It might be a little cliché to honeymoon in Hawaii but can you really argue? Sun, surf, sand (if you go to the right beaches) and still plenty of sight seeing, activities and shopping to more than keep you busy.

I knew very little of “the rich man’s Bali” prior to researching and after viewing google maps and the associated scaled distances I was expecting it to be a lot smaller, however after a rather slow crawl through traffic from the airport to our Waikiki hotel it was instantly recognisable, for good and bad, as just about any other major American city.



But first, getting there. Like the savvy travellers we are, we held off till we could nab some crazy cheap flights and lo and behold a couple months out, Air Pacific had a sale and we were set. We heard and read a few horror stories about this budget Pacific carrier but didn’t really encounter close to a Tiger Airlines facebook post.


Of course the trade off for cheap flights is usually an extra stop over, which was in Fiji. Better than a slap in the face yea? Unfortunately it was more like a slow slap in the face, we were scheduled to arrive early evening so the choice in venturing out was limited and with the sun all but gone, it wasn’t even worth a look at the beach outside of the Nadi airport. So with 7 hours to kill we made the most of what the airport had to offer, 2 levels of shops and a food court….cool, now there’s only 6hours 50min left to go. Yep, the place is small, the shops uninspiring and mostly redundant. The food court is based mostly around a carvery style vender which served a variety of meals from classic American to a few Asian dishes. Prices were ok and the quality not too bad. Best thing was they took AU (or USD) currency without a transaction fee but you got your change in Fijian dollars.

Travel Tip: Carry small denominations of AU or USD notes to minimise the amount of unused Fijian currency you’ll have to get exchanged or just keep it for your return stop over.

So to kill the time? We came prepared with a season of Fringe on a netbook, then we just commandeered a table. Later we mixed it up and pulled up some carpet near an unused powerpoint.

Travel Tip: If you get bored from counting the number of Aussie girls with French braids or corn rows and want a bit of piece and quiet, head downstairs to the airline lounges. You can pay a small fee for creature comforts inside or just stretch out on the floor/seats out the front for free.

(not) Christmas Island

(not) Christmas Island

(not) Christmas Island runway

(not) Christmas Island runway

Time marched on with the slumping body language and expressions of center staff till we were finally on our way – but wait, whats this? An extra stop at Christmas Island??? Ok first shock was the previous no mention of a second stop and the second was Christmas Island?? Isn’t that in the opposite direction?? Turns out its part of Kiribati, a tiny little island that’s more lagoons and oases than island – but a perfect place if you want middle-of-no-where picturesque beaches, endless fishing and literally nothing else. The ground crew there reflected the laid back environment, some rode up to the airliner on bicycles, most were either wearing thongs or were barefoot and shirtless. One even took a break from doing nothing by lighting up a cigarette, apparently avgas is so laidback here it couldn’t be bothered exploding :-\

After another hour of sitting around (minus the break where US border patrol entered the plane and searched seats …and the poor guys that fit the stereotypical profile) we were on our way.

On arrival at HNL airport we picked up our hire car from Alamo, despite some negative reviews for this location we had no problems at all and even ended getting to choose a VW Jetta over a Ford Focus. After spending a couple thousand miles in a Focus last time, it was an easy decision to choose the German… and it wasn’t just because it was red 😉 You can get around the island quite sufficiently using public transport and mopeds but nothing beats having the freedom and convenience of a car especially when you have multiple activities planned for a day and a bunch of shopping to go with it.


Travel Tip: For the best prices on hire cars go to www.DiscountHawaiiCarRental.com – basically a blind selection from dealers of your car category choice, or better. Once your preferences are entered, you’ll get an email from the hire company with pick up details. A little daunting not knowing what you’ll get or from who, but they only deal with the bigger name companies so you should still have some choice depending on your nominated category. If you’re choosing “convertible” you’ll be mostly limited to a Mustang or Sebring … realistically you’ll end up with a Sebring (which is essentially an old Ford Taurus with the roof cut off. Yep, as ugly as it sounds) To give you an idea, a week hire for a “compact”, which going by the Jetta felt more like a mid-size was about $150 for the week, total of $350 with insurance which is always the killer. Still, at $200 less than the cheapest online advertised price, it was an easy decision.

The prepurchase of a $50 ebay gps complete with current US and Europe maps instantly paid for itself as we made a steady crawl towards Waikiki and our hotel for the week, The Outrigger – Ohana West.



There is of course a plethora of hotels to chose from, most going from “more than your flights” to “yikes!” but thankfully this (not so) little gem was significantly less than surrounding places including sister hotel, Ohana East, a mere half block away. Having the deal sweetened with Zuji’s package special made it even better. The only reason we could tell for the difference in price was from the décor. It looked like the last reno in the rooms was during the 80s but other than that nothing to complain about, good service, large room and balcony and a 5min stroll to the beach. There’s also Chili’s Bar and Grill on the ground level and a Denny’s just across the street, both with a wide range of foods and meal deals.

Travel Tip: Parking is a premium almost every where in Waikiki and of course they capitalise on it. There are a few cheaper long term parking spots but all a few blocks away and most not secured. Ohana East offers paid parking at about $20-25 a day with discounts for longer stays, which makes unloading and loading alot easier. The trade off is, the carpark is very limited so they tend to run out of spaces from mid to late afternoon but if you have already paid, you get directed to Ohana West down the road.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Travel Tip: A lot of the beach front hotels have “private” beaches ie. Its easiest accessed through the hotel. For off the street access you’ll want to head straight for Kuhio Beach Park (Waikiki Beach). Possibly one of the busiest beaches in Oahu, it has levies for shelter and corrosion prevention (I read somewhere that they actually import sand from Australia!), though the native sand is rather coarse. Great spot for a quick dip and kid-friendly but if you want to do anything other than a fun splash/cool down then its best you try elsewhere.

Bags dumped and a quick shower, we were ready to hit the streets of Waikiki!


Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Off to bowls then...

Before we hit the open road to Yosemite National Park, some tips on car hire and getting about LA/California in your box with the steering wheel on the wrong side 😉

“No one walks in LA” is a sentiment you’ve probably heard on many TV shows and movies, its not until you get there and venture passed the tourist spots do you realise how spread out it is and how much a necessity it is to have your own transportation. Our first time in LA we stayed in Santa Monica and only really explored the Hollywood area, so bussing between the two areas was manageable as there’s quite a few services that do that route, but like most cities, finding the right bus and the stops to catch them from can be difficult and time consuming. Fine if you’re only there for a few days but staying any longer its best that you hire a car, not just for convenience but you will also get to see a lot more of the place and have your own personal porter.

LA's notorious freeways

First stop, car rental. There are plenty of places to hire cars from at the airport, but of course the best deals come from pre-booking it online or via your travel agent. We hired through Dollar Rental purely on their cheap prices and even cheaper price found via our travel agent, but be warned, all is not what it seems. Details of hidden charges in my separate review over at Yelp.com (a good source for business reviews in the USA).
We ended up with a less than favourable Ford Focus thanks to space limitations of the other cars available (no other car had a boot big enough to conceal 2 suitcases) but it did the job albeit in its own poor ergonomic and uncomfortable way.

So you got your motor running and are about to get out on the highway, but first some quick tips:

KEEP RIGHT. Start the mantra before you even get in the car each day. It might sound a little silly but anything that can break your years of previous experience will help because once you’re in the thick of it, your first instinct will be to go to the left side of the road, especially when turning left.

Turning right on a red light – Yes, its legal. Basically the red light becomes a give way sign (confirmed with the local boys in blue) This is a little strange to see at first but after breezing down the right hand lane and not having to wait for some of the long light changes you’ll soon wonder how you lived without it and why its not done here!

Turning left at the lights – This is always a little nerve racking, mainly because turning lanes from both directions line up with each other and because the intersections are so big you need to drive to the center to be able to make it across if you don’t have an arrow light. Of course the person travelling in the opposite direction is doing the same except they’re driving a block of flats, so you essentially have more chance of seeing the dark side of the moon than what could be barrelling down in the other lane. Just edge forward and when you see your chance, floor it. If the lights turn red, don’t sweat it, they’re surprisingly patient when it comes to people being stuck in the intersection.

Merging/exiting on the freeway – Sooner or later you will have to get on a freeway. They spaghetti above the city and connect every major area and can be a breeze at the right times.. just be prepared for peak hour. Getting on and off is something else, what you have is a “no man’s land” area of 2, 3 or 4 lanes, unmarked. A lot of on-ramps join to almost immediate off-ramps, good if you’ve taken the wrong turn, bad because there’s on-ers and off-ers trying to share the same space.
This is usually where things get ugly, instead of letting someone exit, an entering car will try to over take the exitee instead of merging behind it and taking its place in a lane. Entering vehicles will also use the smallest of openings to join the freeway, usually as immediate as they can resulting in cutting someone off, rather than using the merging lane to speed match and find an appropriate spot to merge. A tip around this is to watch your right side mirror, if you see someone burning up the merging lane, just as they’re parrellel with the car behind you, speed up just a little bit. This closes the gap in front of you and widens the one behind. They pretty much always take the bait 😉

Parking – Street parking is rare and expensive so use it for “get in get out” stops only, make sure you have plenty of quarters too otherwise you’ll be racking up the fees on your credit card. The other option is parking garages and lots. Unlike Australia this is a very cheap alternative, usually in the range of $3-6 a day, most with no “enter before” or time restrictions. One of the best sites I found for this is http://losangeles.bestparking.com/index.php#1 which displays locations and costs. Some even display real time vacancies. Don’t fret if you haven’t pre-planned where to park, almost all parking lots have a guy in a hi-vis vest with a flag waving you into their lot. Try not to get these guy confused with actual road workers!

GPS – This is a given, though some might prefer a paper map to forgo the cost of hiring one. While the GPS is almost useless in the downtown area thanks to the skyscrapers, it will more than likely save you many times when making direction changes or finding locations on the fly. Depending on who you hire you’re your car through, it can be around $5-15 a day so if you’re driving for a week or more, an option is to buy a cheap one locally from places like Best Buy (There’s one in the Westfield next to the airport). Alternatively you can rent maps for other countries at a discounted price (usage time limited) via your local GPS manufacturer. Or you may be lucky enough to buy an AU one with a promo deal for a free international country map rental like I did 😉

Paper maps – I know… ewww! Thing is they’re not going to lose their signal or try to tell you to go somewhere you don’t want to go or take you in a 2 block loop instead of doing a U-turn. They will also be a godsend when it comes to getting around road works or randomly closed streets instead of continually redirecting you to the same dead end! Also handy when you’re on foot. Google maps is also your friend for detailing specific areas.

Doin' 80 on the freeway, po-lice catch me if you can..

In general LA drivers, while quite bad (possibly due to the complacency and laziness of all those automatics :p) are rather tamed, cars meander all over the road with many near misses but it seems the most they get is a horn toot and a “now would you look at this sonofabich”, possibly due to the less dense laid back lifestyle, possibly a catastrophic coronary brewing under the surface. In saying that, like any where, even if you’re doing 80mph in the left lane there will always be someone tailgating you or trying to over take you, usually in a Prius. Maybe its their cloud of smug giving them little man syndrome? :p Just keep your calm and let them go, you’ll more than likely overtake them at the next back up of traffic or hill 😉

Get used to this view of never ending brake lights

With that in mind, we say farewell to tinsel town and make our way up to Yosemite!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here