Inside the main atrium of the hotel, we could look up to the ceiling of this 13-story building. The hotel uses a classy white and blue color theme. The staff greeted us politely and from that point on, most of them greeted me by name whenever they saw me.
Being platinum members of the Marriott Rewards loyalty program, Traci and I booked the least expensive room with the hope of being upgraded when we arrived. Our hopes were realized at check-in when we were upgraded from a Mountain View room to an Ocean View. We received other perks such as complimentary internet, nightly turn down service, 20% discount on spa services, $25 daily self-parking (instead of $35/day), and a 25% discount at the resort's Naupaka Restaurant. I was kicking myself about the restaurant discount because I did not notice this perk on the card we were given until after we had already checked out. Darn!
Traci and I made our way to our room (Room 531). As has become our ritual over the years, I stood outside the room with our luggage while Traci entered to take pictures before we unpacked. While I was waiting, I thought maybe Traci had turned on the TV and tuned it to a nature program. I heard a lot of birds chirping. When I entered the room, I saw that Traci had opened the sliding glass door to our balcony. I was hearing the birds in the nearby trees loud and clear.
Our room was fantastic. It had a king-sized bed, a very large closet, a refrigerator, flat-screen TV, and other amenities. The large bathroom had separate tub, shower, and toilet areas. We enjoyed our room's balcony the most. We relaxed out there in the evenings while watching the sunset. Traci used our portable DVD player on the balcony so that she could do her stretching videos and tai chi videos in the cool ocean breezes. The balcony above ours was lined with a flower bed. Whenever the wind blew, a handful of red flower petals would float down onto our balcony and its furniture. I thought this was a nice romantic touch.
looking down from our balcony
Ahh - vacation...
enjoying the sunset from our balcony
garden and pond
Suffice to say, we were thoroughly impressed with our room but this was no time to linger. We had had a very long travel day and we were very hungry. Traci and I walked to the Aulani to meet up with Sugar, Audie, and AJ. It was about 7:30 PM and we were shocked to find out there was a 45-minute wait for the buffet and an hour wait for the full service restaurant. We were so hungry we thought we would turn to dust if we had to wait that long. Therefore, we visited the concierge at the Aulani who was able to make an immediate dinner reservation for the five of us at the Naupaka Restaurant in the Ihilani where Traci and I were staying. The food was good but it was our introduction to prices in Hawaii. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $45 just for an entree at the resorts.
It was about 9 PM by the time we finished dinner and we were all very sleepy. After all, 9 PM in Hawaii is 3 AM back home at this time of the year. We never quite adjusted to Hawaiian time during our stay.
We did not have any outings planned for Monday. Our plan was to enjoy the beach, the pools, and other facilities of our resorts. Because of the time difference, we all were wide awake by 5 AM but did not leave our rooms until after sunrise. Sugar and Audie went out for their morning jogs. As for Traci and me, the Ihilani offered a morning walk at 7:30 AM led by one of their employees. Our guide for the walk was named Spa. She has lived on the island all her life. She led Traci and me and a mother and her 16 year old son on a 2.5-mile walk on a paved walkway along the beach. The walkway started at the Ihilani, passed the Aulani, another Marriott, and some timeshare properties where we turned around and walked back. Along the way, Spa told us a little about the resorts in Ko Olina. The Ihilani used to be owned by Japan Airlines before the Marriott purchased it. The Aulani, on the other hand, is owned by Disney and has only been open for a little over a year. In fact, only one of the two towers at the Aulani was open at the time of our visit. Spa told us Disney has big plans for expansion in Ko Olina. We talked and laughed about many topics as we walked; however, the thing that stuck with me most was when Spa told us they like to have all guests out of the ocean by evening because on occasion they have seen a shark swimming close to the beach!
Spa led us in some stretching exercises when we returned to the Ihilani and then said goodbye. With the walk finished, it was time for breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love pancakes, French toast, and waffles. When Traci and I visited Hawaii for our honeymoon, I remember having pineapple syrup with my pancakes. I was looking forward to doing the same on this visit.
Sugar, Audie, and AJ raved about the breakfast buffet at the Aulani - especially about the French toast with coconut syrup. Sugar told me she thought the buffet might also have pineapple syrup. Despite my excitement about the syrup, Traci and I did not join our travel companions for breakfast that morning because Traci knew she would not eat enough to justify the $28/person price tag. She had just completed the 21-Day Reset by BeachBody which generally consisted of eating non-processed fruit and vegetables for three weeks. She was really pleased with the results - lost 10 pounds. Now that the Reset was over, it was recommended that she re-introduce meats and processed foods back into her diet slowly. Therefore, Traci and I drove to a Denny's about 3 miles from the hotel. Rather than get a large breakfast, she just ate the eggs and bacon from my Lumberjack Slam. While we were out, she got a pedicure and did a little shopping at a nearby shopping center before we drove back to the resort.
Back at the resort, we caught up with Audie and AJ on the beach. The water was actually a little cooler than I expected. It was a remarkably pleasant beach day. The sun had slipped behind a big fluffy cloud making the temperature perfect. The few times that the sun re-emerged from the clouds everyone made their way to the shade of one of the many beach umbrellas. The beach never seemed crowded even though we were there during high season.
For dinner, Sugar had made a 5:30 reservation for the five of us at the 'Ama 'Ama restaurant at the Aulani. The meal was good but not outstanding. However, we were able to experience something we hadn't eaten before. Our waiter brought out two small dishes - one containing red sea salt and the other containing black lava sea salt. What surprised us was that he told us the salts were for the dinner rolls! I think Sugar described it best when she said it made the bread taste like a soft pretzel.
As we were finishing dinner, the waiters lifted the window shades so that the sunset could be seen. We still hadn't adjusted to Hawaiian time and were already starting to wind down. We combatted this feeling by taking a stroll along the beach walkway. Surprisingly, Hawaii cools off quite a bit when the sun goes down. Long sleeves or a light jacket would not be out of place at this time of day. We chilled out with Sugar, Audie and AJ on their balcony after our walk. While we were there, Sugar gave Traci and me one of the scrumptious cupcakes the Aulani sells. It was delightful! continue...
We loved the cupcakes sold at the Aulani.