight back from Europe I happened to be the closest and won a nice bottle of Australian wine. It was not to be on this trip though. My low estimate was 3 minutes later than the time we crossed the half-way point. Oh well.

As usual, we took the Airport Shuttle by Roberts Transportation to the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach. $30 for a round trip for two people is a pretty good deal.

Once we arrived at our check in, I was reminded how great it is to have Hilton HHonors Gold status when staying at Hilton properties. Rather than staying in our standard garden view room that was included in our package, we were upgraded to the Nihau Suite on the top floor of the Diamond Head Tower.

While the Diamond Head tower is our third choice between the Ali’i and Rainbow towers, it’s still a great room that usually goes for $800-1000 a night. In addition, with the new Grand Waikikian tower going up and the Lagoon rejuvenation project going – a Rainbow room was not an option. In addition, our room has a great lookout to Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.

After settling in, we headed down to the Tropics Bar to enjoy a snack and relax on Waikiki Beach. The Tropics Bar at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is a great place to people watch and sit right on the edge of the beach.

For dinner, we headed down the beach to Chuck’s Steakhouse which is located in the Outrigger Hotel on Waikiki Beach right next to the Hula Grill and right about Duke’s, which are two of our other favorite restaurants. Chuck’s Steakhouse is a great place to go, especially at sunset, as its location provides a spectacular view of the sunset on the Pacific Ocean, as you want the surfers ride in the last waves of the day.

This was our second time visiting Chuck’s and in addition to great steaks, Chuck’s is famous for the salad bar which is excellent as well. On this particular night, Ashley grabbed a New York cut steak and I tried the Rib Eye bone in special. We both left full and satisfied with our choices!