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How to Hawaii Vacation with Diamond Resorts and #DiamondStories
By Stephanie Allen
Media & Content Editor
If you’ve never been to Hawaii, it’s hard to grasp exactly what you’re missing out on. Luckily, the Diamond Resorts media team traveled to the island state to show you why Hawaii should be on your vacation bucket list. And with the abundance of activities, diverse landscapes and rich culture, Hawaii absolutely should be on it.
Hawaii is the second stop in the #DiamondStories series this year, aimed at showcasing some of Diamond Resorts’ most desirable destinations around the globe. (Our first stop was Sedona, Arizona.) You can follow our adventures throughout the year on social media with #DiamondStories and join the conversation by using the hashtag to share your own vacation experiences.
Our journey to Hawaii began much like the trip to Sedona – with a 6 a.m. flight out of the Las Vegas airport. Only this time, we were in for a six-hour trip, with our sights set on Honolulu. The flight is lengthy, even from the West Coast, so we suggest stocking up on your favorite snacks and downloading a movie or two to help pass the time.
We arrived shortly before noon HST to find the abnormally wet weather that Oahu – and much of Hawaii – experienced the previous week had given way to sunny skies and temperatures in the humid, low-80s. (Tip: bring an array of clothing options. During our 11 days on the islands, we wore shorts, pants, tank tops, sweatshirts and bathing suits. Sometimes all of those in one day. It’s the tropics and the weather changes quickly.)
We opted to rent a vehicle but saw plenty of taxis available, if you’re not up for navigating the city streets yourself. Initially, we thought Honolulu looked much like San Diego or Los Angeles – just another big city with palm trees. We didn’t quite feel like we were in Hawaii until we arrived at The Modern Honolulu, Diamond Resorts’ newest property in the heart of Waikiki. The resort is absolutely gorgeous, and the perfect mixture of sleek, sophisticated design and traditional Hawaiian vibes. It’s hands down, one of Diamond’s premier properties. Needless to say, we’ll be back.
For lunch, we walked two blocks to GOOFY Cafe & Dine, a breezy little surfer-themed restaurant that serves local favorites, including loco moco and omelets. It was quick – and close – and filled us up so we could spend the afternoon exploring Waikiki’s hotspots. We walked to the famed Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana Center, the largest shopping mall in Hawaii, working up an appetite for dinner at The Grove Restaurant & Bar, located around the pool at The Modern Honolulu. (Tip: Definitely try The Grove, but remember there are plenty of other local restaurants within walking distance. We’re ashamed to admit we only tried one other restaurant while in Honolulu. The Grove was tasty and convenient!)
We decided to give in to our jetlag and call it an early night. Our first full day was packed with activities, even if we didn’t realize it yet.
DAY 1: PEARL HARBOR
At 5:45 a.m., we were dressed and caffeinated, and outside the resort ready for our Pearl Harbor tour with E Noa Tours. Our tour guide was kind and told endless stories throughout our drive to the USS Arizona Memorial, our first stop on the tour. To say the site is overwhelming is understatement. The memorial is a must-see while in Hawaii. The exhibits are nicely curated, easy to follow and informational. If you have tickets to take the ferry out to the memorial site, you’re told to line up about 10-15 minutes before your show time to watch a short film about how Dec. 7, 1941 changed the world. Chills ran down my arms as the film showed footage of the attack that claimed so many lives.
We then took the short ferry ride to the memorial, which was built over the sunken USS Arizona. We could just barely see the tops of the gun turrets above the water, and when the sun hit the water, we could see portions of the ship below the surface. It’s difficult to describe the emotion that overcomes you when experiencing it. It’s almost surreal.
Tip: Bags are not allowed on the Pearl Harbor site and must be checked into a locker for $5 per bag. The locker isn’t far from the entrance and you can go back to get something out as needed, but keep that in mind when heading over in the morning. E Noa Tours gave us a lanyard with a small, clear pouch for us to carry cash and cards, but we had to carry our cameras and cell phones.
We also had to leave our bags in the lockers when our tour continued to the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, which is located on the military base. Before being allowed on base, a security officer searched our bus to ensure no one had a personal bag.
Our 30-minute tour of the famous battleship included a stop at the spot where Imperial Japan surrendered during World War II on September 2, 1945. We also saw the dent a low-flying kamikaze plane left on the starboard side when it crashed on April 11, 1945. There was plenty more to explore onboard, but our tour was tight on time, so we weren’t able to experience everything. If the USS Missouri is a must-see for you, we recommend confirming the trip timeline with your tour company first.
After heading back to the main site, we grabbed our bags and boarded the bus to catch a glimpse of a few additional landmarks, including the National Memorial Cemetery, before returning to the resort. I made the mistake of forgetting breakfast and we didn’t stop for lunch, so by the time we got back to The Modern, we were exhausted – and starving. We grabbed an early dinner at The Grove and decided to call it another early night.
DAY 2: DIAMOND HEAD CRATER
The day we had been waiting for – the grand opening event for The Modern Honolulu! We started with avocado toast and coconut lattes for breakfast (at The Grove again) and then relaxed around the resort for a couple hours, soaking in the Hawaii sun and working on our fitness at the resort gym. For lunch, we stopped at Diamond Head Health Bar, a cash-only hole-in-the-wall spot that we heard makes the best acai bowls. They did not disappoint! We took our bowls to-go, and drove up to Diamond Head State Monument, where we embarked on super quick hike to the top.
Our social media manager, Christopher, thoroughly enjoys exercise and isn’t afraid of heights, so he ran the whole way up, leaving me in the dust. When I finally caught up to him, we were at the bottom of a set of very steep stairs. I hesitated for a minute but after a quick pep talk, I hugged the rail and ran to the top. The trail then takes you through a tunnel that leads to a winding staircase and eventually spits you out at the top of the crater’s edge. And the views are absolutely worth it. We could see all of Waikiki and had unbeatable views of the shoreline. We took a few photos – a selfie or two – and then ran back down to get a refreshing coconut from the cash-only food truck parked at the bottom.
We were tight on time again – we had a grand opening even to get to – but wished we would’ve had more time to enjoy the landscape. When we got back to The Modern, we quickly got ready for the resort’s official blessing ceremony. A Kahu performed the traditional ceremony with help from a few of Diamond’s leaders. We then enjoyed a buffet dinner and spent the rest of the night enjoying a private concert by Diamond Celebrity ambassador Colt Ford.
We met for breakfast, again at The Grove, for some more avocado toast and lattes before checking out of the resort and heading to the airport for our flight to Kauai. We were sad to leave Diamond’s newest property and both said we’d like to go back and explore more of Oahu. If you’re planning a stop at The Modern as part of your next island hopping vacation with Diamond Resorts, we recommend spending more than three days on-site. There’s simply too much to fit in that short period of time.
But it was time to hop!
Stay tuned for #DiamondStories: Hawaii, Part 2 for all the details on our adventures on Kauai.