Category Archives: Hawaii

My Top Oahu Do’s and Some Bonus Don’ts

Hawaii is a “big ticket”  or once-in-a-lifetime vacation for most people so I thought I would share a list of my top tips for having a great time on Oahu.

  • Rent a car for a day or more and get out and see the island on your own.  Oahu is very easy to get around, the speed limits are low and slow, and there is something amazing around every bend in the road.

    Gorgeous Laie Beach

    Gorgeous Laie Beach – You won’t get to secluded beaches like this on a tour

  • Eat like a local.  Don’t even think about eating at some crummy chain you have back home.  Ask any and everyone you meet where they love to eat.  The locals will steer you to the best places and as a bonus, these restaurants will likely cost a lot less than the touristy ones.  Sweet Home Waimanalo, Side Street Inn and Camaron’s Shrimp Truck were all great local faves we were clued into.  Every day I challenged myself to try something I’d never eaten before or can’t find back home.  I’ve definitely enjoyed adding some new foods to my cooking repertoire!

    Camaron's - just east of Turtle Bay on Hwy 83

    Camaron’s – just east of Turtle Bay on Hwy 83 – we would never have found this out of the way truck on our own!

  • That said, do hit a few of the touristy favorites like Leonard’s Bakery, Dukes Waikiki and the Tiki’s Grill.  These places are tourist favorites for a reason!  Sure they are crowded and a bit pricey, but heck, how often are you in Hawaii?  The malasadas at Leonard’s are a must-try, the salad bar and Mai Tai’s at Dukes are fab, and the macadamia crusted Mahi Mahi at Tiki’s Grill was one of the best fish entrees I’ve ever had in my life.

    Leonard's Bakery on Kapahulu

    Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu – just don’t go here as often as we did.

  • Take in the local culture – visit the Iolani Palace and the Territorial Building; check out the Bishop Museum and the Army Museum of Hawaii; go to a quality luau; stop and check out the historical markers you pass; learn a few Hawaiian words and use them; tuck a plumeria blossom in your hair and savor the sweet fragrance.  The native culture of Hawaii is rich and fascinating and it’s a beautiful addition to the melting pot of America.

    Territorial Bldg. and King Kamehameha statue

    Territorial Bldg. and King Kamehameha statue

  • Hit an ABC store (or two).  Now if, like me, you are from North Carolina you might be thinking “why do I need to hit a few liquor stores?” (in NC the state run liquor stores are called ABC stores).  There are ABC stores on practically every corner in Honolulu, and at first I thought, “man, what’s with all the booze!?”  Sure, you can get booze at the ABC store, but you can also get pretty much anything else.  It’s like a mini Hawaiian Wal-Mart.  If you need it on your trip, they sell it at the ABC store.  If you want to bring something home for someone, they sell it at the ABC store.  They’re fun, they’re kitchy.  Go!

    I wish I'd bought all 4 varieties they had - I can't find this brand online anywhere.

    You can’t go to Hawaii and come back without some fun stuff like this!

  • Spend some time strolling and shopping on the energetic Kalakaua Avenue.  Kalakaua is lined with huge, beautiful hotels and parks, all kinds of shopping from extremely high end designer shops to the kitchy International Market, and every kind of restaurant you can think of.   The vibe is decidedly upbeat and international, so dress your best and join the parade!

    Kalakaua Avenue

    Kalakaua Avenue

  • Take a sunset or moonlit stroll on Waikiki Beach.  Daytime crowds on Waikiki Beach are oppressive to say the least.  I have no idea where everyone goes after 5 pm (oh, yeah, Kalakaua Avenue), but a sunset stroll will be less crowded and beautiful and a moonlit stroll will be downright romantic!  Be sure to stop in for a Mai Tai at any number of “walk up” beachside bars.

    Sunset on Waikiki

    Sunset on Waikiki

  • Visit the North Shore to watch the surfers and hit at least two different shrimp trucks.  And don’t just go for the garlic shrimp!

    surfer at Ehukai Beach on the North Shore

    surfer at Ehukai Beach on the North Shore

  • Spend an afternoon driving the Kamehameha Hwy on the windward side and stop at every beach.  Amazingly, they all look different.  All beaches in Hawaii are public and many have simple facilities.  Be extra careful to lock your car and hide any valuables (unfortunately smash and grabs are a problem in Oahu).  If you go during the week, you will likely have a beach all to yourself.  What a lovely way to spend an afternoon – on your own private Hawaiian beach!

    Waimanalo looking north.  My man and I had it all to ourselves!

    Waimanalo looking north. My man and I had it all to ourselves!

  • Hike Diamond Head.  It’s an easy hike if you are even remotely fit.  The history of the place is interesting (both geological and military) and the views are not to be missed.  It’s $5 a carload, and get out there early before it gets crazy crowded and hot.

    Rainbow over Waikiki, seen from Diamond Head

    Rainbow over Waikiki, seen from Diamond Head

  • Visit the Arizona Memorial and spend some quality time at the museum there.  The audio tour is excellent and the displays are first-rate.  It is a moving, fascinating complex  for anyone to tour, and if you are blessed to be an American, it will make your heart swell with pride and gratitude.

    The Arizona Memorial

    The Arizona Memorial

And my number 1 tip for having a fabulous time in Oahu:

  • Put down your damn iPhone, talk to the people you are actually with and enjoy the beautiful, amazing place where you actually are.  sheesh!

    This picture was taken at Ala Moana Beach, during a beautiful sunset.  Breaks my heart...

    This picture of my boo was taken at Ala Moana Beach, during a beautiful sunset. Breaks my heart…

Okay, here are a few bonus “don’ts” to help make the most of your time on Oahu:

  • Don’t spend all your time on Waikiki or even in Honolulu.  Oahu is so much more than a tourist mecca.
  • Don’t use one of those group airport shuttles.  You save only a few dollars with them, and you lose several hours of precious vacation time.  Because those shuttles pick up a large group of people from all over Waikiki you end up spending a ton of time on the bus, not to mention the fact they will get you to the airport several hours sooner than you need to be there.  You are probably spending thousands to visit Hawaii.  Spend $5 more and get your own cab or use the excellent A8 service I mentioned in my Hawaii Travelogue 1 post.
  • If you spend some time in Waikiki, don’t stay at one of the sprawling mega-resorts (such as the Hilton Hawaiian Village) – stay at one of the smaller properties.  At the huge resorts you waste so much time just going to and from your room, and don’t get me started about getting to your car.  Your stress level and probably your bill will be lower at a smaller property.
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Hawaii Travelogue 11 – Aloha Oe

Somewhere around day 10 of a trip my will to vacation deserts me, and I just want to be home, sleeping in my own bed and cooking my own food!  John and I were both ready to come home, but we thoroughly enjoyed our last half day in Oahu. Bob and Kim had not yet hiked Diamond Head, so we went out there with them early in the morning after yet another stop at Leonard’s Bakery.  Sweet Baby Jesus, I don’t need to eat another malasada ever again, but this is what happens when you travel with hummingbirds – they gotta have their sugar! The weather was much nicer than when John and I hiked Diamond Head at the beginning of our trip, and it was amazing how far out you could see.

Short-range view from Diamond Head - you can see an observation bunker on the crater rim, the Shell Amphitheater, Waikiki, downtown Honolulu, and all the way out to Pearl Harbor.

Long range view from Diamond Head – you can see an observation bunker on the crater rim, the Shell Amphitheater, Waikiki, downtown Honolulu, and all the way out to Pearl Harbor.

Zoom-in on Waikiki

Zoom-in on Waikiki

The folks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village were kind enough to give us a 1 pm check out, so we had plenty of time to do some last minute shopping and get everything miraculously shoved back in our bags.  The Honolulu Cookie Company has a store at the Hilton, and we daily availed ourselves of the free samples.  Oh man, those are some seriously divine cookies, esp. the chocolate-dipped ones.  Naturally we brought quite a few home with us! We said goodbye to Bob and Kim and headed over to Dukes Waikiki for a late lunch.  Lunch is definitely a great time to try Dukes.  The menu is slightly pared down, but so are the crowds – we got a great table overlooking the beach.

There is something so wonderful about relaxing over good food and enjoying a beautiful view with someone you love to be with!

There is something so wonderful about relaxing over good food and enjoying a beautiful view with someone you love to be with!

On our way back to the hotel to catch our airport shuttle, we spent an hour or so at the excellent little US Army Museum of Hawaii in Fort Derussy on Waikiki.  The museum offers very interesting displays on the military history of Hawaii, US Army action in the Pacific, and a special section honoring Kauai native General Eric Shinseki, the first Japanese-American to become the Army’s Chief of Staff.

After one last stroll on the Waikiki Beach and one last cat nap by the pool, we caught our shuttle to the airport and endured the 9.5 hour overnite flight home, with the special added bonus of a 5 hour delay in Washington DC.  ugh.

Hawaii was not on my Bucket List (it was John’s idea to go) but I truly loved Oahu, and Hawaii has definitely left its fingerprints on my soul.  I will never forget the smell of plumeria on the tradewinds, the beauty of vivid rainbows that you can see end to end (they’re not kidding about that Rainbow State thing!), the striking juxtaposition of dark, jagged volcanic mountains and the vibrant cobalt blue of the South Pacific, and all the flora and fauna unique to this little paradise.  I will forever love potato salad with macaroni in it, coconut syrup on my pancakes, haupia, drinking out of tiki mugs and glasses, buttery, garlicky shrimp and pineapple juice in my iced tea.  America is blessed to have this star on our flag!  I’m already looking forward to a return visit to Oahu, with a definite side trip to see the volcanoes on the big island.

Aloah oe, and mahalo for coming along on this journey!

Hawaii Travelogue 10 – Last Full Day in Oahu

This day was pretty laid back and uneventful.  Tom & Becky were heading back to CA so they and Bob & Kim spent their morning on Waikiki sunning and trying their hand at paddleboarding (they said it was fun!) while John and I zipped across town to drive the popular scenic loop around Tantalus Mtn.  This was one of the last things I wanted to check out on my Five-O/Angels filming sites list.  I found a great tour narrative online which gave us driving directions and points of interest to check out.  Even if you’re not a Hawaiian TV nut, the Tantalus Mtn drive is worth spending an hour – the scenery and the views are terrific!  The drive is especially popular at sunset when traffic can be a problem.  On a weekday morning, we practically had the drive, the outlooks and the park all to ourselves.

Honolulu and Diamond Head from Tantalus Mtn

Honolulu and Diamond Head from Tantalus Mtn, Round Top Rd side

Honolulu from Uulaka Park on Tantalus Mtn - Charlie's Angels fans should recognize this spot from several episodes.

Honolulu from Puu Ualakaa Park on Tantalus Mtn – Charlie’s Angels fans should recognize this spot from several episodes.

Tanalus Rd.

Tatnalus Drive

The Punchbowl seen from Tantalus

The Punchbowl seen from Tantalus Dr.

This is my least favorite sight on vacation.  What is the world coming to?!

This is my least favorite sight on vacation. What is the world coming to?!

Tom and Becky headed for the airport and we couldn’t pry Kim away from the pool to join us for lunch.  We took the stroll (it is a bit of a hike, you need comfy shoes) down Kalakaua Ave and decided to grab a fairly tasty burger at Cheeseburger in Paradise.  The guys headed back to the hotel and I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring and snapping pix on Kalakaua – yep, more quarry on my filming sites list!

This is the most beautiful hotel on Waikiki, the

This is the most beautiful hotel on Waikiki, the Moana Surfrider

The market was a disappointment - a jillion kiosks selling the same touristy "stuff"

The market was a disappointment – a jillion kiosks selling the same touristy “stuff”

The Duke Kahanamoku statute

The Duke Kahanamoku statute

Waikiki looking North

Waikiki looking north

The landmark Royal Hawaiian - beautiful buildings and ground and a great "luxe" vibe at this property.

The landmark Royal Hawaiian – beautiful buildings and grounds and a great “luxe” vibe at this property.

Waikiki looking south

Waikiki looking south

John and I sat on the beach and enjoyed one last Oahu sunset – we would be leaving the next afternoon.

IMG_2261

Hawaii Travelogue 9 – Remembering and Honoring A Brother

Sometimes God orchestrates the coolest things.  This day is a good illustration.  Before I tell you about it, I want to throw a few “disclaimers” out there.  I realize in sharing this information that I am treading on sensitive and hallowed ground.  I am not a historian nor the family spokesperson.  What follows are my recollections and understanding of the day’s events; any errors or omissions are unintentional and my own.  Whew!

Dick's West Point portrait

Dick’s West Point portrait

A few weeks before our trip, John’s older brother Bob “happened” to Google their oldest brother’s name.  The boys oldest brother (half brother) is Capt. Richard “Dick” LeBrou Whitesides, a West Point grad and Air Force pilot who was shot down in Vietnam in 1964.  Dick was initially listed as MIA, then declared dead the following year, though no remains were ever recovered.  The man shot down with Dick, Capt. Floyd Thompson, was the longest held POW in the Vietnam War (9 years).  The family is active in POW/MIA affairs and follows Dick’s case, hoping for a resolution as to exactly what happened and the return of his remains.  Every once in awhile an internet search turns up some new tidbit, and it certainly did this time!  Bob saw a news story about an official memorial ceremony for Dick held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (the Punchbowl) in Honolulu.  An accompanying photo showed a misidentified woman receiving a folded flag in Dick’s honor.  John’s other brother Tom contacted the reporter to inquire as to who the woman was and who had organized the ceremony (since our family had no knowledge of it).  The reporter put the boys in contact with the gentleman who organized the memorial, Jack Bohman, a friend and classmate of Dick’s.  Jack and his lovely wife Arlene live on Oahu, and they invited us to spend the day with them, visiting Dick’s memorial at the Punchbowl and touring the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), the government agency responsible for locating and identifying remains of unaccounted-for American service men and women.

West Point K2 Company - Dick is the handsome young man standing on the right.  Our host Jack is next to him on the front row.

West Point K2 Company – Dick is the handsome young man standing on the right. Our host Jack is next to him on the front row.

Our day began with a brief tour of Hickam AFB (after yet another stop at Leonard’s, of course).  Jack told us Hickam is the most beautiful air base in the world, and I believe it.  The entire facility is neatly landscaped, and the buildings are all art deco style to preserve the bases’ original 1935 design.  As another nod to history, the bullet holes in exterior walls caused by Japanese strafing runs during the attack on Pearl Harbor have been left unrepaired.  It’s kind of eerie seeing them.  I wish I had some pix to share, but alas, we were forbidden to take pix of facilities on base.

Jack and Arlene took us to the Missing Man Memorial on base which honors fallen aviators, and Jack presented each of the boys with a commemorative coin from the West Point Class of 1959.  Very cool.

John, Arlene & Jack Bohman, Tom and Bob at the Missing Man Memorial

John, Arlene & Jack Bohman, Tom and Bob at the Missing Man Memorial

Jack giving the boys their commemorative coins.

Jack giving the boys their commemorative coins.

Next we went to the JPAC HQ for our meeting.  It was great to meet some of the dedicated men and women who work all over the world, sometimes in very hostile (politically and environmentally!) conditions to bring home every missing US serviceperson.  We were shown the laboratories where actual remains are being worked on to discover their identities, as well as displays of the various methods used to identify remains.  Each missing serviceperson has a box containing every bit of relevant information pertaining to their case, and we were given the opportunity to view the contents of Dick’s box.  It was fascinating to read through official accounts of Dick’s disappearance and peruse his service record and a stack of photos – both service photos of Dick and his aircraft as well as photos of wreckage discovered in the late 90’s.  Everything we know of Dick reveals him to be a kind, thoughtful and serious man, and all of that was reflected in his handsome service portrait.  He was also a brave and dedicated pilot, as evidenced by the fact he was the first to be awarded the Air Force Cross in the Vietnam War.  As I looked at pictures of Dick, it made me sad to think that my John never knew this brother, and that his family still has no real closure as to what happened to Dick.  However, in looking at Dick’s service record I made a discovery that really tickled me.  A few of John’s toes meet at some, let’s say, “interesting” angles, and I like to tease him about his “chicken toes”.  On the back of Dick’s service record was a set of his foot prints.  To my delight, Dick had the very same “chicken toes”!  It was a silly and small thing, but it made Dick seem more real to me and like family.

After a wonderful lunch on base, Jack directed us to the lei stands at the Honolulu airport (THE place to get gorgeous leis at ridiculous prices!) where we could pick up some leis to place on Dick’s memorial marker at the Punchbowl.   The Punchbowl is a cemetery and memorial garden dedicated to American service men and women, particularly those who served in the Pacific area.  Thousands of veterans are interred there, and there are also memorials for those whose remains were never found.  The main feature of the Punchbowl is a statue of Lady Columbia which is said to represent all grieving mothers.  She is surrounded by intricate murals detailing Pacific area conflicts from WWII, Korea and Vietnam and the Courts of the Missing, a collection of marble walls listing the names of “Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country, and whose earthly resting place is known only to God.”  There are almost 29k names listed on those walls, and it should be noted that these are only men and women who went missing in the Pacific – NOT those who went missing in Europe, Africa, etc.!  At the base of Lady Columbia is a sobering quote from a letter Abraham Lincoln wrote to a Civil War mother: “the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.”

Lady Columbia surrounded by the Courts of the Missing

Lady Columbia surrounded by the Courts of the Missing

Lady Columbia - you can see the quote from Abraham Lincoln at her base

Lady Columbia – you can see the quote from Abraham Lincoln at her base

An example of the intricate battle mosaics.  They were all made with tiny colored rocks - amazing!

An example of the intricate battle mosaics. They were all made with tiny colored rocks – amazing!

On a small hill in the Punchbowl overlooking downtown Honolulu is set a new memorial garden for those who were buried at sea or whose remains have not yet been found.  A year or so ago Dick’s widow remarked to his classmates that it was sad that they had not had an official military memorial service for Dick.  Jack graciously offered to organize one and last fall Dick received the honors he deserved.  The family had not previously asked for a service, because Dick’s father never really gave up hope that his son was somehow still alive.  The boys’ father passed away 12 years ago, but our family had no idea such a ceremony was even an option.  Dick’s classmates in turn, had no idea of the existence of his half-brothers, so our family was not notified.  It was unfortunate that none of us attended Dick’s memorial service, but we were so grateful that Jack arranged this special day for us to remember and honor Dick.  The boys each laid their leis at Dick’s marker and Jack added one on behalf of his classmates.

Dick's memorial - the quote references that Honolulu is the last place Dick and his wife were together.

Dick’s memorial – the quote references that Honolulu is the last place Dick and his wife were together.

Bob, John and Tom at Dick's memorial marker

Bob, John and Tom at Dick’s memorial marker

Next Jack took us to the Courts of the Missing and showed us Dick’s name on the wall, as well as the name of another classmate of theirs, Roque (pronounced Rocky) Versace, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while interned as a POW in Vietnam.

Dick's name on the Courts of the Missing

Dick’s name on the Courts of the Missing

Roque's name in the Courts of the Missing - the bronze star indicates he is a Medal of Honor recipient

Roque’s name in the Courts of the Missing – the bronze star indicates he is a Medal of Honor recipient

The brothers posed for pictures next to Dick’s name, and after I finished snapping my pix, I turned toward Tantalus Mtn and saw the most beautiful rainbow.  When I showed my sister Cristal the picture I took, she said it was a sign from God.  I’ll buy that!

A gorgeous rainbow over Tantalus Mtn, seen from the Punchbowl.

A gorgeous rainbow over Tantalus Mtn, seen from the Punchbowl.

Next Jack took us up a walkway lined with memorials erected by various veterans groups and individuals.  The view of downtown Honolulu from this area was breathtaking.  I particularly love this picture because it so captures Honolulu:  H1 in the foreground, a gridlock of rush-hour commuters, the sky scrapers of downtown, the hills behind them jam-packed with homes and stately Diamond Head overseeing all of it.

There is no end of my love for Diamond Head

There is no end of my love for Diamond Head

We said goodbye to our new friend Jack and headed back to our hotel.  It was such an amazing day – none of us could believe how any of it came to be!

We spent our final nite together strolling down Kalakaua Avenue and enjoying a fabulous dinner at Honolulu landmark, Duke’s Waikiki.  Duke’s is a must-do if you are in Honolulu, and definitely plan ahead to make a resi.  It is crazy popular.  If you can’t get a dinner resi, lunch is also a good option and way less crowded.

At the Duke Kahanmoku statue on Kalakawa Ave.  That really is the sunset - not a bad prom photo backdrop!

At the Duke Kahanamoku statue on Kalakawa Ave. That really is the sunset – not a bad prom photo backdrop!

A terribly grainy pic, but proof I got some mileage out of that kukui nut necklace.

A terribly grainy pic, but proof I got some mileage out of that kukui nut necklace.

Mai Tais and Duke's Hula Pie!

Mai Tais and Duke’s Hula Pie!

Hawaii Travelogue 8 – Oahu Round Two: Pearl Harbor

Our final half day in Kauai and the return trip to Oahu don’t rate their own post, so I will include my few remaining comments about that part of our trip with our first day back in Oahu.

For our last meal on Kauai we decided to “pop over” to Waimea to check out the highly rated Island Taco.  We’d been to Waimea twice already, so I am not sure why we forgot what a loooooong drive it is from Poipu.  I’m sure I’ve already said this, but even if things look close on the map it will take you forever to get there.  Oahu is exactly the opposite.  No clue why.  Anyway, Island Taco’s Cajun Ahi and Mahi Mahi tacos were great, so if you are in the Waimea area check them out.

Final thought on Kauai – glad we went, had a nice time, but I doubt I’d go back.  I enjoyed Oahu so much more and I would also like to see the Big Island and Maui.

Next, let me reiterate that Go! Airlines is to be avoided.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, they are the flakiest, chinziest airline I have ever been on.

Flying in to Honolulu - you can see Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial in the center of the pic.

Flying in to Honolulu – you can see Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial in the center of the pic.  The green area at the bottom is Hickam Air Base.  Let’s just say there’s a little foreshadowing going on here.

For our second time in Oahu, the boys (my man and his brothers) chose for us to stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV), or as I called it, Disneyland Oahu.  Oh man, this place was waaaaaaay too much for me.  Too loud, too big, too confusing to get around, and way too many people.  Night and day from the sold-out yet still quiet Ilikai.  Normally when John and I travel we stay at a bed and breakfast if at all possible, so the HHV was way off the chart from the norm.  On the plus side, we had quite the view from the 30th floor of the Tapa Tower!

View of the Tower, the Ilikai, Duke's Lagoon and the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor

View of the Lagoon Tower, the Ilikai, Duke’s Lagoon and the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor

The six of us got up bright and early Sunday morning and headed out to Pearl Harbor.  My s-i-l Becky reserved our tour online and ordered us the audio tour headsets.  Highly recommend doing both those things.  Our tour time was 9:30 or so and we got out there around 8, which was perfect timing all around.  Here are a few tips about visiting Pearl Harbor:

  • It gets sold-out and crowded fast – book online and go early in the day.
  • Definitely go for the audio tour – it adds so much.  The audio tour covers the grounds, all through the museum, your time on the Memorial itself and the displays you walk through after your trip to the Memorial.  It’s all good!
  • If you enjoy going through museums or are a history buff, try to get there at least 90 minutes before your tour time. The museum is extremely well-done and informative, and it will greatly enhance your time at the Memorial to go through it beforehand.
  • They show you a movie before you take the boat over to the Memorial, but be sure to also see the other movie they show in the museum – they are different.
  • You are not allowed to bring a bag of any kind with you (your camera has to go in your hand), so plan to leave your bulky stuff at the hotel or bring some money for the bag check service.
  • After your time at the Memorial be sure to check out all the displays around the harbor – really cool maps, historical tidbits, memorials, etc.
The Arizona Memorial

The Arizona Memorial

From the Memorial, looking towards the Missouri.  You can see a section of the Arizona below the water, as well as a bit of the diesel oil that is still seeping out of the Arizona.

From the Memorial, looking towards the Missouri. You can see a section of the Arizona below the water, as well as a bit of the diesel oil that is still seeping out of her.

A visit to Pearl Harbor should be on every American’s “to do” list.  The complex provides a broad view of the situation before the war, the details of the island-wide attack (Pearl Harbor was by no means the only target that day) as well as some information about the war in the Pacific and several memorials.  Two little snippets particularly stood out to me:

  • Around the grounds were markers detailing little anecdotes of the day.  The one pictured below reads “few islanders went to bed that night…Outdoors there was silence…Shortly before midnight, the moon began to rise, and a vivid lunar rainbow, the Old Hawaiian omen for victory, arched over the dark city.”  I thought it was cool that even in (literally) their darkest hour, God sent a sign of hope to the people of Hawaii.
Anecdote from Pearl Harbor day

Anecdote from Pearl Harbor day

  • Another display (which I didn’t get a snap of as it was very long and involved) detailed the story of a Hawaiian priestess who was fishing in Pearl Harbor one day.  As she was fishing, a shark swam up and began exhibiting some odd behavior.  Hawaiians believe that Pearl Harbor is home to the shark goddess Ka’ahupahau, and the priestess understood that the shark had a message for her.  After praying, the message the priestess heard from the shark was that a great death was coming.  Three days later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Make of that what you will!

I’m a history/museum buff, so I would have loved to have taken the other tours available (you can tour the Missouri and the Bowfin, a WWII sub), but that will have to wait for our next trip.

We headed over to Waimanalo to have lunch at Sweet Home Waimanalo and hit the beach, making the requisite stops again at the Halona Blow Hole and Makapuu Point – it was such a beautiful, sunny afternoon.

at Makapuu Point - I'm hanging on to my shirt for dear life, the winds were crazy!

at Makapuu Point – I’m hanging on to my shirt for dear life, the winds were crazy!

The gang at Sweet Home Waimanalo

The gang at Sweet Home Waimanalo

Alas, by the time we hit the beach the clouds started rolling in, the winds picked up and the rain was back on.   I just wasn’t meant to spend an afternoon on that beach!  No one felt like waiting out the weather, so we headed back to Waikiki, where it was much sunnier.

Sunday nite we had the best food of our trip at Side Street Inn on da Strip (what a name!), a great local joint our first cabbie Ray turned me on to.  Unfortunately three of our party had other plans for the evening, so only John, Bob and I got to enjoy this treat.  Make a resi if you can – we made our plans too late and had an hour+ wait.  They are located on the same street as Leonard’s Bakery (Kapahulu) so we strolled down there to kill time.  Lo and behold – they are open all nite!  So naturally we helped ourselves to some malasada “appetizers”.  I’m sure we burned off the calories on our walk.  At Side Street Inn food is served in leisurely courses on platters “family style”.   The three of us shared the Nalo green salad (excellent), seared Ahi (I didn’t try it), “Side Style” fried rice (best I have ever eaten in my life) and Lilikoi-sauced BBQ baby back ribs (ditto).  That Lilikoi (passionfruit) sauce was transcendent, and I have never eaten such tender, meaty ribs.  And the prices are really reasonable!

Next up, the most special day of our trip.  I hope I can do it justice…

Hawaii Travelogue 7 – Waimea Canyon

It was still cool and rainy,  and we’d been awakened three nites in a row by torrential downpours with fierce winds (usually around 2 am) and roosters (promptly by 5 am).  However, every morning there was a beautiful rainbow right outside our door, which I guess is Kauai’s way of encouraging you to shrug off the sleep deprivation and get out and enjoy a beautiful day.

Kiahuna Plantation

Our daily “good morning” rainbow

After breakfast we headed to nearby Lawai Beach, where the guys snorkeled and Becky and I chose to stay warm on the beach.  My John wears some serious glasses, so snorkeling has never been much fun for him – just a bunch of colorful blobs.  Right before our trip we learned that you can rent “prescription” snorkel masks that help correct your vision underwater.  The saleslady asked John to rate his vision (or lack thereof) on a scale of 1-7 and gave him the appropriate pair.  Not very scientific, but he said they worked great!  The guys saw more fish than I would have imagined on that tiny beach and even got up close and personal with a huge Green Turtle.  While the guys snorkeled, the most beautiful double rainbow came out.  I know it’s almost impossible to see the second rainbow in this pic (starts in the bottom left corner), but what was truly amazing was how “thick” the main rainbow was – I’ve never seen one that wide.

this pic doesn't do it justice, but it's a happy memory

this pic doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a happy memory

The guys got cleaned up, we picked up a delicious picnic lunch at the very swank deli/store Living Foods Market, (think tiny, upscale Whole Foods) and headed out to Waimea Canyon.   Everything we’d seen on the eastern half of Kauai was so lush I was very surprised by the Waimea Canyon area.  It was like being teleported to Arizona!  There’s a very good reason they call it “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

Entering the Waimea Canyon area

Entering the Waimea Canyon area

closeup of a beautiful farm at the edge of the river

a beautiful farm at the edge of the river – that is some seriously remote living

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon – can’t imagine how beautiful the colors would be on a clear day.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

It was really cold and windy up on the canyon rim (and I’m sure you noticed the rain in the pix), so we ended up picnicking in our car.  There was a man up there selling produce (I know, weird) and Becky bought us some sugar cane to try.  You don’t really eat it – you delicately chew on it to release the faintly sweet juices.  If you’d like to try some yourself, just soak a piece of bamboo in sugar water and go to town on it.  Seriously, it was like chewing on sweetened wood, slivers and all.  On our way back down we stopped to explore the coolest stream ever.  It was like hiking on Mars.  All homemaker me kept thinking was “don’t fall down – you’ll never get this stuff out of your clothes!”

Hiking on Mars

Hiking on Mars

the downstream view

the downstream view

We followed the stream across the road until it ran off into the canyon.  Only Tom was brave enough to walk out to the rim.  I would have gone too, but seriously, that wind could have pushed you right off!

Across the street - and the end of the line!

Across the street – and the end of the line!

After an “eh” dinner at Savage Shrimp in Koloa, I spent the evening trying to smash all our stuff back in our luggage for the trip back to Oahu.  That was no easy feat, because I had 12 days of clothes and toiletries stuffed into two carry-ons and a backpack.  There was no room at all to add the coffees and t-shirts we got at Kauai Coffee Co., nor the kukui necklace I was obsessed with getting, and let’s not even discuss the latest addition to my beloved coffee cup collection.  Are you sensing that coffee is VERY important to me?  This is supposed to be a “health” tiki, but it must also be a “deliciousness tiki” because I swear coffee tastes better in this mug.

I wish I'd bought all 4 varieties they had - I can't find this brand online anywhere.

I wish I’d bought all 4 tiki mugs they had – I can’t find this brand online anywhere.

Tomorrow it’s back to Oahu where among other things we eat many more malasadas, visit the Arizona Memorial, finish my quest to photograph Five-O filming sites and spend a very special day with two new friends.

Hawaii Travelogue 6 – Kauai

Our day was supposed to start with a flightseeing tour of the island, but the iffy weather prompted the pilot to call it off.  I appreciated the fact he didn’t want to take our $ for a less than scenic flight.  However, it would have been nice if they’d told us the tour was cancelled when we called that morning for directions, saving us an hour of driving, but oh well.  My advice if you have a flightseeing tour in Hawaii is to call before you head over and point blank ask “are we really going today?”

After lunch at the resort we headed out to do one of the things we all wanted to do in Kauai:  visit a coffee plantation.  Kauai Coffee Company is located in Kalaheo, about a half hour west of Poipu.  This beautiful plantation sits on land that used to be devoted to sugar cane.  When I think of a coffee plantation, I imagine Juan Valdez and his donkey emerging from a South American mountain jungle – not neatly manicured plants flourishing near the tropical shores of Kauai!

Coffee happily growing by the sea

Coffee happily growing by the sea

They have a cool walking tour where you can see different varieties of coffee trees and learn about how coffee is grown, harvested and processed.  The most interesting thing l learned is that coffee is a relative of jasmine and gardenias – a fact that was obvious from looking at the plants up close.

We visited the plantation just as the coffee trees were about to bloom.

We visited the plantation just as the coffee trees were about to bloom.

I had no idea coffee trees got this big.

I had no idea coffee trees grew taller than a donkey.

A few of the varieties displayed on the walking tour still had unripe cherries on them ("cherry" is the fruit that holds a pair of coffee beans).

A few of the varieties displayed on the walking tour still had unripe cherries on them (a “cherry” is the fruit that holds a pair of coffee beans).

The walking tour was very interesting and well worth the price (free!), but the best part is the “tasting lanai”.  I’d call it a tasting room, but it’s outside on a porch between a small museum and the sales room.  They have several tables of carafes from which you can sample all their coffees – some 15-20 different ones.  I didn’t expect much of their coffee, because I thought all Hawaiian coffee is Kona coffee, which is too mild-tasting for me.  However, Kauai Coffee doesn’t grow any Kona coffee, and their Estate Reserve and Roastmaster’s Choice coffees were all excellent.  There was not one millimeter of spare room in our luggage, but I just had to get a few bags of McBryde ER and RC Kauai Sunrise.  They have a neat auto-delivery club for which I will be signing up as soon as I drink down my stash.  For me one of the great joys of traveling is finding new culinary treasures!

On the way back to the resort we enjoyed the view from the Hanapepe Valley Lookout and made the obligatory stop at the local blow hole – the Spouting Horn.  Not quite as impressive as Halona on Oahu, but cool nonetheless.

Hanapepe Valley

Hanapepe Valley

An interesting sign at the Hanapepe Valley Lookout.

An interesting sign at the Hanapepe Valley Lookout.  Um kay!

at the Spouting Horn

at the Spouting Horn

Spouting Horn

Spouting Horn

Our evening entertainment was a lovely luau at the Grand Hyatt Kauai in Poipu.  Wow.  That is one swank, swank resort.  My pix do not do the elegant buildings, expertly landscaped grounds, and amazing pools any justice.  Unfortunately the wind and constant threat of rain meant that our luau was moved indoors to a banquet hall, but the food was yummy, the show was entertaining, and after the traditional mai tais, our waiter faithfully dropped off icy cold bottle after icy cold bottle of our new fave beer:  Longboard Island Lager.

In the amazing Orchid garden at the Grand Hyatt - how did we manage to not get any orchids in the shot!?

In the amazing Orchid garden at the Grand Hyatt – how did we manage to not get any orchids in the shot!?

The landscaping was so cool - the lava rocks were planted with these brilliant red plants that looked like flowing lava.

I thought this was so clever – the lava rocks were planted with brilliant red plants that looked like flowing lava.

the landscaping was so lush, you could hardly see the lazy river that flowed around the pool areas.

The landscaping was so lush, you could hardly see this lazy river flowing around the pool areas.

Tomorrow we dodge a little more rain and cold to do some snorkeling and explore the incredible Waimea Canyon.

Hawaii Travelogue 5 – Northern Kauai

We headed out on Hwy 50 to 56N to explore the eastern and northern sides of Kauai.  Miss Becky was leading the way with her magical book of all things Kauai.  Our first stop was at Opaekaa Falls in the Nonou Forest.  You view the falls from an overlook on Hwy 560 (Kuamoo Rd).  As you can see from the picture, the weather still wasn’t the greatest.

Opeakaa Falls

Opaekaa Falls

As it turned out, our little stop here set the tone for the entire day.  We crossed the street to look down on the Kamokiia Hawaiian Village on the Wailua River.  Off in the distance I saw what looked like a wall of rain approaching.  I pointed to it and asked, “is that rain?”, to which my brother-in-law Tom replied, “no, that’s just mist”.  Boom.  About 30 seconds later we were running for the car in a soaking downpour.  From thence on, soaking rain was referred to as “mist”.  Completely soaked we piled in the car and headed to our next stop, the Kilauea Lighthouse.  A little bit wiser, we kept our umbrellas with us as we did get a bit of rain here too.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Kilauea Lighthouse

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Our next stop was for a little refreshment at a combination roadside produce stand/smoothie shack.  I highly recommend the smoothies at Banana Joes!

Banana Joes - def try the smootihes!

Banana Joes – def try the smootihes!

Properly refreshed we pressed on through some beautiful countryside on our way to the end of the road at  Haena State Park.  Kauai roads are twisty and narrow, and you must frequently stop to wait your turn at the many one lane bridges over Kauai’s numerous rivers and streams.  It takes a looooong time to get anywhere on Kauai.

One of many one-lane bridges on Kauai.

One of many one-lane bridges on Kauai.

The valleys are filled with beautiful tarro farms

The valleys are filled with beautiful tarro farms

We tried to stop for some beach time at Hanalei Bay, but rain quickly chased us away.  I wasn’t too bummed about that, because I’m not much for hanging at a beach full of people.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

We got back on the road and stopped at another beach which was perfectly deserted.  We didn’t even get to put our toesies in the water before the fiercest rain of the day hit.  It really was astonishing how it could go from warm and sunny to gale-force winds and pelting rain in the blink of an eye.

Here comes a wall of weather

Here comes a wall of weather – this was as close as we got to the water here!

We finally ended up at Haena Beach Park.  There were plenty of people here too, but a short walk up the beach and over some rocks got us a lovely stretch of beach all to ourselves.  Across the street from the beach was the totally cool Maniniholo Dry Cave.

Haena Beach

Haena Beach

The Dry Cave

The Maniniholo Dry Cave – of course it was raining by now, so I did not venture into the cave.

After some good beach time, we were ready for chow.  And here is where Yelp and TripAdvisor failed us.  Both sites were chock-a-block with glowing reviews for a place called Ono Burger.  Supposedly the best burgers on the island.  Wow.  So not ono (Hawaiian for “delicious”).   And the chickens!  I forgot to mention the chickens.  I told you they were set loose on the islands during a 1992 hurricane.  On Kauai, they are rampant.  Every single morning, at 5:00 am sharp, we were awakened by a troop of crowing roosters.  Those jerks woke all the other loud-mouthed birds up, and then there was no hope of sleep.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  This night-owl was not loving it.  Anyway, at Ono (Oh NO!) Burger we had to eat with a whole flock of roosters, hens and chicks swarming around our feet.  I was waiting for them to realize they outnumbered us 5 to 1 and attack.

Okay, after that awful meal our next stop was a welcome treat.  Our first and best shave ice of the trip was had at a great little spot in Hanalei – Wishing Well Shave Ice.  It took me forever to order because there were just so many, many options.  We all got something different and they were all soft, fluffy and delicious!  I never tried a shave ice/ice cream combo, but my other brother-in-law, Bob, swears that is the way to go.

Tom and Becky about to get their shave ice on at Rainbow Shave Ice

Tom and Becky about to get their shave ice on at Wishing Well

We got back to our resort in time for a gorgeous sunset…

Sunset at Poipu Beach

Sunset at Poipu Beach

Sunset at Poipu Beach

Sunset at Poipu Beach

…and then headed off to Keoki’s Paradise for our first Mai Tais of the trip.  Yes, we had Mai Tais and h’ors d’oeuvres for dinner.  I definitely recommend their hummus trio, but you can skip the sketchy calamari strips.  Nast!  Their Mai Tai’s were delicious, but I was particularly smitten by the tiki glasses in which they were served.  I think every bar in Kauai and Oahu uses these tiki glasses, and I just had to have a set.  The ones used in the bars are plastic, but the ones I found at Awesome Drinks.com are glass.  They finally arrived today, and I can’t wait to put them to use!

My fabulous new tiki glasses

My fabulous new tiki glasses – what wouldn’t taste better in these?

Tomorrow the weather screws us out of our flightseeing tour, but we all make a fun stop at a coffee plantation, and then it’s luau time.  Aloha!

Hawaii Travelogue 4 – off to Kauai

I now have a new least-favorite airline:  Go! Airlines, or as I think of them, No Go Airlines.   We chose a flight to Kauai on Go! to arrive at the same time as Tom and Becky got in from CA.  A week or so before our trip, Go! changed the time of our flight to Kauai by 2 hours, which meant that instead of a nice leisurely breakfast enjoying the sunrise in Oahu, we would instead be twiddling our thumbs for 2 hours in the Lihue Airport in Kauai.  Lame.  Their planes have virtually no space in the overhead bins and they don’t gate check stuff – you are forced to pay for all your bags.  Again, lame.  And our return flight to Oahu was so delayed (zero explanation given) that we missed our prepaid shuttle to the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  Totally lame.  So, a negative experience all around, and I have to think there are much better options for inter island travel.  Like a dugout canoe or a makeshift raft.

Anyway, after meeting an adorable toddler at the airport Starbucks (he came over to me with outstretched arms – I thought he wanted to make friends, but it turns out he just wanted a bite of my scone!  He was hilarious.  His parents were mortified) we met up with Tom and Becky and checked into the lovely Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu Beach, where T & B honeymooned 24 (?) years ago!  The property is all condos, mostly individually owned, and thus all a little different.  Ours (#82 in Bldg 15) was very nice.

The view from our room at the Kiahuna Plantation

The view from our room at the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation

After unpacking we headed back into Koloa for a quick lunch and a run to the supermarket.  Koloa is the site of the first sugar mill in Hawaii, and our lunch spot, the delightful Kauai Food Truck, was on the ruins of the old sugar mill.  While we were happily chatting and waiting for our lunch, we had our first taste of Kauai’s special brand of rain.  It was sunny and breezy, and then wham, out of nowhere – a soaking, horizontal rain that lasted for all of 5 minutes.  Yikes!

The Kauai Food Truck - try the fish tacos and the Brudda Burger

The creatively named Kauai Food Truck at the ruins of the Koloa Sugar Mill – try the fish tacos and the ample Brudda Burger

Old Koloa Town - the old sugar town is now home to lots of cute shops and restaurants.

Old Koloa Town – the old sugar town is now home to lots of cute shops and restaurants.

the Old Koloa Church.  I just loved the old-style missionary churches that we saw all over Oahu and Kauai.

the Old Koloa Church. I just loved the old-style missionary churches that we saw all over Oahu and Kauai.

We spent the rest of the day on the lovely beach at our resort, catching up and planning our days on Kauai.

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

In the evening we went shopping in Old Koloa Town and enjoyed a fairly decent pizza at Pizzetta.  Unlike Oahu, food options aren’t plentiful in Kauai, and Trip Advisor and Yelp weren’t as much help as they usually are for us.  You need to remember that when reviews say “best whatever in town” it may be because it is the ONLY whatever in a 20 minute radius.

Kauai is known as the Garden Island and here are a few pix of some of the lovely flowers we saw on our visit.

African Tulip Tree - the most beautiful tree on the island

African Tulip Tree – the most beautiful tree on the island

A Bird of Paradise, right outside our condo door

A Bird of Paradise, right outside our condo door

Plumeria were everywhere.  I resisted the urge to pick them off the trees, but fortunately the wind knocked plenty of them down for me to put in my hair.  What a heavenly fragrance!

Plumeria were everywhere. I resisted the urge to pick them off the trees, but fortunately the wind knocked plenty of them down for me to put in my hair. What a heavenly fragrance!

Next we’re off to explore the eastern and northern sides of Kauai.  Aloha!

Hawaii Travelogue 3 – North Shore Oahu

Still thankfully on Eastern Time, we woke up bright (still dark, actually) and early and headed off for our adventure on the other side of Oahu.  Our first stop was at Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu Ave in Honolulu.  This place is an institution for a reason.

Leonard's Bakery on Kapahulu

Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu.  I am obviously not the only tourist here…

They make all kinds of fabulous looking cakes, breads and pastries, but they are most beloved for their Malasadas, a Portuguese, hole-less donut.  Your Malasadas are delivered to you light, fluffy and burn-your-mouth hot in adorable pink boxes.  They are open all day and there is always a line.  We hit this place 4 times (yes 4, and I don’t really even like donuts!) while on Oahu, and I sampled 5 of the 6 Malasadas offered:  plain sugar (nice), cinnamon sugar (my fave), Li Hing sugar (a salty, sour sugar that everyone but me loved), chocolate cream filled (too much!) and haupia filled (a Hawaiian coconut pudding made with coconut milk that YES! is my new fave thing).

Sufficiently stuffed and sticky, we hopped on the H1 to the H2 and headed north.   We passed through beautiful pineapple fields and made a quickie stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation.  You can take a tour there, which we did not do, but we did enjoy their pineapple display garden.  It demonstrates the various stages in the life-cycle of a pineapple as well as showcasing a diverse array of pineapple varieties (altho they only grow one kind commercially in HI).  We learned that to propagate a pineapple you lop off the leafy top of the fruit, plant it and wait 2o months.  2o months!  The plant will give one more fruit in another 14-16 months, and then you rip it up.  And those prickly suckers are harvested by hand!  I’m never going to complain about the price of pineapple again.

A pineapple field in the early stages of growth

A pineapple field in the early stages of growth.  Yes, I know it’s blurry – I was whizzing down the highway.

Pineapple garden at the Dole Plantation

Pineapple garden at the Dole Plantation

Baby Pineapples - those are not friendly looking plants.

Baby Pineapples – those are not friendly looking plants.

Fortunately we left just as busloads of tourists arrived (another advantage to getting an early start!) and headed off for some beach time on the North Shore.  The North Shore is known for its spectacular wave action, especially in winter, so it is a popular area for surfers.   We stopped at Ehukai Beach to watch the surfers and work up an appetite for some shrimp truck shrimp.

Ehukai Beach (aka the Banzai Pipeline)

Ehukai Beach (aka the Banzai Pipeline)

surfer at Ehukai Beach

surfer at Ehukai Beach

Wind-blasted and hungry, we headed back to Haleiwa to sample the offerings at Macky’s Sweet Shrimp Truck.  I know that Giovanni’s is the most famous truck up there, but I read a ton of great reviews of Macky’s, so I wanted to give it a try.  The day before we met a nice local couple at Sweet Home Waimanalo who highly recommended Camaron’s near Turtle Bay, so we planned on stopping there too.  At Macky’s we split an order of garlic shrimp and it was worth the drive and the wait.  Piping hot, perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp, dripping with garlicy, salty butter, perched on two scoops of rice and accompanied by a small salad and a wedge of pineapple.  Amazing, and yes, I’m going to figure out how to make them!

Macky's in Haleiwa.  Dining at a North Shore shrimp truck is a must-do on Oahu!

Macky’s in Haleiwa. Dining at a North Shore shrimp truck is a must-do on Oahu!  As you can clearly see, eating at a shrimp truck is an eleganza experience.

We suffered through some serious President’s Day traffic (there is but one two lane road that arcs around the north side of Oahu) to continue our little adventure.  The next stop was a quick photo op at yet another Charlie’s Angels/Five-O filming site at the Turtle Bay Resort.  One cool thing about Hawaii is that there are no private beaches.  Even at this nice resort there is free day parking and beach access.

Turtle Bay Resort

Turtle Bay Resort

After exploring some tidepools at Turtle Bay (no easy feat in flip flops, thank you very much!) we worked up enough of an appetite for Shrimp Truck Round 2 at Camarons.  We tried the spicy shrimp, which were served in a creamy, spicy, tomato-y sauce, accompanied by the ubiquitous two scoops of rice, salad and pineapple wedge.  Very rich and very delicious.  We did pass Giovannis which was a madhouse, teeming with busloads of tourists.  I’m sure it’s great, but that is not my scene!  Macky’s and Camaron’s had excellent offerings and I would highly recommend them.

Camaron's - just east of Turtle Bay on Hwy 83

Camaron’s – just east of Turtle Bay on Hwy 83

We continued on Hwy 83 (Kamehameha Hwy) around to the Windward side of Oahu and enjoyed stopping at several of the beaches on the way.

Gorgeous Laie Beach

Gorgeous Laie Beach

Kahana Bay

Kahana Bay

Chinaman's Hat Island (Mokoli'i) seen from Kualoa

Chinaman’s Hat Island (Mokoli’i) seen from Kualoa

By the time we got back to Honolulu we were pretty wiped so John hit the hay early.  I curled up in the courtyard of the Ilikai and amused myself by flicking thru the Five-O episodes I put on my iPad to see how much the places I’d visited in the last 2 days had changed in 40 years.  A sweet older lady who lives at the Ilikai (not a bad retirement!) came up and introduced herself to me and apologized profusely for the weird weather.  She said she’s been in Hawaii 30 years and never seen that much wind.  Hmmmm.  Glad I packed so many sweaters and fleecies…

Early tomorrow we head for Kauai.  Aloha!

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