Hawai’i Guide

May 3rd, 2007

Tammi and I went to Hawai’i for Thanksgiving 2005. We went to Oahu and Maui for 2 weeks. Shortly after that a co-worker told me he was heading out there with his family and wondered if I had any favorites to share. I wrote something up, pointing out a few of the places we went. Paul and Miriam, friends who are getting hitched at the end of the month, are going to Hawai’i for their honeymoon. They’ll be going to Honolulu and hope to hit one of the other islands while they’re out there.
After the jump, an expanded version of what I wrote up…

Oahu gets a bad rap for being touristy, but there are plenty of places to go
that are a lot of fun and pretty interesting.
First, don’t just stick to the Waikiki area, that’s where nearly all the tourists are. Check out a bit of the rest of Honolulu. There’s a lot there off the beaten path that’s worth hunting down. You’ll probably see it in a guidebook, but I’ll add another recommendation for Chef Mavro’s downtown. It’s perfect for a fancier dinner.
There’s a lot happening in the Chinatown area. If nothing else you should go there just to get some dim sum. Besides that though, the area has a much more local vibe. When we went, some cool bars and clubs were popping up. We heard a lot about Next Door, but never got a chance to check it out. Chinatown is also where the best lei’s are made, so if you want to pick up something more authentic than what they give out at the airport, check over there. I really liked getting out there away from the throngs and seeing a different side of life in Honolulu.
That said, Waikiki has plenty of things you should do at least once. There are tons of shops and restaurants and bars and hotels there. It’s an interesting mix of people and can be fun for an afternoon. This is the place you’ll do most or all of your shopping. In Particular, the ABC store is where you’ll probably get a bunch of things. There is literally one on every block, sometimes more. They sell nearly every little thing you’ll need, beach mats, towels, souvenirs, snacks, reading material, and so on. Don’t ever worry about needing to go back to your hotel because you forgot something, they’ve pretty much got you covered.
Into the Deep
We took a submarine tour while we were there too. That was a lot of fun. Beats the hell out of a glass bottom boat. We went down about 100 feet and got to see sea turtles and fish swimming around sunken ruins and such.
Hawaii gets tons of traffic from Japanese tourists, most of which is centered in Honolulu. That means you get a lot of good Japanese food. Take advantage. I love the Ramen shops. It’s nothing like the stuff you ate in college, believe me. My favorite are the soups with Udon noodles. They’re thick and almost meaty in texture. It’s a great cheap snack. There are a couple at the beginning of the strip, one is as good as another in my experience.
Down a couple miles past the end of the Waikiki strip is Diamond Head. You can see if from everywhere in the area pretty much. It’s the remnant of a volcanic eruption 200,000 years ago. There’s a hike trail that starts in the middle and goes up to the highest point. When you reach the top, you’ll have an incredible view of the island. Climbing Diamond Head is a nice relatively easy hike and totally worth it for the view. It’s a short bus ride from the main strip in Waikiki. I hear a more
advanced hike, that is likely to be less crowded is the Manoa Trail. We didn’t make it out there but I was told it’s very lush and tropical where Diamond Head is more arid and desert-like.
If you go to any of the other islands, I’d recommend Maui, but it totally depends on what you’re looking for. We stayed in the town of Lahaina on the southwest shore. It’s like a slightly commercialized old New England town, very cute and some really good food. David Paul’s Lahaina Grill, Io and Pacifico were all fantastic. And nearly every restaurant there has a beautiful view of the ocean.
While we were there we did the sunrise tour to Haleakala, an inactive volcano 10,000 feet up. A tour guide picked us up at 3 or 4 in morning to take us up there. It’s a bit crowded and very cold, but watching the sun come up from above the clouds was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Oh, be sure to check out a luau. They have them in Honolulu and Maui and probably the other islands as well. I’ve been to 3 different ones. Some focus on history, some are a bit campier, regardless, they are all entertaining and worth the money. Also, there aren’t a ton of places to get traditional Hawaiian food and the kalua pork is worth it if nothing else.

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