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!

Kahumoku Ohana Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop

Imagine that you’re a musician (or maybe you really are!) and you’re given the opportunity to spend a week hanging out and learning from your musical heroes. While icons like Santana, Stevie Wonder, and Eric Clapton may not ever make themselves so available to their fans, here in the islands we have our own Hawaiian music icons and they are an ever-present part of the culture here.

Amateur musicians intent on learning to play the ‘ukulele or traditional Hawaiian ki ho‘alu, or slack-key guitar, have the opportunity to do so from the best of the best every year at the Kahumoku Ohana Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. The workshop is organized by Keoki Kahumoku, a five-time Grammy Award winner in the Hawaiian music category. Keoki shares his music and knowledge of the Hawaiian culture from the heart, warmly welcoming students to the workshop. His wish is to ho‘omau – or share the tradition – of Hawaiian slack-key guitar and ‘ukulele.

“If each student takes what he learns and shares it with one other person, the music is perpetuated,” he says earnestly.

Flanked by two huge plumeria trees, the walkway to the historic Pahala Plantation House leads visitors and participants straight to an impressive pile of rubber slippers and the joyful noise of slack-key tunes and ‘ukulele music wafting from the lanai, the stairwell, the library. Returning participants enthusiastically greet old friends, sharing stories and eventually, trading licks on their favored instrument. New attendees stand, awed by the energy in this place.

“Where do I check in?” one woman asked me, overwhelmed by the bustling activity of new arrivals and a multitude of songs being plucked out by those more familiar with the system. It wasn’t long before she, too, had her ‘ukulele out, adding to the musical mix. This event is a casual one, one that encourages folks to embrace the relaxed attitude that embodies the islands.

‘Ukulele and guitar cases are scattered about the foyer of the Plantation House in anticipation of a whole lot of musical education squeezed into a single week. This year’s instructors include John Keawe, Ledward Kaapana, Herb Ohta, Jr, the amazing James Hill straight from Canada, George Kahumoku, Brittni Paiva, Dennis and David Kamakahi, and so many more. Attendees choose from several workshops daily, and have the chance to sign up for one on one lessons with the instructors.

But it’s not all about the music. Consider it a week-long immersion lesson in Hawaiian culture. Participants come together every morning for ho‘oponopono, a circle gathering to discuss and share ideas and also to practice the chant written specifically for this event. There are lessons in hula, lauhala weaving, lei making, and other cultural crafts. One evening meal is prepared in a traditional imu, or pit oven and all of the meals feature Hawaiian fare like lau lau, poke, poi, and of course, sticky rice. Instructors and students gather every evening for kani ka pila, or a jam session. And there is talk story. Lots and lots of talk story.

Keoki strives to offer his guests a chance to experience the casual, comfortable Hawaiian lifestyle while they are here. But he’s also intent on bringing these values – and the music – to local students who may not have such an opportunity at home. This year, the workshop hosted 25 scholarship students.

An amazing thing happens when youth and adults come together over a shared passion. They find themselves on equal footing, no longer separated by a span of years. Here, they are all musicians, all striving to learn and share. The instructors teach, but so do the attendees, and it’s not uncommon to find a tattooed local boy sharing an island tune with a gray haired visitor.

It’s no surprise, really, that attendees come back for more each year. This is an event that touches heartstrings just as much as the strings on those beloved  guitars and ‘ukuleles.

Interested in owning an ‘ukulele of your own? Please go read this post from Pam at Nerd’s Eye View and consider spending $10 for a chance to win an ‘ukulele from Flea Market Music. Your donation will help to build a village in India. The bidding closes December 13, 2010, so hurry!

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.

Cashing in on Trash

Just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, the little town of Sebastopol, California is well known for its spicy Gravenstein apples and plethora of antiques stores.  Its proximity to Sonoma County wine country and the rugged California coast makes it a regular destination for city dwellers needing a break.  But hidden just a block away from Sebastopol’s Main Street is a lesser-known treasure: the sculptures of artist Patrick Amiot.

Florence Avenue boasts the charming turn-of-the-century homes typical to the original neighborhoods of downtown Sebastopol, with front porches slightly askew from age and gardens gone just a bit wild.  But the first thing visitors will notice is the giant caveman.

Cooperative neighbors allow Amiot to display what he calls his Urban Folk Art collection on their front lawns, creating an unofficial walking tour that attracts locals and out of town visitors alike.

Using materials that would normally be relegated to the trash pile, the artist uses a fresh eye to see the possibilities in items such as an old teakettle, broken bike chains and discarded golf clubs.  Finished with a bright coat of paint, these pieces depict a slice of American life – a fireman, Dalmatian in tow; a hula girl; a baseball player complete with catcher’s mitt and glove; and (since this is farming country) a replica of an old Oliver tractor.

To see these oversized pieces of art, from downtown Sebastopol head north on Highway 116, then take a left on Florence Avenue. Park where you can on the narrow street and start walking. The displays begin about a block away from Highway 116, with the artwork flanking both sides of Florence Avenue.

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.