Grill it Yourself at the Shore Bird in Waikiki

Photo: Fuzzy Gerdes

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience in Hawaii, make reservations for dinner at the Shore Bird Restaurant and Beach Bar. The open air, oceanfront restaurant located in the Outrigger Reef on the Beach Waikiki affords a gorgeous sunset view from Waikiki Beach, making this a great spot for a romantic interlude. But it’s not your usual restaurant meal.

Once you’ve placed your order, your server will bring your fresh meat or seafood entrée to the table – for you to cook. You’ll be instructed on suggested cooking time for your entrée and sent off to the community grill. The grilling area features a professional grill and is equipped with various cooking sauces, spices, and barbecue utensils as well as a large clock with which to keep track of cooking time. It’s a fun and festive atmosphere as diners mingle over the grill awaiting their entrées. Mai tai optional.

Wine Tasting in Hawaii

Photo: paulaloe

Hawaii. Sun, sand, and…wine tasting? The islands may not be your first thought when you think of wine tasting, but oenophiles visiting Hawaii will be happy to note that the beach isn’t the only place to check for great legs. The state of Hawaii boasts two wineries with unique vintages, as well as an assortment of shops that offer wine tasting and special events.

OAHU

The Wine Stop – This shop offers complimentary wine tasting a couple times a week, along with a variety of special events and seminars.

HASR Wine Co. – Featuring an assortment of premiere Napa Valley auction wines, HASR Wine Co is the place to go if you’re looking for something unique. They represent a number of boutique wineries whose wines are normally available only at the source. Located in Honolulu’s arts district.

The Wine Stop and HASR Wine Co. are just a short drive from hotels like the Hawaii Prince Oahu or the Aqua Palms and Spa Oahu.

SWAM – Shiroma’s Wine and More offers free wine tasting every Thursday from 5-8 pm. You’ll find an assortment of wines, spirits, and gifts at this shop run by a petite Gen Xer. They offer 10% off on Mondays and Tuesdays. Located in Aiea.

MAUI

Tedeschi Vineyards – Located in upcountry Maui, the tasting room at Maui’s Winery is situated in the King’s Cottage, dating to 1874. Built specifically for the visit of Hawaii’s monarch David Kalakaua and Queen Kapi’olani, the historic cottage is now graced with an 18 foot long bar cut from a single mango tree. The winery at Tedeschi Vineyards produces Ulupalakua Red, as well as wines with a distinct island flavor. Hula O Maui is a crisp, sparkling pineapple wine. Maui Splash is imbued with the distinct flavor of lilikoi, or passion fruit.

HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND

Volcano Winery – Situated near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Winery crafts wines from Symphony grapes grown on site and tropical fruits like guava and jaboticaba. For a one-of-a-kind treat, try the Macadamia Nut Honey Wine. You won’t find that in Napa Valley!

Catch Free Performances by The Royal Hawaiian Band

Photo: madmarv00

Visitors to the islands will find plenty of music to enjoy, but one continuing musical tradition dates back to 1836. Founded by King Kamehameha III, The Royal Hawaiian Band (formerly known as The King’s Band) still performs regularly throughout Hawaii and around the world. The heart of the Royal Hawaiian Band, the only full time municipal band in the United States, is Hawaiian music. Featuring stylized Hawaiian melodies including “Sophisticated Hula” and “Hukilau” that band always closes with the famous “Aloha Oe” composed by Queen Liliuokalani. The band has several standing dates on Oahu where you can catch a free concert:

  • Iolani Palace – Fridays at 12 noon
  • Kapiolani Park Bandstand – Sundays at 2 pm
  • Royal Hawaiian Center (at the Royal Hawaiian Waikiki) – Some Thursdays at 1 pm
  • Ala Moana Center Stage (adjacent to the Ala Moana Hotel Waikiki) – Some Wednesdays at 2 pm
  • Mililani Town Center – First Saturday of every month

The band plays other dates and locations, too. Check their online calendar for an updated listing.

Must See Places of Worship on Oahu

Photo: jdnx

No matter your religious affiliation, these places of worship offer a unique opportunity to visit the history and diverse culture of Hawaii. Enjoy the serenity of a Buddhist Temple, see the Christian church raised in Oahu by missionaries, and pay respects to the Hawaiian culture at a heiau.

Byodo-In – This Buddhist Temple is non-denominational and invites people of all faiths to worship, meditate, or simply enjoy the beauty of the temple and its surroundings. Stand in awe of Amida, a nine-foot-tall golden Buddha housed at the temple or tour the peaceful gardens where you will see koi, peacocks, or black swans. Admission to the Byodo-In grounds is $3/general; $2/seniors; $1/children.

Kawaiahao Church – The first Christian church to be built on Oahu, Kawaiahao Church is made of pink coral. Each slab of coral weighs more than 1,000 pounds and was quarried underwater in depths of 10-20’. The church was completed in 1842. Visitors can attend services conducted in both Hawaiian and English.

Keaiwa Heiau – Located inside the entrance to Keaiwa Heiau State Park, Keaiwa Heiau may look like a collection of loosely jumbled lava rocks to you. But this heiau, or temple, was a medical center and school in Old Hawaii. Plan to bring a picnic lunch and explore all the park has to offer once you’ve spent time at the heiau. Please remember that this is a sacred site. Do not remove anything from the site, and do not climb or walk on the rock walls and platforms.

All three of these locations are an easy driving distance from the heart of Waikiki and budget lodging like the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel or Park Shore Hawaii.

Top Fun Stops for Kids on Oahu

Sure, the beaches in Hawaii are like a great big sandbox. But the sun and surf day after day can wear a kid out. When you need a break from the sun, these family friendly stops are surefire kid pleasers.

Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center – Catering specifically to young children, the center captivates kids with hands-on exhibits and experiences. Learn about the human body, explore different cultures, discover the plantation history of Hawaii, or imagine what it would be like to be a firefighter. Fair warning: you may need to drag your kids out of there. Maybe shave ice is a good incentive?

Bishop Museum – The museum has much to offer for those interested in the history of Hawaii. What may surprise you is the Science Adventure Center. Interactive exhibits allow kids to explore geology (think: lava!), oceanography, and biology as it relates to the Hawaiian Islands. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the expansive lawn and you could easily spend the better part of a day here.

Photo: Casey Serin

Dole Plantation – Admittedly, the Dole Plantation is tourist attraction that’s heavy on souvenir items. Even so, it makes a pleasant stop if you’re heading toward North Shore. The Pineapple Express takes kids on a 2-mile trip through fields of pineapple and other island crops. The plantation is home to the world’s largest maze, too. Work your way through paths lined with tropical plants in search of eight stations hidden within the pineapple shaped maze. You’ll want to finish off your visit with a Dole Whip. It’s good.

Photo: Payton Chung

If you’re looking for a fun, inexpensive souvenir to bring home from your Hawaiian vacation, look beyond the cheapo 4-for-$10 T-shirts. Take something home that will really give your friends and family a taste of the island. That’s right, folks. I’m suggesting that you shop for souvenirs…at the grocery store. Check the snack aisle or the Asian food aisle, and you’re bound to find something that your friends at home have never even heard of before. Here are a few suggestions:

Crack Seed: This local favorite is primarily a variety of dehydrated and preserved fruits. Crack seed came to Hawaii with the first Chinese immigrants who came to work the plantations – and it’s here to stay. The sweet and salty dried fruit is often flavored with li hing mui. You can pick up crack seed at any grocery store or stop in at a specialty shop like the Crack Seed Center in the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

One-Ton Chips: The Maebo Noodle Factory has been making One-Ton Chips in Hawaii for nearly 60 years.  Made with dough similar to that used to make won tons, these chips are crispy and slightly sweet. You’ll find them in the grocer’s snack aisle or – sometimes – at Costco.

Hawaii Popcorn: You can get this ready to eat or in a microwavable version, but you can bet you’ll have a hard time finding it beyond the islands. The Hawaiian Hurricane flavor is a blend of popcorn, rice crackers, and nori. Unique, yes?

In the Honolulu/Waikiki area you’ll find plenty of convenience stores that may (or may not) carry some of these items. Your best bet for a full service grocery store is the Foodland at Ala Moana Center.

Local Flavors Everyone Should Try Once

The food scene in Hawaii features some of the nation’s best chefs serving up high-style cuisine. Step away from the four star restaurants and orchid-laced drinks, though, and you’ll find the heart of Hawaii in three favorite dishes. From poi – the dish that visitors love to hate – to loco moco and Spam musubi, these foods are a true taste of local food. Better yet? You can try any one of them for under ten bucks.

Loco Moco – This island specialty is a favorite of locals and a must try when you visit the islands. The standard loco moco consists of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, an egg, and (warn the arteries) gravy. Portions are generally very, very large so if you don’t have a huge appetite, consider making it a meal for two. Not a fan of hamburger? No worries. Choose from a variety of other meats, such as Portuguese sausage, beef teri, shrimp, or the ever-present Spam. Try the loco moco at Big City Diner located in Ward Entertainment Center or Zippy’s in the Ala Moana Center.

Photo: Ron Diggity

Spam Musubi – If you’re looking for fast food in Hawaii, look beyond the familiar franchises and try something that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. So just what is it? Spam luncheon meat and sticky rice wrapped in nori with seasonings like kukui nut relish or furikake. The go-to fast lunch for people in the islands, you won’t find it in many restaurants. Instead, check the local supermarket or nearest 7-11. Want to give it a try? Stop in at Foodland at Ala Moana Center. Want to try making Spam musubi at home? You’ll want a press and maybe recipe ideas from Hawaii Cooks with Spam.

Poi – You’ve heard people talk about poi – the stuff they claim tastes like wallpaper paste. You might agree, but you’ve got to give it a try. This nutrient dense food is made from the starchy roots of the taro (or kalo) plant. You’ll find poi served at most luaus, though what you get there will likely be a watered down version of the thicker, richer poi that graces the plates of local families. If your itinerary doesn’t include a luau, you can pick up poi (a pound runs around $6-7) at most any supermarket.

Delve into World War II History on Oahu

Photo: pandk

Historic Pearl Harbor, site of the infamous attack that drew the United States into World War, is now home to museums and memorials honoring war veterans, lost soldiers and civilians. These moving sites are well worth squeezing into your vacation schedule.

USS Arizona Memorial: The final resting place for the 1,777 men who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona Memorial draws 1.5 million visitors each year. In spite of the crowds, this historic site is a must-see for most Oahu visitors. Your best bet is to arrive early – the visitor center opens at 7am, but you’ll likely encounter a line even at this early bird hour. Upon entry, you’ll receive a timed ticket for the shuttle boat that will take you across Pearl Harbor to the USS Arizona Memorial. While you await your tour, watch a 23-minute film about the attack on Pearl Harbor, tour the museum and exhibits, or visit the bookstore. Parents of small children will want to leave the stroller behind – it’s just too difficult to maneuver through the bustling visitor center – and note that NO bags or backpacks are allowed into the center. There is no charge for admission to or tours of the USS Arizona Memorial.

Pacific Aviation Museum: Situated on historic Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor, the museum is housed in World War II-era hangars – including Hangar 37, a 42,000 square foot facility that survived the Pearl Harbor attack. Visitors will see a variety of vintage aircraft, a short movie, and exhibits. Transportation to Ford Island is via shuttle buses from the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park: Located adjacent to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, this museum offers self-guided tours with digital audio players. In addition to touring the museum, visitors can step aboard the USS Bowfin submarine and imagine life in this tight space with 80 men.

Battleship Missouri: Stand on the deck of the Mighty Mo, a battleship launched in 1944 in the midst of World War II and now on permanent display in Pearl Harbor. There are several tours available and included with the price of admission. Shuttle transportation is available at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.

While Pearl Harbor tops the list for most Hawaii visitors as a must see World War II site, history and military buffs will no doubt want to delve deeper. From touching war memorials to a museum housed in a solid concrete battery, you’ll reach back through time to learn of the sacrifice of many in their efforts to maintain America’s freedom at sites located around the island.

Hawaii Army Museum – Housed in Battery Randolph at Fort DeRussy, the history detailed at the museum reaches as far back as ancient times. Battery Randolph was built to defend the island from attack and could withstand direct blasts from a 2,000-pound artillery shell. In fact, the building is so solid, it defied attempts to demolish it in years prior to its use as a museum. Exhibits include World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and more. Located adjacent to Waikiki Beach the museum and Fort DeRussy are within easy walking distance of hotels like the Waikiki Parc and the Outrigger Reef on the Beach.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific – The resting place of more than 50,000 U.S. war dead, the cemetery is situated inside Punchbowl Crater in the heart of Honolulu. Follow the memorial pathway honoring soldiers from 20th century wars, including those who served during World War II.

Haleiwa War Memorial – Sixteen men from the Waialua-Kahuku area lost their lives during World War II. At Haleiwa Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore, a memorial to these men overlooks the Pacific Ocean. There is no entry fee to visit the memorial and visitors will find picnic facilities nearby.

Tasty Treats Made in Hawaii

Leaving the Hawaiian Islands behind after a beautiful vacation can be bittersweet. While your bright blue umbrella drink isn’t going to pass customs, you can take the flavor of the islands home with you in the form of some locally sourced, locally made sweet treats. Neatly packaged and ready to go, these cookies, candies, and snacks are the perfect foil to your back to work blues.

Honolulu Cookie Company – That box of pineapple shaped, chocolate dipped macadamia nut shortbread you bought for Auntie Grace? It’s going to be so tempting, right there in your carry on. Better get one for yourself, too. It’s a good thing there are a dozen different locations in Hawaii where you can pick up sweet treats from the Honolulu Cookie Company. On Maui, look for them in Whaler’s Village. On Oahu, you’ll find retail stores inside the Waikiki Beach Marriott and the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.

Island Princess – While the Macadamia Popcorn Crunch from Island Princess is the go-to snack for many visitors, I’m a hardcore Mele Mac girl, myself. Chocolate, toffee, and mac nuts. What’s not to love? Island Princess products are well distributed throughout the islands, available at retail outlets like the ever-present ABC Stores and Costco. If you really want to delve into all things Island Princess, consider a stop at their factory store located near the Honolulu Airport.

Photo: istolethetv

Big Island Candies – Greet me at the door with coffee and chocolate and I’m yours. That’s just what they do at Big Island Candies on Hawai‘i Island. And if munching on free samples isn’t enough, you can watch through glass windows as workers hand dip the shortbread that’s made on site. Want to take a real island inspired treat back home? Consider the chocolate dipped iki, or chewy cuttlefish.

Here’s perhaps the best news of all. Even if your trip to the islands is still at the pie-in-the-sky dream stage right now, every one of these sweet spots offers online shopping. Aloha, delivered right to your door!

Oahu’s Famous Shrimp Trucks

Photo: permanently scatterbrained

Oahu’s north shore is famous for big wave surfing, but another reason to make the drive to “the country” is for the food. Specifically? Shrimp. The road between Kualoa and the famous surf town of Haleiwa is peppered with Crayola bright shrimp trucks and hand-lettered signs. Just the kind of establishment that visitors might hesitate to visit. Take a risk though; pull off the side of the road and you’ll be rewarded with arguably the best shrimp you’ve ever tasted.

Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp: Shrimp is harvested daily at Fumi’s and in addition to the cooked options, guests can take live shrimp home for dinner. The popular shrimp truck offers nearly a dozen different preparations. My money’s on the deep-fried coconut shrimp. Demand for Fumi’s shrimp led them to expand into a larger, more permanent structure, but just a few hundred yards away, the original truck is still in operation.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: Arguably the least attractive of the north shore shrimp establishments, the graffiti-covered truck may also be the most well-known. Pull up a plastic chair under the temporary awning and dig in to the most casual shrimp scampi meal you’ve ever ordered. Service here can be hit or miss, but décor notwithstanding, if you’re traveling Kamehameha Highway, it’s worth a stop.

Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp: Housed in a vivid red shack (not a truck) Romy’s offers up shrimp they’ve raised themselves. Large prawns doused in butter and garlic require plenty of napkins. The shrimp is excellent – but not fast, as this sign in the window proclaims: This is not a fast food. This is good food, as fast as we can make it. Guests order from an outside window and dine at picnic tables.