May 2009


Na Hoku II

We’re back in Austin now and have some great memories and fading tans. Before my memory fades too much, thought I’d jot down a few more notes on our trip to Oahu. It helps to have a bunch of pictures to look back on, and some local art as well.

The picture of the sailboat here is of the Na Hoku II. It was one of the funnest sails we had while we were there. The crew was a lot of fun and we happened to catch pretty good winds and the ride was a bit of a roller coaster. I’d definitely recommend looking for them. It’s the only big yellow sailboat on Waikiki. You can’t miss it. Hour long sails were $20 bucks. If you wanted bottomless cocktails too, $25. We tried to sail again with them on Monday but although they indicate they do a 9:30 sail they needed at least 10 people. We chose another boat instead on Monday. Monday’s are apparently known as “blue Mondays” by the sailboat folks on the beach. They don’t have near the volume of customers on Mondays.

The other picture below is of Sunset beach up on the North Shore. We got up early one morning and beat the traffic so it didn’t take but an hour to get up there. This time of year the surf is pretty quiet up there but in the winter it can apparently get pretty wild. Unlike Waikiki Beach, Sunset beach was really pretty quiet. More people started showing up mid day, but as you can see from the picture, when I took it there was almost no one on the beach.

Among the artwork I mentioned I came home with is a piece of art glass by a woman named Marian Fieldson. On several trips in recent years I’ve managed to find at least one piece of glasswork that I’ve found interesting. Check out the link here to get a sense of what the piece I got is like. It’s not exactly the same as that, but sorta similar.

When to Go, and the Crowds

Given this was my first trip to Oahu (other than flying in and out of Honolulu years ago) I can’t really say with first hand experience that May is any better than any other month to go to Oahu, but we had both read and were told as much by folks that live there. Apparently the crowds are down somewhat in May because it’s not considered high season and we were also told the bad economy in general was having a detrimental impact. From my point of view, I found that hard to believe. The plane out was a full flight and everywhere we went there were lots of people. The restaurants had plenty of people and the beaches and resorts seemed to be full of people. The streets of the Waikiki area were teeming with people night and day. The high end retail (Tiffany’s, Chanel, … ) seemed to be doing as well as the T-shirt shops.

If the crowds were considered ‘down’, then wow. In general, Honolulu and Waikiki are crowded. Lots of traffic! The traffic never seemed to end. If you’re looking for a quiet place, you can find it on Oahu, but it’s not in Honolulu. Not that it was unbearable. It was fine and we enjoyed our time, but you need to go to the windward or north shore if you’re looking for quiet.

Favorite Oahu Restaurants

Generally we had some pretty good food on the island. More than a few people told us we had to go to Duke’s – even our waitress at the Sheraton, and Duke’s is not in the Sheraton. The food here was excellent. Like many of the places in Waikiki, they did the ‘really big salad bar’, but this was really a much better than average salad bar. The entree was made to order though and they had some great fresh fish. Kem tried the swordfish and I had the Ono. Both were excellent.

We also loved a place called Plumeria’s at the Kahala resort hotel. Had it not been recommended by Jeff (local) we would very likely have never found this place. It was a nice drive out past Diamond Head. One of the nice things about this place was the grounds. They had dolphins(!) in big ponds on the grounds that were facinating to watch. They also had big sea turtles and exotic fish swimming around. The restaurant was open air and we sat outside a stone’s throw from the ocean. It didn’t hurt that there was a full moon (or close to it) that night rising over the ocean. Quite impressive. I had the mahi mahi. Kem had the Ahi tuna. Again, both excellent.

Another place we really liked was up on the north shore, called Ted’s Bakery. It doesn’t look like much, but the crowds were a signal that it must be pretty good so we walked over from Sunset beach. (It’s just a short walk.) We were not disappointed. I had the mahi mahi sandwich. Mmm, very good. Kem had the garlic shrimp and she loved it.

One final place worth mentioning was over in Kailua (on the windward side of the island). We drove over to Kailua beach one day and when we got hungry we found our way to a little market along the road called the Kalapawai Market. Turns out they had a great little deli in the back. They made some fantastic sandwiches.

Renting a car on Oahu

Would I rent a car again on Oahu? Yeah, probably. You can’t really get to the windward side or north shore without one. I suppose there are buses that would take you, but if you’re short on time, the logistics of that aren’t great. But if you’re spending most of your time in Waikiki, you don’t need a car. You can walk to pretty much everything you’re going to want to. And if you’ve got a car, you’ve got to find a place to park the darned thing. Our hotel was charging $18 a day to park. I’d probably look into renting on a daily basis as opposed to the entire duration of the trip. Daily rates are probably higher than the weekly rate and in the end I’m not sure it would save any money. Whatever is the least hassle.

Overall

I’d definitely return to Oahu. We really enjoyed our time – other than the traffic, which is really no worse than any other major city – and I think we saw only a small fraction of the things we could have. We’ll just have to go back… oh, but then there are all those other islands there we haven’t seen!

Sunset beach

Kem at Duke's

Kailua Beach

We headed over to the windward side of the island and Kailua Bay. There we found a fantastic beach to while away the time on yet another beautiful day here on Oahu. Later we headed to a place multiple people had recommended for dinner and music, Duke’s. Duke’s is named after a famous Hawaiian that was a champion swimmer in the early 1900’s and was generally considered the person who popularized modern surfing. I’m not usually much for buffet style but this was really good food, and the fish was fresh and made to order. I took the picture of Kem at Duke’s.

The Maitai on Waikiki
Chas with Mimosa

Yesterday was all about having some fun in the sun. Kem had made some reservations to do some sailing/snorkeling mid morning. We got a leisurely start and eventually made our way down to Waikiki beach. There are a bunch of catamaran sail boats that leave directly from the beach. No docks, they just come to a stop on the beach and tie down to a stake in the sand. We got down to the beach and thought we had found the right boat. We even got on and were headed out and only then realized we were on the wrong boat! We could see the one we were supposed to be on coming in for a landing. So they turned around and unloaded us and we got on the ‘right’ boat. The funny thing was though the boats were very similar and ours ended up going out and anchoring (for snorkeling) right next to the one we’d just gotten off. Basically they offered the same service. You can see the Maitai before we headed off in the picture here. The sailing off the coast was a blast.

Later we just parked it on the beach for awhile. We hadn’t really seen much of Waikiki beach so we wandered down the coast a bit. Waikiki beach is sort of like Rodeo Drive and Las Vegas rolled together next to the beach. It’s jammed wall to wall with high rise hotels and high end retail. Not surpisingly we took in the sights but didn’t really do much in the way of ‘shopping’. We just unrolled the beach towels and joined the folks on the beach. Warm, but lovely breezes so not too hot. Water was a great temp so easy to cool off when you wanted.

Later we wandered down the beach to a shady resort hotel and ordered some lunch and as you can see in the picture, a couple of drinks. In the picture here I’m holding up the Mimosa that Kem had ordered. My smirk here is just part of the laughing at the too-cuteness of the umbrella and flower in the drink.

Later we decided we hadn’t had enough sailing yet and hooked up with an impromptu ride with another hourly boat tour operator. They too were sailing a big catamaran. This time though we got out on the netting up front and really enjoyed the waves. Some splashing but we actually thought we’d get a lot wetter. Quite the roller coaster ride.

Today, probably another visit to the beach…

Yesterday was our first full day of getting around Oahu to see a few things. We met up early with Jeff, Kem’s aunt’s nephew who happens to live here on Oahu and works as a geologist. He had some fantastic suggestions for us and took us all out to a spot for a great hike not far from Honolulu. We drove a ways into the hills and then got out and hiked for perhaps an hour up to the edge of some cliffs overlooking Waimanalo Bay on the windward side. The hike up was just challenging enough. Lots of climbing up and over rocks and roots and generally up. It definitely got our hearts going and we worked up a little sweat. But it wasn’t really all that long. Far more challenging on the legs to come down rather than go up.

I took this picture once we got to the top. It looks out over the bay. The color of the water is really spectacular.

We ended the day with a drive up and around Diamond Head to another place Jeff had recommended called the Hotel Kahala. The hotel grounds were nice to wander before dinner. They have dolphins there swiming around, sea turtles, exotic fish, and beatiful flowers. Dinner there outdoors was excellent.

We took a ton of other pictures yesterday but they’ll have to wait. I’ll post some more later. We’re off to get on a sailboat today…

Looking out over Waimanalo Bay, Oahu

Chas & Kem arrive in Honolulu
Kem on the beach

We’ve arrived in Honolulu! It was a long flight from Houston and we were definitely happy to be off the plane. Kem’s mom had prearranged for us to have a greating and receive the beautiful leis you see us wearing in the photo.

The flight was more than a little disconcerting. About 4 hours out – over nothing but water and hours left to go – everyone began to smell some sickening burning electical fumes. Something electrical was definitely burning and the smell was getting worse. The flight attendants started coming up the aisles shouting to check all laptops and anything electrical. Needless to say it was a little tense there for a bit high above the ocean. Eventually the air cleared and after what seemed like a long time the captain came on and announced a recirculating fan had burned out. They had “contained” it. Um, yeah. We white-knuckled it for the rest of the trip and hence the big smiles in the picture. Glad to be on the ground.

The hotel’s nothing special but we figured we wouldn’t really be around there much anyway.

We spent the rest of what was left of the day down wandering the beach and hanging out at a resort lounge by the ocean. Just enjoying some tasty snacks and a nice glass of wine. The time change had us exhausted early so we crashed by 9. More later…