Honolulu (HNL) September 2015

A three-day mileage run to HNL to help secure Executive Platinum status for 2016.  This trip was all on USair (US).  As an American Platinum, I am entitled to upgrades on US because of the merger.  But because the reservation systems are still separate (until October17), AA frequent fliers are not upgraded, if at all, only on the day of travel.

Fortunately, my upgrade on the CLT-PHX flight cleared.  I was in first class on the A 321 for a breakfast flight

There is more than enough room in first on US and AA planes to comfortably cross my legs.  That would be a very tight fit on Delta (DL) flights.

Breakfast US A 321
Breakfast US A321

I chose french toast.  The entree while good was not my idea of French toast, but it was a pleasant change from the usual egg dishes in first.  The “french toast” was more like a muffin.  It was accompanied by baked fruit and nuts as well as fresh fruit and a warm roll.

There was a snack service after breakfast.

After a short layover in PHX, I boarded the flight to HNL.  It was a 757.  I had a coach seat, 5D, right behind the bulkhead between first and coach.  There are no complementary upgrade opportunities on AA or US flights to Hawaii.  You can buy and upgrade for $300 each way.  I had no interest in paying that much for an upgrade even on a flight of almost seven hours.

Besides the seat I had was pretty comfortable.  I could stretch my legs out because the bulkhead did not goo all the way to the floor.  The middle seat was empty on this flight, so there was even more room to relax and spread out.

I had a good view of the first-class cabin on the 757.  There were only 16 seats.

757 first-class seats
757 first-class seats

The first three rows of coach on the US 757s are separated from the rest of the cabin by lavatories and the exit between rows 8 and 10.  It gives the coach seats at the front of the cabin a quiet, private feeling.

I brought my golf clubs to Honolulu so I rented a car.  Rental car rates at HNL are usually very reasonable.  I had reserved a Hertz economy car for a little less than $30/day.  At the rental office they offered me a small SUV for the same price instead.  When I got to the vehicle, I saw it had the Never Lost GPS, too.

Hertz SUV with GPS
Hertz SUV with GPS

The GPS was a real benefit in getting to golf courses and driving ranges without worrying about running down my phone battery.

Rental cars in HNL are relatively in expensive, but hotels are the other side of the coin.  It was only a 15-minute drive to the Aqua Palms Hotel on Ala Moana Blvd.    The Aqua Palms was a three-star hotel at best.  Rooms on the front of the hotel have a Diamond Head or partial ocean view.

I reserved a standard city-view room that ran about $100/night plus resort fee and parking.  The room was about 250sq.ft.  By contrast, for about the same price or less, in many cities in Asia, I can get a five-star Starwood hotel where I get free buffet breakfast and evening appetizers and drinks and have a good chance of getting a suite upgrade.

The bathroom was small but I liked the shower with a sliding glass door.  The hotel provided decent shower amenities.

There was a play station device attached to the TV that could be used as a DVD player.  The hotel had a machine in the lobby where I could get one free DVD per day.

As a solo traveler, a lot of times I will get takeout for meals.  Having a microwave and refrigerator in the room comes in handy.  On the whole, the room was more than adequate for a single occupant on a budget.

The hotel has an IHOP conveniently attached to the lobby.  There are several others close by including a BW3 and Outback Steakhouse.  The hotel does not offer room service.  You can order delivery from a variety of restaurants nut the service charges seemed prohibitive.

Ala Moana Mall is a 10-minute walk.  This mall is an outdoor, multi-level mall with medium and high-end stores and restaurants.  The mall also has a stage where there are Polynesian shows periodically.

The mall is close to a Korea Town area with many Korean restaurants.  After visiting the mall, I stopped by Soribol restaurant, which was recommended by a HNL resident of Korean descent who I had played golf with earlier.

It turns out I had been to this restaurant on a previous visit to HNL but I had forgotten the name.  The Ponchon (appetizers) preceded the main dish.  The ponchon included, bean sprouts, a tofu dish, potato salad, sauteed cabbage and carrots and of course kimchi.  I ordered bbq chicken and pork, which was prepared in the kitchen.  I prefer having it cooked at the table.  Most Korean restaurants require two or more people to fire up the table grill, however.  The bbq came with a seaweed soup and rice.

One of the nights in HNL I found some Latin dancing not far from my hotel.  Tuesday night is Latin night at Rumors nightclub in the Ala Mona hotel.

Dancing is from 9pm to midnight+.  There is a DJ and a band.  Music is non stop.  There is a nice mixture of salsa and bachata with kizumba and merengue sprinkled in.   The crowd is mostly local regulars, but it was not hard to find partners for dancing.

I got in a couple of rounds of golf and hit my favorite driving range in HNL, Newtown Driving Range in Alea.

The buckets are good sized for the money and the balls are mostly in good shape.  But the best feature of this range is the food hut.   It has a great short-order menu, and good food.

Newtown range food hut
Newtown range food hut.  Click to enlarge to read menu.

I had the Chicken Katsu, fried chicken strips and rice.  It was nice to sit at the picnic tables after hitting some balls, eat a delightful repast, and silently critique the poor slobs on the range.

All in all it was a brief but enjoyable time in Hawaii.

Aloha Tower
Aloha Tower
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