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