Monday, November 30, 2015

Waikiki & Ko' Olina Restaurants worth trying and stay away from !!

Waikiki restaurants:

  1. Morimoto - excellent seafood and sushi, on the high end side.  There is also a decadent tasting menu @ $120 a person.
  2. Hakone - located in a hotel, with another buffet on the same level (that may be worth trying over this one) Not worth trying, too expensive for low quality fish and meats as well as a very limited buffet.
  3. Marukame Udon - very inexpensive and fresh udon, you can watch them make it as you go through the line and there is always a line forming outside of the restaurant.   Its a cafeteria style restaurant.  This place is a noodle/soup place with deep fried protein on the side, there is not a healthy lean protein no carbs alternative.

North Shore:

  1. Ted's Bakery
  2. Shrimp shack

Ko 'Olina restaurants:
  1. The Monkey Pod
  2. Thai Loa
  3. Terriyaki
  4. Ramen 'Ya
  5. Longboards

Friday, November 20, 2015

Airport lounges (Pros/Cons)!!

SeaTac centurion studio lounge located at terminal B3. Available through having an American Express platinum (more details:

Entry area 
Food and drinks buffet


A variety of mixed nuts (regular and a spicy blend), dried fruits (Apple rings, figs, banana chips)

A raw vegetable bar consisting of snow peas, celery, cherry tomatoes, and carrots.

Hard boiled eggs, a fruit salad, an artichoke chickpeas salad, sandwiches (meat and vegetarian selection) and a soup of the day.

Desserts: mini cupcakes, double chocolate chips cookies (large), coconut macaroons.

Beverage: Alcohol are local wines/beers selections. There are sodas, a selection of teas, iced tea of the day and sparkling drink of the day, still and sparkling water as well as a variety of sodas (regular and diet) and an industrial size cappuccino/ espresso machine.

Seating/lounging: There are a variety of sitting options, from a bar style seat overlooking the airplanes to comfortable couches and leather chairs. There are even dark private couches to lounge/nap in. 

Overall, it's a beautiful studio lounge that has a warm cozy feel to it and is well kept. 

Alaska lounges:

The Alaska lounge in SeaTac airport is located in Terminal D. It is two stories and is always pretty packed and rightfully so. It is a 4 stars lounge in comparison to United or Usairways lounges. 

The pros about this lounge are: 
Lots of coffee to keep you going and a selection of syrups (regular and sugar free) and two levels of seating. 

They do have showers, private conference rooms that fits an entire family of 6 comfortably to private small rooms to allow for those business conference calls. There is also a bar on the second floor with decent selections and daily feature selections see below. 

Cons: the main room is always crowded, see pictures below. 

The food selections are very limited in comparison to a centurion lounge but definitely better than a United lounge or a Usairways lounge. Breakfast: there are hard boiled eggs, pancakes, toast and bagels.  Lunch: A small salad buffet available on their second floor. Available all the time are: cheese, crackers, mixed snacks, cereals and fruits (bananas, apples, oranges). 

United progress. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Packing list for Hawaii

1.) Teva: Great hiking shoes (I bought both the Hurricane and the Original for the prices of less than the original one I bought back in college, I included them both below from amazon.  There are many different colors and the price varies based on the size, I got mine for $22.31 - which is some serious savings from $99 and the original for $25)  You can get more savings if you have a discover card or an American express card, you register those and use the points for to pay instead.  Amex has deals that you can save $15 with a $50 purchase.

The Hurricane is more comfortable for super long hikes but not as dainty, the original is more feminine for dresses and not as wide, still very comfortable but not beyond 7 hours as the foot bed has a pattern that will start bothering your feet after 7 hours.  I included a male version as well.

2.) Snorkeling kit (fins not necessary- snorkel and mask will do however, I included the set I bought that comes with a bag to carry your kit and the kit I got for my husband, as it does come in handy for a vacation in the Caribbean, you will need your fins there)  - Here is my rationale, we brought along our fins and we didn't really use it and we struggled a bit making room for them in our luggage (2 pairs of fins are 12-15 lbs), making it room for souvenirs and also save you luggage cost if you were going need to pack 2 luggage instead of one.

3.) Sunscreen with bug repellent - I had mosquitoes marks all over my body after 2 days in Hawaii, going to Waimea Valley and Kualoa Ranch did me in (so I highly recommend getting a bug repellant with SPF, I included the one I bought below.  I found mine at Target nearby).

4.) Patagonia lite bag

5.) Selfie stick - the portable version.  I bought the regular version that has all the attachments separately from  a drugstore for $9.99 and it sucked, the pole constantly rotated if I put my phone on its side to take a portrait picture and every time I had to take the phone off, I had to unscrew the metal phone holder off the pole, then I came across this portable version at Ross so I bought it and it was perfect. It fit well into my Patagonia bag and was all one piece and did not rotate when I put in portrait instead of landscape.  I will include a bad selfie stick below only for comparison purposes so you can see what NOT to buy.

O'ahu - Hawaii 3 days to do savings!

O'ahu Go Pass - Huge Savings - Recommended 3 days itinerary 

Do you have to use it consecutively? No, you just have to use within 2 weeks from the first day you use your pass

Do you have to print it out? No, you can just show it on your smartphone

Do you need reservations for some? Yes, the O'ahu Go Pass will list which ones need reservation - especially for the Catamaran (a month or two in advance, we called 2 weeks in advance and it was not available) however, there are places that are not as crowded - one example: Polynesian Cultural center, we came on a Wednesday and we did not have reservations for the Luau and they said they could accommodate (i.e., weekdays for example - weekend, may be best to make reservations as it would be more crowded)

Day 1: 

1st stop: We started with Kualoa Ranch (we made reservation the week before we left), we got there at 9 AM and got on the tour at 10:15, it took about 90 minutes.  There is a restaurant on site,so you can get breakfast (it's like a cafeteria style setup so you can just pick what you want and pay, at lunch, they setup a buffet that you can opt for instead of you don't want to buy a la carte - $17.95 (Nov 2015 price).

2nd stop: non O'ahu pass stop, however I suggest a stop along the way:  checking out north beach along the way to the Polynesian culture center, there are a couple of good eats along here, i.e., Shrimp shack food truck - check into Yelp and you get 10% off (here is a link to my Yelp to see all my food reviews in O'ahu) and Ted's Bakery for amazing crème pies and the famous crab and bacon sandwich.

3rd stop: the Polynesian cultural center (this is the one place that you can opt to go twice with the pass - this is also the bonus luau that you can make reservation in advance or if you are planning to go during the week, you can just show up that morning to make reservation, we opted not to do the luau here but it would recommend it if you want to spend an entire day here, lots to do and it's a ton of fun for everyone in the family.  Additionally if you skip the 2nd stop. This place has a ton of food options (food trucks, stands, hot dogs, rice plates, etc..)

4th stop: Waimea Valley - there is a restaurant here as well. If you haven't eaten.  Here you can opt to pay an extra $6 per person to get a golf cart round trip tour of the valley or $4 one way. I can see why some people opted for this, we walked for a bit before we saw the waterfall (its about a mile).

5th stop: Dole plantation - you must get here by 3pm if you want to be able to do all 3 places (pineapple express, explore the garden and race the maze to find all the clues) Also-I would recommend getting one order of waffle cones or waffle bowl or just a bowl - it's plenty for 2-4 people and a little savings as well, as a cone is $5.50 without toppings, $5.95 with and a waffle bowl, two times the size,  comes with pineapple and a topping of your choice for $8.95

So all this would have cost you two O'ahu pass in one day.

Day 2: 

We did Pearl Harbor - the USS Arizona to start, this requires a time slot and they were very precise with their start time and end time. I was truly impress with how well they coordinated this USS Arizona Memorial. 

Then we took a bus to USS Missouri then the Aviation museum, all this takes about 3+ hours if you are streamlining it.

Otherwise, it's about 5 hours.  There are food on site and snacks at pretty much every location.

All this separately cost $60+

Day 3:

NOTE: We skipped a couple of days before doing day 3, we spent the day at the resort at the beach and the pool.  The pass does not require usage consecutively just within two weeks from day 1.

1 stop: We went to Sea Life which is the Hawaii version of Sea World but significantly smaller and was not very crowded, great for kids and adults alike (just make sure to get a bug spray with SPF - mosquitoes are so bad).  See my packing list for Hawaii for all the products that I bought.

**NOTE: since you will be on your feet a lot, I would recommend getting a good pair of Teva. I brought my Nike sneakers but it was so humid that I ended up wearing my Teva that I bought back in college and they were amazing, my feet did not sweat or get all hot from wearing sneakers all day.  I was comfortable and happy to how well these Teva withstand the terrain and I can get dirty or wet and can just simply rinse it off.  The ones I have are the original which are not quite as comfortable as these hurricanes (I bought 2 pairs since I returned from Hawaii for half of the cost of the original that I spent I think a $100 back in college).  I am attaching the link to Amazon of the Hurricane that I bought (it comes in many colors).  I also bought another pair of original just because it is more delicate in appearance to wear with my summer dresses for my upcoming cruise - stay tune for those tips).


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How to save on your Hawaii vacation

O'ahu go pass - available at:

1.  Costco (4 days pass)
2.  Groupon has a 3 days pass (sometimes 20% off) or
3. O'ahu pass website - signing up on their website (get $10 off) -3,5,7 days pass

3 days though Groupon cost is around  $133 per person which is a great deal considering any Luau in Hawaii is at least $89.

Pearl Harbor has 3 different areas if you buy them all separately, it's about $60+, Kualoa ranch (movies filmed here: Jurassic Park, 50 first dates, Journey to the end of the earth, Lost, etc) by itself is $109 (so even if you just go to Luau and Pearl Harbor - you are still saving $30, if you any other, like the Kualoa Ranch, now you are saving $139) Dole plantation - 3 admissions to 3 sites (maze, garden and Pineapple Express), and much more.

The O'ahu card get you into 30 places around O'ahu (which includes 1 of the 4 bonuses,  Luau at the Polynesian cultural center, Jeep rental for the day, swimming with Dolphins at sea life (***note: make sure you get a bug spray with spf, I walked out of there with at least 10 bites that swelled up like a burn mark for days after*** you can buy this at a Walmart or target, I will take a picture and share shortly)  or the Germaine's Luau) and also discount for some selected shopping.

Recommendations to do each day with O'ahu pass

Restaurants in the area worth trying

Places to stay: you can reach out to a Marriot vacation club to see what deals they will give you for being willing to sit through a sales presentation about 90 minutes of your time and at the end of it, you get a $50 voucher to use at all the restaurants in the area (see below).  Some are $199 for 3 week nights for studio room, you can opt to buy more at a certain rate, maybe slightly more for the weekends). Check out this post about Marriott Ko 'Olina (tips and savings for this resort)

Flights, book well in advance or another way to save is if you are willing to connect to another city or either buy a separate flight out of that city instead of buying a round trip that may cost more.

Food: places like vacation clubs have kitchenette and kitchens, buy a week worth of food at a Walmart or Costco (Costco also sells gift cards to restaurants in the area that you can get for $79.99 worth $100-so that is $20 dollar saving if you want to go out to eat in the area), if you are drinkers, better to just buy a couple of bottles to have in your room and have a cooling insulated cup to refill and use around the resort.  Or if you really want to try the food at the restaurants at the resorts, go there for lunch if open or go to their happy hour, additional you would get a premier Marriot club card that would save 5%-10% off restaurants on site or nearby.  

Another way to save is joining apps like Foursquare or Yelp that when checking in, may give you %10 off the total bill or give you free appetizers or desserts.
 Additionally, Hawaii has a couple of different charity programs where restaurants in Hawaii support that would give you 10%- 15% off participating restaurants however, I had a very bad experience with Hawaii Perks so I am not sure if they are truly legit to recommend here.

Packing for Hawaii

Marriot Ko 'Olina Vacation (beach) club

Tips and suggestions:

Checkout is at 10am and if you stay any later, you will incur a fee which they will call you the night before and leave a message with those details. You are able to spend the rest of the day at the resort though.

Check in is at 4pm, however if you get there early and by some chance your room is done, you may be able to get into your room earlier. We got there at 11:00 and our room was empty but not available and was told they will call us when it would become available (we went shopping for drinks and food in the meantime and was able to get into our room by 2)

Rooms at this resort comes in two sizes, one a one bedroom with a kitchen and the other one is a studio with a kitchenette which means it has a microwave, coffee maker and toaster as the default.  However, I came to find out that there are a lot of kitchen appliances that you can request in additional to the default, for example, a rice cooker - who knew?!?!? Yep, instead of using a microwave to make rice (which is completely doable and actually quite easy). Additionally, a rice cooker can serve as not only cooking rice but also steamed vegetables, pasta (Mac and cheese, spaghetti) and even wings and spare ribs.

Another useful mutli-use is a blender- to make those awesome frozen drinks and anything you can think off without involving an actual gas stove.  Or make a cream soup, Alfredo sauce, mashed potatoes, sauces (chimichurri), sparkling wine drinks, frozen banana ice cream (frozen bananas and some milk - soy, almond, skim or reg)

There are grill stations downstairs that are cleaned daily and a store on site for purchasing of necessity items however, as a caveat, everything in the store is 2-3 times the price as a regular grocery store (e.g., ramen bowls-$1.09 or $1.99 at a Safeway which is pretty high yet on resort expect to pay $5.50 or syrup, $2.49-it's $7.50, however, if you want to save, there is a Costco, Target and Walmart nearby to buy your week worth of meals for a price of 2 dinners at the resort).

Savings on site: upon arrival, you will not get this card, in your paperwork, they will tell you within
24 hours go to the 3rd floor to get a Marriott discount card

 which give you some savings for on site restaurants, ranging in a 5% for dinner and 10% for breakfast. Additionally, restaurants in the area, example: Roy's-free appetizer with a purchase of 2 entrees and Monkeypod- a free piece of cream pie with purchase of 2 entrees..I I will include a picture of all the discounts shortly.

Pool side tips: the resort provides floaty for adults and kids however to score one of these, you must get up early, one good thing is once you score one, you can keep for the remainder of your stay per the Marriot staff so you don't have to try to get one daily.  They also have some snorkels gear for kids and provide swimming diapers.  

This resort is located two resorts away from Disney, so if you want to check out the Disney resort, it's just a short way on the beach away. 

Packing for Hawaii recommendations