The day was finally here. We were finally going to Hawaii! It had been #1 on my bucket list for 3 years, and I was finally going. Our flights were uneventful and long, but it didn’t matter, because we were on our way to Hawaii. We arrived at the Honolulu airport in the late afternoon. We had the address where we would be staying, but we didn’t yet know how we’d get there. We wouldn’t be renting a car during our Oahu stay, because we were only there for 2 nights and were basically just there to run a half marathon, to which we’d be taking a race shuttle.
We ended up getting a ride with a couple from Seattle who were on our last flight and were renting a car. That was a relief, because we weren’t finding any information at the airport on how to take a bus to our hotel. Had we not met up with them, we probably would’ve ended up taking a taxi, so it wasn’t a huge problem, but it was way more fun getting a ride with them, plus it saved us some money.
Getting into our hotel in Waikiki was a challenge to say the least. To make a long story short, we did eventually find the key, and then we did eventually get a hold of the owner by phone since the key was the wrong one. It was a bit of a mess. Huge relief when we finally got in. I was a little disappointed with our accommodations, because until this trip, I have had amazing luck with the places I find on airbnb. This place however was basically a hotel room individually owned within a hotel. But I must also admit that possibly my attitude wasn’t as good as it could have been. Unlike most people, I was not that excited about being in Waikiki. It is not the type of vacation destination I would ever choose. Like I mentioned earlier, we were only here for the race, after which we’d be hopping on a plane to the peaceful garden isle of Kauai where we’d spend the next 7 nights.
Waikiki was not at all what I expected. I had expected wealth, beauty, and cleanliness. But that’s not what I experienced. Waikiki is sort of seedy. And not so clean. There was some extreme wealth, but there was a lot more poverty. Tourism is a big business there, but having seen drug dealers and prostitutes at 7 pm in the International Marketplace, I suspect drugs and prostitution might bring in quite a bit of business as well, and probably from the tourists. It never felt dangerous to me, but I was in my hotel room by a relatively early hour, so I have no idea. Strangely, I liked Waikiki more because of its realness. It had a personality, if you know what I mean.
David and I picked up some groceries in downtown Waikiki at a grocery store for our first night’s dinner. While fresh vegetables are extremely expensive, we didn’t find the other items outrageously priced, like we’d been warned. Some things, like fruits, were even cheaper than on the mainland. Our goal was to eat in as much as possible and only go out to eat a couple times during our trip. Getting back to our hotel room, we were able to manage a simple dinner in our very utilitarian kitchenette then were soon ready to crash for the night. It was 3 hours difference for us, so we were ready for bed early.
The next day, we headed out to see Diamond Head. We weren’t sure if it was such a great idea to do a steep climb the day before a 13 mile mountainous trail run, but other than explore, it was the only thing we really wanted to do in Waikiki, so that was the plan. We hopped on a bus right outside our hotel, feeling pretty proud of ourselves for having figured out which bus to take. This is where the story gets a bit embarrassing. But let me also first tell you that we had yet to study a map of Honolulu and the Waikiki area, which was our first mistake. We had seen the bus route briefly but didn’t have a paper copy, and the gps on my cell phone wasn’t behaving. Meanwhile the bus is leading us around Honolulu through residential neighborhoods, past schools, all the while people are boarding the bus in droves.
At the community college stop, there was a farmer’s market going on, where everybody got off, and I mean everybody. Except us. Just to be on the safe side, we asked a woman getting off the bus if this was Diamond Head. She said no, this is the community college. Maybe we should’ve said “Is this the stop we get off at to get to Diamond Head?” We stayed seated. We trusted this farmers market shopper. She looked like she knew her way around. Some people got on the bus, and it took off. Within 10 minutes, we were in downtown Waikiki again. We knew we’d missed our stop, because Diamond Head was at our backs.
Trying to stay positive, we decided to hike Diamond Head in the afternoon instead and tour Honolulu by bus. Seemed like a pretty good way to experience a city and see how the locals live. Plus we still had our coffee, so life was good. It was pretty fun for the first 20 minutes. Not so fun after 3 hours though.
We eventually got off at a downtown Waikiki stop which was well before reaching the Diamond Head stop for a 2nd time because 1) we needed to pick up our race packets and 2) we really wanted off that bus. Picking up our race packets was where we saw the wealth of Waikiki. There were some very expensive stores and hotels, but it was a small area. We walked along the beach to get back to our hotel, where we planned on dropping off our packets before heading back to Diamond Head. It was pretty fun cutting through the buildings and finding shortcuts that led you to places you didn’t expect.
The beach is gorgeous. On our way back, we passed a restaurant with outdoor seating right on the beach, and conveniently, it was lunchtime. So Diamond Head was going to need to wait a little longer. As we are waiting for our cute little umbrella drinks that cost a small fortune, we discovered that the people sitting right next to us were to be running the race the next day also, so it was fun chatting with them.
After our bus ride, then beach walk, then lunch, then dropping off our race packets at our hotel, we got on a bus to Diamond Head…again. This time we got off where we were supposed to. So about Diamond Head..we had very low to moderate expectations, because of it being touristy and costing money. But it was so cool! There were tunnels, a spiral staircase, a cave/hatch-like thing to crawl out of, views, and switchbacks. And it was less than $5. It was definitely worth the effort getting there.
We took the bus back, experts in taking the bus by this time, and got off a little early to explore our way back to our hotel. We picked up some more groceries at our neighborhood downtown Waikiki grocery store, and managed a 2nd dinner in our little kitchenette. That night we hung out in the hot tub at our hotel pool. While the room was nothing to write home about, the pool area was amazing. The place is called Aqua Bamboo. The people at the counter are really nice too. I do wish we would’ve just booked the room through them, not only because check-in would’ve been a lot easier, but also because they have a free shuttle to and from the airport.
The next morning was race day. We boarded our shuttle bus that was only a few blocks away from our hotel and drove about an hour north to Kualoa Ranch, where Lost was filmed. The race was a professionally-organized event with all the hype you expect at those kinds of races. The setting was absolutely breathtaking.
We ran through meadows, hillsides, forests, by creeks, and up and down steep slopes. At one point on the course, there was even a rope to grab onto, so you didn’t fall down the mountain if you slid. Sliding was fairly easy to do, because it rains a lot in Hawaii, and that mud is slick! It was a tough race. It was the first race I almost threw up while running. I assume it was due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten anything since the day before other than my morning coffee. I normally don’t eat before a race, because I can go without food until 11 am. But this race started at 9 am Hawaii time, which was noon my time, and my stomach was too empty.
We were quite surprised to learn that there was no food or drink available after the race other than post-race snacks. We’d been planning on spending the entire day at the ranch hanging out in the sun, eating some food and drinking some beer, and taking the last shuttle back in time to make our flight to Kauai at 7 pm. But that was not to be unfortunately. We caught the first shuttle back to Waikiki instead of the last. We bought lunch at the grocery store and headed to Aqua Bamboo, where we’d left our luggage. We ate at a table in the hotel pool courtyard, hung out in the hot tub some more and drank some beer there. Maybe that was even better than hanging out at Kualoa Ranch. It was pretty nice.
We took a bus to the airport, thinking we knew exactly where to get off, since we’d passed it on our bus ride the day before. The terminal to Island Air is located in a different spot than all the others, however, and was quite hidden. We did end up finding it with time to spare, but it was a good thing we’d left for the airport early. Not knowing where everything is can be frustrating, but also pretty rewarding when you figure it out. We were looking forward to arriving on Kauai shortly, the island we’d really come to Hawaii to see.