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Old 05-14-2012, 12:58 PM   #16
izzy
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Yesterday was my excursion to the Big Island. I did end up booking through Aulani. I had read some negative comments on the tour company they use - Roberts - but I have to say I was pretty happy with my experience. I had to meet their rep at the airport by 8:15, and our flight left at 10. There were only two other ladies on the excursion with me, so it was almost like a private tour. We saw the black sand beaches, Rainbow Falls, a macadamia nut factory, and of course what I really went there for - the volcano! The weather was good until just before we got to Volcano NP, when it got kind of foggy and rainy. Not good for viewing the volcano, but our tour guide said that he would take us back in the evening, when we should be able to see the "glow" from the crater. We also saw lava fields and walked through a lava tube. We went back to the crater around 6:30, and the fog was actually worse. But, after about 5 minutes the fog started to lift, and sure enough, you could see a really big orange glow! We didn't get to actually see any lava going up in the air or even flowing anywhere, but it was still pretty neat. My understanding is if you want to see actual lava flowing that you need to take a helicopter tour.

We got back the Hilo airport at 8:15 for our 9 p.m. flight. (We already had our boarding passes, so we only had to go through a short security line.) Simple flight back to Oahu, paid $15 for parking at the airport, and I was "home" by 10:30. It was a fairly long day, but I really enjoyed it.

My plans are to just relax today. Nothing exciting on the schedule, although I may drive to a nearby town to find the Leonard's malasada stand so that I can try these malasadas that everyone keeps raving about.
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Old 05-14-2012, 02:48 PM   #17
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Sounds like you are having a great time! If you do head out to Leonard's it's in the Waikele shopping area. They have some great premium outlets there if you are interested in getting some shopping in. Leonard's is down by KMart while the outlets are across the street.

Keep enjoying your time!
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Old 05-14-2012, 11:15 PM   #18
izzy
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Originally Posted by Neraj View Post
Sounds like you are having a great time! If you do head out to Leonard's it's in the Waikele shopping area. They have some great premium outlets there if you are interested in getting some shopping in. Leonard's is down by KMart while the outlets are across the street.

Keep enjoying your time!
I did find the malasada stand, and OMG are those things good! I got a plain one, and one each of the filled ones. So far the coconut custard filled one is my favorite.

I ended up being a little busier today that I had planned. I got a bit of a late start and didn't get out of here until about 9:00 or so. My goal was to go to the Punchbowl Cemetary. I came to Oahu with my parents 25 years ago, and my dad and still say that one of the biggest fights we've ever had was trying to get to Punchbowl. We kept traveling in circles for over an hour before we finally gave up. So I was on a mission today. I got directions from Mapquest, and with the exception of one badly marked turn, I finally got to Punchbowl. It was so beautiful and peaceful there. I probably spent 1.5 hours just walking around soaking in the atmosphere. There are also some fabulous views of the island from there, too.

After Punchbowl, I drove to the Ala Moana Center, but nothing caught my fancy. I had a horrible piece of pizza at Sbarro's (yeah, yeah, I know) at the VERY busy food court there. I made a quick stop for the malasadas, and then went to Costco for some things to take back to family, friends, and the office - Kona coffee and various macadamia nut products.

If you want Kona coffee and have a Costco membership, I would highly recommend that you get your coffee there. I got a 1 lb bag for about $22. When I was at the airport yesterday, a 7 oz bag of Kona coffee was $32! Now I realize that you're going to pay more at the airport, but that's ridiculous!

When I got back to th resort, I made a bracelet at the craft class, and then just relaxed in the room. I want to see the Starlit Hui tonight as I missed it last week.

Tomorrow is going to be a pool and resort day. I need a day of relaxation after all of this running around!
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Old 05-17-2012, 04:03 PM   #19
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Yesterday was a fabulous day! I took an early morning excursion out of the Ko Olina marina to snorkel with dolphins and whales. Someone on the DIS had mentioned that it was a Travelzoo special a few months ago, and I quickly grabbed one of the vouchers. This was one of my favorite excursions ever! Swimming with wild dolphins is an experience that I will never forget. After that I worked on my sunburn out on the beach and by the pool.
Hi Izzy, which tour company did you use and would you recommend them? this is an excursion I would also like to do.

thanks, ellen
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Old 05-17-2012, 04:16 PM   #20
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Thanks for your trip report...

Are the founding member tiles out on the Pouhakas (down by the beach) up yet?

They weren't out yet when we were down there in September.
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Old 05-20-2012, 06:51 PM   #21
izzy
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Hi Izzy, which tour company did you use and would you recommend them? this is an excursion I would also like to do.

thanks, ellen
It was Ko Olina Ocean Adventures. I would HIGHLY recommend them. I did the dolphin adventure. This excursion turned out to be the highlight of my trip! I did some research on this particular excursion, and it consistently got high marks. I went on the 7 a.m. one, and they told me to be there by 6:15. There is a Ko Olina resort shuttle that starts running at 6 a.m., so I just hopped on that and went to the marina. You can walk there in probably 15 minutes or so, too.
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Old 05-20-2012, 06:52 PM   #22
izzy
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Thanks for your trip report...

Are the founding member tiles out on the Pouhakas (down by the beach) up yet?

They weren't out yet when we were down there in September.
I don't remember seeing them, but I might have just missed them.
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Old 05-21-2012, 03:29 PM   #23
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thanks Izzy. i'll check them out.

ellen
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Old 05-21-2012, 09:21 PM   #24
izzy
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Sorry, I got woefully behind on my trip report. I am home now, so I'll finish it up.

On Wednesday I did the Polynesian Culture Center. I booked this through Aulani, and went with the ambassador package. I was really glad I did this, because the transportation was included, and we didn't get back until 10:30 that night. It made for a very long day. It was also very hot this day with no trade winds blowing, and it was quite humid. I almost felt like I was in Florida! I enjoyed the PCC, but probably not as much as I did the first time I went there 25years ago. The show had changed, and I didn't think it was quite as good. I will say that the food was excellent, though!

The next morning I had made reservations for 8 a.m. at Pearl Harbor. I was so tired from the night before that I decided not to go and sleep in instead. This ended up being a good decision. I spent a lot of the day by the pool. I did snorkel in the lagoon some, and I saw a HUGE fish out there. It was at least 4 or 5 feet long, kind of skinny, and had a long snout. The guy at the beach rental place looked it up, and we think it may have been some sort of trumpet fish. (Personally, I think it might have been a barracuda and he just didn't want to scare me! )

This afternoon I had my spa treatment - the Kilikili. Wow, was that nice! My skin felt so nice and smooth afterwards. I got there an hour early for my 1 p.m. treatment so that I could utilize some of the facilities. I particularly enjoyed the different showerheads in the garden area. I would suggest that if you get this particular treatment that you schedule it early in your trip - i.e. before you get sunburned - LOL!! I was lucky in that the sunburn I got on the 2nd and 3rd days of my trip had already turned to tan by the time I had this treatment on day 9. Had I scheduled this treatment on days 3 through 7, though, I don't think I could have done it because the scrub would have been too painful on my back.

I went to the Outback in Kapolei for dinner that evening as I didn't want to eat at the resort. I did laundry that evening, in between doing the menehune trail adventure (like Kim Possible at Epcot) and going to the beach to take sunset photos. All in all, a relaxing day!

When I woke up on Friday morning, it was kind of early and I decided that I'd see if I could go see Pearl Harbor this day. I left the resort around 7:30 and got to PH by 8:00. I got a 9:00 ticket, so I was pretty happy. I got to go into some of the museums and take lots of pictures until it was time to go see the film. One really neat thing happened there. The USS Carl Vinson was in port. I remembered that I had heard that name, but couldn't remember why until someone reminded me that this was the ship that they took Osama Bin Laden's body to and then did the burial at sea. As luck would have it, I was on the Arizona Memorial when it started pulling out of port. What an impressive vessel! I think I took more pictures of that than of the Arizona Memorial. (In my defense, I had been to the AM before.) Even the workers at PH were stopping what they were doing so that they could see it pull out of port.

After PH I stopped off for a coconut and chocolate malasada - yum! and then went to Walmart in Kapolei to see what their prices were on souvenirs. I scored a nice Hawaii calendar for 97 cents that I had seen at the ABC store near Aulani for almost $5! I also bought a few cd's of Hawaiian music. My plan was to then hit Costco to fill up with gas, and I thought as long as I was there that I'd go ahead and grab a bite to eat. I couldn't believe the lines at the food counter! They had four registers, three of which were open, and all of those had about 10 people in each line! Apparently Costco's food court is very popular with the locals! I got my food bargain of the trip - $1.50 for a hotdog and drink. I spent the rest of the day by the pool and even sprung for a drink at the bar. Which was awful, by the way. No flavor whatsoever, and with tip I think it was close to $12. I'll be honest, though, that was about the only real negative comment I had about Aulani overall, which when you get right down to it isn't bad! I started packing that evening, and knew I was going to be close to the 50 pound limit.

Sure enough, next morning I went to bell services because I knew they had a scale there - 50.5 pounds. Eeek! He said if I was flying United that I'd probably be OK as they'll ususally allow one extra pound.

Even though my flight wasn't until 12:45, I was ready to leave at 8:30, so I went ahead and left the resort, knowing that I needed to return my rental car - a Mitsubishi Galant that I got for the entire 11 days through Alamo for just under $212 using my Costco discount - score! The shuttle bus was right there at Alamo and took me over to the airport. I did curbside checkin, and I gave the guy weighing my suitcase $3. He kind of winked at me and put the "heavy" tag on it and only charged me the $25 fee for 1st checked bag. Whew! I was through security by 9:30 and then had a longish wait. I still say that I'd rather wait at the airport than cutting it close trying to get there and thru security.

My flight left on time, and about 5 hours later I was in San Francisco. I had about a 2 hour layover, so I grabbed dinner, and then got on my flight to Dulles. We landed the next morning at 7:15, and I got maybe a total of 30 minute of sleep. I hate red eyes! Thankfully my nieces live about 20 minutes from Dulles, so I went to their place and crashed for a few hours.

Final Impressions: I can't begin to tell everyone how great this resort is!! Disney really hit it out of the park on this one. From the fresh lei greeting when you get there, to all of the very helpful CM's who work there, to the rooms, the pool, the beach -well, I think you get the picture that I really enjoyed myself! I didn't eat much at the resort, but I understand from other people who I talked to that food was quite expensive. Spending the $70 on groceries really saved me a lot of money in the long run. The only meal I ate there was the character breakfast that first morning, and other than a few shave ices and ice cream treats and that one horrible drink at the bar, I didn't buy any other food there.

I really thought that I wasn't going to like not being in the middle of the action in Waikiki, but I have to say that I preferred the Ko Olina area. Not near as much traffic and it was fairly quiet there. On my trips out and about, I talked with numerous people who were staying in Waikiki, and they kept saying how loud and commercial it was in that area. I thought the beach at Aulani was much nicer than Waikiki Beach, too.

If you can afford the points and some of the other higher costs (airfare and food), I would highly recommend that you try Aulani at least once. I am planning on trying to go there at least once every 5 years if there is availability. This time I had a pool view room, but next time I think I would go with the standard view and use the saved points to stay even longer. I really didn't use my balcony that much, so the view didn't mean as much to me as I thought it might.

Thanks for letting me live (and relive!) my vacation through the DIS. Also thanks to anyone and everyone who answered my endless questions while I was planning this vacation. Your help was invaluable!
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:04 PM   #25
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Thanks for the wonderful trip report
Going in July and have found your information
very helpful Thanks again
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Old 05-22-2012, 02:50 PM   #26
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Thanks for the wonderful trip report! We leave in 9 days!
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Old 05-22-2012, 06:44 PM   #27
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What a great report- you are so helpful!! Especially about the malasadas! Really, I am in the final stages of my planning (we go to Kuaui August 17th & Aulani Aug 21st) and you definitely answered some questions I had.

Thank-you!
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Old 05-22-2012, 08:49 PM   #28
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Thanks so much for sharing! Your trip report was great We are finishing up our plans and headed to Aulani in June. Everyone here has been invaluable and helped out so much. If you have any pics you would like to share, please post them!
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Old 05-29-2012, 10:07 AM   #29
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Awesome trip report. Thanks so much!!!
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Old 06-03-2012, 02:11 PM   #30
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We will be there in 30 days! Thanks for the report!
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