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Trip Report Can Foodies Overcome the Flu in Honolulu? A March 2013 Oahu TR...

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Aloha everyone! We just got back this morning from our 10 day trip to Oahu. Since everything is still rather fresh in my mind, I thought I'd get a good head start on the TR.

My husband and I, both in our late 30s, flew from JFK to HNL on March 1st. We spent 6 nights in Waikiki at the Fairway Villa in a unit we rented from VRBO, then moved to the north shore for 3 nights at Turtle Bay resort, with a deal I booked through Travelzoo.

A bit of background on our flights, I had purchased our flights around September of last year, on what I thought was a pretty good deal. Little did I know that flights from NYC would start dropping drastically, so much so, that I wrote a little email to Hawaiian air to see if I could get a price adjustment (and to rant a little too). Although I wasn't able to get the price adjustment, I did end up with 2 free checked bags per person as a courtesy from them. I guess it was better than nothing, but now I am so unsure as to how far out I should book flights in anticipation of future fare sales...argh.

On the day of our departure, I was super excited to leave for vacay. After hurricane Sandy, and a few painful nor'easters, we were soooo ready to head someplace warm and sunny. Would we get the weather we hoped for? A friend of a friend was there the week before us reported that it was rain rain rain. Our fingers were crossed.

Day 1: Departing the cold...with a cold

Our flights left New York's JFK at 9:00am. We were able to sit in the 2-top seats, so it was just the two of us which was nice. Lot's of Alohas from the flight attendants. We're so ready for this!! My husband starts sneezing as we departed. I thought it was just dust. We watched movies on our ipad on the 10+hour flight...midway through Skyfall, I look at him and he's just a mess. Congestion, cough, and a slight fever...oh dear. Not a good start to the vacation. I gave him some cold medicine and Advil PM which I carry in my travel bag so he can just sleep it off. He tries to as best he can. By the time we arrive in HNL, he sounds like he has bronchitis and a hoarse voice, but luckily the fever seems to be gone.

The good news is that we arrive to bright sunny skies, no rain in sight! We land at around 2:45pm local time. No wasting time for us...the hubs goes off to pick up our rental car from Alamo, and I stand to wait for our luggage at baggage claim. We did this on our last trip and found it a good time saver. I get our bags pretty quickly and stand outside to wait for him. There is a pretty strong breeze at this time and I actually thought it felt chilly!

My husband drives up in the biggest forest green Jeep ever. I had rented a mid-size SUV from priceline at a great rate. It was such a good rate that I had to call up priceline customer service just to make sure that this rate was for real. (they said it was). But this Jeep seemed a lot bigger than just a mid-size to me. Turns out he was about to leave the lot with a Subaru Forester but noticed that it was a bit banged and scratched up. So they allowed him to switch SUVs and this one was the only other one available. I hoped that it fit in the little parking space provided with our condo.

We usually travel with a portable GPS and I highly recommend it. Since I am usually a pretty dismal map reader, I would have been no help in the passenger seat. It was already pre-programed with addresses from our last visit (June 2012, you may have already read my other trip report for my Oahu and Big Island TR), so that made it more convenient for us. My husband was having a hard time trying to get rid of his congestion, so our first stop was Don Quijote - what I call the Asian Target. They pretty much have everything Target has, with the addition of Asian foodstuffs and products. We bought enough cold medicine to last 2 weeks, water, soda, juice, coffee, and snacks. Of course I couldn't resist my favorite golden-flesh papayas, and I found a ripe pile of Laie-grown papayas as big as my head! So a couple of those went in the cart with us too (and a nice juicy lime). Why oh why is produce so much better here!?! The avocados were so big and buttery looking, and so much cheaper than what passes for avocados in New York.

As for the title of my TR...we are big foodies, and a big part of why I chose Oahu over other islands was because of the amazing array of restaurants and foods on this island. I wanted this primarily to be a food-centric trip, and I had crafted a plan of attack at different food spots around Oahu. Although now with my husband's poor appetite (he claimed he couldn't taste anything at this point) - we weren't sure just how much of the plan we'd be keeping to. Nonetheless we weren't planning on cooking all that much. My poor husband looked like he was going to pass out so we hurried out of Don Quijote and drove to Waikiki.

Our unit at the Fairway Villas is a small studio-sized unit with a full kitchen, washer dryer, and most importantly, parking! Luckily our hulk of a car managed to pass the clearance of the parking lot (just barely). We've stayed in this unit before and the prices cannot be beat for a nice renovated unit in the heart of Waikiki. There are a few downsides - the pool is rather small and located on the roof and it was always windy and cold up there. The bathroom in the unit is also a bit small, but nicely decorated with natural stone and tile. When I started my search for March, I realized we had some slim pickin's because almost all the good condos in our price range were taken! Luckily there was a gap in between stays at this condo which we managed to squeeze in to work with our dates.

Here's the condo we stayed in: http://www.vrbo.com/323532

My husband downs the cold medicine and proceeds to take a long nap. During this time, I unpack and put everything away, and also manage to make short work of one of the papayas. I ate out on the lanai which had a view of the Ala Wai canal. Ahhhh....

When the hubs wakes up, I'm starving, so we head out to get some grub, I originally wanted to do a run of different take out spots and eat back at our condo since I knew we'd be to tired for a full sit-down dinner, but with my husband as ill as he was, I thought we should just do one place...initially it was to be Rainbow Drive-In but we checked and they were sold out of their shoyu chicken for that day (chicken thighs braised in a sweet and garlicky soy sauce). It was also surprisingly chilly that night - cold enough for a sweatshirt or light jacket so I knew we had to decide fast.

I realized then that we were a few blocks away from A Place to Eat, a fairly new take out place popular with the university crowd. We also had a Groupon for this! So we make our way there and park along the side road. The menu consists of gourmet takes on local favorites including fried soba, kalua pig quesadillas, and mahi mahi. I get the scallops adobo served over rice, and hubs gets the fried soba. The chef is a nice friendly guy who also took our order at the counter. We decided to just eat there so we settled into a table. There were students and a few families there and the place was about half full.

http://aplacetoeathawaii.com/

Our food comes out piping hot, served by the chef, in nice biodegradable take out containers. My scallops adobo were delicious. It didn't seem like typical Filipino adobo, which has more of a soy-vinegar glaze, but it had a creamier, almost mushroom-y type gravy which hinted of white wine, garlic, and heavy cream. The scallops were large and perfectly cooked. The hubs soba was not bad, it had lots and lots of fresh vegetables, and a subtle wok-charred flavor but since hubs can't taste anything that isnt' pungent, we both agree that the garlicky adobo scallops were the winner. It could do with a little less salt though, but I guess that's what the rice is for!

Back at the condo, we called it a night...I was just about to turn the lights out...when I let out a loud "AH CHOO!!!" Oh no! Was I gonna be sick too? I guess it was inevitable...

Stay tuned...

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    Enjoying your report. I visit Oahu pretty much every year, for a week or so, usually in September. I am not a foodie, but I am going to enjoy your restaurant suggestions, so keep them coming. Hoping the illnesses didn't last the whole visit to Oahu!!
    Carol

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    I was so happy when I got to work this morning and I saw your trip report was there to read! I love your reports!

    I can't believe you and hubs got sick...:(...curse the timing! A coworker of mine went to Oahu for the first time a couple of years ago and got a stomach bug/food poisoning on the first day and didn't feel better until the last day! Getting sick on vacation is the worst!

    Hope you still saw rainbows through the sickness! Can't wait to read more!

    When's your next trip to Hawaii?

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    @simpsonc510 - Thank you! We try and eat at places which aren't too touristy and have unique and interesting foods.

    @Patty - Thank you for reading!

    @Taconic Traveler - Thanks! Yes it was a good condo find. I like to bookmark condos which appeal to us in location and amenities, and when it came time to book, almost all of them were booked for our dates except for this one. We had to alther our dates slightly just to keep in line with this condo's availability. Literally we checked in just hours after the cleaning people left, and also the day we checked out there was someone else slated to arrive. Lessons learned: book EARLY!

    @louistraveler5- Mahalo! Good to see you here! Yes bummer about the flu - but it only gets better, right? You'll have to wait and see. Hmm, our next trip to the islands...I don't know when that will be! I want to go in the fall...but we'll have to see how airfare prices are then. Your trip is coming up soon right? Lucky!

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    Day 2: The Farmer’s Market and more eating

    Usually with the time difference we wake up before sunrise the first few days but I guess being sick and tired meant we needed more rest so we didn’t wake up until close to 7am. The hubs was feeling (slightly) better so we stuck to our plan of going to the KCC Farmer’s market which happens every Saturday morning. I was beginning to feel congested myself, so we both loaded up on the Sudafed and headed out.

    http://kapiolani.hawaii.edu/object/farmersmarket.html

    Kapiolani Community College is right by Diamond Head so on the way there I had to stop by the Diamond Head Market for one of their delicious blueberry cream cheese scones. Now, I was told by my doctor that I had to cut back on sweets because of a glucose intolerance, therefore I had to spend my “sweet credits” wisely (that’s the term I gave them). As someone with a bonafide sweet tooth, this was at first devastating, but I had trained myself over the past month to not eat sugar or sweets, so I don’t crave them as much. So no more Leonard’s malasadas, POG, coco puffs from Liliha, or mac nut pancakes with coconut syrup this trip *cries silently* However I did want to eat my favorite scone, and a shave ice or two, oh and maybe a few lava flows here and there, so I was definitely saving up those credits for later.

    http://www.diamondheadmarket.com/

    At the KCC farmer’s market, we joined both locals and tourists in sampling fresh island products and prepared foods from local vendors. I’ve noticed that the tourists seem to outnumber the locals on Saturday. There is now a weekday farmers market near the Blaisdell arena which is more frequented by locals. One day I will check that out too. We made a quick survey to see what we wanted to eat, and I definitely wanted to get a meal at The Pig and the Lady, which is a Vietnamese/SE Asian vendor who often does pop-up restaurants around Honolulu. I had a meal at this vendor last time and loved it. But first we got a freshly made Portuguese sausage, grilled on a stick, by the Kunio sausage company. Yum yum, you can definitely taste the difference between the Portuguese sausage you get at the supermarket and a fresh one. It’s almost like a hot dog because you can feel the “snap” of the casing as you bite into it, but much more flavor packed into each bite.

    We settled down for a meal at The Pig and the Lady. This is one of the few vendors that actually has a few tables set up in their stall so you can enjoy your meal sitting down. I started with a Vietnamese iced coffee, and got their savory Vietnamese crepe – which is more like an omelet, filled with shrimp, vegetables, and pork. It’s all bound together with a savory mung-bean filled batter and includes a delicious nuoc cham dipping sauce. I also sprinkled on some of the chili pepper water which they had as condiments at their table. Ono!

    My husband who could barely breathe settled for a comforting hot chicken ~pho~ - which is much like the traditional Vietnamese pho made with beef, but this one had a chicken-based broth instead. It had noodles, shredded chicken, and served with sides of bean sprouts, mint, Asian basil and lime which you add to the broth as desired. Paired with some hot sauce, this was definitely helping to clear his sinuses!

    http://thepigandthelady.com/

    After breakfast, we headed back to change for the beach. Our condo was equipped with beach chairs, towels and coolers which was great, however we prefer the bamboo mats and they didn’t have any this time. Not to worry since they are cheap and easily available everywhere so we picked up a few at the ABC store. We headed out to Kuhio beach park, which is one of my favorite areas in Waikiki for swimming because of the wall which breaks the waves. The wind, however, was picking up that day and there were some waves which came in over the wall. There were a lot of people at the beach, which is to be expected with Waikiki, but it is not close to the crowds I had seen at one point. The water was COLD! This is our first time visiting in March – and definitely the coldest water we’ve experienced. It wasn’t too bad though as you got used to it. The sun and saltwater were definitely helping clear out the congestion for my husband although it wasn’t helping me all that much but I enjoy swimming so spent as much time in the water as I could.

    After a few hours on the beach, we returned to Rainbow Drive-In so I could finally get some shoyu chicken. Luckily they weren’t sold out yet. We split the shoyu chicken and also a slush float since I had never tried it before. It’s basically a strawberry slurpee with vanilla ice cream in it. Definitely too much sugar for me, good thing we shared it. I like how everything is still served old school at Rainbow – plate lunches served in cardboard boxes with a piece of wax paper covering the food. The shoyu chicken was good – super tender fall-off-the bone chicken in a delicious sauce. I wish I had asked for more sauce on the rice!

    http://rainbowdrivein.com/

    After lunch we went to Ala Moana mall, a.k.a. the best mall in the world. I just love walking around there. I love the fact that it is open to the elements, and I love all the different stores, some of which are not available on the Mainland, such as Q-pot, which is a quirky Japanese jewelry store where their designs resemble realistic edibles such as cupcakes, macaroons, ice cream sundaes and even hamburgers. I have long stared at the hamburger necklace. The price is what prevents me from purchasing it.

    We stopped at Patisserie La Palme D’Or, which is a French/Japanese bakery, to use up yet another sweet credit for a coffee jelly drink. It’s basically coffee flavored jello which fills up a cup halfway, and then the other half is topped with milk (choice of soy or whole). You then use your straw to break up the jelly into little bits and you sip the whole concoction through the straw. It ends up tasting like a milk coffee. It’s very popular in Asia, and you can also get this in some places which sell Asian bubble tea (if you’ve ever had grass jelly, it’s very similar). It was quite yummy! Damn I miss my sweets.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/patisserie-la-palme-d-or-honolulu?select=Wx2QKzFCPORHuM0ToXIYNw#Wx2QKzFCPORHuM0ToXIYNw

    Dinner that night was one that I had been anticipating for a while…the much lauded Sushi Sasabune. I was ready for omakase all week, but of course when we sat down at our table, I had concerns that I wouldn’t be able to do much of the omakase because I was beginning to feel much more under the weather than I had been all day. Maybe we should have rescheduled this dinner for later in the week – but we kept to our plan. Honestly, it was a great dinner, although we could only go through 7 of the usual 13 omakase courses. The fish was extremely fresh, and prepared with care and unique flavors. Some highlights were a tuna tasting, including the yummy fatty parts of the toro, a baby squid stuffed with blue crab, and an order of Hokkaido uni (sea urchin), which has now ruined all uni for me. Most uni that is served is Santa Barbara uni which is what I usually eat at sushi restaurants, but this uni…holy cow, delectable, creamy, buttery goodness with a flavor that tasted fresh from the ocean with a clean finish…now THAT is what I call uni!! How will I ever eat regular Uni again!?!

    The hubs was a trooper throughout the meal…he said it was all good, although I knew he didn’t taste much, and this is by no means a cheap meal. Luckily we called it quits after the 7th course so it didn’t cost us too much as we knew all 13 courses would have. As sick as we were, we still had a great time, and service was wonderful. We didn’t sit at the sushi bar which is where I hear you get the most chef-centric experience – so we’ll save that for another trip, one where we are up for doing the whole omakase. If anyone is interested, there are 2 types of omakase, an American and a Japanese. The Japanese one is much more traditional but the American one is typically more popular so that is the one that we chose, although uni is not offered on the American one and that’s why I ordered it extra. There is also a Sushi Sasabune in Los Angeles.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-sasabune-honolulu

    It was chilly that night too! Definitely remember to pack a jacket and cardigans if you go in winter! The temp dips low during the morning and evening hours, although the afternoons are nice and toasty.

    When we got back to the condo I started myself on a regimen of antibiotics, nasal sprays, and cold medicine which I keep in my travel bag. I was hoping to beat the symptoms before it ballooned into a full blown cold like my husband. But, I was limited on my quantity of antibiotics (and also the hubs was taking some too) – so let’s see if this works…

    Until Day 3...

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    FWIW...Regarding your lower fare experience with Hawaiian...Alaska Airlines has a policy that if the fare that you paid for the same flight goes down (and you notice it and contact them), they will credit you the difference between what you paid and the lower fare. We've taken advantage of this twice with flights to Hawaii over the last year or so.

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    wekewoody - thanks for the info. I tried that with Hawaiian air but apparently there are such high processing fees, that they evened out any fare difference regardless. Did Alaska Airlines have fees like this or did they just process the difference between fares? I have to do research to see if they fly from NYC. I probably would have to do a codeshare. Hawaiian is easy because it's a direct flight. :)

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    tifa:
    I'm waiting on the edge of my seat to find out what happens!
    Yes, my trip is coming up...May 25! For your next trip, you should go to Kauai. It's been awhile since you've been!

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    I was told by my doctor that I had to cut back on sweets because of a glucose intolerance

    :o That is truly devastating!

    The Pig and the Lady was one of our favorites last time!

    Bummer on both of you getting the flu. Same thing happened to us in October. My husband starting getting sick the night before we left and then proceeded to give it to me and his parents. Luckily we didn't have any big dining plans at the beginning of the trip.

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    Hi tifa,
    There were no fees. They just credited my account with the difference between the fares. Once I buy, I usually don't check because I am afraid to look. I am glad I looked.

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    @louistraveler5 - thanks! You make me sound like I'm writing a cliffhanger...it may prove to be anti-clamatic at best. :) I would love to go to Kauai again. I just have to see if prices work in our favor. Usualy Maui is a little cheaper for us because there are direct flights to Maui from New York, unlike Kauai.

    @Patty - yup, unfortunately sugar is not part of my diet...well I try not to make it. It is sometimes unavoidable :) You guys were lucky you didn't have any nice meals planned while sick. But I think I still enjoyed my meals despite feeling icky.

    @wekewoody & sf7307 - thanks again for the info on the Alaskan flights. It's good to know they have such a good policy. I thought Hawaiian, which is usually graded so highly would have that sort of policy but I guess I was wrong.

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    Forgot to mention that on Day 2 we did also stop by our favorite poke place, Ono Seafoods off of Kapahulu, for a few boxes of their poke (shoyu ahi is my fave, and hubs likes the creamy spicy ahi) which we were able to snack on all week. Poke is so good!

    Day 3: Tantalus, Pineapples and Fireworks,

    We woke up – and surprise surprise, I felt 10x better. Hubs was still a bit sick, but not as bad as he was before. Woohoo the medicine cocktail worked! We stopped at starbucks so I could get an iced coffee - did you know you can order any coffee “Thai Style” and it basically means they add condensed milk to your drink – so that’s what I did. Oops, forgot about the sugar content of condensed milk…but what the heck, I’m on vacation anyways…

    Today’s plan was to take a leisurely drive at Round Top and Tantalus Drives, enjoy the view at the top, and then head to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (aka Punch Bowl) on the way back down. Then we would enjoy brunch at Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room. Yum. But first, in order to get some fuel for the drive, we walked a few blocks over to Iyasume Musubi, which is a small little take out place in a hidden alley off of Koa Ave in Waikiki. We initially thought there was one closer and a yelp search resulted in us walking into the lobby of another hotel which just happens to serve musubi for breakfast – but we were mistaken so we went to the other address listed, which was the correct one. There were quite a few Japanese tourists there and it seemed like one of those hidden gem places, which the musubi are made fresh throughout the day (they close at 3 pm I think). I just got a spam and egg musubi, and another rice ball for later, hubs got a mini miso soup and a curry rice. There are only a few very small tables there so most of the business is take-out. However, we managed to get a table for two so we ate there. The musubi are pretty good since they were made fresh. My spam was on the well-done side (which is how I prefer it anyways), and prices are cheap. They had many different musubi which you can order and they are packaged in plastic wrap so keep well throughout the day.

    http://www.tonsuke.com/eomusubiya.html

    Looks like the have a few other locations and some which serve bento (Japanese box lunches) as well.

    We walked back to the condo and picked up the hulking jeep and made our way towards Round top drive. It didn’t take much time to get to the base of the drive, and pretty soon we were driving the winding route up to the top of Mount Tantalus. It’s pretty windy but not crazy, nothing like Haleakala or Road to Hana. It’s very peaceful and the views got better and better the higher you got. There are plenty of houses up there too. Some of them had the steepest driveways ever, I wondered how difficult it was to get in and out. After stopping at a few lookouts for some pictures, we parked at Puu Ualakaa Park for some of the best views of Honolulu. It was quite amazing, and we could see Punch Bowl, Diamond Head, Waikiki and the rest of Honolulu. This is a great spot to take those panorama pictures, which I tried for the first time with my iphone. Pretty cool feature!

    Round Top drive soon turns into Tantalus drive as you make you way down. Here’s a short guide as to what you can expect with this drive.

    http://gohawaii.about.com/od/oahusights/ss/tantalus.htm

    On the way down, the road leads past Punch Bowl so we stopped there to view the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. It was our first time here. It was quite interesting and I recommend visiting. In fact, I highly recommend this drive in general. First of all, it’s free, it doesn’t take that much time unless you want to stop and have a picnic at the park and then visit Punch Bowl, and the views are amazing! If you stop at Punch Bowl, it doesn’t require strenuous walking either. I’m all for easy and free!

    We spent about an hour at the memorial before we headed back down towards Ala Moana. The Pineapple Room is located in the Macy’s dept store on the top floor. This was our first time here, as we usually frequent the more expensive and fancier Alan Wong’s over on S. King Street. Since we wanted to try new restaurants on this trip, we settled for Pineapple Room because we knew we enjoy his food. We checked in and were seated quickly. I ordered a plantation iced tea – I didn’t know it was sweetened already so I had to share it with the hubs. Tasted like a pineapple-infused iced tea.

    We started off with a watermelon and tomato salad with a li hing dressing. The dressing was delicious! I never knew what li hing vinaigrette would be like, but it’s good. I do however enjoy li hing powder on my fruit. The watermelon and tomatoes were so juicy, I am not a huge fan of raw tomatoes and even I ate them because they were sweet, and they came in both the yellow and red variety. I ordered the Pineapple Room’s locomoco which had a fresh island beef patty served over fried rice and topped with 2 over easy eggs and doused with a light brown gravy. The husband ordered the Pineapple Room burger – it had avocado and a battered onion ring in it. Both were tasty and filling. We definitely had to take leftovers back with us.

    http://www.alanwongs.com/pineapple-room/home-pr

    We walked around the mall a bit, did a little bit of shopping – and then went back to the condo to change and headed back to Waikiki beach. There was a Honolulu festival parade going on so we got to enjoy a bit of it. It’s funny because I don’t plan my vacation around festivals and events, but as luck would have it, it kind of just happens. In 2010, we went to the Big Island the week of the Kona Coffee festival, and last year, we were in Oahu for the King Kamehameha day festivities. This Honolulu festival was pretty cool because there would be fireworks on the beach, viewable from almost any spot on Waikiki. We were definitely checking this out tonight.

    After sun time, we went back to the condo and rested up for the evening – so we could be awake at 8:30pm for the fireworks. I wanted to check out a few places for dinner that evening – specifically Japanese Italian food, so I called up Arancino at Beachwalk to see if they had any spots open. They did not but mentioned that they do take walk-ins. They were also open late which means we’d be able to eat there after the fireworks. We both weren’t hungry at that point because of our huge lunch! We decided to take a chance and go there post-fireworks. We made our way down to the area of beach in front of the Outrigger Beachwalk. I do like that hotel, it’s very Hawaiian – and the people are so friendly. They did however stop us this time to try and pitch us their Wyndham timeshare. We politely declined then proceeded to have a nice chat with the fellow who thought we were locals (then why try to sell us a timeshare!?!)

    15 minutes before the fireworks and the beach was packed. We managed to get a good vantage point by the Shorebird bar and grill. The fireworks were great, a nice treat! Would be better if they had piped in some music, but hey, this isn’t Disney World. They were over in about 20 minutes so we headed out to Arancino which was only a few blocks away. Luckily they were not crowded at that point so we were able to be seated immediately. The reason I wanted to come here was to try the uni pasta – titled “spaghetti ai ricci di mare”. Hubs got the “spaghetti al nero di seppie” a squid ink pasta with garlicky squid. They brought us some hot focaccia to start – nice. Our entrees came after, piping hot and perfectly al dente. The uni pasta was great, very subtle uni flavor, with undertones of garlic and white wime. There were some chunks of uni on top which I appreciated. Hubs dish was equally as tasty. Their other items sound great too, and we saw other people ordering the pizza and that looked good as well. I’d return.

    http://www.arancino.com/en/mainmenu.html

    By this time, it was way beyond our bedtime so we made the long stroll back to the condo. It actually wasn’t very long but considering it was the equivalent of 3am for us…it felt like forever.

    Next up – Ala moana beach park, and more non-stop eating!

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    Day 4 Part I: There’s barely anyone at the beach and yet…a drowning?

    It was Monday today – which meant the beaches which were usually packed on weekends with both locals and tourists would be fairly empty today! I learned that one year when we went to Ala Moana beach park in the middle of the week in October and had practically the whole beach to ourselves. So my plan was to head there again today.

    Our first stop that morning Wailana Coffee House for breakfast, which is across the street from the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We decided to drive there so we didn’t have to walk back to pick up all our beach gear. My husband drops me off to wait on line, while he found parking. He didn’t manage to get any street parking but did you know if you park in the garage below Wailana coffee house, it is only 75 cents if you get it validated? Pretty sweet, we didn’t know this before but now we do! The line was only a few people so we didn’t wait too long. It seems busy there all the time!

    I always start with the muesli at Wailana, it’s just so yummy. Cold creamy oatmeal mixed with apples, raisins, and topped with bananas and mac nuts. I wasn’t feeling terribly hungry so I just ordered a side of Portuguese sausage which was a generous portion. My husband always orders the Irish breakfast – he cannot pass up a good deal, and this is one of the best deals on the menu. A large omelet stuffed with corned beef hash and topped with a grilled pineapple spear, served with hash browns or rice, toast, coffee and a (tiny) glass of juice of your choice. It’s a LOT of breakfast for one person, and it’s a good thing I didn’t order more food as I had to help him finish his.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/wailana-coffee-house-honolulu

    Now, the mornings had been chilly - sunny but breezy in Oahu lately and today was no exception, so instead of heading to the beach so early and freezing, we decided to walk off breakfast a bit and wait for it to warm up. We drove on over to the Ward Center – but their stores don’t open until 10, and that was about 20 minutes away. We walked across the street to the Marukai Japanese supermarket to wander around until Ward was open. There are some interesting things there, including a sun visor which I’d seen Asian tourists wear before, the visor part was huge and looked like a welding helmet. I took a picture with it on and sent it to my sisters back home who got a good laugh.

    I enjoy shopping at Ward. There aren’t too many people there compared to Ala Moana, and there are stores which I like, such as Cinnamon girl, which I like to call the Anthropologie of Hawaii, cute clothing stores Eden in Love and Basique Threads, and local footwear Island Slipper. If you haven’t tried Island Slipper, you should, they are some of the most comfortable sandals and flip flops I’ve worn. They can be pretty pricey considering they are just sandals, but they are made with quality and care in Hawaii and I like to support local businesses like theirs. If you go into the back of the store, there are usually sale items and I picked up 2 pair of flip flops for me and the hubs and I love them! Sooo comfy!

    http://www.islandslipper.com/

    http://www.wardcenters.com/

    I had wanted to hit up more stores such as the Island Soap and Candle Works for some gifts, and the Crazy Shirts outlet, but the sun was blazing at this point so we headed on over to Ala Moana beach park. What I really like about this beach is that you can park very easily right in front of a spot you want to lay out on, since there is a road which runs parallel to the beach with parking spots. We easily found a spot as there were maybe about, oh 8 people total at the beach. It was wonderful! We brought out the beach chairs, cooler, umbrella, mats, towels, the whole works, it was only 10 meters to our car so we could bring all the stuff we wanted! I highly recommend this beach (on weekdays only, weekends are packed). It’s also the perfect place for swimming as they do have a wall breaking the waves, so it was calm as can be.

    After enjoying the water and sun, reading a few chapters of my novel, and overall having a very swell time, my husband comes out of the water, looking very worried. He was talking to me and I couldn’t hear him because I had my ipod on and I forgot that I did (being in a state of beach bliss does this to you). “What? What happened?” I finally asked. Turns out…my husband went swimming with his brand new iphone 5 in the pocket of his swim trunks. Oh shucks…the first drowning on Oahu. I’m not talking about a phone dropped in water and immediately picked up, this was a good 20 minutes of being submerged. I knew it was a goner…apple products and water do NOT mix well…I tried to be helpful though, I suggested we get some uncooked rice and stick the iphone in it to help draw out the moisture. We googled to see if there was anything we could do. Seems that many have tried the rice trick and it works a small percentage of time. Since there really was nothing we could do except pay for a new phone at this point (we had no insurance on the phone) we decided to go get some rice.

    I suggested Chinatown because I assumed we could find rice there and I could also stop by Thang’s for a smoothie. Thang’s is a stand located in the Maunakea Marketplace and they have Asian style fruit smoothies and bubble teas. I wanted to try an avocado smoothie there. I regularly make them at home using avocado (about half per serving), milk, condensed milk, and ice. Simple ingredients that when blending in the right ratio becomes the most perfect green concoction. I knew that it would be taken to the next level using the ripe buttery Hawaiian avocados, and I was not wrong. My smoothie was rich, creamy, and bursting with avocado flavor. It was bright green too, loved it (and no coloring or artificial flavors are added). Can I talk any more about avocados? LOL. I got it with the tapioca pearls at the bottom, but decided it would be much better without them for next time. Also, the price cannot be beat. My huge smoothie was about $3.50.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/thang-coffee-and-bubble-tea-honolulu

    We walked around Chinatown looking for rice, it was actually our first time walking in Honolulu Chinatown, can you believe that? Being of Chinese descent, you’d think this would be the first place we’d check out but we just never got the opportunity to, until the hunt for rice brought us here now. Surprisingly, the first few grocery shops we walked into did not sell bags of rice! Some only had giant bags of rice, but we finally found a store which sold small bags of rice. Rice in tow, we headed back to the condo to resuscitate the phone.

    But first…lunch!! Stay tuned…

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    Oh my! Whilst I completely understand your husbands reaction to his possible and more than likely MMM - tell him his mishap is completely forgiven 'when in paradise.' My 87 year old mum however just lost her brand new iphone5 to a leaking water bottle in her walker....not discovered for 24 hours....unfortunately no hope for that one! He should feel better hearing this! The solution for her next iphone purchase was to buy a waterproof 'Lifeproof' cover possibly not a bad idea for your DH!
    I love reading your reports so many great hints for our big trip in December - I am creating a huge reference source from all of this. It is so lovely how you have given online reference to all your experiences. Thank you for sharing and can't wait to hear the hopefully (always the optimist) happy ending to this story!

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    @loumike - Thank you! I am glad to be helpful. I am impressed that your mom can use the iphone 5! I gave my parents iphones a while ago and they only just learned to text (after numerous lessons from us). At least they figured out how to take pictures.

    @ekscrunchy - Thanks for reading!

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    Day 4 Part II: Kickin back and the hunt for nightlights…

    My poor hubby, recovering from the pseudo-flu (he still had a cough at this point), and now no iphone. We tore a hole in the bag of rice and stuck his iphone in there. It was supposed to stay there for a good 18-24 hours if not longer. So I asked what he wanted to eat for lunch and he said something with seafood and something super spicy. I knew exactly where to go.

    There has been a new crop of Cajun-style seafood eateries popping up across Honolulu. Kickin Kajun, Crab City, Raging Crab, Karai Crab just to name a few. They are all what I call “Asian-Cajun” as they usually incorporate some sort of Asian seasonings into their spicy boils. If you’ve been to The Boiling Crab in California, or Hot n Juicy crawfish in Las Vegas, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I love going to the west coast to eat at The Boiling Crab! So, it wasn’t necessarily an only-in-Hawaii thing, but it was a craving that we wanted to satisfy since we cannot get seafood boils like this in NYC.

    We decided on Kickin Kajun as that one got consistently good reviews and it wasn’t too far away. They happened to have lunch specials too. The place is not very big, and I heard that the wait there can get crazy long at dinner time, but lunch there was no wait (we were having a late lunch though). I got the littleneck clams with the house special sauce med spicy and hubs got the shrimp in the same sauce. You get a choice of 2 sides and I got rice and corn and hubs got potatoes and corn. Served with a drink each of our lunches was under 10 bucks! The seafood was delicious, served in a butter-drenched, spicy sauce, laden with chilies and garlic. This is one of those roll up your sleeves, get down and dirty meals, complete with plastic bibs. If you order by weight, the seafood is usually served in plastic bags which you tear open and eat. However since this was a lunch special, the seafood was served on a plate with the sides. Although lunch is smaller, it was just the right portion size – although I do feel the shrimp were a better value as there is more “meat” as opposed to the shell-heavy clams. This is probably what we should have eaten on our first day of vacation in order to clear up our colds. Wow, we could actually really taste our food now! The pungent and savory meal hit the spot. Note: you will really need some mints after this meal!

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/kickin-kajun-honolulu-2

    I realized that we were right near the Super Walmart in Kakaako at this point, and I had to go in to on a quest for my mom. If you’ve read my last TR, my parents and sister accompanied us to Oahu and the Big Island last June. My mom fell in love with koa wood items, and wood carvings in general, and she brought a ton of stuff back with her. One of the items she bought was a hit with her friends, it was a carved wood nightlight which she purchased at Walmart. The carvings come with different designs – tropical flowers, leaves, pineapples, turtles, etc. Her only request was that I come back with more. So into Walmart we go…

    Although I find Walmarts in general very overwhelming, the prices certainly are great, and I was amazed I was even able to find the nightlights, which were displayed in the lightening and electrical section, and not in the section where they sold the touristy items, including the rest of the carved wood plates. I ended up leaving with 6 of them!
    At 10 bucks, I thought they made a rather great gift – especially because they are practical too. I can’t find the exact ones online, but here is a good representation of them, except the ones I bought were more square-shaped and the price was only 10 bucks each at Walmart:
    http://www.amazon.com/Hawaiian-Wood-Night-Light-Palm/dp/B005VJJHO0

    Back at the condo, we let the iphone “rest” in its bag of rice- we weren’t going to touch it for a while. We ourselves cleaned up and rested for a while and then decided to take a walk around Waikiki before dinner. Dinner was at Roy’s down on Lewer’s street – but we had a nice long stroll that took us through International Marketplace, which IMO is a great place to buy souvenirs. The vendors that are closer to Kuhio seem to have better prices than those nearer to Kalakaua Ave. I managed to get some “made in Hawaii” shirts for my dad at great prices – with a little bit of haggling. It ain’t the Aloha swap meet but we weren’t heading there anyways so we were confident these were some of the best prices we’d find in Waikiki.

    We show up for our 8:00 reservation at Roy’s and we have to wait a bit because they are packed. When we do get seated I asked about their Monday prix fixe special which I had received an email about because I am on the Roy’s mailing list. It turns out that those promotions which come through email or social media (facebook, twitter and the like) are ONLY applicable to the Roy’s on the mainland. Hawaii Roy’s have a completely separate menu and separate set of promotions. (Although you can use Roy’s gift cards at any one, which we did). So I was a bit disappointed in hearing that because there was a pretty good prix fixe offer going on, which was better than the prix fixe going on at the moment in Waikiki Roy’s, and also half the price. However, we still were looking forward to this meal as we usually love Roy’s on the islands. I order the nigiri combo as an appetizer, and then the small portion of the miso butterfish. The hubs does end up ordering the prix fixe, and he gets the Roy’s ribs to start and the mahi mahi entrée with the chocolate soufflé as dessert. I must say that this was probably not the best Roy’s on the Islands by far. I don’t know if it’s because it’s Waikiki and they are just so crowded all the time - but I wasn’t really impressed with my dishes as must as I had been before. Everything was still “good” although not “great”. I would skip the nigiri platter as I’ve had better sushi, although I hear some of their funky rolls are worth trying. I did like my butterfish although it was a bit more charred than I would have liked it. Hubs dishes were pretty good, but not the best he’s had either. The chocolate soufflé was great though…can’t go wrong with oozing warm chocolate cake.

    http://www.roysrestaurant.com/ (note that some of the promotions don't apply to the Roy's which are in Hawaii!)

    After dinner, stuffed again, we headed back to the condo to rest up for our big adventure the next day…our first ATV tour!

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    louistraveler - I hope this meets your expectations!

    Day 5: Playing Golf with Godzilla

    We got up ready to drive up north to Kualoa Ranch, where we had a 9:30am reservation for the 2-hour ATV tour of movie and TV film sites. I was super excited about this because like many, I was a huge fan of the LOST TV series, and also Jurassic Park. Although I know a lot of Jurassic park was filmed on Kauai, it was pretty exciting nonetheless. I had booked this online a month prior to our trip and managed to get a nice 15% discount for the both of us. We grabbed a quick breakfast of papayas and coffee at Starbucks, including a locally made baked good that is only available in Hawaii, the Starbucks’ oatcake. It’s a densely packed oatmeal-raisin-walnut scone and it literally fills you up for hours. Good for the long day we had ahead of us! It also packs a whopping 450 calories per piece, but I guess it’s made with nutritious ingredients so it ok, right? 

    The drive up north was nice, we took the H-3, which is one of my favorite drives because it's so green and scenic and it's really nice to leave the city vibe of Honolulu behind. It really is such a different world when you head just a few miles outside of Honolulu, it's so rustic and peaceful.

    Kualoa Ranch is located in Kaaawa, just north of Kaneohe and before Laie. It’s right off the Kamehameha Highway and it’s easy to find. There were quite a number of people there, especially tour groups but as it turns out, we were one of the few parties who had booked the 2 hour tour. The more popular 1 hour tour was fully booked. It was a total of 5 of us plus the guide on our excursion. We got fitted with helmets and watched the safety video, and pretty soon, we were on our way on our ATVs! I’ve never ridden an ATV before and neither has my husband. Let me tell you, it was pretty scary at first because they take you through a rough “intro” course and I thought I was going to get thrown off the ATV. I was holding on for dear life and trying to keep up with everyone else. But let’s say by the end of the tour, I was going at full speed and wanted to keep going.

    Note: SPOILERS AHEAD! If you don’t want to know what is on the 2-hour ATV tour, then skip the next paragraph!

    The tour first took us up a scenic hill with amazing views of the ocean. We stopped by what seemed like an old WWI bunker, and we disembarked and went inside to see a few items from movie sets, as well as a ton of movie posters. I was quite surprised at all the movies filmed her, there were some I had not heard of either. We got back on and went on a set of stops all over the mountain and valley. We rode through small streams, past cattle, and through a ton of horse poop. We stopped and saw Godzilla’s giant footprint, Hurley’s golf course (complete with a golf club you can pose with), a set from Journey to the Mysterious Island, a scene from Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates, and lot’s more. It’s definitely worth it and I really recommend the 2 hour tour for those who like a bit of speed and a lot of adrenaline fun. I liked the 2 hour tour because it only cost a bit more than the 1 hour tour, so to me it’s economies of scale.  Everyone at the ranch was super friendly and really open to taking pictures for you and answering questions. At the end of the tour, we went back through the intro course and of course I thought it wasn’t scary at all! Note that at the end, you’re covered with a layer of dirt…seeing a mirror for the first time right after…I had to do a double take. We all had a good laugh at everyone, there is a large restroom where you can get cleaned up after.

    http://www.kualoa.com/

    After our fun-filled Kualoa ATV tour, we headed back down to Waikiki because I had booked spa appointments – but we first stopped by Heeia Pier General Store for a bite to eat. It was our first time there, and it comes highly recommened on Yelp, plus it was on episodes of Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives as well as the Travel Channel. Although I am not a huge Guy Fieri fan (did you see the review of his restaurant in the NYTimes? Best. Review. Ever. ), I still like the places he goes to so I made it a point to stop there since it was on the way back down. It’s basically a gourmet take out window with a few benches and a little convenience store. We ordered some of their specialities: luau stew, guava chicken in a burger form, and the fried saimin.

    The luau stew was wonderful, tender chunks of beef, stewed with taro leaves over a bowl of rice. If you like the flavors of lau lau then you’d like this. The guava chicken was good but I thought the burger was tiny. Finally, the fried saimin was a pretty typical plate of fried noodles made all the more better with a dash of sriracha spice. I would go back if I were in the area and try different things.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/heeia-pier-general-store-and-deli-kaneohe

    We also stopped in Kaneohe because we were passing through and I suddenly got a craving for shave ice (damn those sweets). A quick yelp search told us we were right by a Snow Factory which I’ve always wanted to try so we headed there. Snow Factory specializes in shave ice that is flavored BEFORE it is shaved…so colorful flavored blocks of ice are brought out depending on what flavor(s) you order and are shaved into a bowl. It’s topped with your choice of toppings, and voila, non-syrupy shave ice! We ordered a combo that consisted of green tea “snow”, taro snow, and topped with mochi, azuki beans and ice cream. It was simply divine. I loved the light fluffy texture, it was seriously like eating fresh snowflakes but creamy and sweet. It’s so light and fluffy, you eat it with a fork!! This is a new find for us and one we’d definitely return to. They also have locations all over Oahu so you wouldn’t have to travel to Kaneohe to partake.

    http://www.snowfactoryhawaii.com/snowfactoryhawaii.com/About_snow.html

    Back in Waikiki we had some time to cleanup and change back at the condo before heading out to Kalakaua ave to the Outrigger Beach resort which had the Waikiki Plantation spa. This spa had offered pretty great deals via groupon so we took advantage of the afternoon to book massage packages for our tired bodies. The spa itself is on the penthouse of the hotel. The spa is newly renovated and has nice décor, two floors, the second which had a deck/lanai with views of Waikiki beach (and tops of other hotels). There really isn’t a formal steam or sauna room but there were lockers, a steam-shower, and products you can use. The massages were wonderful and sorely needed (no pun intended). As part of the packages we got a light lunch salad with kalbi (Korean bbq beef) and fresh fruit, also a yummy ponzu dressing completed it and it was a great snack to tide us over before dinner.

    http://www.waikikiplantationspa.com/

    Since we weren’t hungry then, and were relaxed and most of all, clean. We decided to do something very un-touristy, and see a movie since the sun was setting anyways. We ended up watching a movie at the Ward Cinema. Jack the Giant Slayer. Quite a fun action-packed movie. I really like how in Hawaii you can get fruit with li hing powder or popcorn with Japanese rice crackers (extra cost). I opted of the popcorn with the mocha crunch crackers, and it added a really nice depth of flavor and texture to the popcorn on it’s on. I add only a swirl of butter and no more, mix it up….and yum! Yes…I only when to the movie for the food…sigh.

    After the movie, we headed out to 678 Hawaii, a new Korean Barbeque place near ala moana mall. It’s gotten some rave reviews recently and we got there late, around 9:30 but they were still bustling and lots of tables were filled. We managed to get a table, and we order one of their special late night sets which comes with 3 different types of meat to grill, a selection of side dishes and a spicy tofu soup with seafood. The great thing about this restaurant is that the service is excellent. They have buttons on your desk to call your waiter for more water, the check, etc. And they would come right over! The grill they used to cook the meet is also very cool in that there were some trays at the perimeter of the grill, sort of like a moat, and they used that to cook items too. Corn kernels sat with cheese melting on it until it was bubbly. An egg liquid was poured into another tray and it became a silky egg custard. Some grilled veggies were in another. Very innovative and very good food to boot! Must return, especially when it’s late at night.

    http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/Biting-Commentary/December-2012/678-Hawaii-a-new-Korean-yakiniku-restaurant-in-Honolulu/

    Well, that was the end to a late night in Waikiki…let’s see how we do tomorrow…where I have nothing planned except for dinner…

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    A lovely long post thank you!.....as unappreciative as it may seem.....I am sure I am not the only one that would have kept reading!!Will have to talk to the family about the ATV tours - sounds like fun and a spa visit may just have to happen too.
    The food all sound amazing - you seem to have a talent for scouting out all the best spots!

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    @loumike - Mahalo! And another long post below! It's like a double-feature day. Had some time during lunch to finish Day 6 so here goes:


    Day 6: Crabby avocados, a buggy hike, and a groupon gone bad

    Today we woke up to yet another bright and sunny day. Wow, we were really lucky with the weather on this trip. No rain in sight yet (knock on wood). It was going to prove hard to leave Hawaii when we had to. But we had another mini-trip to look forward to the next day: our 3 days on the North Shore! That’s why I kinda like doing a split stay – it gives us something else to look forward to towards the end of our trip, instead of just dreading the end of vacation.

    We decided that we’d continue being “active” and hike Diamond Head again. Our first trip together back in 2003, before we were married or even engaged, we took a trip to Oahu and climbed Diamond Head for the first time. We enjoyed it so back up we go! First top though….needed to fuel up with a hearty breakfast...and we selected Bogart’s because it was near Diamond Head. Now this place gets mixed reviews. First off, it’s one of those order-at-the-counter-and-find-your-seat places, where there is no table service. Plus, the place seems always packed so there are times when it’s hard to find a seat at all, especially for groups. But the food always gets rave reviews we took everyone’s advice and went early.

    When we arrived there was a short line at the counter and the tables were slowly filling up. We decided what to eat and then I went to grab one of the few available table and the hubs stayed in line to order. We decided to split orders of the garlic shrimp fried rice, and the avocado and crab omelet. An iced coffee (thai-style for me!) and regular coffee rounded out our breakfast. After ordering you wait for your coffee drinks which you can then take with you. It’s cute how if you’re dining in, they serve their drinks in large cartoon-y mugs. My mug had a Star Wars theme, and hubs had the Batman symbol. Our name was called in about 15 minutes and hubs went to go pick up our food. The fried rice was great. It was very simple, with the only ingredients being rice, shrimp, eggs, garlic, salt and a smattering of fresh spinach leaves. It was really quite delicious, and the shrimp were really plump and tender and perfectly cooked. The omelet was really good too. The eggs were so light and fluffy, and in true omelet perfection didn’t have an ounce of brown on it, no charred edges at all. The inside of the omelet had a creamy crab concoction topped with slices of the ripe buttery avocado. More Hawaiian AVOCADO!! YUM. Never thought I’d like my avocado warm, but it worked. I would return and get both entrees! Unfortunately, as we were leaving, we could see how there were a few negative reviews for this place because some people got extremely catty about finding and reserving tables for their parties. It seemed to make breakfast an unpleasant experience for some and an added hassle. However, it can a good experience for the most part if you are prepared to wait. Or perhaps get take out and eat it outside. I have to try one of their famous acai bowls one day too. Cash Only.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/bogarts-caf%C3%A9-honolulu-2


    I didn’t finish my coffee so I took it with me in a to-go cup which they kindly provided. We drove into Diamond Head and after a quick stop at the bathroom we started on the hike up. I am not much of a hiker and I have a bad right knee, although I did scale most of Koko Head last year, so this wasn’t so bad. I was probably the only fool climbing up with an iced coffee in one hand though. But hey, I think everyone else was jealous. Views were amazing, and as we got close to the top, I decided to take the long scenic way up instead of climbing the claustrophobic staircase to the summit which the hubs chose. That may not have been the best idea because everyone who walked the long way were attacked by these crazy silver bugs. They were everywhere! Not a huge swarm or anything – but everyone seemed to have a few of them scattered on their bodies. I think I got bit by one, but it wasn’t bothering me like a traditional mosquito bite would. They seemed harmless but just annoying. I know I probably had a handful of them on my back too so when I met up with my husband at the summit we spent a good deal of time just swatting each other. This would probably have been a strange sight on a regular day but everyone else seemed to be doing it too. Since the bugs would just come back no matter what we did, we just took our requisite summit pictures and then headed back down. I didn’t bother with the tiny tunnel staircase since there were more people climbing up, so just took the longer way down again and walked a little quicker. About half way down, the bugs seemed to be gone, so no more swatting. I guess the people climbing up must have thought we were affectionately play –fighting each other…but little did they know, they would be doing it too…LOL.

    After our hike, the hubs dropped me off at the condo while he went to get his hair cut. His hair grows very quickly and he likes it short otherwise he gets annoyed. When he’s in town, he always goes to Aloha Barber in Kaimuki. He likes them, they are friendly, do a good job, quick, and most of all, cheap!

    After shower and changing, we decided to go to Ala Moana to grab a quick bite. I had wanted to go to Yuzu, which is located in the Ala Moana hotel, but upon entering, we realized their sushi bar was only open at dinner. They specialize in ball-shaped sushi, which I thought was really cute, so I wanted to try it but unfortunately we’ll have to dine there another time.

    http://www.yuzuhawaii.com/

    We walked back through the mall for a stroll and decided to grab a bite at Shirokiya, where they have a wonderful Japanese food court – with countless options including bento, ramen, sushi, musubi, katsu, local eats, and more. I can never decide what to eat here because there are too many choices and I feel like a kid in a candy store – I want to eat everything! Since I was more in a sushi mood though, I selected a set from the sushi place – a bowl of uni over rice and a bowl of ikura over rice served on a tray with Japanese pickles and miso soup. Hubs decided on a unique item – Kimukatsu. Katsu is Japanese fried pork or chicken cutlets. They have a layer of panko breadcrumb and are fried to a golden crisp. Kimukatsu is slightly different in that instead of using thick cuts of meat, they use “layers” of thinly sliced pork wrapped around each other to form a cutlet, then the whole thing is breaded and deep fried. It’s a pretty new concept in Honolulu although hails from Japan where it’s popular. I was surprised Shirokiya had an outpost of this as I thought they only had a restaurant in Waikiki. We got the pork kimukatsu “curry style”, which is served over rice and has a delicious rich Japanese curry sauce all over. The kimukatsu was very tender, as expected. It’s different than regular katsu for sure and I’m glad I tried it but part of me prefers the nice bite of a thicker chunk of meat rather than the thin slices. If you’re a fan of katsu or fried things in general, it’s worth a trip. (The actual restaurant is in the Aqua Waikiki Joy Hotel. Shirokiya just has a stall serving their katsu)

    http://www.kimukatsu.com/kimukatsu_eng/

    We walked around the mall a bit more before heading over to Ward so I could finish shopping. I went to the Crazy Shirts outlet which has great prices on their clothes which are discontinued or from previous seasons. If you’ve been to their store, they usually sell t shirts for more than 30 bucks, but here you can find them for 14 bucks, maybe a little more. And their pima cotton stuff is so soft and often sold at a premium. You can find them for 20 bucks here.

    http://www.wardcenters.com/shopping/Merchants/CrazyShirts.html

    After Ward we drove over to Hilo Hattie’s so I could find some gifts. I always collect those shell necklaces that they give to you when you first enter. I save them for my friend’s kids and they love them. After some souvenir purchases, we headed to Costco to fill up on gas. Costco was nearby, and we definitely needed gas before our drive up to the North Shore. Costco has the cheapest gas on the island!

    Since we were near Kalihi, I wanted to check out a spot which I had wanted to go to for a while, the Hawaiian Chip company factory store. If you’ve seen those bags of taro chips at the ABC store – this is where they make them. They make fresh taro, sweet potato, and purple yam chips and you can get a fresh bag at their factory. We pull up into their storefront which is just a counter in front of their factory. The lady selling was super nice, and explained how we could get a bag of any of the chips, taro, sweet potato, etc or a combination. They fry them to order and give them to you in a large paper bag which you can then season with a variety of seasonings they have set out including spicy toragashi (Japanese red pepper powder), garlic, furikake (seasoned seaweed flakes), bbq seasoning, even cinnamon-sugar (I assume for the sweet potato) etc. Oooh how exciting, I couldn’t wait to make my own! We ordered a bag of taro chips to go, and then got one of their large prepackaged chip bags to take home with us (this was my sister’s only request I bring back from the islands). In about 10 minutes we received a huge paper bag of taro chips waiting to be seasoned. They were hot and crispy so the seasonings would stick to them like glue. I used a combination of garlic and spicy toragashi and added a little at a time, shaking the bag to incorporate everything. Another fellow who bought a bag told me to add the furikake to the mix as it makes it super ono. So I did just that and wow…super ono indeed! This was one of the best un-touristy food-centric finds I’ve discovered on Oahu! Yum!! Each bag to go was about 12 dollars – but it is large (although it may not last!)

    http://www.hawaiianchipcompany.com/
    http://www.hawaiianchipcompany.com/v/factory_outlet.asp

    After munching away happily we realized we were scheduled for dinner that night at Indigo. Indigo is a fusion lounge-y restaurant located in Chinatown. It got some decent reviews on yelp and so when a Groupon became available for it, I thought it may be worth checking out. How wrong we were. Usually I have no issues with using Groupon, I do my research, and only buy Groupons for places I would normally go to anyways. It has always worked for us and we use them in New York City quite often. This is one of those times Groupon (and maybe even yelp) has let me down.

    We show up to pretty much an empty restaurant. I thought, well, it is a Wednesday night, so not really the most happening of nights to be out, but still. There were a few people at the lounge seats around the bar, but no one in the dining room. Except for us. We placed our orders – I got a steamed monchong fish with ginger and served with jasmine rice, and the hubs got something called thousand-times spicy chicken. Yeah right. The interior was quite nicely decorated though, in an old world blend of Asian and early plantation year charm.

    Our food comes, and it is pretty dismal. Everything tastes bland, cold, and just, well, soggy. My jasmine rice was both gooey and undercooked (if that is even possible). My fish was ok – at least it tasted fresh, but it was lukewarm, and I bit into something that set my mouth on fire…it looked like some sort of Szechuan dried chili. My husband’s spicy chicken however, was NOT spicy in the least bit. It actually lacked any sort of flavor. I don’t know if there was a management or chef change but the earlier yelp reviews did not reflect what we had that night. It was just awful. 0 stars!! It was a good thing I had a bag of delicious taro chips waiting in the car because we couldn’t finish our dinners. Oh well. Our first disappointing meal in Hawaii! I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Our server was really super sweet though and I felt bad for her because she could do so much better!

    (not going to link it because I think you should stay away!! At least until they get a new chef)

    Not letting the meal bring us down, we returned to the condo where I devoured yet another yummy papaya. Good thing I bought these! We packed up as we were leaving Waikiki the next day – we were going to the North Shore!! Woot!!

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    Day 7 Part I: Rolls, Nuts, Balls, "Where’s my camera?!?", and Shrimp

    We woke up ready and excited to head to the North Shore where we will be staying at Turtle Bay resort for 3 nights. We didn’t let last night’s dinner put a damper in our spirits. We’ve been to Hawaii many times and that was the first real let down we’ve experienced, and as you can see, we’ve eaten at a lot of different places. It was bound to happen, I guess. Our check-out time wasn’t until 11am and since we were all packed already, we were able to enjoy Waikiki for a little longer. We like to help out the cleaning people by throwing the towels/sheets in the wash before we leave so that’s what we did. We then decided to have our last Waikiki breakfast at our favorite, Wailana Coffee House. We drove over and parked in the lot below (remember only 75 cents with validation!). My husband of course orders the Irish breakfast again. I asked why doesn’t he try something new? He is the sort of person who must always get the best deal – regardless. So there was no changing his mind. I ordered a bowl of muesli this time. I must say the portion of muesli was huge compared to the cup.

    After breakfast we drove back to the condo but halfway there I told my husband to drop me off at International Mktplace so I could look around for some cute outfits for my niece. I bought some really cute dresses at a great price. I negotiated a bit too and managed to get the tax taken off.

    On the way back to the condo, I walked through the Food Pantry as it’s just down the block from where we were staying. I passed the bakery which is near the back entrance/exit of the store. The proprietor was a nice old Asian guy, and a sign on his table caught my eye. A little cardboard sign saying "The Best Spring Rolls in Hawaii" above a rotating case of freshly fried goodies. They did look pretty good and the guy was so nice so I bought 3 of them and paid 4 bucks. Were they the best? I don’t know…never really had a spring roll in Hawaii yet, I don’t think. They are thinner and lighter than egg rolls – they were filled with a filling of ground pork, vermicelli and vegetables. They were a good size, warm, and very crispy. I think these would make a great beach snack.

    We loaded up the hulk of a jeep and made our way out of Waikiki. We took the H-3 again just because we love that highway. There wasn’t too much traffic luckily and we had a nice drive up the Kamehameha Hwy. We stopped at Tropical Farms Mac Nuts to visit. It was our first time there and I was surprised at the number of people there. Seems that it’s fast becoming a type of Dole Plantation itself. The fun part was out back there is a huge, and I mean huge crate of raw unshelled mac nuts which you can help yourself to and crack open using rocks. That was fun (and tasty). You can also sample all the different mac nuts they had as well – I bought a few bags for my family back home. There are also vendors selling jewelry, bath products, etc. I can’t remember if the prices were better than others, but I didn’t think they were.

    http://www.macnutfarm.com


    We continued north and I knew I wanted to stop by the “Donkey Balls” store. They are these gourmet chocolate covered mac nuts with cute names like “flakey balls” with coconut, “fire balls” with cayenne pepper, etc. If you’ve read my last TR we went to the store on the Big Island and it’s a favorite of mine. It turns out that the Oahu store had new ownership and was now called Fine Ass chocolates. Same stuff, just nicer more elegant packaging (still crass names though). These are really popular with my friends so I went in and bought a number of bags. They have dark and milk chocolate versions of the balls and you can also sample anything you want. The lady there was super nice and she spoke to us for a bit telling us about the company and the recent name change. If you like them on Facebook you get 10% and if you check-in you get another 10% on top of that. Yay for social media discounts! These tasty balls of goodness don’t come cheap. You have to pay for your yummy balls.

    http://www.fineasschocolate.com


    It was then I realized that my point and shoot camera was missing…I searched everywhere. All my bags, all over the car…it was gone. I knew I had it when we left Waikiki beause I took pictures while on the H-3. I guess it’s back to Tropical farms to look for it…so we got in the car and drove back the few miles to Tropical Farms. I checked the parking lot while the hubs went inside. To my relief he comes out with camera in tow!! Whew. Turns out I had dropped it in the parking lot and someone had found it, luckily it wasn’t run over. A big Mahalo to Tropical Farms and to the good Samaritan who turned it in.

    So we had to backtrack a bit and now at this point, we’re a little hungry…but we were on the North shore and that means one thing…SHRIMP TRUCKS!! So we rolled into Romy’s in Kahuku which we had really enjoyed last time. The wait was about 30 minutes. We ordered the garlic shrimp and the steamed shrimp- boy were they good. I was going to see how many shrimp trucks we could eat at on our 3 days…would we get sick of shrimp before long? Hmm, only time will tell.

    http://www.romyskahukuprawns.org


    Coming up…our check-in to the Turtle Bay Resort and one of the best meals we’ve eaten in Hawaii!

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    @happyholidays - Mahalo! Thanks for reading my new TR!


    Day 7 Part II - Turtle bay, and shared breakfasts for dinner


    The Turtle Bay Resort was one that I have longed to stay in. Back when I was a young kid (sigh…long time ago), when I came to Honolulu for the first time with my parents and little sisters, we passed by this beautiful resort on a tour of the North Shore and I thought, wow, that’s where the RICH people stay. LOL. Now, it’s a little older, and not as bright and shiny as it was before, but it’s undergoing a refurbishment which I think will make it awesome. I didn’t really have an issue with the resort as it is now…the views and the grounds are beautiful. We checked in – I had booked a deal which gave us early check-in, late check-out, room upgrades, 50 dollar resort credit and a welcome gift. However, the early and late check in and check out times were based on availability. Because of their renovations, I guess the resort was at full capacity – so they said they weren’t able to honor the late check out but if we needed to, we could use a complimentary “day” suite to shower and change before our flight. Since we would need to leave at regular check out time in any case, we said there was no need, but something to think about for future stays.

    It was only an hour before regular check in time, and luckily they had a room available for us. We were upgraded from a partial ocean view to a regular ocean view. Sweet! Our ocean view king room was quite large, in fact it was huge. Compared to other hotels in the Waikiki area, this was more like a suite! The bathroom was also very large, there was a large area with a sink, and then the actual toilet area with a bathtub and another sink. There was a coffee-maker on a cart, and also a mini-fridge under the cabinet of the exterior sink. Our room faced the water, and we also got a nice view of a wedding going on at that time at a grassy knoll overlooking the ocean . How pretty! It had started to drizzle a bit too, but that didn’t really affect the wedding, in fact, with the sun’s glowy rays and the soft mist of rain, it was rather lovely, although I'm sure the wedding party was a bit nervous it was going to pour at any moment (it didn't during the entire ceremony).

    After hanging out enjoying our room and lazying around watching TV, we went out for a swim, but of course the second we get chairs by the pool it starts to rain for real. Everyone was starting to pack up to leave the pool area, but that only gave us our choice of chairs and the pool to ourselves. I had no issue with this as I was able to swim laps without dodging anyone. After the pool, we got cleaned up, and by this time the sun was out again, in time for sunset! So we made our way back out to get some nice pictures of sunset, and to watch the few surfers who were still out there doing their thing. You could really get mesmerized looking at the waves and the sunset in the background. I like how they have stadium seating complete with lights for watching the surfers.

    After deciding not to partake in the resort restaurants for dinner, we decided to head to Haleiwa for dinner. I had always wanted to try Opal Thai food, but that was known to have long lines especially without a reservation. It was still fairly early at that point and we were not super hungry (munching on the taro chips all afternoon!) so we decided to see if we could get a table at Opal, if not, we’d head someplace else.

    The drive to Haleiwa was about 25-30 minutes. It was dark already by the time we got to Haleiwa. Opal Thai is located in a cluster of stores, across from a Long’s Drugs and next to a bar and L&L Drive Inn. It was packed. Luckily, not that many people waiting outside though. We asked if there was a table for 2 available without reservations. They said about 25-30 minutes. We decided to wait. The wait turned out to be about 40 minutes, so it was a good thing we weren’t so hungry. I got a chance to walk through Long’s drugs and pick up some local snacks – premium arare rice crackers, some li hing candy for friends and relatives. While waiting outside of Opal though, the owner and proprietor, Opal himself, comes out and talks to you, apologizing for the wait. He’s a nice, very friendly guy who really wants you to enjoy his food and to showcase Thai food like you’ve never had it before.

    Upon being seated, we were served water in metal cups which kept it cold. You are given menus, but don’t fret when Opal takes your order and takes your menu away (we expected this after reading all the reviews). He asked us where we are from (I’m from Singapore originally and the hubs is Taiwanese by heritage) and what we usually like to eat at Thai restaurants. We gave him an idea of what we usually eat, but told him we enjoy everything, and anything spicy and to surprise us. I did tell him I was in the mood for tom yum soup though. He gave us an outstanding 5 courses – I don’t know how he knows what we like, but we loved everything. We stared with “larb” – a salad of pork, ground toasted rice, onions and cilantro, tossed with a lime juice dressing. It’s served with lettuce leaves and you make little cups out of them and put the ground mixture in it. Delicious. Next was my favorite of the night, a fried mushroom-turnip “cake” which was topped with bean sprouts and cilantro, served with a spicy dipping sauce. When I bit into this, I was reminded of my childhood in Singapore. It tasted exactly like what my mom used to buy me from the hawker centers. I’ve never been able to taste anything remotely close to it in the US. When Opal came over to check on us, he pointed to that dish and said he ate this for breakfast everyday while growing up. And of course I exclaimed, ME TOO!!!! Aaah, the shared bond of food amongst South East Asians. :)

    The next course was the tom yum soup, which I expected to be good, but good was an understatement. It was tom yum taken to the next level with the addition of super fresh vegetables, herbs, and seafood. I’d never had a tom yum soup with fresh green tomatoes in it. It was wonderful. The last savory course was a duck curry served with hapa rice (half brown half white) and topped with deep fried Asian basil. Who knew deep fried basil would taste so good? Our last course was the only dessert they offer which was a cheesecake with strawberry sauce. It was yummy too, although not really a thai dessert. We were genuinely stuffed and beyond satisfied with our meal. Literally the BEST. THAI. FOOD. EVER. Run, do not walk to Opal Thai in Haleiwa and you will not be disappointed. But please make a reservation first! We loved it so much we were going to do just that on our last night…I was already looking forward to it!

    Upon arriving back at our room at Turtle Bay, we happily discovered a basket of fruit, including papayas, bananas, half a pineapple, strawberries and apples. It was our welcome amenity we received as part of our package. Yum! Breakfast on the lanai was calling us. I also made a spa appointment for a pedicure in the late morning. Tomorrow was going to be awesome!

    Coming up…North Shore fun!

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    @wekewoody - It was! I love Thai food, and we have great Thai food in NYC but this was just so different, and made me nostalgic for the foods I used to eat. Yum yum.


    Just wanted to add some links I forgot in my last post:

    Turtle Bay Resort
    http://www.turtlebayresort.com/


    Opal Thai
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/opal-thai-food-haleiwa
    (ignore most of the menu items but consider them a guide. Opal will pretty much decide your menu for your if it's your first time)

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    We woke up to another beautiful day – perfect for hanging on the lanai making short work of the fruit basket we received the night before. I still had some papayas left from Don Quijote earlier in the week, but it’s ok, they will be gone too by the time we leave.

    After breakfast I went down to Spa Luana for my pedicure. Since they are renovating…the spa is actually temporarily located in guest rooms which have been modified to a makeshift spa. Lo and behold, the pedicure room is right next to our room on the 2nd floor! LOL I would have saved myself a trip downstairs if I had known. My pedicure was nice and relaxing. The lanai doors were open and there was wave sounds being played on the clock radio/nature sound mimicker. I picked a nice bright orange-y shade. I probably should have gotten a pedicure before the trip but I was just too busy at work – plus with all the snow and cold, it’s just too cumbersome. I love all-year flip flop weather.

    After my pedicure dried, I went the whopping 2 yards over to our room to change into my bathing suit. I expected the hubs to be at the pool already but he was being lazy watching tv and hanging on the lanai so we went down together. We plopped ourselves on chairs and I order a lava flow immediately. I’ve been waiting for one all week! Mmmm it’s good. After a few hours at the pool, watching the surfers, getting our tan on, we were ready for some lunch. I said we should go check out another shrimp truck, so we drove to Haleiwa – then I saw Kua’aina Sandwich – and I really want to try it too. So after flip flopping back and forth we decided to give Macky's shrimp a go and grab Kua‘aina later. At Macky’s there wasn’t much of a wait, and we order a platter of the spicy shrimp. It’s served with rice, a side salad and a little pineapple spear. The shrimp were good, the sauce was spicy but not too spicy. I liked the quality of the shrimp at Macky’s a lot.

    After our first lunch, we walked around Haleiwa. I was able to go into a lot of the little boutiques that I’ve never been in before. They were great if you like chic expensive beachwear, but there is always a sale rack, which is where I usually head to. I also stopped by Coffee Gallery for some iced kona coffee. Yum. Pretty soon, we’re at Kua’aina ordering our second lunch. I decided I must have more avocado, so we order a BLT with avocado, and iced tea and fries. The sandwich is super delicious. I love the toasted whole grain bread,the crisp bacon with the fresh veggies and creamy avocado. It can’t get better than this! So now…what's for dessert. Should we get shave ice at Matsumoto's or Ted’s bakery? Because I can’t have too much sugar, I can’t go my usual route where I would have gone for both in the same day. So today…we decided on Ted’s Bakery.

    We drove back to Sunset Beach to Ted’s. We looked at the flavors in the refrigerated cases…I knew I wanted the chocolate haupia, but I thought I may want to try other flavors too, but dear hubs, always the one who has to get the best deal, convinces me to get the ENTIRE pie instead of 4 different flavors. His reasoning is that the pie is about the cost of 4 slices and if we eat one slice a day each for the next 2 days, it would have been worth it. My reasoning is that what if I don’t like chocolate haupia (I know, it was a long shot) and I regret getting that flavor? He gives me a look and I know that he’s right, I love chocolate and love coconut, so the two combined in a pie topped with whipped cream…heavenly!! We bought our whole pie and had a slice each right in front of Ted’s sitting at the picnic tables. Lot’s of others there too, sharing ONE slice of pie or maybe TWO. I think we’re the only 2 gluttons eating a whole pie. Oh well. We’re not sharing.

    Back at Turtle Bay with the rest of the pie in the fridge, we went to check out the beach area. We found chairs with no difficulty. Hubs tried a little snorkeling and said it wasn’t too bad, saw some cool fish. After a while, the beach staff told us they have to put away the chairs soon as sunset was approaching so we decided to move back to the pool area. The sunset really is beautiful from the resort and I kept taking pictures with my phone. We went back to the room to clean up and thought about dinner. I was tired and didn't want to sit in a restaurant. I wish there were more casual options for dinner close to the resort, so we decided to try the poke bowls at Kahuku Superette about 15 minutes away.

    Kahuku Superette is a little grocery store in Kahuku. It’s located near the Tita’s Grill and the Giovanni’s shrimp truck in that area. We walk in and head back to the seafood section and we see the poke. We ask for 2 poke bowls. I select the shoyu and hubs gets the limu. The portions are generous (they didn’t charge for the rice as some places do) and the prices were great. My huge portion of fresh ahi poke over rice was about 11 dollars.

    I started to eat my poke bowl in the car because I really don’t like my poke and rice to be sitting too long – I like my ahi cold and my rice hot. Hubs doesn’t really mind either way. It was super good. I really enjoyed both the shoyu and limu. Ono Seafood...you have some stiff competition!! After finishing our poke bowls back in the room, we split another slice of pie while watching TV – there were some entertaining shows on Time Warner Oceanic’s channel about some Hawaiian tourists visiting areas of Japan. They were eating really interesting things, like ramen made with milk, and steamed buns cooked in heat from sulphur springs. I got a kick out of watching it.

    That’s the end of a great day! Our vacation was coming to an end soon…boo. Next up, our last full day on the Islands. Would it rain or shine?

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    Thank you so much for your detailed trip reports!!!!

    I love Oahu, I have been there 9 times, and your report brings back memories of the North Shore.

    I leave for Kauai in 4 weeks and I hope I like it there too!!!

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    Forgot to mention the fate of my husband's iphone drowning...the rice trick never worked and probably wouldn't have no matter how long we left it in the bag. We took it out after it lay in there for about 24 hours and it did not turn on. We brought it to the apple store in Waikiki before we left for the North Shore and they opened it up and said it was basically fried. Oh well. It turns out if you purchase apple care your replacement iphone is a lot cheaper. Whew. It was still expensive but better than purchasing another one outright.

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    Forever the optimist......I was sure you were keeping us in suspense for so long with the ultimate surprise of a happy ending for your DH's iphone! Oh well I am happy at least the repurchase cost was not as big for you - a shame these sort of mishaps are not covered under travel insurance.
    Have enjoyed all your recent posts and Opal Thai food sounds amazing! Can I ask if you were going to have a really special dinner in Waikiki(for a group of 8) ....where would you choose?

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    I'm loving all your posts! You're keeping me entertained while I'm at work. I'll return the favor with my own trip report when I return from Kauai...57 days until we step foot on that red dirt! We have been to Kauai four times and this trip will be different for us because my brother/fiancee are going along with us. They have never been to Hawaii. We will be acting as tour guides...I'm already trying to come up with a catchy title for my trip report!

    Back in 2005, when DH & I took our first trip to Hawaii which was also our honeymoon we went to Oahu. We were only 24 and inexperienced travelers. Unfortunately, we never made it to the North Shore of Oahu. During our week stay, we tried to find Lanikai Beach, which we did but we were lost in a neighborhood and didn't know where to park for the beach. We ended up not going and heading back to Waikiki. Reading your report and other posts, I feel that we did miss out on seeing the North Shore, Haleiwa, etc but I can't get past the city feel Oahu and I can't tear myself away from Kauai to ever see us going back to Oahu. I will however tear myself away from Kauai to check out Maui and the Big Island...someday!

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    @Kona514 - Mahalo! And thank you for your trip report from '09. I really enjoyed it! I love Oahu too. And you will LOVE Kauai! Please do a TR, I'd love to hear about your trip.

    @loumike - yup yup, unfortunately was not a happy ending, but in all scheme of things, it is just a phone, and we were in Hawaii, so all is good in the end after all. :)

    @louistraveler5 - I can't wait for your trip report! I went back and read your last trip report and it's fantastic! We have similar styles in that we are so detailed and like to remember certain parts of our trip with enthusiasm. Yes, Oahu's south is like an urban sprawl, but up North is wonderful, I can see why a lot of locals do stayations there. I would too :)

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    @loumike - sorry forgot to respond to your question! Does the dinner have to be in Waikiki? Only because our favorite spot for groups, Side Street Inn is not. There is a location on Kapahulu so not too far from Waikiki. Make reservations and enjoy a wonderful group dinner where large plates are shared family style. For something more upscale...I have not been there but I hear that 53 by the Sea is wonderful. If it has to be in Waikiki...maybe Tiki's or Roy's (although I hear the one in Hawaii Kai is better). What kind of food are you looking for?

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    I am not sure that they won't have already found something - but want to have some suggestions on hand. I think it will need to be close to Waikiki - however a 10-15 min cab drive would be ok too. I think they may be looking for something a little upscale for this occasion... 53 by the Sea -looks possibly perfect. It would be a beautiful setting overlooking the ocean on our last night(May Trip).It is great to go somewhere with atmosphere. We all however would be happy with any style of food along with some nice selections of wine and good company :-)! Thanks for these suggestions a trip report will definitely be beckoning!

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    Ooh, a last night in paradise celebration..got it! I think 53 by the Sea looks gorgeous with the incredible views. Also, if you perhaps may not care for the view, there is always Alan Wong's (my personal fave), Chef Mavro, Town, or Salt Kitchen, or perhaps at one of the hotels...La Mer, or Nobu or Morimoto? Also...for a (big) splurge, have you heard of Vintage Cave? It's supposed to be like the French Laundry/El Bulli of Hawaii. From what I hear, reservations are still open to the public at this point, and I think sometime in the future they might make it membership only. I'd love to eat there one day, if I could afford it!

    http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/February-2013/The-Chef-and-the-Blank-Check-Restaurant-Vintage-Cave/

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    OMG Vintage Cave looks amazing even with Picasso originals on the wall! Maybe if I sneakily add it to the list of suggestions they might miss the 'blank cheque' cost or $$$tasting menu ?
    We did once go to The Chefs Table at Hayman Island - I will never forget that meal - although I wish now I had written about it as parts have slipped my memory. :-( http://www.hayman.com.au/dining/the-chefs-table/
    Actually all the restaurants you have suggested sound great - I will send the list to my better half and he can pretend he anonymously received a tip off! Thank you so much....my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

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    @loumike - Wow, Great Barrier Reef...always wanted to visit there. Will put that on my wishlist of destinations. My favorite meal of all time is at Villa Mahana in Bora Bora on our honeymoon. We sat at the top table and each had a different chef's tasting. It was delicious and Chef Damian came out to talk to us. He was very nice and cute too!

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    Great trip report. Enjoy reading your Oahu adventures. DH and I were there for the first time in September and also visited the mac nut farm. We had also stopped at a road side stand displaying some gorgeous handmade wood carvings right down the street from the mac farm. I actually went back there to use the ATM since I bought a beautiful honu. :)

    We loved driving that highway just because of the way the GPS lady butchered the pronunciation. :D

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    I want to go back to your vrbo rental for a minute. You stated you had stayed in this rental on a previous visit and then you stated:

    "Thanks! Yes it was a good condo find. I like to bookmark condos which appeal to us in location and amenities, and when it came time to book, almost all of them were booked for our dates except for this one. We had to alther our dates slightly just to keep in line with this condo's availability. Literally we checked in just hours after the cleaning people left, and also the day we checked out there was someone else slated to arrive. Lessons learned: book EARLY"

    Good advice to book early. Had you stayed in this unit before or no? Would you stay there again?

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    @cruisin_tigger: Thank you! We did see a lot of those stands on the road, but sometimes we were moving too fast, and it was too late, LOL. Next time we'll have to pay more attention to those roadside stands as they have great unique finds. I do find the GPS hilarious in Hawaii. I especially like it when it says: Likelike Highway.

    @EmilyPost: Yes we have stayed here before in 2011. We really like the location of the Fairway Villa. It's on the Ala Wai canal so it's away from the crowds of Kalakaua yet it's only a few blocks away. It's probably like a 10-15 min walk to the beach. The building is old but the unit is renovated. The only reason I was looking at other condos is because I wanted someplace a little bigger. This condo is studio size unit with a small shower stall and queen bed. I wanted something a bit more spacious but knowing Waikiki that can be difficult in our price range. I also have some wacky desire to experience different condos in Waikiki. :) But in the end, price and location (and availability!) won.
    Here's the unit we stayed in:
    http://www.vrbo.com/289228

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    Day 9 – Our last full day

    We were lucky on this trip – it was bright and sunny again that morning. We have been very blessed to have good weather on all our Hawaii vacations. (Knock on wood again). We decided to again eschew expensive resort food to try some of the local eats. We heard good things about the breakfast at Tita’s Grill so we hopped in the car and headed there. It’s located near the Kahuku Superette where we went last night for our poke bowls. It is a casual, plate lunch counter-service establishment which serves home-cooked food and breads. I ordered a spam n egg sandwich while the hubs got the breakfast platter with Portuguese sausage. What we did not expect were the huge portions. My husband’s breakfast came with a slice of buttered toast so thick and dense, it was more like a loaf of bread. It tasted homemade and had a nice interesting slightly sweet and nutty flavor. My sandwich was also served in a large homemade roll. It was great too…but wow, was it filling. I saw some surfers who came and just ordered a slice of the toasted bread with a coffee– it was quite possibly a meal in itself because it’s so huge. I guess it’s a great way to carb-load before strenuous activity.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60651-d434211-Reviews-Tita_s_Grill_Catering-Kahuku_Oahu_Hawaii.html

    We could have probably shared a breakfast – so needless to say, we were stuffed! We decided that we’d try and walk it off by hiking around Turtle Bay. We were thinking at first to go to Waimea Bay park and doing the hike to the waterfall there, but we thought we’d save it for another tip. Since we were staying at Turtle Bay we might as well take advantage of the beautiful grounds. We took a walk which took us past the beach cottages – they aren’t really cottages, they are more like single-story townhomes since they are all connected. They were featured in the movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. We walked past the cottages and past a pretty stable where it looked like a horseback riding tour was getting started. We noticed the trail had a lot of horse poop too! LOl. Oh well. We walked about a mile and a half before turning back to the resort. All the while, the beautiful waves were pounding and we kept stopping to look and take pictures. We saw a few other people taking walks or running but we mostly had the trail to ourselves. This resort really does have lovely grounds.

    We decided to head over to Haleiwa to grab some Matsumoto’s shave ice before the end of our trip. No trip to Oahu is complete without a shave ice from Matsumoto’s! On the way there, I called Opal Thai to make reservations for that night. My moth was watering thinking about the amazing food again!

    At Matsumoto’s we ordered a lilikoi, li hing, and lychee combo with beans and ice cream. It’s my usual Triple-L combo that I get each time. Yum yum. We sat outside and ate and I went back in to troll the sale racks. I found some cute t-shirts on super sale. Score! We walked around Haleiwa a bit again…I walked into a cute children’s store called The Growing Keiki and I found a super cute outfit for my niece which was handmade on Oahu. It was adorable. I hope she likes it!

    http://thegrowingkeiki.com/


    We decided to spend the afternoon at Sunset Beach. On the way, we stopped at Turtle Beach to see how many turtles there were today. There were 2 giant ones basking in the sand and a few who were still in the shallow rocky water. It always amazes me when I see this beach with the giant turtles. 4 years ago I never expected to see a honu that close in my life, but after our first experience swimming with them on Maui, I realize that this was part of what makes Hawaii so magical to me.

    Sunset beach was great…lots of golden sand, lots of waves. The water was cold though, so I didn’t bother to go in, I just enjoyed the time in the sand and sun, reading and watching the surfers. Only a few more hours left of the sunshine before we’re back in cold cold NYC! I was definitely going to soak up as much vitamin D as I could.

    For lunch we decided to head over to Kahuku again to Giovanni’s shrimp truck to split a garlic shrimp plate. We’d never been to this Giovanni’s, only to the one in Haleiwa. You’d think we’d be sick of shrimp at this point but we were not…I think it only makes you crave it more. This Giovanni’s location was packed because lots of tour buses come here. There is a large covered seating area, so that was nice. There are other stands/trucks here too. We tried the grilled kahuku corn – baja and island style, which was nice, and we also got a strawberry coconut smoothie while we were waiting for our shrimp. I would not order the smoothie here again as I thought it was too sweet and artificial tasting. Giovanni’s shrimp was tasty but I thought the texture was a bit tougher, unlike Macky’s or Romy’s. I am not sure why everyone thinks Giovanni’s is the best…I think it is just the most well-known so everyone stops here. Their butter-garlic sauce is nice though because they don’t burn the garlic. For dessert, pineapple spears with li-hing powder. Yum!

    http://giovannisshrimptruck.com/


    We returned to Turtle Bay and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool until the sun set. Back in the room, I did a little bit of packing and we both ate another slice of Ted’s pie. Woot, my husband was happy we ate our money’s worth of pie and then some. We lounged around the room and enjoyed the sounds of the waves from our lanai. Pretty soon we had to head out to dinner at Opal.

    At Opal, even though we had a reservation, we still had to wait about 20 minutes. It really is that popular. Also, it was a Saturday night, so everyone in town seemed to be dining out. Opal was very apologetic and kept coming out to talk to people. I noticed that he has somewhat reached a cult celebrity status. People were coming up and taking pictures with him. A lot of name dropping and air kissing. It seemed as if there isa regular contingent of people who worship Opal. I saw him actually spoon-feed a grown lady peanut sauce because she said she never liked it. Well, she was swooning after a bit of Opal’s version. Wow, I guess an appearance on the Food Network does that to you. As soon as we were seated, Opal comes to take our order. I tell him I definitely want the mushroom turnip cakes again, any sort of noodles, and everything else can be left to him. He asks us some questions, like are you ok with crab, allergies? Etc. He definitely remembered us and promised us a different menu. Dinner this night was just as good if not better than the first time. We started with the delectable mushroom turnip cakes, ate a robust chicken curry with hapa rice, a delicious crab infused rice noodle with hints of lime and green onion, and ended with deep fried tofu in a sweet-spicy glaze topped with more of the deep fried basil. Mmmmmmm. Great last night in Hawaii!! Oh, BTW, it is BYOB and they are nice enough that they will refrigerate your beer or wine if needed while you are waiting.

    Back at the resort – dessert first (more pie please), then a little more packing was done, and we’re all set for tomorrow! Our flight leaves HNL at 3pm. Hmm, what should our last meal be?

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    I already feel the pain for you ie having to depart this beautiful Island - you have had an amazing trip and so many beautiful memories! The connection you wrote about with the turtles is so sweet - a great reason to find the magic each time you return. I hope you get to go back again soon....
    Yes I have been to the GBR several times now it is pretty special here as well and our beaches are also some of the best in the world but I can't help thinking HI will be something special all by itself - your contribution by writing these fabulous trip reports makes me want to be their a lot sooner - thank you so much!
    PS......I think your last meal should be feet in the sand with an ocean backdrop and some only Hawaiian cuisine!

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    DH and I also spent some time in Haleiwa, checking out the harbor and some of the shops. Your posts have ignited me to be more adventurous towards foods when we're on vacation. I'm embarassed to say we didn't really try to eat there; just grabbed some McD's fries and cokes on the way out of town. :">

    Regularly watch Hawaii Five'O and this last episode dealt with a shark tour out of Haleiwa Harbor. So it was fun watching. :)

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    @loumike - Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad my posts have inspired you and hopefully give you some ideas! You are lucky to live Down Under. I have family in Sydney and visited them when younger and it's wonderful. I hope to visit again sometime, especially the GBR. I think you will love Hawaii, as most people do. It's always painful to leave...as for our last meal, well you'll have to wait and see, it's definitely a Hawaiian specialty though!

    @cruisin_tigger - I watch H50 too! I always pay attention for places I've visited. I always yell out "I've been there!" at the TV, to no one in particular. :) Definitely try out some eats in Haleiwa. They are known for their food trucks. In fact, Opal Thai was a food truck before they were a brick and mortar restaurant.

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    Day 10 – Aloha Hawaii (with a side of cheeseburger)

    We woke up the morning of our last day – and lo and behold, it was raining. This is the first time in all our Hawaii vacations that it has rained for an entire day. I guess it was best that it happened on our last day, maybe it’s to make departing Hawaii a little less painful, but I am not so sure. The view on the North shore even when it was misty and rainy was still beautiful.

    We spent the morning eating breakfast and watching the rain come down and meet the waves from our lanai. After eating one last slice of pie (yes you can have pie for breakfast on vacation) and finishing up the rest of the fruit, we were packed and ready to leave. Check-out was very easy, I made sure our resort credit was applied while the hubs drove the jeep over to the covered driveway area and we loaded up the car and off we went! Since it was raining – there wasn’t much we could do, so we decided to drive down the H1, and maybe stop somewhere to eat, end up at Costco to fuel up, and then head to the airport.

    If there is one thing to eat during a cold and rainy day in Hawaii, it is saimin. Saimin is like the local version of a comforting chicken noodle soup for cold days. It is similar to ramen except that the broth is usually flavored differently and is more clear. It’s often garnished with vegetables, Chinese roast pork, and eaten with hot mustard and shoyu as a condiment. As we were driving down, we passed by Aiea, and a quick yelp search revealed a place specializing in saimin: Shiro’s Saimin Haven, so we quickly pulled into the small strip mall where it was located.

    Shiro’s is an old-school family restaurant. If you’ve been to places like Hamura Saimin in Kauai, it is similar in style except instead of just a counter it was surprisingly large inside, with many booths and tables, so it was pretty good for families and groups. Definitely a local joint, which was what we were looking for. The menu is large, and serves up a variety of noodle soups with different accompaniments. Now it’s funny, but you can get a large bowl of noodles with a cheeseburger on the side. It’s one of the more popular “combos” at many local style items. Hubs thought it was really funny so he got that combo. I settled for a saimin and fried dumpling combo. Soon, our steaming hot bowls of noodle soup was set down before us. Perfect for a rainy day! The noodles were great – al dente and homemade, and the broth was delicious. My fried dumplings were crispy and not too heavy, and the hubs burger, was, well, a typical cheeseburger. He liked it and thought it was a winning combo. Instead of a burger and fries, a burger and saimin will do!

    http://shirossaimin.com/

    Alas, our vacation was slowly winding down…after our hearty lunch we went a few doors down to Chun Wah Kam, which is a local chain of Chinese food specializing in noodles, dumplings and “manapua” in Hawaii. Manapua are basically large steamed or baked Chinese buns which are filled with anything from sweet roast pork to red bean. If you’ve had dim sum at Chinese restaurants you’ve probably had them before. In NY’s chinatown, we call them “bao”. The Manapua seems to be a Hawaiian name for them. I ordered some dumplings to go which I could eat on the plane vs. the sad plane food. I appreciate the fact that Hawaiian Air does give food to their passengers but it really is forgettable at best…but then again we travel in coach.

    http://www.chunwahkam.com/

    At Costco, we got gas, and then ran in to get one last giant box of mac nuts as gifts. It’s a good thing I brought 2 extra empty suitcases. (I packed a suitcase within a suitcase so we came with 2 but left with 4 fully loaded) Then it was time to say good bye for real as we approached Honolulu International Airport. DH dropped me off at the Hawaiian Airlines gate and then went to return our car. I sat and waited for him until he returned on the Alamo shuttle, then we both went to check in together. We walked to the gate and waited for about 45 minutes before boarding. Note that there are very few outlets in the gate, in case you need to charge something like us. Some people kindly offered to take turns with us to charge our portable electronics. It was still raining when we got on the plane, but even though the rain splattered windows, I knew we were leaving the land of sunshine and rainbows. Aloha! Until next time…

    That’s the end of this TR! Mahalo for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Thanks for putting up with my long-winded posts and never ending obsession(s) with food. We have our own style of vacationing, and we like to do our own thing, and mix it up between budget and luxury. So, although the hubs was not fully cured from the cold/flu when he left the islands, he was 100% happy, which is what counts, right? I'm happy to answer any questions about our trip too. Hopefully many of you will choose to do a TR too as since I don’t have any upcoming trips to the islands planned, I can live out the rainbows via Fodors. :)

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    Great report Tifa - as a loyal follower I will miss your regular posts :-( with my morning cuppa but look forward to providing some novice rainbow cheer for you and others with our upcoming trips! You really do have a way of transporting your readers into holiday heaven and your experiences with food are certainly unique and at times spontaneous but always blending in perfectly with the flavour of the day! Mahalo....a hui hou kakou! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ4WsRolZ4E http://vimeo.com/60160513

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    @loumike - Mahalo! Looking forward to your trips. I will still troll Fodor's and post here and there. If I'm not in Hawaii I might as well talk about Hawaii, LOL. I've already helped 3 coworkers plan their honeymoons in Hawaii. Good fun. :)

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    I finally uploaded my pictures from our March trip...they are here if you feel like checking them out.

    https://plus.google.com/photos/117067623751789515603/albums/5873915796256789985?authkey=CNbe382SwKCJfQ

    Although, they are not in proper order chronologically. I used 2 cameras and I think the date/time stamps were off on one of them so it uploaded all weird. I tried to fix it but it was too difficult and I just gave up. But, I do have captions on the photos! Enjoy.

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    Love the photos Tifa Thanks for sharing these - perfect timing as we leave for our short trip in 12 hours!
    Really adds to excitement of all that may lie ahead.
    Better go and pack! Will report back on my return :-)

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    Great report. I live here, and even I learned some new stuff!

    - MelissaHI, who posts her, and also does food reviews in Hawaii once did a one day reveiw of 15 shrimp trucks (a whole gang of foodies went, IIRC). I can't remember all the details, but she said one truck had the best shrimp, another had the best sauces, and Giovanni’s shrimp had the best...PR!

    Chun Wah Kam is known to have the best Manapua, pork hash, etc on Oahu. A box of assorted items from there is a great treat. Several of our clients from that part from that part of the island always bring a box when they come to our office...We look forward to their visits!!

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    @loumike - Enjoy your trip!! Can't wait to hear about it!

    lcuy - Thank you! I think I am subscribed to Melissa's twitter feed. I am jealous she gets to do so many foodie reviews at great restaurants in HNL. I'd be happy to get a box from Chun Wah Kam too. You are lucky you live in Hawaii! You must have some great recommendations for restaurants to try! Please do tell!

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    Hi,
    I just wanted to let you know how helpful your trip reports were. You had commented on my topic and suggested I look at your reviews. We went to Maui & Oahu. I used your reviews as reference and the advice you have was great! Thanks!!!!

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    Hi Mashka! Thank you! I'm so happy you found my trip reports useful. I appreciate the feedback and am glad you enjoyed your trip! If there's one topic I can't shut up about, it's Hawaii. The planning is as much fun as the trip itself, and I actually enjoy writing my rambling Trip Reports.

    It's been 3 years since I've been to Maui so we're looking to go again this fall. Anything new and exciting there?

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