If you are looking for high surf, winter is the time of year to visit Hawaii. And, Waimea Bay is where you can find some of the biggest walls of water tumbling into the beach.
Lifeguards bark instructions to a wayward crowd who are tempted by the sea and they look out for children who find themselves in the way of the next massive set. Surfers in the distance wait for the best swell to roll their way and crowds "ooh" and "aww" when the big waves crash on the sand.
Waimea Valley also boasts a nice paved trail to Waimea Falls. You will want to visit after it has rained or all you will see is a trickle. The trail is flanked by well-maintained botanical gardens representing places around the Pacific Ocean.
On a calmer day, you will also find folks jumping off Waimea Rock.
There is no doubt that you will find something to do if you park at Waimea Valley and wander around a bit!
Aloha from the Hawaiian Islands
Finding beauty beyond my job and relocation to Hawaii.
I love fish tacos. Since I live on a small island, I have dedicated my Sunday afternoons to explorative Vespa rides on the windward side of Oahu and to finding fish tacos for lunch.
Luckily for me, there are plenty of little hole in the wall restaurants and shrimp trucks all the way up to the North Shore.
So far, my favorite aquatic taco comes from Sweet Home Waimanalo. Their tacos are fresh; not too drenched in sauces, and the fresh fruit salsa on top is just enough sweet to balance the plentiful portion of fish.
The shop also carries a few gift items and some chocolate pie that I was eyeing behind their glass case of baked goods. I saved that treat for a subsequent visit!
As an added bonus, Sweet Home uses locally grown foods and sustainable products (not the styrofoam containers that nearly every other establishment in Hawaii seems to use).
If you're planning a drive up the windward...
If the touristy Waikiki scene isn't your style, I recommend booking a room on the North Shore, where life is quieter, less congested, and more "local."
Turtle Bay is the only resort hotel located on Oahu's North Shore and the perfect place to get away from the rush of Oahu's urban south side. The resort is about an hour's drive from the Honolulu airport and there is plenty to explore if you want to explore including Waimea Bay, hiking, the Polynesian Cultural Center, snorkeling and diving, and eating shrimp or shave ice.
Turtle Bay is also the perfect place to plant yourself in the sand and watch the world swim by in the clouds.
The experience that many people look for when they visit Hawaii, is the classic Waikiki Beach scene. With so many hotels along and nearby Kalakaua Avenue (Waikiki's main street), there is a place for everyone. One of the favorite events in Waikiki is Friday Night Fireworks. They explode from the beach in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. There are even fireworks packages available, if you want enjoy the show from your room.
If staying at the Hilton is a bit much for you, it's easy to find a spot of sand, watch the sun go down (like those in the photo), and wait for the show from the beach (beaches in Hawaii are public).
For locals, the fireworks are a sign that the weekend has begun! For tourists, the show is an extra special treat to enjoy after living like the Duke in the surf and sunshine all day long!
One of the more relaxing evenings away from home was spent at the Outrigger Hotel in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. I checked in with no problems and was even upgraded to a partial ocean view room!
I had enough time to mosey on through town to grab some dinner and watch the sun sink to the ocean (complete with a green flash).
The hotel was comfortable and situated next to a beach filled with a all sorts of fish and sea turtles. Snorkeling at Kahaluu Bay Beach Park, right next door to the hotel in the morning was one of the best snorkeling experiences I have had in Hawaii. The water was clear and the marine life was over-abundant!
Sitting at the beach bar in the evening with live music and the sound of the surf was enough to relax the body and soothe the soul for a great night of sleep!
If you are local, make sure to book their Kamaaina rate.
**Unfortunately, the Keauhou property...
It might surprise you to know that one of the best places for your touristy Hawaiian Islands souvenirs is at the International Market; smack dab in the middle of Waikiki. Jewelry, postcards, magnets, aloha shirts, and macadamia nuts are all in one colorful place across the street from Waikiki Beach.
Beyond the souvenirs, you will also find the closest things I have found in the United States to Singapore's hawker markets with all sorts of ready-to-eat cultural foods and beverages from gyros and hawaiian fare to shave ice and bubble teas.
A lesser known tourist stop on the North Shore of Oahu, and about an hour drive from Honolulu, is Ted's Bakery. While you can pick up some of the fantastic pies from Ted's at supermarkets around the island, there is nothing better than 'fresh' and famous Chocolate Haupia pie.
Haupia is a light coconut and milk based pudding that is served as a desert throughout the Islands. Combining haupia over chocolate pudding in a pie crust and smothering the top of it with whipped cream is what truly makes this dessert worth stopping for!
The hole-in-the-wall bakery is easy to miss on Kamehameha Highway along Sunset Beach, but should you drive past, it is worth turn around for!
A trip to the North Shore is a must for any visitor on Oahu. It is an easy day trip from Honolulu or Waikiki to swing around Hawaii Kai up the windward (east) side of the island and make several stops along the way.
The best shrimp in Hawaii is up toward the North Shore on the Kamehameha Highway; where the little critters are pulled fresh from the farm and served up in several food trucks along the highway.
Sandwich the Shrimp Shack lunchtime stop between the Macadamia Nut Farm tour and seeing the protected Green Sea Turtles on the beach and you already have half your day trip to the North Shore planned!
The Hawaiian Islands are made up of many more cultural groups than Hawaiian Islanders and white settlers. Located between Asia and North America, the blend of cultures is much different than the other 49 States.
Every time I host guests in Honolulu, they are surprised by the number of Asian residents and the variety of cuisine that can be found on one street corner or in a marketplace.
Cultural festivals, food fairs, and farmers markets abound in Hawaii. This particular day was the Okinawa Festival at Kapiolani Park. All sorts of folks turned out to see little girls dressed as geishas and visit a variety of Japanese food stands. When you visit, be sure to look up the events, markets, and festivals in the area.
If no such events are scheduled, each Saturday morning, Kapiolani hosts one of the most recognized markets on Oahu.
Shave Ice is a great way to cool off on a hot Hawaiian day and enjoy a Hawaii flavored favorite treat.
There is no better place than Haleiwa to find shave ice stands on as many corners as Starbucks frequents in Seattle!
Flavors come in all sorts of traditional flavors like Orange, Grape, and Strawberry, and also in all sorts of tropical and Hawaiian flavors like Lilikoi, Lychee, and Lihing Mui.
Just keep in mind, this is not a snow cone, it's "Hawaiian Shave Ice!"
Never being an adventurous sushi eater, I have no problem savoring every bit of every dish I have had at Doraku Sushi in Waikiki. In fact, nearly every time I have visitors in town, I suggest we head to this restaurant. No one has left unsatisfied.
The fish is fresh (Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean, afterall), the chef is talented, servers are intelligent and can even suggest the appropriate sake pairing from their impressive list, and the partially open restaurant atmosphere makes you feel like you are really in Hawaii.
Uncle Bo's has easily become my favorite place for a cocktail and pupus (Hawaiian for "appetizers"). Not particularly splashy on the outside, the interior has a bit more character, and their food is something special.
Uncle Bo's Thai style clams are the ultimate pre-dinner dish served in a clam shell shaped bowl with fresh bread.
Order a lychee martini and you will not only have two great local taste sensations in front of you, but also plenty to rave about when you leave!
Even before I moved to Hawaii, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Lantern Floating Festival. It takes place on Memorial Day weekend in May at Ala Moana Park in Honolulu. An estimated 40,000 people turned out for the 2012 celebration where participants arrived at the park to write the names of loved ones who have passed away on lanterns. Later, the lanterns are lit and floated out into the Pacific Ocean.
The actual floating begins at dusk, after a traditional Hawaiian inter-faith ceremony. The multitude of lanterns reflecting off the water is a spectacular sight. I was not disappointed in the beautiful memorial!
The highlight of Volcanoes National Park is the Kilauea Crater. Nothing beats seeing the glow from the active crater at night - well, maybe the prospect of seeing a new explosive eruption.
There are a couple other lava flow viewing areas in the area that are recommended depending on the activity. Helicopter rides are also available during the day to take visitors over the volcanic island.
The Park's Visitor's Center is the best place to check in and find out where to go. And at $10 for a 7 day pass, you will not want to miss this National Park!
Living in Honolulu, nothing feels better than to leave the City for a few days; even if it means heading to the North Shore of Oahu or another island for a short reprieve.
On this particular occasion, I booked a ticket to the Big Island of Hawaii; my first time off from work in five months. After the rush to the airport, my delayed flight casually took off for the short island hop. On our decent down the coastline of the Big Island, into Hilo, I realized the flight wasn't delayed, but perfectly timed with the sinking sun. I had a brilliant glimpse of what the windward side of the Island has to offer: GREEN.
The sun rays shone through the clouds on a patch of tropical farmland that could have been Ireland with its super-saturated landscape and cliffs into the ocean.
I spent the last of my three day mini vacation driving through this lush landscape. It is green for a reason, and I was...
There are several hidden treasures among the volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. The one that I found most fascinating was a short (0.7 mile) hike from the Chain of Craters road to the Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs.
I was most fascinated that this land has been lava coated and recoated for ages and yet, these petroglyphs still managed to escape centuries of fresh molten lava.
I also thought this image, etched in the rock was the likeness of a couple and imagined some ancient Hawaiian man carefully carving out the images and comically telling his wife: "I lava you a lot."
On a lovely Hawaiian Sunday afternoon, my sister and I made our way up the windward side of Oahu to spend a day sightseeing, scoping out surf spots, and meeting friends at Ted's Bakery (http://tedsbakery.com). Along with our haupia pie, we also received an unexpected tip that there were turtles on the beach not far from where we were.
So we went to check out the location at Laniakea Beach and found out from one of the wildlife representatives, that the endangered green sea turtles frequent this beach on the North Shore. In fact, they have been on the beach all but five days in the last year.
Plenty of tourists and locals crowd around the roped off area protecting these big creatures while they take a break on the sand. Other turtle silhouettes could be spotted playing in the surf as it rolled toward shore.
The best time to view these tired turtles is when it rains. The crowds dissipate...
Unlikely as it may be, if you climb the steps to 1208ft (or 368m) at Kokohead, there is quite a bit of street art...er, trail art.
Usually spotting the tagging at the conclusion of an intense and beautiful hike is a disappointment, but the colorful giraffe graffiti on the old cement military outposts at the summit of the Koko Crater made me smile and added a bit of visual delight to an otherwise typical aqua-marine and tropical-green Hawaiian landscape.
My favorite part about living in Hawaii is the view from where I live. I am tremendously blessed to have the spectacular 'perch' that I do looking over Diamondhead, Waikiki, Honolulu, and past the airport to Ko'olina.
If you are looking to see such a spectacular view of Southern Oahu, drive up Round Top Drive to Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park for sunset. You will find a large grassy area to share a picnic or lay back and watch the clouds roll by. Or you can stand up a bit higher at the lookout and identify all the places and roads you have been while in Honolulu.
If hiking is more your style, there are plenty of trails up on this scenic route as well. Or, perhaps, you will just enjoy the curly queues and hairpins of the the Tantalus-Round Top Drive loop.
No matter what you do, it is a refreshing reprieve from the busy scene in Waikiki!
Just a few steps off the busy Kalakaua Avenue, the Moana Surfrider Beach Bar is my favorite place to unwind on Oahu. The best tables next to the beach are often taken, but worth waiting for at sunset. You'll certainly enjoy the ambiance any place you can sit and hear the waves. The beach bar is sheltered from the sun by umbrellas and an enormous banyan tree that spans about 150 feet.
In the evenings you will be treated to live Hawaiian music and hula dancing that sets a restful mood and seems to make time stand still. If you need a refreshing, minty, frothy, cachaça-enhanced beverage to cool off after a long day in the sunshine, order the Coco Freeze.
Pélé is the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes. Her power still holds the imagination of people in Hawaii today as legends suggest that taking rocks from her home on the island of Hawaii will lead to bad luck. She is said to live in the very active caldera of Kilauea. The visitor's center receives a number of returned rocks each year from tourists who have challenged this myth and found themselves in a rut of poor fortune when they returned with her piece of lava.
Poke-a-Stick lava tours offer all sorts of hikes to see the lava up close. On this particular day, the lava flow was best seen as it violently entered the peaceful Pacific Ocean. While the private tour is rather pricey, it is by far the safest way to see the volcano in action (the company is also fully insured - though everyone is required to sign a release) and the guides are knowledgeable about the...
The best snorkeling in Hawaii may be found in the Molokini Crater. Snorkelers and divers find pristine water and great visibility in this small crater off the coast of Maui.
Not only is the water amazingly clear, the number and variety of fish in the crater is also impressive.
The easiest way to get to Molokini is by signing up for a boat trip through a number of tour companies. Either pick up some brochures and travel books at the airport or ask at your hotel for their recommendations.
Asian cultural threads run deep through the population and traditions of the Hawaiian Islands. Though Hawaii is the 50th state in the United States, people with Asian heritage make up the largest ethnic group in the Islands. It's no surprise that Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, along with other Asian, and Pacific Island holidays and festivals are celebrated along with Hawaiian and US holidays.
One notable festival is the Chinese, or Lunar, New Year. The new year's lion visits places throughout Hawaii to spread good fortune to those who feed it a small monetary gift and bless businesses and establishments for the following year.
A great spot to enjoy the tradition is at the Moana Surfrider hotel. The drum parade that accompanies the lion can be heard from blocks away until it is so loud that it is hard to make conversation when he arrives at the hotel. Grabbing a chair at the...
Eons of running water are responsible for Hawaii’s escarpments and canyons. After a rainfall, innocuous streams, pools, and waterfalls can swell to impressive sizes. For an easy hike, walk along the Maunawili Falls trail on Oahu to glimpse the 20-foot cascade. There’s a lovely swimming hole, but be careful if you scramble to a rocky overhang to dive into the pool below. On Maui, hike to the Makahiku Falls and climb to the overlook above to view two very different representations of water: the thundering 181-foot cataract below and the vast panorama of ocean beyond. Kauai, “The Garden Island,” is known for its spectacular waterfalls. The beautiful double streams of the Wailua Falls are easily seen from a roadside viewing point.
It’s not your hometown suburban country club. Golfers at any of Oahu’s dozens of open courses may be distracted by all the surrounding beauty—or the setting might inspire their game. Either way, there’s a course for all levels, from the nine-hole Moanalua Golf Club—the island’s oldest course—right up to the 18-hole Koo’lau Golf Club, flanked on one side by the 2,000-foot mountains of the Koo’lau range. And at the Hawaii Kai Golf Course and the Turtle Bay Resort Arnold Palmer Course on the North Shore, the expansive views of ocean might convince all but the most ardent pros to relax their game and enjoy a sundowner at the club instead.
There's plenty of interesting wildlife on and around Hawaii, but you have to seek it out. Hike Oahu’s Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail for a chance to see humpbacks breaching offshore, then head to the North Shore to observe sea turtles basking on Laniakea Beach. You may encounter shaggy mountain goats along Kauai’s Napali Coast or in Waimea Canyon, and look out for the feral pigs who inhabit the islands' forests. (They are a considered a pest, and underneath the full moon hunters emerge to control the pig population). Geckos abound, but if you hope to spot a three-horned Jackson’s Chameleon—introduced to the islands in the 1970s—you’ll need to do some searching at night.
Photo by Rich Torres/Wikipedia.
You are lucky the sun only rises and sets once a day on Hawaii—otherwise, you’d spend all of your time transfixed by the horizon. Hike to the leeward (eastern) side of any island on a clear evening and train your eye over the ocean in search of the “green flash,” an optic phenomenon in which a green sliver of light hovers in the wake of the setting sun. (On Oahu, the remote Kaena Point is a good spot to see the flash.) Sunsets on Kauai, “The Garden Island,” make the beauty of the coastal surroundings even more poignant. If you rise early and tackle the Lanikai Pillboxes trail on Oahu or summit the volcano at Haleakala National Park on Maui, you'll experience an unforgettable morning as the sun rises over the ocean for a new day.