Beautiful sunset over Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii
I believe Beth and I are intertwined like these two trees we saw along the walking path 🙂
Our 10 night Hawaiian adventure at the JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa came up quite unexpectedly as Beth transitioned to a new job with the Atlanta Braves. We had a very brief window of opportunity to get in a vacation before her new job started, so we immediately took advantage of it and used some of our Marriott Points and Delta Skymiles 🙂
Within just a few quick days we booked our flights and reservations and we were off! It was quite a contrast to our Alaskan Adventure where we planned and anticipated for several months. We literally threw things together and rushed out the door, but when you are heading to paradise you don’t mind the mad dash to the airport quite so much!
We didn’t take a non-stop flight to HNL due to our late booking, but our layover in SLC was just long enough for us to deplane, grab a sandwich and some fruit and get back on board. It was good to stretch our legs on such a long flight anyway. 🙂 Our flight was actually uneventful after a brief departure delay in ATL due to late arriving aircraft. We were able to sit together on the side with just two seats on both legs of the flight, so we weren’t next to anyone else. As any of you frequent travelers knows, that made it a much more comfortable flight.
Once we arrived in HNL we had to make our way to the west side of Oahu to Ko Olina and the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa. We were surprised at the traffic! Holy Moly. It took us a little longer than expected, but we were just happy to be in Hawaii! This was Beth’s first visit and I had only been once for work (Delta), and didn’t get to see or do a whole lot.
We were thrilled with the hotel, especially when we were unexpectedly upgraded to an ocean view room! Our view from the huge balcony was simply magnificent and majestic! We spent a LOT of time on the balcony just admiring the view and relaxing. It was incredibly peaceful and refreshing! The hotel staff was fabulous and the whole facility was impressive.
But of course, as far as I’m concerned, this is always the best view 🙂
The hotel was beautiful as well, and had a number of interesting “features” to it. It took us a while to navigate through all of it and find our way around. They had a spa (we didn’t use it), a fitness center (I did go most every day), restaurants, gift shops and more.
We, of course had our own swimming pool…
… but we weren’t the only ones to have a pool. There were two Koi Ponds at the front entrance to the hotel…
… and there was a pool for fish, a pool for different kinds of rays and a pool for several different kinds of sharks as well, including hammerheads!
We spent a lot of time just wandering around the pools at the hotel and watching the rays and sharks play. The sharks were awesome, but we were fascinated by the rays and their quirky behaviors. Below are some raw and unedited videos of the rays and the sharks!
In addition to the awesome facilities, there was a cove for a beach which made it really nice for relaxing. Yes, there are times you want the waves and surf, but honestly, we didn’t miss that at all. The view, the weather, the ambiance was all just too good. Relaxing on the beach, ordering lunch poolside and strolling along the walking path made for a dream vacation.
The walking path was about a mile and a quarter long and connected 4 coves from the marina at one end to our hotel at the other. Round trip the walk was about 2.5 mile, and we usually took a walk in the mornings and in the evenings. I even took an afternoon jog occasionally. It was a beautiful walk on a paved and winding path between the beach coves and the hotels. It was one of our favorite things about the trip 🙂
We even found a “travel gnome” that had been buried alive! 🙂
In addition to the hotel, the beach, the walking path and more… the food was AMAZING! We are trying to eat healthier these days, and we were a little concerned about being on vacation for 10 days, but we found so many healthy choices that we didn’t feel bad at all. Breakfast may have been our favorite meal of the day! Every morning we went across the street from the hotel to the Island Vintage Coffee Shop. There we were introduced to the Acai Bowl. OMG. It was out of this world! What is an Acai Bowl? Acai puree, fresh fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries), granola, honey… it was delicious and refreshing!
Of course there were other healthy choices along the way as well, such as ordering a refreshing lunch poolside (I always wanted to do that, haven’t you?). My favorite was a fresh fruit bowl with yogurt and the best banana bread I’ve ever had 🙂
We saw this little guy one morning on the way to breakfast and we were told he was delicious to eat as well! Tempting… but we passed on that one! 🙂
We didn’t spend all of our time relaxing at the hotel though! We wanted to get out and see Oahu as well! We took a couple of days and rented a car and went exploring some. We took one day to go to Waikiki/Diamond Head, another to go on a shark adventure and another to go to the beaches on the east side of the island.
Waikiki is an interesting place. When you think Hawaii, it is usually the place most people think of… and it is definitely a tourist place! The atmosphere in Waikiki is far different than in Ko Olina at the resort. We were grateful we were staying where we were! But visiting Waikiki is definitely on the “to do” list.
So we geared up and headed out!
We had no trouble navigating to Waikiki (except for traffic), but walking along the beach and shops sure was HOT!! We walked from one end to the other and explored a few of the shops here and there. Here are a few pics from Waikiki, including “Duke’s Statue” and of course… the Apple Store!
From Waikiki we moved over to Diamond Head and made the trek up to the top of the crater. What a beautiful and majestic view! (You can see more pics from Diamond Head and from the trip in the slideshow linked at the end of the blog)
Our trip to Waikiki and to Diamond Head was pretty awesome! The next day we headed out for our amazing Shark Adventure! Woo Hoo!! Swimming with the sharks! Awesome! We were a little nervous when we got there to start out because it looked eerily like a famous “three hour tour” taken by Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann…
We were blessed (just like Alaska) with what the crew called the “best weather we have ever seen out here”. According to the crew, these sharks are the best fed in the world ’cause they eat McDonalds every day! Note: there is a McDonalds near the marina, and those who stop there before going out on the boat… well, lets just say the sharks enjoy the meal more than the tourists 🙂
Well, the weather was amazing and the water was completely calm. We took Dramamine that morning, but I don’t think we would have even needed it. Conditions were perfect and only one person even got queasy 🙂
We traveled out to a stationary shark cage where we were given snorkels and masks. It was a little unsettling because you could see the sharks perfectly from the boat just circling around. But… the view from the cage was incredible. It was an amazing adventure that you don’t get to experience often!
After swimming with the sharks, we drove up the coast along the famous North Shore, surfing capital of the world. It wasn’t the “surf season” but there is plenty to do anyway. Here you can pull off the side of the road and see the sea turtles in a fantastic natural setting in a cove. You can’t miss it, the roads are lined with cars just pulled off on the shoulder!
The view was stunning and several turtles made an appearance for us!
After playing a while with the turtles, we made our way around to Waimea Valley where we hiked up to the falls. The valley is a beautiful botanical garden, complete with signs and notations for all the vegetation. The gardens were stunning and the wide variety of plants, flowers and vegetation was truly overwhelming. At the end of the hike, you are treated to a waterfall and pool where you can swim. It was hot, but we made it all the way (although we chose not to swim).
We also spent one of our evenings at the Paradise Cove luau 🙂 How can you go to Hawaii and NOT go to a luau? This particular one was located just next door to the hotel, so it was an obvious choice due to the convenience. I’m not sure it was the best choice, but it was certainly the closest! We considered traveling to the other side of the island to the Cultural Center, but decided we didn’t want to spend the extra time driving.
There were a lot of activities and shows involved at our luau… such as spear tossing (I sucked but got a necklace as a prize anyway) and stone bowling (again I sucked/necklace). The young fellow who climbed the coconut tree was pretty awesome 🙂 As was the fellow who opened the coconut!
And there were tattoos 🙂
The main show wasn’t bad, but the food at the luau was disappointing. We were expecting/hoping for something a little more traditional and well, good 🙂 What we got was standard fare for tourists in a buffet line. But, all in all, it was a fun night because I got to spend it with my amazing wife!
The sun finally set on our 10 day adventure just like it did over the horizon from our balcony. It was an incredible once in a lifetime adventure and I am so glad we were able to experience it together.
Second Anniversary in Hawaii
For those who are interested, you can view more pics in the slideshow below from my Flickr account