It’s hard to believe summer is unofficially behind us, especially when just a few weeks ago we were sipping pina coladas with our toes dug in the sand watching the Hawaiian sunset. Our recent honeymoon to Hawaii (Honolulu and Maui) was one we will never forget. With two back-to-back hurricanes, earthquakes, a super moon, and endless sunsets, it was one for the books.

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We were a few days away from our 11-hour JFK to HNL flight when news broke about two category-4 hurricanes headed for our destination. In this rare occurrence, meaning hurricanes never touch down in Hawaii, flights were being cancelled, hotels were preparing for power outages, emergency shelters were underway and bottled water increasingly became scarce. As memories of hurricane Sandy flooded my mind (no pun intended), I was ready to cancel the entire trip and postpone the honeymoon.

My husband on the other hand, was making plans to arrive to Hawaii ahead of the storm so we could avoid any backlog at the airport. His attitude: “I’d rather have a bad day in Hawaii than a good day at work.” And with that, we were off – with a packed flashlight, extra bottled water, and vodka, of course (safety first).

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To lighten the mood, AA flight attendants were serving out hurricanes like it was the last day on earth. Literally, first class turned into a 30,000 ft high drinking hole, leis and all. The flight attendants were also quick and excited to point out the cluster of clouds that formed the hurricanes as we flew just miles west of the storm. Although fun, looking back, that’s not the way I would want to go out. Thankfully, we arrived to Honolulu as scheduled, and with all the sunshine, you wouldn’t even know there was a storm coming.

Hotel in Waikiki

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The first hotel we checked in on our 10-day journey was the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki. There are some hotels that you visit because they hold a special place in your heart. They may be in need of renovations, may not be the most high-end, or even boast 5-stars, but you go back because of the memories you shared there. For this reason we revisited the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki as it was the first hotel Michael and I stayed at seven years ago on our first trip together when we were dating.

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And yes, the hotel needs some updating (not much has changed since we were there), particularly the bathroom decor, but we love it because it is literally right across the street from Waikiki beach, walkable to many restaurants and shops, and the great breakfast buffet (extra charge) which is one of the main reasons we were excited to come back. At breakfast you can expect fresh tropical fruit, green juices along with a variety of Hawaiian-style and Japanese-influenced dishes.

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The hotel is ideal for couples and families looking for a stuffy-free atmosphere and don’t have to worry about breaking the bank with their stay. We stayed on the 20th floor of the Diamond Tower and were upgraded to an Ocean Suite facing east. We enjoyed watching many sunsets on our balcony, but would have preferred a front facing ocean view to watch both the sunset and sunrise.

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There are two car-rental companies on premise which was convenient for the days we drove to Lanakai, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, the North Shore, the Dole Plantation, and Macky’s Shrimp Truck (we highly recommend the garlic shrimp plate). On Thursdays there is a farmer’s market with local fare served conveniently on the ground floor. The two hotel restaurants are okay, and overall, we found the food in Waikiki nothing to brag home about.

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Because the hotel is very large – two 40-floor towers with over 1200 rooms – the only sense of seclusion or privacy you get is in your room. In general, many Japanese tourists love visiting Hawaii, and it felt like a vast majority of them were staying at the Hyatt Regency. Thankfully, renovations are taking place and should be completed by March 2015. In the meantime, we will consider the nearby Halekulani next time which sold out in advance, but offers more intimacy with updated luxury finishes and is right on the beach.

Surviving the Hurricane

Thanks to the Na Ho’ola Spa at the Hyatt Regency, we successfully weathered the storm with back massages, a facial for me and some champagne. We were very fortunate as Oahu only experienced a few hours of heavy rain and a couple of cloudy days; nothing in comparison to the earthquakes, floods and power outages in the Big Island.  All in all, the hotel did a great job of communicating with guests about safety and making sure everyone was comfortable.

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A few days after the storm passed we packed our bags and headed for Maui. The only way to travel between islands is by air, and conveniently, there seems to be one leaving every hour. Thankfully, on this 30 minute flight the attendants were serving Mai tais, not hurricanes 🙂

Hotel in Maui

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We arrived in Maui, our first time on the island, and it was a refreshing contrast to the metropolitan landscape of Honolulu. We decided to check out the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, highly recommended by friends. Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted and lei’d! The open-air, grandiose lobby bursting with Botero sculptures and flowers definitely set the “I’m on a honeymoon” tone.

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The property is sprawled out over 40 acres on Maui’s south shore and has 781 rooms (including 53 suites and villas). Having visited in August, we can say the only time the hotel felt crowded was going to the luau (did not expect the 200+ attendance) and passing by the kids pool. Fortunately, there are NINE pools on premise, including an adults-only pool which had excellent wait service.

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We were upgraded to a Alii Suite (being on your honeymoon comes with its perks) which also overlooks the charming and newly renovated chapel. We loved the cozy finishes and oversized bathrooms, but wish the room was not so close to the elevator as we could hear luggage being tugged over the tile and the occasional kid running loudly by. If you’re traveling with your family or large group and looking to stay for an extended period of time, you can rent out one of the Villas of Ho’olei which comes with a full kitchen, outdoor barbeque and direct access to two pools.

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Breakfast was surprisingly similar (green juice and all) to what we had at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki. What’s unique about some of the sweeter dishes served here is that the Grand Wailea boasts making its own honey with a number of beehives located on its ballroom rooftop. The only change we would make about breakfast is to extend the hours to accommodate all the late honeymoon risers.

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There are six restaurants (many sub-par, but I would recommend Alan Wong’s Amasia), many shops, and a rental car desk which made picking up a car right at our hotel even more convenient. We enjoyed renting a convertible and making the six hour drive known as the “Road to Hana” to see waterfalls up close, take in the sprawling mountainside and ocean views (think Route 1 in CA) and visit the unique black sand beaches of Wai’anapanapa.

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Personally, my favorite part of the stay was visiting the 50,000 square foot Spa Grande (this place is massive) and taking a dip in each of the seven salt baths. I enjoyed a 90-minute signature massage with a 50-minute Volcanic Ash facial (I figured it’s the only spa I’ll see “volcanic” on the menu). In between treatments, you can hang out on the lanai overlooking the ocean and reflecting pool, which is beautiful to look at and really makes the landscape unique.

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Note the Four Seasons is next door to the Grand Wailea, so check out the Inviato review here, before you go.

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We had a wonderful and memorable honeymoon in Hawaii and like most people, we didn’t want to leave. We are already planning our return trip and even daydream about moving there someday. Until next time!

What We Loved

  • Spa treatment and use of spa facilities at Grand Wailea.
  • Breakfast buffet is extra, but it is worth it and convenient at both hotels.
  • Local hotspot, and favorite of President Obama’s, Rainbow Drive-In (as featured on the Food Network) in Honolulu. Be sure to get the mixed plate.
  • Dole Whip pineapple ice cream at the Dole Plantation. My husband is still talking about it – it was that good.
  • Definitely recommend renting a car (at least for one day) on whatever island you visit. It’s a great way to explore the islands and experience local life.
  • The Helicopter tour in Maui is the best way to see parts of the island not accessible by car.

What We Didn’t Love

  • Dinner at the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (no misspelling there) at the Grand Wailiea. It’s beautiful for drinks at sunset, but the food is sub-par and not worth the high prices.
  • Due to the large crowds and the ticketing process, I don’t recommend the luau at the Grand Wailea. If you’ve never been to a luau before and you’re curious to see what it’s all about, then check it out. Otherwise, I would look for something more intimate and less commercial.
  • Ala Moana mall in Honolulu. We waited what seemed like forever for the overcrowded, yet free trolly taking visitors to the popular mall. Besides, there’s nothing at the mall that you won’t find back home.

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Review by: Christina Meza Kim

Photos courtesy of Inviato, Grand Wailea and Hyatt Regency Waikiki

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