The stunning view of the Pacific Ocean from Waimea Bay.

Hello, Hawaii!
THE PEPPER MILL - Pepper Teehankee (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2017 - 4:00pm

It’s hard to resist the lure of this “Pacific paradise” with its amazing natural wonders, delicious food and beautiful people.

It had been nine years since I was last in Hawaii. Recently, I had the chance to go back to “Aloha State” with a group to explore again this island paradise.

The flight from Manila to Honolulu onboard our flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) was truly comfortable with its reconfigured seats. PAL has converted the cabin layout of eight mono-class, 414-seater A330-300s into a 309-seater, tri-class model with Business, Premium Economy and Economy class sections.

The reconfigured A330 has started to be utilized for the Manila-Honolulu-Manila route in June and Melbourne and Shanghai in July. Other A330 tri-class planes will be unveiled this month for Sydney, in September for Hong Kong, in October for Narita, in November for Haneda and Osaka and in December for Singapore.

The new Business Class that I rode had direct-aisle access for all. PAL’s Vantage XL seats from Thompson Aerospace deliver the ultimate travel experience. Each seat features an ultra-comfortable adjustable air cushion system for greater relaxation and it has a fully flat 78-inch long bed with a width of 23 inches for better sleeping. What made me even happier was the AC power and the USB port at every seat!

The Premium Economy Class provides an upgraded experience in a spacious 2-3-2 configuration with a 19.55-inch seat width, 38-inch pitch and eight-inch recline. It even has a 13.3-inch touch-screen monitor with on-demand entertainment and an AC power and USB port at every seat as well.

PAL’s reconfigured A330-300s offer Economy Class passengers the extra space that can make all the difference on a long flight. The new seats include an 18-inch seat width and six-inch recline, a spacious 32-inch seat pitch, a USB port at every seat, and a new large 10.1-inch touch-screen monitor for all seats. The aircraft are also equipped with myPAL Wi-Fi.

Onboard PAL en route to Hawaii, I was able to watch Rogue One (glad to know I was not the only one who hadn’t seen it at the time). I also enjoyed the hot meals served to us, specially prepared by Glenda Barretto, and the desserts made by Miko Aspiras.

* * *

Our group arrived in Honolulu just in time for lunch. We headed straight to Highway Inn, a Hawaiian specialty restaurant founded in 1947. Of course, we had the famous Hawaiian dish, poke (meaning to cut or chop). Ahi poke is chopped tuna seasoned with Hawaiian salt, seaweed and sesame oil and/or onions and soy sauce. Also served were squid luau, a dish similar to our laing that uses luau leaves instead of taro leaves; and laulau, stuffed with chicken or a combination of pork and fish, which reminded me of pinangat. We also indulged in Kahlua pork, a whole pig roasted underground, and the famous haupia dessert.

After the hearty lunch, we headed to Iolani Palace. It was the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchs in the 1900s. Known for being ahead of its time, the palace was outfitted with the most up-to-date amenities that included plumbing and the first electric lights in Hawaii.

We were billeted at Hilton Hawaiian Village, a resort that has several hotel buildings and is situated on 22 oceanfront acres of Waikiki.

The resort has several restaurants and countless shops, as well as five pools including a 10,000-sq.-ft. beachfront super pool. Do stay at the Rainbow Tower, which has a stunning view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. In 1968, the Rainbow Tower opened the then world’s largest ceramic tile mosaic.

* * *

Our Day 2 started with a big breakfast that included a Hawaiian specialty called Island Frittatas, which is bread covered with cheese, spinach, tomatoes and Portuguese sausage.

That filling breakfast readied us for our trip to Kualoa Ranch, a 4,000-acre private nature reserve. Here, we took the Movie Site Tour where we headed out to see many famous filming locations of TV shows Hawaii Five-O and Lost, and movies like Godzilla, Jurassic Park and Kong: Skull Island.

For lunch, we had Kualoa’s famed organic pork and for some, they had their freshwater oysters. After lunch, we had a boat trip that brought us from a manmade lake to the Pacific Ocean where some of us spotted several sea turtles.

It was a fun yet tiring day as we left Kualoa but we still had enough energy to conquer the Waikele Premium Outlets. This shopper’s paradise would definitely be a hit for Pinoys, what  with brands like Coach, Ralph Lauren, Armani Exchange, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein and Kate Spade around. I was also delighted to see Barneys New York Warehouse and Saks Off 5th.

 We had dinner at Uncle’s Fish Market at Pier 38 where we got to try the famous large white shrimp of Hawaii.  Our group went back to the hotel to recharge for the next day’s hectic schedule.

* * *

Who would even think of Hawaii without thinking of Pearl Harbor? So, we went to the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, home of the USS Arizona Memorial, which marks the resting place of more than 1,000 sailors and Marines who were killed during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

When I went to the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument nine years ago, I only visited the USS Arizona Memorial. This time, I was glad that we were also allowed to go to Ford Island for the Battleship Missouri Memorial. The Battleship Missouri is where Japan signed its instrument of surrender.

Our group then headed to the town of Haleiwa for a quick stop to walk around the picturesque Waimea Bay and North Shore.

While some people in our group continued on to the Cultural Center (polynesia.com), a Polynesian-themed park and living museum, I opted to stay in the North Shore and scout the famous shrimp trucks in the area. Two of the most popular in the area are Giovanni’s and Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp, which is run by Romy Aguinaldo, a Filipino. Both shrimp trucks serve delicious Hawaiian white shrimp cooked in garlic and butter and served with white rice and lemon. These North Shore staples are definitely not to be missed.

* * *

The next day, we headed to Daniel Inouye Honolulu International Airport where I did my last-minute shopping of Hawaiian favorites: macadamia nuts, including a Spam flavored one, and a poke cookbook for my sister.

Needless to say, the flight from Honolulu to Manila was very comfortable as the reconfigured long-haul A330s reflect Philippine Airlines’ passion to exceed expectations with innovative, customer-centric products.

With the comfort and convenience of PAL’s flights to Hawaii, I definitely shall not wait another nine years to return to this beautiful island paradise.

 

(Philippine Airlines flies to Honolulu every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It departs Manila at 5:30 p.m. and arrives in Honolulu at 09:55 a.m. Return flight departs Honolulu at 11:40 a.m. and arrives in Manila at 4:20 p.m. For flight reservations, call 855-8888, log on to philippineairlines.com or visit any PAL ticketing office.)

(Follow me on Instagram @pepperteehankee.)

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