It sounds like the start of a well worn joke. A Russian, a Scot and two Brits take off on a quest for fun in the sun and an escape from the Sydney winter. But after our Hawaiian Airlines flight from Sydney to Honolulu and a good six hours sleep, we were the ones laughing, arriving full of beans and with our empty suitcases ready to be filled on our flop, drop and shop.
Staying slap bang in the middle of everything at the Embassy Suites by Hilton, we were pleasantly surprised by the size of our two bedroom/bathroom suite with two enormous king sized beds and views over the famous pink palace, aka The Royal Hawaiian, and the rolling surf of the famous Waikiki Beach.
With all the entertainment, bars, restaurants and the famous Ala Moana Shopping Centre on our doorstep, there was certainly plenty to keep us busy.
There are so many to choose from as Waikiki is overflowing with them, from traditional American-style sports bars, fancy cocktail bars to tropical Hawaiian beach bars. Make sure you Google ‘happy hours’ before you head out so you get the most out of your precious cocktail budget.
We particularly loved RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki, which has live music, the best beach sunsets and the most delicious pupus (Hawaiian tapas). We also recommend the Lanai bar at The Laylow hotel for imaginative cocktails, the coolest vibe and the sexiest waiters. The Royal Hawaiian beach bar is perfect for a sundowner and we loved the Kiwi Villa Maria sav blanc they had on their wine list.
Kelley O’Neil’s Irish bar has live music, very strong G&T's, a floor show of slightly inebriated but very entertaining punters attempting to out-dance and out-sing each other, but more importantly for our single lady readers, this is where you go to find your ‘Maverick’ as the place is full of Air Force and military boys who are polite, respectful, and I have to say, very easy on the eye. (If the Maverick reference has you baffled, watch Top Gun or ask your mum!).
The food scene in Hawaii has improved dramatically since my last visit five years ago. We fuelled up each morning on the legendary Embassy breakfast and alternated each evening between restaurants and the food trucks. With tax and tipping eating out is not cheap, but we also made use of the ubiquitous ABC stores which stay open till midnight and sell great snacks and hot food.
We loved the Sicilian cuisine of Taormina, right across the road from our hotel, where we all agreed the spag bol was the best we had ever tasted. We followed that with a white chocolate macadamia ice cream from the ice cream shop next door and contentment occurred.
Bills (of Aussie fame) should also be on your list as much for the cool green and geranium colour scheme as its awesome coffee and corn fritters. Service and atmosphere are casual but sophisticated – just like the average Aussie!
Duke’s Waikiki is right on the beach and an integral part of the Hawaiian experience. Being serenaded by scantily clad, dark skinned, beautiful people playing traditional Hawaiian music somehow makes your mahi-mahi taste even better.
Do try the food trucks, as they’re a much cheaper but still very tasty option. A late night fish taco after too many mai tai’s tastes surprisingly good.
As previously mentioned, we arrived with just the bare essentials as we all love to shop and Hawaii is awesome for RETAIL THERAPY (it’s so good I have to put it in capitals). You’ll find great quality and great bargains. Even with the Aussie dollar trailing the U.S. dollar, the discounts and store incentives make Hawaii a shopper’s paradise.
I'm slightly ashamed to report that a few days were spent at the Ala Moana Shopping Mall. We split up as soon as we arrived and our daily step target was practically quadrupled. Of course, the great thing about travelling with your girlfriends is that when you return to your hotel, the G&T’s are poured (don't buy any duty free alcohol as the ABC stores sell booze just as cheap) and the fashion parade begins.
It’s always amusing, as some friends are more honest than others with their assessment of your fashion choices. This inevitably led to a bit of ‘boomerang’ shopping whereby several items were returned, refunded or exchanged. The ‘last act’ section of Macy's was a popular hang out with great brands costing a mere 10-15 per cent of their original price.
The Ross for Less stores, where the doorman relentlessly greets everyone that enters with "Welcome to Ross" in his lazy American drawl, are a magnet for bargain hunters who are prepared to rummage. Similar to T.K. Maxx but even cheaper, if you can imagine that.
The Waikele Premium Outlets near the airport are also worth visiting with many famous expensive brands heavily discounted. Great for Levi's, Kipling, Coach, Calvin Klein, etc. etc.
Needless to say we all made the most of Hawaiian Airline's generous luggage allowance of two bags at 32kgs.
Things we loved
A great sign of Hawaiian exuberance is the weekly Friday fireworks. We took a sunset cruise on the Star of Honolulu and dined on lobster and chardonnay while watching the sky above the city erupt into a sparkling blaze of light and colour.
Hike to Diamond Head – go early before the heat sets in. It takes 30 minutes to get to the top and the view is worth every step. Pearl Harbor is a moving and worthwhile experience and arguably one of the most significant World War Two sites on the planet.
Escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and take a day trip to the North Shore, visiting quaint traditional towns and great beaches. Make sure you stop off at the Dole pineapple plant and take the train tour before getting lost in the world’s largest maze.
It was with heavy hearts and even heavier suitcases we hula’d out of Hawaii with plenty of great memories and laughs and concluded that Hawaii is indeed the perfect place for a girlie getaway.