Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Disney Aulani Resort Ko Olini

The end of our trip, the highlight, the resort... Aulani is a disney twist on a traditional Hawaiian resort, it is not Disneyfied, there are beautiful Disney moments, but don't expect the intense Disney experience...

Firstly, it's beautiful! The details, the water features, the staff, the pools, honestly gorgeous... Unfortunately or first experience was the bell staff forgetting to bring our bags and our keys not working, twice! Lining up with everyone checking in made that really annoying, twice!

We checked in online, so when we arrived our room was ready and we were shown to it right away... We loved our lei, kakui nut and for the kids the exclusive Aulani menehune necklaces... We also pre registered at Auntys beach house to save paperwork on our trip, we were incredibly lucky to be offered a place for each child at the stitches space goo, which was great considering that people queue up for hours to get in to those programs... 

We all loved it, the facilities were amazing... I wouldn't come here without kids, but as a family, so much fun!

Auntys Beach House
So pre registered we went ahead in completed registration on arrival, paid for the GPS bracelets ($13 each, refundable with receipt at the end), and checked it out... It looked pretty good so we agreed that the kids could go back for a play and the dinner program later... They thoroughly enjoyed their 1-2 hours a day at Auntys, the both felt safe and entertained... It was our first kids club experience, and it all felt pretty good...


Wrist bands 
The next thing was to show our cards to get wrist bands in order to get towels, photos with any characters, basically it was evidence we were staying there... This was easy, and cool, enjoyed not having to cart towels around with us, we would finish in the water and grab some...

Lazy river
Probably our family highlight, we spent hours on this every day... Jump in a tube and be taken around the grounds... Sounds simple, but so much fun, such a beautiful ride, so many lovely water features...


Family pool
With smaller kids, it's awesome to have a pool where everyone can reach the bottom so we can all play... We laughed so much in this pool... It's a walk in pool, so suitable for all ages...

There is a lot of reserving sun beds, one morning that we wanted to spend the whole day in the water, I got one at 7.45, this was a thing, except people then took off for hours... There is a reservation policy where after an hour your stuff will be removed, and it did happen, took closer to 2/3 hours... We saw some people leave their stuff for 3 hours after putting towels down, they lost their mind when they realised their seats had been used by someone else... 

Fireworks
We LOVE the 4th July fireworks, we have been lucky to be in the US the past 3 4th July celebrations... What was so cool about the Aulani 4th experience was that there was way more space than people... We got there an hour or so early and found a spot to sit and had a wonderful time... Probably my favourite fireworks so far because the whole lagoon was lit up, they were being launched a couple hundred meters from where we sat... Amazing...


Whirlpool infinity spa adults only
While the kids were playing at Auntys we went to the adults only infinity spa, very relaxing and quiet... Serene...


Menehuna trail
You can go to the community centre and borrow an iPad for an hour at a time and follow the menehune trail, which is basically a trail of Disney Magic around the grounds... We started inside which was good because it was hot... Next outside, but after a few, we were done... The kids loved it, we just felt it was too much talking in the program and not quick enough to the next spot...

Merchandise
This is not Disney crazy merchandise... There is a shop, it has some cool stuff, we still managed to spend $500 there, but there could have been so much more!

Aulani eats
Makahiki Buffet
The buffet here is really good... So many options, and they cater for all different food allergies... The chef came out and showed me everything I could eat, and all the things that I couldn't eat that they could make GF for me... I didn't need to take him up on that, I was so well fed! I did feel that $20US was a lot for the kids corner of food, but it was our last night so I let it go... Definitely make a reservation, it's hard to get in otherwise...

Pizza corner
Pizza corner is your average pizza joint, pizza and ribs were good... Was strange eating off paper plates and plastic cutlery in the restaurant... Not great service, but the amount you have to do with servers, it didn't matter...


Monkey pod
We booked on open table, luckily, there es a queue of people waiting... Food was tasty, all organic, sustainable, etc, but small portions... 

Ulu 
A nice selection here, but it didn't seem like much GF, so I asked and they had LOADS of options! I just wish they were written up to start! Good spot for lunches, to eat by the pool...

We loved it here, will definitely be back! We hardly didn't any of the activities on offer, so know that we need at least an extra day! And maybe a bigger suite... The room was lovely, great bed, big lanai, but we could do with not being in the same room as our kids! 





Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls
http://realhawaiitour.com/rainforest_waterfall.php
You can also buy through Groupon

We did this by tour but you could easily bus/drive it yourself... A rocky walk/climb through the jungle to a wonderful crashing waterfall... It was tricky enough with a 5 year old, wouldn't want to take a younger child personally, but once you make it to the top, it's is simply magnificent! 

Our tour guide was lovely and very knowledgable about our surrounds, made the drive very interesting!


Pow Wow

Pow wow street art 
http://powwowhawaii.com
Every year there is the Pow Wow exhibition in a more industrialised part of Oahu, near Ala Moana, there is a ton of artists and pieces all over the area... We downloaded the map and followed it about to check it out... It was too hot to take the kids, there is quite a lot of walking... It was pretty amazing, something for everyone!


Moilili Bon dance

Moilili Bon dance
We had a medium experience here last time, and less so this time... It was busier that last time, more food options, but no where to sit, which is hard when feeding kids... We planned to stay late, but gave up on it...


Yard house Waikiki beach walk Lewers Rd

Yard house
Everyone recommends this place, and the drinks are great, happy hour is great, the vibe is great... The food was okay and the service for us wasn't very good at all... Maybe go here kid free for a drink one night, skip dinner...


Ala Moana

Ala Moana
Love Ala Moana shopping centre, came back a few times, as always... They now have a tiny toy r us to add to the Lego, hello kitty, animation and Disney stores, for the kids... Loads for adults, I think we bought 9 pairs of vans for the family (the Nintendo release tickle us all), a few good shopping days, including treats from Magnolia bakery which I always stop into when we are in NYC...


Eat the street

Eat the street
http://eatthestreethawaii.com
We came here on our last visit, and took our party of 8 again this time.. Surprisingly found a seat, and eventually an entire table! Love food truck rally's, awesome to try lots of different dishes... The whole family enjoyed this experience, definitely recommend! 


Buho cucina y cantina

http://buhocantina.com
I followed these guys on Instagram for ages before we arrived, so we had a party of 8 here... The sangria was delicious, as was the food, server was great... Corn and fish tacos a highlight...


Mermaid shoot

Mermaid shoot
https://mermaidsofhawaii.com

This was one of those things I stumbled across, searching mermaids in Hawaii, I found Rebecca - Mermaid Citrine's page, and the photos were beautiful... I thought it would be a fun mother daughter activity, as it turned out, my son wanted to be a mer boy, so my husband came along too...
It was a fun time, Rebecca is really professional, makes you feel at ease, and was very cool with the kids...
I saw some bad reviews, like yes, you get dressed in a public bathroom and it's not a private beach, you aren't paying for a studio, you are paying for beautiful, fun  photos... Wouldn't hesitate to recommend the experience...


Chiefs Luau

Chiefs luau
http://www.chiefsluau.com

On our last visit we didn't do a luau, mace was 3 and I wasn't keen on keeping him up and out until late, but this time I thought the kids could both manage it... It's a big expense, but honestly worth it! 

We started at the sea life park, which the kids enjoyed, but it's small, maybe 2 hours of fun max... I find these parks a bit sad... Had we not gone to the park we could have booked transfers to and from with the ticket, but we grabbed the bus there... The bus travels along the coastline, it's beautiful, lots of great views...

The luau was not what I expected, I thought it would just be a buffet with some cultural dance, it was much more... Staying with cultural activities, making a head piece, throwing spears, starting fires, kids games, hula lesson, airbrushed tattoos, the activities were fun, the kids were pleased... The chief is super charismatic, definitely a highlight, kept everything on track, with stories and he was also very funny... They taught us about the cooking of the pig and got it out of the ground, then there was a feast... The food was delicious... The pork, chicken and fish was all amazing, great salad choices... Between us all we have a lot of food allergies and we all ate loads!

The dancing was brilliant, broke up with audience interaction, a beautiful dedication to honeymooners, and long term married people, a real celebration of love... More dancing and audience participation, the kids got up to dance and all had a chance to tell us their name and where they are from... Honestly it was very entertaining, we all really enjoyed it, especially the fire dance! 

Would definitely recommend...


Pirate adventure Waikiki


Pirate ship
https://hawaiipirateship.com

When I booked this, I wasn't sure... It seemed like a lot of money, and I thought it would just be us and pirates on a boat ride... From the minute we boarded, the Pirates were in character... My son was enthralled! There was nothing lame about it, there would be a few minutes of chill, then the Pirates would do a pirate training activity on the deck, another few minutes, and another pirate training... It was fun filled! So many activities, and the children all seemed to love it... The weapons training was my sons favourite, he loved getting to sword fight with a pirate... Finding and receiving treasure, seeing the dolphins in the water, getting a 'squid ink tattoo', all made our day... He was so pleased, and I was happy to not just be sitting there the whole time! Highly recommend...  

Denny's

Denny's Lewers Rd Waikiki 
The kids love Denny's... It's cheap and cheerful... This time I stayed with the delicious salads, tried the salmon and it was over cooked (as was the broccoli it was served with)... I think that the main things to stick to there are the salads and fried food... 

PF Changs Royal Hawaiian Centre

PF Changs
http://www.pfchangshawaii.com

This is a favourite spot of ours... They have great vegetarian options and a GF menu... The kids love the kids menu, the grown ups loved all the dishes we tried on our holiday... We ate here a few times with groups of 10-16 people and no one was disappointed! 

Cpk Waikiki

Cpk California Pizza Kitchen
http://www.cpk.com/Menu

Last time we were here, the cocktails were off the hook, this time less so... The food was delicious, everyone was pleased with their order... I love their jerk chicken pizza, sooooo good!

We went back a second time, the blueberry sangria was amazing... Salmon wasn't as good as their pizza...

Waikiki Shore

Waikiki Shore
http://www.outrigger.com/hotels-resorts/hawaii/oahu/waikiki-shore-by-outrigger#rooms-amenities

On our last visit, we stayed at outrigger reef, it was a wonderful experience... This time it was simply going to cost way too much to stay there with our crappy dollar, so I found Waikiki shore, rented through outrigger, and you could use their facilities, for significantly less, which allowed us to spend 3 nights at Disney Aulani at the end...
Waikiki shore is basic, fine, clean, big, amazing views and relatively inexpensive for a beachfront property... As long as you are okay on your own... I say that because we tried to check in at outrigger, assuming because we booked through them, that's how it would work, but no... It's managed by them, but the front desk is at another close by hotel... Realistically, once checked in, we didn't need any front desk, and check out we just left our keys on our table... 

Best bits: view!!!! So beautiful looking over the beach from the lanai, and Friday night fireworks too! Location, I do like the quiet end of Waikiki... Private entrance to the beach, though it is the reef end... Outrigger pool, nice spot for a dip...

Worst bits: worst blinds ever, don't keep light out, so kids woke early because the sunrise easels... Water pressure is pretty bad, seems to change throughout the day...



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chat Thai Haymarket, Sydney

Chat Thai
20 Campbell st
Haymarket, Sydney 
I read about this place before we left, so going there was always the plan... We knew that there would be a wait (which I hate), so we left before we were hungry, good idea! We arrived, the wait was around 20 minutes, once in we noticed that there were only 2 items that didn't have meat... My husband is vegetarian, and usually we love Thai because he  can always get a pad Thai, with tofu, there was no tofu on the menu!!! When we ordered we asked and there is a tofu option, just not advertised anywhere...
We ordered the pork balls and dumplings for starter, a vegetarian pad Thai, chicken pad Thai, crispy pork belly in red curry sauce and chicken with cashews and chilli jam, every meal was amazing... Honestly worth the wait! The service was mediocre... But as you walk away you are already planning your next visit!

Hello Kitty Diner Chatswood, NSW

Hello kitty diner
Chatswood station interchange 
This has recently opened and it feels like they haven't quite got it together...
We only had to queue for 10 minutes, it looked much longer when we were leaving... 
I was hoping for a booth, but we got the bench, it was fine though, just over the moon to be there!
You order before you sit, we ordered the maple pork belly burger, tofu burger, slaw, fries, hot chocolate and cinnamon waffles... The savoury food was amazing... Pork belly burger blew me away! The only downside was that the waffles were a bit meh, despite being the cutest item we ordered ;) the main issue was the food service, we got my hot chocolate, minutes later my burger, then my waffles, minute later marks burger, 5 minutes later we asked where the slaw and fries were 'on their way' finish our burgers, a couple minutes later get the slaw and another minute, fries, not cohesive at all...
Prices were pretty average, though lots of people complain that it was expensive...


Monday, September 28, 2015

SeaWorld Gold Coast

II have such mixed feelings about the Gold Coast Seaworld, after blackfish I definitely wouldn't go to a U.S. one, but we have a fondness for the one at the Gold Coast... 

Not too many animal enclosures, touching the stingrays, checking shark bay, and the indoor and outdoor penguin enclosures were our favourite... The dolphin show reminded me too much of blackfish, so I was quite sad, but everyone else loved it...  Go 15/20 minutes early to ensure a good seat...

The 3d sponge bob movie is very loud, but a good 8 minutes... We caught the teenage mutant ninja turtles meet and greet and their live action show, kids loved both! Nickelodeon land has some great small kids rides, go there first to avoid queues, they got long!

The Viking flume was awesome, but 45 minutes of queuing time, should probably have gone there first! The creatures of the deep indoor and outdoor exhibit was good, preferred the outdoor...

We spent around 5.5 hours here, the longest in my adult life and the longest with my kids... Definitely their favourite park of the three...




Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pancakes on the rocks

I got the chance to catch up with my pregnant sister while away, and she had said she was craving pancakes, so I suggested pancakes for dinner... I'm not a huge pancake person, but have been known to enjoy the odd pancake parkour visit...

It was very reasonably priced, and when they came, the bananarama pancakes were huge! Thick and massive buttermilk pancakes with banana and butterscotch syrup... The kids LOVED the butterfly pancake, not enough for dinner though, they shared mine, and also some of marks chips... Mark had the pizza, don't order pizza at a pancake place! Bless! 


Gringo Loco Cantina

Walking past here the menu looked good... 

On arrival we definitely over ordered, the best thing about that was being able to try a lot of options!  It's not a tex mex Mexican spot, it's proper, delicious Mexican, reminiscent of the spot we went to in nyc, not quite as good, but still damn good... The two vegetarian salads were amazing, pulled pork burrito, spicy beetroot dip and chicken nachos were all so good! Their sangria was delicious too! We spent double what we normally sold on dinner, but we basically had a meal for everyone to take home...