Monday, December 31, 2007

Hawaii Sight-Seeing Close-Out

Man, I need a vacation to recover from our vacation. I'm getting worn out from going to the beach, going to the pool, going to the beach, driving around the island, seeing the sights, etc, etc, etc. (I know, I know, poor me... I can feel the sympathy oozing back through my computer screen.)

LW made one of my favorites - cilantro stuffed tri-tip (here's the recipe) for dinner a few nights ago. It was sooooooo good! :-9 Thank you, Sweetie!!!

Mmmmm, Cilantro Stuffed Tri-Tip!

Picture from Oregon Beef Council Website

We went snorkeling at Ko Olina again, but this time we left early enough to get a parking spot in our favorite Lagoon #4. I've already written plenty about Ko Olina though, so I won't bore you with more of the same.

On our way back from Ko Olina, we stopped for lunch at Taco Bell in Kapolei, and they are now offering kalua pork burritos, tacos, etc. I had a kalua pork burrito and it was really good - two thumbs up! :-9

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Hale Koa - In case you aren't familiar with that name, the Hale Koa is a really nice hotel on the beach in Waikiki that is provided exclusively for members of the armed forces. LW and I stayed there the first time when I had a port call here in 2002. I was a little apprehesive about it before we got there. Given it was a "military" place, I expected it to be bare bones, no frills, uncomfortable beds, sorta like a barracks or BOQ room. On the contrary, it was just as nice as the resort hotels on either side of it on the beach, but at a substantially lower price! The restaurant in the first floor of the Hale Koa is called KoKo's (website and menus here), and it's excellent. The food is superb and you can't beat the prices at any other place in Waikiki. Once LW and I got there in 2002, we found very little reason to leave the Hale Koa compound - they had everything we needed. If you're in the military and headed toward Hawaii for any reason, I highly recommend the Hale Koa if you can get a reservation.

Picture of the pool from the Hale Koa website.

Hale Koa Pool - Anyway, the pool at the Hale Koa is really nice, and you don't have to be staying at the hotel to use the pool. You just have to show your military ID. The pool has some really shallow spots with wide steps where my boys love splashing, playing, and swimming. Note that for the first 15 minutes of every hour, the lifeguards blow the whistle and have Adult Swim Only, so try to plan your arrival for as close to quarter-after the hour as possible to get the maximum 45 minutes in the pool with your kids before the kids have to get out for 15 minutes.

Aside: Oh, and if the fire alarm goes off in the hotel, the lifeguards will tell you that you have to evacuate the pool and go to the evacuation area out on the beach. ...Um... Why would I want to get OUT of the POOL if there's a FIRE in the building that's not even close to the pool??? That just didn't pass the common sense test to me. What am I missing? Anyway, I digress, getting back to the topic...

There's also a baby splash-pool that's open continuously (I guess no adults swim in the baby splash pool). It's also right next to the beach, so if you have some members of your family that want to go to the beach, they can go to the beach while others stay at the pool.

There's both a snack bar and a fruity-tropical-tasty-beverage type of bar right next to the pool. They offer a very wide variety of food at the snack bar, and provide the kids' meals in a cool looking cardboard box that looks like a classic car.

One other Hale Koa tidbit to offer: It's right next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village pier for the Atlantis Submarine Tour (see previous post), so if you had anyone who didn't want to go on the submarine tour with you, they could hang out at the Hale Koa pool to wait for you. Also, you can park in the Hale Kola parking lot for $5 and go over to the Hilton to get on the submarine.

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Gyotaku. The family wanted sushi, and there's a sushi bar on every corner here. So I got on the internet and looked at menus for local sushi bars to find a place that had stuff on the menu that LW and the boys would eat. I was very pleased with Gyotaku (website here).

As we were entering the restaurant, I was admiring the amazing fish prints they had framed on the walls. Come to find out, "gyotaku" is the Japanese name for fish prints (see Wikipedia article here).

The sushi was fabulous. We got a whole bunch of different bizarre sushi rolls to share. They had a kid's menu and ice cream for the boys afterwards. I had their "sweet potato pie" and it was really good, too. It wasn't at all what I expected. My previous encounters with "sweet potato pie" have been something similar in color and texture to pumpkin pie. This was more like a Hawaiian sweet potato that was purple, and it had a layer of haupia on top.

The prices were reasonable and the service was good. Note they do NOT take reservations on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday after 4 p.m. We got there at 5:30 p.m. and asked for a table for TEN, and they managed to seat us within about ten minutes (just long enough to push the tables together to set it up for us). We were glad we got there when we did, because there was soon a line of people waiting for tables.

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Paradise Cove Luau (website)

Family Photo Turned Out Pretty Nice
You have NO idea how hard it was to get ES not
only IN the picture but also looking AT the camera!

How do you choose??? We had a hard time deciding which luau to go to since we had hear mixed reviews on all of the major luaus on the island. I think the most positive reviews we heard were for the Polynesian Cultural Center (website here), but we decided against that one because (a) there's no alcohol (it's run by the Mormons), (b) it's a LONG drive way up there to the northern end of the island, and (c) it sounded like a major all-day-long affair and too much for the boys to handle. Beyond that, I don't remember how exactly we chose Paradise Cove (website here) over Germaine's (website here), but here are my observations on the Paradise Cove luau.

Although our initial impression was not good due to the first luau employee we met was smoking a cigarette and wearing a ratty Paradise Cove polo shirt, the rest of the evening was pretty enjoyable. We bought our tickets through ITT (military discount place by the Navy Exchange). We opted for the slightly more expensive tickets where we got to stay seated and have them serve our food. Someone told us that it was worth it not to get up and wait in line at the buffet, and that they run out of the most popular items at the buffet. Our food service was prompt and courteous, and they provided us ample food of every variety to eat.

The food was EXCELLENT! It started out with a salad with some sort of diced salmon, tomatoes, and onions on it with a papaya and poppy seed dressing that was awesome. There were three entrees of kalua pork (really good), some sort of fish with a cream-based macadamia nut sauce (fantastic!), and fried chicken. The fried chicken was good, but it wasn't something I couldn't get somewhere else, so I filled up on the fish and kalua pork. For desert, we had a spice cake with a creamy coconut frosting and haupia (which I LOVE). It was all really good stuff.

Drinks. They provide you a free mai-tai or fruit punch as you walk in the front gate. Our tickets included four free drink-tickets. The lines at the bar generally weren't bad, and they had a wide variety of nice fruity-rum drinks to try. If you have any drink tickets left over at the end, they have a Dave's Ice Cream stand for $3.75 per cone (with two small scoops of ice cream), and you got 50 cents off if you gave him one of your drink tickets.

The Show. The dancers and musicians were fantastic. I kept having flashbacks to the PT Nazi at Bloch Arena. Watching those guys in almost continually crouching positions and doing things with their arms, heads, and waists made me think of the squats workouts the PT Nazi has us do on Wednesday mornings. My legs were getting sore just watching them. They were all in excellent physical shape and very talented.

Blunoz Family in the Outrigger Canoe

Pre-Dinner Activities. The pre-dinner activities were pretty simple and nothing to really rave about, such as temporary tattoos, making head-bands out of palm fronds, making leis, etc. However, I really liked the ride in the outrigger canoe. The boys seemed to enjoy it, too. They also had a collection of really cool parrots you could hold (one was eating the leaves of my lei like they were potato chips), but not photograph (you had to pay them for their photograph). They have everyone gather in the amphitheater for the unveiling of the kalua pig that they'd been cooking in a pit in the ground for six to eight hours, and then did sort of a parading-the-beef routine (old military dining-in tradition) with the pig for everyone to see it.

In summary, the food and the show were excellent and well worth the price of admission, and we were glad we paid the extra to sit and be served instead of going to the buffet line.

Oh, and in spite of my previous casrep on our Cannon camera that YS dropped in the parking lot the other day, we gave in when he said he wanted to take a picture of Mommy and Daddy at the Luau. I don't think he did half a bad job. LW seemed pretty nervous handing over her expensive SLR camera for him to take a picture though (NOT that I can blame her one bit!).

LW and me at Paradise Cove Luau
(Photo by YS)
LW's expression just telephathically conveys
"If you drop my camera I'm going to KILL you kid!"

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For New Year's Eve, we stayed home and LW made us an assortment of pupu's (appetizers). It was all delicious - you did a great job, Sweetie!

As we had been warned by others, it really does sound like a war zone outside our house right now. People have been setting off fireworks almost continuously since about 5 p.m. I'm surprised the boys actually went to sleep amidst the commotion outside.

It's late and I need to get up early to take my family to the airport. So long 2007!



Corey said...

I'm glad that you all enjoyed the Luaua. I have done both of the ones that you were considering and I thought that Paradise Cove better than Germaine's. They were both good but Paradise Cove stepped it up a notch with all of the pre-dining activities.

Enjoy a nice quiet day today although I'm sure that you're sad to see your family go.

Sam said...

Note to self: DON'T read the Blunoz blog when you're sitting in a snowstorm for it will undoubtedly contain messages of wonderful weather, beautiful waters, amazing food and lots of outdoor activity! *grin*

Looks like ya'll really made the most of the family time and the Island. Everything sounds like alot of fun and a great, enjoyable time for all! Glad you've all had some quality time...HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sagey said...

The predinner activities at Paradise Cove was why I chose their Luau over Germaines.

The non-sushi food at Gyotoky was N-A-S-T-Y. I guess ES and I just don't like Japanese Food. Okay, so the tempura was good but they don't make chicken tempura so I had a dinner of fried shrimp and some veggies. ES had a dinner of french fries, some sticky rice and ice cream. YS had about 3 total bites of the two different chickens we ordered (ES didn't like them and neither did I, but YS "said" they were good but he certainly didn't eat much), french fries and ice cream. I won't be returning with the boys.

Sam, though we are not sitting in snow, the weather was actually less than desireable. Overcast and rainy all week. Kind of hard to entertain 6 visiting adults in that kind of weather! But I hope everyone had a good time despite the lack of tans.


Joe and Samantha said...

family photo is adorable!
Happy New Year