We left�a dreary (read pouring) Redmond just after three on Friday and battled I-405 traffic all the way to the airport. Online checkin saved us any delays and we were pushing back from the gate on time at 5.30, Burger King feast in hand. The bumpy flight seemed to take a long time, but there were rewards waiting at the other end.
As we touched down in a balmy 79F, we were greeted with flower leis and a ride to our hotel in Waikiki Beach. The atmosphere was both relaxed and lively at the same time. Waikiki is clearly a resort with plenty going on, yet has a safe, comfortable feeling even late at night. Stomach requirements took us down the main street in search a food at 22:30, well after traditional Hawaiian eating time, but our search soon paid off with Pina Coladas (I'd like to say this was my only froo-froo cocktail of the trip, but I'd be lying), live music and bar food. Seattle was a long way away.
Saturday, we enojyed a very large breakfast and set about some exploring. A few hours on the beach, some swimming in the ocean and (what seemed like a) very long walk filled out day up just nicely. Wanting to experience all the cuisine possible (and working around restaurant opening times), we had a sushi started in one restaurant and promptly moved on to a Japanese steakhouse (Tanaka) for a cooked-before-your-eyes feast.
On Sunday morning we caught a bus up to Diamond Head, a volcanically-formed crater just south of Waikiki and climbed a mile up to the Fire Control Station build during WWII which sat upon the rim. It was pleasantly warm although a striding wind provided some relief at the summit. The views from the top�were fantastic.�After waiting a ridiculously long time for the number 58 bus, we were now heading further away from Waikiki on our way to Hanauma Bay.�It was the height of the afternoon yet the beach was surprisingly� free of people. A bargain $9 rental for 'dry' snorkelling gear (no water comes in when you're under water) and we began to wade out into the bay. Just a few feet from the shore, a dip under revealed a remarkable sight - the coral was right there, teeming with big and little fishies alike. We spent almost an hour swimming around, heading further out into some of the deeper parts and spotting all manner of blue, yellow, black and red fish. A great experience. Coming back, there was no doubt that we were going to eat well and the Cheesecake Factory fit the bill perfectly. Sesame seed covered baked ahi and I was good. We finished the night up at the Mai Tai bar, part of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (Waikiki's first luxury hotel painted a garish shade of pink) and started to get the impression that the Mai Tai cocktail is more of an idea than a strict recipe.
Monday turned out to be Martin Luther King day and we got up early to watch the parade which went right past our hotel. Breakfast in Starbucks (you can take the people out of Seattle...) and we spent another couple of hours soaking up the sun on the beach. Well, 'soaking' as much as a generous lathering of SPF 45 will allow. Apparently no trip to Waikiki is complete without a trip to the Cheeseburger in Paradise which does indeed offer precisely what it purports to. We spent the evening going down the drinks list at Duke's Canoe Club on the waterfront, lit with tiki torches, candles and the gentle rolling of the ways in the background.
For Tuesday, we had big plans. Renting a Ford Focus for the way (throughfully delivered in red), we first headed up to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial. It's a well-trafficked destination but built for it well and the�trip out into the harbor made all of the history books I've read that bit more real. With no time to waste, we headed up to the North Shore. Again, food was on the agenda and I can state with some certainty that�the best lunch in the world is served at the Kua Aina Sandwich Shop. After lunch, we headed out to the shore and braved some of the waves for one last swim in the ocean. For our last stop, we checked out the Banzai Pipeline and saw some crazy surfers making the most of the 20-30ft waves that were surprisingly close to the shore. Time was moving along swiftly and since we had a plane to catch, our little 'detour' through downtown Honolulu wasn't the best decision. We arrived back at our hotel at the pick-up time for our shuttle (which had left a few minutes earlier) and a clear fifteen minutes after the rental car needed to be back. All worked out well in the end and we caught a cab to the deserted airport. As we went to get some food and one last drink, the reason for the emptiness became apparent --�due to a bit of a mix-up we had a clear five hours before our flight was due to leave. Oh well, one more Mai Tai please.
We arrived back in Seatac just after five thirty in the morning, stopped back for a quick shower and straight into a full day of work. But with no question, it was well worth it. One more Lonely Planet book sits of my bookshelf and serves�as a reminder of a great trip.