The slowest nice vacation

I am back to walking a little and we went ahead with our planned vacation. We tried to plan it so that even if I wasn’t doing too well it would still be enjoyable and relaxing. So for me that means as close to right on a beach with warm water as possible and we are in Honolulu. I have never been before! Also, we have not very often gone on a “real vacation” that is not just traveling to speak at a conference. Last one was Akumal which was like, 10 years ago. I was not sure what to expect from Waikiki Beach but wanted to be in Honolulu so that if I felt like I wanted to explore I could take the bus around town or even around the island.

We thought we would try 2 hotels right on the beach. It is expensive but nice. Read on if you want my absolutely snobby west coast bitch hotel reviews!

First hotel was Outrigger Waikiki and I have to say I am not impressed. Good: Room was nice enough and we were high up on the 12th floor. Lovely view of ocean, beach, sunrise, Diamond Head. So nice to be right on the beach and be able to go out there several times a day and then back to rest in hotel room or have food. Beach itself lovely. But!!! Bad: the hotel was kind of yuckily like being inside a mall and the way to the beach was extra gross going through a smoking area and a sort of loud air conditioning venting alleyway; then the closest I could get to the beach was by wending my way through a lot of pool chairs (nearly impossible) to some steps and then through a lot of hotel umbrella and chair rows to park myself on the sand.

The other way to the beach which they tried valiantly to explain and demonstrate when I asked for beach access was as follows: Find a manager (hahhaahha) Who then took me in a locked elevator to the parking garage where I went through the entire garage to a door which locks when you go through it so you can’t get back, then a locked mini lift which takes you UP slightly to a small walkway that goes about 20 feet (not the actual lower terrace of seating and patio but a path to nowhere) Needless to say I did not take this option to get onto and off the beach!

The Outrigger restaurant (Duke’s) was extremely loud and tacky and a bit horrible (not possible to get food that isn’t like bland mall food infused with mayonnaise or something ). Then all night till I think 11 or midnight very loud amplified music and cheering and etc. Partly from the restaurant live music and partly from street performers echoing down a sort of canyon.

The main drag along the hotel strip is tolerable during the morning but afternoon and evening are kind of horrible between the maskless crowds (I felt I had to mask even on the sidewalk in this context!), the upscale mall feeling, and the loud PA systems of street performers. Once you get to the beach and park section of the sidewalk it is nicer and prettier.

AND if I never hear another ukelele cover of Somewhere over the rainbow, it will be a fucking mercy.

OK that is enough bitching. I am luxuriating in paradise!!!!! Fuck me!!!! Just trying to be real here.

On the bright and amazing side, as I mentioned the room was nice enough and view lovely so I sat on the balcony a lot and laid on a little couch. And the beach is also great. It’s crowded but I don’t mind that, it just feels like I am less likely to be eaten by sharks, who have their choice of succulent small children with boogie boards in the water with me!

I have swum a couple of times a day, working my way up from bobbing around in waist high water to some real swimming! No real waves good enough to bodysurf on but having the water be not flat is fabulous enough!


Our 2nd hotel is Moana Surfrider which is light years better than Outrigger. Bar and restaurant MUCH nicer. Food better. Beach access is good, easy, and pleasant. The outside terrace and bar is great, very beautiful, not claustrophobic and loud like Duke’s. I can be on the terrace or the restaurant without a mask as the tables are nicely distant from each other (also great for wheelchair navigation). There is live music at night, but not super loud, not horrible classic rock and shouting (just kind of croony and background), and not going very late so that meant I am able to enjoy both sitting on the balcony at night and also slept with the balcony door open to hear the waves.

There is room to sit and work outside both right next to the beach and water, and also in a sheltered porch (where I am right now, because it’s raining, tail end of the bomb cyclone!) The giant banyan tree is beautiful – full of birds, and they light it up at night. Best of all there are ramps all the way down the terrace around the giant tree, to the beach bar, which is quiet and uncrowded, and the pool, which is laid out in a nice way and has more room for a wheelchair user. There are also rocking chairs at the top of the terrace overlooking the tree, the bar, and the ocean.

I am going to sit out here a lot and write in the next few days when not swimming!

As for my explorations on the bus, so far so good. I tried one day to go (with Danny ) towards Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay but we were decanted from the bus onto an inauspicious road shoulder and the beach was not nice and then more scary road shoulder and then we ended up in a strip mall by a lagoon. And also the beach and the botanical garden we tried to aim at turned out to be shut for New Year’s Day. Then Danny pulled his back putting my chair into the Uber we took back to the hotel. Argh. New Year’s moral of the story is, there is no one nicer to be in a chain of very minor mishaps on an attempted adventure than my partner. (Not so sure about his experience of me though).

My other bus adventure was to downtown Honolulu and Chinatown. Bus stops and the front of the bus are equal to San Francisco, good and bad. Good: accessible public transit; drivers mostly nice; people mostly nice; lots of older people want to ask me questions about my snazzy powerchair as they are on their last legs, with wheels starting to look good. We passed through several neighborhoods and there seems to be abundant apartment housing that looks pretty cheap, unlike San Francisco. Passed Iolani Palace which is pretty but looked deserted. It is listed as a thing to do in downtown but powerchair users have to transfer to a push chair and have someone to push them, so no.

I was heading to “the arts district” and Chinatown thinking to visit some bookstores. Downtown also had some nice civic buildings but was utterly deserted and most businesses were shuttered. My target bookstores were out of business. The cafes I thought to visit from the map were also dead and gone. Everything smelled like pee. Even the gay bars seemed to only be open later on the weekends so I concluded that the pandemic hit downtown Honolulu very hard. Chinatown got sketchier and sketchier as I cruised past some grocery and butcher shops (the only viable busines aside from some kind of sketchy bars)

I enjoyed Maunakea Market where I got some nice dim sum and a beautful fresh fruit smoothie with boba. It is very small but has a tiny food court with filipino, korean food, dim sum, etc. Sat there with my boba chatting with some ex convicts with a lot of face tattoos (they called me sis and we discussed our tattoos; I called them brah figuring it was the correct response to sis, and exchanging names would be overly familiar or inquisitive) (I am not assuming the ex con status, they told me all about it.) They were telling me about a talk radio station called coast to coast which they encouraged me to call as they just let you talk as much as you want to! You also can learn a lot there about how satellites spy on us and control your mind maybe! (that was the 2nd guy; the first who had the nicer face and skull tattoos looked askance at him, tolerantly.) We were joined by another lady (who called me mama, not sis, which maybe is the right way for somewhat blowsy middle aged ladies, or in my case non binary read-as-lady, to address each other with respect) and after a bit I left with my half drunk smoothie and dim sum in a bag, wandered around some more, chatted with more of the friendly, loafing derelicts at bus stops who welcomed me into their circles; did not find anywhere open that had a bathroom, which maybe explains why downtown smelled so strongly of pee, and took the bus back to Waikiki, meekly returning to my tourist zoo life.

My goals for the remaining trip are:

Go back to Heyday bar/restaurant at the White Sands hotel, which was really fun, small, quiet, amazing, and had swings around a little bar in a palapa (or whatever a beachy thatched hut is called here if not palapa) I would like to sit on a swing and have another of their delicious cocktails.

Go to the Bishop Museum which I imagine may be a weird cross between Te Papa (elegant, honoring the local culture) and the Pitt Rivers (scary yet fascinating jumbled up miscellany of loot and appropriation with last minute unsuccessful attempt to ameliorate the situation) – we will see.

Swim twice a day even if it is the bobbing around “swim” rather than 20-30 min of actual swimming that I would love to work up to.

Write a lot. (Family history zine/book project, and Wheels zine which I intend to do every winter holiday for the past umpty million years and don’t)

Danny suggested the Dole plantation tour (again I imagine something a bit colonial and hideous maybe with a Pitt Riversian apology something like a glass case with a sign that says “sorry about your sovreignity” and maybe “P.S. Oh yeah also, sorry Honduras, yay pineapples?”

Stretch goal: I would like to check out Kailua to see staying there at a beach side b&b might be an option for another trip. It promises better bodysurfing and (maybe) kayaking would be possible, but beach access might be harder (like, I may have to park my wheelchair and hoof it across a very wide beach) This may not happen because my ankles are not really good enough for me to drive around the island. Though I could take a complex 2 hour bus ride. If I felt stronger I would totally do it.