Before Shabbos, we packed up almost everything we would need for the trip so that on Motzai Shabbos we could quickly clean up from Shabbos, pack up the last few things and head over to my mother’s house in New Jersey where we we could be just 15 minutes from EWR for our 9:15AM flight on Sunday. By the time we got to bed in Jersey, it was only a few hours before 6:30AM Rosh Chodesh Shacharis at Adath Israel in Hillside, NJ (which is literally minutes from EWR). After Shul, I headed back to get my wife, pack up the car and have my mom drive us to the airport (thanks!). We were at priority checkin (due to flying J) a few minutes before 8AM with plenty of time till our 9:15AM flight. Now, my nerves kicked in; it was time to attempt to get our bags checked all the way through to LIH. I grabbed my printed out tickets of EWR-HNL and HNL-LIH and stepped up the counter. The agent looked at them and in one second said, “We have a new policy. The flights are not on the same reservation, so we can’t check the bags through (unless you’re a Gold member).” Darn. I asked for a supervisor, got a snarky, “She’ll say the same thing as I said,” and was met by… the same thing the first rep said. Oh well. Because we were flying J and had free bags on the first leg, we decided to check the POM box as well as our 2 suitcases, which were just the size of carryons, figuring it would be nice to not walk through EWR with our bags. With 20/20 hindsight, I can definitively say that was a mistake.
After going through TSA Precheck, we headed to the UA Lounge, which was right past security.
We quickly found out that flying J domestically – even to Hawaii
– doesn’t get you access to the lounge. Sheesh. Not to fear, I pulled out 2 one-time passes, and we headed in as I gazed at the monitor and saw that our flight was delayed. I’ve read that this flight, UA15, is plagued by delays, and unfortunately, our flight would be no different from the norm. We were nervous about catching the connecting flight in HNL, but there was nothing we could do at this point, so we put it out of our heads. Back, back, back, a little bit forward, and how about back again?
Eventually, we decided we better head to the gate in case the time changed to an earlier time. When we got to the gate, we found some seats, and within 10 minutes, they called boarding. Glad we decided to go to the gate. We lined up in Group 1 and were ready to get our trip started.
Turning left upon entering the plane put a smile on my face as we headed towards our lie-flat seats, *just* the second time for us (both on UA). We picked the first row (bulkhead) because supposedly there is a bit more space in the footwell, but I really didn’t notice much of a difference. I did notice that the window seat had more room in the footwell and a larger shelf than the aisle seat, as the seats are tilted towards the window and that shape allows for more room in the window seat.Our seats for the next 9:20 hoursDark, but bed-mode
Before we even settled in, the stewardess informed us that our Kosher meal (KSML) was on board and then my nerves kicked in for the second time that day – I asked if it would be possible to warm up the POM meals we brought along with us (in case the KSML was bad), and after some hesitation/confusion (and making a joke about the quality of airline KSMLs that she didn’t seem to appreciate
) and explaining that the food was already wrapped up for an oven, she heartily agreed. Right afterwards, she brought out some drinks.
That stewardess, as well as the rest of the crew, was extremely friendly and provided great service. I am far from being experienced enough to comment on the quality of the service (soft product) or the seat, entertainment system, blanket, pillow, drinks, etc. (hard product) compared to other airlines’ premium cabins, but to humble me, it was all very nice.
We finally took off at 10:40AM, almost an hour and a half after scheduled departure, but the pilot announced that we’d been given a better route and our travel time would be just about 9 and a half hours instead the scheduled 10:52 hours. I’ve gotten used to the concept that sometimes planes can get a better route and make it much earlier than expected, but boy does it confuse/surprise me. Leaving 1.5 hours late and only arriving 13 minutes late made me very happy as we knew there shouldn’t be any issues catching our connecting flight now.
Breakfast was served shortly after takeoff and was from Regal Caterers. We decided to wash (my Rabbi says to wash on Mezonos rolls) and enjoy a bit of the first course. The danish in particular was very good. I’m not so into the pictures of food, but I know you love them
After finding out that the main course was an omelet, we asked if the stewardess wouldn’t mind holding onto our omelets and instead warming up our POM meals once she was done serving everyone else. I figured it would be appropriate to give them time to serve everyone their normal meals before making this request, although it did take a long time for them to get back to us, which was annoying particularly because we also still had to wait for the meal to warm up. Being that it came from the freezer just a few hours earlier, we could tell that 30 minutes of warming wasn’t enough, and we had to ask them to warm it up more. Finally, our penne alla vodka arrived. We both thought it was fantastic, although I personally like the one at Café K better. Again, it was still super flavorful and was an incredible treat while on a plane.
While eating, we watched the live action Cinderella movie (so-so) and then switched off between napping and catching some TV like Impractical Jokers and Shark Tank. Note my wallet under the TV. We’ll get back to that later
A little while later, they came around with the second meal (I didn’t even realize there would be 2 meals!). It’s always so difficult fitting the KSMLs on the tray tables, but I managed even though the first and second courses were brought out together.
This time I didn’t go for the bread/pita. The cake-thing was… yeah… but the breadsticks were good and the lox was yummy! The third course was a chicken dish that the stewardess was able to show me since someone behind us also ordered a KSML but wasn’t particular about the stewardess not opening up the wrapping. (No one behind me looked religious – could be they either are Jewish, not religious or they just have dietary restrictions similar to Kosher.) After seeing the chicken, plus still being pretty full from the POM pasta, I asked if it would be possible to just have the omelet from breakfast, if they still had it. She warned me that they would have to reheat it, and it might dry out, but that didn’t bother me. I’m not sure if the drying out is what did it, but I really liked it. While this picture is not super-appetizing, the egg and potatoes really were!
Now it was time to try for an extended sleep. I know it’s a bed. On a plane. But, for me, it still really isn’t super comfortable for falling asleep. My knees kinda still hit the divider and arm rest, the pillow kinda hits the hard headrest, the blanket isn’t super long, etc., so it took some twisting and turning to find a comfortable position, and I woke a bunch of times, but I did get in a decent sleep. Not trying to sound fancy or anything, but let’s just make it clear that a lie-flat seat on a plane is still not your bed at home. (I know, I know, I still haven't flown a *fancy* first class to compare to.)
Finally, we started descending and, in a few minutes, landed safely and smoothly 9 hours later and 6 hours back in time. We were in Hawaii! They let everyone out the front door, which meant right by our seat, so we jumped off and got to the end of the jet bridge when I realized… I didn’t have my wallet! I checked all my pockets twice, my backpack and my wife’s bag. Nowhere. The last option was to take the awkward walk against traffic back through the jet bridge onto the plane. At least we were sitting the first seat. Of course, the stewardess was standing right in my seat as I looked for my wallet and sheepishly found it sitting on that mini shelf under the TV. Whoops.
Back in the airport, we were so excited to be in Hawaii, but we were also hit with powerful humidity – not much different than in NY.
The airport is very open – no windows or walls in many places – which added to the heat, but was very cool. Pun intended. We made our way to baggage claim and, within a few minutes, found our POM box and my wife’s suitcase b”h. But, that was it.
We waited till everyone cleared away and then I headed to the UA baggage desk, which was right there. A few minutes waiting on line, and soon enough, I found out that my bag was... still in Newark. Should have just schlepped the bags with us onto the plane, eh? Who could have known? This was my first time losing a bag and boy it wasn’t fun. I was told that the bag should be put on the next day’s EWR-HNL flight and then passed onto HA’s HNL-LIH (following our exact flight #s that we took today) and delivered to our hotel.
After filing the claim, we went off looking for our connecting flight. We were told there was a shuttle that could take us right where we needed, but that the walk was only 4 minutes. We went up some stairs, down some others, and yeah it took more than 4 minutes for someone who hasn’t been there before.
To help others out, HA (maybe not all of HA and maybe also some other airlines) is in another building down the road. Not incredibly difficult to find, but it’s also not "just right there." The first HA desks we passed were only for flights to the mainland, and the next set was for the interislands. Interestingly, there was no desk, only self-service kiosks and 2 guys taking bags to checkin. We went to the kiosk, paid $15 to check the POM box and hoped that we could pull off taking our bags on the plane (while they are carryons, my wife’s is officially an inch too tall and mine, an inch too deep). We dropped the POM box with the bag guys and headed to TSA Precheck, which I was pleasantly surprised to see. The TSA agent asked us if we’re taking the bags on the plane, and I froze for a second, but then realized she just wanted to make sure we weren’t bringing checked bags to the wrong place. Through security, we made our way to the gate where everyone had to put their bags through an x-ray machine again due to agriculture security. I guess you can buy things in the airport that you aren’t allowed to take on the plane? I had planned on going to the lounge that the AA Executive card gets access to, but we really didn’t have enough time to make it worth it (plus it turns out that it’s in the main building with flights to the mainland, not in the building with interislands). We found some seats and boarding began almost an hour before takeoff. We were in Zone 3, but still got on the plane pretty quickly. There were no 2 seats next to each other when I booked, and we didn’t get a chance to talk to an agent to see if they could do anything, so we just sat in our seats, one behind the other.
It was at this point (as I mentioned in the trip planning section) that Yehoshua texted me that flights opened up for our return trip LAX-EWR on Motzai Shabbos, and I tried booking from the plane till the last minute as we were taking off. I didn’t get it done, but held out hope the space would be there later. A last look at Honolulu
We booked Y because paying for J for a 30 minute flight seemed crazy, and we were just fine. I’ll point out that the space under the window seat is very tiny, and my backpack didn’t really fit underneath it. Our “big” carryons fit just fine up top. I knew that we would be rushing around to get our luggage, car rental, etc., so I Davened Mincha on the short flight.SomethingFishy cleverly posted his HA “KSML”, so I will too
Literally just a few minutes later, I got my first peek of Kauai.
As we landed, I could already see the beauty of the waves crashing against the land.
All it took was 1 minute of taxiing to get our first view of the incredible terrain.
We got off the plane to find an airport that was even more open than HNL and felt less humid thankfully. LIH really feels island-y and baggage claim is literally a step off the street. Of course after losing 1 bag already, we nervously awaited our POM box’s thump out of the chute, but there it came. We may not have had my clothing or basically all of our toiletries, but thankfully we had our food. We were pointed towards the strip of road where all the car rental shuttles pick up from, and the Dollar shuttle (as well as many others) was already there waiting. A 2 minute drive around the parking lot, and we pulled up to the rental office. I was ready for the sight we were met with because I read AJK’s trip report, but my wife was shocked and then fell in love with the babies.Roosters were literally everywhere on the island. I guess they’re like Manhattan’s pigeons
I took care of the car rental while my wife rooster-watched. The rep was very nice but was also like a pushy used-car salesman trying to get me to buy insurance, threatening that my insurance won’t cover me in Hawaii because they have a law that the rental car owner is responsible even if someone else hits you and regular car insurance won’t cover it and by trying to get me to buy the pre-paid tank of gas. They wanted $3.27/gallon, and Google says the car holds 19 gallons, which would have been $62.13. He told me he paid $3.42 that morning on his own car. I took my chances that we wouldn’t use up a whole tank on our trip, and I was right, but not by much. Finally, he let me know that their fleet doesn’t have any Mustangs in it, so they were going to give me… a 2015 Camaro! Woohoo! It took some time till they pulled the car around, but when it came – Wow! I’ve never driven a convertible before, so I looked a bit silly trying to open the roof – you’d think they would have shown me without me having to go ask for help, hehe. The trunk was very small, but just fit the POM box perfectly. We filled up the back row with our bags (not sure how it could have fit if we had real suitcases) and drove off.The first thing you see heading out of the airport, welcomes you to Kauai amid some beautiful palm trees
Waze worked fine (really throughout our whole journey), and our first stop was 5 minutes away at Walmart to pick up a toaster oven and food for lunches as I mentioned in the trip planning post. We also had to pick up some toiletries and clothes for myself since my bag was delayed and I had no clothing, bathing suit, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. We looked for the cheapest toaster that looked like it could hold 2 POM meals at once. Some obviously large enough ones were more than we were hoping to spend, and some cheap ones looked too small. We settled on this on one for $28, and 2 meals ended up fitting if we squished them a bit, hehe. Since the food is kept in aluminum pans, we were able to just bend the side flaps up and then they fit. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the model number, just have this pic (model # is too blurry to read), but either way, I imagine the exact models that this specific Walmart carries changes every so often. This one says it can hold 4 slices of bread or a 9” pizza – maybe use those points to help you pick one out.
As we headed out of Walmart, I realized I hadn’t gotten a pic of the car yet.
After dealing with the bag, connecting on our interisland flight, picking up the car rental and spending more time than we expected at Walmart, we were finally ready to head to our hotel. The “plain ol’ highway views” on the way as the sun was setting instantly made us fall in love with the island.
The half hour drive finally turned off into the famous Tree Tunnel
on Maluhia Road, something we had the pleasure of seeing and driving through basically every time we went to or from the hotel. It was hard to capture it in a picture while we were driving, and despite our Blue Hawaiian tour guide the next day telling us people always stop in the middle of the tunnel to take pictures, we didn’t feel comfortable without a shoulder on the side, so you’ll have to live with just this picture. The wise observer will notice that this picture was not taken upon our first entry into the tree tunnel, as 1) the sky is not at sunset, and 2) the thicker side of the trees is on your right side when you enter the tunnel from Highway 50
After a couple of minutes, alas, paradise was straight ahead – the Grand Hyatt Kauai
Even just taking in your first view of the hotel shows you how they created the perfect combination of luxury and tropical when designing this hotel.
From prior research, I knew that valet parking cost $10 a night, while self-parking is free. The parking lot is right there on the side, and the valet had no problem letting me unload our stuff right outside the lobby and then going to park the car myself. Before we even had a chance to take the bags out of the car, someone was there grabbing them for us while someone else donned us with our complimentary leis. My wife looked longingly at people who had leis in the airport, so she was super excited when the beautiful lei was given to her. (I knew it was coming for free, so I wasn't about to buy in the airport.
) They have a stand of leis waiting at the entrance with a worker whose job is just to give them out to arriving guests.Courtesy of Google Images and some random website. Flowers for the women, black pebbles/possibly-plastic for the men
For you to get an idea of the time, it was 7:30PM by the time we went to checkin, which coincided perfectly with my estimated time of checkin on my itinerary
, and I was hoping for an upgrade to a suite as a Hyatt Diamond member. As you know, I paid with free night certificates, which can’t be used in conjunction with an official Diamond Suite Upgrade, but I was hoping just to get a complimentary upgrade. Officially, the complimentary upgrade for Diamond status only gets you upgraded to the best non-suite room upon checkin/availability, but I had emailed the reservations manager a week prior and was told I could get a suite if one was available upon checkin. Back in the airport I checked online and there was still a few suites available, so I was excited. However, the checkin agent said we would be upgraded to an Ocean View room, and that there were no suites available. I told him I saw availability just an hour ago, so he went “to the back” to check and confirmed that there were no suites. I looked on my phone again, and there was nothing available. Not sure what happened there exactly, but nu nu, the room was still gorgeous, faced the ocean (which, as you’ll see, was incredible), and we didn’t really
need the space of a suite – it just would have been nice. As our Diamond amenity, we chose the free use of a cabana by the pool. However, later on when we wanted to use it, all the cabanas were already reserved for the day, and they were really just 2 beach chairs with an awning overhead, so we just settled onto regular beach chairs and traded in our Diamond amenity for this Kauai book. (Yes, it’s worth less than the value of the 1,000 Hyatt points we could have chosen, but it’s more fun to bring home another souvenir than to collect 1,000 points.)
The lobby, like the airport, is very open with no doors and large openings instead of walls. We glanced around for a minute and checked out the center of the lobby, which is a type of garden (with no roof) laid out right in front of where we got our first of many gawks at the incredible, framed view of the ocean that the GHK so wonderfully built.It was hard getting the lighting right where it wasn’t entirely bright white or dark black outside the “window,” so I just kept snapping pics every time we passed by until eventually I got the right lighting
Of course, we weren’t *allowed* to push the luggage trolley by ourselves, so a bellhop came along with us to our room on the 5th floor of the Poi’pu Guestroom Wing, which is one floor above the lobby as the lobby/entrance is interestingly on the 4th floor of the hotel. The bellhop was super friendly and offered some tips of the local area (such as – get to Poi’pu Beach!), and I made sure to give him a tip. It’s a bit of a walk to get to the room as the hotel is very spread out, but it's really not too bad. The room was another wonderful blend of tropical and luxury.
As you can see, the room was spacious, had a small, private porch – known as a lanai – and the bathroom was very large. As AJK is famous for pointing out, the toilet (which was in its own room) was very modern with a heated seat and built-in bidet. The only annoying part was that we could never get it to turn off completely, so it always made a low humming sound. The soaps and shampoos are made exclusively for the GHK, and if you could capture the smell of Hawaii and put it in a bottle, they did it. Large bottles are available for purchase in the spa, but are quite expensive, so I just took a few of the small shampoos to keep that smell with me for as long as I can. Sprinkled around the room and bathroom are the same gorgeous flowers that made up the lei.
I thought we would have to request a fridge, but there was one already in the room. We had picked up a case of water bottles for $4 at Walmart, but there were also 2 bottles of Aquafina already in the fridge that would be replenished every day as part of the $40 daily resort fee that award bookings thankfully don’t have to pay
. Our first order of business was to unpack the POM box and move the meals to the fridge. They were still on the frozen side – pretty awesome – and we decided that for just 3-4 days everything would be fine in the fridge, and we could avoid dealing with sending everything down to the hotel’s freezer and requesting meals every night. That idea worked out without a problem as the food did not go bad.
We then checked out the lanai to see our beautiful view and hear the constant ocean crashing up against the beach. The GHK faces northeast, so you can’t see the sunset and can’t see a full sunrise in the morning. An iPhone plus nighttime lighting didn’t help this picture too much, but trust me, the view was… sigh. Boy writing this thing sure brings back fond memories.
If you recall, I was not able to grab the flights home while on the HA flight, so now that we settled in, I opened up my computer and found the flights still available. I wanted to book them at the cheaper rate with LH, but LH’s USA office was closed already, and I’ve never had great success when calling the foreign numbers, so I figured I would wait till the morning to book.
After setting up the toaster and popping in two meals, we may have taken a bit of a risk by letting it warm up while leaving the room, but we were getting tired and also wanted to check out whatever we could of the grounds, so we left – b”h there was no incident. We first realized that our room was extremely close to the Grand Club
– just 2 floors above it – so we stopped in there to check it out, thanks to being Diamond.
The club’s ceiling is two stories high and there are glass windows looking down, so I was able to get shots from the hallway above.
In the club, we asked about Kosher food, and as expected, were told that Kosher bagels (from Oahu Kosher) would be available for us for every breakfast of our stay. Glad we went in because you had to “order” them in advance (not just at breakfast), as they need to bring them in from the main kitchen freezer.
After the club, we made our way outside to the beautiful grounds and pools. It was already dark, so it was actually hard to tell what was a pond or a pool, but just listening to the ocean and walking in the serene setting of the grounds was awesome. We passed by an area that had torches lit up around a Hawaiian dance performance and stopping for a minute really hit the Hawaiian spot. The groans and moans of the dancers/“singers” were very funny. It was too dark to get any pictures, but I knew we would be back to explore more in the morning.
Back in the room, our meals were still cold, so we had to add more time (as everyone warns about POM meals), but eventually they were ready-enough for us to eat. My wife had the BBQ chicken nuggets with popcorn cauliflower and garlic broccoli, while I had the fire poppers chicken nuggets with popcorn cauliflower and mashed potatoes. The BBQ nuggets were great – super tasty and not dry – while the fire poppers were a bit too spicy for my taste, but still full of flavor. The cauliflower was very flavorful (although not quite as good as my wife’s own cauliflower heaven), the broccoli was pretty good and the mashed potatoes were good (although they put in onions despite my request to leave them out and the note on my receipt saying “mashed potatoes – no onions,” but no big deal really). I’m a bit surprised that I can’t find a picture of this dinner, because I thought I got pictures of all the meals, but yeah, you’ll just have to wait till this dinner repeated itself in a few nights.
I Davened Maariv and then, finally, exhausted from the day and the fact that it was 6 hours later back home, we crashed for the night. Kauai Revealed warns that you could stay at the GHK and not leave during your entire visit to Kauai and still have an incredible time, but you would obviously miss out on the gems of island. At this point, we definitely could agree that we could have stayed there forever.