A little over a week ago, Rich and I returned from a 10-day trip to Maui, Oahu and Kauai to snorkel, hike, sightseeing, meet with friends and family, eat Hawaiian food, and take some time away from our jobs. Like many of our trips, we kept busy from early in the morning until late at night.
Instead of giving a day-by-day (yawn) of our adventures during this trip, I decided to group our activities, starting with where we stayed and the cars we drove.
The Airbnb Route
Because Airbnb’s tend to be less expensive and offer a unique experience, we chose to stay at them during our trip to Hawaii.
The first Airbnb was in Wailuku on Maui, twenty minutes west of the Kahului Airport. Originally the main tourist destination for the island, and the county seat, Wailuku features picturesque civic buildings, churches, museums, and quaint one- and two-story shops.
The Airbnb, a cute cottage, to the right of a larger house, was just a block from the main street in Wailuku, which was lined with century-old Monkeypod trees and flowering hibiscus with colorful hens and roosters, myna birds, and Zebra doves peeking for tasty bugs and seeds. While hot and humid, an occasional breeze made it tolerable.
Because we needed to wait a few hours until we could check-in to the cottage, we wandered around the city, stopping at a coffee shop for “small plates” of vegetables with hummus, tuna salad and pita bread.
The shop, like most of the buildings in Hawaii, including the airports, are open-air. Doors and louvred windows are left open, inviting the breeze inside. Ceiling and sometimes floor fans, circulate the air. And it’s not unusual to see an occasional bird flying through a building, along with a plethora of bugs.
Some places are air conditioned, but most are not because they’re older construction with little insulation in the walls or ceiling. Plus, electricity is expensive in Hawaii.
Even the Wailuku Library doesn’t have air conditioning, relying on louvre windows and fans to circulate the air.
After spending less than two hours wandering around, we were able to check-in to the Airbnb, by punching a code into a keypad on the door. The cottage had a double bed, comfortable rattan chair, sizable kitchen with a vintage wooden surfboard as a breakfast bar, and pleasant bathroom with a shower that used water from a solar water heater.
It was adorable and happily had a small air conditioner over the bed, which made sleeping more pleasant. In the morning, we opened the door to the crowing of roosters and cooing of doves, smells of tropical flowers, and sounds of the city waking up.
For Kauai, Rich chose an Airbnb, which was at a resort in Kapaa. I hadn’t paid attention to the room he reserved and was under the impression it was going to be at an older, slightly run-down resort. I was delighted when we pulled into the Ashton, Islander at the Beach, which was centrally located to everywhere we wanted to visit on Kauai and had nice amenities.
Located on a wide, sandy beach with lush plantings and swaying palm trees, all the units are situated around a patio area with a spacious pool, hot tub, barbeques, picnic tables, tiki torches, and thatched umbrellas. Lounge chairs were scattered around the property and on the beach. One section of the beach was roped-off to accommodate a large Hawaiian monk seal who’d recently given birth and was also recovering from a sharp bite.
Our room was on the second floor with a large balcony, king-sized bed, spacious sofa, large table and chairs, kitchenette, and huge bathroom (came in handy for washing and drying our snorkel gear). The furnishings were plantation-style with pineapples and other tropical motifs carved into the wooden furniture, cool green walls and textiles, and a fabulous brass lamp of a bare-chested surfer leaning against a surf board with a hand-painted shade. It was fabulously kitsch like this lamp.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Islander at the Beach, spending every evening in the hot tub, talking to a wealth of people, including a couple from Silverdale, WA. The husband is a pipe fitter at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and knows Rich’s daughter’s husband, Shawn Lee.
Rich talked extensively with a couple from Anchorage who’d owned a Ranger Tug and recently purchased another boat from Silverdale. The following evening, we chatted with people from Vancouver, Canada.
Evidently, it takes the same 5.5 hours to fly from Anchorage, Seattle or Los Angeles to Hawaii, which is why many of the people we met during our trip were from the west coast.
Our flight to Oahu, the last island we visited, was at 7 a.m. so we quietly crept out of the Islander on the Beach Airbnb at 5:00 a.m. and drove to the airport, arriving in Honolulu on Oahu a few hours later.
Rich was stressed about driving through Honolulu and Waikiki where our last Airbnb was located. Happily, traffic was light, and as we discovered during our stay, traffic isn’t nearly as bad as Seattle or even parts of Kauai during rush hour!
The Airbnb was located at the Marina Tower Waikiki, which is a ridiculously skinny, oddly shaped, 40-story building, sandwiched between tall condos, apartments and hotels. Each floor had four 390-square foot apartments/hotel rooms, each with a single, long bank of windows, tiny kitchen, slender bathroom, and triangular-shaped main room with barely enough space for a double- or queen-sized bed (or sofa bed like ours), desk, dresser, night stand, and small table with two chairs.
Because the building is snuggled towards the back of two large complexes, it was easy to miss the driveway, which lead to a pleasant open-air sitting area for three or four people. To the left was a door into a small lobby with shabby furniture, which required a key fob. To the left of the lobby was a covered area with concrete tables and stools, and two benches with a woman sitting at a rolling desk, surrounded by boxes of “stuff.” At least half of the units at Marina Towers Waikiki are leased as hotel rooms. She was the receptionist-administrator-Jill-of-all-trades for the hotel.
When you arrive at the hotel, you stand outside, and chat with her while she looks up your reservations and provides the key and other information you need for your stay. All hours of the day, we saw her sitting outside typing on a computer that was powered by an extension cord extending out of a door on the side of the building. Weird!
Our check-in was a bit more complex. First, we were instructed to park in one of the handicapped parking spots. Rich then needed to find a lock box with an orange plumeria on it, among the 60 or more lock boxes hung along the back wall of the outdoor area. Inside was the key to the room, along with a key fob to enter the lobby. Once Rich took the elevator up to the room, which was on the 17th floor, he was to retrieve the garage door opener, then take the elevator back down to get the car with me and the luggage inside. We then drove to the fifth floor of the parking garage and took an elevator 12 floors to the room.
Over half an hour after arriving, we brought our suitcases up to the room, and were pleased at the view of the marina and surrounding area. Plus, the tower has a glass elevator, so we enjoyed the view, going to-and-from our room.
At the ground level was a beautiful pool and spa, which must have been retiled recently because there was no mineral build-up on the cobalt blue tiles. The first night, we were barely in the hot tub 10 minutes when a guard told us the pool area was closing. Drats.
The second night, we spent at least an hour in the spa, talking to two women who currently live in Honolulu, but are originally from Chile. One woman had an 18-month old daughter and 2-month old son. They put floaties on the little girl, and she swam in the hot tub by leaning forward and kicking her legs. She’d started walking when she was 10 months old and regularly goes to the ocean to play in the water.
Three days after arriving in Oahu, we packed our suitcases, snorkel gear, and other “stuff” to fly back to Seattle. Looking at the view one last time from the 17th floor, I thought about the experience of staying at Airbnbs. While you never know whether the pictures posted on the site are accurate, for the most part, they under represent what you find when you open the door.
The little cottage we stayed at on Maui was much larger than represented in the photos. The resort on Kauai was unexpectedly posh with thick, fluffy towels, high-end linens and snazzy furniture. And the high-rise on Oahu was walking distance to Ala Moana shopping center, which is supposedly the world’s largest open-air shopping center with over 350 stores and restaurants from crazy expensive Sakes Off 5th, Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, and Prada to down-to-earth Target, Ross Dress for Less, and Banana Republic.
Cognitive Dissidence between Cars
When renting a car, you never know what you’ll get. In our case, three, very different cars during our recently Hawaii trip.
When we landed in Maui, late in the afternoon, there long lines at the car rental counter. Happily, the economy car we were given was a black Ford Fusion Hybrid, which proved to be very roomy, easy to drive, and barely used a tank of gas even though we drove around the island for three days, including halfway to Hanna. It was also quiet inside and had a sleek navigation panel.
While zipping around Maui, we spotted a plethora of Mustangs (convertible and hard-top) and Jeeps, which no doubt were rentals. The drivers looked to be having lots of fun.
After turning in the Ford Fusion, we flew to Kauai. Because it was late morning and there were swarms of people at the airport, Rich left me to retrieve the bags, while he got the car. Fifteen minutes later, he sent me a text, saying he was still in line. Fifteen minutes later, he texted we were getting a RED convertible Mustang. I was super excited.
However, it took another 20 minutes until Rich could drive the car to the airport loading area where I was waiting with our luggage. Prior to his arrival, there was a handful of people who must have just retrieved their luggage. Seeing Rich pull-up by a row of cars picking up passengers, I rushed into the street with two suitcases, our large bag of snorkel and hiking gear, and a tote bag over my shoulder. The security guard who’d seen me patiently waiting for an hour or so for Rich to show up, ran into the street, and started pounding on Rich’s car and blowing his whistle. He then directed his attention to several other cars.
Rich jumped out of the car and threw open the trunk (see “A” in the photo gallery), so I could quickly throw in the suitcases, but the petty boy-officer (PBO) spun around, renewing his tirades, telling Rich to move. Rich pulled up to a curb about 15 feet away (B), which was painted red, as I ran after him with suitcases in tow.
PBO was in hot pursuit, telling Rich to immediately move his car. Once again, instead of allowing us just 30 seconds to load up our luggage, and be on our way, Rich had to move the car, however, every curb was painted red. Rich pulled up in front of a small parking area away from the loading area (C), but PBO continued shouting.
Maybe he got distracted because he returned to the loading area just long enough for Rich to turn into the parking area (D), so we could cram the suitcases and bag in the car and leave. In all, the incident took maybe 2-3 minutes, and was unnecessary. The Lihue Airport is tiny and should be more accommodating. It was obvious Rich was picking me up, and not double-parking for an extended time.
During the craziness, we also discovered even though a Mustang is a mid-sized car, its trunk is quite small and was only big enough for our two overhead-bin-sized suitcases. Plus, when Rich pushed his seat back, there was scarcely an inch between the front and back seat. There was no way an average-sized adult could fit in the back. A quick Google search confirmed the cramped back seat can only accommodate children and small adolescents.
While I thought Rich would enjoy driving a Mustang, he wasn’t impressed. He found it difficult to park because the front is so long, needing a wide turning radius. The whiz-bang features of the Mustang’s illuminated side door plates and mirrors didn’t make up for its bulkiness or discomfort in getting in-and-out. It has big, heavy doors and was low-to-the-ground so there was no quickly hopping in-and-out to take a picture.
Although, the day we drove the Mustang with the top down was fun. It’s super easy to lower and raise the roof, and you don’t get pelted by the wind because of the aerodynamics of the car.
The third car we leased was a Buick Regal on Oahu, which is considered an upscale, mid-sized car. Rich enjoyed driving it and had no complaints. I felt the car lacked cubbie-holes and cup holders. There was no place to place a phone while charging it. Plus, I felt the middle console was cluttered with knobs and buttons.
If I was to rank the cars, the Ford Fusion Hybrid would be a strong number one with the Buick Regal second, and the Mustang third.
In the coming weeks, I’ll write more about our trip, including our snorkeling adventures, hikes, and visiting Pearl Harbor. In the meanwhile, check out my video of Diamond Head