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Paul Klein

Hula in a Hurry, by Russ Wagenaar

One night in Honolulu ……

Yes, mileage run trips are back apparently! My friend who suggested this trip about a month ago wanted to get more bang for the buck, so we flew on AA from Chicago to Charlotte then onto Honolulu. We were not the only crazy ones onboard as I found out the gal, in the seat ahead of me, was flying round trip on the same day ORD/CLT/HNL/CLT/ORD.

The flights operated on time and full in all cabins. It was nice to see many more travelers at each airport compared to just a few months ago, however, any kind of social distancing at boarding gates is a thing of the past already.

Hawai’i still requires a negative COVID test, to bypass quarantine restrictions, that are to be taken (in this area) at certain CVS or Walgreens drive-thru locations. www.gohawaii.com has all the information about this.

Once you receive your negative test result it is time to go online to register with the State of Hawaii Safe Travels online system. Here you input your name, home address, length of trip, where you will stay and flight information. This site will also require you upload the COVID test result after which a QR code is supplied. This QR code is important because to leave the Honolulu airport it must be shown to personnel who checks EACH passenger as they exit from the airport. It took us maybe 10 minutes, at the most, in line before we presented our QR codes and test result confirmation to the authorities.

A quick 20-minute Uber ride and we were at The Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki. While not directly on Waikiki Beach (approximate 4 blocks away) the two high-rise buildings (2016 and 2018) do have a fantastic view from the upper floors over Fort Derussy Beach Park towards the ocean and Diamond Head to the southeast. A total of 246 suites from 1 to 4 bedrooms, each of the units are privately owned. Not all of them are in the hotel rental system as some residents live there year-round. There are two stunning duplex 4-bedroom residences, but only 1 of them is in the rental pool as that owner never occupies the residence.

My friend and I were in a 2-bedroom residence. All the units are ocean-view. Some of the bedrooms in certain units face the mountains but every living room area is a direct ocean view.

Washer/dryer, dishwasher, Miele two-burner kitchen cooktop, convection oven, and full-size refrigerator, dual vanities in most bathrooms. Our 2-bedroom had a walk-in shower and tub “wet room” combo which most of the units also have although I noticed that in the 4-bedroom unit only a shower, no tub, in 3 of the 4 bathrooms. The master bath has a soaking tub.

Four dining venues including 2 Japanese, 1 Italian, and 1 French restaurant. High-end Market for sundries and supplies also on the ground floor.

I was a little perplexed when we were at the reception desk checking in. Staffed by 4 front desk agents the “front desk” sits just opposite from the doorway to La Vie French restaurant and just beyond the desk are steps leading down to the adult pool so there were guests/residents sloshing by us in their bathing suits and/or robes to get to the elevators. Oh well, welcome to paradise, right?!?

Pictured here are the Ewa Tower (left, opened in 2016) and the Diamond Tower (right, opened in 2018).  The two pools in front of the Diamond Tower are for families and the adult pool is in front of the Ewa Tower.

The hotel was fully staffed, and I noticed that most of the staff were locals which I like to see in a big tourist destination like this. All very friendly and attentive and most pleased to see guests coming back.

Even with the restrictions still in place to visit, I must say there were hordes of people along Kalakaua Avenue which is the main drag in Waikiki.  I noticed lines of up to 20 people standing outside of some restaurants waiting to get in. Hawai’i is still very strict with COVID protocols especially distancing indoor dining venues.

Many people on the street were “mask down” but indoors, it is the law to mask up.

All in all, it was good to get back to Honolulu to see the city jumping! During our lazy pool time at the adult pool, my friend and I were chatting with a nice Southern California couple who extended their stay after celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday with 22 others. A young couple overheard my friend tell them we were from Chicago and the guy turned around and said “oh, we are also from Chicago!” This couple was celebrating their honeymoon after having to delay their wedding last year.

So, people are getting out and about and with smiles on their faces ….. when you can see them!

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