Not a song I would ever seriously connect with riding a Segway, but for some reason as I strapped on my helmet in preparation for a tour of downtown Honolulu, it was that George Thorogoodanthem, "Bad to the Bone," running through my head.
My inner psyche recognized the irony of it all. Regardless, there I was looking as far from bad ass as is humanly possible, while practicing keeping my balance standing on the two-wheeled vehicle during lessons on Waikiki Beach.
One of the joys of travel writing is the opportunity to experience places and activities I'd likely never try otherwise. I have to admit "riding a Segway" had never made it to my bucket list, but after a conversation with Jeanne Datz Rice, owner of Segway of Hawaii, I was all-in for the three-hour Honolulu History and Culture Tour. I'm so glad I accepted Datz Rice's invitation to give it a try.
Our day started at 8:30 a.m. when our guide for the day Mike Packard, instructed us on the finer points of handling a Segway. He explained, and we later confirmed, it's pretty much impossible to fall over while gliding along. Because Segways are so well balanced, you'd literally have to glide off a curb, or cliff, to fall over.
Our tour began with us gliding from Waikiki's Duke Kahanamoku Beach into neighbouring Ala Moana Beach Park, where we continued along to Aloha Tower. Packard fed us anecdotes about points of interest along the way, including Fisherman's Wharf and Kaka'ako Waterfront Park. Leaving the ocean, we glided into downtown Honolulu, where Packard gave us a history lesson on some of the more historic buildings before we cruised into Chinatown. This was the one location I initially thought, "Seriously, we're going to drive the sidewalks of Chinatown?" But we inched our way along, much to the amusement of the shoppers, shopkeepers and couple of homeless guys we met along the way.
Breaking free from the crowds, we glided on to visit other buildings of historical significance, including the Iolani Palace across the street the famed King Kamehameha statue, the Kawaiaha'o Church and the Mission Houses Museum. With no worries about parking or that infamous Honolulu traffic, the Segway made visiting these historic locations a breeze. Meanwhile, the Kauai-born Packard made a colourful tour guide offering up the good, the bad and the ugly about past and present local governments, Hawaiian royalty and modern-day development.
While we chose the history and culture tour, other options offered by Segway of Hawaii include the Magic Island Glide Ride, Sunset on the Beach and Diamond Head/Waikiki. Private glide tours are also available. You can book tours online, but beginning in July, Segway of Hawaii will have a stationary office located within the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, which is where we stayed for several days during our May vacation.
The Marriott is ideally located right across from the beach, which proved handy on this, our first vacation with grandchildren. So in the morning it only took us minutes to get the soon-to-be-three and six-year-old slathered in sunscreen and settled in the sand with their shovels and buckets conveniently purchased at the ABC store also located in our hotel.
Besides Segway tours, as of February 2012, visitors can also book surf lessons through the Pro Surf School Hawaii from an office located at the Marriott. The school is owned and operated by champion long board surfer Kai Sallas. As a result, the Marriott now offers Surf Packages, which include a deluxe guest room, two-hour surf lesson and two-day surfboard rental. The Marriott also offers some great dining options, including Sansei Sushi and Seafood, which on the Monday evening we were there offered 50 per cent off as an early bird special. That meal offered some of the best food at the best prices we experienced during our entire trip.
We also enjoyed lunch at the Moana Terrace Poolside Bar and Grill, which again offered good grub, including my favorite, the pulled pork sliders with Kalua pork and mango barbecue sauce, at reasonable prices. We've always found that while vacationing in Hawaii you can spend as little or as much as you want on good food -- you just have to look.
At night, the Moana Terrace transforms into a lounge, surrounded by tiki torches and a new lava rock fire pit, where visitors can sip a tropical drink and enjoy free live entertainment. We also found it the ideal place to unwind and allow our legs to recover following our epic Segway tour.
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