Our vacation to Honolulu was finally here! We departed on a brisk fall Wednesday in November, this time flying United Airlines out of Newark airport. There is a daily non-stop flight to Honolulu and we took advantage of some mileage discounts to fly for free! Usually we travel with our beloved Hawaiian Airlines but we were not able to find cheap mileage flights in the past few months. Since Steve and I are both United Airlines Mileage Plus card members, we got a couple of free passes to the Red Carpet Lounge at Newark. We have been to this lounge before, when we flew first class from EWR to BRU on our trip to Bali last year. In all honesty, this lounge was nothing to write home about. It’s pretty standard, although quite large, and used to have only standard snacks and beverages like cheese, crackers, snack mix, fruit and coffee/tea.
I must say that in the past year United has tried to up their standard in food offerings at their Red Carpet Lounges. There were more options offered this time around, including hot and cold foods, plus everything seemed to be relatively healthy and amazingly most items were gluten-free. This morning I spied for breakfast: hot cream of rice, with toppings like brown sugar, granola, and raisins, hard-boiled eggs with condiments like diced red onion, capers, and paprika. There was also corn chex, greek yogurt, cut-up fruit, and a pastry/bread assortment.
Pretty soon it was time to board. I have pretty low expectations when it comes to domestic airlines but I was relieved to find that this plane was equipped with individual entertainment units at each seat, and we were able to watch on-demand movies and charge our phones throughout the flight. It made the 10.5 hour flight to paradise that much more bearable! Also, when flying long distances, it’s best to get a wide-body plane. That way, when it’s just the two us, we get seats to ourselves (plane was in a 2-4-2 configuration in coach). If we were to have a stopover, usually in California, it makes each leg about 5-6 hours, but then you’d have to factor in layover time, plus potential plane and gate switches which could just lead to more chance of your flight being delayed as well, in addition to the planes being a lot smaller, so we’d have a 3-3 configuration in coach. We got free blankets and pillows but food was extra so remember to pack something to eat if you don’t like any of the offerings on the plane!
About 4 movies and a short nap later, we were landing in Honolulu International Airport! The time was 3:15 pm so we still had some hours left to enjoy the day. We left in our mid-size car rented via Citi Thank You points from Thrifty. We were headed to our condo in Waikiki! But first, we were pretty hungry so we headed over to Neil Blaisdell Center for the weekly Wednesday Night Honolulu Farmer’s Market (4-7pm every Wed). It’s a small market, not as big as the KCC on Saturday, but they have some of the more popular food vendors there. This was our only Wednesday that we were scheduled to be on the island so I was happy our flight was on time so we could catch this.
We parked in the garage (parking is free for the farmer’s market) and perused the stalls. I saw my favorite, Pig and the Lady, so I knew we would definitely get something from there. We got a “Porchetta Bun Bo Hue” which is just a fancy type of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) that had slices of porchetta (Italian roast pork) in it. It was delicious! Lots of herbs and veggies were in the broth giving it a complex flavor. I was really excited to actually try the Pig and the Lady restaurant in Chinatown the next day of our trip. It was seriously at the top of my list of places to each when we arrived in HNL. I would not miss a trip to one of their farmer’s market stalls or to their restaurant if ever on Oahu!
We also got some delicious ‘Nalo-Made Lemonade from Waimanalo Country Farms booth. They had different flavors and you could combine them – I got li hing and strawberry. If you buy the mason jar size, refills are only 4 dollars, so we got that and when we were done we got a refill of mango lemonade. They were both really good!
We also tried the ahi tuna sliders from Otsuji Farms. Pieces of tempura-fried kale topped with fresh ahi tuna, avocado, and various sauces. Was really tastly and a large portion. We were full so we just got a couple of fresh papayas and limes from one of the farm stands and headed out. There were many other food stalls I’d like to try one day too. Some were giving out free samples. If you go by the Hanalei Taro stall, try some of their taro hummus and kulolo – flown in from Kauai! Also for sale at the farmers market were lots of breads and baked goods, homemade kombuchas and sodas.
After the farmer’s market, we stopped by Don Quixote – I love that store because it sells both Asian and Western products and it’s exciting to see the different mix of stuff. We got some supplies for the week – water, wine, snacks, and we got a couple of bento for later that evening. We also tried the poke bowl. It was actually pretty good there and a great price.
After our supply run, we headed into Waikiki. We got caught in a little rush hour traffic, but that’s ok, we were in Hawaii! Soon we were pulling into the Waikiki Banyan where we rented a 1-BR unit. We were on the top floor of Tower 1 – floor 37. It is actually a pretty large complex. The bad part being on the top floor was the number of times you have to stop at to let people on/off. Note that the first chunk of floors (I think 1-7) are parking, so there’s always someone getting on/off.
We arrived at the unit and it was already dark out. We got an awesome nighttime view of Waikiki and Honolulu. There was an ocean view off to the side. The unit was quite spacious and looked just like the pictures – modern and cute. You can see more pictures of this unit, the “Nalu Lani” in my previous post. The only downside of this unit aside from the elevator slowness I mentioned previously, was that it didn’t have a dishwasher, or laundry inside the unit. There is a washer/dryer down the hall, but it was only 1 machine for each and they were both very old and ineffective.
For dinner we ate the bento and poke bowl we picked up from Don Quixote. It was an early night for us due to the 5-hour time difference and we were exhausted!
Coming up – Our first full day in Oahu! Read more about our November 2015 Oahu Trip!