Make the most of your Honolulu Layover

By Kate Blake- Admin Aerotravelplus and iCruise.com agent

Kate’s Oahu Self-Drive Tour in a Day

I visited Oahu recently and found myself with a full day with no plans. My hotel kicked me out at 11am and my flight was not leaving until 10:30 PM from the Honolulu airport. What was I to do? I opted to take a cab to the airport and pick up a rental car and head out exploring the rest of the island for the day.
I am going to outline for you a couple of nice sightseeing routes that make your last day in the islands one you will not forget.

First- take a cab to the airport- it was about $60 from where I was in Ko’lina , it is about $25-40 from Honolulu and Waikiki. Rent a car for the day ahead of time- I used Hotwire.com and got a Jeep Compass for $65 including insurance. If I had known what a dog the Compass was ( horrible transmission) I would have opted for a Nissan Altima which was cheaper and nicer to drive. I rented through Hertz so it was quick easy and pretty much on site at the airport.

Download a drive map of Oahu

From the airport I recommend taking the H1 west and follow the signs to the north shore of Oahu- this is where the surfers go for the big waves and there is amazing scenery all along the way.
You will take the H1 to the H2 and then to the 99 and on to the 83 east. Get a map and you can see this takes you directly through the middle of the island. Just past the Schofiled Barracks you will see to the east of the road on the 99 the Dole Pineapple Plantation. This is a fun stop for snacks and to learn about pineapple farming in the islands.

Continue up the 99 and as you come over the hills you will get sweeping views of the north shore. Head west toward Waialua and out to Mokuleia for empty beaches with pounding surf and unspoiled views. You can go sky diving at the Dillingham Airport which is at the far western tip of the north side of the island. Not so adventurous? Head east toward Haleiwa and the 83. Haleiwa is a great stop to stop for lunch. There are usually tons of food trucks in the town as well as some cute restaurants and coffee shops. You can also check out art galleries.

Continue on 83 east and you will see miles of beaches- there are houses along the ways but the beaches are public- there is nowhere you can’t go. Stop and put your toes in the sand and enjoy the water.

Want an easy bit of beautiful ? Stop at Waimea Valley. There is a restaurant, gorgeous botanical gardens and the only fully wheelchair accessible waterfall on the island. There is a modest admission fee and they offer golf carts to take you up to the falls if it is really hot and sticky and you do not want to offend fellow travelers on your flight home. There is a nice restaurant on site here too.

You can take Hwy 83 all the way to the northern tip of the island then back down and around along the eastern shore. Key stops include the Kualoa Ranch where Jurassic Park and other tv and movies have been filmed. This can also be reached directly by taking the H1 to the H3 east from the airport and then the 83 north. Tours can be booked online ahead of time.

The 83 turns into the 72 which will complete your circle of the island ending in Waikiki at Diamond Head. Or you can take the H3 back to the H1 and return to the airport. I went into Honolulu and stopped at the Ala Moana Centershopping mall located just off the Nimitz Hwy and did a little shopping. Hilo Hattie is an institution also located on the Nimitz and on you way back to the airport. Get gas in town and you are ready to head back to the airport. My full circle plus 2 hours at the mall for a pedicure and shopping was about 10 hours in total.  The shops near the gates for the late night flights do not open until about 2 hours before the flights so there is no reason to rush to the airport.

Hope this helps give you some ideas on how to turn your long wait for a flight into a bonus day you will remember in Hawaii!

Source: Make the most of your Honolulu Layover

In the steps of Elvis- your own Blue Hawaii Experience

In the steps of Elvis- your own Blue Hawaii Experience
by Kate Blake
Admin Aerotravelplus and iCruise.com agent

The 1961 classic film Blue Hawaii starring Elvis Presley stands out from other beach movies of the era because it was filmed on location in Hawaii. Hawaii had just begun really growing as a tourist destination with daily flights from the mainland bringing tourists to Honolulu to experience the south Pacific they had heard so much about from GIs who had been through there or stationed there during World War II and beyond.

Blue Hawaii is pretty light on story but it is fun and they visited a lot of locations that are today considered iconic Hawaiian landmarks. The story started on Oahu and the Honolulu airport which was so small in 1961- you can’t really recognize the airport from then when you land there today. One thing that remains the same- any decent tour operator will make sure you are greeted with a lovely lei- this is a necklace made of native flowers.

Here is Elvis being kind of a jerk to his girlfriend who meets him at the airport with a lei courtesy of Waihila played by Hilo Hattie. Hattie is the same woman whose name graces the fun Hilo Hattie Hawaiian clothing shops http://www.hilohattie.com/pages/store-locations which can be found on Maui, Kauai and in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Mall.

When you reserve a Hawaii hotel and cruise combo with iCruise.com , HawaiiCruiseOutlet.com and WMPH Vacations- you will be met by a greeter who will drape you with a lei upon landing at the airport! Your greeters then take you to baggage claim and your driver who will take you to your hotel.
Upgrade your hotel experience to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and you will walk in the steps of Elvis! This landmark hotel has undergone a number of renovations over the years but its prime location in the heart of Waikiki remains the same. There is no place better to shop, have lunch on the beach or try your luck at surfing! Make sure you are up EARLY to ensure you can get some amazing views as the sunrises over the water.

One thing not shown in the movie- the Hilton has a fantastic tradition- on Friday nights they have a fireworks show! This is every week once the sun goes down.

Elvis’s character in Blue Hawaii Chad Gates really does not want to go into the family business and work for the pineapple company- but he does take his group of tourists to see pineapples being farmed. You can see the world famous Dole Pineapple Plantation on Oahu with a tour or it is an easy drive from the Honolulu airport and makes part of a great day trip on your own if you have a late night flight and time to kill. Rent a car and go!
http://www.dole-plantation.com/

Need ideas on how to spend a day driving around Oahu? See my post- Make the most of your Honolulu layover
http://www.aerotravelplus.com/2015/11/04/make-the-most-of-your-honolulu-layover/

If you want to snorkel where Elvis and Maile do in Blue Hawaii- you can go where the Obamas went just this week- head to beautiful Hanauma Bay State Park. You can get inexpensive shuttle service from Waikiki hotels so this is a great way to spend an afternoon without spending a fortune- and perfect if your hotel is not right on the beach. The snorkeling is amazing and the park looks pretty much the same as it did 50 years ago.
http://hanaumabaystatepark.com/

If you want to experience an authentic Hawaiian Luau you can spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center- it was featured in the movie. If you prefer a beach front luau- go off script and either book one under the stars on the roof of the Hilton Hawaiian Village or go to the west side of the island for a beachfront toes in the sane experience at Paradise Cove. Your travel agent can help you pre-book a luau- just ask.

The second half of the movie moves to Kauai. If you take a cruise around the Hawaiian islands on the Pride of America – you get to spend a day and half on this lovely island.

The Coco Palms hotel where the Kauai scenes were shot was destroyed by hurricane Iniki in 1992- this was the same year that Jurassic Park was being filmed on the island and Steven Spielberg and the cast had to hunker down as the hurricane whirled around them. There is a current project under way finally to redevelop the resort. It is scheduled to re-open in 2017.
http://www.travelagewest.com/Travel/Hawaii/Kauai-s-Coco-Palms-Resort-to-Reopen-in-2017/#.VoSJYPkrKUk

Blue Hawaii wedding scene


Just across the road from the resort is the Smith Family ranch – you can book a luau and trip to the fern grotto where the Hawaiian wedding scenes were shot for the film. The grotto was also damaged by the hurricane but 20 years later the fern grotto is beautiful again.
http://www.shoreexcursionsgroup.com/Wailua-River-and-Luau-p/hwkarivcbo.htm

Need more Elvis? You can book a night of Elvis impersonator fun in Maui with the Burnin’Love dinner show ( you do an overnight on the Pride of America cruise) http://www.hawaiiactivities.com/en/hawaii/maui/a/109524
You can have a night of more Elvis fun in Honolulu at the RockaHula event at the Royal Hawaiian Theater – the Legends in Concert Waikiki includes Elvis and friends
http://www.rockahulahawaii.com/

To get in the mood- I recommend picking up Blue Hawaii on DVD- which makes a great gift for anyone heading to Hawaii for the first time or returning for the first time in a long time. http://amzn.com/B00AEFXK44

Best time to visit Hawaii? Value season is fall before Thanksgiving and the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas and New Years are peak season- rates dip again after easter and through May. Summer rates from June – August are at the highest for the year when the kids are out of school. End of August is a great time for families rates drop a little and airfare drops a lot once you are past the first week of August.

To make the most of your Elvis Hawaii experiences check out a Hawaii Cruise Combo !
http://www.hawaiicruiseoutlet.com/promos/hawaii-cruise-deals.html

Source: In the steps of Elvis- your own Blue Hawaii Experience

Top Attractions in Barcelona- A Quick List and Guide

When you think of modern Barcelona there is one name that stands out- Gaudi. The term gaudy is derived from the artist and architect’s name. Antoni Gaudi was the best known Spanish architect of the late 19th century and into the 20th century. He was one of the founders of the modernist art and architecture movement that displaced the very traditional designs that proceeded him. He incorporated mixed mediums into his designs- ceramics, glass, sculpture all melded along with curves and spires and designs that today scream modern but at the time were outrageous and rule breaking. Unlike so many artists who must wait until they are dead to achieve any degree of real fame- Gaudi had fans in his own time and you can see his visions brought to life all over Barcelona. There are many tours which will take you to a variety of Gaudi sites or you can print out this list, use a map and explore on your own. Many offer tours ( for a fee) others you can view from outside. You do not want to miss these landmarks- many of which are world heritage sites on your trip to Barcelona.

1. The Sagrada Familia– This is Gaudi’s masterpiece. Construction began on this gothic cathedral in 1882 and is expected to be completed finally in 2026. You can visit it today- just make sure you book skip the line tickets or be prepared to wait all day to get tickets for your chance to go inside. The hop on hop off bus tours that go through the city all stop here.
Address- Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona

2. Casa Vicens- this is a private home built for a wealthy brick maker and is one of the first Art Noveau homes in the city. This is a world heritage site. Right now this property is for sale- if you have the money you may be able to purchase it. Here is the real estate listing site http://www.casavicens.es/ Here is the link for info on the site http://casavicens.org/?lang=en
Address- Carrer de les Carolines, 18-24 08012 Barcelona

3. Guell Pavillions– The Güell Pavilions were built between 1884 and 1887 by Antoni Gaudí. The pavilions were built for a summer residence of the wealthy Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell.
Address- Av. de Pedralbes, 7, 08034 Barcelona, Spain

4. Palau Guell- The Palau Güell was designed by the young Gaudí and is a wonderful blend of medieval opulence and the architect’s unique exuberant style. Completed in 1890, the building was the private residence of Gaudí’s patron, Count Güell. The Palau Güell is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Address- Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

5. Teresian College – Located in the neighborhood of Sant Gervasi in Barcelona, at 85 Ganduxer Street, you will find the College of the Teresians, a work carried out between the years 1888 and 1890. You may see the exterior of the college.
Address- Ganduxer 85-105 Barcelona

6. Casa Calvet- The Casa Calvet de Barcelona (1899) is one of Antoni Gaudí’s earliest buildings. Some people consider it his most conservative work but it also contains markedly modernista elements, such as the façade which terminates in a curve and the attic balconies, which look like something from a fairy tale. The ground floor now houses a restaurant.
Address: Carrer de Casp, 48, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

7. Bellesguard- The Torre Bellesguard, which is currently owned by the Guilera family who still live in part of the house, was designed by Antoni Gaudí and built between 1900 and 1909. The building has straight lines which were seldom seen in his work and was inspired by the medieval castle where King Martin the Humane once lived, parts of which can still be seen in the gardens of the house. Address: Carrer de Bellesguard, 16, 08022 Barcelona, Spain

8. Park Guell – Park Güell, one of Gaudí’s masterpieces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This garden-city project was commissioned by Eusebi Güell but never completed. It eventually became the property of Barcelona City Council. The result is a public park full of imagination and colour where every detail expresses Antoni Gaudí’s desire to integrate architecture into the surrounding natural setting.
Address: Carrer d’Olot, s/n, 08024 Barcelona, Spain

9. Casa Milà, La Pedrera – This is one of the most important of Gaudi’s designs. When Pere Milà commissioned Antoni Gaudí to build a residential block, it gave the architect the perfect opportunity to bring to fruition one of his most complete works. Built between 1906 and 1912, the Casa Milà occupies an entire corner of the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona’s Eixample.

Address: Provença, 261-265, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

10 . Casa Batlló – The Casa Batlló is one of Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces and an iconic modernista landmark. Situated on Passeig de Gràcia, this building stands out from the rest due to its eye-catching design and colour. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona, Spain

11. Church of Colònia Güell- also Gaudi’s Crypt – The Church of Colònia Güell (Catalan: Cripta de la Colònia Güell, IPA: [ˈkɾiptə ðə ɫə kuˈɫɔniə ˈɣweʎ]) is an unfinished work by Antoni Gaudí. It was built as a place of worship for the people in a manufacturing suburb in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, near Barcelona (Spain). Colònia Güell was the brainchild of Count Eusebi de Güell, however with Güell losing profits from his business, the money was depleted and only the crypt was completed.
Address: Calle Claudi Güell, 08690 Colònia Güell, Santa Coloma de Cervelló, Barcelona, Spain

12. Sagrada Família Schools– these are the school buildings that are attached to the temple that is La Sagrada Familia. They offer tours and a variety of programs that the public can participate in.
There are many tour operators that offer multi-site tours featuring the work of Gaudi that operate in Barcelona.

Shore Excursion Group is one site that offers many options for cruise guests and people just lookng for a nice day trip while in the city. Prices are reasonable and there are a lot of tours to choose from depending on how much time you have and what you want to see.

A favorite of mine is always Viator- they have even more options that frequently do not get listed anywhere else.

For budget friendly options- consider one of many free walking tours offered in the city including many options for visiting Gaudi sites.

Source: Top Attractions in Barcelona- A Quick List and Guide