New Jersey Miatas is having its annual season opening meet and cruise at the Cheesequake Service Area exit 123 on the Garden State Parkway.
spread the word:
I often rant and rave about how much I love South Florida. After spending more than a week in Honolulu however, I’m afraid I’ve found my new favorite domestic destination.
O’ahu, Hawai’i is da business!
Sure it’s far. And it’s quite expensive. But man is it amazing!!!
My trip wasn’t exactly a fairytale vacation, as much as I tried, but I’m happy how the things I planned out actually worked. And therefore I’m excited to share the experience with others. If you are travelling with small children like I was, this is some advice you may be interested in (I know when I searched it wasn’t terribly straightforward to figure out best things to do and see, but here it goes from my point of view).
First things first… to pay for the flight I burned some airline miles. The cost: 20,000 each way, per person with American Airlines. Kids younger than two may fly free as a lap child. Older than 2 pay the full adult rate. It’s a long freaking flight, and in my case we had a connection in Dallas which was frustratingly tight. For some reason on our Dallas – Honolulu flight AA served sandwiches in addition to typical domestic freebies like chips and soda. I mention this because typically domestic flights don’t offer free food. But it seems AA matched what Hawaiian Airlines offers. I flew Hawaiian Airlines to Honolulu twice before, both on AAdvantage miles. First time I didn’t get to even leave the HNL airport transiting on a flight from South Korea to US, and second time I had an overnight layover (less than 24 hours in paradise) transiting from US to Australia, again flying Hawaiian Airlines.
Upon arrival we were determined to take a taxi to the hotel because it was cheaper than renting a car or booking some kind of shuttle. However, once we got our luggage I noticed the 10 mile ride to the city was to take over an hour because of rush-hour traffic, we ended up taking the $16/person shuttle bus. The last time I visited Honolulu and took a shuttle to my hostel I remember it costing more, but for whatever reason things have changed and now there are full size Roberts Hawaii buses running every 15 minutes serving the airport. As an aside there was a $7/person shuttle van stationed outside Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel but I wasn’t quite sure how they operated. Our bus was super convenient. Generally I would recommend the shuttle for convenience sake.
Another aside, we did rent a car. Twice! But I chose to do individual one-day rentals. Once in the middle of the trip to take a ride around O’ahu (North Shore) and another on our last day, to sightsee and drive back to the airport for our late night flight. The car rentals were expensive. First I booked a $50 van from Thrifty on Saturday (and a $60 SUV from Hertz on same day as a backup which I cancelled), and then a large SUV for $123 bux from Hertz which included two car seats on Friday the day of departure.
More about sightseeing later. But more importantly about our hotel choice. As mentioned previously Hawaii is expensive, very expensive! In 2016 when I overnighted in Honolulu on my flight to the Pacific I paid over $30 for a bed in a hostel. The hotel we chose for this trip was almost ten times as much! We chose Hyatt Place for three reasons: 1. Location was perfect, a block from Kuhio Beach and Honolulu Zoo, 2. Free breakfast which was delicious for the first three days but then it was repeated over and over which lost its appeal and 3. No $25/daily resort fee which most other hotels charged… which is very expensive!
Forgot to mention I booked the Hyatt thru Hotels.com and not directly. Why? Because it was cheaper and there were more perks. Hotels.com Rewards program offers One night free after Ten night stay. Which means after 10 nights at $275/night you get $275 credit towards another future Hotels.com booking. You don’t need to spend it on a single night, it goes towards your future hotel bill for that value which could obviously be multiple night booking. I bought Hotels.com gift cards to pay for our stay saving roughly 10% or almost $300 bux on the final bill. And used BeFrugal.com rebate site to buy gift cards and book the hotel, which yielded almost another $100 off. In all we saved roughly $700 on our pricey hotel. Was it worth it? The savings, yes! But the hotel could have cost less for what it was. That said all Waikiki hotels are overpriced.
Best part of the Hyatt Place it was convenient in many ways and I would highly recommend it. Of the 10 day vacation we only had 1 full day of rain which happened the day before we left so we got extremely lucky. But everything was walking distance from where we stayed and that was super convenient. The Zoo was close and we did it on a cloudy day until it cleared up and then kids went back to the beach. In fact most days we went to the beach twice a day. Kuhio Beach is amazing with perfectly still clear water because of a man made breaker, it was so awesome for me and the kids to go swimming in.
Food was amazing outside of the free hotel breakfast. Lots of Asian options. Plenty of American fast food too. Lots of different price points for food. I preferred the cheaper truck food options which were between $10 to $15 a plate. While the restaurants, like one of the Sushi places, or the traditional Hawaiian place Da Ono dishes were over $20 for anything bigger than pu pu’s (small tapas like plates). I’ll add some restaurant and food truck recommendations later on to this post.
Sightseeing wise, Waikiki Beach is totally walkable and we tried to walk a lot. For lunches and dinners and for shopping. There’s lots of luxurious stores and malls, much like a long Orchard Road in Singapore. But also some good hole in a wall places too. We walked as far as Ala Moana mall for its court, but also to get discounted supplies at Walgreens because closer supermarkets were not cheap for stuff like diapers.
Long distance sightseeing, I quite enjoyed our Saturday single day car rental to go the long way around to the North Shore. I took the cheap city bus to the airport, it was $2.75/each way or $5.50/day pass.. it took about an hour. Best part I didn’t have to worry about parking overnight, which again wasn’t cheap. The route we followed was simple, counter-clockwise around the island going east, northeast and then back the same way when we ran out of daylight. We saw the blowhole, the lighthouse, the Chinamans hat, macadamia nut farm, horse farm, green turtle beach, etc. Only the Dole plantation was missed out so we left it and the waterfall to the last day. Traffic was bad around rush-hour because of single lane traffic when not on the highway, but overall it was manageable. Speed limits are quite low around the island. Most highway speeds are limited to 45mph and I almost got caught speeding by motorcycle cops near the airport on our way back to catch the flight, that took me by surprise (the bike cops) so be careful.
I’ll fill this post in with details over time with more recommendations, but I definitely want to encourage others to consider Hawaii as a destination because it really is such an amazing place. I want to go back for sure…
PS. It snowed 6+ inches the day after we got home, so yeah… I wish we stayed longer.
The stars aligned just right to allow me to check out the monthly Thursday night meet-up of Hawaii Miata owners on O’ahu on my Waikiki vacation…
It’s my young nephews first Hawaii vacation, and for a moment I was thinking of bringing the older boy along, but if I did I wouldn’t have gotten a lift back to the hotel in a gorgeous low mileage Miata driven by a kind Aussie fellow who was recently posted to the islands and clearly missed his own NA back home in Australia
The fellow that sold him the American Miata – Avery, has a fleet of Miatas in Hawaii… is one of the original members of the Hawaii club and a very active SCCA solo and Rallycross member, and for me was the person that invited me to this meet up. For which I’m really grateful.
The meet happens the second Thursday of the month at Pearlridge mall not too far from Pearl Harbor… And if you’re like me trying to get there by public transport from Waikiki Beach, it’s an hour long ride on the bus, that is well worth it.
Here’s some pics from the Hawaii Miata car scene:
Very happy to have seen the NC show up… that was sort of my goal for the night.
Also thrilled to experience this altogether, the Japanese car culture is strong in Hawaii. Besides the Miatas there were a bunch of Subies present, and a Trueno-esque Toyota… not sure if real but cool nonetheless.
Endurance racing is my favorite form of Motorsport. This year’s Rolex 24 had the potential to be very special because in the middle of last season one of my Canadian colleagues put me in touch with an IMSA official and a prospect of a real job (even if it was on a part-time basis) to work events that I really love as a race official. I had my fingers and toes crossed even as December rolled around but the job did not materialize… The 2018 season though seemed to be off to an exciting start with lots of “new” cars/teams/drivers joining the series, so I scrambled to book my flights and went as a volunteer instead.
For the race I got my pit lane assignment directly across from folks whose team I was hoping to join. But instead of doing something important with a real impact on the competition, I spent five days trackside spectating. It was excellent entertainment being so close until the race rolled around when it became pretty obvious that much of the previous year will repeat itself and Cadillacs will dominate. The excitement wore off.
The most interesting racing was in the GT Daytona field so I paid special attention to that battle. In prototypes the lead car was several laps ahead of second place at one point. And in GT Le Mans Fords ran away with pace Corvette couldn’t match, they too were several laps ahead. It was sad to watch the BMW M8’s be so uncompetitive. And the Porsche RSR team didn’t seem to have it’s kamikaze pilots from last year. Oh well!
At the end of the race records were broken, champions were crowned, and Rolex watches handed out as prizes. Who cares though? The predictability of the outcome made things boring. Hey, at least the weather was good!
Luckily, the 24h wasn’t the only race of the weekend. I feel like I got my money’s worth going on this trip from the two support series. The Ferrari Challenge folks put on a grand battle, and with 40+ cars on the grid it was awesome to see the series alive and well after seeing it’s sorry state in Connecticut last time I volunteered for it at Lime Rock.
Similarly Continental Tire Challenge rocked! I loved the battles there in all the classes. Nice to see TC R cars slide in so well into the grid, though a little sad not to see Miatas in ST class.
So in conclusion it was a good trip for a good clean race. A bit disapointing because of lack of excitement but I departed satisfied. And since I’m having trouble finding paid work, it’s likely this event will be one of my last times volunteering until I get the means to afford it again in the future. Too bad I wasn’t good enough to be hired by the series so I could continue doing what I really like to do, but such is life…