More Honolulu Goodness – Part 3

Halfway through my short trip and I can say I already got the hang of it — I was waking up on island time, my body and the weather already reached an understanding, and I was raring to tick off items in my to-do and to-visit list.

DAY ONE-5

Woke up early on a Monday to go to Diamond Head! The experience is detailed here.

When I returned to Waikiki, I bought lunch at Steak Shack.

28ccba2f-b1a4-43ef-9a32-137a640315f3Steak Shack is a small food stand facing the beach at the Fort DeRussy Beach Park. They serve all-day steak plates — as low as $8 for a hefty meal. I bought a 10-oz steak plate to go which came with a generous serving of rice and salad. Didn’t manage to take a photo because I demolished it as soon as I went back to the room. I was so hungry after the trail hike and remembered I barely had anything for breakfast. I liked the steak plate moreso because I excessively put ranch dressing in it. I paid $14 I think for the entire thing. You can view photos contributed by tourists on TripAdvisor if you want to see how they look like.

I rested almost the whole afternoon and booked my tour ticket for Pearl Harbor that I planned to take on my last full day on the island. A little after sunset I took a short bus ride to Ward Village to check it out.

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When I got there I was surprised by how freakishly quiet it was. It was a Monday and I was expecting there would at least be people from work seeing that there were office spaces within the complex. It’s almost empty. But seeing that two shops (!!!) were right by the pedestrian lane across Ala Moana Boulevard, I spent more than hour in both shops, officially breaking my self-imposed rule to not go shopping in discount stores on this trip. #noregrets

I rode the wrong bus going back and I found myself in Ala Moana Center again. Decided to just grab dinner there and walk around a few minutes more before heading back. I had lots of steps per my pedometer and been to a Hawaii tourist spot so it was a good day.

DAY ONE-6

It was the chillest of all my days with practically nothing planned. I went out of the room a little after 9 am to get breakfast. I was in the mood for laksa but since I got there I haven’t seen (or probably I managed to stay away from) any restaurant possibly serving such so I was open to eating anything. On my way to Royal Hawaiian Center to participate in a free outdoor hula class, I found one soup kiosk in its food hall.

I decided not to join the hula class after breakfast. I walked around the center and proceeded to the beachfront of Hilton Hawaiian Village for a mid-morning soak.

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This is a bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi, the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, Hawaii’s first monarch.

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Not a fan of rubber in general (let’s not start LOL) but hey these stuff…interesting.

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Pinoy sorbetes represent!

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This was an unplanned shot while I was getting a tan and I flipped my huge body with my phone in hand.

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Since I liked Funko Pops, it’s not weird for me to travel with one so I can shoot it instead of myself.

As I am doing this update I realize how lousy my photos were. Totally not representative at all of how amazing each nook and corner of Waikiki are. You know what that tells me? There’s always another time to go back and make up for it. But let us reserve that plan in another blog post.

I was still full from the big bowl of laksa I had so after staying at the beach for almost two hours, I went to Target and Ross in Ala Moana Center to finally buy bilins and pasalubong for the people back home. I scored quite a few freebies that added to my pasalubong list thanks to Fil-Am aunties manning many stores, particularly in Honolulu Cookie Company!

DAY ONE-7

That’s my tweet when I woke up that day! My big to-do then was Pearl Harbor then cocktails at sunset. That’s it. So after a quick breakfast I took a bus from Hobron Lane going to Pearl Harbor.

The entire Pearl Harbor tour including my travel time to and back took me almost five hours. I left the stuff from the tour, freshened up a bit, and rushed to the other end of Waikiki Beach to catch my last sunset on that trip.

I settled in Royal Hawaiian Hotel and ordered their classic mai tai with taro chips and hummus. The price was steep for me but considering the location and #treatyoself nga di ba, it’s worth it. It was only one drink but I was tipsy kaagad so I walked it off back to the apartment.

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Will always carry a torch for Manila’s sunset but this one was pretty amazing, too.

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After last-minute packing, I made sure that my last night in Honolulu, at least for this first time, was fun and crazy interesting. And it was. The next day it was mostly about the straight flight back to Manila.

Overall, ahhh, it will take me a while to get over Hawaii. When you get a chance, please do visit the island. Make memories, make ’em darn good ones. The island is worth it.

Mahalo, Hawaii!!! Until next time!

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That Honolulu Trip – Part 2

Aaaand my island adventures continue. Note that I am writing this nine months after they happened. The nostalgia and the longing bite me hard. I really should have finished writing this sooner, as in as soon as I was flying back home.

DAY ONE-3

Still not waking up early, and a part of me kind of regretted a huge chunk of the morning wasted. But what can I do, I was on vacation, so forcing myself’s way below my list talaga.

After breakfast I felt like going to the beach again for a mid-morning soak, so I took the bus (yay, finally) and stepped off the stop nearest to the Duke Kahanamoku Statue. It was a bit on the other end of the shore where I baked myself burnt the previous day. Maiba naman. Not sure if it’s because it’s a Saturday but more people were on the beach. It was surreal seeing different people enjoying themselves under the sun. No drama intended but the feeling na you’re traveling solo but you’re not alone…that kind of feels.

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From Target the previous day: Quaker rice crispies (flavored ampao, in short LOL), some pretzels, and blueberries. Then cranberry juice! This is something I would not spend time buying and putting together back home but as they say, necessity is the mother of all inventions.

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Told you, nice view.

After an hour at the beach I walked to Food Pantry in Kuhio Avenue to buy more essentials, and oddly enough unti-unting pasalubong, and also grabbed lunch from HI-Steaks.

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HI-Steaks ranks high on Yelp and compared to similar restaurants in the area, they serve very affordable yet hefty meals. After buying groceries, I bought my lunch to-go.

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This is their original steak and BBQ chicken combo ($11 more or less). I opted for the chimichurri sauce which I was given generously. Look at that brown rice and greens to complete the ensemble! If I wasn’t in a hurry to make it to my next stop, I would have taken my time with it.

In the afternoon it surprisingly rained, lakas makasira ng sleeveless romper outfit because of the lamigin me. However I still went ahead to Leonard’s Bakery to try their malasadas.

From the nearest bus station from my apartment I took Bus #13 and got off in front of Leonard’s. Other buses like #1 and #9 also have dropoffs near Leonard’s but not as near as #13’s, so that’s something to consider. Other people, such as the guy I met while there (aka who chuckled while I was hilariously Boomerang-ing my malasadas), actually walked to the bakery from Waikiki Beach! Going back to Waikiki, take the same bus number at the station in front of Safeway in Kapahulu which was a block away from Leonard’s.

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Anyway, malasadas. It is basically deep-fried dough sprinkled with granulated sugar. Think bicho-bicho back home. Leonard’s offers other varieties like the cinnamon-sprinkled ones, and some coated with li hing or Chinese dried plum. They have malasada puffs with filling, too. I tried their original and cinnamon-sprinkled bread. They’re okay. I mean, it’s soft on the inside and it was still warm when I got my order so it’s good. I ordered a lot for one so I ended up eating it for breakfast and merienda the next day.

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I accidentally deleted the photos of my Leonard’s trip save for my IG stories so all I got now our screenshots. See, parang tinapay lang na may asukal di ba?

It started raining again on my way back to Waikiki so I just hit the mall and went to B&N again. Still didn’t do a lot but I was happy with my day.

DAY ONE-4

Finally, I was able to wake up early enough to enjoy the first half of the day. I spent it inside the room to enjoy my breakfast with a view. Cannot complain.

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Leftover malasadas, cranberry juice, and a banana. If you know me well enough, you can tell this was very new to me.

I walked a few blocks around the area and began to feel feverish. I knew it was days of wonky sleeping and getting rained on. I rested until late afternoon and walked to find a place to eat rice. You know that very Pinoy feeling na you need to eat something before taking your meds and “eat something” means kanin and ulam? So off I went walking along the shore. It was a very good afternoon. 

I made a premature left turn going to the Royal Hawaiian Center and found Pau Hana Market. It’s a small lot with food trucks. I heard it’s closed now. I hope they just moved elsewhere. I planned on getting the famous garlic shrimp but they weren’t ready and I was hungry. I chose Hoaloha’s fried chicken meal of the day.

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Chicken, lots of carbs, fruits. For a hungry stomach it was quite a feast. The beer-battered taste of the chicken was ordinary. The fresh pineapple juice was a delight. I shelled about $30 for this late meal. I devoured it while i placed a quick video call to my mom and watched about half an episode of Hawaii Five-O. Hihihi, “for the feels”.

I walked a lot to make up for the heavy meal. Before I knew it it’s dark outside so i just went back to the room to rest some more. I was reviewing my photos and I was convinced I didn’t take plenty of shots for a tourist. But you know what, I still remember them all in my head. I don’t know how much longer I can retain them in but right now they’re all vivid. The place really made a mark in me.

Three more days to go!

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Hawaii, Why, Why (Why Not) – Part 1

That’s got to be one of the most forced titles ever. But hey, let us still talk about it. Because why not?

One of my bestfriends is traveling to Honolulu in a few weeks and I cannot help but envy that she’s going, so I am pushing her way all suggestions that I possibly can so I can live vicariously through her in the meantime.

At this point I would like to write about a few things I did while on the amazing island. Granted, part of what made it amazing were a few experiences that are too personal, but man, taking that away, the trip was still many levels of awesome.

What did I do while in Honolulu?

DAY ONE

As I mentioned in my first round-up, I got to Honolulu mid-morning of Thursday, after 10 hours of a smooth and uneventful flight (the best kind) from Manila.

I rented an Airbnb room and my host allowed me to check in as soon as I arrived in the building before lunch. I wasn’t jetlagged, wasn’t sleepy, but suddenly very hungry and the creature of habit in me walked to Ala Moana Center to eat.

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Taken at the Ala Wai Canal on the way to Ala Moana Center. There were buses from my airbnb to the mall but I chose to walk because per the map it was a simple inverted L route ergo very easy to follow. Took me longer but it was worth it. I was there barely an hour pa lang but I felt that I was gonna like it and boy, I was right.

Ala Moana Center is said to be largest open-air shopping center in the world (not too clear on the ‘largest’ and ‘open-air’ bits because from a Pinoy window shopper’s point of view. . .using MOA or SM North or SM Cebu as references. . .anyway, irrelevant). I could have taken the bus but I opted to walk so I can familiarize myself with the area. If you have traveled with me to any U.S. location you will know that my default first food is always orange chicken-honey walnut shrimp-white rice from Panda Express.

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Tourist comfort food, for the win. I have had this same combo each time I touched down any U.S. city. When not very hungry days later, I take away the shrimp, but really, when all else doesn’t cut it, my palate always goes back to Panda Express. Tignan natin when they open here in Manila if it’s gonna be the same.

As this mall is huge I went around, shopped a few, and settled at, well, you guessed it…Barnes & Noble. Alam mo yun, I knew I just arrived and had seven days to go but #priorities and #addiction, so yeah. Two hours went by too fast and with a plan to catch my first sunset in Waikiki, I left B&N with quite a few loot, then I headed to Target for my essentials.

As a solo traveler who has ‘starvation’ among her top fears in life, I always troop to the nearest supermarket or grocery because you’re surely saving money on food this way. Grocery shopping is fun for me, too, and one more cheap thrill which we don’t have yet: self-checkout.

The island of Oahu in general is survivable for non-drivers like me because they have an efficient transport system. With plenty of bus routes it could get confusing though, so one tip I have is to download the transportation app (if available), bus map, or anything related to it, and of course connect to Maps to know how to get to your destination without losing time.

With my bookish time and grocery time — both times well-spent — I missed the sunset. I still walked (and walked and I mean walked) both in the dim light by the shore (only those with restaurants fronting the beach were well-lit) with muni-muni in between, to the people-filled Kalakaua Avenue.

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This was around 8 pm already. I missed the sunset and the fireworks display by Hilton Hawaiian Village every Friday. It wasn’t as crowded for a Friday. I took a leisurely walk para sulit ang mga pinaplano ko nang kainin that night.

I walked back to the apartment which was a good 15-minute walk along Kalakaua Avenue. It was ok, felt safe, there were people from work, tourists, and joggers sharing the sidewalk with me so it was good. I ordered food to-go from Tony Roma’s because it was conveniently in the way. I cannot feel my feet when I got back to my apartment but it was really fun for a first day!

DAY ONE-2

I woke up at 11 am because my body clock was still adjusting. I had breakfast in the room and walked the strip of Ala Moana Boulevard to reach Olive and Oliver.

Olive & Oliver is a small coffee bar and boutique that serves coffee to-go. Their coffee drinks are classic and no-frills; they come in artsy cups like the ones above. If you search for recommended coffee places in Waikiki, they usually made the list so I was glad it was on my walking route when going to the beach.

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Ah, Waikiki. There’s also the Diamond Head crater making this canvas more beautiful. The waves were a bit rough the afternoon I came but it was also warm and sunny so it wasn’t as scary. I failed to capture a panoramic video. I did it without a camera though and until now I feel it as if I was still there. Ang drama ano, but really, that’s how it affected me when I was there. Dahil yata mahal pamasahe kaya ninamnam ko ng bongga. Chos.

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The other side. You can see the Ala Moana area and Hilton Hawaiian Village. This photo remains my wallpaper until today. Didn’t capture the beauty of Waikiki Beach, I swear.

It was a bright and sunny day so I took lots of photos para sa obligatory IG na ganyan, then I sprawled in front of Fort deRussy for my first taste of Waikiki beach.

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I stayed until I was able to witness the sunset.

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On the way back to my apartment, the classic black and white stripes lured me in. This was a very busy street and the shop was easy to miss but I didn’t. Bought a few essentials (essentials daw o). Meron pala sila sa Ala Moana Center which I missed the day before.

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On my way back to my apartment (ang tibay di ba, hindi pa ako nag-bubus ulit), I went to Maguro Brothers, a popular hole in the wall that serves delicious poke bowls. They open from 5 pm to until after midnight. They are situated unassumingly along Lewers Street, so much so that I passed it the first time. In my tired and nervous English I managed to throw in the “It’s my birthday!” card (though it was a day after, what a hustler) so the guy at the counter smiled and added more spicy mayonnaise, which if you also know me enough, something that I like my food to be swimming in. It was a big win for me.

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So yeah, back in the room, with amazing view of Manoa, was my happy dinner. You can see my leftover chips and artichoke dip from the night before. My room doesn’t have a TV which wasn’t a big deal to me. The wifi was strong so I just watched Def Comedy Jam 25 on iFlix and some Parks and Recreation episodes. Simple forms of happiness, I tell you.

A day and a half, done! See the next post for days three to seven!

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Life is short, go to Hawaii!

I just came back from an amazing Honolulu trip! I was there for seven full days. I planned it six weeks before my departure date which left me with a few expensive options but overall it was worth it. Besides, any travel I make in January will always be worth the damage to the pocket. For this one I even left on the afternoon of my birthday and arrived in Honolulu mid-morning, still on my birthday!

For this post I want to share my travel tips and activities should you wish to visit Honolulu (which you definitely must, it’s so amazing!)

Getting there: Going to Hawaii, sigh, isn’t cheap. If you are for comfort and duration, Philippine Airlines offers the shortest flight to Honolulu and back. It takes less than 10 hours going there and less than 11 hours going back, and more importantly, it’s a straight flight. I left in January which is still the tailend of the peak season so the lowest I got it for was still around $1,200, travel tax included. Ang mahal nya, actually, pero well, birthday trip!

From the airport to your hotel/hostel/Airbnb: Shuttle services, if you do not have a host or you did not avail your hotel’s pickup option, are very much available as soon as you step out of the airport. So far, I noticed there’s SpeediShuttle and Roberts Hawaii Express Shuttle. I took Roberts Hawaii Express Shuttle going to my rented condo unit. These shuttle services accept card payments only so make sure you have your debit or credit cards handy. I paid $16 for the 30-minute trip. I learned from the shuttle driver (a beautiful half-Filipina, half-Hawaiian named Danielle!) that Roberts Hawaii also owns the building I stayed at, so it’s a convenient dropoff.

Going to the airport for my departure, I availed SpeediShuttle’s service. I booked a reservation the night before I left. It costs $15.48 which is also charged to your card. When you choose a pickup time, consider the time of your flight and expect that there will be other pickups other than you which could extend your travel time to the airport. For this trip though, the driver took the backroads and in 20 minutes, I was dropped off at the PAL checkin gate. So kanya-kanyang diskarte din ang mga drivers but it’s always safe to allow more time.

Of course if you are with a group and you can comfortably fit inside a car, you can take a taxi or an Uber. They also have Lyft, too. The bus is also an option.

Accommodations: I booked a lovely studio apartment through Airbnb. It won’t be visible in the listing but you will discover that many of the Waikiki units, whether studio apartments, rooms, or couches, are within the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel. It’s a property that was converted into half-condo units, half-hotel and many condo owners rented theirs out. My host lives in the same unit — we share one main door, and there are two keycard-activated doors after; one is her residence and one is the studio space she rents out.

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Look at this cute and cozy place! The wooden design and fixtures provided a unique and homey touch. It has no kitchen but there’s a microwave, a mini-ref, and lots of dining utensils. The bathroom is also very clean and has clean towels and bathroom products for you to use. The host also has beach bags and beach towels in the closet. Super homey! And don’t get me started on the view. That right there by the window is not a painting!

My favorite part of this unit is the view. I can never get enough of it. It is directly facing Ala Wai Canal and being on the 35th floor, it gets an amazing view of Manoa. I was also treated to plenty of rainbow sightings (which I was told are quite often in the island) because of its location.

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View from the room at daytime. I don’t get scared of heights but this one made me a bit woozy.

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View at nighttime. Very therapeutic.

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The first morning I woke up early enough. That’s not a canvas, that’s a real view!

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The building was at the corner of Niu and Ala Wai so when you go down the street, this is easily what you can snap. Ah, the memories of it just by typing this.

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One more rainbow view after it rained. Love.

Let me know if you want to get this same accommodation and I’ll point you to this listing. 🙂 The host is very easy to talk to and very accommodating.

I walked around a lot while there and checked the location of the hotels and apartments and their distance from the beach. While I really liked Hawaiian Monarch’s location (from there you can walk to the convention center, Ross (ahem), Target (ahem ulit), a bit far but still doable – Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx (yaaay) and the huge Ala Moana Center!), it is at the far end of the beach kung walking ang pag-uusapan. I spent 15-20 minutes walking just to go back. I could have taken the bus, sure, but overall, malayo siya if you speak of the beach. I enjoyed walking a lot though.

If your priority is to be near the beach front, consider the ones along the shore — from the Kahanamoku beachfront of Hilton Hawaiian Village to the end of the Waikiki Wall (a long beachfront stretch which would take you 30 minutes by foot; I tried it!). The parallel streets adjacent to Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues are great locations and perhaps a bit less expensive than the 5-star ones. What’s better is it’s also near the main strip where they have all the shops and food places.

Going aroundTheBus! It is their main commuter transport service which is efficient, if I may say. You can buy passes for unlimited rides for different durations or just pay $2.75 per way — the bus does not give change so always bring an exact amount. This is where I disposed of all my coins!

Before you start your day, think of your activities and check if they will require bus rides. If you need more than 2 bus rides, whether short or long ones, consider buying a day pass para sulit, kesa $2.75 ng $2.75. I did that when I when I went to Diamond Head and to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center; both entailed two rather long round trips and still left me with a pass to ride a bus to and from my errands for the day.

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There also bikes for rent but I didn’t bother checking it out. They are operated by Biki so if you are into biking, you can check out their rates, locations, and covered routes.img_1162

I also took an Uber twice and it’s efficient. Mahal lang rate nila, or maybe because I’m thinking in Philippine pesos; my ride ranged from $7 to $9 for two very short distances. But then again, birthday trip!

I spent majority of my time walking. Google Maps proved to be a very helpful friend. I downloaded an offline map of Honolulu so it was easier for me to navigate. Even with the bus routes, it’s very informative; of course if you access its offline version it will not give you the real-time schedule of the buses arriving, but you’ll still be fine.

Other notes: I did not stay long enough but the place was pretty safe for me. The sidewalks are wide and pedestrian-friendly. Their pedestrian crossings are plenty and accessible. Depending on the time of the year, it can get chilly at night so if you are sensitive to the breeze (aka lamigin like me), better to bring anything to cover you up when you walk. I brought tank tops and sleeveless sundresses which were suitable during the day but when nighttime came, I felt chilly. It probably contributed to my feeling ill on my 3rd day of vacation.

Hawaii is 18 hours behind the Philippines. Expect your body clock to act up after a few days, unless you’re the kind who adjust easily (lucky you!).

Unless you have mapped food places to get your meals from, it helps to go to Target or Food Pantry to buy groceries to save. Stock up and just refill your water, buy fruits, bread and spreads, juices, and other daily nourishment essentials.

I stayed mostly in Waikiki so people from different countries and persuasions abound. It’s very exciting to see. Connect and talk to them when you can! The residents there are very friendly, too. At least the ones I encountered; I was lucky there’s no untoward incident at all. And hey, it’s Hawaii, so expect a lot of Pinoys!

I’ll be sharing my experiences about the spots I went to in the next posts. For now in case it’s not getting across as I intended, I fell in love with Hawaii! I am definitely going back. You should, too. I promise, it’s worth it.

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