Hawaii Trip Part 8: Interisland

Ko Olina Resort Area – Oahu

We set our alarm for 4:45am and made the very quiet walk all the way to the lobby with our luggage as the train is not running at that hour. I had checked us out the night before so that we could maximize our sleep.

We drove over to Kona airport and returned the car to National. Although no TSA precheck line was open yet, they allowed us through security without removing shoes and liquids as we had precheck on our boarding passes.

As we were still a bit early, we grabbed coffee at the café near our gate. Everything at KOA is outdoors so it was more pleasant for waiting than the typical airport. There is no Priority Pass lounge at KOA so we just found seats near the gate. We boarded via stairs and a ramp which was also a change from the usual jetway boarding.

Boarding via ramp

We had about a 30-minute flight to Oahu which included nice views of Maui out the window. I picked seats on the right side as I assumed we would get some good views on that side headed past Maui. Unfortunately, the sun and the stained windows didn’t make for great pictures. The only service was a small plastic container of water handed out by the flight attendant.

Inflight service

When we got to Honolulu airport, our connecting gate was right next to our arrival gate. HNL is pretty big, but still has some indoor/outdoor spaces. This time we boarded via jetway and headed off to LIH airport on Kauai. We had some nice views of Oahu as we climbed out.

Reef runway at HNL

We landed on time around 9:30am on a beautiful Friday morning, and we still had the whole day on Kauai ahead of us. We took the shuttle to National Car Rental, and I picked out a nice looking Jeep Cherokee thanks to my Executive Elite status.  Luckily our interisland flight arrived just before all the early mainland flights began clogging up the rental car lines.

The drive to the Grand Hyatt from the airport is about 30 minutes and quite scenic once you get out of the more built-up Lihue area.  The resort is at the far eastern end of the Poipu resort area overlooking Shipwreck Beach.  By the way, if you’re wondering how the beach got its name, there used to be a shipwreck visible at low tide near the beach until the 1980’s. 

Shipwreck Beach

We pulled into the valet parking area and had our bags unloaded.  Arriving at 10am, I assumed our suite would not quite be ready.  When I checked-in at the desk, I was correct.  However, the friendly employee provided us access cards to the Grand Lounge so we could grab refreshments and change into our beach gear.  We brought a small bag with us and left everything at the bell desk. 

It’s quite a hike to the Grand Lounge from the lobby, but we made it with a couple of wrong turns along the way.  The lounge is fairly small (for a 600-room hotel with many Hyatt Globalists) but was never crowded while we were there.  There is a small bathroom contained within the lounge where we were able to change.  We grabbed some soft drinks and coffee (we had just missed breakfast).  We headed out to the pool area in search of loungers.

View of the Grand Hyatt from the beach

We managed to find a couple of loungers near the salt-water lagoon close to the beach area.  They even had an umbrella.  I grabbed some complimentary towels at a counter near the pool bar.  Of course, as soon as we got comfortable, the hotel texted me that our suite was ready.  I left the wife lounging and headed back to the lobby (it’s not a short walk, have I mentioned that?) I’ll give a full review of our suite and the hotel at end of the trip report.

I checked back in and received our waterproof red RFID wristbands (I’m not positive, but I think these indicate lounge access as others had black wristbands), which served as room keys and lounge keys.  I really wish every beach resort would use these as you can just wear them the whole time without worrying about losing a key card in the surf or pool. 

There are a ton of Globalist perks here.  Besides a possible upgrade, spa and lounge access, discounts at the spa and main restaurant lunch buffet, 4pm checkout if available, and waived valet parking and resort fees, the hotel also provides two free drink tickets that can be used at the pool bar and complimentary laundry/dry cleaning up to $150 (no, that’s not a misprint).

I made my way back to our loungers and we decided to use our free drink tickets at Hale Nalu, the pool bar/restaurant. There were no limits on the price of the drink we could get.  We also grabbed lunch at the pool bar (shared fish tacos and wings – both excellent). 

For the remainder of the afternoon, my wife went hunting for shells at the beach.  I decided to hike the Maha’ulepu Heritage trail that runs from the resort eastward down the coast. The trail has many offshoots and side trails, but if you keep the ocean to your right on the way out and to the left on the way back, you can’t really get lost.  It passes some beautiful coastline, cuts through a golf course, and ends on a secluded beach. 

View from the trail

On the way, there is the Makauwahi Cave Reserve trail that you can also walk through and end up going into a limestone cave (through a very small opening) to see some fossils.  After the cave, there’s also a tortoise preserve that is open to the public with huge tortoises roaming around (in fenced areas).  While it was very hot, it was a really fun hike with lots of great picture opportunities.   

Opening to the cave
One of the giant tortoises

When we returned to our suite in the late afternoon hours, there were some sweet treats left for us with a note.  We also checked out the afternoon snacks in the lounge, which turned out to be some combination of brownies and cookies each day from 12-4.

We stopped by the lounge briefly to see what hors d’oeuvres they offered but it was pretty underwhelming.  That evening we had a reservation at Merriman’s in The Shops at Kuku’iula, a short drive from the resort.  We had eaten at Monkeypod in Maui (same owners) a couple of years ago, so we knew what to expect as far as food and drink. 

The famous Merriman’s Mai Tai

The service was excellent as was the fish and of course, the Mai-Tais. We even had dessert which was basically a massive ice cream sandwich.

Ice cream sandwich

After dinner, we drove back to the Hyatt and turned in early as we had an early and busy morning planned for Day Two on Kauai.

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