This is a one week trip where we stayed at a vacation rental in Waimanalo, Oahu. We used credit card points to cover the flights (Spokane to Honolulu) and the rental car. Waimanalo beach is spectacular with light colored sand and azure/coral blue water. Overall Oahu was a pleasant surprise, as for some reason I had expected the most populous island to be less beautiful than Kauai where we had visited previously. Instead I found the landscape stunning, and we were treated very well by the locals.
Planning the flights
We wanted to use points which required booking well in advance, almost a year. But I’ve found it’s often difficult to find convenient Round trip flights using points. But if you only look one way you can often find convenient flights using one program to get there, and a different one to return. We found convenient flights to Honolulu using 20,000 Delta Skymiles points per person and convenient flights returning to Spokane using 15,000 Flying Blue points per person. Once I had found the flights I moved Citi ‘Thank you’ points to my Flying Blue account which posted immediately and then purchased the flights. The Delta points came from an Amex gold card. In total we used 70,000 points for two people. To me there is no problem having flights there and back on different reservations/different airlines. But I like to book both passengers (DW and I) using the same program on same reservation so we can easily arrange seating together, and if the airline changes the reservation, both tickets are linked. The Flying Blue flights were actually on Delta, but we saved 5,000 points per person using Flying Blue points.
Planning where to stay
We had plans to meet up with a friend in Kaneohe while we were there so we knew we wanted to stay relatively close. We wanted a place that we could walk to a non-crowded beach and also walk to eateries. I looked at vacation rentals on VRBO and found a two bedroom cottage that cost $1,740 for a week inclusive that was a 5 minute walk to Waimanalo beach and a ~20 minute drive to our friends place in Kaneohe. I always look for places where we do not share a wall (or floor/ceiling) with others as I relish peace and quiet.
The rental car
For the rental car I used Chase ‘Ultimate Rewards’ (UR) points. DW and I had generated 100,000 UR points by each getting a Chase Sapphire Preferred card (50k UR points). I moved the points to our new Chase Sapphire Reserve card which allows a 50% bonus when redeeming points. Total cost to rent a Ford Focus from National for a week from Honolulu airport: 15,946 UR points.
Getting to Oahu
We chose an early departure (5:45 am from Spokane) that got us into Honolulu at 11:40 am. This meant waking up at 2:45 am and leaving the house at 3:15am. I have gotten used to getting up early and really prefer it now as I like to get to the destination earlier. The flight to Seattle was on an Embraer 175 which had 2+2 seating and is a jet which DW prefers over a turboprop. Nice start, in the future I will specifically look for Embraer 175 flights. Our connection was at Sea-Tac and we were able to use our Priority Pass that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card (you have to request it) to access the ‘The Club at SEA’ lounge in the South Satellite where our departure gate was. A tasty coffee, and toasted bagel in a quiet uncrowded setting, and a bottled water for the flight and then we were on our way. We arrive on time and make our way to the National car rental booth. I videotape the car with the mileage to go over the dings and dents before we leave the lot and we are on our way.
Honolulu to Kaneohe
DW and I are both tired from the flight and ready for lunch. We drive to Kaneohe and after two miss-steps find ‘Kenko Ya’ Japanese restaurant. It’s ~3/4 full, a good sign and we are seated. I order the special that comes with edamame, sprouts, miso soup, and two choices where I pick sashimi and shrimp tempura. DW gets a soft shell crab roll. Food is great, particularly sashimi which is fresh and we decide we will be back. A nice touch is one of the older servers (an owner?) motions us to a nicer table when it opens up. I really appreciate it when restaurant staff make an effort to improve the experience of an obvious tourist. I am beginning to really like Oahu. The Safeway is in the same outdoor Mall across from the restaurant, and we get supplies for the trip.
Kaneohe to Waimanalo
Back on the road there is some highway construction, but we make it to Waimanalo with only about 10 minute traffic delay. Ironically our vacation rental landlords have already stocked the rental with very similar food to what we bought at Safeway (bananas, milk, bread). The rental is in a neighborhood and my first take is not good. People are parking on their lawns and some young men next door with bandanas on makes me think we may be in for some loud music. As I write this two days in, the neighbors have actually been very quiet, so my fears were unfounded. After we relax we head to the beach using a public access trail and it is … spectacular.
The views of Manana (Rabbit) Island with the coral blue ocean are stunning. There are a few groups of people boogie-boarding but plenty of space on a Wednesday. This is probably the most visually spectacular beach I’ve ever been to. After a walk down the beach we go to ‘Ono steaks’ to get take-out dinner. DW and I get the $9.50 combo of shrimp plus 4 oz. steaks with rice and salad. Back at the cottage it goes great with ice cold Kirin Ichiban beer. Later in the visit I do some body boarding.
To get tickets to visit the USS Arizona we logged into the reservation site at 7 am the day before we wanted to go. I quickly reserved 3 tickets. We arrived, picked up our tickets, and had 30 minutes to stroll and read about the contributions of individual submarines and their crews. Ten minutes before our time we entered the line to the movie. I learn the air defense was concerned about sabotage so they parked the planes defending Pearl Harbor wingtip to wingtip without any ammunition. We take the boat ride out to the memorial and learn that survivors from the USS Arizona are being interred with their shipmates, as recently as 2017. After the Arizona tour we paid for a tour of the USS Bowfin submarine and take the audio tour. I really enjoyed it and was amazed by the complexity of the electrical power of the sub.
We had several great meals. The first was at Kenko Ya. On the second visit I got the combination meal again with butterfish and shrimp and vegetable tempura which was excellent. The most fun we had was Haleiwa Joe’s in Haiku Gardens near Kaneohe. When they brought the prime rib to the table next to us we were in shock at it’s size, huge. When it came to our table it tasted great, but there was no way I could eat it all. So DW and friend get ¼ of my prime rib and share their fish so we all end up having surf and turf. The view of the Ko’olau Mountains from the deck is spectacular, really an amazing evening.
We had a great time and enjoyed staying near Waimanalo beach. Living in the country doesn’t mean you can’t get off the farm and do something new. Credit card rewards can help minimize the cost, and keep you on track for FI. We will be back.