Aloha Wau Ia ‘Oe, Oahu!
Hale hookipa ana
Everyone should have a place that feels like home, even if you’ve never lived there. For me, it’s Oahu. It blows my mind that you can visit somewhere so exotic without having to go through customs. There’s something about that tropical air as you’re stepping off the plane. It even smells beautiful here.
On this particular visit, we decided to split our time between Honolulu and the North Shore. The Outrigger Beach Resort is in the center of the action in Waikiki. You’ve got the beach on one side and Kalakaua Avenue on the other, bustling with restaurants, high end shopping galore, and people watching. Honolulu is the largest city in the state of Hawaii and the most remote city of its size on the globe. 72,000 visitors arrive each day. It’s a real city and not necessarily the quiet, peaceful place that comes to mind when you think of Hawaii.
We vacillated on whether or not to hike Diamond Head; It’s crowded, touristy, and my sister, a former resident of Honolulu, specifically told us not to. (“There are way better hikes that tourists don’t know about!”) But when the fire alarm at the Outrigger went off at 5 o’clock one morning, the decision was made for us. We fueled up with some coffee and acai bowls at Island Vintage Coffee and were ready to go. Even at 6am, there were plenty of people, but it was great. We climbed all the way up countless inclines, punishing stairways, through tunnels, to the pillbox fort at the peak. We felt pretty good about ourselves and the views are stunning.
Being an overzealous planner, days are seldom spent laying around on the beach. A self-led audio tour of Iolani Palace, the sole royal palace in the United States, is perfect for those interested in history. In 1895 after a failed attempt at restoring her power, Queen Liliʻuokalani was charged with treason and imprisoned in a room upstairs in her own palace. You can stand in the very room where she was kept for 9 months. She was forbidden from receiving guests with the exception of one lady companion. Queen Liliʻuokalani spent much of her time working on a massive quilt, which is on display.
The palace is located in downtown Honolulu not far from Chinatown, which is convenient because Chinese is Danny’s favorite food. This part of town feels about a thousand miles from the swanky resorts but it’s cool to see the “real” parts of the city and its the perfect spot for a casual lunch.
Hau‘oli lā Ho‘omana‘o
Danny and I have been going to Turtle Bay on Oahu’s fabled North Shore since our honeymoon in 2010. You might recognize it from Forgetting Sarah Marshall or one of the Pirates or Hunger Games movies. A variety of accommodations are available from ocean villas, the main hotel, or, our favorite, the beach cottages. There are only 42 of them, our favorite being #118.
The friendly feral cats that wander the premises are the reason we own a cat, adopted from the Seattle Animal Shelter after our last trip to Oahu 4 years ago. You’re not really supposed to feed the adorable felines but, really, everybody does. Danny even goes shopping for them. We made a couple of new friends for the week we named Sphinx and Tiger, but we soon lost out to the Australian couple one cottage over who plied them with cans of wet Friskies.
Turtle Bay as a whole consists of 800 acres of pure Hawaiian heaven. You can surf, golf, play tennis, ride horses… We decided to brave the Pacific with our Seattle complexions and gave stand-up paddle boarding a go. We were shuttled to the private Kawela Bay, given a few quick tips, loaned two boards and paddles, surf shirts known as “rash guards,” aqua socks, and were left to our own devices for an hour. On this particular day this bay was experiencing an historic low tide. Jagged rocks that are usually safely covered by several feet of water were visible above the waves, taunting us with an already difficult task. We appreciated the privacy that a crowded beach would not offer during our amateur hour.
If it weren’t for the great weather, gorgeous scenery, and warm people, it would still be a destination as a foodie paradise. Food trucks dot Kamehameha Highway and the North Shore is all about the garlic shrimp. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is the most renowned but according to Danny, as I have been cursed with a shellfish allergy, you really can’t go wrong with any of the shrimp trucks. I stuck to fish tacos and poke bowls and don’t feel like I missed out. To me, one of the most amazing things about Hawaii is how you can find a dozen different kinds of poke at any grocery store. We like to hit up Foodland or Malama Market in Hale-iwa and stock up the mini-fridge back at the cottage. The spam variety is impressive as well — jalapeño, teriyaki, hickory smoked, chorizo, macadamia nut spam! I hope friends at home find this as amusing as I do because I’m bringing some back for everyone.
Hale-iwa (pronounced “holly-eva”) is an old plantation town a worthwhile 30 minute drive from Turtle Bay. It boasts welcoming beaches and an adorable main street filled with mom-and-pop gift shops, cozy restaurants, and the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice. Famous means long lines. We went to Aoki’s next door. Indulging in a shave ice (call it “shaved ice” and lose your street cred) is a must on Oahu. If you’ve never had one, it’s a paper cup filled with, duh, shaved ice, flavored syrups, toppings, and a dab of vanilla ice cream and bean paste at the bottom.
A hui hou kākou
I haven’t even left and I’m already looking forward to coming back next year to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. We love this place so much, we’re the cheesy mofos with the matching Hawaiian turtle tattoos.
Next week, we’ll be on the Big Island. Stay tuned!