Hawaii 2023 Trip Report Part 9 - Waikiki

The Hawaiʻi trip in June 2023 continues with us exploring the Waikīkī area before attempting to start for home. If you have not done so already, you might want to read the previous part.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

For one last time, we followed our morning routine of getting up at 7:00 and eating breakfast on the Riedels’ balcony. We finished off all that we could of what we had bought for breakfast, which meant an extra glass of pineapple cranberry juice for me. I also had an extra granola bar, but I slipped it in my backpack just in case I needed a snack at an airport or somewhere else along the way. And I tried my best to enjoy the balcony view as much as I could for this last time. Of course, we would still have plenty of times to sit and talk with the Riedels once we got back home, so at least that part did not have to end with the trip.

Mickey Mouse lamp in our room in Aulani
A cool Surfer Mickey Mouse lamp was in our room. It was also in the gift shop, but it stayed there, thanks to the price.

We had packed up most of our stuff the night before, so that made the morning go a little eaiser. I figured that our bags would be overweight on the flight home because they were pretty close to overweight on the trip over. I may have overpacked slightly - can’t be too prepared! But we had prepared for the contingency of overweight bags and had a third bag to split between us. As with our flights over, I checked and paid for our bags online so that we would not have that to do when we arrived at the airport.

It took us all a couple of trips to get everything down to the car to get it all packed up. I had wondered about fitting everything in since we were taking home a little more than we brought, but once again we got all of our bags in the back. Pathfinder for the win! Too big of a car for us at home, but great for four people with all of our luggage.

One more Aulani view before we go
One more Aulani view before we go

We checked out of our rooms, but we were not quite ready to leave yet. So we walked across the street to the Island Market ABC Store one more time, this time to get something for lunch. We each got a sandwich or something similar and a drink, and then we walked back across the street to Aulani to eat. We found a planter wall in between the pool area and the beach, which was just the right height for sitting. The wall also gave us an excellent view of the beach and the ocean out in front of us, which was a perfect place for our last lunch. It was also interesting to watch the security guy for the Ko Olina Resort area ride by in his golf cart. He would stop near us and sit for a bit before riding back down the opposite way. My guess is that he had some sort of schedule to keep that he could not get ahead of, so he got to just sit for a few minutes enjoying the view like we were.

A nice lunch view in Aulani
A nice lunch view - the beach at Aulani

For dessert, Laura and I each got a Dole Whip from Little ʻOpihi’s near the beach. How had we been at a Disney resort in Hawaiʻi all week without getting a Dole Whip, you might ask? Good question. So we were sure to get one before we left. And it was good.

And with that, our time at Aulani was done. It had been a wonderful week in a wonderful place. If the opportunity arises again, I would definitely stay there again. Just waiting for that opportunity now.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:50 PM, so we had lots and lots of time before that. That gave us some time for seeing some last sights before we turned in the rental car. My parents had visited Hawaiʻi for their 25th anniversary, and one place they talked about was the International Marketplace, a shopping village around a banyan tree. That sounded somewhat interesting, so we got in the packed-full Pathfinder and made our way toward Waikīkī.

I missed the International Marketplace parking garage entrance the first time, so we got to take a trip around the block, noticing that we were right by Waikīkī Beach, too. I knew what to look for the second time around, and we made our way into the parking garage, and from there it was a short walk to the mall elevators and then into the mall. Once we walked in, we discovered that the shopping village that my parents had visited had been converted into a modern shopping mall somewhere along the way. After all, their visit was 39 years ago, so some things are bound to change. We found a few of our favorite stores, including Crazy Shirts and Vera Bradley, and we spent some time walking in the mall. We did also find the large banyan tree and enjoyed going in the room up high in the tree that was once used as a radio broadcast studio. What a cool tree, with some interesting history to it.

The giant banyan tree at International Marketplace, with the radio studio hut in the distance
The giant banyan tree at International Marketplace, with the radio studio hut in the distance

After checking our time and discussing our options, we decided to leave our car in the garage and walk out to the beach for a bit. Once outside of the mall, we had to cross Kalākaua Avenue and walk down a few blocks, and then we were at the beach. The statue of Duke Kahanamoku welcomed us there, and that was one of the things that I wanted to see thanks to seeing it on television so many times.

Steve and Duke Kahanamoku
Steve and Duke Kahanamoku

The Riedels found a place to sit in the shade of a banyan tree, and Laura and I walked out to put our feet in the water and enjoy the views. Plus, it was fun to say that we had been to Waikīkī Beach, too, one of the most famous beaches in the world. It was too bad that we could not jump in and swim, but that was not easily possible with our having to board a plane in a few hours. The beach was not too crowded, so there was plenty of room for us to wade in. Swimmers and surfers were enjoying the sun and the waves, and we were, too. But all too soon it was time to move along, so we went back and found the Riedels and went on our way.

On the beach at Waikiki
On the beach at Waikīkī

Steve and Laura at Waikiki Beach
Steve and Laura at Waikīkī Beach

Brant and Karen in the shade at Waikiki Beach
Brant and Karen in the shade

Laura got to put her feet in the water at Waikiki Beach
Laura got to put her feet in the water

We had to walk back through International Marketplace to get back to our car in the garage, so why not take a few photos while we were in there?

Walking back through International Marketplace to get to our car
Walking back through International Marketplace to get to our car

Don Ho statue in International Marketplace in Hawaii
Hello, Don Ho!

Laura found a chair in the banyan tree in International Marketplace in Hawaii
Laura found a chair in the banyan tree

Since we had time, I suggested going by the ʻIolani Palace to see what we could see there. Once again, we ended up going around the block before figuring out the way into a parking lot. In my defence, it was a little tricky due to some buses parked in a right turn lane that we needed, but we eventually got there. Fortunately, Karen had some change for the parking meter. It looked like everything was closed for the day, but we put money in the meter just to be safe.

We started out at Aliʻiōlani Hale, which was the main building I wanted to see. It was originally designed as a palace but never used for that purpose. These days, it houses the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court and law library. Except on television, that is.

Television viewers will recognize the building as housing the headquarters of the Five-0 unit on the newer Hawaiʻi Five-0. The building and its statue out front of King Kamehameha out front were featured on every episode of the show, sometimes briefly, other times in longer scenes. We could not go in because everything was closed for the day, but it was fun to take photos of the building and the statue. We did have to wait for some tourists to get out of the way for our photos, because we were not being tourists at all! Well, maybe a little.

Aliʻiolani Hale in Hawaii
Book ’em, Danno!

Aliʻiolani Hale in Hawaii
We had to get a photo of us here, of course!

Aliʻiolani Hale in Hawaii
Not just any banyan tree - this one often makes an appearance in the background on the television show - it is a celebrity!

We then walked across the busy street to ʻIolani Palace, which was where the royal family lived up until their government was overthrown. Although perhaps not quite as famous from a modern television perspective, it was a very interesting building with some fascinating architecture. There were also a few other buildings on the property that we checked out, along with some fascinating trees that had obviously been there for a long time. Once again, everything was closed up because it was late in the afternoon, but we at least got to see the buildings from the outside. Laura and I said later on that whenever we get back to Oʻahu, we will make it a point to take the ʻIolani Palace tour.

ʻIolani Palace in Hawaii
ʻIolani Palace looks quite regal in appearance

Laura at ʻIolani Palace in Hawaii
Laura at ʻIolani Palace

ʻIolani Palace in Hawaii
One more look at ʻIolani Palace

Our time was starting to run short. After discussing our options and whether we wanted to eat at the airport, we decided on Subway before going to the airport. We found a Subway between ʻIolani Palace and the airport and headed that way. And continuing the theme of the day, road construction made me miss the turn into Subway the first time because I could not turn in the direction I needed. But we figured out out and finally got in the parking lot.

As the Subway sandwich lady was making our sandwiches, she asked where we were from, and we replied that we were from near Memphis, Tennessee. “Oh, I used to live in Tennessee,” she said, “In Clarksville.” How interesting! The lady that checked us in when we first arrived at Aulani on our first day had lived in Clarksville, and now the Subway lady on our last day had lived in Clarksville. It made me wonder if there was some sort of secret tunnel between Clarksville and Oʻahu or something. We squeezed in a rather tight booth and ate our sandwiches while talking about all of the fun that we had on our trip.

Before we turned the car in, we had to fill it up with gas. There were a few gas stations nearby, so I pulled into the easiest one to get in, since they all had similar prices. The $4.43 gas really made me appreciate our gas prices back home, which were about $1.30 less than that. While I was putting gas in the car, some guy came up to the convenience store nearby and started yelling. I donʻt think he was yelling at anyone, just yelling. Obviously, something was going on there, although I believe it was just something internal with him. I kept an eye on him without staring, just in case, and I was glad the other three of us were in the car. I jumped in as soon as the tank was full and we left.

We followed the airport signs to the rental car return, where we were greeted by one of the same people that helped us when we picked up our rental car a week earlier. He took a quick look around the car while we got all of our stuff out, and we got the all-clear to go. Fortunately, we had not added too much sand to the car during our beach stops.

Near the elevators to the main airport building, there were restrooms. We had worn shorts all day, but we had all wanted to change clothes to be able to wear long pants on the flights home because it seems like planes are always cold. We were hoping to find restrooms before we had to check our bags, but we had not even counted on finding restrooms in the rental car area, so these worked perfectly. The Riedels changed first while Laura and I watched the bags, and then we swapped. And then we quickly repacked our bags before moving on.

Our next stop was the agricultural check. We were not trying to take any plants or fresh foods out of the state, and their x-ray machines confirmed that. It is always a little strange to me, but they have their reasons. After that, checking our bags was a breeze since we had already checked in and paid online, and there was not much of a line. Everything was going smoothly. Going through security was next, and that went smoothly, too. I was glad that I wore my slip-on shoes.

We had a bit of a walk to our gate. Although it was at the same location as when we arrived, it seemed longer walking to the gate than it had seemed when we walked from the gate to the terminal. Maybe that was all psychological about not wanting to go home. I suppose we could have ridden a shuttle to make it a little faster, but we were fine walking, knowing that we would be sitting for a long time. We stopped by one of the shops so that Laura and I could each get a bottle of water and a soft drink. Yes, they usually serve water and Coke on the planes, but I like to have my own, just in case.

As is typical for us Burnses and Riedels, we had arrived early. Better to be early and sit than to stress over being late. So we found four chairs together and made ourselves comfortable for a while. We read, looked at stuff on our phones, and talked. Our plane arrived, and all of its passengers exited.

Just before it was time for us to start boarding, the attendant came over the speakers and said that maintenance was taking a look at a minor issue, so it would be a few minutes before boarding started. We all looked at each other, hoping it was nothing. The next announcement was that they were still assessing the situation because the captain had noticed something in his walk-through. Another announcement later on said something about a fluid issue. We started getting text messages about our flight being delayed, which of course we already knew. The depature time kept getting pushed back, but the attendants never said much more than that they were still assessing the problem. Our flight was scheduled to take off at 9:50 PM, but the problem was still being examined well over an hour after that. Everyone was starting to get restless. I am sure we were not the only ones with a connecting flight to catch. We were scheduled for a layover of a couple of hours at Denver, but we were starting to wonder if we would make it.

Finally, it was announced that the problem had been found and that they were waiting for a replacement part. So we waited a while longer. And then, just before midnight, it was announced that the replacement part did not fit, and another part would be sent. From the mainland. Tomorrow. Yes, our flight was canceled. With that announcement, there were gasps, moans, sighs, and just about every other reaction you can think of, at least the negative reactions. The attendant explained that airline representatives were already working on getting all of us rebooked, and our new flights would show up automatically in our apps. They would also provide transportation and lodging for the night, and we all had to go to baggage claim to pick up our luggage. And if we needed assistance, people would be at the main desk to help us.

There was not much we could do at that point besides walk back to baggage claim and get our luggage. At least that was not too much of a wait. We checked our apps on our phones, and we had been booked on new flights. The first left the next afternoon and went to Los Angeles, and then an overnight flight to Chicago, and finally a flight to Memphis. The catch was that we would only have about 45 minutes in Los Angeles if the flights were on time. Would that be enough time? We got our bags and went to the main terminal to wait in line and see if we had any other options.

We were far from the first ones in line, and the line did not move quickly, as it appeared that we were not the only ones with questions. While we waited, Brant checked out other airlines to see if anything looked good, but he could not come up with anything better. So we waited, as the night went on.

All of a sudden, there was a loud noise, and then someone back behind us was calling for help. A few airline employees ran over there, and we stayed where we were so as not to be in the way. Someone yelled to call an ambulance, and a couple of security people showed up around that same time. A man had fallen, apparently hitting one of the metal sign posts as he went down. Word got up to us that someone was administering CPR. After what seemed like a long time but probably was not, an ambulance showed up on the street outside. Paramedics made their way in and examined the man, eventually loading him on a stretcher and wheeling him out to the ambulance. We could only speculate as to what had happened to him, or what happened after that. But that event made the mood of the night even more somber.

Somewhere along the way, we got text messages with travel and lodging arrangements. We would be staying at the Queen Kapiʻolani Hotel in Waikīkī. We had driven past that hotel earlier in the day, but at the time I had no idea at all that we would be staying there. Our text messages also had food vouchers for the next day. My text message also included a travel voucher with Lyft. The Riedels had the hotel and food vouchers but not a travel voucher. And mine said it was only for 2 people.

After another eternity, we finally had our turn at the desk right around 2:00 AM, and the Riedels were with us. The lady talking to us was very helpful, and we were doing our best to be patient with her. She checked to be sure that there were no other options, but there were not. We asked about the short layover in Los Angeles. She said that 45 minutes should be plenty of time, and that they would only be concerned if it were less than 30 minutes. She did, however, move our seats around to where the four of us would be at the very front of the standard section, so that we would not have to wait as long to get off the plane once it landed. She said we could call the main United number in the morning and try again if we wanted to. I was for trying the flights they had given us and if one was late, that would again be on United. Besides, we did not have many other options. We did ask about the travel vouchers, and she said that whoever came should be able to get all four of us; I hoped she was correct.

I requested a Lyft for us, and the app said that the driver would be there in about 12 minutes. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. As I was watching on the app, it kept looking like the guy was going the wrong way. Maybe he did not realize that the address was the airport. Or maybe he had just stumbled out of bed and was still trying to get his bearings. But he finally did arrive, although it took him about twice as long as the estimated time to get there. I waved him down, and he got out of the car and said, “Burns?” That was us. I asked if he could get all four of us, and so he stuffed all of our luggage into the back of his car and we piled in, Laura and the Riedels in the back seat and me in the front seat.

It was a quiet ride, except for the music the driver was listening to. He also drove a little faster (or maybe a lot) than the posted speed limit, but I kept it to myself. I thought about texting the back seat people to ask if we were supposed to tip, but I figured we would play that by ear.

We drove along Kalākaua Avenue, just as we had done earlier in the day, passing the Duke Kahanamoku statue again, although it was in the dark this tmie. The driver’s map told him we were at the address. He looked out the window and said to me his second words of the evening, “Queen Kapiʻolani?” I said yes, that was it, and we got out of the car while he got our luggage out of the back. He did not indicate that he needed a tip, which made me think that the airline had already taken care of that, and so I thanked him for his time before he drove off into the night, hopefully in the right direction back to his place.

We walked into the hotel and to the front desk, where someone was waiting, which slightly surprised me since it was 3:00 AM. The girl said, “Are you here because of the canceled flight?” I had figured we were not the only ones who would be there. She got us all checked in, and then she checked in the Riedels, who were on a different floor from us. Oh well, this was no time to open a connecting room door anyway. We quickly made our time plan for the morning and headed up to our room.

A bonus night in Hawaiʻi, but not necessarily how we would have planned it. Laura and I unpacked and got ready for bed as quickly as we could. Because it was already after 8:00 AM back home, I went ahead and texted that we would not be getting home that day as we had anticipated, and we would provide more details when we could. We then went off to bed, finally turning out the lights at 3:30 AM, to try to get some sleep.

Do we ever make it home? Read Part 10 to find out, and check the Hawaiʻi 2023 page for more about our trip!


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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.