If you have never been to Oahu, that first day is almost overwhelming. I advise that you don’t pre-book any tours or entertainments for that day. Usually we arrive by air to Honolulu in time for lunch. After picking up our rental car we opted for a fast food McDonalds’ stop on the way to Waikiki. I recommend you get a meal out of the way because the excitement of checking into the hotel and settling in can disrupt your blood sugar levels enormously. Don’t make yourself sick on your first day. If you jet lag going west it is important to immediately get on Hawaii time. Force yourself to stay up till your normal bedtime. Otherwise at 2:00 am….BINGO…your eyes snap open and that’s it for the night.
When selecting your hotel there are lots of choices on Oahu. Go by the real estate agent’s adage…location, location, location! Think about what you like to do and judge by the ease of doing it from there. We like to walk along the beach, shop, eat out, spend time in the park and have easy access to major thoroughfares. Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel (2570 Kalakaua Ave) meets all those criteria. It is directly across the street from Kuhio Beach, a wonderful family beach. It is half block from Kapiolani Park where there are band concerts, aquarium, zoo, and art shows. It is on Kalahaua Ave a shopper’s paradise from T-shirt shops to high-end shops. Also close to lots of restaurants and snack shops. We like the Aston because we can zip up Kapahulu to catch the Highway 1 or find other major arteries. The hotel itself has charm. It has eateries in the building: Tiki’s Bar and Grill, Wolfgang Puck Express, Subway and Cold Stone Creamery. But what brings us back is the Breakfast on the Beach. Each guest is given a thermal lunch bag and by presenting their room key and telling their room number that person can enter the poolside breakfast buffet. Instead of one long table, several small umbrella carts offer breakfast items. I can remember these offerings: cold cereal; tropical flavored yogurts (my favorite was Guava with Passion-Orange a close second); huge tubs of fresh fruit; muffins, bagels, doughnuts; there was one station that served Asian breakfast food such as soup, fish and veggies. Drinks included milk, fruit juice, 3 kinds of coffee and tea. There was also an omelets, waffle and French toast stand that could be charged to your room. After grazing, take a bagful and go to the beach, return to your room or sit around the pool listening to and watching a singer and a hula dancer. The rooms are decorated in pure Hawaiiana with bright red and white hibiscus print bed linens, fish trap lamps and a view. On one side of the building the rooms give you a very narrow stand-up lanai and a view of Queen’s Beach and Diamondhead. The other side gives you a half moon lanai with chairs and a view of the pool area and the length of Waikiki Beach. Since we would be here a week we chose the Aloha Suite which gave us a couch and coffee table, desk a kit more floor space and an extra lanai. Our suite mini fridge was stocked with a gift of items as a welcome. We found in there all Hawaiian made treats, flavored waters and pop. These were not charge to your account, I checked. I’m not sure about how it is decided who gets this gift as our friend in a deluxe ocean view room didn’t get them. What we don’t like about the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel is the excessively high parking rate. We paid $27/day for parking….plus we tipped the valet to bring it to us and take it away. Sharing the car expense with our friend helped soften the blow, but I still think it is excessive. The valets did an excellent job for us. I do believe taxis would have been cheaper if we had confined our sightseeing to Honolulu.
When we had settled into the hotel, mastered the complicated elevator system and stocked the mini-fridge with extra stuff from the pantry shop, we were ready for supper. I had wanted to take our friend to Duke’s Canoe Club, a favorite lunch spot for us on many other trips. When we arrived it was full house with long wait list. How frustrating! Word to the wise: go to Dukes for lunch. Standing on the sidewalk we looked across the street and there was The International Market Place. Food Court! Winding through all the little booths and banyan roots was fun. At the far left side of the complex is a small stage with a live hula show and several food court style restaurants. We ate at Tiki-Burger selecting hot dogs and fries. The two young men working were apparently very new. There was a lot of confusion and messed up orders, but surprisingly the dogs were tasty and we had the hula show as a distraction. As of this writing the merchants in the International Market Place have been given until New Years Eve 2013 to vacate. The whole area is going to be redeveloped. Bye-bye old friend!
It was dark out by the time we finished supper. This is one city street where I don’t feel nervous walking home after dark. Plenty of other tourists on the street and many stores open along our route. In fact we bought our first souvenirs and located the UPS pack and ship store we will need to visit prior to moving on to Maui. Walk slowly, listen to the music, smell the flowers and mellow out. Welcome to Hawaii, you made it through your first day.