Friday, February 20, 2015

Adventures in Lounging

My friend Jenifer and I have birthdays that are two weeks apart, so we celebrated this year by going to Hawaii on the weekend in-between. We checked in to The Modern, which is my favorite hotel in Waikiki. It has great views of the water but is not actually on the ocean, being situated behind the marina next to the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. However, this location is an advantage in that their prices are slightly lower than the ocean front hotels further down the beach, they are right next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Friday night fireworks, and they are walking distance to Ala Moana Park and the huge Ala Moana Shopping Center. We started our stay with a couple of cocktails under the trees at the pretty outdoor bar by the pool, had a relaxing dinner at on-site restaurant Morimoto, and went to bed early in our blissful white-on-white room.

We started sunny Saturday morning with a run in nearby Ala Moana Park, enjoying the sea breezes and people watching as we made our rounds. Today's main activity is lounging by the pool. The Modern has great full-service day beds, we reserved one and enjoyed delicious snacks and guava mimosas made with rosé champagne. The pool was great for dipping in to, and our lounge bed was piled with pillows and had a huge umbrella to keep us cool. Afterwards, we walked into the busier part of Waikiki and got some Korean BBQ at hole-in-the-wall Me's for dinner. On the way back to The Modern we nipped into Arnold's, my favorite divey surf/tiki bar. It was full of people, but the bartender surveyed the crowd when we walked in and and yelled "who wants alcohol?" I immediately raised my hand and shouted "two Mai Tais!" BAM! Instant service on a Saturday night.

Since we had basically laid around all day Saturday, we got more active on Sunday. First, we walked over to the Wailana Coffee House for some Portuguese Bread French Toast. Then we snorkeled at the breakwater in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We didn't expect much, because it's a junky reef and the waves and surge stir up a lot of sand, but we were very pleasantly surprised. We saw mating box fish, very large unicorn fish, big cute fat humuhumunukunukuapua'a, a massive coronet fish (so big I thought it was a moray eel at first), and a young free-swimming eel. The trick to finding the good stuff when snorkeling is to go SLOWLY. The boxfish were in about three feet of water, we were swimming toward an opening in the reef so we could get to the outside of the breakwater. We observed them doing a sort of spiral dance, moving up and down in the column of water. After lunch we got shrimp and shave ice from Gilligan's Beach Shack shrimp truck, parked on the point by the breakwater. The garlic shrimp and coconut shrimp were delicious, but the shave ice was so-so. Thus fortified, we went on a long walk, sight-seeing, people-watching, and shopping our way down to the far end of Waikiki Beach. We capped the day off with a dinner of all an local/organic Cobb Salad and Herb-Macadamia Nut Pesto Pasta at Goofy's Cafe. Everything today was SO DELICIOUS and so (comparatively) inexpensive. We walked over six miles today!

On Monday we spent half a day on the west side (leeward) of Oahu. It's very pretty, and once you get past Ko'Olina not very built up. Our destination was a dolphin/whale watch trip on the Honi Olani. The boat, crew, food and drink were nice, but I was disappointed in the snorkeling. They took us to a place where the interesting things were at least 20' below the surface, so it was only good if you free dive. Our snorkeling in the shallows yesterday was much more interesting. Still, we saw whales and spinner dolphins on the way to the snorkel spot, and had a nice boat ride, so it wasn't all bad. While we were whale watching, the crew put a line and a lure off the stern. They got a hit, and reeled in a young yellowfin tuna. The dolphin pod came very close to the boat a few times, so we got a great look at them, but were not allowed to get into the water. This was disappointing as I have snorkeled with wild dolphins in Kona and had assumed we'd be able to do the same here. There were also four sea turtles in the area. Unfortunately, many of the "snorkelers" were flailing around and could barely swim, and they all chased after the turtles despite being told not to. No more group snorkel trips on party boats for us.

The highlight of the trip was birthday diner at Le Mer at the Halekulani. We had a lovely French(ish) meal in the most beguiling of settings: an old-style plantation house by the seaside, looking out over a lawn where ukelele players sang and languid hula dancers swayed, all with a view of Diamond Head.