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I have been visiting the Hawaiian Islands for years.  At this point, there was no pre-trip excitement or pre-trip anticipation.  There was almost a soft current of confidence running through my veins as I had that feeling of, “Been there, done that”.

What is it about this place?

My, “Been there done that” attitude had suddenly changed as the plane began to make its decent.

 A sky high view of Honolulu from Diamond Head.

Waikiki and Diamond Head.

I could see on the left of the plane in the distance, the Islands of Hawaii (Big Island), Maui and Molokai.  The turquoise waters that I had become familiar and fond of became transparent.  My confidence quickly faded to gratitude.  The anticipation and excitement that I thought was non-existent began to build up and vibrate in my heart.  The southern shore of Oahu appeared beneath the airplane’s wing as frothy waves were pounding its shore.

 “Aloha and welcome to Hawaii”, said the flight attendant.  I knew we had finally landed at the Honolulu International Airport.  Soon, I would be hit with the sweet floral aromas of Hawaii as I disembarked.  I have been to Hawaii about as many times as I can count on both hands and the feelings that I feel right when I get off the plane is unmatched.  The hoards of tourists can’t wait to find the women vendors in their muumuu dresses selling their floral leis.  As touristy as it can be, the hospitality can only be described as Aloha. 

I barely had my foot out of the door from the taxi, when I was warmly greeted with an, “Aloha, welcome to the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Hotel”.

Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach's magnificent lobby.

The abundance of the Hawaiian warm and friendly spirit, known as Aloha was helping this vacation in paradise get off to an amazing start.

 Relax with a pedicure at Plantation Spa.

The bellman checked me into room #823.  I was thrilled with the room and the view right from first glance.  It was a one bedroom oceanfront suite on the 8th floor with a corner balcony or as they call them in Hawaii, a lanai.  The edge of the lanai seemed to jut right over the sheer azure waters of the Pacific.

If you can manage with your budget on your trip to Waikiki, the splurge on the room can be well worth it.  The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach has 525 rooms and many of them are either ocean facing or have an ocean or partial ocean view. 

From the corner of my room, I could see the ever majestic landmark, Diamond Head.  The view alone is worth the cost.

 Outrigger Waikiki standard room option.

The suite has an oversized living room that is furnished with warm wood furnishings and is well paired with art work depicting the history and lifestyle of the Hawaiian culture.   Taro, a root vegetable in many ways is the life blood of the islanders; it has been eaten and used throughout the history of the Hawaiian Islands.  Its roots deeply wound into the culture of the Hawaiian people; the taro here is wound into the décor of the Outrigger as everything from the carpet to the bedspread have variations of this plant plastered on it. 

The Art and Artifacts that you see on the walls of the Outrigger give a museum like feel to the lobby and common areas of the resort. There is even a fully restored outrigger boat made of beautiful and expensive Koa wood.

Check in, check out the spa.

The family owned and privately held resort group has 3 properties on the Hawaiian islands — Outrigger Waikiki, Outrigger Reef and the Outrigger Keahou plus a portfolio that spans the globe.  They have a great reputation in the industry and have been in business for 60 years.

The Waikiki Plantation Spa is a newer addition to the resort.  The view of the sea and the land from the 17th floor is incredible.  The spa has one mission statement: “To soothe and relax guests with an experience of Hawaiian rudiments and the unity of mind, body and soul.”  The Waikiki Plantation Spa offers a full service spa menu with everything from pedicures to the traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage.

Read the feature in Jetsetters Magazine

The author atop Diamond Head.
(Click the photo.)

I started my next morning with a new Hawaiian experience for me.  The hike at Diamond Head was an amazing start to the day.  This is something I wish that I had conquered before in my previous visits to the islands.  Hiking Diamond Head is a great photo opportunity to view Waikiki below.  Secondly, it is also a great way to get the blood pumping and burn off the calories from all of those Mai Tais and Lava Flows that you might have been consuming the night before.

The location of the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel cannot be beat.  Because it is a beachfront property on the main strip of Kalakaua Avenue it blends both beauty and convenience!  Diamond Head is a short drive away.  There is plenty of shopping right out the front doors for those in need of retail therapy.  The amenities of the Outrigger also allow their guests to have what they need right on site.

Soak in the Aloha Spirit at Duke's.

A trip to Waikiki is not complete without spending some time at Duke’s Restaurant and Barefoot Bar, inside the Outrigger Waikiki.  It is a staple on Waikiki Beach and is named after the founding father of International Surfing, Duke Kahanamoku.  Duke was a full blooded Hawaiian and was known as the fastest swimmer of his time.  He was an Olympic Champion at age 21 actually winning 3 gold medals, 2 silver medals and a bronze medal between 1912 and 1932.

Duke's famous Green Bean Salad.   

He is revered as Hawaii’s Ambassador of Aloha and statues of him dot the island.  After an afternoon spent at Duke’s, you will understand the quintessential elements of the Waikiki lifestyle.  Duke’s is also famous for hosting live Hawaiian music every night of the week and beachside concerts on the weekends.

The Mai Tais’ at Duke’s are outstanding; they are rich with dark rum and fresh fruit juice and garnished with an orchid.  Duke’s has a full menu as well, consisting of an array of Pupus (Appetizers), Salads, Sandwiches, Burgers, and Pizza.  Some of the highlights for me are the Crab and Macadamia Nut Wontons with a mustard plum sauce and the Ahi (Tuna) Sashimi with Wasabi and Shoyu to dip in.  The Coconut Crusted shrimp is also a festive choice.  At the helm of it all is the green bean salad.  It was ladled with a warm papaya seed dressing and toasted macadamia nuts.

The famous Hula Pie is the best dessert on the menu.  It is an Oreo cookie crust with macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge and roasted macadamia nuts on top.  It is so captivating, that apparently back in the day it is what the sailors swam to the shore for.

Paddle in paradise.

In addition to Duke’s, the Outrigger Waikiki also has other dining options such as Chuck’s Steakhouse, Hula Grill Waikiki and Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop.

The idea of Waikiki really caters to the beach boy and the beach lifestyle.  The beach boy lifestyle is what I stumbled upon when I met Don “Lips” Fujiyama who works for Waikiki Beach Services.  Waikiki Beach Services has been in business since 1955 and offers water activities ranging from Surf Lessons to Sunset Catamaran trips around Waikiki.   My friend Anne and I embarked on a Stand Up Paddling (SUP) adventure with Don.  I wanted to ride the waves on the Stand Up Paddle, but Don told me that I better learn the beginner ropes first.  The requirements for SUP:

Ability to swim-check! 
Good Physical condition-Check!
A good sense of balance-Let’s hope!

We spent the next hour paddling around the crystal clear waters of Waikiki.  It is a miracle of the Hawaiian gods that you can have this many tourists gathering on those shores and yet still retain the crystal clear blue water. 

Friendly Hawaiian sea turtles.

The scorching sun was practically melting the sun screen off my back.  After spending six beautiful days in Hawaii, it was a miracle that I managed to not burn my skin to a bright lobster red, rather with the help of my Maui Babe tanning lotion, it had turned to a golden coconut brown.

Don pointed out some Green Sea Turtles drifting beneath the ocean’s surface, which were an exciting added bonus to the occasional wobble and splash of me falling off of my board and into the warm waters.  

I was hooked on Stand Up Paddle and hope that this will be something that I continue to do back on the mainland U.S.  It is around $50 for an hour lesson with Don or the other Beach boys.  You can also rent boards from Waikiki Beach Services if you are already equipped with some Stand Up Paddle experience!  For convenience, Waikiki Beach Services offers would be adventurers the ability to book your experience online.  This was a highlight of my trip.

As the sun began to set, we paddled our way back to the beach.  We dried our sun kissed and salt soaked skin off and headed back to Duke’s for one last Mai Tai, before it was time to toss my lei into the blue of the sea in the hopes that someday I would be back here to feel the Aloha again.

Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach
2335 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

Waikiki Beach Services

— Feature by Michelle Schoser, San Diego Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.