Day #51 - Aloha!

Not too bad looking for 3:30am!
Urg! 3:15 am start today. That was painful. 
Today we left mainland USA and head over to Hawaii (spelt Hawai'i by the locals apparently). Our flight left San Francisco at 6am and we had to transfer at Portland before heading out to Kona (the big island) - more or less eight hours flying in total. So a long day!

Our accommodation last night was a classic Travelodge. I had suggested to James that at least once on the trip we book a motel like you see in the movies and in TV - those two story buildings with the cars all lined up outside. Well, this is exactly what our airport accomodation was last night. I wouldn't recommend it! Without sounding too much of a hotel snob, this was as basic as it gets with a side of peeling shabbiness. Still, what do you expect for $50? This was the cheapest hotel we have stayed in (and it showed) but we were tickled by the fact that our next night would be in our most expensive hotel yet.
We got an Uber to the airport which was nice since it was a Tesla again, although I think our driver was taking his lead from the car and just operating on autopilot. There was no interaction with him at all! He even just sat there, popped the boot/trunk of the car open remotely for us to load our bags and then closed it remotely again. Not even a "Good morning"!. Needless to say the tip was minimal!
Fun stuff in Portland departure lounge. At least they're trying to make flying fun!
Our fights were all on time and not full so we had a spare seat on each flight next to us all we could spread out a bit. Our internal American flights have all been with Alaska Airlines who are the American equivalent of easyJet - no frills, pay for everything "extra". Although, having said that, on longer flights they had a free WiFi service that gave you access to loads of films and TV you could watch on your phone. So I watched Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood which everyone has been telling me to watch for a while. It was very good.
When we landed at Kona International Airport, we were in for a bit of a shock. We exited the plane via a ramp and then through the arrivals/departure lounge which was outside. People were waiting to board their flights while sat outside under awnings and umbrellas. We then walked through the rest of the open building to baggage claim which again was outside (well in a building open on three sides). This all made for a very relaxed and calm arrival. A short bus hop to the car rental and then we were off to our hotel! We are staying in the town of Kailua-Kona which is beside the ocean and is one of the more historic parts of the island. 
This is my first time in Hawaii but James' third but he hasn't been to the Big Island before so new to both of us. Sadly our first impression was tainted by the weather. One doesn't expect to arrive in Hawaii to rain! 
Nevertheless, we received a very warm welcome at our hotel and yes, we did receive the traditional lei. In Hawaiian tradition, lei is a symbol of hospitality, love, respect, and aloha. Normally this is a garland of beautiful, sweet-scented flowers. Tourists usually receive ones made from artificial flowers. Ours was different. We received a shell lei. To begin with I thought this too was made of plastic but I believe they are made from real shells. Very pretty, but not quite our style!
Don't worry folks, James and I won't be returning to you all tanned with shell-bead necklaces and bracelets! Just tanned and toned hopefully!
James had booked an ocean view so we were more than disappointed when we saw our room overlooked the carpark and tennis courts. The ocean was there, in the distance over the trees. Yep, I too was reminded of that Fawlty Towers sketch! A swift visit to reception and we were relocated to a much more suitable room. We couldn't go from a budget Travelodge with a view of the freeway to a luxury hotel with a view of the car park!

We spent a pleasant couple of hours at the hotel's poolside bar, checking out their Mai Tai cocktails since they were supposedly invented on the island. They were delicious! 
We also had a wonderful chat with Kent, a 78 year old pilot who was staying at the hotel on a stop over. He now flies small private aircraft but had wonderful stories to tell and we shared our experiences of travel and also, discussed current world issues (must be a middle aged thing!).
For the evening, we wandered out to the local bars and restaurants. Our hotel is located right on the beach and there is a charming collection of businesses all along the front offering lots of options for food. We also tracked down a gay bar located in what is essentially a small shopping centre (think mini-Yumbo centre for those that know). 
We had a few more drinks and chatted to a young couple also here on holiday as well as sharing our expertise in the rolling trivia game playing on the TV screens. We also grabbed a late night snack at the bar/restaurant across from our hotel which was very nice. Actually it wasn't that late (about 9pm) but it felt so late to us after our early start). 
Tomorrow we plan to explore more but mainly chill in the hotel so expect lots of beach and pool photos!