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Friday, February 23, 2007

Hawaii Trip – Day 2 – Unexpected Surprises

Our second day here in Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands turned out quite a bit different than we anticipated, however we still had a great time.

We woke up to a nice sunrise with our Nihau Suite in the Hilton Hawaiian Village looking directly towards Diamond Head. We were still adjusting to the change in time from California, so we arose just a few minutes early to catch it. We also purchased some Kona – Macadamia Nut – Vanilla coffee at the ABC store the night before, so we brewed a couple of cups and enjoyed the sunrise.

Next we headed down to the Tropics Bar & Beach Café for our free Hilton HHonors Gold & Diamond breakfast. Pleasantly surprised, we learned from our waitress that the policy had changed and according to her the ‘free’ breakfast was really now free. Previously, the free breakfast only included a small piece of fruit and a piece of bread rather than the entire continental buffet. Now rather than paying the extra to ‘upgrade’, the continental breakfast is included – along with some other great options.

This is the second thing already that we had been pleasantly surprised by, contrary to popular opinions about the hotel. A couple of folks had mentioned a ‘change’ in management. If that was true, it is definitely noticeable.

After breakfast we headed down to the Tapa Bus & Tour departure area to await our transportation to the Kauloa Ranch. After a small ordeal, which I talk about more in depth here – our plans changed for the day, and we will be heading to Kauloa Ranch tomorrow.

Thrown a curveball, we decided to make a day in Waikiki out of it. After spending some time around the Hilton Hawaiian Village pool, we walked down the Waikiki Beach to eat at the Cheesecake Factory lunch.

(Yes, I know what some of you are saying – doesn’t Ashley work for the corporate offices of the Cheesecake Factory? Yes, she does. However, she enjoys visiting them in the places we travel and meeting some of the folks she works with. In addition, the Cheesecake Factory in Honolulu has a little difference feel than the others.)

After lunch, we wandered around the shopping areas including the International Marketplace to see what the newest Hawaiian gift items were. Pretty impressively, even though it has only been 18 months since our last visit, much has changed. The entire Royal Hawaiian Shopping in center is under going a major face lift as they continue to bring in the high end stores. Disappearing is the aged cement façade of the past, and is being modernized. In addition, the entire Lewers Street has almost been completely renovated. Already there, or coming soon include the Yardhouse Bar & Grill, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Roy’s, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and much more. The new location is very convenient to the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV).

The bulk of the afternoon is spent by the Tapa Tower Pool. Amazingly, when compared with years past, getting a place by either this pool or the super pool has been very easy. Apparently the weekend after the NFL Pro Bowl is a great time to visit!

Every Friday night, Hilton Hawaiian Village presents King’s Jubilee which is a performance that takes you through the history of the various dances of the culture of the Hawaiian people at the super pool. Surprisingly, given the relatively light occupancy rate at the hotel, the King’s Jubilee was absolutely packed out. We elected not to get our $12 reserved seats, which we somewhat regretted when we saw the crowds gathered. Fortunately, the show had changed very little since our last visit and we enjoyed it from a distance.

At the end of the Friday night show, fireworks are set off over the Waikiki Beach just outside of the HHV. If you are on the beach as we were, they are so loud and close they are almost a little scary!

For dinner, we head over to one of our favorite restaurants to eat at while we are here, Bennihana of Tokyo. It’s located right within HHV, and serves great Teppan Steakhouse food. Always entertaining as well as good food, next time you’re here in Hawaii give it a try!