Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Oahu Trip


We were looking to split our stay between Waikiki and the Aulani resort. So when I heard about the opening of the Hyatt Centric Waikiki, I thought it would be a good option. I always like new hotels, and this one was available via Hyatt points and would have been opened for a few months by the time our trip rolled around.

For the Aulani (since it's so expensive!), we only booked for two nights.

We also didn't rent a car for the entirety our trip. We only rented for one day which worked out fine. There's lots of places around Waikiki that we could walk to or take taxi. It is still more convenient to have a car if you don't mind paying for parking fees.

This was our second trip to Waikiki; we had done most of the touristy stuff the first time. So we didn't really have anything planned other than relaxing and enjoying some good food.

Hyatt Centric Waikiki

The facility is actually an old office building that was completely renovated to be the new Hyatt Centric. The location of the hotel is not beachside but is walking distance to the beach (3-4 blocks). The hotel provides free beach chairs, beach towels, and even sand toys that we took advantage of. I actually really like the location of the hotel--it is close to a lot of eateries and basically next door to the new International Marketplace.

The main entrance on the first floor is really just the entry way.  We had to take the elevator to the 8th floor for the actual lobby and reception area. The lobby is beautiful, with a view of the small swimming pool and is also connected to the main hotel restaurant. At check in, we were welcomed with shell leis and a refreshing pineapple juice drink.

The room is actually quite spacious, and I love how new everything is. There is a small seating area right by the entrance, a full shower/bathroom, another seating area/office, a seating nook, and a King size bed.

The design is modern Hawaiian, and there's a floor to ceiling window. The only thing "missing" is that there is no lanai, per se. But we didn't mind it too much.

The pool is probably one of the few downsides. It is really small, and extremely shallow.  M, our 3-year old, was able to stand in the deepest water area. So it's not really a true swimming pool, more like a water play area for toddlers & kids.

Another downside is that we could hear the nightclub music and traffic from our room. There did not appear to be much soundproofing. You could probably try asking for higher floors, but not sure if that would help with the noise.

Also like I mentioned earlier, this hotel is not beach side. It's about a 3-4 block walk to the beach. The hotel does provide free beach chair, beach towels, and sand toys.

Service was really good; everyone was very friendly and helpful.

There is a daily resort fee as well as additional parking fee. I think parking is $34 daily. Also, since we booked with points, our resort fee was waived, which was nice!

Overall we had a pleasant stay. We feel this is a great option if you are looking for a newer hotel in Waikiki area.

Kid-Friendly Activities

Hawaii Children's Discovery Center

We visited the Children's Discovery Center and M had a blast. The center is like a pretend/play city. There are various stations that mimic real life: supermarket, post office, bank, car repair shop, etc. The entrance fee was $12/person, and the center has 3 floors to explore.

The first floor has the main attractions/pretend city; the second floor has this really awesome Hawaiian Airlines exhibit with actual airplane seats & area for kids to play pilot and flight attendant); and the third floor has exhibits representing various countries.

Overall we had a wonderful time and highly recomend it if you are looking for a place to take young kids in Oahu.

Beach Day

Since the Hyatt is not beachside, we walked a few blocks to access the public beach. The hotel provided free beach chairs, towels, and toys, which was very nice. We still had to carry the stuff ourselves to the beach. The hotel recommended the area in front of Duke's restaurant. We found a partially shaded area by a palm tree, but we ended up renting a beach umbrella from one of the rental shops. In hindsight, I probably would have just rented the umbrella and chairs at the beach instead of carrying from the hotel.

Ala Moana Mall

We went to the Ala Moana mall to look around. We checked out the new Shirokiya food court and the  arcade games for M.

International Market Place - Music/Dancing Show at 6:30 PM

The new International Market Place had just recently reopened. We love the main courtyard area where there's artificial grass, a water area, and stone seatings. They have a cultural music and dance show free to the public every night at 6:30 PM.

Food in Oahu

Island Vintage Coffee

We went here for breakfast almost every day! The location is very close to our hotel, and they open very early at 6 AM. Since we were all jet lagged and up very early, this was a nice and easy choice for us.

We tried the Acai bowl, Vintage Kona Mocha, taro bagel, peanut butter & mango sandwich, and the Island style breakfast plate.
  • Acai bowl: One of the best Acai bowls I've had. The consistency is very good, and they give LOTS of granola (at the bottom of the bowl, in the middle, and at the top). I usually order extra granola at other Acai places, but Island Vintage knows my heart and provides enough granola! :) They also put lots of honey which I love. 
  • Vintage Kona Mocha: This is one of their signature drinks, it's like a Starbucks Frappucino, but with hints of coconut, macadamia, and coffee pieces!
  • Taro bagel: It looks so interesting (purple color!). The taste is very mild but still good.
  • Peanut butter & mango sandwich: An interesting twist to the PB & banana sandwich. It's a tasty, sweet sandwich for breakfast/lunch.
  • Island style breakfast plate: This was pretty good, but we were not a fan of the purple sticky rice.

Overall this is just a great place overall. Almost everything we had was very good. The Waikiki location is very busy. We were glad to find another location in Kapolei, across from the Aulani, so we could have more Acai bowls!

Island Vintage Shave Ice

This was probably the best shave ice in Oahu. I have only tried Matsumoto's and Waiola, and I think Island Vintage beats them all! It is a bit more pricey (I paid around $9), but it's worth it. It's a small stand on the street level, below where the coffee shop is.

I got the coconut and mango flavors with macadamia nut gelato and mochi. The shaved ice was super soft, and the syrup all tasted home made. I could also tell that the mochi was home made. Overall, very, very good shave ice!

Yokocho Gourmet Alley

We ate twice at this food court:  The first time at Tsujita Ramen (same ramen place as the famous one in LA), and the second time at Hannosuke Hawaii.

Tsuijta Ramen was good. The tsukemen is probably my favorite--very chewy noodles and unique, unlike regular ramen. The noodles come separately from the broth, so you eat by dipping it in the heavy pork broth each time.

Hannosuke specializes in tempura meal sets. I got the premium tempura bowl, and Dan got the regular tempura set. The bowl includes all the tempura over rice, with a sauce already pre drizzled. The tempura set has a slight salty sauce, and the rice and sauce comes separately. I actually like the bowl as the sauce is mixed in, but Dan preferred the set. There was actually a bit of a line when we came here for dinner. The tempura was very good quality, super fresh and great consistency.

Nana's Green Tea

We were so full after the tempera meal, but I had to try this dessert place. I ended up getting the Matcha Nama Chocolate Parfait, which consisted of a layer of jelly, vanilla ice cream, corn flakes, green tea chocolate, red bean, green tea ice cream, and whipped cream. It was so, so yummy and made me feel that I was actually in Japan! It was a bit pricey ($12.85), but still very worth it.

Marukame Udon

This restaurant is probably the most popular restaurant in Oahu. There are 5000+ reviews on Yelp with a 4.5 star rating. This restaurant is across the street from our hotel, so we passed by it a few times, and there is always a long line of at least 20-30 people around dinner time.

We went during an off hour (3 PM) and didn't have to wait in line. The restaurant was actually cafetaria/self-serve style, where you select the type of udon, and then self-serve the tempura items.

The noodle consistency was good. The tempura was pretty good, however, since we didn't come during peak hours, our tempura was slightly cold.

Overall I was a bit underwhelmed by the food here, and felt that the restaurant was overhyped, but we were still glad that we tried.

Rainbow Drive Inn

This is the place to go for cheap, no frills, Hawaiian food. We got the mixed grill plate which consisted of beef, fried chicken, fried fish, macaroni salad, and rice. We especially liked the fried chicken and fried fish; both were very tender and the breading was tasty. We also got a side order of chili over rice which was pretty good. We tried the loco moco on our last trip, and it was excellent. The food here is very unhealthy though. :) Almost everything was fried and there's no veggie option at all.  :p

Leonard's Malasadas

This bakery is very, very popular; there always seems to be a line. I probably waited in line for 10-15 minutes. I ordered 2 regular malasadas and 4 with fillings (custard, chocolate, macadamia nut, and banana). I think the regular malasadas are better than the filled ones. Everything is made fresh to order, and biting into these fresh malasadas is just really wonderful.

Musubi Iyasume

We tried a few musubi places, and Iyasume was the best. They have various toppings like spam/avocado/egg/bacon, and I also like the other ongiris (tuna salad, chicken salad, etc). Their rice is also very good, very sticky and has nice flavor. I do think that they put a little too much rice, but it's still yummy overall.

Waiola Shave Ice

I heard that this is the best shave ice in Oahu, but I would have to say that Island Vintage Shave ice is actually better. The ice at Waiola is pretty smooth, but the flavoring was just so-so. I wouldn't make a special trip here, but would stop by if I'm around the area.

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