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Character chasing at Aulani

Saturday, February 25, 2017

One of Perry's (and ours to be honest) favorite parts of a disney trip is finding and interacting with characters. P loves it and always has...running up and giving them big bear hugs, getting autographs and saying cheese like a pro. Aulani, the disney vacation club resort in Oahu, has all the vibes of a Hawaiian escape with a little Disney fun sprinkled here and there. Characters are not everywhere in your face like they are in a Disney park and you have to work a little harder to find them but they are there.

The routine is that you call the "character line" on the phone each morning to hear the list of character meet and greets for the day. We never caught a consistent theme or pattern...though I am sure one exists in the big picture. They were mostly in the middle of the when we went off-site around the Island we typically missed them...and played catch up later on in the week while we were just hanging at the hotel. I think that over the course of the week we met everyone...even the elusive Duffy and Shelly bears (which you can't even meet at Disney World anymore...but are wildly popular with Asian tourists...and therefore are hanging out in Hawaii).

Here are a few of my favorite moments and pictures from our week of character interactions around Hawaii...

A day in western Oahu

Friday, February 24, 2017

Our last day of adventuring out on the island of Oahu - before we nestled into the resort for a few days of "staycation" - was spent out in the waters to the west. We had already turned in the rental car so we had to take a taxi a few miles up the road to the Waianae marina. I had done some research online looking at boating excursions and knew that I didn't want to book any of the ones through the hotel...which are over priced and have a million people packed onto a boat like sardines.

However thanks to TripAdvisor I found a small semi-private whale watching and snorkeling adventure with great reviews (Wild Side Specialty Tours). We met our boat, crew, and few other fellow passengers and set sail for the morning.

We tracked a handful of humpback whales...the ones that spend their summers in Alaska spend their Januarys in Hawaii (sounds like a good life to me)...and tons and tons of dolphins.

We got out in the water with the dolphins and learned how to swim and snorkel with them without totally terrorizing them. The water was not all that clear (like not at all) so really the best views were from the surface of the dolphin fins swimming all around us.

This was about as good as our underwater view got...if you squint real hard you can see the dolphin that was swimming just below.

Perry went out in the water with us. He is definitely a timid child and oh so opinionated...and often enters a new situation with extreme caution. It is a quality that will serve him well in a lot of cases (and maybe save him a few more broken bones) but sometimes we end up a little frustrated when he vehemently objects to doing something really fun (and safe) like swimming with dolphins, or going down a water slide or roller coaster on account of being "scared." So we ultimately carried him into the water against his will...and you know what? He loved it. And did not get eaten by a whale or whatever other irrational fear was going through his mind. We got back on board and he said "that was fun." lol.

The staff of the boat were wonderful with Perry and taught him all kinds of things about whales and dolphins. I think they liked having our little guy on board....see evidence A below.

A simple lunch was included with our tour and so we ate and scouted some more humpback whales as we cruised back to the marina. It was a really fun way to spend a beautiful morning in Hawaii!

A day in eastern Oahu

Thursday, February 23, 2017

After a restful evening at the hotel with a slightly ill Perry, the next day we were off for another adventure. We got up early and headed east - to Diamond Head. We knew we had to get their early if we wanted to find parking so we hit the road sometime around 7 am. Downside...we had to get across the Island, and through Honolulu, during rush hour. This particular morning was not a good traffic day - due to multiple accidents on the interstate H1 - pretty much the only road option. So what should have taken 45 minutes took an extra hour but it ended up fine. We were sure to get out of doge and back to Ko'olina before rush hour happened again that afternoon.

Diamond Head was awesome. Perry was such a trooper climbing the mountain (which we disclosed to him later that it used to be a volcano....because we wouldn't have gotten him up it otherwise). He walked nearly the whole thing on his little legs...all the way to the steep stairs at the end which we carried him up.

The views are so great from the top. Feels like you are on top of the world.

While we were there we had to take the quintessential picture by the national monument sign. And dug up the very same picture from 8.5 years ago on our honeymoon when we looked like children...and before we had children of our own. It was fun to be back where it all began and this time share it with Perry. Appears their signage has had a nice facelift in the last 8 years too.

circa 2008:

and 2017:

After we made it back down the mountain and rewarded ourselves for a hike well done with some fruit smoothies from the little food truck at the bottom, we headed a little further east with a goal of going to see the blow hole and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. The former worked just fine and we spent a few minutes watching the waves crash and the blow hole doing its thing.

Then we struck out at Hanauma Bay. It is another one of those places you need to get to early to get parking...and if the parking lot fills up they stop letting people in. We had heard such good things about the snorkeling and turtles that call the Bay home but we just couldn't go. You really need to do Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay on different days so that you can start a day in each place...but with our hotel being so far away and only having a car for the first half of our trip that was not a feasible plan. Ultimately we decided to head back west and stop of lunch in Honolulu (at this little hole in the wall place called the Rainbow Drive In) on our way back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the day playing in the pool and lazy river.

A day in northern Oahu

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our day on the North Shore was the day that did not go as planned as Perry was feeling a bit under the weather. We all woke up fine and got ready to head out North. We planned to spend the day on the North Shore and the evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center...including a dinner and luau show.

Our first stop was the Dole pineapple plantation in route to the northern shore. We didn't have huge expectations of it even though the Dole plantation tour we took on Maui on our honeymoon was amazing and one of the best parts of our trip. The experience on Maui is much more authentic...this is pretty much a tourist trap. I wouldn't feel the need to go again or at all unless you have kiddos Perry's age in which it is a nice diversion from a long drive....and there are dole whips of course. We looked around at all the pineapple goodies...took the little train ride out into the fields...and ate a dole whip. This was the point we were realizing that Perry really didn't feel well. He had fallen asleep in the car on the way north, at 9:00 in the morning which is so not normal. He was sluggish and warm. A cool dole whip helped perk him up a little bit but he was clearly miserable.

We hoped it would pass and we continued north to the North Shore to explore the little sleepy surfing town of Haleiwa. We did some window shopping and of course had to stop at Matsumoto's for some authentic shave ice. And turns out Matsumoto's son (who runs the place these days) was hanging around so we got our picture with him as well. It was Amazing...Perry thought so too.

We went down to the North Shore beaches briefly to watch the waves crash and the surfers surf (and crash). Such a different look than our calm protected lagoon at the hotel. 

And at this point we had to decide what to do the rest of the day. We didn't really want to push Perry to keep going because he would be miserable and we would be miserable by proxy trying to force him to play at the cultural center and make it through what was already going to be a long night. But we had already pre-paid for our cultrual center and luau tickets...

So I called and pleaded our case and they happily refunded the entire price. So we grabbed some lunch at a burger shack back in Haleiwa and headed back to the hotel to rest for the afternoon and evening. I am sure the Polynesian Cultural Center would have been super fun to see and P would have loved it had he been feeling well. And lucky for us we were able to snag luau tickets for the luau at our resort for later in the week so we still got to have the luau experience. 

Thankfully Perry was back to his normal self the next day (and in fact climbed diamond head the next day lol)...not sure what happened on this day but so so thankful that it didn't turn into anything more serious. He just needed some R&R.

A day in southern Oahu

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A little about the way we structured our January Hawaii trip...we stayed at Aulani (the Disney Resort and Spa) for the whole stay but only rented a car for the first half (the nights we were staying on our vacation club points and therefore had free parking included). This forced our plans to do what we wanted out and about around the Island in those early days...and then nestle in and enjoy the resort at the end.

This plan worked out pretty well. We were able to get ourselves from the airport to the hotel, with a stop off at a grocery to get some food and supplies to have in the room (and save $$ on hotel food costs). 

Our first day out around the Island we headed south into downtown Honolulu to take on Pearl Harbor, chinatown, and the zoo.

We knew we needed to be at Pearl Harbor early to make sure we got tickets for the Arizona memorial...they give out 1400 free tickets each day but it is first come first serve. It worked out because with the time change we were plenty ready to be up bright and early. We arrived 15 minutes or so before they opened the ticket counter and found our place at the back of a long line that had already formed. It moved quick though and we happily got tickets for an early morning tour of the Arizona. Perry did great through the movie intro and his visit to the sunken battleship. He was quite curious and asked lots of questions which we did our best to answer honestly without getting to graphic or gory. But he clearly understood that the boat was bombed and sank with a lot of people on board who couldn't get out...but that the "good guys" won in the end.

Our other stop at Pearl Harbor was a visit to the USS Missouri. We were practically the only people there that early in the morning. It was neat to see...but I think Perry was pretty freaked out by the thought of being on a battleship...even though we assured him over and over that it was going to neither sink...or float out to sea.

By this point in the day we were starving and headed to Chinatown for a quick and yummy lunch at the Little Village Noodle House and some meandering the ever interesting city streets. 

From there we let P decide whether to head back to the hotel or go explore the Honolulu Zoo. We didn't want to push him to keep going if he was totally over the tourist thing and needed a break. But he picked the Zoo so off we went. We visited this zoo 8 years ago on our honeymoon in Hawaii and it was fun to be back there this time with a little one in tow.

We saw elephants, giraffes, rhinos...and on and on. Perry's favorite were the Fennec Foxes because they were "soooooo cute." After spending an hour or two exploring the zoo and gazing at animals we headed back to Aulani before rush hour traffic set in (because Honolulu at rush hour is no joke and should be avoided at all costs) to relax for the evening.

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