|Jay and Joyce formally committed to a trip to Hawaii in late August or early September 2019 and began travel arrangements. The travel part was motivated by a wonderful opportunity provided by American Airlines that offered them enough travel miles for Hawaii and back if they would each just sign up for the American Airlines credit card, pay the annual fee of about $95, and make one purchase. We did these things, and the flight to Hawaii and back for Jay and Joyce, not including the annual card fee, was under $20 each. Not bad.
We decided to stay on the Island of Oahu at the Hale Koa Hotel. Hale Koa means House of the Warrior in Hawaiian. It is an Armed Forces Recreation Center resort hotel located on Waikiki Beach and owned by the United States Department of Defense. Though owned by the DOD, the hotel is entirely self-sustaining, and does not receive any government funding.
Prior to the trip we made two bookings:
- We booked the hotel’s Hawaiian Luau very early on, and therefore got front row seats for what would be a very enjoyable evening.
- We also rented a very small compact car from a company not located at the airport; but one with a very good price. We understood would take more time to get the rental check in and the rental car return back. This assumption proved true but the added time was not that bad and the decision therefore turned out to be a good one.
Then came the Coronavirus COVID-19. Frankly, we were very apprehensive. At the time there were no cases identified in any of the Hawaiian Islands, but we traveled with Lysol wipes, Lysol spray cans, surgical masks, hand sanitizers, and an abundance of precautions and behaviors that got us there and back without incident and really did not detract from our vacation experiences
Tuesday, March 3.
Got up at 4 AM and essentially traveled all day. We flew from Tampa to Phoenix and then to Honolulu. We were pretty much exhausted by the time we picked up our rental car and checked into the hotel.
Wednesday, March 4.
We took a hop on-hop off trolley over to one of Honolulu‘s largest shopping complexes so that Joyce could get her Pandora charm. She also found a store that offered some special sandals that she really needed, so that worked well. This mall also had some Hawaiian entertainment for visitors which we enjoyed that while we were shopping and eating. This was still a recovery day from our long trip so we kept our activity level low.
Thursday, March 5.
We drove over to Pearl Harbor and while waiting for our tour of the Arizona Memorial, took a tour of the Bowfin, a World War II submarine that saw duty in the Pacific. Very moving in all respects. We returned to the Hale Koa for the evening’s luau and had a good time with the pre-show events and - with our good seats – the food and the entertainment.
Friday, March 6.
We relaxed a bit at the hotel and then headed out to the Dole Pineapple Plantation for its tours and activities. We had a two mile long, 20 minute train ride of the plantation that showed us the process of planting and harvesting pineapples which was interesting but note that Dole mainly keeps a relatively small amount of acreage for planting and harvesting to serve tourists. Dole also had a nice garden highlighting the various tropical plants native to Hawaii and it had what is advertised as the worlds largest maze which was fun to explore, but we just did a bit of it because we were still pretty tired from traveling and previous activities.
Saturday, March 7.
We got up, had a leisurely buffet breakfast that we went to most mornings of our stay. Then we got into our rental car and drove back up to the north side of the island where we had tickets to the Polynesian Cultural Center and essentially spent from noon until 9:30 at night there. We had a tour guide for our small group that explain the various Polynesian cultures of the region and got us into some fun activities. Later we went to our second luau of our stay and were very pleasantly surprised that the luau, which was very nice, was in most ways different from the luau at the Hale Koa. So that worked well and once again we drove home to our hotel once again exhausted.
Sunday, March 8.
Went to bed late and again attempted to sleep in though Sunday morning, as other mornings in Hawaii, Joyce managed to keep her body clock on Tampa time so sometime between 7 AM and 8 AM she was encouraging Jay to get up “because it is 1 PM in Tampa.“ So after another nice and filling buffet breakfast we headed out to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at the Punchbowl. Very moving. The names of about 16,000 of the 28,000 members of our WW II armed forces whose remains were not recovered (listed as missing in action, lost or buried at sea, etc) were memorialized there in addition the actual active cemetery burial operations.
Monday, March 9.
This was “going home day.“ We got up, packed up, and checked out. At the checkout we had two very pleasant experiences. First, we learned that our breakfast buffet was included in the price of our room and so the only charge on our bill was the daily tips. Second, we earned that 15% of our hotel bill would be put on a credit card that could be used at military bases worldwide, and even for online purchases. We are looking forward to see what all that offers. The turning of the rental car was smooth, and all aspects of our long long flights back to Tampa via Los Angeles and Dallas were also smooth; but again a very exhausting day.
Tuesday, March 10.
Actually, due to time zone changes, we did not arrive back in Tampa until 10:30 AM. Needless to say, after getting home we were pretty much done in for the rest of the day and spent the next few days recovering. Thanks to Jay’s daughter Karen and Joyce’s daughter Michelle and Joyce’s best friend Lu for looking after the pets, Cinny and Mosby.
We had very, very good times, but we came to the conclusion that perhaps we are at the age where our minds are ready but our bodies are not when it comes to trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic travels.