Friday, February 27, 2009

Aloha Friday - In Pictures

Aloha Friday everyone. So glad it's the weekend. We had such a great time at Jimmy and Sammi's wedding that I thought I would share some pics - full story with all the details to come shortly. Have a super weekend!
Jimmy & Johnny - before the ceremony

Me with Sammi's kids - Brock and Brayden

Sammi, Jimmy, John & I

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trump Tower Waikiki

Trump Tower Waikiki is one of many mew developments in the greater Honolulu area, and in the 12 months since we had last visited Hawaii, the building had grown from a hole in the ground to over 35 stories high. The tower is actually a combination of condos and hotel rooms, and is scheduled to be completed in late 2009. When they first broke ground on the site, I have to admit it was exciting! But, after seeing just how big this building actually is it makes me a little concerned about the future of development in Waikiki, and Hawaii in general. Unfortunately Waikiki is turning into a concrete jungle. Don’t get me wrong, I think its great that business is booming and that Waikiki is being cleaned up a little, but at what point do you decide that there is enough development in the area?

The stats on Trump Tower are very impressive. The day that the building went on sale (November 9, 2006) all 464 units were sold, breaking real estate records around the globe.

Features and amenities of the Tower include:
24 hour concierge
24 hour in-room dining
6th floor pool with large lanai deck
Valet Parking
Fitness Center
Full Service Spa
Fine Dining
Private Owners Lobby (no idea what that is, but it sounds fancy!)

The Trump Tower website has lots of great information, including construction updates and info on color schemes should you be lucky enough to own a piece of this property.

Here’s some pictures of the development as of February 2009. I am sure you will agree that it is MASSIVE!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Climb Koko Head Crater - If You Dare!

So, you have climbed Diamond Head and you think, what's next? Well, if you are like me and you think you are 'kinda fit', then this climb is NOT for you! About a 20 minute drive from Waikiki, Koko Crater is located on the southeastern side of Oʻahu. Its hard to miss, as you can see from the photos below. I had done a bit of research about the hike and was looking forward to it as it was something we had not done before. And, I have always loved the leisurely walk to the top of Diamond Head. I was in for a rude shock when I saw the so called walking track - the "stairs" are the railway ties of a long abandoned incline tram formerly used by the military to transport personnel and supplies to a lookout post on the summit.

The thin line running through the center of the crater is the trail to the top of the summit.

I had walked about 200 steps (there was easily over 1,500 steps)....when I decided that I was done. I was hot and sweaty, breathing like I was about to have a heart attack, and the real challenge hadn't even begun. A few people politely jogged by, locals mainly out for their daily exercise - how embarrassing (for me). John was climbing up with ease and I was ready to die. He kept telling me that the view at the top would be worth the climb, so ever so slowly I started walking 10 steps at a time, and then took a break. So needless to say, it took quite some time to get to the top. But, as we got higher and higher, the view was getting better and better. You had the most amazing views of Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, and Diamond Head. So I kept going, through the railroad track with the massive gaps and almost fell through, only to hit an incline of about 45 degrees for the final leg of the journey. Man am I unfit.

View from about halfway up the crater, Hanauma Bay

By the time we reached the summit I seriously thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest. I haven't done a 'walk' like that in a long time, and it made me realize the importance of exercise. The view from the top was unbeatable, and it kicked butt on Diamond Head. There were a bunch of people at the top just sitting around and admiring the view. But I started to realize pretty quickly that what goes up must come down, and the trek to the bottom was not much easier than the one to the top! As you can see from the photo below my face is brighter than a beetroot after making it to the top of the summit!

This activity is a must if you want to witness Oʻahu's true beauty. My recommendations are:

  • Wear very comfortable walking shoes - no sandals or flip flops
  • Put plenty of sunscreen on and go early as it gets HOT
  • Take a hat and plenty of water
  • If you are not fit, take your time but be prepared for the pain the next day - my legs were aching for about 5 days after the walk

After the hike we headed to The Shack in Hawaii Kai. I was so tired I could have fallen asleep in the chair just waiting for my lunch!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Waikiki Beach

I have to admit that Waikiki Beach is not my favorite beach in Waikiki - if you have been there you will know what I mean. The ratio of sand to person is VERY tiny, and when I go the beach I prefer to relax - the last thing I want to hear is the person next to me on their cell phone calling home asking about the weather, or how the family pet is coping in their absence. However, Waikiki Beach is probably the most famous beach in Hawaii, and I have to admit, the view of Diamond Head is spectacular.

We did head to Waikiki Beach not long after arriving in Hawaii - there is something about it that truly makes you feel like you are on vacation. Perhaps its the vendors nicely spread along the beach offering you surfing lessons, beach chairs and umbrellas, kayaks, a booze cruise, shave ice etc. Or maybe its the multi-cultural mix of people who are sharing the same experience as you. The Japanese still dominate Waikiki Beach, and their is nothing cuter than watching them attempt to run out to the waves, surfboard in hand. Or maybe it's that everyone, literally everyone, is just so happy to be at the beach with their friends and family having a good time. Although always busy, the beach has such a calming feeling it makes all your troubles disappear.

Waikiki Beach in all its glory!

This picture below is actually further down the beach, actually at Fort DeRussy Beach, which is where I prefer to hang out. Much quieter and the view of Diamond Head is just as good, if not better.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome to the Wyland Waikiki

I had trouble deciding on where to start when writing a recap of our vacation. I wanted to start at the flight to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines but I think I will save that for the end. When we arrived in Waikiki on February 6, we were so excited to get to the hotel, check in, and head to the Barefoot Bar. However, when we arrived at the Wyland Waikiki Hotel we were very surprised to see that there was a huge party about to start at the hotel pool. As it turns out, Thomas Jones from the New York Jets was staying at our hotel, along with his massive entourage, and he was hosting a Pro-Bowl party! John was beside himself, all star-struck! I didn't know who was who, so I just sat by and watched the football players arrive - I only recognize them if they have their jersey on with the number on it!

Here's some pics from the party:

Once we were able to check in at 3pm, we were pleasantly surprised with the room; it was cosy but tasteful, and we had a balcony which got lots of sun in the afternoon. The bathroom was so small that only one person could literally fit in there at any one time, but it was fine! I thought I would have trouble living in such a tight space with John for the whole time given that we have such a large house in Seattle; but actually, it was fine and it made me realize how much space we really need to survive - not much at all.

The hotel facilities were excellent; they had two pools and a hot tub, a cafe and business center in the lobby, massage chairs and x-box consoles for game junkies, great concierge services and free internet in each hotel room. We also got a copy of the Honolulu Advertiser delivered to our room each morning, which was a blast from the past - we used to get the paper delivered when we lived in our apartment and that was how we kept up with the news, not the internet! Unfortunately we did experience one problem, being noisy guests in the room next to us - we had to call security twice but they did handle the situation for us so kudos to the security staff for responding so promptly (at 2am).

We really enjoyed staying at the Wyland Waikiki and would definitely recommend to others. You can book via the Outrigger website or directly at the Wyland Waikiki website if you are planning a trip. Also, thanks to Stacy Manzo, Director of Sales and Marketing at the hotel for taking care of our internet queries and for her Island recommendations, particularly the 'Monkey Lunch' at Turtle Bay!
Room Photos:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Blog is Back!

I am back in Seattle, after 12 days and 11 nights of bliss. What a fabulous trip to Hawaii! I expected nothing less. I did find that I was too busy having a good time to actually sit down and blog, so not as much real-time posting as I would have liked, but hey, when you are in Hawaii you live on Hawaii time. I did however take down lots of notes and have taken a lot of pictures, so I have many memories and stories to share - the problem is where to begin! Well, the main reason for the vacation this time was Jim & Sammy's wedding - so the photo above is of John and I at the wedding - it was truly wonderful (more posts on that later).

Prepare for Natalani to get bigger and better as the days progress - I truly was inspired on this trip and I hope to keep my memories in the front of my mind until I get back to Oah'u again - hopefully in the not too distant future!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hawaii is What I Live For

Apologies for the lack of blog posts, but I honestly have not had time to sit down at the computer until now and write. Today is the first day that it has rained since we arrived in Hawaii, and since I got up this morning (about 1 hour ago) it is now lovely and sunny again. John and I are having a swell time here in Honolulu, and I have been making copious notes throughout my trip so I will have plenty of content for my blog in the coming weeks. When I am in Seattle I am usually glued to my computer, and here, I feel like throwing the laptop out the window - because there is so much more to life than email!

Today, I am off to meet my good friends and past colleagues from Communications Pacific for some lunch and a catchup - really looking forward to seeing what everyone has been up to and how the Hawaiian economy has been treating them - well I hope. Jimmy's wedding is this Saturday, and it looks to be an all-day affair, with John being the Best Man. So much more to do, and as always, not enough time to enjoy it all. I look forward to writing away once I return to Seattle, where the memories will remain with me until we get back here for good.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Aloha People!

Just a quick post before I head out to the Ala Moana Shopping Center, but we arrived safe and sound - had a fabulous flight with Hawaiian Airlines, and our hotel is super. John and Jimmy are off the Pro Bowl today, and I am going to make the most of my free time and do some serious shopping, and first stop is the Hello Kitty store! It is so great to be back here and it reminds me that the plan is to return - we just have to decide when, and from my experience so far it will be in the not too distant future. I love Hawaii!! Aloha!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What to Pack for a Hawaiian Vacation

This is my last post before I jump on the plane and head to Hawaii! Yipee, I have been waiting a long time for this vacation and it could not have come at a better time. The economy is dismal, weather is cold, and I need to get some sun. My colleague and good friend Mariella Souflis suggested writing a post on what to pack when you are going to Hawaii on vacation. Well Mariella, this one's for you - you rock!

Essential Suitcase Items for Hawaii:
  • slippers (thongs or flip flops)

  • sunscreen - I know 30+ is all the rage but I stick to 15+ so I can get a healthy tan

  • A good book or two for relaxing on the beach

  • A towel

  • T-shirts, shorts, skirts and sundresses - no jeans or sweaters allowed

  • A hat

  • Plenty of energy!

That's all I have and really, that's all you need! Aloha!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Only A Few Days To Go!

The Seattle weather today almost fooled me into thinking winter was over! No doubt, the chilly weather will be back, but not where I am headed in just 3 sleeps. That's right, I can almost see Diamond Head in my dreams I am that close to leaving for Oahu. I'm not sure if its because of the line of work that I am in, or if I am just a little bit too organized, but I have a spreadsheet ready with a complete itinerary for our trip, in order to maximize our time in the Islands. I have even scheduled in shopping time at Ala Moana, and drinking time at the Barefoot Bar! I have the important things covered. Oh, and I forgot, dinner at Alan Wong's of course!

If anyone actually reads my posts I would love some suggestions on what else to include in my itinerary - so readers - please send me your thoughts - someone has to be reading this!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Who Doesn't Love Chocolate?

Chocolate is my weakness. If I have it anywhere near me I can't help but shovel it into my mouth, no matter what time of the day. In fact, with my coffee this morning I had to have a few Peanut Butter M&M's, just because they were on the kitchen counter. This may explain why I can never shed those 10+ pounds that just won't go away!

A few months ago John and I went on a Chocolate Box tour in Seattle, and it was most interesting (and delicious). We got the opportunity to visit a chocolate factory, and eat some superior quality chocolate. So you can imagine my happiness when I received an email this morning in my inbox from Lei Chic, with some gift ideas for Valentines Day, with the focus on Hawai‘i Chocolate. With the vacation only a few days away, I am really excited to get to O‘ahu and find this chocolate - yum! Some of the chocolates mentioned include:

Malie Kai chocolate bars are made on the North Shore using cocoa from cacao trees grown on former Dole Pineapple plantation land.

Waialua Extra Dark chocolates are made from the same O‘ahu-grown ingredients, but are sold only at the Dole Plantation store in Wahiawa.

The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory in Keauhou makes chocolate in small batches using cocoa from trees grown on the same property where the chocolate is made.

Read all about Lei Chic's chocolate recommendations here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

2009 Pro Bowl Activities

Only one week until the 2009 Pro Bowl! Given that this is the last year that the Pro Bowl may be held in Hawaii, it’s time to soak it up and enjoy the planned activities. All the activities below are free, except for the Pro Bowl itself. Please note these activities are subject to change. Apart from the Pro Bowl, my choice of activities is the NFL Pro Bowl All-Star Block Party Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue, being held on Saturday February 7 from 7-10pm. I think I will start at Duke’s Waikiki and go from there! Yay, can’t wait! For those who have not purchased tickets, you better get to it, as it looks like there may be a potential blackout to Hawaii viewers as there are still over 5,000 tickets left for sale.

12 – 6 PM: NFL Pro Bowl Football Festival at Kapiolani Park

Presented by The Paradise Yellow Pages and The City and County of Honolulu. Military Appreciation Day: Football fun for the entire family—free autographs, interactive games, non-stop entertainment, official souvenirs and fan contests. Special military entertainment and demonstrations.

3 – 6 PM: Military Challenge at Kapiolani Park

A traditional competition featuring teams from each branch of the military testing their football skills. Come cheer on your favorite team.

4:30 – 9 PM: Sunset on the Beach at Queen’s Beach (Between the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium)

Relax on the beach and enjoy a popular movie along with a special guest appearance by the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders. Produced by the Waikiki Improvement Association and the City and County of Honolulu.

9 AM – 12 PM: NFL Pro Bowl ‘Ohana Day Celebration at Aloha Stadium
Presented by The Paradise Yellow Pages and Peterson Sign Company. Here’s your chance to see both the AFC and NFC teams in action, enjoy fan contests, and a preview of the Pro Bowl game entertainment!

10 AM – 6 PM: NFL Pro Bowl Football Festival at Kapiolani Park

Presented by The Paradise Yellow Pages and The City and County of Honolulu. NFL Fan Appreciation and Play 60 Day: Football fun for the entire family—free autographs, interactive games, non- stop entertainment, official souvenirs and fan contests. Join the NFL’s drive to promote youth fitness and healthy lifestyles with fun games, contests, educational information and free youth football and cheerleading clinics.

10 AM - 4 PM: NFL Pro Bowl Youth Football and Cheerleading Clinics at Kapiolani Park
Advanced registration required. Contact the Honolulu Boys and Girls Club or the Honolulu YMCA for registration information.

7 – 10 PM: NFL Pro Bowl All-Star Block Party Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue

Presented by Hawaiian Airlines, Donruss Trading Cards and The City and County of Honolulu. The ultimate post-season NFL celebration with multiple entertainment stages, NFL players, cheerleaders, great food, and special surprises. Attended by 50,000 local and mainland fans last year.


8:30 – 11 AM: Official NFL Pro Bowl Tailgate Party at Richardson Field (across from Aloha Stadium and next to the Arizona Memorial, just off Kamehameha Hwy)
This is the place to be before the game. This year’s party will feature great entertainment and delectable food. The tailgate party is held at Richardson Field, overlooking Pearl Harbor and within walking distance of Aloha Stadium. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.

11 AM: NFL Pro Bowl Pregame Ceremonies at Aloha Stadium

Get into the stadium early to experience the spectacular pageantry of the NFL All-Star Game.

11:30 AM: 2009 NFL Pro Bowl presented by State Farm Insurance at Aloha Stadium
See the NFL All-Stars in action—it’s a full day of football fun, spectacular plays, and NFL pageantry.