The trip was fantastic - we spent the first 4 days on Oahu for my conference in Waikiki, and then we flew to Kaua'i for the real vacation for the remaining 4 days! My conference kept me plenty busy, but we were able to get around a explore Waikiki a bit in between sessions and at the end of each day. Here's a recap of our trip!
After waiting for our taxi (Twin Cities Airport Taxi, fyi) to show up, calling and finding out that they lost our reservation (after we had confirmed it less than 48 hours before), we got in our car and drove to the airport, already running behind to catch our 7am flight! We made it in the nick of time (no running, but we did get to the gate, use the restroom, and board the plane - without breakfast or coffee!). We flew through Phoenix, which provided a little time to get out of the plane, stretch, grab lunch to go, and get back on the flight to Honolulu. We made it into Honolulu at about 2pm HST, which is 7pm CST, after getting up at 4:30am CST. We got checked into our hotel (Hawaiian Prince Hotel Waikiki), found our large room with a beautiful view of the harbor, and I proceeded to get ready for my poster session! With the time change, I ended up presenting my poster at 11pm CST (again, after being up since 4:30am!), and then getting a little loopy from lack of sleep and a couple beverages. I am fairly certain that my poster presentation went well, but I may have been slightly incoherent! We crashed as soon as it was done, proceeded to wake up at 1am (which was 6am CST), then fell back asleep until 5am, when we decided to get up and check out the beach. Luckily, everyone is up and about by 6am in Waikiki! The beach boardwalks were full of tourists and there were hundreds of surfers out!
Waikiki beach, bright and early. That's Diamond Head in the background!
Big conference day for me. David, meanwhile, decided to walk from our hotel to Diamond Head Crater, then up the crater, then back down, and then all the way back to the hotel. Our hotel was located on the opposite side of the beach strip from the crater, and he had to walk almost entirely around the crater to get to the access gate! He's insane. Luckily, he made it back, grabbed himself a beer and a burger at a small hole-in-the-wall pub near our hotel, and then went back to the hotel to recover. Because of this expedition, he ended up being almost unable to walk for the next 24 hours due to blisters and bruises on his feet! When I met up with him for a break in my schedule, we walked around Waikiki to check things out (he limped). We picked up some Kona coffee beans to bring back as we'd already enjoyed our first cup of the super-flavorful coffee! That night we ended up walking less than a block to Morimoto's Waikiki restaurant, where we had pineapple tempura (breaded, fried pineapple with prosciutto and a wasabi tzatziki) sushi, yummy cocktails, and some sort of chocolate decadence for dessert - so good! This ended up being our only "fancy" meal that we had while in Hawaii - spendy, but worth it!
I skipped my early session and David and I walked up Diamond Head Crater together. This time we took a taxi (it was an almost $30 ride!), walked up the crater as the sun was rising, checked out the views, then grabbed a taxi at the bottom and got him to take us about $10 down the rest of the mountain (since that was all the cast we had left on us and none of the taxis in Hawaii take cards!). Diamond Head was fun to see, but not spectacular. Go early, if you decide to check it out - beautiful as sun is coming up, less people, and not as hot (according to David). Then we walked back through Waikiki (along the "Rodeo Drive" type strip that they have of massive designer stores!) to the hole-in-the-wall pub (Harbor Pub) near our hotel, where we grabbed breakfast, and then I was off to get ready for my sessions. This conference always leaves the Friday afternoon open for people to get out and enjoy their surroundings, so when I was done, we decided to pick up some cheap beach mats and hit the beach. We laid out on the beach, spent some time reading and enjoying some Primo (not Premo) island beer that we had picked up. Then we hit up the Edge beach bar at the Sheraton hotel for mai tais and orange sangria, brick oven pizza and onion rings. From there, we stopped and grabbed a bottle of Hawaiian Vodka and some guava juice and headed back to the hotel to have some cheaper cocktails.
I was in the conference for the morning while David enjoyed some time on a bike that he had rented the day before. I decided I had had enough as I could handle by about noon, and ducked off for the remainder of the final day. David and I rented a car, started up the GPS, and headed up to the North Shore. It was WONDERFUL to get out of Waikiki!! The difference between that part of Oahu and the rest that we drove through was extraordinary! We hit up Cholo's Mexican restaurant in Haleiwa - we were starving by this point because we had decided to wait until we got to the north shore to eat! After some good Mexican, lots of chips and salsa, and some margaritas, we were ready to go. We drove along the coast, checking out the various beaches - the people up here are much more surfer-hippie-types - it was great. We decided to snorkel (our first time!) in Shark's Cove (no sharks!). It was pretty choppy in the areas that were supposed to have really good snorkeling, but since it was our first time, we stuck inside the protected reef and really enjoyed getting to see all sorts of fish! Since we had borrowed our friends' snorkel gear, we loved how easy it was to just have it along with us at all times in case the chance to snorkel came up! Side note: water shoes were a MUST at most of the beaches we went to! We just picked up some cheap ones before our trip and they worked out well. We didn't bother with fins. After Shark's Cove, we decided to see a bit more of the island and drove from the north over to the western coast. This side of Oahu has mountains that extend to the western-most point and there isn't a road that connects around them. We drove as far as we could go, then parked and walked along the 4-wheel-drive-only road and beach to try to catch the sunset near the point. We never actually made it to Ka'ena Point, but we did find a quiet spot on Hidden Beach (I think) to enjoy the last 2 Primo beers as we watched the sunset. (Another side note: supposedly there is no alcohol allowed on most - or all - beaches, but that law was virtually never followed!) Then we started to head back immediately because we were concerned about trying to walk back in the dark! We drove back to our hotel, tried to order pizza delivery for a later supper only to find that most of the pizza places were going to be super delayed due to "Spam Jam" happening (yep, the Hawaiians LOVE the Spam!), so ended up ordering a take-out pizza from, you guessed it, the hole-in-the-wall Harbor Pub! It was delicious and we scarfed an entire large junk pizza and collapsed.
Tire tracks out to the beach, even though the road looked like this:
As it was our last morning in Waikiki, we were hoping to get up and walk the beach one last time, but we ended up deciding that we may need to be at the airport earlier than originally anticipated (we were flying Island Air to Kaua'i - we need to be there an hour earlier, but we ended up going 1.5-2 hrs early - completely unnecessary as they are basically in their own hangar at the airport and have their own security line for that tiny hangar and the few people that go through it!). We packed up, checked out, returned the rental, and taxied to the airport. We were off to Kaua'i (on this tiny plane)!