It’s been a little over two weeks since I got back from Honolulu, and I am still trying to get my head back into the real world. My body is physically here in Saint Louis, however my mind is still in Honolulu.
I ate so much, at probably the best places Honolulu has to offer, I mainly stayed within the tourist strip, but I was also daring and tried out some places where the locals go, without getting to terribly lost in the process. It is safe to say, there was not a second where I was hungry, and when I was, I would wait no more than 30 minutes for my friend (JT) to also get hungry so he could join me. We basically pigged out everywhere we went, and ended finding out our favorite places to eat regularly.
Basically I used this vacation to relax more than anything. Intentionally I wanted to have an adventure, but upcoming two weeks to fly, I basically worked my butt off not knowing that I was going to be going on this trip- and I was completely booked at work a few days prior the trip. I just wanted to lay out on the sun, and attempt at achieving my tan.
May 26, 2016 my plane landed at HNL airport at 11:35 a.m. I didn’t checked my bag so I exited the airport and attempted at using an uber, no luck, there was no uber nearby at the time so I decided to take the taxi to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (30 minute drive). My Taxi driver’s name was Sunny, he was super sweet and nice, and had a harsh Asian accent that I had trouble understanding when he was recommending me things to do during my visit. When it was time to pay he asked me if I had cash, I was struck by the question, luckily I did, and paid the fare of $65.20 and the additional $5 tip. (JT landed at 10 a.m. waited less than two minutes for his uber, he was charged $19.72 HNL->The Royal Hawaiian Hotel.)
Once I got to the hotel I was welcome by the bell boy and 3 other men from the hotel, it was overwhelming how much attention I received, I got Lei’ed, and told them that JT had already checked in and gave them my name. When they found out that our room was in a exclusive tower, free upgrade, they shower even more, more attention, water, fruit, etc., until JT came down and took me to our room. Our room…was beautiful! It had two twin size beds, with a balcony that views the ocean. A view to die for. We were welcomed with complementary banana nut muffin, that we sadly had to get rid of due to JT extreme food allergen to nuts, I however, wished I was able to demolish it.
I dropped off my luggage and we both headed over to Doraku Sushi Waikiki. Located in the Royal Hawaiian Center, the Japanese restaurant-Doraku Sushi has a decent size menu that has a couple of Japanese traditional dishes, and a great sushi menu. If you love sashimi, I highly recommend trying out their sashimi-they are probably the best sashimi that have ever entered my mouth. I also recommend trying the salmon carpaccio. My mouth is literally salivating as I write this blog. Being that Doraku was easily accessible, less than a ten minute walk from the Royal Hawaiian, it became a favorite, and a place that we frequent four times throughout our stay.
After lunch, we both decided to walk off the weight by walking about the center-checking out the stores, and made mental notes of places we wanted to try and eat. The Center alone has every store that you can envision to fit every budget. For Example the “mall” had entry level stores such as Forever 21 thats 3 stories tall! Middle entry brands such as, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, and Michael Kors! Finally the super luxury brands such as Fendi, Omega, and Harry Winston to only name a few! Located in the main floor of the strip (that goes out into the streets) theres a small little Kiosk that have many tourist activities (both free, and with fees) that you can do. Some activities ranges anywhere from $55-800. I decided to take a couple of brochures and cards to look over and see what all I can fit into my budget, and would have time for. (I decided to not do any of the activities on this trip considering the ones that I did wanted to do were well over my budget. Now I know how much I should save up for my next visit!)
After we did our full round in the mall the both of us decided it was time to go to the pool and lay out in the sun. For someone whose always on the go, this was very hard for me to do. I learned that I could not lay down and sunbathe for longer than 20 minutes. I kept on getting up and having to walk down to the shoreline. We did not lay out by the beach because it would’ve been an additional fee of $22 to have seats/spots on the beach. It didn’t matter considering that the pool was only a few feet from the beach. After two hours, I couldn’t do it anymore, I decided to go running down the strip-a complete fail at 3 P.M-there was people everywhere making it nearly impossible (If you want to go running I highly suggest doing it between 5-7 P.M.), so I ended up fast walking down stopping and walking down to the shore every so often to take everything in. Once I got further down pass the zoo towards a park-it was finally possible to go running, near the aquarium, quickly turned into one of my favorite running spots.
Once my run was over, I went back into our room, JT is STILL sunbathing, I took a shower I found myself to have caused quite and appetite from my fast pace walking with combination of running (14.2 miles). I was starving, and after my shower… JT was STILL sunbathing-he probably would’ve continued if I hadn’t texted him letting him know that I could eat a wild boar whole. Speaking of pork, thats what we had for supper, last year JT frequent Tonkatsu Ginza Bairina, authentic Japanese restaurant that somehow remembered JT’s face, and welcomed us with open arms-make a reservations because this place does get pack! When you enter, you are welcome with a Japanese greeting, and as you are leaving, you will receive a Japanese “farewell, come again”. If you frequent often they will end up favoring you and give you extra cabbage. I basically recommend everything on the menu, most entrees includes miso soup! After supper JT wanted to try dessert elsewhere-there was a small lot filled 5 or 6 food trucks just seconds away! Since we didn’t see anything that we were craving, JT suggested that we should go to the Royal Hawaiian Center and check out the food court that he remember from our early exploration. The both of us decided to try out the cheesecake from Uncle Tetsu Cheesecake. After that we explored the night life on the strip which ended up with us in our room basically vegging out to the food network until 12:45 ish A.M.-like the true fatties that we are.
May 27, 2016
Yesterday after our pig-out session, when we entered our room there was a note left by the coffee area informing us that there was going to be ritual at 4 A.M. that we are welcome to attend at no additional cost. I, being a night owl and a early bird, woke up at 3:05 A.M. and couldn’t go back to bed.
Might as well check out the morning ritual-I gotten ready and put on my bathing suit and bathing suit cover and walked out to the beach. It was dark, and you can see the sun was going to rise any moment, the view that I was seeing was breathtaking. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the only early bird, roughly 20 or so people joined. The instructor had us all grab a towel lay it on the sand and sit on it as she explained what the ritual was about-basically to thank the Sun God for rising everyday giving us life. Later it was followed by us chanting in Hawaiian. It ended with everyone running into the ocean to wake our soul, it sounded good when in the moment-it wasn’t the sun had just risen and haven’t warm up the ocean with it’s rays, and we were done by 5:25 A.M. Since it was still early, knowing that JT isn’t a morning person, and probably is still in bed snoring.
I decided to go walk up and down the shoreline, and arrived back into my room around 6:45 A.M., he was still in bed but was starting to wake from the sun-we had forgotten to close the panels when we fell asleep, lucky for me since I was starting to get hungry-see a pattern starting to form here? Once JT had woken up and finished getting ready, we decided to head over to the “free” breakfast. They only had croissants, fruit, yogurt, coffee, and juice-not much to satisfy you, but something to keep your hunger under control until its time to get real food. “Breakfast” was followed by being lazy by the pool. I lasted a little longer this time, mainly because I had gotten a call from a girlfriend that wanted updates about my holiday. At 10 A.M. JT had to return to the room for a conference call from work, which ended around noon. Soon after we both agreed it was time to have brunch at Marukame Udon & Tempura-another authentic Japanese restaurant. I highly recommend getting the regular size bowl, and a regular udon with and egg, after that you have many tempura to choose from to add into your bowl, trust me the regular size bowl will be more than enough. After that we both went back to lay by the pool-this time I did not last any longer than possibly 30 minutes. I gave up on sunbathing and decided to go running, this time I took a different route-I decided to take back roads and somehow passed by Ono Seafood, a tiny place that had a line coming out, I made a mental note to bring it up to JT after my run. When it was time to end my run and head back to the hotel I had receive a text from JT jokingly told me to bring him back some poke from Ono Seafood-I had already passed by the restaurant (8.19 miles). When I arrived back to the hotel, I was ready for a snack, so I grabbed a cliff bar that I brought with me from home and cleaned myself up. After my shower, JT asked me if I was ready for food-Of course! What kind of question is that? JT didn’t want to walk to Ono Seafood so instead he got us an Uber. Luckily there was a short line when we arrive, and I was overwhelmed on what to get-theres so many options for poke! I ended up getting the same thing that JT picked out for himself. Afterwards we both walked towards Leonard’s Bakery, known for its affordable and freshly made donuts, to grab desserts-JT actually has an extremely sweet tooth and I do not. Every time we went somewhere for desserts I would take a bite out of whatever he grabbed. In this case he grabbed 8 donuts…. All for himself. We couldn’t get an Uber to pick us up so we had to walk back into our hotel, by the time we got back, we developed a appetite and stopped by Doraku Sushi Waikiki, it was a miserable walk home considering it was 90+ degrees and the sun was pretty rough that day. Once we got back we basically vegged out in the A/C watching the food network for quite some time, until it was time to eat supper at Marukame Udon & Tempura. I don’t remember much of what happened after that, but I am pretty sure the both of us had a food coma and passed out afterwards.
May 28, 2016
I start my morning by waking up at 4 A.M., no surprise here, I quietly gotten ready and went out on a morning stroll on the beach. Do not decide to walk up the strip alone! There will be older men in vans asking you if you want surfing lessons, one guy even grabbed my hand asking if I wanted lessons! Stay by the beach closest to the hotels and resorts as possible, they are more secure with guards to keep visitors safe. The strip is safer after 5:30 A.M. JT surprisingly woke up at 9 A.M. and suggested that we go to Hula Grill Waikiki and try a local dish called Loco Moco (you will experience food coma once you’re done), before we had to check out from the hotel and check into another the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel. The both of us decided to spend the remainder of our time laying out by the pool and hanging out by the beach. I actually achieved a tan by this point!
By 2 P.M. we had to check out and check into our second hotel. When we checked in the person at the front desk said that due to our SPG status we were able to get a free upgrade. IT WAS THE BEST UPGRADE EVER! We had an impeccable view that over look the island! We were also welcome with a box of chocolate and a mini ice cooler. JT wanted to watch the basketball game, I just decided to relax until it was time to eat, I apparently found sunbathing exhausting! I was woken up by cheering, a huge thump! JT jumped so high that he hit his head against the ceiling, not phase he looked at me with a huge grin and arms up in the air, and said “Wooooooo! Bay area! Lets go out for a burger I am starving!” He must have an extremely hard head because it sounded like it hurt-he was so caught in the moment, he was not phase! How?! The both of us headed over to Mahaloha Burger located in Royal Hawaiian Center food court, I don’t really recommend going to this place, “it just tasted like an over priced Burger King” (JT’s words, not mine). We both parted ways-I wanted to sightsee and window shopping around the strip.
By dinner time we both met up at the hotel’s lobby and headed over to Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Bar and D.K. Steakhouse (recommended by trip advisor), Tip: ask to be seated by the bar so you can receive all three menus from both restaurant, this became another favorite place to eat and drink. For drinks, I HIGHLY recommend the ‘Oh my ume!’- monokawa diamond sake, moscato, ume juice, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, topped ume yukari rim. I must warn that this is an expensive restaurant, you can easily spend $200 between two people! They have the best steak ever! Cuts like a dream, so tender, and basically melts into your mouth with every bite! If you like lobster, they have probably the fattest, most juiciest lobster known to man! I highly recommend trying out their 30-day old rib-eye, the udon steak noodles, lobster, and if you love bone marrow–you should most definitely try out their bone marrow! I have never seen bone marrow filled to rim my entire life. If you have room for dessert, even if you don’t, you must try their apple tart! I am not much of a sweets type of girl, but after having a taste of the tart, I instantly became one! I wasn’t even on my period either! Who am I kidding? To save my keyboard from getting drench from my watering mouth, you cannot go wrong when ordering from both restaurants, everything is scrumptious!
May 29 2016
Before having to check out of the hotel and heading over to the Sheraton, I starting my morning by going on a 11.8 mile run, its best to go running in the back roads-less congested with tourist! After getting lost running back to the hotel, thank god for the sweet homeless people for guiding me back to the strip-I wish I had cash on me to give them, on the way back I somehow was running towards a huge sign that said ‘Finish hibiscus marathon’-whoops! I was wondering why people were cheering! I finally enter back to my room, and got ready to start my day. I came back to a very grumpy JT who had woken up with a pounding migraine-I guess that hit to the head is finally kicking in!
Before having to check out, we both decided to save money by using our $25 breakfast voucher card and had breakfast there. Thank god it was free, because it was not worth $25! Once we were seated we quickly headed over to the buffet-bacon, waffles, scramble eggs, omelets, miso soup, and fresh fruits where our choices. I had bacon, eggs, fresh fruit and a small bowl of miso. I had arrive back to our table first and met up with our lovely waitress Vivian, she noticed that JT was Asian she couldn’t tell my ethnic background due to my fair skin, even with my ‘tan’, she asked if JT was Japanese and if we were on our honeymoon, throughout our whole trip everyone asked if we were on our honeymoon, I told her that he is Chinese, and that we are just visiting. Then she asked if JT was my boyfriend, another followed up question-no just my friend. I told her that I am Vietnamese, she was so happy and basically sat down and spoke to me in Vietnamese the whole time! I guess the Vietnamese community here is very small. When JT finally came back to our table, he literally brought back the whole buffet. Vivian asked us what we wanted to drink and got us our drinks. Because the buffet is outside, beware of the pigeons! They are ruthless at this hotel! There was this overgrown black with white speckles pigeon that would sit with you and steal your food while you’re not looking. I watched this same bird stole a piece of bacon straight from a lady’s fork as it was entering her mouth! Basically the employees had given up on trying to get rid of this bird because I would see them shake their heads as it was up to no good. We checked out once we were done with breakfast.
When checking back into the Royal Hawaiian, (JT asked me to get us pukas for him to bring home to give to friends) due to our SPG status, we were able to get another free upgrade-a 1,700 sq. ft. bridal suite that would’ve costed us $2,000. At first the concierge told us that the room will have a king size bed, we both basically looked at each other and had a internal fight of who gets the bed and who gets the couch in our own little world, the both of us highly stressed that we were willing to wait as long it would take to have two beds-we waited roughly 4 hours for our room, in the meantime the both of us vegged out by the pool-my smart self thought it would be a GREAT idea to go running on the beach! Its rough running in the sand!
We then got a call notifying us that our room was ready, great timing! I was hungry! We had lunch at Surf Lani and had gotten ‘beach view’ I recommend the modern fruits de mer as a appetizer and fish and chips, I do not recommend the clam chowder pizza, too salty to even have a second bite. (They had the worse service, waiters and waitresses stood around as people waited to order, pay, or for their meals-we waited almost 45 minutes for ours). For dinner we visited Ramen Nakaruma (Cash only) I highly advise to come once they are open to avoid waiting in line. I recommend trying the spicy ramen, (small bowl). For our second dinner Arancino Beachwalk–looking back I don’t know how we manage to eat so much on this day, I had the seafood risotto.
May 30th, 2016
I woke up around 3 A.M. got dressed, and went down to the shoreline until 4 A.M. I got an uber, I was charged a Surge fee of x2.5 ($69.13) to Lanikai Pillbox Hike Trail. I have a separate post with photos I have taken from the hike, click here. On the way back to the hotel ($27.46) I was surrounded by beautiful scenery! Thank you Grace for the recommendation, I can’t wait to hang out with you on my next visit!
After my hike, I went back to the hotel and grab myself a free breakfast before heading back into the room. I took a nice long shower, and crashed out on the bed as JT watched the last NFL Championship Game. I woke up while the game was still on and grabbed Doraku Sushi Waikiki for us to eat to go, he did not want to leave the t.v. and miss anything, (‘We’, He won! SF!) Luckily for me this meant we get to go back to Sansei Seafood Restaurant Sushi Bar and D.K. Steakhouse his treat! Woohoo! Needless to say-we both walked back to our room with the world’s largest grin, and most satisfying food coma!
May 31, 2016
Boo! This was our last day, it was depressing! JT had to be by the airport at 10 A.M. and I had to be there by 10:30 P.M. We had our last meal together at IL Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar, once you are seated, if they see that you are Asian they will automatically hand you the Japanese menu, ask for an English menu when you are seated. If you are feeling sluggish, and need a good pick me up, my go to is fresh ginger, to drink I had a Shot of Ginger, it was so good but very potent, JT doesn’t understand how anyone could just eat, or drink ginger as much as I do. To eat I had the smoked salmon. After our meal we relaxed a little in our room before having to check out, we said our farewells, I checked my bags, and went exploring on my own.
I walked towards the Waikiki Aquarium, $12 adults, $5 children- I personally did not think it was worth the money at all. You can go through the whole aquarium within 5 minutes, probably 10 with children!
After that I decided to kill time by walking around the beach, there was a hula dance concert on the beach with a stage, music and tiki torches! After I decided to revisit Marukame Udon, there was a line going out the building, once I finally reach inside I got to see the cooks make ramen from scratch before being able to order. After that I walked and hung out in the back roads away from tourists, and just basically took everything in. It finally hit me I am finally in Hawaii, and today is my last day, I need to come here again-with a much larger budget. I decided to stop by Tea Boss for a refreshing drink, and to use an outlet-my phone was starting to run out of juice. I had my last meal at, you guessed it-Sansei Seafood Restaurant Sushi Bar and D.K. Steakhouse. After that I headed back to the Royal Hawaiian, picked up my bags, and an uber to head to HNL airport.
I hope to one day come back to Honolulu, better prepared (and Richer!)