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.

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.

Get face-to-face with Oahu’s tropical fish

With the Pacific Ocean lapping at its shores, the island of O‘ahu is the perfect place for discovering a multitude of rainbow-hued tropical fish. Snorkelers will love the chance to get right in the water with the creatures of the deep, and landlubbers can observe the underwater world without getting their feet wet. Check out these popular stops near downtown Honolulu for some fabulous fish watching.

Waikiki Aquarium –  Sure to be a hit with kids, favorite sights at the Waikiki Aquarium include a real-life Nemo (technically a Clownfish) and  two endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals. At the aquarium, kids come face-to-face with more than 500 species of aquatic animals and plants. Reef sharks? Sea Jellies? You’ll see them here. Not far from Nuka ‘au and Maka onaona – the resident monk seals – the Edge of the Reef outdoor exhibit recreates a profile of habitats you might find along a Hawaiian rocky shoreline. It also features a touch pool where visitors can feel underwater creatures like sea cucumbers and red pencil urchins. Parents with young children will appreciate the wide walkways allowing for easy stroller access.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – This idyllic snorkel spot made the news with President Obama’s recent visit to the island, when he and his family had private use of the facility. Happily, Hanauma Bay is open to all visitors, not just those of the presidential sort. The clear blue water of this sheltered bay is home to myriad fish, including Hawai‘i’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua‘a. If you plan to head out into the water, remember that the underwater wildlife here is protected. Don’t touch or feed any of the fish and refrain from standing on the coral. There is snorkel gear available for rent on the beach if you don’t have your own. Parking here can be limited, so plan to arrive early. If you’d prefer to avoid the hassle, ask your hotel concierge about shuttles or public transportation options – there are several.

The Oceanarium – Located at the Pacific Beach Hotel, the three-story indoor Oceanarium is a 280,000-gallon aquarium featuring more than 70 different species. Viewing the aquarium is free, or dine at the Oceanarium Restaurant for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (consider trying their Pau Hana Friday special, where from 4:30 – 10 pm you can take 25% off the prime rib and crab leg buffet, and indulge in $3 beers). More adventurous types might want to dive in with Snuba – a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving. No certification is necessary, so most anyone can try it. Dives happen every 30 minutes and are scheduled Monday through Saturday.