Leeward Neighborhoods of Waianae, Makaha, and Nanakuli

Leeward OahuThe Leeward Coast also known as the Wai’anae Coast is one of the most interesting places on Oahu – if you aren’t interested in resort hotels, manufactured tourist attractions, and over-developed promotion of a phony Hawai’i that has never really existed anywhere but in people’s imaginations.

Wai’anae” means “Water of the Mullet.”  These rich fishing grounds were important to the Hawaiian people and the fierce and sometimes inhospitable landscape made it worth the efforts it took to survive here even when other areas on Oahu offered an easier way of living. 

Long before Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii, there were thriving villages on the Leeward coast. After contact, populations tended to grow faster where the living was easier – parts of the beautiful valleys of the Waianae Mountains were used for garbage dumps and bomb practice. Which, by the way – are both atrocious and awful ways to treat a stunning landscape that is host to many endangered species and sacred cultural sites.

In the North there is Makaha and Yokohama Bay – south of there you will find Waianae and Nanakuli – both communities with more than 10,000 residents each. Makaha means fierce or savage in Hawaiian language – and it is likely in reference to the pounding winter surf, jagged reefs, and extremely hot temperatures. There are some beautiful beaches and bays on the Leeward Coast – but most visitors will never see them.

Leeward OahuMost locals think of the Leeward Coast as being a predominantly ‘local’ area – and they are correct. There is a much higher concentration of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders living in this area than the North Shore or Honolulu. In general, there are fewer people of European descent on the Leeward Coast – but – there is actually still a significant military presence – like everywhere on Oahu.

The U.S. Army has a recreation center at Pokai Bay, there is still a military presence in the Makua Valley where sacred landscape has been bombed into uninhabitability, and Kolekole Pass – the shortest way to get from the Leeward Side to another part of Oahu is accessible only to military members and their families  – which, if you ask me – is some serious bullshit.

The largest homeless camp in Hawaii is located on the Waianae Coast. It’s a 20 acre shantytown called Pu’uhonua o Waianae. There are many homeless on the Leeward Coast – a result of gentrification on other parts of Oahu, skyrocketing housing costs, and policies which sweep the homeless from other areas but allow them to stay on the West Side. Civil Beat has done an excellent series on the camp.

Leeward OahuNanakuli is home to one of the oldest Hawaiian Homesteads areas. The name Nanakuli means ‘look at knee’ in the Hawaiian language.  The Hawaiian Homesteads Act was the brainchild of Prince Johan Kuhio and enacted in 1921.

Fighter Max Holloway (MMA champion) and actor Jason Mamoa (Aquaman) both come from the Leeward Coast. Both men are a good example of why you should treat the land and the people of Leeward Oahu with respect if you do choose to visit.

Amelia Earhardt on Oahu and in Hawaii

On January 11, 1935 Amelia Earhardt became the first person to fly from Hawaii to California. Not the first woman (though she was that) but the first person. Three years earlier she had become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic (it was 5 years after Lindbergh had become the first person to do so). She had also been the first woman to fly as part of a crew across the Atlantic. In 1937 – she and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific Ocean as they tried to become the first aviators to fly around the world.

Earhardt came to Hawaii twice. She was suppossed to come a third time on the 2nd to last leg of her trip around the world – but disappeared before making it back to the islands.

Her first visit was December 27, 1934-January 11, 1935 – this was when she set the record as first person to fly from Hawaii to North America. The flight took 18 hours – think about that next time you complain about the 5 hours it takes today to fly between Hawaii and the West Coast.

“Over the Christmas holiday (1934,) Amelia Earhart and George Putnam, along with Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mantz, arrived in Honolulu on December 27, having sailed on the Matson liner SS Lurline. Amelia’s Lockheed Vega was secured on the ocean liner’s deck. The group spent two weeks vacationing in Hawaiʻi.” She visited Hilo on the Big Island and planted a banyan tree on  the “Hilo Walk of Fame.”

Amelia Earhardt PlaqueHer second trip was March 17 through March 20, 1937 and was a part of her first attemptto fly around-the-world – which failed with a fiery crash on Wheeler Field. – where the Pacific Aviation Museum is now.. Her final attempt flew in the other direction and ended in her disappearance.

A commemorative plaque sits at the Diamond Head Lookout to commemorate her trans-pacific solo flight. Documents from that flight were placed in a copper box and inserted into the plaque’s base on March 6. It was dedicated on March 14, 1937.

Despite many theories, no one knows what really happened to Earhardt and Noonan. Did they crash in the Pacific and drown? Land on an atoll and live as castaways? Get captured by the Japanese? The truth is – we will probably never know for sure. But she was here…in Hawaii.

 

 

Kahalu, Punalu’u, and Kaaawa Neighborhoods –

There are three little communities on the Windward Side of Oahu that I love. None of them will take you more than a minute or two to drive through and chances are that you won’t get out of your car or spend any time in them. I’m okay with that, and probably most of the people who live in these communities are okay with that.

Oahu Kahalu'uKahalu’u means diving place. All told there are about 2300 people in Kahalu’u. Most of them are Chinese and Hawaiian descent people. This was an area where many Canton Chinese settled in the mid 1800s. The most famous resident was probably Senator Hiram Fong. He was the first Asian American to be a U.S. Senator, the first to run for his party’s nomination for President of the USA, and to date, the only Republican Senator to ever come from Hawaii. I used to take people to Senator Fong’s Plantation in the early 2000s – he died at 97 in 2004. It was always a pleasure to chat with the Senator in his gardens. The plantation continued for about a decade as a fine tourist attraction for about a decade after his death but is now is well past its prime. I’m not even sure it is open to the public anymore but I’ve heard that you can book private walking tours there. Another couple of fun stops in Kahalu’u are the Sunshine Arts Gallery and the many Orchid greenhouses. Like Senator Fong’s Plantation though – these attractions now feel neglected and dated. There used to be one of the very few food trucks in Kahalu’u – Surf Tacos – but that and Mike’s Huli Chicken are both gone now. FDR made a stop in Kahalu’u back in the 1930s.

Driving North from Kahalu’u you will go by the Coral Kingdom, a strange and high priced tourist shop that from my perspective, doesn’t offer much. You should stop at the Macadamia Nut Farm, Chinaman’s Hat, and Kualoa Ranch.

Past the Kualoa Ranch, you will come into sweet little Ka’a’awa. K’a’a’awa means Wrasse. About 1,379 people live in Ka’a’awa. Nicholas Cage’s character gets stuck there in the movie ‘Honeymoon in Vegas’. You can bet some pretty decent Southern BBQ at Uncle Bobo’s restaurant.   I love the beaches in Ka’a’awa. They are narrow strips on the ocean side of the road but rarely crowded and usually the people there are local people fishing, swiming, and talking story. On the North Side of Ka’a’awa you will find the popular Crouching Lion hike behind the now being refurbished Crouching Lion Inn.

Past Ka’a’awa you reach one of the most important places on Oahu – Kahana Valley and Kahana Bay. I’ll save that for another post. Coming around Kahana Bay you will see the red and white of Keneke’s Restaurant and that means you are in Punalu’u.

Oahu Punalu'uPunalu’u means ‘coral dived for’. It is home to about 881 people – and is where some of the oldest inhabitation remains found on Oahu are located. Ching’s Market and Kaya’s Market are the only two stores. These are windward everything stores and carry everything residents might need including food, fishing supplies, hardware, and 5-toed reef shoes called tabies. The Kawananakoa Beach House is located here – it was the summer home of the Kawanakoa Family (heirs to the Hawaiian throne). I lived in Punalu’u back in 2002. I managed and helped build a hostel called Countryside Cabins – it was an amazing period in my life and I learned much of what I love about Hawaii from the residents in Punalu’u who taught me about aloha, the Hawaiian way of life, and local Oahu culture. Punalu’u has fallen on some fairly hard times these days. The cabins fell into disrepair when I left and eventually folded. You will find the first of the shrimp trucks near the market’s in Punalu’u.

While very few of these places I’ve mentioned will ever make it to anyone’s Top 10 of Oahu – that is probably a good thing because Punalu’u, Kahalu’u, and Ka’a’awa all remain truly authentic places. You can’t get them by stopping for a few minutes and you won’t find hotels in any of them.

 

 

Liliha Bakery on Oahu – Home of Coco Puffs and Poi Donuts

Liliha BakerySince 1950, Liliha Bakery has been one of Oahu’s brightest gems. This neighborhood coffee shop, diner, and bakery will provide you with some of Oahu’s tastiest treats or a well cooked sit down meal for a reasonable price. There are two locations – one at the original spot in the Makiki neighborhood on Liliha street and the other on the Nimitz Highway between downtown and Honolulu International Airport.

A couple of items from Liliha Bakery stand out for me. First, the signature Coco-Puffs – sweet chocolate filled cream puffs with a dab of mocha creme on them. Second are the Poi Mochi Donuts – these are chewy donuts made with rice gelatin and pounded taro (which gives them their purple color). Starting at 2 am each day, Liliha makes fresh and delicious treats better than any other bakery on the island.

Liliha Bakery

One of the best things about the original location is the diner bar. If you want to feel what it was like to grab a meal at the diner in the 1950’s just sit down and wait for one of the waitresses to take your order. Watch the cooks dish your food in the kitchen and enjoy some thick coffee. Some of the cooks have been there for more than thirty years and the coffee may have been there with them. The diner food is classic local recipes like loco moco, saimin, Portuguese sausage and rice and pancakes.  Open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Waimanalo Town

WaimanaloWaimanalo Town on the Windward Side of Oahu is a little town about three miles long that stretches from Makapu’u Point to Kailua. There’s not a whole lot in Waimanalo Town but you’ll see many Hawaiian flags there because it is one of the few places on Oahu where roughly half the population is of Native Hawaiian descent. Some of the flags will be upside down which indicates that the Hawaiian Nation is in distress. There are a little more than 10,000 residents in Waimanalo Town.

Waimanalo Beach is probably the biggest draw to the area – it’s a long white beach with stunning views of the Koolau Mountains behind.The telveision show. Baywatch Hawaii was shot there. Another draw is Bellow’s Beach which is only open on weekends because it is part of an Airforce and Marine military complex.

Waimanalo

Across from the entrance to Waimanalo Beach Park is a polo field. The Hawaiian Royalty loved polo and the tradition continues to this day.  In terms of other activities – there isn’t really much…Sea Life Park is just down the road along with the walk to the Makapu’u Light House. There are many agricultural properties and a lot of greenhouses in Waimanalo – but they aren’t tourist attractions. The little red and white checked restauarant across from 7-11 is a bizarre religious plate lunch place called Keneke’s Divine Grinds. There are also a couple of fast food restaurants including the popular L&L Drive Inn.

Waimanalo

Here are my three favorite hidden treats in Waimanalo.

1) Shima’s Market has amazing poke!

2) Ono Steak and Shrimp (behind Kenekes’s) has great food, big servings and reasonable prices

3) The Waimanalo Co-op next to McDonalds has a variety of fresh products and locally produced artisanal craft work.

WaimanaloAlso, this is a great place to stop at McDonalds for Spam, Eggs, and Rice or some pineapple or taro pies – Hawaii specialties you won’t find on the mainland. Also, don’t be afraid to stop for the roadside food in Waimanalo – ice cold coconuts, plate lunches, and much more from tents by the road. As for Keneke’s – it’s okay – not expensive but not the greatest food by any stretch.

There used to be a statue of the Sumo Wrestler Akebono in the Waimanalo shopping center. He was a local Hawaiian boy who went on to become the tallest and one of the greatest Yakuzuna (grand master) in sumo history. I’m not sure what happened to the statue but I heard that it was knocked over and is being repaired.

I’ve heard one legend of Waimanalo which is fun and shares a bit of the deep meanings that Hawaiian tales often offer. The legend says that a fisherman once decided to taunt the shark god because his catch was frequently stolen by sharks. The fisherman killed as many sharks as he could find and dumped their bodies into Waimanalo Bay. The shark god was angered and decided to eat the fisherman. He knocked over the fisherman’s boat and preceded to eat the legs of the fisherman. As he worked his way up, the stinky ass of the fisherman was too much for him and he couldn’t continue. He spit the legless fisherman on the shore and vowed never to eat another human from Waimanalo. This is why the locals don’t worry about shark attacks in Waimanalo Bay. It’s also why they respect sharks and don’t kill them when they are found in their nets.

Laie Town and Windward Neighborhoods of Kuhuku and Hau’ula

Laie PointVisitors to Oahu tend to have heard of The North Shore, Waikiki, Honolulu and maybe Kailua – but those are just three places out of hundreds. You have to hit the road to find the most interesting places.

The North End of the Windward Side of the Island of Oahu is an interesting place! What makes it interesting? What about a bizarre collision of Mormonism, Sumo Wrestling, shrimp, and giant lizards? Interesting enough for you? Because you will find it all there.

Let’s start with the giant lizard – Hawaiian legend has it that the rocky point in Laie (Laie Point) yused to be patrolled and guarded by a giant monster lizard name Laniloa. A warrior named Kana came and killed the lizard, slicing it into five pieces – these pieces can still be seen today as the islands off the point – including the skull of Laniloa with his eye socket staring at you!

Laie Hawaii Mormon Visitor Center
Space Jesus at the Mormon Visitor Center

Laie is a Mormon town. The Mormons trusted a man named Walter Murray Gibson to come buy them an island homeland in Hawaii after the U.S. occupied Utah. Gibson bought the island of Lanai for them but decided to keep it for himself. He gave up Mormonism, took to drinking with King Kalakaua, and became the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Prime Minister. When the Mormon’s arrived – he refused to give them Lanai and instead the king sold them Laie where they built a temple, a university, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. You’ll also find the Hukilau Cafe, though it’s not the one from the movie 50 First Dates.

Laie Hukilau Cafe

Just south of Laie is Hau’ula. There’s not much in the town, but it is well known as the home of one of Hawaii’s most famous sumo wrestling schools and many of the sumo greats trained or came from Hau’ula.

Konishiki Sumo

I’ve been told that Konishiki came from Hau’ula. I actually met him at the backyard sumo school there about twenty years ago. I wasn’t wrestling, just checking it out.

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

North of Laie you find Kuhuku with the shrimp ponds, the remains of the old sugar mill, and the many food trucks that have moved there. Locally, however, Kuhuku is most famous for the high school football team, the ‘Red Raiders’. This tiny school’s team has produced more NFL players than any school in Hawaii and has ranked second in the U.S. for most active NFL players from a single school.

Five Jaw Dropping Beautiful Beaches on Oahu

Oahu is an island in Hawaii, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are amazing beaches here – but even knowing that Hawaii is paradise and exists in this perfect tropical zone, people are still often surprised by the beauty of our beaches. Here are five of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu – not just the most beautiful on this island, but in the world. None of them is more than a forty minute drive from Waikiki.

 

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai

Voted as the most beautiful beach in America over and over again – this sweet little Windward Oahu community beach in Kailua literally means “Heavenly Water” in the Hawaiian language. Powdered sugar sand, the view of the Moku Lua Islands, calm waters filled with fish for snorkeling and the color blue in that incredible tone that is nothing short of, well, heavenly. Go to Lanikai Beach.

 

 

 

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo BeachIt’s only separated from Lanikai by a point of land and a military base on Oahu, but it might as well be a hundred miles for the difference in crowds and conditions. Where Lanikai is filled with Japanese tourists and haole people, Waimanalo is filled with local people – if there is anyone there at all. It still has the views of the Mokes, but the surf can pound at Waimanalo Beach and the sand is a bit less powdery but still pretty divine. Waimanalo Beach is great for body surfing, getting away from the crowds, and enjoying paradise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandy’s Beach

Sandy's Beach OahuA whole different world awaits you at Sandy’s on the South Shore of Oahu. Also known as ‘Breakneck Beach’, this is where President Obama likes to go to bodysurf when he’s in town. Sandy’s has much larger sand particles that tend towards the color we think of sand being – tan. It’s filled with local body boarders, surfers, bikini beauties, and adventure lovers. The sun can pound down on you at Sandy’s and there isn’t anyplace to hide from it. Also, don’t snake a wave or ‘drop in’ onthe locals or you might get a different kind of pounding.

 

 

Waikiki Beach

WaikikiWaikiki Beach is one of the best beaches in the world. It’s actually made up of five different beaches and stretches from near the Waikiki Acqaurium all the way down to Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s awesome. Yes, it’s almost always filled with people but never in the way that beaches in California, Florida, New Jersey, Italy or other beachy destinations are. Waikikik has thick, course sand and waves that range from beginner to pro. What could be more jaw droppingly beautiful than sitting on Waikiki watching the sunset with Diamond Head on your left, the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel on your right, and a strong Maitai in your hand? Not much.

 

 

Makapu’u Beach

Makapu'u BeachI almost didn’t include this beach on the list, because I hate sharing my favorite spots with the internet, but the truth on this one is out and frankly, I’m not the one spilling the beans here. Just across from Sea Life Park – at the point where the South Shore and the Windward Side are still sort of merged – you will find Makapu’u Beach Park.  Great body surfing, great surf, nice sand, and plenty of beauty with Rabbit Island and the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse and the jagged cliffs above. This is a very local place, so be respectful. Also, as everywhere, don’t leave any valuables in your car.

Pearl City, Waimalu, and Aiea Neighborhoods – Sugar, Sports and Military

Pearl City Aiea WaimaluMost visitors to Oahu end up making at least one trip into the Pearl City, Waimalu, and Aiea neighborhoods – they do so when they visit Pearl Harbor. Another reason to visit might be to go to the Aloha Stadium Swapmeet. Beyond those two major draws however, there isn’t much to draw visitors to these three neighborhoods. All three are mostly local redisential demographics with slightly higher than Oahu median age and considerably lower median income than Oahu median. Those demographics shift if you include military families and personnel in the criteria – as all three areas have large military populations – more than a few entire neighborhoods in this area are military housing. The total non-military population of the three combined comes to about 75,000 people.

Pearl City Aiea WaimaluPearl City is the area east of Waipahu and streching down from Waipio and Millilani to the North. Bordering Pearl City are Waimalu and then Aiea. East of Aiea is the Salt Lake/Moanalua Neighborhood (West Honolulu). Pearl City, Aiea, and Waimalu are lumped together on many neighborhood maps as Pearl City. Residents of Aiea though, take issue with this, as Aiea has it’s own attractions, history, and zipcode.

Pearl City is essentially, a city built around a sprawling military base. Aiea on the other hand is a city that grew around a sugar cane plantation. Waimalu is caught between the two. In ancient times, the whole area was part of the Aiea ahupua’a – the Hawaiian way of designating chief controlled land – essentially a pie slice going from the ocean to the mountains.

Pearl City Aiea WaimaluFrom the late 1800s to World War II, it was the sugar industry that was the main driver of the economy in this area. When the U.S. moved the Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor at the dawn of WWII, the economy of the area shifted to that of military dependency. The closing of the sugar mill and plantation after WWII accelerated this process. Much of the former sugar cane lands are now military owned neighborhoods. C & H Sugar closed the last mill in the area in 1996 and it was torn down in 1999.

Today, Aiea is home to the Aloha Stadium where the University of Hawaii Warriors play their home games. It is also home to the largest enclosed mall in the state, Pearl Ridge, and the Sumida Farm – Hawaii’s largest watercress farm – located in wetland fields between highways and the Pearl Ridge Mall – which creates an interesting contrast. There are several nice hikes in the hills around this area but no beaches due to the waterfront land being controlled mostly by the military.

Pearl City Aiea WaimaluThe current Governor of Hawaii, David Ige comes from Waimalu. Former Lieutenant Governor, Duke Aiona is from Pearl City, and Bette Midler, the actress and singer was born and raised in Aiea.

The major US Military bases in the area are Camp Smith, Pearl Harbor, Hickam, and Fort Shafter.

Five Great Kids Activities on Oahu

There are no shortage of great things to do on Oahu. When you visit Hawaii, it’s perfectly fine to bring the kids with you and most activitives are great for the whole family. Things like swimming, snorkeling, having beach time, hiking in the rainforest, or just doing some shopping in Waikiki. Sometimes though, you might want to do something that will make the little ones squeal with delight – for those times, I offer the following.

Dole PlantationDole Plantation

The Dole Planatation is great for everyone but the little ones get a special thrill. All the bright colors, the pineapple ice cream aka Dole Whip, getting lost in the world’s largest pineapple maze, and taking a train ride through the old plantation days. The kids will love this one.

 

 

 

 

Honolulu Ohau Sea Life ParkSea Life Park

Sea Life Park is a blast for the kids. Sure, there are controversies and real concerns about the way that marine animals and animals in general are treated, but in Hawaii, the legislature, businesses and every day people take those concerns seriously, so why not go and watch a dolphin show or check out the sharks in the big aqaurium. Visit with the penguins and see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles in an environment where they are safe and protected (from tourists).

 

 

Honolulu ZooHonolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo can be a lot of fun with the kids – during the summer months there are concerts inside and great after dark programs where the kids (and adults) can explore the zoo grounds, learn about the nocturnal behaviours of the animals that live there, and more – but don’t discount going to the zoo during the day. I think that mornings right around feeding time are the best time, but there’s always something going on – especially with the gibbons.

 

 

 

Waikiki AquariumWaikiki Aquarium

The Waikiki Aquarium is a blast – especially if you hit one of those days when it’s raining or you don’t want to be outside very much. Head to the Waikiki Aquarium. You can spend hours or minutes there but spend at least enough time to see the sea horses and sea dragons! Also the touching zone is a favorite with kids of all ages. For those looking for a more psychedelic vibe…spend a bit of time zoning out on the jellyfish under blacklights!

 

 

Matsumoto Shave IceMatsumoto Shave Ice

Every child should get to experience a very good shave ice. You’ll find that in many places but one of the most fun is Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu. This is one of the most family budget friendly treats in the Hawaiian Islands. Go whole hog and you aren’t going to spend more than $5 on a mountain of sweet delicious local flavors. Don’t forget to get the snowcap! It might sound unnecessary…but you’re not buying the kids shave ice because it’s necessary, right?

Makiki Neighborhood including Punchbowl Cemetary and Tantalus Overlook

Honolulu is a city of neighborhoods. It can also be argued that each on Honolulu’s neighborhoods are actually small towns and cities and they all get thrown together as the City and County of Honolulu. One of the unique neighborhoods of Honolulu is Makiki. It’s where Barack Obama and Bruno Marw were both born and it’s where deposed Philippine President Ferdinand Marco lived and died.

Makiki

Makiki could be described as central Honolulu – it stretches from the Tantalus neighborhood above and skirts Manoa on one side and to the Nu’uanu neighborhood on the other and goes seaward until it meets downtown Honolulu and the Ala Moana neighborhood. Makiki doesn’t include any beachfront areas – which is why it is largely off the radar of most visitors to Oahu.

There are older houses, churches, a hospital, library, schools and a community center. The closest thing to tourist attractions would be the Punahou School and the Punchbowl memorial cemetary located in the extinct Punchbowl volcanic crater which last erupted nearly 100,000 years ago.  The Punchbowl was actually a place where ancient Hawaiians are said to have practiced human sacrifice but today it is home to the Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific since 1948.

Makiki

There are hiking trails that wind through the mountains above and the Tantalus (Pu’u Ualaka’a) overlook and Hawaii Nature Center both lie within the boundaries of Makiki.

Makiki

Makiki is home to a beautiful Victorian mansion that was once owned by Claus Spreckels, a Californian known as the ‘King of Sugar’. (Interesting side note – Spreckels wife, Alma Spreckels was the model for the Dewey Monument in San Francisco’s Union Square and she started the Salvation Army).

Makiki

But back to Makiki….It is home to the Central Union Church, several schools, and many of Honolulu’s residents.  The hills above the city, called Tantalus, were home to many of the families who came here from the U.S. Mainland during the kingdom period. They enjoyed the cool, picturesque seclusion. As did Ferdinand Marcos.

Makiki

 

 

Five Ono (Delicious) Local Hawaii Restaurants to Enjoy on Oahu

The Hawaiian word for delicious is ‘Ono’. There are no shortage of ono restaurants in Hawaii and most of them are located in Honolulu or on the island of Oahu. The following are five places where you can get an ono meal that you will tell your friends about for as long as you are still able to talk and remember eating there…

WaikaneWaioli Poi Factory – Midway up the windward side of Oahu you will find a tinroofed shack with delicious Hawaiian food for reasonable prices. The crowds have been growing at this local favorite – so I’m not going to post the address or hours – you’ll just have to find it on your own. Make sure you order the poi, the kalua pork, and the haupia!

 

 

 

 

FHawaiian Pokeoodland Poke Bowls – Yes, there are lots and lots and lots of places to get fresh poke in Hawaii. We have hidden gems we won’t tell you about – but the thing that surprises a lot of people is that the best poke isn’t found at fancy restaurants – it’s found in local grocery stores, liquor stores, and side of the road markets where people go for lunch. Grab a spicy ahi poke bowl from any foodland seafood counter. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll probably go home and tell everyone it was the best poke you ever had!

 

 

 

 

Mike's Huli Huli ChickenMike’s Huli Chicken I haven’t been to Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken since they left their Kahalu’u location a few months ago and moved to Kuhuku with all the other food trucks – but I’m sure that the food is just as good as it always was. Maybe it’s even better.

 

 

 

 

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

Fumi’s Kuhuku Shrimp There is a reason why Fumi’s is my favorite of all the Hawaiian Shrimp Trucks on Oahu – it’s because they cook it right, raise it right, and keep their sanitation on the obsessive compulsive side in their kitchen. They pull the shrimp from their family owned ponds and serve them with aloha (and lots of garlic).

 

 

 

 

Nico's Pier 38Nico’s Pier 38  I’m jaded about Nico’s – because it used to be so much better than it is today. The truth is though , Nico’s Pier 38 is still one of those places that you have to go and you will remember forever as long as you order the swordfish or the furikake crusted ahi.

Downtown Honolulu – Financial District and Court Street Mall

Downtown HonoluluDowntown Honolulu often gets overlooked by visitors to Oahu. It’s not surprising given that there are so many great places to visit when you come to Hawaii. Most visitors come to Waikiki and then if they are a bit adventurous they had to the North Shore, Kailua, or go to see the South shore sites like Hanauma Bay or the Halona Blowhole – but by not heading into Honolulu’s downtown they are missing a vibrant part of Honolulu and in a way – not seeing the beating heart of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Our downtown isn’t big. You can walk most of it in an afternoon. The downtown financial district is bordered by Chinatown on the West, Vineyard Boulevard on the North, the Historic District on the East, and Honolulu Harbor and Aloha Tower to the South. All told it takes up about four big city blocks. One thing that visitors from the mainland always remark on is how clean it is. There are statues lovingly placed at the corners, a couple of historic buildings, and what you would expect of any financial district of a city of a million people – banks and high rises.

Running right through the center of it is Fort Street Mall – a pedestrian street filled with cheap eateries, convenience stores catering to office workers, and benches for them to have their lunches on. Hawaii Pacific University has it’s campus on the former Aloha Tower Marketplace, so there is a collegiate element which adds to the feel along with plenty of trees, an outdoor farmers market, and a couple of department stores for those who need to grab things before they head home.

Downtown Honolulu

There aren’t a lot of residential units in downtown and there are no real tourist attractions – but there are some great restaurants, a couple of cool shops, and great people watching. The Hawaii State Art Museum, the Aloha Tower, and the Hawaii Theatre are the only big attractions in downtown – but there are plenty of historic buildings, and photo worthy spots to capture while you are there…and did I mention all the little eateries that cater to office workers looking for cheap and fast lunch? Every ethnic food you can think of…but mostly just for lunch.

Downtown Honolulu

Fort Street Mall is a pedestrian road through the center of the Financial District…mostly it works because of the proximity to Hawaii Pacific University…but there are a lot of little lunch restaurants and some interesting sculptures there. Opened in 1968, it takes about ten minutes to walk and will take you from HPU on one side to HPU on the other.  On the mall you will find the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace…the olderst Cathedral on Oahu – built in 1843. It’s beautiful and off the beaten path.

Downtown Honolulu

 

There’s an old metal gate and a cannon along the mall…they’ve been there since 1899…I’m not sure why.

Downtown Honolulu

Usually you can find vendors and open market on Court Street Mall during the weekdays. It’s a good place to buy veggies and flowers and bread. The big problem with downtown and all of Honolulu, actually, is the huge numbers of homeless who are there. A recent study concluded that 1 of every 10 homeless in Honolulu has recently come here from a mainland city. The new arrival homeless congregate in the downtown area along with Chinatown, Iwalei, and Kaka’ako. More recently, large numbers of them are moving to Kailua and Kapolei. The truth is, if you are going to be homeless it might as well be in Hawaii – but the problem is that the more homeless who come here, the less enjoyable this is as a place where if you don’t want to be homeless – you have to work harder and harder to survive.

Downtown Honolulu

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